Games, sports and play with toys are an important part of a fully rounded programme of education. We hope for the day when educational psychologists and other professionals in the field who believe in the reality of God and affirm the life of the spirit will deal properly and sincerely with this aspect of education. In the meantime, we allow ourselves to reflect briefly upon some general principles and some particular suggestions.
First of all, games and toys must help children to broaden their minds and become familiar with present and emerging technology. Thus, with some reservations, we would commend model and toy trains, planes, ships, robots and the like.
Secondly, in order to develop an aesthetic sense and a taste for art, children may be encouraged to play at decorating walls, doors and windows, designing book covers, arranging flowers and laying out gardens, etc.
Thirdly, children should be encouraged to use toys and play games that develop their design and constructive capabilities. Blocks of diverse sizes, shapes and colours, as well as other building toys’ for making houses, garages, bridges and the like, can be strongly recommended.
In later childhood and early youth, children will begin to ask for toys and amusements of different kinds. It is important for a responsible guardian to develop a taste in the young for games appropriate to their age. The games we have in mind can be roughly divided into two groups:
1 Those aiming at developing the aesthetic sense and constructive powers (For examples, see above); and
2 Those that train physical abilities and promote development of the body. Examples of the latter are sports such as running, swimming, riding, wrestling, archery, fencing and the so-called ‘martial arts’ (judo and karate are the best known).
Each of these sports (and other similar ones, according to the needs of the time and place) should be encouraged as they come within the circle of the permitted (halal) and are very effective in developing discipline and strength, balance and grace. Their value as entertainment and pastime is, as it were, an additional bonus. In adolescents, sports involving physical exertion and concentration help their bodily development and channel their energies. Older people can also benefit from such exercise which can prevent many of the ailments that arise from prolonged physical inactivity.
Among games and sports, archery, riding, swimming, and running merit special emphasis. They teach poise and confidence on land, water and air, qualities vital to the leaders and enterprising spirits every nation needs for its survival and prosperity.
Although in our tradition the ‘martial arts’ (judo, karate, etc.) receive little mention, they can certainly be recommended insofar as they do not contradict our moral principles and do not entail unacceptable risk of injury
Other games and sports might also be commended so long as they do not lead children to waste time or open ways to them way to commit sins. Games that involve gambling or betting are of course forbidden and can on no account be advised either for children or adults. However, we may note in passing, following the opinion of Imam Shafi’i, that chess is permissible unless played for money. Children who have a bent for that kind of mental activity could therefore be directed towards chess, until they reach adolescence.
Any kind of play or entertainment which counters or debases our ethics is unacceptable for both children and adults. Also, sounds and images, instruments and melodies, which arouse evil and lustful sentiments and so corrupt the soul are absolutely forbidden. It is unreasonable, and an unkindness to the young, to open the doors for them to forbidden entertainments while those within the circle of the permitted are quite satisfactory. The principal concern of education generally and, therefore, the principal concern of games and sports also, is to provide children with noble feelings and to keep them healthy spiritually as well as physically. It hardly needs saying that forbidden games and entertainments are not intended to raise children to humanity or to ennoble their feelings; rather, it is often the case that they have a negative, corrupting effect on their minds and spirits,
In sum, there is a need for moral awareness and guidance in the choice of entertainment, sports, games, and toys, just as in other elements of the education of the young. Failure to seek and provide such guidance will mean - instead of the healthy, balanced, morally sound and contented adults we desire to make of the young - exposing them to emotional and spiritual damage, with all the evil consequences for social life that follow therefrom.