I just finished completing my daily checklist’s 10-pages of Quran recitation when I logged into Twitter. To my surprise, guess what is trending? It’s #FaceYourselfOutNow!
A world-famous Korean pop (K-pop) band, BTS, who was also recently listed in Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 Asia 2018, just released their third Japanese album called Face Yourself.
Just within one day after the release, BTS managed to top the iTunes Album Chart in 45 different countries and debuted as the first place in the Worldwide iTunes Album. Among these countries are the non-Asian countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Mexico, and Russia.
The Muslim majority countries are also on fire: Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, and even the United Arab Emirates.
What a spectacular achievement in the history of K-pop: to be able to win the heart of so many people, as what a Muslim preacher (daie) should be.
Understanding the youngsters: why K-pop?
This K-pop phenomenon, or could also be referred to as the ‘Hallyu wave’ may not be at the peak we are looking at today if the reformation of South Korea’s democratic government did not happen in 1987.
With the modernization of censorship and liberalization of South Korea’s media, the existing genres of slow ballad and trot had to compete with the other varieties coming in.
People came out with varying opinions on the question ‘Why K-pop’ can reap its success. Among the most popular elements highlighted could be summarised as follows:
- Economic analysis: a specific niche of ‘dance intensive’ segment in the small market of entertainment;
- Innovative culture fusion between Western and local Korean dance tradition, both of which are lively among the Koreans;
- Extraordinary support from the Korean government;
- Both the internet and growth of digital media which provide easier access;
- The obsession towards perfection for the artists of being multi-talented and physically immaculate, as well as in the company in the production (song, lyrics, music video), management and commercialization;
- The creatively different identities of the artists, which in this case, BTS mainly sings about serious issues like teen social pressures resulting in their closeness to the audience.
[These are based on multiple articles by Maur-Anne’s Master’s thesis (1774 respondents, 82 countries), Aja Romano of Vox, Jon Matsumoto’s article for the Grammys, Martin Roll on business and brand leadership, and the economic analysis by Messerlin and Shin. We also took a quick peek at a number of articles written by numerous K-pop fans.]
While this article is not originally intended to discuss K-pop in detail, these elements are listed down to provide an insight into what has actually captured the attention of the youngsters.
Today, – as it has always been in the past and it would still be in the future – people, especially the youth, are addicted to entertainment.
Entertainment: aye or nay?
A contemporary Muslim scholar, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Ph.D., conjectured in his book ‘The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam’ that Muslims have their right to enjoy themselves.
“Islam does not require of Muslims that their speech should consist entirely of pious utterances, that their silence should be a meditation, that they should listen to nothing except the recitation of the Qur’an, nor that they should spend all their leisure time in the mosque.”
“Rather, it (Islam) recognizes that Allah has created human beings with needs and desires, so that, as they need to eat and drink, they also need to relax, and enjoy themselves”.
Nevertheless, some Muslims view either the participation or even interest in the entertainment industry as being strictly forbidden, immoral, a disgrace and inviting the wrath of Allah.
Looking at the K-pop industry, such strict precept might be of no surprise.
A lot of aspects in K-pop are unavoidably crossing the line of Islamic teachings. Nobody could deny that being addicted to K-pop would involve the sinful acts of:
- Looking at the sexually-explicit exposed awrah (the intimate part of the body that should be covered), not to mention the girl K-pop artists are getting more appealing than ever;
- Ikhtilat (intermingling of sexes), be it physically during the concert or through staring at the gorgeousness of the artists through their photo;
- Idolizing them: they fill up your heart that you have to put Allah aside;
- Leaving the obligatory, such as the Maghrib prayer during a once-in-a-while concert or listening to the songs for hours as the prayer time passes.
“I will be listening to the song only, not watching the video!” you may say.
However, they would justify that you are still supporting the growth of BTS. To them, BTS consequently would be able financially to reach more young Muslims, to be specific.
How should it be
To be fair, entertainment by default is allowed in Islam. Allah created human with the fitra of loving pleasurable and delightful things.
It is necessary to relax the body and refresh the mind. However, utmost care must be taken not to consider the entertainment as one’s only goal in life, overlook the religious obligation and normalize the practice of immoral culture and lifestyle.
Prophet Muhammad is also an entertaining person: he raced with his wife Aisyah, he joked around with his family and his Companions.
“The Jews should know that there is room for leisure in our religion. I was sent with a tolerant, monotheistic religion,” the Prophet recorded as saying on the day when the Abyssinians played in the mosque.
It was narrated by Aisyah that she took a woman on her wedding night to a man from among the Ansar, and the Prophet said to her, “O ‘Aisyah, was there any entertainment (in the gathering)? For the Ansar love entertainment.”
What is important to point out is: our role in this world is to enslave ourselves to Allah, according to the way of life He sent down to us, in the form of Islam.
Thus, it is logically impossible and unacceptable for one to be a pious man while also doing the forbidden acts at the same time.
Answering the question in the title
Maybe the possible answer would be: Listening may get you addicted that would affect your daily life and your obligation as a Muslim.
You may want to avoid being held responsible for contributing to other people’s sins and wrongdoings. Hence at the same time, you should slowly start to shift your interest to other better alternatives for entertainment.
To recap, entertainment by itself is allowed in Islam. However, some of it inevitably involves the misconducts that are against the Islamic teaching.
It has become a shady mixture of ‘sweet’ and ‘bitter’ that may cost you in the Akhirah.
Starting somewhere, although with a slow pace, would certainly much better than being at the same level of faith each day, isn’t it?
The source of entertainment is everywhere: it could be through enjoying the moments with your family and your close friend, hanging out with your spouse, or participating in enjoyable activities.
For the last but not least, maybe it is time to ask ourselves this: what is missing from our daily Quran recitation that we still crave for BTS afterwards.