Concept of Fun

Vol 5 - Issue 1  Concept of FunSome people prefer to shun all forms of enjoyment, labeling them as useless pastimes of this world; others believe that as long as they are observing basic religious rituals, they are free to lead their lives as they wish.

Sparkling lights, bright clothes and the sound of laughter bring to mind a scene of joy and celebration. Mouth-watering food, tasty desserts and singing and dancing complete the picture. However, sadly, in the merriment and gaiety we often forget Allah’s (swt) pleasure and exceed all limits of decency and moderation prescribed by Shariah. Contrary to what most people would think, piety is not the opposite of gaiety; rejoicing does not have to be un-Islamic; and most importantly, you can be a pious Muslim and yet be a source of cheerfulness, liveliness and joy to those around you.

To become such a Muslim, it is imperative to know what Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa) tell us about celebrating our moments of happiness.

Why do people celebrate?

A look at the festivals throughout the world gives us three major reasons for celebrations. Firstly, many people celebrate the change of seasons – Hindus, for instance, celebrate Holi and Basant at the onset of Spring. Secondly, there are those, who celebrate the birth of gods and goddesses – for example, the Romans celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia to honour Juno, the guardian of women and marriage. And thirdly, yet others celebrate historical events – for example, former Allied nations celebrate the Armistice Day as a reminder of victory against Germany and the Russian and Ottoman Empires in World War I.

Islamic celebrations, on the other hand, are not pinned down by the changes of seasons, or regional and local events. In fact, the two Islamic festivals (Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha) are not related either to the Prophet’s (sa) life or any important victories in the Islamic history. Instead, these celebrations are deeply-rooted in the message brought to this world by the Prophet (sa). Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated after the month of Ramadan in gratefulness to Allah (swt) for having been able to complete a month of fasting. Eid-ul-Adha marks the Hajj rites and reminds Muslims of the sacrifice of Ibrahim (as) and Ismail (as). Rejoicing on these days becomes an act of worship, for the Prophet (sa) has said: “Indeed, for every nation there is a day of rejoicing, and this is our day of rejoicing.” (Bukhari)

Islam encourages rejoicing

According to a famous saying, “variety is the spice of life.” Therefore, it is but natural that we need some change in our daily lives for feeling refreshed and energized. Since Islam is a Deen that gives us guidelines on leading a natural life, it does not ignore this important aspect of human existence. Far from merely allowing celebration, Islam encourages rejoicing.

Allah (swt) says regarding the revelation of the Quran: “Say: ‘In the Bounty of Allah, and in His Mercy (i.e. Islam and the Quran); – therein let them rejoice.’ That is better than what (the wealth) they amass.” (Yunus 10:58)

Furthermore, at another point in the Quran, Allah (swt) asks the Prophet (sa) primarily, and the believers on a secondary level to proclaim the blessings that He has bestowed:

“And proclaim the Grace of your Lord (i.e. the Prophethood and all other Graces).”

(Ad-Duha 93:11)

Islamic celebrations and recreational activities

Apart from the two Eids, personal and national occasions also serve as permissible reasons to celebrate. Such personal occasions as marriage, the birth of a child, getting a new job, moving to a new house or getting a new car are some occasions for celebration. For young children, the starting of the recitation of the Quran and the completion of its recitation can also be reasons for celebration. Celebrating of such national occasions as the Independence Day also reminds us of the blessings of Allah (swt) granted in the form of an independent land where Islam can be practiced freely.

In a wider context, we find that Islam allows picnics, competitions and meaningful vacations. Prophet Yaqub’s (as) children, for example, went for a picnic, while the Companions of the Prophet (sa) engaged in dueling, camel-racing and archery – the Prophet (sa) even awarded prizes to the winners.

Meaningful vacations are also encouraged: “So travel through the land and see what was the end of those who denied (the truth).” (An-Nahl 16:36)

Etiquettes of celebration

Some of the encouraged etiquettes of celebration are exchanging of gifts, singing, reciting of good poetry and indulging in good humour.

Concerning gifts, we know from Aisha (rta) that Allah’s Messenger (sa) used to accept gifts and gave something in return. (Bukhari) In a Hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurairah (rta), we find the Prophet (sa) advising Muslim women: “O Muslim women! None of you should look down upon the gift sent by her female neighbour, even if it were the trotters of the sheep (fleshless part of the legs).” (Bukhari)

From Ahadeeth we know that singing on joyful occasions is also permitted.

Aisha (rta) has narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) came to my house, while two girls were singing beside me the songs of Buath (a story about the war between the two tribes of the Ansar, the Khazraj and the Aus, before Islam). The Prophet (sa) lay down and turned his face to the other side. Then, Abu Bakr (rta) came and spoke to me harshly, saying: ‘Musical instruments of Satan near the Prophet (sa)?’ Allah’s Messenger (sa) turned his face towards him and said: ‘Leave them.’ When Abu Bakr (rta) became inattentive, I signaled to those girls to go out and they left.” (Bukhari)

Al-Rubayyi Bint Muawwidh reports: “The Prophet (sa) visited me on the night of my wedding, sitting not far from me. We had a number of maids playing the tambourine and singing poems in praise of my people, who were killed in the Battle of Badr. One of them said in her singing: ‘Among us is a Prophet who knows what will happen in future.’ The Prophet said to her: ‘Do not repeat this, but continue with what you were saying earlier.’” (Bukhari, Ahmad and Abu Dawood)

In the Prophet’s (sa) life, we find instances of good fun and humour. For example, we find him being playful with his wives.

Once, Aisha (rta) was talking very boldly with the Prophet (sa). Abu Bakr (rta) happened to come, and he grew so angry at his daughter’s behaviour that he wanted to beat her, but the Prophet (sa) prevented him. After Abu Bakr (rta) had left, he remarked: “See, how I saved you.” (Abu Dawood)

Limits set by Allah (swt)

Rejoicing and fun without limits is very likely to make harmless celebrations a source of worry and burden. Our beautiful Deen gives us guidelines regarding the boundaries that must be kept. Dr. Mahmood Ghazi, former president of the International Islamic University (Islamabad), highlights three major factors that need to be considered when rejoicing: modesty, moderation and keeping in mind the basic objectives of Shariah.

Modesty

According to Imran Ibn Hussain (rta), the Prophet (sa) highlighted the excellence of modesty: “Haya (modesty, bashfulness, self-respect) does not bring anything except good.” (Bukhari)

Contrary to general understanding, modesty does not merely refer to an outward expression of chastity. Although codes of conduct regarding proper dress and interaction with the opposite gender are important, they are not the be-all and the end-all. Modesty should be entrenched in one’s nature, which is most apparent through body language and conversation. If properly dressed girls are singing lewd songs or dancing in an obscene manner, it cannot be called modest behaviour.

Ibn Abbas (rta) has narrated (on the authority of Abu Hurairah (rta)) that the Prophet (sa) said: “Allah has written for Adam’s son his share of adultery, which he commits inevitably. The adultery of the eyes is the sight (to gaze at a forbidden thing), the adultery of the tongue is the talk, and the inner self wishes and desires and the private parts testify all this or deny it.” (Bukhari)

Moderation

Allah (swt) has asked the believers not to be wasteful or extravagant: “O Children of Adam! …eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifun (those who waste by extravagance).” (Al-Araf 7:31)

Spending on permissible acts beyond what is necessary constitutes extravagance, while squandering wealth or any other blessing of Allah (swt) would mean spending on what Allah (swt) has prohibited, even if it means spending only a rupee. In the latter case, one can seek a scholar’s help to understand what is allowed, while in the former situation, one has to decide subjectively, what is necessary and what goes beyond that.

Being mindful of Shariah objectives

While celebrating, we have to consider the five basic objectives of Shariah, namely, the protection of life, wealth, honour, mind/sense and Deen. For instance, if rejoicing results in the loss of innocent lives, delay or abandonment of obligatory acts of worship, then such activities would not be in line with the objectives of Shariah. At the same time, however, cultural traditions that are not based on polytheism, do not result in disunity among the Muslims and do not exceed the limits prescribed by the Shariah are permissible. For instance, in Morocco pigeon’s soup is served at Iftar time during Ramadan, while Iftar in Pakistan would be incomplete without the traditional Pakoras. Such cultural traditions conform to the above guidelines.

We must also remember that as Muslims we have a distinct identity and culture – we must not fall prey to an inferiority complex which results in copycat behaviour. The Prophet (sa) has said: “Whoever imitates a nation (in its ways and culture) becomes one of them.” (Abu Dawood)

Obtaining Allah’s (swt) blessings

Aligning our special occasions of rejoicing with the above principles will make our celebrations not only memorable, but also deserving of Allah’s (swt) blessing and mercy. May Allah (swt) give us the wisdom for making our celebrations a source of happiness for all those around us, Ameen.

Socially Constructed Fun

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.

Having Fun with your Kids

“You can’t do this”, “this is Haram”, “this is not allowed” are often what we say, when our kids want to have fun. Instead of always saying no, provide them with Halaal alternatives. There are many ways to have fun, while staying within the boundaries of our Deen.

Not every fun activity needs to include dance, music, lots of money or copying of another faith. Allah (swt) doesn’t expect us to spend our entire life on the prayer mat, secluded from the world. We have to practice our Deen, while living in this Duniya. However, Allah (swt) has set limits for our own good. Joking is allowed in Islam, but it should not include lying as in April’s Fools Day, frightening as in Halloween or insulting someone’s feelings.

Religions before the advent of Islam mentioned the things that were allowed. However, since Islam is the final religion, only the few things that are prohibited are listed. For instance: out of all drinks, alcohol is prohibited – this shows that all the other drinks are Halaal. There is more of what we can do than we cannot.

Celebrate Eid big time

The Prophet (sa) encouraged celebrations on such occasions as Eid or marriage. For instance, when Abu Bakr Siddiq (rta) tried to stop two young girls from singing in the Prophet’s house, the Prophet (sa) told him: ‘Let it be, for we are now in the feast.’

While both Eids are celebrations for the whole family, special attention needs to be given to children. Throw for them an Eid party, buy gifts, give Eidi, take them to places, where they want to go, and make their holiday so special that they would not feel deprived at any other time of the year.

Instead, parents are often too busy on Eid to have quality time with their kids. They buy them new clothes and sort of stop there. Parents drag them all day for visiting people, where there is nothing planned for kids. Parents are busy with the Qurbani or entertaining the visitors, while children are plopped in front of the TV – even on Eid! Take kids shopping before Ramadan, so that they can pick something they like. Get surprise gifts as well. Help them buy or make gifts for their friends, instead of exchanging gifts on birthdays. Cook or buy their favourite foods and treats.

Fun with the family

Fun doesn’t have to start and end on Eid. The family unit is an integral part of the Islamic culture. Those, who find peace with their families in their homes, are very blessed. While there should be times to meet others, socializing should not rule your lives. By staying at home, hopefully you get the opportunity to get down on the carpet, open up a board game and challenge your family to some good, clean fun.

Use the Internet to your advantage. Visit such websites as www.familyfun.com which have easy craft projects and other family oriented ideas that you can replicate or adapt to your situation. Keep paper, glue, scissors and other art supplies in stock, so you are always ready to whip up a card for a new baby or to wish someone a speedy recovery. Encourage each child to have a hobby, so that they can channel their talents into something creative. Stamp collecting, knitting, painting, sports … the possibilities are endless.

Treasure hunt

Put a fun twist on anything to transform the mundane into fun. Give your child a gift after completing a Juz, memorizing a Surah or getting good grades. Hide the gift and put clues all over the house. “Look in a cold place” will take him to the freezer, while “Look in a wet place” may take him to the shower … and all around the house to find his treasure.

Family board game night

Try to squeeze in a short game every night, so that your day ends on a happy note. If daily is impossible, plan family game night for the weekend. You can play such classics as “Scrabble” and “Quran challenge Game” or try a new game. Invite younger siblings to join in, as they can learn how to take turns, count pieces, sort money and so on. If time is an issue, decide on a time limit and total scores after one hour. It really doesn’t matter who wins; when you spend an hour as a family – everyone is a winner.

Use what you have

Spending time with the family does not have to involve spending tons of money. Having dinner in the lawn can be a fun, impromptu picnic experience. Playing dress up with grandma’s old Saris is a great way to spend an afternoon. Recycling tissue rolls into binoculars and bowling with empty plastic soft drink bottles are just a few ideas. Kids don’t care, how much money was spent on an activity. They value the time their parents spend with them using their imaginations.

Encourage hand made gifts and cards

Model how you can knit a sweater for a new baby or make a card with glitter glue for a niece and ask your kids to do the same. Appreciate it, when they make gifts for you out of stuff they already have. Allah (swt) has gifted us all in one way or the other – one may be an artist, the other a wordsmith, the third a sportsman and so on. Expose your children to a variety of interests, so you can see where they shine.

Kid-friendly home

Don’t have such exclusive furniture, white carpets and one-of-a-kind decorative pieces that kids aren’t allowed to enjoy their own home. Section off a formal area at most, but let the kids enjoy their home for the most part. Set up an art station in the kitchen (for easy clean-ups), supply them with paint, glitter, clay and glue and see, what their imagination cooks up.

Host parties for your kids, without it having to be an occasion. Plan activities, so that you can keep an eye on them and evaluate the kind of company your children are keeping. Having a bake sale with proceeds going to the Masjid can be a fun way for teenage girls to make brownies, cupcakes and cookies. Put a basketball hoop in your garden and see, how the neighborhood boys come running.

If your household responsibilities are overwhelming, encourage your kids to join you. You may think it’s boring, but give a toddler a ball of Aata (dough) and see what happens. Older kids can build on their math skills by helping you measure ingredients and learn about food groups and healthy eating. Younger kids can sort laundry and find matching socks – anything can be a bonding and learning experience – provided YOU want it to be.

If your extended family is known for their New Year’s Eve party, start your own tradition of an Eid party for kids. If we go with the flow, our children will do the same. If we stop and take initiative for them to be nurtured in all walks of life, then we can hope that Allah (swt) will be pleased with our efforts to instill values in the mini-Muslims entrusted to us.

You do not need a university degree or a lucrative career for being creative with your kids. You only need the will – and everything will fall into place. If there is one thing you want to take from this article, it should be to press the pause button in your life, get down on the floor and play with your children today – you’ll be glad you did!

The Fun Years

Vol 5 - Issue 1  The Fun YearsTeenagers are funny creatures! And I don’t mean it humorously.

They find everything funny. You have more chance of finding teenage girls giggling than you do of finding middle-aged or even 25-plus-women chortling and guffawing. That’s why when one hears the word ‘giggle’ adolescents come to mind. Under this broad generalization, I can safely say that most of us suffered the same insanity during our teens. From the same bouts of inexplicable laughing fits to goose-bumps for things as minor as favorite brands of chocolate spotted among gifts.

Psychology says it’s healthy. Teenagers should be allowed to express their feelings and indulge in recreational pastimes. But living in the world of recreation has a variety of meanings – from favorite cartoons to favorite drugs … the choices aren’t really that simple any more.

The biggest dilemma of a Muslim teenager is the confusion (a separate dilemma from identity crises) between what is fun and what isn’t. What jokes to laugh at, what movies to enjoy, what books to read, what people to hang out with, what fashion is acceptable, what ideas are reasonable, so on and so forth. This is the very point, where Muslims need to remember that while Islam does not want people to forget the hereafter, it also does not wish to suck the marrow out of life. A Hadeeth states: “Don’t consider anything insignificant out of good things, even if it is that you meet your brother with a cheerful countenance.” (Reported by Abu Dharr and recorded by Imam Muslim)

Ideally, Muslims are known for their dignity. However, most people tend to misinterpret what we mean by that. I’ve seen parents look disapprovingly at their children, if they laugh too much. A loud guffaw or maybe a painful jibe at someone else is where you may want to draw the line – but stopping teenagers from laughing altogether? That’s something that won’t end well. Parents need to seek this balance, while rearing their kids.

On the other side of the fence, the teenage Muslim can sometimes undergo shame and self-doubt, while mingling with the ‘it’ crowd. This can result in either of the two: they turn into loners … or become over-serious about everything. Either way, it’s not a fun way to spend one’s teenage years. Teens need to find themselves in the concoction of mixed norms and the melting pot that we call ‘culture’ today.

Teenagers follow norms. They follow peers. This was the most interesting conclusion I drew from all the havoc that came into my life, due to the excessive confusion between the ‘good fun’ and the ‘bad fun.’ Psychological studies of adolescents prove that teenagers have a stronger tendency to listen to their peers than to their parents. And once a peer group becomes strong, its sense of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ develops. It does not follow particular ideas of good and bad – rather, what is ‘cool’ or ‘un-cool.’ This revelation struck me as revolutionary. It meant that if I was being penalized in one group for not wanting to have fun ‘their way,’ I could just as easily be accepted in another peer group – if they shared my opinions. That choice proved to be such a breakthrough that I ended up starting my own group. I ended up becoming my own voice, instead of representing the prevalent teen culture.

If no one likes your way of having fun, find someone who does. Start your own norms. Be your own person. Because, after all is said and done, that is what being a teenager and a Muslim is all about.