Praising Allah (swt), Sydney Harris once said: “God cannot be all that solemn, or He would not have blessed man with the incalculable gift of laughter.” If we just toss around the idea for a moment, we come to realize that laughter is really an amazing blessing from Allah (swt) and a means to express our happiness, approval, love and at times silliness, too.
Humour is in agreement with human nature and appeals to all ages. However, it is far easier for younger children and adolescents to burst into a giggling fit and actually also to get away with it. For grownups, things are too somber or stressful in their busy lives. I often hear people complain: “It’s been ages, since I actually had a good laugh.”
However, wouldn’t you agree that whether we are young or old, we need happiness and laughter, when we interact with people? We need it at home, at work and in our communal interactions; and, perhaps, we need it most during stressful times.
Unfortunately, we often leave our lighter side at home, and it is due to this that we witness unpleasant incidents all around us. An uptight, stressed out and angry person can only have a brawl, a frowning face and much bitterness to offer you.
Michelle Al-Nasr rightly observes that, sometimes as we immerse our lives in Deen, laughter is the component that is often the first to go from our daily lives. Maybe, it is because laughter is associated with fun, and we are too scared of earning Allah’s (swt) displeasure by indulging in it. This not only hurts our own lives, but also sets an intimidating example for others to become wary of Muslims and Islam in general.
The Quran and Prophet’s Sunnah prove otherwise. Believe it or not, you can laugh and still be a good Muslim! All you need to do is know the etiquettes of humour commended by Allah (swt) and His Apostle (saw). Let us reflect on some of the evidence given by Allah and the examples set by Prophet Muhammad (sa) for our guidance and a lighter approach to life:
Evidence from the Quran:
Allah (swt), our Creator and Owner, commenting about His Majesty states that: “And it is He who makes (one) laugh and weep…” (Najam 53:43)
When news was brought to Prophet Ibrahim (as) that his wife Sarah (rta) would have a child, she laughed out of surprise and joy: “And his wife was standing and she laughed: But We gave her tidings of Isaac and after him Yaqoob.” (Hud 11:71)
Similarly, describing the victorious believers on the Day of Judgment, Allah (swt) says: “Some faces that day will be beaming, laughing, rejoicing.” (Abasa 80: 38-39)
Evidence from Sunnah:
Narrated Abu Dharr (rta), the Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “Do not consider any act of goodness insignificant, even if it is meeting your brother with a cheerful face.” (Muslim)
The Prophet (sa) also said: “Fear Allah wherever you are; if you follow an evil deed with a good one, you will obliterate it; and deal with people with a good disposition.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Examples from Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) household:
One of the Ahadeeth that reflects Prophet’s (sa) enjoyment of fun is from Aisha (rta), who said: “I went out with the Prophet (sa) on a journey. At that time I was a young girl and was quite slender. The Prophet (sa) told the people: ‘Go on ahead’, so they went ahead, then he said to me: ‘Come, let us have a race’. So I raced with him, and
I won. He let the matter rest, until I had gained weight. Later, I accompanied him on another journey. He told the people: ‘Go on ahead’, so they went ahead. He said to me: ‘Come, let us have a race.’ So I raced with him, and he won. He began to laugh, and said: ‘This is for that.’” (Ahmad)
Examples from Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) Companions:
An-Nuayman Ibn Amar (rta), one of the Companions of Allah’s Prophet (sa), was known to instigate hilarious situations for the sole purpose of inciting all to laugh at his antics.
Once An-Nuayman (rta) spotted some food being sold at the market place. It appeared to be quite tasty and tempting. He ordered some and sent it to the Prophet (sa), as if it were a gift from him. The Prophet (sa) was delighted with the food and he and his family ate of it. The vendor of the food then came to An-Nuayman (rta) to collect the price for it. He replied the vendor: “Go to the Messenger of Allah (sa), it was for him. He and his family ate it.” The vendor then went to the Prophet (sa). Puzzled, the Prophet (sa) asked An-Nuayman (rta): “Didn’t you give it to me?” An-Nuayman (rta) answered: “Yes! I thought you would like it and I wanted you to eat some of it, so I had it presented to you. But I do not have any money to pay the merchant for it. So, O Messenger of Allah, you pay him!” The Prophet (sa) had a good laugh and so did his Companions. The laugh was at his expense literally, for he had to pay for the unsolicited gift.
Ibn Umar (rta) was asked: “Did the Companions of the Prophet (sa) laugh?” He replied: “Yes, and the faith in their hearts was like mountains.” It is quite evident that laughter was a part of life even for the pious.
Etiquettes of humour in Islam
1. Content of humour
Muslims are required to pick their subject of humour cautiously. It is absolutely forbidden to make fun of our faith in any way and for anyone. Allah (swt) states in the Quran: “And if you ask them, they will surely say: ‘We were only conversing and playing.’ Say: ‘Is it Allah and His verses and His Messenger you were mocking? Make no excuse; you have disbelieved (i.e., rejected faith) after your belief.” (Al-Tawbah 9:65-66)
2. Ridiculing others
Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “I am not of those, who indulge in amusement. Those, who indulge in amusement, are not of me.” (Bukhari)
It is quite clear that turning someone into a laughing stock and disgracing him is not permissible. Allah (swt) states in the Quran: “O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule (another) people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule (other) women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (Al-Hujurat 49:11)
3. Falsehood in jokes
Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Woe to him who tells things, speaking falsely, to make people laugh thereby. Woe to him! Woe to him!” (Abu Dawood) Prophet Muhammad (sa) had a unique sense of humour. He was truthful even when he joked, and that is exactly what he recommended to others. Once a Sahabiyya conveyed her husband’s greetings to him. The Messenger (sa) inquired, if her husband was not the one with whiteness in his eyes. She protested: “No! No! There is not any whiteness in his eyes!” Prophet Muhammad (sa) insisted: “Why not? There is whiteness in every eye!” Obviously, he referred to the area around the pupil of the eye and she took it to be blindness! (Ibn Bakar)
4. Avoiding exaggeration
Moderation is one of the formative and pivotal lessons that Islam preaches to its followers. Excess of any habit is detrimental to one’s faith and worldly life. Excessive joking lowers the dignity and esteem of a person. Hazlitt once said that wit is the salt of conversation, not the food. Sharp wits like sharp knives do often cut their owner’s fingers. If a person laughs too much, his heart tends to become hard and he is desensitized.
Occasional humour comes in handy
We can analyze some of the situations where humour can spark up our mundane lives:
- Humour works as an excellent icebreaker, especially when two people are on the brink of an argument.
- It facilitates conversation and opens up doors of communication to newcomers in your class, office, club, Masjid, etc. Someone once said: “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
- Laughter relieves tension and can help combat stress that usually sneaks up on us, turning us into unpleasant creatures at times.
- Humour increases learning and retention and can be a great help to mothers and teachers to work their way around difficult areas.
- It also works as a “tip off,” and often reveals people’s worries and concerns. This way we may be able to offer help and advice.
- Lightheartedness adds up to our charms. Who doesn’t want to be around a smiling, pleasant and genuinely happy person?
- Above all, when we bring joy to other people’s lives, it is a blessing for everyone.
Humour and your health
Laughter may not be the best medicine, but its importance in maintaining a healthy and happy life is certainly no joke! Research shows that laughter actually produces following physiological changes in the human body:
- An increase of oxygen to the brain and other vital organs
- Exercise of the lungs and abdominal muscles
- Release of tears, which lubricate the eyeball
- Stimulation of brain chemistry, which releases neurotransmitters that reduce pain and stress and give a boost to the immune system
We must remember that Allah (swt) is Al-Wadud (The Loving One). He puts smiles on our faces because He loves us. We must cherish and share this blessing just like all the other innumerable blessings of Allah (swt).
Laughter is a unique medicine that places your problems in perspective, relaxes your tense muscles, reassures those around you and helps you to enjoy life, even when you don’t have everything you want.
If the prose of our lives could only be punctuated with more smiles and subtle humour, there can only be one downside … many counselors and psychiatrists would have to go out of business.