Formula for Peace

By Alia Ahmed

Once, there was a king, who offered a prize to any artist that would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried their luck. The king looked at all the representations, and only two fascinated him. Ultimately, he had to choose between them.

The first depiction was that of a placid lake with mountains all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. It seemed a perfect picture of peace.

The other image had mountains too, but these were rugged and bare. Above was an enraged sky, from which rain fell and lightening flashed. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a furious, foaming waterfall. Apparently, this was not all, for when the king looked closely behind the waterfall, he saw a tiny bush growing in the crack of a rock. In that bush, a mother bird had built her peewee nest. In the midst of the rush of angry water, the mother bird sat on her nest in perfect peace.

Guess, which one turned out to be the award-winning illustration? Yes, the second one. Why? “Because,” explained the king, “peace does not mean being in a quiet place void of trouble or hard work. Peace means being in the midst of it all and still remaining cool, calm, and composed in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”

This narration compels one to ponder and cogitate. Since the basic unit of the human kind is an individual human, it is evident that in order to achieve peace in the outer world, it must first be attained within the heart of that individual. Consequently, outer peace, or world peace, is a by-product of personal tranquility and mental satisfaction of individuals that inhabit it. Thomas Kempis said: “First keep the peace within yourself, then you can bring peace to others.”

Some people are of the opinion that peace will only be achieved, when they control every single element in their lives. Maybe they are just oblivious to the fact that this is not possible. One must understand the difference between things that are within our control and things that are beyond. The concept of predestination (Qadar) is central to this understanding. Religious scholars and intellectuals are of the view that tribulation and distress in today’s world may have a perspicuous cause-we have lost the path that leads to salvation, because we are missing out on Allah’s (swt) cardinal instructions.

Inner peace is a feeling of calmness and satisfaction within our hearts. But the delicate question is: how can that be attained? ‘Iman’ – the true faith in Allah (swt) and the beliefs, on which the Islamic faith is based – is the only real fountain for one’s inner calmness and rapture. This Arabic word is derived from the root word ‘Amn’, pointing towards peace and tranquility that a believer enjoys in his heart as a result of practising and bolstering these beliefs. There must be no half-hearted consents but total submission to God’s commands. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Truly, in remembering Allah (swt) do hearts find rest” (Ra’d 13:28). Dhikr, the remembrance of Allah (swt), leads to Allah (swt) consciousness, which persuasively brings forth total submission to His commands. Thereupon, it is imperative that in order to bring tranquility into our lives, we must live according to His commandments.

Another significant factor that massively contributes towards acquiring a complacent soul is ‘Shukr’ – thankfulness to Allah (swt). ‘Shukr’ is derived from the root word, ‘sh-k-r,’ and it literally refers to ‘when a cow feeds on less fodder but gives more milk’. Conspicuously, it indicates, how we as believers should be. We should be grateful to Allah (swt) under all circumstances. We must learn to develop a sense of gratitude within ourselves for all the blessings we have received. Most of us have a great deal in our lives to make us blissfully content, but, unfortunately, we lack the ability to acknowledge and appreciate it. A lot is taken for granted and this ingratitude prevents us from attaining tranquility within our hearts. As Melody Beattie says: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Gratitude (Shukr) is considered to be the best and the highest of all the stations of faith (Iman). Gratitude also includes in itself the virtue of patience (Sabr). When we look at the life of Prophet Muhammad (sa), we find that there is nothing greater than his patience and gratitude. He was ‘Saboor’ and ‘Shakoor’. The reality is that as servants of Allah (swt), we can be in one of the two states during our lifetime. Either we enjoy a bounty, for which we should be thankful for, or we may be suffering a calamity that we should meet with patience and forbearance. Muslim states the Hadeeth: “Amazing is the believer, for whatever Allah (swt) decrees for him! If he is tested with a bounty, he is grateful for it, and this is better for him; and if he is afflicted with hardship, he is patient with it, and this is better for him.”

Patience has three main forms:

(a) patience for avoiding the prohibitions and sins,

(b) patience for acts of worship and obedience,

(c) patience required in the face of afflictions and hardships.

The Quran explicitly mentions the finest tools that may be applied to help ease the effects of suffering and hardship: patience (Sabr) and prayer (Dhikr). It is stated in Surat-al-Baqarah, verse 152-153: “Therefore, remember Me (by praying, glorifying (Dhikr)). I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for my countless favors on you) and never be ungrateful to Me. O you, who believe! Seek help in patience and Salah (the prayer). Truly, Allah (swt) is with the As-Sabireen (the patient).” One may conclude that ‘Sakina’ – peace and tranquility within the heart – is a gift from Allah (swt), and the most essential ingredients that contribute to a serene and placid heart are: remembrance of Allah (swt), gratitude and patience. Consequently, a heart that remains thankful and patient, while in constant remembrance of its Creator, can never lose peace of mind.

Salam means Peace

peaceDid you know that the greeting “As-Salam Alaikum” is as old as man himself?

After Adam (as) was created, he was instructed by Allah (swt) to approach a group of angels that sat there and greet them. He was told to listen to their reply as it would be the greeting to be used by him and his offspring. Adam (as) went to them and said: “‘As-Salamu alaikum (Peace be upon you).’ They replied: ‘As-Salamu-‘Alaika Wa Rahmatullah (Peace and Allah (swt)’s Mercy be on you).’ So they increased his greeting with ‘Wa Rahmatullah.’ (Bukhari)

Allah (swt) loves the greeting of Salam, which he has commanded all Muslims to share amongst themselves too. It’s a sincere prayer of peace, mercy and blessings from one Muslim to his other Muslim brother.

On the Day of Judgment, Allah (swt) will also address his faithful believers with the same salutation of peace as is mentioned in Quran: “(It will be said to them): Salam (peace be upon you) – a Word from the Lord (Allah (swt)). Most Merciful.” (Ya-sin 36:58)

Similarly, Allah (swt)’s innocent and pure Creations, the angels will also greet true believers with Salam: “Their greeting on the Day they shall meet Him will be ‘Salam: Peace (i.e., the angels will say to them: Salam Alaikum)!’ And He has prepared for them a generous reward (i.e., Paradise).” (Al-Ahzab 33:44)

Etiquettes of using the greeting of Salam, put forward by Muhammad (sa) are:

  • When a person approaches an assembly he should greet them, and then greet them again when he leaves them. (Abu Dawood)
  • It is enough if one from a group of people passing by gives the greeting on their behalf and it is enough for those who are sitting if one of them replies. (Abu Dawood)
  • A younger person should greet the older person first. (Bukhari)
  • A person who is walking should greet the person who is sitting. (Bukhari)
  • The smaller group should greet the larger group. (Bukhari)
  • One who is riding should greet the one who is walking. (Bukhari)
  • On entering one’s house one should greet those inside. (Nur 24:27)
  • On leaving one’s house, one should greet everyone within the house. (Baihaqi)

Furthermore we have been told: “When one of you meets his fellow brother, he should salute him: then if he meets him again after a tree, wall or stone has come between them, he should salute him.” (Abu Dawood) Greeting one another is a right Muslim brothers have upon each other, regardless of whether they are acquainted or not. Remember the first Salam is more meritorious than the second, so make it a point to greet all that you meet and do not forget to return the greetings you receive. As-Salam Alaikum Wa-Rahmatullahi Wa-Barakatuhu!

Yusuf Bin Tashfin

Tasneem Vali tells the story of Yusuf Bin Tashfin – a Moravid king of Northern Africa, who “saved Muslims from themselves”

Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, has its heroes and so do the throes of history. However, there are also lesser-known heroes – those, who neither conquered foreign lands nor established Islam there, but saved Muslims from themselves. These are the heroes we need to discuss and emulate, if Islam is to achieve a global recognition again. This is the story of Yusuf Bin Tashfin, a Moravid king of Northern Africa, who ruled around 479 A.H. (1086 C.E.).

It was almost 350 years since Tariq Bin Ziyad had conquered Spain (Andalus) and secured Islam as the religion there. Under Muslim rule, Spain was the seat of learning and culture. Mediterranean trade flourished, and Spain became a haven for enlightenment and renaissance. Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa, including knowledge about mathematics, science, and philosophy. They created a state that reflected the Muslim way of life and thirst for scientific knowledge.

During this time, Andalus was a centrally governed Muslim state, reflecting the Islamic tradition. After an initial period of affluence, the Muslim Spain became fragmented into smaller kingdoms (Taifas), which continuously fought amongst themselves. The most important of these were Córdoba, Seville, Granada, Toledo, Lisbon, Zaragoza, Murcia, and Valencia. The Taifas were ruled by thoughtless rulers, who fought amongst themselves and thus plunged their populations into debt.

The Christian ruler of Castile, Alfonso VI, saw this as a window of opportunity and seized it. He started collecting taxes from the smaller Muslim kingdoms. Soon, the Muslim population was suffering from lack of daily necessities. Meanwhile, the rulers were indulging in every imaginable vice.

In response to this injustice, a delegation from the suffering lands went to see Yusuf Bin Tashfin. This delegation included Ulema, philosophers, and prominent citizens. Yusuf could not ignore the plea of his brethren. After consulting his Ulema, Yusuf issued a public call to join his army for defending Spain from Alfonso VI.

Since Yusuf had only five hundred ships for sending his troops of 16,000, they proceeded in stages, landing on the shores of Seville, which was governed by a Muslim ruler Mutamid. The troops were greeted with pomp and glory, and soon Yusuf began planning his attack. He did not partake in the extravagant feast laid out in his honour; instead, he prayed to Allah (swt) for victory. Together with their Spanish counterparts, the numbers of Yusuf’s army reached 20,000 only.

On the hills of Zallaka, the armies faced each other. Being a true follower of Islam, Yusuf invited Alfonso to accept Islam as his religion or pay Jizya (a tax paid by non-Muslims in a Muslim state for granting them protection). The irony is that Alfonso refused and asked Yusuf to pay Jizya instead!

Yusuf possessed a keen military mind. He hid the African troops on a hill behind the barricades and faced Alfonso with only three thousand soldiers. The plan was that when Alfonso’s troops would cut through the Muslim ranks, the reinforcements would charge down the hill, trapping the Christians in between. The plan worked and Alfonso was defeated. Thus, the Muslim rule in Spain was ensured for another four hundred years.

It is easy to conquer, vanquish or defeat, but it is much harder to settle, establish, and maintain. Let’s follow Yusuf Bin Tashfin – let’s all take steps to re-establish Islam as a part of our lives.

Islamic Social Etiquette

etiquetteAllah (swt) states in the holy Quran: “Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah (swt) Muhammad (sa) you have a good example to follow, if you hope for (the meeting with) Allah (swt) and the Last Day, and remember Allah (swt) much.” (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

Therefore, the Prophet (sa) is the best role model for every Muslim that has provided numerous examples in every aspect of human behaviour. The following pearls from his social etiquettes are enlightening.

Spreading the greeting of Salam

The Messenger of Allah (sa) commanded us to do seven things: to visit the sick, to attend funerals, to bless a Muslim, when he sneezes, to support the weak, to help the one, who is oppressed, to spread Salam (peace), and to help people fulfil their oaths. (Bukhari, Muslim)

He also said: “By the One, in whose hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise, until you believe, and you will not believe, until you love one another. Shall I not tell you of something that if you do, you will love one another? Spread Salam amongst yourselves.” (Muslim)

Unfortunately, today in Islamic societies this greeting has been replaced by foreign ones, especially among new generations, who are either ashamed or consider it old-fashioned to use the Islamic greeting. Obviously, they are unaware that a simple ‘Assalam Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatahu’ can earn them thirty rewards from Allah (swt)!

Not entering anyone’s house without his permission

Allah (swt) commands: “O you who believe! Enter not houses other than your own, until you have asked permission and saluted those in them: that is best for you, in order that you may take heed.” (An-Nur 24:27)

Islam urges Muslims to do the following, when visiting others: “Whenever the Prophet (sa) came to a door seeking permission to enter, he did not stand facing it. He would stand to the right or to the left, and if he was given permission, he would enter; otherwise, he would leave.” (Bukhari)

Impatiently ringing the doorbell, yelling out the in mates name, and grumbling, when the person we had intended to visit is unavailable, are signs of impoliteness and impertinence. They have no room in a Muslim’s life.

Sitting wherever one finds room in a gathering

In a gathering, a Muslim should sit wherever he finds space. He is neither to push through the people in order to sit at the head of the gathering, nor make another give up his space for him. The Prophet (sa) taught his companions to adopt these etiquettes, when joining a gathering.

Jabir Ibn Samurah (rta) said: “When we came to the Prophet (sa), we would sit, wherever we found room.” (Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi)

The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “None of you should make another get up, then sit in his place. All of you should move up and make space (for the latecomer).” (Bukhari, Muslim)

The basic instruction is to accommodate and show courtesy. Nowadays, it is common not to leave any space available, because of improper seating arrangements, and the latecomer is usually forced to stand. Similarly, some make grand arrivals without realizing the disturbance they cause to an ongoing gathering or speech.

Avoiding yawning in a gathering

The Prophet (sa) advised Muslims: “If any of you wants to yawn, then let him suppress it as much as possible.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

If the urge to yawn cannot be resisted, then a Muslim should cover his mouth with his hand. The Prophet (sa) commanded: “If any of you yawns, let him cover his mouth with his hand, so that the Shaytan does not enter.” (Muslim)

Yawning is not only rude but a sign of boredom that may hurt the feelings of others. Even the very sophisticated manage to shock you, when they open their mouths as wide as a hippopotamus in the middle of a conversation.

Following the Islamic etiquette, when sneezing

Islam also teaches a Muslim, what he should say, when he sneezes, and what he should say, when he hears another sneeze.

Abu Hurairah (rta) said: “The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Allah (swt) likes the act of sneezing and dislikes the act of yawning. When any one of you sneezes and says ‘Alhamdulillah’, then he has the right to hear every Muslim say – ‘Yarhamuk Allah’. But yawning is from Shaytan, so if anyone of you feels the urge to yawn, he should resist it as much as he can, for when any of you yawns, the Shaytan laughs at him.’” (Bukhari)

Not looking into other people’s houses

A true Muslim does not spy on his host or pry into that, which does not concern him. The Prophet (sa) warned those, who let their gaze wander in gatherings in an attempt to see things that are none of their business.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever looks into someone’s house without his permission, then it is permissible for the people of the house to take his eyes out.” (Muslim)

Not finding fault with others

The Prophet (sa) issued a stern warning against the danger of slandering other people’s honour and exposing their faults.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Do not hurt the feelings of the servants of Allah (swt), do not embarrass them, do not seek to expose their faults; whoever seeks to expose the faults of his Muslim brother, Allah (swt) will seek to expose his faults and expose him, even if he hides in the innermost part of his home.” (Ahmad)

Apart from the above, there are numerous other social etiquettes that will be discussed in future issues, Insha’Allah.

Iman – The Foundation of Islam

Vol 2-Issue2  ImaanJust by looking at today’s events, one can clearly see that Muslim communities are suffering. Naturally, a lot of soul searching is being done to diagnose the problem. I remember my teacher once told me that all the rewards, which Allah (swt) has promised in the Quran, are for the true believers, i.e., Mumineen. So the Iman (Faith) of people is crucial. My question was: what is Iman? Like others, I wonder if we have really understood this word. One would assume that every Muslim, who says the Shahadatain, has Iman. But is Iman just a declaration of faith? Or is Iman only a belief in the heart? Or do actions and deeds together configure in Iman? Let us consider the answers to these questions one at a time.

1. Declaration of faith goes together with the belief in the heart.

Abdullah Bin Ubbay lived in Medina at the time of the Prophet (sa) and he had declared himself to be a Muslim. Although he prayed with the Muslims, Allah (swt) did not accept his faith, because his heart contained doubts about Allah (swt) and his Messenger (sa). He was later on declared to be the greatest hypocrite of his time. A Muslim’s Iman is complete only when he loves Allah (swt) and his Messenger (sa) more than himself.

2. Iman is not only a belief in the heart but in actions and the deeds as well.

Abu Talib was the uncle of the Prophet (sa). He recognized the truth of Islam, but he did not declare this with his tongue. Neither did this belief culminate into good deeds. He neither expressed approval nor submit to the will of Allah (swt). Allah (swt) declared him to be a disbeliever. Clearly, belief without expressing it in the form of words and deeds will not make one a believer.

Since Iman is the foundation of Islam, it has been very clearly explained in the Quran and the Sunnah. According to, Ibn Qayyim once wrote that Iman is composed of the following components:

1. Having the knowledge of what the Prophet (sa) taught.

2. Having complete and firm belief in what he brought.

3. Verbally professing this belief.

4. Submitting to what he brought out of humility and love.

5. Acting in accord with what the Prophet (sa) brought, both outwardly and inwardly. Implementing it and calling to its path according to one’s ability.

Ibn Uthaimeen has emphasized the fact that Iman is not simply composed of belief in the heart. I is a declaration that requires acceptance and submission.

The locus of Iman is the heart, tongue and action. It is also stated that Iman increases or decreases. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “And when the verses are recited to them, they (the verses) increase their faith.” (Al-Anfal 8:2)

It is also clear from this that a believer’s Iman increases with the Dhikr of Allah (swt) and decreases with Fawahish (Indecency). In another verse, Allah (swt) says: “It is He who sends down tranquility into the hearts of the believers, in order that faith may be added to their faith.” (Al-Fath 48:4)

When a person’s Iman decreases he comes down from the high level of being called Mu’min to being a Muslim and vice versa. Iman can also leave the heart of a Muslim for a short period of time. The proof of this is in the statement of the Prophet (sa): “When a person commits adultery, Iman leaves him and remains above his head like an awning, when he discontinues this behavior, Iman comes back to him.” (Tirmidhi)

Three basic points for every Muslim to remember with regard to Iman:

Minimum level of Iman necessary to prevent one from the eternal hellfire.

A Muslim, should believe in every thing that is from Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa). He should show a readiness and willingness to adhere to all the do’s and don’ts of Islamic teachings.

(1) Level of Iman necessary to save a person from going to the hellfire even for a short period of time: A Muslim should fulfill all the obligations upon him with respect to Allah (swt). He should fulfill all his duties with regards to people. Lastly, he should keep away from all that is forbidden. A person in this category is a true believer or a Mu’min as Allah (swt) says in the Quran, “The (true) believers are only those, who, when Allah (swt) is mentioned, feel a fear in their hearts, and when His verses are recited to them, these increase their faith. And they put their trust in their Lord. Those, who establish the prayer and spend out of what We have provided them.” (Al-Anfal 8:2-3)

(2) Level of Iman necessary to be in the highest rank of Paradise:

These are the people possesing complete Iman. They strive to perform much more than the required deeds. They miss no opportunity to do well to people around them and always avoid causing harm to them. Their every act is done with excellence, i.e., Ihsan. These people are called Mohsineen. The Prophet (sa) said: “Ihsan is to worship Allah (swt) as if you see Him, and if you cannot achieve this state of devotion, then you must consider that He is seeing you.” (Bukhari)

On the basis of Iman, people are divided into two categories: Disbelievers and believers, and among the believers there can be some, whom Allah (swt) can categorize as hypocrites. Believers are further divided into three categories, each higher in rank than the other: Muslim, Mumin and Muhsin. Let all the Muslims collectively strive to be true believers and seek help from Allah (swt) in doing so. Allah (swt) says in the Quran, “And seek help through patience and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive (to Allah (swt)).” (Al-Baqarah 2:45)

Beautiful Names

Vol 2-Issue 2 Beautiful namesAl-Aziz: The Eminent

This word encompasses three meanings:

1. Allah (swt) is so significant that nothing exists like Him,

2. Allah (swt) is also the One, of whom there is intense need,

3. Allah (swt) is in the unseen world, so it is difficult to see, feel or touch Him.

It is also difficult to comprehend His essence, only Allah (swt) knows Himself in the absolute sense.

Al-Aziz is a combination of all these meanings. This word is also translated as The Exalted in might; it comes from the word “to be strong,” “to be rare,” “to be respected.” It is mentioned in the Quran 89 times.

Often, Allah (swt) has combined this word with wisdom, although His Power is absolute, He uses His Power with wisdom. Similarly, Allah (swt) has used power with the ability to take retribution for wrong actions.

Allah (swt) is also Aziz ur Raheem, His power is combined with the attribute of mercy. Similarly, it is also used with the word Ghafoor, which means His Ability to forgive.

‘Izza’ means ‘dignity’ and ‘honour’ in Surah Mominoon, Allah (swt) mentions that Izza is for Allah (swt), and for His messengers, and for the believers.

In Surah Fatir, Allah (swt) mentions that all dignity and strength belongs to Him.

Al-Jabbar: The Compeller

Allah (swt) is the One, who implements His will in such a way that all creation is compelled to obey; and no one will prevail over Him. He is the One, from whose grasp nothing escapes.

When a human being is described as Jabbar, it usually means a tyrant possessing pride and power. This is an attribute, which human beings should not try to inculcate.

Al-Jabbar has also been described as He, who repairs all broken things, who completes that which is incomplete, and who has the ability, with force, to make people do whatever He wants.

The name, Al-Jabbar has appeared only once in the Quran – in Surah Hashr, verse 23.

Al-Mutakabbir: The Proud

It comes from a word which means ‘to consider oneself great.’ Allah (swt) is truly proud. Everything is unworthy of consideration in relation to Him. He sees greatness and majesty only in regard to Himself and looks upon all creation as a King looks upon His subjects. His pride is true pride, because all this is true only for Allah (swt), the Great and the Glorious.

Al-Mutakabbir; the Majestic, is He, who shows His Greatness in all things and in all ways. The only One, who has the right to this attribute is Allah (swt). The Prophet (sa) quoted Allah (swt), in a Hadith Qudsi, saying,”Majesty is My cloak and Grandeur is My garment; whoever contends with Me regarding either of them I will break his back and cast him into the fire” (Muslim).

If a human being is Mutakabbir, then Allah (swt) seals his heart. In Surah Ghafir, (Also known as Surah Momin) verse 35, Allah (swt) says: “Like that Allah (swt) puts a stamp on every haughty arrogant heart.”

The Etiquette of Joking

jokeMunqidh As-Saqqar presents the Islamic perspective on the seemingly harmless act of joking.

Generally, people believe that those who carry a happy-go-lucky attitude and indulge in excessive laughter are genuinely successful people. They may be the spark plug of a party but there is also a critical downside to this behaviour. Getting carried away to any extreme is strongly disliked in Islam, even if it means cracking jokes and making others laugh.

One may argue that laughing simply brings a few happy moments into the lives of others. However, it hardly stops there. This innocent intention unconsciously and at times deliberately hurts feelings, injures relationships, and creates animosity. Likewise, the person initiating excessive laughter loses his dignity and becomes impassive to other’s feelings.

A Muslim is expected to be serious as he was not created for the purpose of joking and amusement. When joking diverts a person from the purpose of his creation, which is to worship Allah (swt), it becomes dispraised. Excessive joking, which makes a person laugh too much, leads to the heart becoming hardened. The Prophet (sa) said: “Do not laugh too much, because excessive laughter kills your heart.” (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and Ahmad)

The heart of a Muslim has to be alive and tender, so that he should be able to execute his struggle against Satan. Excessive joking will lead the heart to heedlessness. Satan pledged to distract the mankind and to misguide them. Allah (swt) says: “Iblees (Satan) said (to Allah (swt)): ‘By Your Might, I will surely mislead them all, except, among them, Your chosen servants.'” (Sad 38: 82-83)

Moreover, heedlessness is a characteristic of disbelievers. Allah (swt) says: “Then woe that Day to the deniers. Who are in (empty) discourse amusing themselves.” (At-Toor 52: 11-12) On the Day of Judgement, the disbelievers will be asked: “What put you into Saqar (i.e., Hellfire).” (Al-Muddaththir 74: 42) They will reply: “…We used to enter into vain discourse with those who engaged (in it).” (Al-Muddaththir 74: 45)

Joking becomes prohibited, when it involves un-Islamic behaviour, such as:

Scaring Muslims

Once, a group of the Prophet’s (sa) companions were on a trip. While one of them was sleeping, some others took the arrows of the sleeping one, which he kept for self-defence. When he woke up, he was frightened, due to losing them, so the others started laughing. Thereupon, the Prophet (sa) asked them: “What makes you laugh?” They replied: “Nothing, it’s just that we took this man’s arrows and that scared him.” Hearing this, the Prophet (sa) said: “It is not lawful for a Muslim to scare his fellow Muslim.” (Ahmad and Abu Dawood)

Lying while joking

The Prophet (sa) said: “Woe to the one, who tells lies to make people laugh, woe to him, woe to him.” (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood and Darimi)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that people said to the Prophet (sa): “You joke with us.” He replied: “I do but I only say that which is true.” (Tirmidhi & Ahmad)

Joking that may cause harm to others

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “None of you should point his weapon at his brother, as Satan may provoke him (to hurt his brother) and as a result, he would fall into a pit of Fire.” (Bukhari)

Joking which transgresses the limits of Allah (swt)

Joking could exceed the limits and reach to a point of committing major sins, such as mocking Quranic verses, the Prophet (sa), Islamic rules or Muslim scholars – just like the hypocrites did on the day of the battle of Tabook, when they mocked the Prophet (sa) and his companions. Due to this, Allah (swt) revealed the following verses: “And if you ask them, they will surely say: ‘We were only conversing and playing.’ Say: ‘Is it Allah (swt) and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking?’ Make no excuse; you have disbelieved (i.e., rejected faith) after your belief.” (At-Tawbah 9: 65-66)

On many occasions, the Prophet (sa) used to joke. This certainly indicates that joking is lawful, provided it does not contain any of the mentioned prohibitions. The Prophet (sa) did not joke merely for entertainment-his jokes included instructions for his companions.

Joking for endearment

“Once, the Prophet (sa) went to visit Suhayb (rta), who was sick with an eye ailment. When he entered, Suhayb (rta) was eating dates, so the Prophet (sa) said to him jokingly: ‘Are you eating dates, while you have a sore eye!’ He replied: ‘I’m using the other eye to see.’ Thereupon, the Prophet (sa) smiled.” (Ibn Majah)

Joking for reforming the companions

“Khawwat Ibn Jubayr Al-Ansari (rta) was sitting with some women from the tribe of Banu Kab on the road leading to Makkah listening to their talk. The Prophet (sa) came across him there and asked him: ‘O Abu Abdullah, what are you doing sitting with these ladies?’ He replied: ‘I lost my camel and came looking for it’ (as a false excuse). The Prophet (sa) left him and went to take care of some affairs.

After a while Prophet (sa) returned and teased Khawwat (rta) saying: ‘O Abu Abdullah, has your camel given up running away from you yet?’ Khawwat (rta) said: ‘I was embarrassed and kept silent, and was avoiding him after that (because the Prophet (sa) realised that Khawwat (rta) was just trying to justify his sitting with the women), until we went back to Madinah.

When he saw me in the mosque, while I was praying, he sat down next to me, waiting for me to finish my prayer. Due to this, I prolonged my prayer. He (sa) said: ‘Don’t prolong your prayer, as I am waiting for you.’ When I finished my prayer, he teased me again: ‘O Abu Abdullah, has your camel given up running away from you yet?’ I was embarrassed and kept silent.

I kept avoiding him until one day he saw me, while he was riding his donkey and said: ‘O Abu Abdullah, has your camel given up running away from you yet?’ I replied: ‘I swear by Him, Who sent you with the truth, my camel has never run away from me, since I became a Muslim’ (i.e., confessing his sin, which the Prophet (sa) was trying to teach him to do by his joke). The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, O Allah, guide Abu Abdullah.’ After this, Khawwat Ibn Jubayr Al-Ansari became a much better Muslim.” (Tabarani)

The companions of the Prophet (sa) were the most serious of people, yet they used to joke. Bukhari mentioned in his book Al-Adab Al-Mufrad: “The companions used to play by throwing watermelon skins at each other, but when it was time for seriousness, they were real men.”