Is it shirk to read Lord of the Flies?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your important question.
Literature is a subject we learn in school in order to understand how language works. It is also a very important means of learning about human life, human emotions, and experiences.
Sometimes we have to read about things that are bad. Sometimes even we have to read about issues that are actually disbelief. We do need to be selective about what we read. Once we decide that what we are reading or studying is genuinely important, we have to make sure we leave with the benefit that we were searching for in the get-go.
So, looking at a book like Lord of the Flights, when studying it we are exposed to immoral behavior. However, we should not be looking at it from that angle alone. Rather, we should be looking at it as a literary work: how does the author use language to convey his ideas, how does he develop the plot, how do the characters develop, what are the deeper messages that he is conveying and how does he do this? This is what we look for when studying literature.
Similarly, we can greatly broaden our understanding of man as a social being by reading the book. What happens when you leave people without strong leadership? What happens to their morals? How do people try to govern themselves? The book sheds a lot of light on these issues, and there is a lot we can benefit from it.
To give another example, one film that I studied at school was La Haine. We studied it in my French course. Left to my own devices, as a practicing Muslim, I would not normally sit down and watch a film about violence, drugs, and riots in some European country. There would be no particular benefit in it.
However, given that it was a mandatory part of the course, we watched it, and it greatly helps us as students understand the social and economic stress that marginalized sections of French society were going through. The film captured with great dexterity the meaninglessness, the hopelessness, the misery, and the pain of 24 hours in the life of subalterns in the slums of France. There was a clear educational benefit in watching the film, and it was not just an hour or so of watching people sin.
So, we as Muslims do hate sin, we do hate disbelief, and we do not enjoy reading about sin and disbelief. But sometimes, there is more benefit than harm in reading certain books because the literary skill and indeed the message carried by the book is of greater benefit.
I pray this helps.
[Ustadh] Farid Dingle
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.