Harry Potter Book Series (1997-2007)
Appropriateness Rating: Don’t Miss It
Entertainment Rating: Awesome
The Harry Potter series is about a young orphan boy, Harry Potter, who is living with his mean aunt and uncle and their bullying son Dudley. When he receives a letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and finds out that he is a wizard his life gets turned upside down. Each book in the series tells the story of one year of Harry’s magical education starting from his first year at the age of eleven and going up to his seventh year when he is seventeen years old. The books grow as Harry gets older so the later books are scarier and they include some mentions of dating and boyfriends and girlfriends. The way in which these topics are handled, however, is quite mature in comparison to most other media, and you should not let these aspects discourage you from reading these books. When it comes to finding good, clean, books for your children to read this series is one of the best out there, don’t miss it!
Warnings: teenage dating, girlfriends and boyfriends, kissing scenes
Starting from the fourth book Harry Potter reaches puberty and feels attracted to girls. However, the way in which the whole girlfriend/boyfriend issue is handled is relatively mature and well done – you can tell it was written by a mother who did not want to encourage children to just accept that these things are normal or cool without questioning them and while she wasn’t a Muslim the way she handled it much better than most other novelists. Where most books and movies these days just show young people having relationships and try to portray it as cool or normal the Harry Potter books show the teenagers struggling with some negative consequences of their actions when they get negative reputations, have their feelings hurt and betrayed by others, etc.
In the fifth book there is a hilarious scene where Harry is going out on a date with a girl, but the entire situation is shown as a disaster, as something silly and frivolous and a waste of Harry’s time who ends up leaving because he has something more important to do (warn the rest of the Wizarding world that a very evil wizard they thought was dead is alive and coming back to power). There is also a kissing scene in the fifth book, but it isn’t described in detail, the scene just changes and we know it happened. In the sixth book there is more love and dating and so on, but again, it’s made fun of and described in ways that make it seem silly rather than “cool” or exciting. And in the end the main characters get married to people who they respected not the ones they were most attracted to. This is a good discussion starter for older children.
It would be easy to skip over those parts if you are reading the books with very young children, and for older children you can discuss it and supplement the ideas in the book with the proper Islamic way to act around the opposite gender.
Ideas and Morals: magic and witchcraft
Many Muslim parents stay away from these books and try to avoid them because they know there is magic and witchcraft involved. And it’s true, there are magic spells and magic wands, there are magical creatures that fly around and so on, but if you really compare it to some of the most well-known stories that even Muslim parents and grandparents will tell to kids about giants or ghouls or Ali Baba and the magic word he used to open the cave or Sindibad and the Rokh, for example, it’s not very different from any of these stories and the ‘damage’ you might think it does to your kids upbringing is much, much less than the damage caused by some other books and cartoons you might think are ‘harmless.’
Also, in the portrayal of some of the aspects of magic in this book we can see some ideas we know from Islam, such as the deception involved in fortunetelling/predicting the future, that it’s impossible, even for wizards with magic, to bring back the dead, etc.
Of course every parent should make their own decision, but you should know that while the world that the Harry Potter series takes place in has many magical elements in it, the focus of the story is not reallu magic and the messages that are sent in these books are mostly positive messages like the importance of family, friends working together, helping others, standing up for what’s right, etc.
Messages: importance of family, working together, humility, standing up for what’s right, helping the weak, being honest in competition, standing up against prejudice and bigotry, etc
As an Orphan who started his journey in the first book knowing nothing about his parents Harry’s story is really one about self-discovery and about the importance of family. He learns more and more about his parents as he grows older and he also finds a loving family – the family of his best friend Ron – that takes him in and stands by him. He learns to think about others and he also learns how to distinguish good friends that he should be with and trust from bad influences.
Harry is the hero of the books and he is a very humble person who doesn’t look for glory or money or fame, but instead always tries to avoid the spotlight. He has strong moral stances on many issues. For example he stands up to bullies in his school and befriends less popular students that others make fun of or bully. He also learns to stand up for the weak and less fortunate such as Muggles (people who can’t do magic and are often helpless in front of evil wizards who attack them) as well as House Elves (magical creatures enslaved by some wizards).
Harry also stands up to a very evil teacher that comes to the school in his fifth year and even the Ministry of Magic politicians when they abuse their power. His struggle against lies in the media is also quite a good introduction to critically thinking about what we see in the real media around us.
There is an ongoing competition in the school in sports as well as House Points and throughout this competition Harry and his friends stay honest while the bad characters are the only ones who resort to cheating. In the end of each year it is Harry and his friends, the honest, brave, loyal ones who end up winning and getting the most House Points and not the bullies or the cheaters.
There are many more positive messages in the seven books that you can find and discuss with your family members which it would take too long to list. Here is a breakdown of the seven books and the level of appropriateness of each:
1 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Without reservations
Main themes: family, fighting against desires, working together, courage
2 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Don’t miss it
Main themes: fighting prejudice, seeking glory and fame is not good
Warning: some students trade Valentine’s day cards
3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Without reservation
Main themes: importance of friendship and family, courage, the power of memories, importance of seeking the real truth warning: frightening
4 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Don’t miss it
Main themes are courage, working together, using our brains/skills to overcome problems, the negative impact of war, helping and respecting the less fortunate
Warning: attraction to opposite gender, school dance, killing/scary scenes
5 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phenix Don’t miss it
Main themes: standing up for the truth, working together, the power of memories and friendship, the importance of thinking before acting, ugliness of prejudice,
Warnings: dating, girlfriends and boyfriends, scary scenes, death/loss
6 Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Don’t miss it
Main themes: seeking the truth, seeking to do good/help others, the negative impacts of killing on a person’s soul, ugliness of prejudice
Warnings: dating, scary scenes, death/loss
7 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Don’t miss it
Main themes: triumph of good over evil, not stooping to use bad means even if the ends is good, the negative impact of evil, oppression and killing on a person’s soul, kindness to the less powerful, humility, judgment after death
Warnings: brief mentions of girlfriend and boyfriend relationships, scary scenes/events, many deaths in the war