Islamic Studies

Grand Theft Life

Asalamu alaykum,

Over the next few hours we are going to witness a craze for the latest installment of the “Grand Theft Auto” series. Undoubtedly, there will lines of salivating people making Qiyam al-Layil to get their latest copy. I’m ashamed to admit that my exposure to this game was limited until I began to travel the Muslim world. It is not uncommon, at least in my neighborhood, to see 7 year old boys making ‘Itikaf in front of a computer at one of the local net cafes in my city until late in the night playing this game. It was here, in the Muslim world that I was exposed to this game and all that comes with it.

Instead of giving a sermon, saying that its haram or whatever, I would like to remind my brothers and sisters that the Prophet [may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him] stated that we will all be asked about our lives and how we spent them. Isn’t that enough? You! Young brother as you are about to pop in that game and get the latest codes, think about the statement of Allah, “Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the hearts will be questioned.” Man, imagine that! What are we going to say in front of Allah?

What’s more shocking about this series of games is the overindulgence in misogyny, criminal activity and its robust glorification of prison culture. I came out of that life, and can tell you that it is no video game. And that is the real danger of this game: A stealth approach towards living a lifestyle that goes against being a servant of Allah and, instead, being a servant of Shaytan and one’s desires.

The other danger is: “Oh, man its just a game.” That’s how it starts. So, while involved in this game, one develops a criminal pattern of behavior. As KRS ONE said, “Criminal minded you’ve been blinded.” Exactly, the game is blinding the taqwa from our hearts; causing us to plot, think and live like criminals. I have a lot to say on this, but time and my exams will not allow it. Thus, I leave you with this. Those of you who plan to buy this game and play it, think about the following:

1. What were you created for?

2. Are you aware that Allah sees all that you do?

3. Do you fully understand the reality of this life?

4. Where are you headed?

Instead of buying the game do the following with the money:

1. Donate it to charity

2. Go see a good movie

3. Buy another game

4. Hang out with your friends and do something fun

5. Save it for another day

6. Go to a Muslim event that appeals to you. [Try going to see Outlandish at the Voices for Change Concert]

7. Enroll in an Islamic course

I know it is easier said than done. When I was young I would have blown of this type of message. But I have a lot of hope in our brothers and sisters and know that they are capable of doing great things.

Wake up young brothers and sisters! Communities! Don’t be afraid to have an open discussion about this game with your youngsters. I would advice some to even play the game with them and talk about it afterwards. Parents, with all those warning stickers on the front of that game’s box you have no excuse buying that for you kids. The Prophet [sa] mentioned that Shaytan can steal reward from people’s prayers. I often wonder if he is stealing from the rewards of our youth. [grand theft youth]


About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • MashaAllah you know whats running through the minds of the youth, this is so timely. The game is only released today in the UK aswell!

    JazakAllahu Khairan for the reminder and guidance again.

  • I remember going to a internet cafe in suuk as-sayaraat quiet late at night, most probably around 11pm, i saw a bunch of kids playing games on the pcs. very sad to be frank.

  • Excellent post Br. Suhaib

    I remember my Jahiliyah days…i spent more than 100 hours playing one game alone! (Final Fantasy 7)
    Alhamdulillah, no more

    This post reminded me with how much Allah Swt has blessed us with in terms of our understanding of Islam


  • Very true. My 12 year old cousin plays this game often, and i am always telling him off for it but he too says ‘its just a game’. Hopefully after he reads this, it will make him think twice. Jazakallah khair Ustadh.

  • we are discussing this RIGHT NOW in my child and adolescent development class.

    Not good for individuals and esp an entire society 🙁 …and that is strictly what research shows- not even touching upon the spiritual aspects of how this kills the heart.

    question: if a known murderer came to you and asked you to meet him in alone in a room, would you jump at the opportunity?

    what about the shaytan? he wants to do worse than murder to us! why are we listening?!

    Allah musta’aan

  • I’ll be honest. I’m huge fan of GTA series. I will most likely probably get the game. Although I do not spend countless wasted hours playing like Sh. Suhaib desscribed above with the Muslim children in the Internet cafes. I guess that’s becuase I have work and I get so tired I need to sleep.

    Moderation is key when it comes to video games. Sports games are probably the best. Madden, FIFA or NBA live are the better ones. It’s also worth it to play these games with a group of brothers for relaxation and increasing bonds. It is almost very effecting in terms of keeping family relation ties amongst your kin brothers or cousins. Although one must watch out into wasting hundreds of hours playing the games. Be moderate in playing it so you don’t miss your obligatory acts to Allah (swt).

    Good post Sh. Suhaib!

  • Timely post, it’s good to see Imams still connected and able to advise youth the contemporary American cultural context.

    Video games and television are also one of the leading causes of child obesity – go out and play some ball instead. It’s free (usually) and more fun, and you can actually increase brotherhood while doing it. Not saying good video games can’t, do it either, but most likely you won’t burn calories on the couch playing them.

  • JazakAllah for the reminder! I used to be into videogames a lot, esp the ps2. I liked the GTA series at first, but later I realized it was so useless. In GTA 3, the first mission requires you dropping off a prostitute. Ironically, I learned about this from one of my Muslim friends when I lived in Saudi Arabia. I’m sure this game will be a hit in many Muslim countries, esp Saudi. But really, thanks for the reminder. Speaking on the topic, maybe you can have a post about time management Imam? I have A LOT of trouble managing my time, whether it be for college, Islamic work etc etc.

  • I agree moderation is the key. While I have never played one, I have no problems with fighting games and games like “Grand Theft Auto.” It’s just like any other video game, movie or book: if you take it in moderation and understand the concept of what they’re trying to do.
    A video game is a video game. Playing “Grand Theft Auto” is not going to make me go out and kill 20 people, the same as watching Spider Man will not make me flying from one building to the next.
    Youngster are more at risks but that happens all the time, they are easier to manipulate and fall in the hands of consumism, or terrorism as well as capitalism or islamist!

  • MR and MS:

    So your implying that moderation means we can treat women as hoes, hook up with hookers, kill the innocent, get high, commit perverse acts, intimidate people, steal cars, property and other things, assault others, use vulgar language, break laws and most importantly: forget that we are the servants of Allah and live our lives to the fullest? That is moderation? Because, just for that split second, that is what we are doing when we play GTA. MR: why not play other games? I love killing Abdur Rahman Murphy in Madden or any other sports game!

    The Prophet [sa] said, “Whatever is forbidden in large amounts is forbidden in small amounts.”


  • ASA
    Moderation means you are not playing this game 24/7, that you are not revolving your life around this game and forgetting about the responsibilities Allah (SWT) has given you. What is being implied here is that as long as you don’t take this game too seriously, you will be fine.

    However, one of the things that needs to be realized here is the fact that this is what Shaytan wants you to think. Shaytan likes to tell you and assure you that you won’t do any of these things outside. He’ll say things like “You are a good Muslim, you won’t do these things,” or in the case of GTA “Just don’t do the mission with prostitutes or perverse missions and you’ll be fine.” But what is really happening? Shaytan is slowly but surely transitioning you from a fearful servant of Allah (SWT) to a jahil person. He’ll tell you to do the “not as bad” missions at first. Then, once the feeling that tells you not to do it is gone, then he moves you to the next level of bad missions (bad meaning evil), and the next and the next until you do the most haraam mission. Then when you do this mission, you will realize how much you transgress, but what will we do? 10 to 1 we will tell ourselves that we are already doing it, so there is no point in stopping to play the game. Besides, we are almost done.

    But it doesn’t stop there. Once you accept the fact that you are doing all these very haraam missions, Shaytan will try and convince you that this is not that bad, and make you very addicted to the game. The dangers of this is that you might miss your Salah because you were to busy playing video games.

    And then what happens? Once you like the game, your own psychology changes: you start, like Imam Suhaib Webb says, thinking like a criminal, or like the characters of the game. In other words, you might be pretending that your world was just like that of GTA. I’ll give you an example. I played Metal Gear Solid II: Sons of Liberty, and whenever I finished playing, I would imagine myself in Solid Snake’s shoes: I would pretend to be Snake, sneaking around the house and what not. In the case of GTA, when this happens, you start not trusting people because pretend to be a criminal and that’s how criminal’s act. They don’t trust anyone. This will result in the loss of taqwa of the mo’min, which is very dangerous. It is like red alert. When this happens, you better strap yourself to a Masjid or something.

    And then you start playing all night long and start missing your salah. Now when you start missing your salah, that’s when you know things are WAY out of control. That tells you that you are missing Salah in order kill someone in a video game or generally commit a crime. YOU MISSED SALAH BECAUSE YOU WERE TOO BUSY COMMITING A CRIME LIKE STEALING OR MUGGING SOMEONE, ETC. DOING SOMETHING THAT ALLAH (SWT) STRICTLY PROHIBITED.

    Now I’m not saying that it is haraam to play this game. I am just conveying to everyone the dangers this game may have on people. Will you necessarily miss salah? Maybe not. But we should be careful about terms such as ‘moderation’ because, in the case of video games, this could be what Shaytan wants us to think. In fact, this is probably what he IS telling us.

    In terms of what MR said about bonds, I wouldn’t say GTA is the best in groups, only because of the violence, but sports games are definitely something that is awesome to play in groups of Muslims because it increases the love between brothers. Even games like Halo are an awesome brotherhood builder, especially with Muslims who are away from Islam. The fact of the matter is that it all goes back to intention. “Actions are based on intention, and you will get what you intended for.” I ask Allah (SWT) to forgive me if I said anything wrong. Anything good that has come out of this discussion is from Allah (SWT), anything bad comes from myself or the Shaytan.

  • Good point, Imam Suhaib.

    Another thing is that with each purchase of the game by a Muslim, a vote is being put in to the company to reproduce this game and others like it.

    So if/when we go out and spend $50-70 bucks on a video game like Grand Theft Auto or any other game with demoralizing lessons, we need to think and reflect. Is it right that we support a company that produces entertainment with lewd ideas and a garbage plot, and that through this support, more garbage will come? No, man, we shouldn’t.

  • Assalamualaikum,

    I love this post, I hate GTA and its message but I still play vgames. I’m curious as to what you think of Call of Duty 4, I’m no addict but I play 2-3 times a week.


  • I used to be huge into video games (and television) until recently. For one thing, school took up most of my time. But more importantly, though, once I started having an interest in Islamic knowledge, I simply couldn’t do those things anymore. Not too long ago, I would not have been able to believe what I am saying now, but it’s true.

    Once I started watching Yusuf Estes, Bilal Philips, Yasir Qadhi, Imam Suhaib… (the list goes on and on), it became hard to enjoy watching anything else. That’s what I wanted to do in my free time.

    Now, that feeling of elation and joy I used to get from buying or receiving a new video game, I now feel when buying a new Islamic book. (Whether I get enough time to actually read them is another issue, unfortunately). It’s become my hobby, my main point of interest.

  • With some people it is clear that we have an issue on identity here. It is well known that indulging in recreation like playing a video game or watching tv etc… is generally Halal. But of course we all know that Islam is about disciplining the soul while maintaining our humanity. So Allah being His Merciful Wise self did not make our submission to Him to be a hardship upon us. That being said to every enjoyment he puts guidelines and parameters for OUR own benefit and well-being. So here are the main boundries in these acts of entertainment wallahu a’lam-

    1- That there is no Israaf (wasting or extravegance). This is either in the amount of money that we spend on them or the time we put into them.
    2- That it not interfere with our prayers or other preferable Islamic activities. This does not mean stop and pray in guiness book timing with our mind on the next level in the game. It means that if we are male and with transportation to go the the local mosque and if one is female to either go to the mosque or pray the prayer with it’s Sunnah with devotion at home. That will depend on her choice based upon her circumstances although she gets a special Ajr praying at home.
    3- That it doesn’t contain a large amount of haram depicitons which glorify munkaraat as is the case here. We should not support the sale of such things nor should we put these things in our eyes and ears. Western psychology shows that although it is highly unlikely to make you go do the act it still fosters a negative impact upon the human mind.

    There is somthing about a true Muslim identity called ‘Uluw al-himmah which is roughly translated as high-mindedness. It means that we should always be looking at the bigger picture as repesentatives of Allah’s deen and as those who love and fear our creator. We are aware that we are inclined to the animalistic carnal desire. A Muslim should constantly rise above that and become a strong spiritual force respected, honored and looked up to by the angels around us.

  • AS

    Isnt that the game that has secret levels that are opened by codes and the deeper you get into it the sicker it gets with killing and porn?

    There was an ex-gang leader from LA who spoke about reform and he mentioned one of the things we need to do as a community so as to prevent the growth of criminality and drugs among the youth is monitor there games and dress and friends.

    On my way back to Egypt this trip I had a grown man act like a child tell me the sickest thing he said all I do with my free time is play video games and you know I must have killed a hundred thousand people in virtual reality is that not sick man? All I remember is the look on his face is was abnormal. We forget that killing, and theft and and are sins in the real world and we enjoy these things in the virtual world we forget actions are by intention. SubhanAllah then we wonder why society is the way it is today.

    This is a sign of families not being involved and selfishness over riding community time.

  • Asalamualaikum wrt,

    About 20 years ago, I used to play a game called “Metroid.” As halal is it may have sounded, I still have lingering beeps and sounds from that game that come back to me. When I become devoted to knowledge, I gave up a lot of things. But some of these games leave a lasting imprint on a persons personality, that you cannot erase.

    My greatest regret is that I wasted so much time in games and music that I could have used for learning, and I will never get that time back. I hope someone can learn a lesson from my experience. Death is waiting for us around the corner, we have more important things we should be doing…

  • Assalamu Alaikum,

    For any brothers who think that these games are ok – EVEN in moderation, I have a question for you.

    We know that Allah (swt) forgives us for sinful thoughts that come up into our head randomly and as a result of our nufoos.

    We also know that if we try to ACTIVELY CONTEMPLATE on committing sins and purposefully daydream about sins – this type of thinking is sinful, because we are doing it on purpose.

    So does not playing a video game that contains in it sins, take the contemplation of the bad deeds to another, higher level – and put us at risk not just for wasting time, but actually accumulating sins before Allah (swt)? I mean if actively thinking on purpose is sinful, what is actively playing and pretending?

    wAllahu ‘alam,
    Abdul Sattar

  • It’s my first time reading this blog: I’m 16 and own an Xbox 360, although it hasn’t been turned on in months.

    The buzz around this game is extremely positive an I WAS considering it as my first GTA game ever, but Alhamdulilah this post has deterred me. I saw the “fun” aspect, but your relating it to actual gang violence kills that lol.

    And I agree with Sharif above, once you get into really learning about Islam and seeing how you could learn all your life and still come up with new stuff, THAT becomes the new fun in your free time.

    Also, I like your tips for what to do with your money instead! Much easier to listen to advice when you’re UNDERSTOOD, not just told that everything is haraam. Video games can be great for socializing when friends come over; you could just buy another game as you said. After all, even the most religious people need a bit of a break for some NBA Street 😉

  • salaam,

    Look up escapism, Your Life sucks so much that you want to escape. I think I played GTAIII from the first mission to the last just so I can escape from work, school, family, religion. It was my temp high. I could live out my fantasies in a fantasy world trying to get stars, then using cheat codes to get away quick. But’s wasteful and I found something better to escape to… The Qur’aan and Remembrance of Allah..

    For those of you addicted.. get some help, find some brothers and socialize!

  • It seems some people have come here looking for a fatwa on the permissibility of playing Call of Duty or whatever. Strange…

  • Salaamu alaikum brother Suhaib,

    I’m still remembering when Texas Tech beat your sooners the last time we balled. You should’ve PUT IN RAWLS! Rematch waiting when you get back. Although, I’ll have to buy another system since I sold mine 6 months ago. LOL.

  • AoA Brother,

    Mashallah I really liked this article because I used to be a Grand theft Auto Fanatic but ever since my Psp broke (I dont know if its a blessing or a punishment) I havent played GTA for like a year now and im proud (Although I often get cravings and temptations to play it now hehe) Also I never knew that you listened to KRS ONE he is a pretty good artist.

    Ma’a Salaama

    Osman Bhaloo

  • Assalamualaikum,

    There is a talk by Shiekh Suhaib Webb where he talked about the game and said something along the lines of “have you seen the effects of prostitution on the children of prostitutes?”…man, that just slammed me. Even though I knew that there is a difference between real prostitutes and one in the game, that thought just cut me so deep that I have never ever ever played GTA ever again.

  • People are responding with ” moderation is key” and “I own this game but its alright because its just a video game.”

    I cant believe this ignorance. The next time you think its ok just realize that you’re trying to rob people, shoot them, and do everything possible under the sun that is haram just to pointlessly entertain urselfs. You’re being tricked and you consciously deny it.

    May Allah help u.

  • This game is for Adults only! Not kids. Parents who let their kids play this game are irresponsible or just ignorant. Videogames doesnt always = childsplay. Most videogames out today are geared toward adults.

  • I grew up a gamer. I played many genres of games, and admit I spent many hours on them, and for the most part there are skills you learn via games that serve you well at work and give you an edge over colleagues who did not – in my field of work, they are generally planning, resource management over time, team selection and strategic skills I learned from RPGs and RTS games. They also let you understand your reaction styles and game play, and this is for me a form of learning of myself. I have played as a Sith, and I have played first person shooters, and street fighting games, and have played ‘bad guy’ teams, for example on Dune.

    But I could not bring myself to watch – let alone play – GTA. There’s something about it that bothers me – perhaps it’s that the robbing and prostitution are not just a part of the game landscape, a necessity of the story, as it might be in a simulation of real life, but are actually actions specifically required of the gamer and/or rewarded, AND doing these things are assumed to have no effect on the self: these acts *are* the game. Unlike, say, Knights of the Old Republic where the tradeoff between good and evil deeds are explored. It ceases to be fun when you think the designer might have an agenda to push.

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