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Friday, March 25, 2005

Sense of Humor in Islam

Islam is a religion or moderation and wisdom. What may look prohibited at first may become allowed in certain circumstances. For instance, it is not allowed to talk with non-mahram, except when seeking knowledge or help. It is not allowed to eat non-halal meat, except when there is nothing else to eat around. It is not allowed to write or read licentious poetry but useful poetry that deliver an Islamic message s good.
Same thing for human entertainment.

Joking is permitted in Islam in the condition that it is moderate.
Al Hafeth said, “What is prohibited is exaggerated or continuous joking as it distracts from worship of Allah and being serious about religious matters. This often leads to hard-heartedness, envy and loss of respect. Useful joking, which aims to calm people or entertain or relieve them
for a short time, is permissible.”

Permission on joking:
The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam. Abu Hurairah said that the prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, was told, “O Prophet of Allah, you are joking with us.” He said, “I only say what is true.” (Tirmithi) Another hadith relates that the prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, would
nickname Zeinab bint Um Salama by repeatedly calling her ‘O Zuweinab’.
Other Ahadith relate that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, would play and joke with small children. Thus we see that joking is a Sunnah. Sufyan bin Uyayna was asked, “ Is joking
prohibited?” He replied, “It is a Sunnah, but the point is that it must be done appropriately.” Many of the scholars agree that. Omar (Radhiallahu anhu) said, “ I admire the man who is like a child with his family (playful), and once he leaves them, he is more serious.” Thabit ibn Ubaid said, “Zayd ibn Thabit was one of the most humorous men in his home. Outside of his home, he was as serious as any man.”

It is also related that ibn Abbas asked some of his guests to have light and humorous conversation so that they would have a good time and not feel bored. Rabi’a said, “Virtue is made of six parts, three while in town (at the place of your home) and three while on a journey. The first three are reciting the Qur’an, frequently being at the mosque, and spreading the way of Allah to other lands.

The three parts while traveling are spending, showing virtuous behaviour and joking in what Allah has permitted.” Ibn Abbas said, “Joking appropriately is permissible, for the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, joked but he only said what was true.” Al Khalil bin Ahamd al
Fraheedi said, “People would feel imprisoned if they did not joke.”

Prohibition of joking:
On the other hand, some of the scholars have prohibited joking and they are supported by some Ahaddeth. It is related that the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, “Everything has a beginning and hostility begins with joking.” Ja’far bin Muhammad said, “Beware of joking for it causes embarassment.” Ibrahim al-Nakh’i said, “Joking shows foolishness and arrogance.” Imam ibn Abdul Bar said, “Some of the scholars denounced joking for what it causes of offences, spite
and malice between people.”


2 Types of Joking:
According to ibn Hayan, there are two types of joking. The first is preferred and it is defined as, “that which Allah has permitted, which commits no sin and does not lead to separation between people.” The second is the negative, harmful kind: “causing hostilities and sadness, and creating some of the benefits and harms of joking will clarify what is meant. Some of the scholars have said that joking is beneficial in that it entertains, lifts the spirit and lightens the burdens of life, bringing people closer together. In describing this kind of joking, a man wrote, “such humour does not hurt or criticize anyone. It leads a person from sadness to happiness, eases the frown and allows people to relax and be themselves.” Joking defeats its purpose when it separates people, and causes hostilities and envy between them.

Guidelines for Humour:

Joking should not deviate from the truth. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said, “I only say what is true.”

Joking should not become consistent in a person’s manner, for seriousness is also a virtue. Muhammad ibn Ar-Rashed said, “The issues of Islam are more serious than to be dealt with jokingly. Smiling, joking, relaxing and laughing are certainly welcome at appropriate times and places. But at times of work, seriousness is called for.

Bad language or reference to improper topics of converation may not be subject of jokes.

Joking must be at the appropriate time and place. Dr. Adel Shuweikh said, “Humour is most welcome after the Fajr prayer. He is supported by what has been related by Sammak bin Harb: “I asked Jaber ibn Samra if he spent time with the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, and he said,
‘Yes, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, would often not leave the mosque after the Fajr prayer until the sun rose. They would be laughing and he would be smiling’ (Muslim).
He also said, “Another time for making light was after the Ishaa prayer. Humour is permitted with family uncles and siblings. It is more preferred if it serves the purpose of advice and guidance, or if it creates friendship and warmth between people.”

Imam Nawawi said, “Joking is prohibited when it is excessive and consistent. It becomes ineffective and causes the heart to harden. It distracts a person from worship of Allah and concern
with religious issues.”

Joking differently with different people:
Ath-Thahabi related that Khalaf ibn Salem said, “We were at Yazeed ibn Haroun’s and he made a joke. Ahmad ibn Hanbal cleared his throat, and Yazeed said, ‘Who cleared his throat?’ When he found out it who it had been, he put his hand on his forehead and cried, ‘Why didn’t you tell me
Ahmad ibn Hanbal was here so I would not joke?”

It was said, “Do not joke with children to the extent that they lose respect for you.” Ibn Hayan said, “Whoever jokes with an inappropriate person will lose that person’s respect, even if what he is saying is true. One should be selective with whom he jokes.”

Ibn al-Muqafa’ said, “One should separate his behavior between two groups of people. One group is made up of the public. Here he should be serious and purposeful with every word he speaks. The other group is made up of people who are closer to him. With this group, he should be
humorous and caring. Each of these behaviors will be beneficial and productive in the right place.”

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