Is It Permissible to Watch Stranger Woman’s ‘Awra in Movies, etc.?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan


Is it okay to share any Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, or any another streaming platform account I have and will pay for with relatives freely to be nice?

Also is it haram to read or watch things about romance or fictional creatures?


Thank you for your question.

Had I been asked the question of Netflix a few years ago, my immediate response would have been, “Watching any program where the ‘awra of a lady is uncovered is impermissible or haram.” However, today I believe that would be an unjust answer. I would be ignoring the alternative views expressed by some of the scholars of our time. However, I do wish to discourage our brothers and sisters from watching movies and series, despite the fact that some may have deemed them permissible.

The most challenging aspect of movies, series, or television is the uncovering of the female ‘awra. Consequently, I have based my discussion on the issue of looking at a woman’s ‘awra. I have also concluded this answer with an important section entitled “Important Considerations.” Those who are tired of watching these programs or those who wish to adopt the relaxed view of permissibility should study this section with due diligence.

Looking at a Strange Woman

The Shafi‘i school is extremely strict with regard to looking at the opposite sex. Imam Nawawi eventually concluded that viewing any part of a strange woman’s body, with or without desire, is haram. However, many scholars within the school adopt the view that permits a man to look at the hands and face of a strange woman, provided this is done without desire. They consider that looking at any person or object with desire is impermissible, even the face of a young boy. [Nawawi, Mughni al-Muhtaj]

The Image of a Woman

While they adopt a strict stance in regard to seeing a woman’s actual body, they do not have the same stance regarding her image. The jurist mentions the following example in the chapter of suspended divorce: If a husband makes the divorce of his wife conditional upon seeing a certain woman’s face, and he then sees her image in a mirror or a puddle of water, the divorce will not be effected as he did not actually see the woman’s face but only an image of her. [Ibid.]

This text is important as it distinguishes between looking at a woman herself and looking at her image only. This also served as a starting point for those scholars who permit seeing the opposite sex in television programs without desire.

Important Considerations

One who subscribes to the view that permits looking at the opposite sex on a screen should take note of the following:

  • A person can become consumed by watching movies and episodes, and hours can pass without them realizing that they are being heedless of Allah. Scholars regard chess as impermissible when it consumes one to the extent that he forgets about performing prayer, and as makruh (reprehensible) when it does not. See here for more details regarding the ruling of chess: Playing Chess.
    The point is that one who is consumed by watching television to the extent that he becomes heedless of his Creator will be sinful.
  • The dignity of a believer necessitates that he or she does not watch programs containing or promoting filth, such as adultery, lying, stealing, dishonesty, and the like. It is preferable to watch programs that are wholesome and promote good values or beneficial content.
  • Looking at the opposite sex with desire is impermissible. It is even undesirable to look at a scantily dressed woman without desire, as she is disobeying Allah by uncovering her awrah. Sinful imagery pollutes the heart and a believer must always protect their heart. As regards whether looking at something that is haram is itself haram, please see this.
  • We have not chosen to inform the questioner of the view that it is permissible to watch certain decent programs on Netflix in order to encourage the watching of these programs. Rather, we have done so to avoid being guilty of concealing knowledge, and to enable people who find it difficult to break this habit to know that there is a difference of opinion amongst the scholars, so they are not outrightly disregarding our Creator, Allah Most High.
  • Imam Ghazali said, “Your time should not be without any structure, such that you occupy yourself arbitrarily with whatever comes along. Rather, you must take account of yourself and order your worship during the day and the night, assigning to each period of time an activity that must not be neglected nor replaced by another activity. By this ordering of time, the blessing in time will show itself. A person who leaves himself without a plan as animals do, not knowing what he is to do at any given moment, will spend most of his time fruitlessly. Your time is your life, and your life is your capital: by it you make your trade, and by it you will reach the eternal bounties in the proximity of Allah. Every single breath of yours is a priceless jewel, because it is irreplaceable; once it is gone, there is no return for it. So do not be like fools who rejoice each day as their wealth increases while their lives decrease. What good is there in wealth that increases while one’s lifespan decreases? Do not rejoice except in an increase of knowledge or an increase of good works. Truly they are your two friends who will accompany you in your grave, when your spouse, your wealth, your children, and your friends will remain behind.”

Reading Fictional and Romance Novels

This question has already been answered. Please see the following:

And Allah knows best.
[Shaykh] Abdurragmaan Khan
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan received ijaza ‘amma from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib ‘Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.