Dear TV channels, stop commercialising Islam in Ramazan

Published: June 19, 2015
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Anoushey Ashraf (L), hosts a morning show in Karachi. PHOTO: AFP

Sawab, Rounaq Ramazan, Ramazan Hamara Emaan, Pakistanion ka Ramazan, Marhaba Ramazan, Subhan Ramazan, Ramazan Sharif, Bismillah Ramazan, Shan-e-Ramazan, Ishq Ramazan, Jashan-e-Ramazan, Mohabbat-e-Ramazan – the list is exhausting… and utterly monotonous.

These are some of the many special Ramazan shows that have been lined up to be aired on various TV channels during the holy month of Ramazan this year. Along with these shows, many channels have also come up with their signature game shows to lure in audiences.

Just like last time, nearly all news channels are planning to run shows where the hosts invite so-called religious scholars to discuss topics of religion and Islamic jurisprudence, recite naats between the show, cook different delicacies for iftar and interact with viewers by live telephone calls or messages.

And so, this year too, just like its predecessors, the shenanigans ensue.

I, along with many of my sane-minded friends, don’t think these shows serve any purpose other than wasting people’s time and distracting them from the real essence of this month, which is prayers and getting closer to Allah (SWT).

And come to think of it, what use is all of this, except for becoming a money-making machine for media conglomerates?

So here we are, with a gazillion channels simultaneously airing similar shows with extremely similar content; I am sure this must be a new world record or something. The pattern is the same. Every show invites religious scholars and also tries to hire popular faces to conduct these Ramazan shows in order to increase their viewership ratings. The religious scholars appearing as guests on portray themselves as the real torch bearers of Islam, but in reality, many of them are charging these channels a heavy fee to come on television and share their knowledge – which is often bereft of substance.

Hypocrisy is rampant. And faith is on sale.

The interest shown by channels in preparing these shows in the month of Ramazan are indications that just like shopkeepers and owners of food outlets, channels are also trying to cash in on the holy month, in order to increase their viewership and revenue. If there is one thing we have realised over the past few years in Pakistan, it is that religion sells. And in Ramazan, it sells galore.

Although long Ramazan transmissions prove beneficial for channels, I am of the view that they are a big distraction for viewers, who instead of praying or completing their chores, waste their time watching television and then run to complete their tasks with minimal time remaining for Iftar. In addition to the cons, these shows often create a sense of deprivation among viewers belonging to the middle or lower income strata of society, who cannot afford expensive food and clothing.

I feel Ramazan shows create confusion in the minds of the public, since multiple and conflicting solutions are provided and suggested by a multitude of scholars. In Pakistan, we have a huge number of religious scholars emerging from different schools of thoughts, but unfortunately, every religious scholar interprets the teachings of Islam in their own way.

For instance, I have earnestly been searching for a valid answer, but so far I have been unable to get a unanimous consensus for my query. My question is whether we are allowed to use an inhaler while fasting? Unfortunately, I get different answers from different religious scholars every time. Some say the use of an inhaler is allowed, whereas others say it is prohibited.  Almost every show has failed to provide me with a concrete response.

All these differences in opinion begin surfacing because the concept of Ijma (consensus in a society) is ceasing to exist, mainly due to the reason that everyone is more interested in highlighting their personality, their brand of Islam, and their core values.

During Ramazan shows, male and female hosts also undergo drastic changes in their appearances. Female anchors start wearing long sleeve shirts and begin covering their heads. I am not against women covering their heads, but why do it only for Ramazan and just for your show? If hijab is compulsory, then why do these hosts not cover their heads all year around? Male hosts also try to grow beards and wear shalwar kameez or sherwanis, although this type of dressing has no correlation with Islam.

The core purpose of these shows now is to earn money for channels instead of inculcating the true spirit of religion amongst the viewers. Channels earn huge revenues by airing long advertisements in between shows. Various brands of cell phones, clothing and many other items gain popularity because of them.

My request to all the news channels is that Ramazan is a month to follow the commands of Allah, to purify our souls, not only for one month, but to keep it that way for the entire year. Let’s not make it commercial and mar is with the dirt of capitalism.

Khurram Zia Khan

Khurram Zia Khan

The writer is the media manager of Asiatic Public Relations and tweets @KhurramZiaKhan (twitter.com/KhurramZiaKhan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • M Waqas Sajid

    great article — these shows are really a distraction from our original goal in Ramazan, which is to make ourselves come nearer to ALLAH (SWT).Recommend

  • Irfan

    Well done Khurram Zia, we need to educate more.Recommend

  • Minakshee

    Ramzan mubarak to all…curious question..could you explain how an 8th century book would answer a question on inhalers. Whether the need is simply for clearing nasal conjestion or substance abuse do we really need an expert advice and not just follow common sense.Recommend

  • Kickass

    Kick PEMRA and Perv Rashid first.Recommend

  • Anum

    If the common public stops viewing these so called Islamic transmissions, then the ratings will go down and ultimately these channels will realize that what they’re doing is only misguiding people from the true teachings of Islam. But as long as people continue to tune in, these Ramzan transmissions will only be making millions of rupees for their respective channels, rather than providing anything of benefit to the viewers.Recommend

  • Onizuka

    and it’s not just the TV channels, the fasting population also dives into the world of consumerism, chasing after iftar buffet deals, new shoes and shirts for the eid, while the purpose of fasting which is to learn restraint is lost.Recommend

  • Parvez

    My friend if you need to ask another if you can use an inhaler during Ramadan…then you seriously are incapable of rational thinking.
    You have made a valid point in the article but not a very practical one.Recommend

  • Khalid

    Hypocrisy prevails in the media everywhere.Recommend

  • Shah

    There is nothing wrong in these programmes. Look at the state us Pakistanis are living in, with fear constantly hounding us. So what if we’re getting some entertainment for a couple of hours, and it’s mostly educational specially Shan e ramzan, nothing wrong. You have a problem with them, stop watching them. Period.
    Recommend

  • astonished2010

    The irony is the biggest name in this shameless commercialization of Ramazan holds fake PhD degrees, and continues to be called ‘Doctor’, and no government body is stopping this mockery. I guess that will require another NY Times article.Recommend

  • Syed

    Because Pakistanis are hypocrite. Like every other nation all around the World.Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/ ather khan

    what is the problem with ramadan game shows? it is the work of media houses to provide entertainment. the way public demand entertainment, the way these houses provide. mass pakistani people think themselves as religious and so these kind of programs have a great viewership. and media houses and their sponsors try to cash on it. i see nothing wrong here.Recommend

  • Syed Osman Naeem

    For all who said “IT IS OKAY” should be ready to see “AYYAN RAMADAN” with Ayyan Ali in 2016.Recommend

  • Donga Bonga

    Inhaler…..to find the answer go back to basic, why you need an inhaler 1) you are sick or 2) just for some comfort, for case 1 i.e. being sick, you are exempted from fasting and you should not disregard Almighty’s grants for the later case you can have comfort dose any time from Iftar till Sehar.Recommend

  • Donga Bonga

    Last Ramzan in one such shows, Molvi Sahib & the ‘holier than thou’ host were discussing ‘modesty’ and all the time a female was sitting in between the two with her knees touching them….LOLRecommend

  • Ariz Irfan

    That 8th century book unfolded many secrets of science and universe, while your 50,000 year old geeta provided so-called information about ancient nuclear powered spaceships and head transplant surgeries(as claimed by your own PM)Recommend

  • Custard_Pie_In_Your_Face

    See that red button on the top of your remote? That’s the on/off power button and can be used to turn your TV off.

    Personally I can’t stand preachy self righteous hypocrites telling me what I can or can’t do, and neither am I a fan of game shows. But you know what? The TV companies are showing these programs because there is a sufficient demand for these programs. And people who enjoy watching these programs have every right to do so.

    Why can’t people just modestly follow their faith in Ramadan without turning into yet another preachy mini-me maulvi telling everyone what they should or should not be doing, watching or saying?

    Get over yourselves.Recommend

  • guest

    One thing I must admit that these shows gives smiles to the live audience by showering them with lots of gifts!Recommend

  • http://khailaurkhilari.wordpress.com Khurram Zia Khan

    Quran have all the solutions,we also have hadith to take further help in understanding Islam. Islam is a dynamic and evolving religion. We have a concept of Ijma (Building consensus) in Islam but unfortunately religious scholars in Pakistan not conducting Ijma to maintain their own separate identity and followers an this is the main problem.Recommend

  • Khurshid

    So true
    Hypocrisy reigns Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/ ather khan

    the 8th century book gives us guidelines, and we can use those guidelines to make rules for everything. these guidelines are very specific yet cover all things that have come yet and will come inshallah.Recommend

  • Aalia Suleman

    @Syed Osman Naeem: great response. Indeed, there is no chichora like AC (Amir Chichora). @author: agreed 100%.Recommend

  • critic

    valid and a very gud point

    “Female anchors start wearing long sleeve shirts and begin covering their heads. I am not against women covering their heads, but why do it only for Ramazan and just for your show? If hijab is compulsory, then why do these hosts not cover their heads all year around”

    its hypocrisy…and moving away from Islamic traditions that has led to Muslims downfallRecommend

  • seismann

    Inhaler for comfort?!!!Recommend

  • seismann

    Why don’t you ask the “Religious Scholars” not to appear on the shows?If it is good for them,it is good for the common public.Recommend

  • seismann

    It is a fallacy to look for science in religious books.Faith is entirely different from science.One can’t reason with faith,and science needs reason over faith.”Quran has all the solutions” is based on faith,not a scientific fact.Recommend