Humor in Islam

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Description:  Islam is not all seriousness.  It has a lighter side that includes humour.  We discuss this and lay out a list of guidelines t...

Description: Islam is not all seriousness.  It has a lighter side that includes humour.  We discuss this and lay out a list of guidelines that ensure joking and laughter benefits everybody involved, by lightening the mood and softening the heart.  Joking that is cruel, such as scary practical jokes or those that are untruthful is not acceptable.
Lesson Objective
·       To understand that laughter, fun, and joking are permissible in Islam provided one follows guidelines designed to protect individuals and the community. 
Arabic Terms
·       Sahabah - the plural form of "Sahabi," which translates to Companions.  A sahabi, as the word is commonly used today, is someone who saw Prophet Muhammad, believed in him and died as a Muslim.
·       Deen - the way of life based on Islamic revelation; the sum total of a Muslim’s faith and practice.  Deen is often used to mean faith, or the religion of Islam.
·       Aayaat - (singular – ayah)  the word aayaat can have many meanings.   It is almost always used when talking about proofs from Allah.  These include evidences, verses, lessons, signs, and revelations.
·       Sunnah - The word Sunnah has several meanings depending on the area of study however the meaning is generally accepted to be, whatever was reported that the Prophet said, did, or approved.
HumourinIslampart1.jpgThe Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad teaches us that the Prophet himself was constantly seen smiling, and that smiling in the face of our brother is charity[1].  This is a great example of his happy nature, however what did he think of jokes and joking around?  We know that emulating Prophet Muhammad’s behaviour is a beneficial and rewarding thing to do, so just what can we discover from the Quran and theSunnah about humour in Islam?
Nowadays it has become common to see Muslims on stand up comedy programs around the world…is it acceptable for a Muslim to make fun of another Muslim or another human being? When we ask ourselves these sorts of questions we must remember two very important points.  The first is that Islam is a religion designed by our Creator for all of humankind, for all places and for all times.  It would be foolish to think that Allah did not know how comedy would develop in the 21st century.  Secondly, Islam is the religion of the middle way.  We are reminded time and again to follow a middle path and not to go to extremes, one way or the other.
“The deen is easy.  Anyone who makes the deen too hard on himself will find it becomes too much for him.  So aim for what is right, follow a middle path, accept the good news of the reward for a good deed, and seek help [to reach your goal by being constant in worshipping] in the morning, evening and some of the night.”[2]
The Quran does not forbid laughter, and there are many instances in Islamic literature that give testimony to Islam’s lighter side. 
‘And it is He (Allah) who makes whom He wills laugh and makes whom He wills weep.’ (Quran 53:43)
Bilal ibn Sa’d said: “I saw them (the sahabah) jokingly pretending to fight over some goods, and laughing with one another, but when night came they were like dedicated worshippers.”
Ibn Umar was asked, “Did the sahabah laugh?” He said, “Yes, and the faith in their hearts was like mountains.”[3]
“The sahabah used to throw melon-rinds at one another, but when the matter was serious, they were the only true men.”[4]
One of the sahabah, a man named Handhala thought that life was supposed to be dour and serious all the time, completely free from fun and entertainment.   He even thought he was a hypocrite if he played or laughed.  Prophet Muhammad reminded him that fun and laughter was good for the heart, he said, “But Handhala, refresh your heart from time to time.”[5]
Prophet Muhammad would joke with his friends and companions and was once asked, “O Messenger of Allah, are you joking with us?” He replied, “I only say what is true.”[6]
Thus we find that Islamically acceptable humour is humour that does not go beyond the bounds of truth, and serves the purpose of refreshing hearts and minds.  The following guidelines will make sure that the humour you engage in not only lightens the mood but is also Islamically acceptable.   If we are rewarded for a simple smile using humour to create love between Muslims, or to entice people to learn more about Islam, is surely a rewardable act. 

1.     A person should never jokingly ridicule the Deen of Islam. 

This is an action which nullifies one’s Islam.  It is a matter to be taken very seriously.
“If you ask them (about this), they declare: ‘We were only talking idly and joking.’ Say: ‘Was it at Allah, and His Aayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) and His Messenger that you were mocking?’ Make no excuse; you have disbelieved after you had believed...” (Quran 9:65 & 66)
“A man may say something to make his companions laugh, and he will fall into Hell as far as the distance between the east and the west because of it.”[7]

2.     Joke only about things that are true.

If your joking involves lying it is not permissible. 
The Prophet said, “Woe to the one who speaks and lies in order to make people laugh; woe to him, woe to him.”[8]

3.     Do not frighten people with your jokes.

Once when travelling, one of the sahabah fell asleep, the others got some rope and tied him up.  The man woke up and was frightened so Prophet Muhammad said, ‘It is not permissible for a Muslim to frighten another Muslim’.[9]

4.     Do not mock people (by winking or with snide remarks).

A person must be careful that their jokes and remarks do not hurt others’ feelings or harm them in any way.  People all vary in their ability to understand or “take a joke”.  Take care that your playfulness does not make others feel bad, hurt or betrayed.
“O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former.  Nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former.  Nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames.  How bad is it to insult one’s brother after having Faith.” (Quran 49:11)
In the next lesson we will continue to discuss the list of guidelines for permissible joking.


Footnotes:
[1] Saheeh Al-Bukhari
[2] Ibid.
[3] Abd Al-Razzaq Al-Sanana, Al-Musannaf 11:327
[4] Saheeh Al-Bukhari
[5] Saheeh Muslim
[6] At Tirmidhi
[7] Imam Ahmad
[8] At Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood.
[9] Abu Dawood

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Jama Masjid: Humor in Islam
Humor in Islam
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