Since Pokemon Go became a craze in South Africa, many scholars have declared it haraam (forbidden). This article is not a fatwa, but a plea to parents, grandparents, and gamers. It presents the facts and potential spiritual implications that a harmless-looking game may have upon us. I write because I feel a responsibility to be a light in this dark generation, and you are reading because you too want to make a difference.
Pokémon, created by Satoshi Tajiri, gained much popularity in the mid-late 1990’s after the first Pokémon games were released by Nintendo. From the games, other merchandise was manufactured such as Pokémon trading cards, cartoons, movies, apparel, plush toys, and the like. When it first came out in the late 1990’s, there was a cartoon episode which caused nearly 700 viewers to suffer seizures, many of which had not suffered seizures before. The claims were that it was due to photo-sensitivity, but there was another possibility: demonic possession. Am I being paranoid here?
Photos, games and movies can indeed, carry bad spirits. Think of the Ouija board game or the Harry Harry Where are You Pencil Game, for instance, which involves necromancy, psychic phenomena, and communicating with evil spirits. Certain movies have been specifically linked to causing people to commit suicide. Evil begets evil, oftentimes, so we should never leave the door open for potential evil to enter. Games like these are doors for the devil to enter.
In the early years of Pokémon, trading cards were a big trend. This was dangerous because it introduced card traders to even more sinister cards such as “Dungeons and Dragons” and “Magic: The Gathering” where children would learn all about how to summons evil powers and such. The same company these demonic games also produced the Pokémon trading cards.
Now, twenty years after the first Pokémon game was released, it is back in the spotlight and more popular than ever. Released in July 2016, the new game, Pokémon Go, works on an iPhone and on all Android cell phones. It has generated close to 80 million downloads in a moth It uses Google Maps to place the characters on your screen in familiar surroundings such as under your cushion, in the refrigerator and even in the Masjid! As you walk or drive around, you may find Pokémon creatures hiding in different parts of your home, street, neighborhood and town which forces you to go “virtual hunting” for them in the real world. The object is to find the hidden Pokémon creatures and capture them.
Seems harmless enough, right? Great technology, but as fascinating as this technology is, we must see the bigger picture. Pokémon Go is known as an “augmented reality game” and has the potential to become addictive in an unhealthy way. While an unhealthy addiction is bad, it isn’t enough to “demonize” the game, because some could argue that they wouldn’t become addicted. But no one sets out to become an addict of anything. However, once an addiction takes over, it gets a stronghold on the person and brings feelings of compulsion.
Addicts – not only children, but adults too – waste many hours of their precious time running around or driving around looking for Pokémon creatures to capture. Even professionals like doctors and lawyers have been known to cancel their appointments as they were too busy hunting. Designed to transform you into a zombie, gamers can be so engrossed in the game that they get injured because they were not looking where they were walking. It’s just like a chasing of the wind. Life is as a vapor – here today and gone tomorrow. What are we spending our time doing? We need to focus on what matters most: Allah, our duty to our society, community and ummah at large.
Entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy. The more joy you experience in the service of Allah, the less entertainment you need. Taking some time off for leisure is not necessarily sinful; but the point is, what type of entertainment do we choose and why do some seem to crave constant, stimulating entertainment more than others? Perhaps it could be due to emptiness within their souls?
But this only the addiction part of it, we now come to the devilish aspect. Did you know that the word Pokémon is short for “Pocket Monsters” or “Pocket Demons”? It’s ironic that the cell phone is usually carried in the pocket, giving the gamer a tangible, weighty sense of the characters in their pocket. The idea is to capture as many Pokémons as you can so that you can become a Pokémon Master. Once a Master, you can summons or release them when you need help, power, or revenge. And this is exactly how the world of the Jinn works: catch, possessed, and released when needed.
A writer, Berit Kjos wrote: “What if they carry their favorite monsters like magical charms or fetishes in their pockets, trusting them to bring power in times of need?” A concerned Muslim commented: “Chasing devils, and then capturing them makes you a slave of a demon. Dajjal can even appear as Pokemon somewhere on your screen, and you will be compelled to go and “catch” him and fall for his tricks.” These comments should raise some red flags. What is being taught to the young and impressionable as to where to turn in times of need? Who holds the power? Is it Allah who is present in times of trouble or is it a Pokémon devil? OK, this may sound ridiculous to an adult mind, but a child’s mind can be very trusting in such things.
Psychologists have warned that role-playing, like in this game, can cause the participant to actually experience, emotionally, the role being played. Here, the child becomes the master, but in reality, the programmer who wrote the rules is the master. And when the game includes occultism and violence, the child-hero is trained to use his or her spiritual power to kill, poison, evolve, and destroy—over and over. Not only does this repetitive practice blur the line between reality and fantasy, it also sears the conscience and causes the player to devalue life. The child learns to accept unthinkable behavior as normal.
In the game, there are some monsters which are actually portrayed as evil since they possess paranormal, psychic or hypnotic powers. Any type of powers like these is demonic in nature, just so you know. Although it is a fictitious game, the premise of the characters’ power is based upon actual non-fictitious evil. In turn, it propagates a misleading subliminal message that evil equates to power.
The game is also heavily influenced by wrong beliefs of evil mysticism and New Age religions. These are reflected in the different types or categories of Pokemon: Bug, Fighting, Fire, Flying, Dragon, Electric, Ghost, Grass, Ground, Ice, Normal, Poison, Psychic, Rock, and Water. Within each type are several different Pokemon, each possessing various abilities.
Within the game, evolution, an un-Islamic concept is taught repeatedly. There are special stones (Fire, Leaf, Moon, Thunder, and Water) that can be used to force some Pokemon to evolve into more powerful creatures. It also conditions the child who plays the game into accepting occult and evolutionary principles. Haunter can hypnotize, eat a person’s dreams, and drain their energy. Abra reads minds. Kadabra emits negative energy that harms others. Gastly induces sleep. Gengar laughs at peoples’ fright. Nidoran uses poison. The Psychic type of Pokemon is among the strongest in the game. Charmander, Haunter, Ivysaur, Kadabra, and many more evolve. Much of this is reminiscent of occult and eastern mysticism.
In conclusion, the Pokémon trend will be here for a while. Later this year (in November 2016), Nintendo will be releasing another couple of Pokémon games for their 3DS system –Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. Some are calling 2016 “The Year of the Pokémon“. Better uninstall it from now.
Maulana Khalid Dhorat