Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked: What is the ruling on cartoons that appear on TV?
With regard to the cartoons which you say appear on TV, if they are in the form of humans, then the ruling on watching them depends on whether they come under the same ruling as realistic human images or not? It is most likely that they do not come under that ruling.
If they are not in the form of humans, then there is nothing wrong with watching them, so long as they are not accompanied by anything haraam such as music and so on, and they do not distract from obligatory duties. End quote.
Majmoo’ al-Fataawa 2/question no. 333
The issue of animated drawings and cartoons is one of the most serious educational issues, because of the immense effect that these films have on children’s developing characters, and because they have become a primary educational tool in many countries nowadays.
At this stage the heart and mind of the child is like a blank page; nothing crosses it but it leaves an imprint.
Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Tuhfat al-Mawdood (240):
One thing that the child desperately needs is for care to be taken with regard to his morals and attitude, for he will grow up with whatever the one who is raising him accustoms him to when he is small, and when he grows older it becomes difficult for him to change what he has got used to; these attitudes and characteristics that have become deeply ingrained in him, even if he tries to suppress them, they will always surface and expose him. End quote.
These are some of the positive effects of children watching these programs:
They give children a great deal of educational information in an easy and enjoyable manner. Some cartoons focus on particular geographical areas, and others focus on scientific matters, such as the parts of the human body, which gives the child advanced knowledge at an early age.
They develop the child’s imagination and nourish his abilities, and they develop the imagination in a way which helps the mind to grow and prepare it to be innovative and teach the child new ways of thinking and behaving.
They teach fus-ha (classical) Arabic which children usually do not hear at home or even at school. It is well known that teaching the child correct language is one of the aims of education.
Ibn Taymiyah said in Iqtida’ al-Siraat al-Mustaqeem (1/207):
It should be noted that becoming accustomed to the language has a powerful effect on one's thinking, attitude and religious commitment, and also has the effect of seeking to follow the example of the early generations of this ummah, the Sahaabah and Taabi’een. Seeking to follow their example increases reasoning, religious commitment and good attitude. Moreover, the Arabic language is part of this religion, and learning it is obligatory and essential. End quote.
They meet some psychological needs and have a beneficial effect, such as compassion, love, honouring one’s parents, competition, striving for success and meeting challenges and many other positive attitudes that can be instilled via cartoons.
There are also some negative effects that come from watching these programs:
The negative consequences of watching TV in general, of which there are many such as: damage to the eyes, getting used to laziness and inactivity, getting used to passive reception and not participating. It also stunts natural development of knowledge, because knowledge is acquired by learning, researching and seeking, but the television replaces seeking with mere receiving. Watching TV also weakens the bonds of love between family members, when they let watching shows keep them from speaking to one another.
Ibn al-Qayyim said, discussing the parent’s responsibilities in raising the child in Tuhfat al-Mawdood (241):
He should avoid letting him became lazy and inactive, and should teach him the opposite. He should not let him rest for more than he needs to refresh his body and soul for more work, for laziness and inactivity bring bad consequences and will end in regret, but hard work brings good consequences, either in this world or in the Hereafter or in both. End quote.
They present beliefs and ideas that are contrary to Islam, as some movies include mixing and display of charms (tabarruj) that are haraam. Some cartoons, such as Tom & Jerry, give distorted ideas about the Hereafter, Paradise and Hell, and the Reckoning. Some cartoons include distortions of the stories of the Prophets and Messengers, and some poke fun at Islam and Muslims, whilst others (such as Pokemon) include the beliefs of eastern and idolatrous religions. And there are many other examples. Even if a film does not outwardly go against Islam, it still carries notions of western culture that are alien to our society and religion.
Dr. Wahbah al-Zuhayli said in Qadiyat al-Ahdaath (6):
With regard to children’s programs and some adults’ programs, they propagate the spirit of western culture and promote western traditions, and they attract people to western-style parties and clubs.
One of the effects of this culture is the adoption of imaginary examples instead of following the example of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), his companions, the scholars and the mujaahideen. So children start to imitate Superman, Batman and Spiderman and other imaginary characters who do not exist, and they lose out in following the real example, as they get confused by so many imaginary examples who have no faith.
See: Wasaa’il al-I’laam wa’l-Atfaal: Wajhat nazar Islamiyyah by Abu’l-Hasan Saadiq and the article entitled Athar al-Rusoom al-Mutaharrikah ‘ala al-Atfaal by Nizaar Muhammad ‘Uthmaan.
After stating the positive and negative aspects, the Islamic attitude should be clear in sha Allah. The more negative points there are, the closer the ruling is to stating that it is haraam, and the more it is able to avoid the negative aspects, the closer it is to being permissible. This tells us that it is essential to establish companies that will produce Islamic cartoons by means of which all positive virtues may be instilled and all harmful and evil aspects can be avoided.
And Allaah knows best.