Often sighted slipping into the toy room/bedroom/basement (or wherever else the kids have been relegated to), I'm there to check out what's keeping the kids amused.
And rightfully so. I've run into everything from tickling uncles (not funny!) to videos of Indian love songs (played on theater-size screens!) and have learned that most people's opinions can't be trusted when it comes to determining appropriate entertainment.
That's because a lot of people take God out of the equation when it comes to determining how to enjoy their down time. In actuality, God has put forth clear guidelines on recreational activities, a part of life He deems indispensable.
"Enjoy yourselves and be playful," encouraged Prophet Muhammad (S), "for I despise that roughness should be seen in your religion."
A believer's day is supposed to be divided into four (not necessarily equal) parts:
1) Worship (prayers, supplications, Quran recitation, etc.)
2) Securing one's livelihood, school, housework
3) Spending time in the company of good friends
4) Enjoying legitimate pleasures
"You have to do things that are fun as well," says scholar Salim Yusufali. "If you don't do that you won't be successful (in the other aspects of your life)."
We are supposed to engage in recreation which gives true pleasure to the heart and soul as well as to the body. This means the activities should be permissible by God, done in moderation and preserve our remembrance of Him.
"O my people! This life of the world is only a (passing) enjoyment, and surely the Hereafter is the abode to settle." (Quran 40:39)
Despite their tremendous obligations and responsibilities, the Prophet (S) and Ali, the husband of Fatima (one of the four perfect women), made time for light-hearted conversation.
The two were sitting together eating dates one day when the Prophet (S) started placing his pits in the plate in front of Ali. When they finished, the Prophet (S) said [paraphrased], Let's see who was hungrier.
Realizing the jest, Ali countered [paraphrased]: The one who ate his stones along with his dates!
"Moderate amusements are a sort of voluntary worship," said eleventh century theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, "because they cause freshness of the body and enthusiasm for the spirit for carrying out the [obligations]."
Imam Khomeini, the great leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, once reprimanded his great-grandchild for studying on a holiday. "You will not get anywhere because at the time of recreation you must be at leisure." He added: "I did not substitute one hour of recreation for studies, nor one hour of studies for recreation.
My kids, on the other hand, have been playing on the computer for a while now. Time to go check on them....