Can I Subscribe to General Streaming Services?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question

Is it unlawful to subscribe to streaming services that have unlawful content? Would I be sinful, and is it considered assisting in sinning?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah guide us to that which pleases Him, forgive us for our shortcomings, and alleviate our difficulties, Amin.

Subscribing to the service is not the issue, but what you watch is. Suppose no impermissible elements are involved in what you choose to watch (such as nature documentaries and innocent kids’ animation). In that case, it is lawful to subscribe and watch via the described service within the reasonable limits of Sacred Law, and Allah knows best.

Guard Your Heart

While there may be some helpful content on streaming services, we urge you to practice conscious caution because unlawful content dominates such services and are always a click away.  Imam Ghazali said that the eyes and ears are windows to the soul, and what enters them imprints itself on the heart. [Ihya ‘Ulum Al-Din]

For this reason, one should choose what one views even more carefully. You may find it easier to consume permissible media content via a source that is not as enshrouded by the dangerous and often tempting unlawful content.

Watching Television

If there are no impermissible elements, watching television is lawful but within reasonable limits. Extramural activities which are lawful could become unlawful if they cause you to neglect your duties with Allah, and Allah knows best.

If you find that what you like to watch is unlawful, then (after turning to Allah for assistance) I would suggest that you find a lawful and healthy hobby or sport (like wrestling) to do as an alternative.

The Ruling of a Male Viewing a Female

The prohibition of looking at members of the opposite sex is restricted to human beings. It is haram for an adult man to look at any part of the body of a strange, adult woman with desire. Shafi’i scholars differ on whether it is prohibited or permissible to look at the hands and face of a strange, adult woman without desire and in a situation where there is no fear of fitna.

For this purpose, fitna is defined as anything that may lead to intercourse or its preliminaries. The official view is that it is haram to look at her hands and face, even in the absence of desire and lack of fear of fitna. The unofficial view, which is the view chosen by many of our local scholars, is that it is permissible to look at the hands and face of a strange, adult woman without desire and where there is safety from fitna. [Mughni al-Muhtaj]

The Ruling of a Female Viewing a Male

Likewise, according to the official view, it is haram for an adult woman to look at the awra of a strange, adult man with or without desire. The unofficial view, which is the carried view of many of the scholars in our community, is that looking at parts other than the awra is permissible in the absence of desire and safety from fitna. [Mughni al-Muhtaj]

Please see the following relevant answers about watching television:

Can I Watch a Movie Using a Filter That Removes Sexual Scenes?

Is It Permissible to Look at Women Who Don’t Wear Hijab?

Is It Permissible To Watch Movies and Cartoons if I Fast-Forward the Kissing Parts?

I pray this is of benefit.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani 

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan. Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.