Socially Constructed Fun

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Naureen Aqueel

Teaching Assistant at Carleton University
Naureen Aqueel is a freelance writer, based in Canada. She is a contributor to Islamic Horizons, ISNA.

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By Naureen Aqueel

What do you see, when you think of fun and entertainment? What images and ideas come into your mind? What feelings do they evoke?

Currently, people would respond to the above questions with descriptions of grand carnivals, huge fiestas, concerts, music, eating out, partying and laughing excessively with friends, hooting, jumping around, dancing and creating a racket.

Welcome to the amazing world of semantics – the branch of linguistics concerned with describing, how we represent meanings of words in our minds and the various connotations associated with words.

Words acquire different meanings and connotations through years of use in different environments, contexts and cultures. Since English is a Western language, its words derive their meanings and connotations from Western culture and worldview. In this present age of globalization and homogenization of cultures, in which Western ideas and practices are dominant, we find that such words get their connotations from Western culture and lifestyles.

If the parameters of what defines a concept vary from time to time and place to place, they cannot be absolute or fixed – they are products of the society they belong to. Concepts can thus be socially constructed, with society attaching only limited meanings or implications to a word.


Today, we see that our conceptions of fun and entertainment are increasingly restricted to a few ideas. It is paradoxical that although fun or enjoyment is more of an intrinsic phenomenon, we attach it to extrinsic things, making it dependent on the presence of external forces or situations that are becoming rather uniform for most people.

Enjoyment is largely a context dependent on relational phenomenon, where whether or not we enjoy something depends on the context and the relationship between ongoing activities and states of mind. Ideas of fun and entertainment may thus vary from person to person, as they do from culture to culture.

However, today we see a homogenization of such concepts across nations and cultures, with the above mentioned ideas becoming the popular notions of fun, thanks to the ever-powerful media that has successfully ‘manufactured’ this concept by bombarding us with such images of fun and entertainment as parties, concerts, music and mad indulgences of desires. And in all this, one subtle idea flashes from the backdrop: the desire to have no limits.

Are such activities really enjoyable? Do people really feel satisfied after them? Or is there still an empty feeling that remains even after all the ‘fun’ they planned is over? Those, who have made the transition from a state of complete ignorance about Allah (swt) and His Deen to the other side, will vouch for the truth of this.

Compare this to the way the Prophet (sa) used to have fun. He would joke, race and play with his wives; he would joke and play with his companions. He enjoyed wedding parties and encouraged Valima feasts. However, he never forgot his limits or harmed anyone. Even when having fun, he never lost sight of his purpose.

Today, Shaitan has made many immoral acts alluring to us by giving them the innocent label of ‘fun.’ Allah (swt) describes this in the Quran: “…but Shaitan (Satan) made their deeds fair-seeming to them.” (An-Nahl 16:63)

May Allah (swt) protect us from being fooled by Shaitan and from getting lost in the life of this world, and may He make us live and enjoy our lives the way our Prophet (sa) used to do. Ameen.

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