One of the foremost qualities that endear a person to us is his or her sense of humour. Humour in good taste is appealing to everyone especially in our stressful lives today. Hundreds of years ago the significance of light-heartedness and laughter was no less. The embodiment of an ideal Muslim’s personality, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw), also displayed a pleasant and dignified sense of humour. He joined in jokes and smiled and laughed; he joked with his Companions and enjoyed the company of children. Let us look through some Ahadeeth pertaining to the Holy Prophet’s (sa) unique sense of humour:
The Holy Prophet (sa) often spent time in the company of children, playing with them and gently laughing with them. Anas Bin Malik (rta) related that, “The Prophet (sa) used to play with a younger brother of mine called Abu Umayr, who had a small bird as a pet. One day he saw the child looking sad, so he asked, “Why do I see Abu Umayr looking sad?” The Sahabah told him, “The nughayr (a small bird, like a sparrow) which he used to play with has died, O Messenger of Allah (sa).” The Prophet (sa) began to gently joke with the child, saying, “O Abu Umayr, what happened to the Nughayr?” (In Arabic, this is a play on word, because Abu Umayr’s name rhymes with that of the bird’s name). (Reported in Hayat Al-Sahabah, 3/149)
Narrated Abu Hurairah (rta): “A man came to the Prophet (sa) and said: ‘I am ruined!’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Why?’ He said: “I had intimate relations with my wife while I was fasting (in the month of Ramadan).’ The Prophet (sa) said to him: ‘Manumit a slave (as expiation).’ He replied: ‘I cannot afford that.’ The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Then fast for two consecutive months.’ He said:’ I cannot.’ The Prophet (sa) said: Then feed sixty poor persons.’ He said: ‘I have nothing to do that.’ In the meantime, a basket full of dates was brought to the Prophet (sa). He said: ‘Where is the questioner?’ The man said: ‘I am here.’ The Prophet (sa) said (to him): ‘Give this (basket of dates) in charity (as expiation).’ He said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Shall I give it to poorer people than us? By Him who sent you with the truth, there is no family between the two mountains (of Al-Madinah) poorer than us.’ The Prophet (sa) smiled till his premolar teeth became visible. He than said: ‘Then you take it.’ (Bukhari)
At the time of Battle of Badr, The Prophet (sa) drew up his army and passed in front of each man to give them good heart and to straighten the ranks, bearing an arrow in his hand. “Stand in line, O Sawad,” he said to one of the helpers who was too far forward, and he gave him a slight prick in the belly with his arrow. “O Messenger of Allah, you have hurt me,” said Sawad, “and God has sent you with truth and justice, so give me my requital.” “Take it,” said the Prophet, laying bare his own belly and handing him the arrow whereupon Sawad stooped and imprinted a kiss where it was due to place the point of the shaft. “What made you do this?” said the Prophet (sa). And he answered, “O Messenger of God, we are now faced with what you see, and I desired that at my last moment with you, if so it may be, my skin should touch your skin.” And the Prophet (sa) prayed for him and blessed him.
The Old Woman
An old woman came to the Prophet (sa) and said: “O Messenger of Allah, pray to Allah (swt) that I will enter Paradise.” He said jokingly, “O Mother of So-and-so, no old women will enter Paradise.” The old woman went away crying, so the Prophet (sa) said: “Tell her that she will not enter Paradise as an old woman, for Allah (swt) says: We have created (their companions) of special creation, and made them virgin-pure (and undefiled)” (Al-Waqiah 56:35-36). (At-Tirmidhi)
The Sahabah saw nothing wrong with joking or having fun, as they saw the Prophet (sa), who was their teacher, occasionally doing so. In Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Bukhari reports from Bakr Ibn Abdullah who said: “The companions of the Prophet (sa) used to throw melon-rinds at one another, but when the matter was serious, they were the only true men.”
The Holy Prophet (sa) also used to enjoy the Sahabah’s sense of humour, which made him often laugh. Once, Abu Bakr (rta) went to do business in Basra, and with him were Nuayman (rta) and Suwaybit Ibn Harmalah (rta), both of whom had been present at Battle of Badr. Suwaybit (rta) was in charge of food on the journey, and Nuayman (rta) said to him: “Feed me!” Suwaybit (rta) said: “Not until Abu Bakr comes.” Nuayman (rta) was a fun-loving man with a sense of humour, so he went to some people who had brought livestock with them, and said: “Will you buy a sturdy Arab slave from me?” They said: “Yes.” He said: “He has a big mouth, and he may tell you that he is a free man. If that means that you do not want to take him, then forget the matter, and do not cause trouble for me with him.” They said: “No problem, we will buy him.” So they bought him for ten young she-camels. Nuayman (rta) brought the animals back, and told the people: “There he is!” Suwaybit (rta) said: “I am a free man!” They said: “He has already told us all about you,” and put a rope around his neck and led him away. Then Abu Bakr came, and was told what had happened. He and his companions went and returned the animals and took Suwaybit (rta) back. They told the Prophet (sa) what had happened, and he and his Sahabah would laugh about the story for a year afterwards. (Reported by Imam Ahmed from Umm Salamah)
The Bedouin’s camel
On another incident, a Bedouin came to the Prophet (sa). He entered the mosque and left his camel in the courtyard. Some of his Companions said to Nuayman Ibn Amr Al-Ansari (rta), who was known as Al-Nuayman (rta): “If you slaughter it, we will eat it, because we want to have some meat, and the Messenger of Allah (sa) will pay for it.” So Al-Nuayman (rta) slaughtered it. When the Bedouin came out and saw his saddle, he shouted: “They have slaughtered my camel, O Muhammad!” The Prophet (sa) came out and asked: “Who did this?” They said: “Al-Nuayman.” So he went looking for him, and found him at the home of Dubah Bint Al-Zubayr Ibn Abdul-Muttalib (rta), where he had hidden in a ditch and covered himself with palm branches and leaves. A man pointed to where he was and said: loudly: “I have not seen him, O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet (sa) brought him out of the ditch, and his face was dirty from where the leaves had fallen on him. The Prophet (sa) asked him: “Why did you do that?” Al-Nuayman (rta) said: “The ones who told you where I was, O Messenger of Allah, are the same ones who told me to do it.” The Prophet (sa) began wiping his face and laughing, then he paid the price of the slaughtered camel. (Reported by Hayat Al-Sahabah, 3/154-155)
Islam is not austere or gray. It appeals directly to our senses and our human nature withholding a balance between when to be serious and when to lighten up. As Muslims we are also commanded never to hurt or harm anyone in our quest to have fun and a good time. Conversely, Islam wants its followers to have light heartedness and a sense of humour, which make a person good-natured and likeable and will enable him to win people’s hearts.