It is important that we justify and answer each question correctly, keeping in mind as many aspects and rulings of religion as possible. Insha Allah, I will make an attempt to answer the questions you have raised.
1) Are we allowed to watch the news?
The question of the television does not raise much doubt in the average Muslim’s mind. He will not find it difficult to class the watching of general TV as impermissible in Islam. However, the question has been raised a number of times regarding certain programmes or uses for TV and whether specific use of the television is permissible in Islam.
Taking the example raised in the question, regarding the watching of news, let us analyse what would be the ruling of watching news on television.
Let us assume that a man would switch on his television on the hour precisely and would switch it off as soon as the news finishes. This will mean that the person will specifically be watching the news and nothing before or after it. Let us now analyse what that person will be experiencing whilst watching the news:
1. First of all, there will be a presenter for the news channel which will be either a women or a man, and on some occasions there are both.
2. Thereafter, the presenters have news reporters in various places that report back to the news room and give us a live update on what is taking place.
3. Pictures of current news, events and even sports are shown on the news. This will include pictures of men and women.
If we pause here for a moment, we will all be able to see the picture that is being drawn up. The visualisation and perception of a male or female is usually inevitable during a news broadcast. It would be farfetched to assume that pictures which are classed as impermissible by the Shari’ah will not be shown.
Furthermore, though it is vital to keep in touch with situation occurring in our community and the wider world it is also a higher form of piety (Taqwa) to keep away from that which is not useful. The Prophet of Allah صلي الله عليه و سلم has beautifully said:
From the beauty of a person’s Islam is for him to leave that which does not benefit or concern him.
The ruling regarding the viewing of men by women and the viewing of women by men is common to all people. It is explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an and has been clearly instructed in the Ahadeeth also. Following are a few Qur’anic verses and Ahadeeth which show hint clear state the disapproval of looking at the opposite gender:
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze, and protect their private parts. That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do.”
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze, protect their private parts and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent and to draw their veils all over bodies and not to reveal their adornment… And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.”
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies. That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
From another point of view, it was a Habit of the Prophet of Allah صلي الله عليه و سلم that when faced with two tasks, he صلي الله عليه و سلم would always choose the easier option. The ruling of action upon the lesser of two evils is also well known to people. Keeping these two things in mind, it would be correct to say that there are alternatives available for people to acquire information regarding the current situations and daily news; Radio, Internet and Newspapers are just a few to name. If a person opts to watch the news on the television then there is a possibility that Shaytaan and Self Desire will slowly and eventually take him to prolong his viewing time and make him start watching a few minutes earlier and finish a few minutes later.
As a final point, we can say that there may be benefits of watching the news, specifically on television. However, with the above arguments in mind it seems as though the harms outweigh the benefits. Therefore, it would not only be impermissible but also foolish to indulge in something that causes more harm then benefit. This is the same reason why alcohol and intoxicants were made impermissible:
“In them there is a great sin and some benefits for the people. But their sin far outweighs their benefit.”
As a final point, let us remember the Hadeeth narrated by Umm Salamah رضي الله عنه:
كنت عند رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وعنده ميمونة فأقبل ابن أم مكتوم وذلك بعد أن أمرنا بالحجاب فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم احتجبا منه فقلنا يا رسول الله أليس أعمى لا يبصرنا ولا يعرفنا فقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أفعمياوان أنتما ألستما تبصرانه
قال أبو داود هذا لأزواج النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم خاصة ألا ترى إلى اعتداد فاطمة بنت قيس عند ابن أم مكتوم قد قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لفاطمة بنت قيس اعتدي عند ابن أم مكتوم فإنه رجل أعمى تضعين ثيابك عنده
“Ummul Mu’mineen, Hadhrat Umm Salamah رضي الله عنها narrates that “I was with Rasulullahصلي الله عليه و سلم while Maymunah رضي الله عنها was with him. Then Ibn Umm Maktum رضي الله عنه came. This happened when we were ordered to observe veil. Rasulullah صلي الله عليه و سلم said: Observe veil from him. We asked: O Rasulullah صلي الله عليه و سلم is he not blind? He can neither see us nor recognise us. Rasulullah صلي الله عليه و سلم said: Are both of you blind? Do you not see him?”
I hope the first question that you asked has now been addressed. Please do let me know if there are any questions or clarifications regarding this question.