In a restaurant in London, Shaykh Akram (name changed) is having a meal.
He is smiling, having a laugh and really enjoying himself with his friends and students.
One of the waiters comes up, with a pretty serious look and says, “Excuse me sir, could I talk to you for a bit?”
The Shaykh is taken aback a bit, but agrees.
“Shaykh, I have a really important request to make to you. You know, you are a teacher, and you have lots of students. I believe the students are pious and religious people.
Please, shaykh, please could you request them to smile a bit more? It is heart-breaking that people who are faithful and religious cannot smile at all. Can’t they be a bit more like you?”
In another part of the world, a child is crying. He is crying his eyeballs out and his mother cannot control him at all. Suddenly the mother sees a religious teacher come. She screams to the child, “If you do not stop, the religious teacher will take you away!”
Such has become our ideal about what we term “religious” people. They are always somber, they hardly smile and they eat up happiness wherever they go! It is just so rare that if one searches yahoo answers, there are questions such as, “Why is it that Muslims never smile?”
Humor of the Prophet
Abdullah ibn al-Haarithah had this to say about our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):
“I never came across a person who smiled as much as Prophet Muhammad.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Prophet Muhammad regarded smiling to a brother as an act of charity.
As Muslims, our ideal is the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and it is part of our belief and our faith that the best of people after the Prophets are his companions, (may God be pleased with them all).
Anas ibn Malik, the servant of the Prophet, narrates:
“The Messenger of God used to associate with us and joke. I had a younger brother. The Messenger of God said to him:
“O Aba Umayr, what happened to the Nughayr (Abu Umayr’s little bird)?” (Shamail)
Narrations mention that the Prophet would joke with his wife Aisha and with his companions. Just like how many of us reading this would say, “Really?”, some of the companions did so as well!
The Companions once asked the Prophet:
“O Messenger of God, you joke as well?”- Almost as if it is not befitting a man of such piety and honor to joke! The Prophet replied:
“Indeed I do not say except what is true.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Bakr ibn ‘Abdullah related that the Companions of the Prophet used to throw melons on one another as a joke. But they became valiant when faced with the realities of life or its hardships.
In fact one of the companions, Nuayman ibn Amr, was known to be a very funny and witty fellow. About him the Prophet remarked:
“He is a man who loves Allah and His Messenger.” (Al-Bukhari)
5 Guidelines of Humor
It is quite clear that humor was part of the life of our Prophet and his companions, and it did not decrease from their piety one little bit. However, as always, Islam is a religion of balance, and there are guidelines for joking and humor as well. These guidelines include:
- Speaking the truth as the Prophet mentioned. In fact it is quite a serious sin to lie and make up stories just to make people laugh.
- Not to joke about any aspects of the religion, as the faith of Allah is sacred, and it is not to be mocked or ridiculed
- In Surat Al-Hujurat, Allah prohibited the mocking of other people. So any of kind of joking that demeans and dishonors other people and makes them look bad in front of others is not allowed
- These days there are TV shows dedicated to having a great laugh when someone slips, or falls or something wrong happens to them and they are embarrassed.
- Remembering that different situations demand different types of behavior. The way one would joke with a little child is different from how one would joke with a close friend as opposed to how one would with a scholar. Sufyan ibn Uyaynah said, “Joking is Sunnah, but only for those who know how to do it and do it at the appropriate time.”
So to answer the question, yes humor and religion can go together.
Humor was a part of the Prophet’s life, and we celebrate every aspect of his life. Let us be an Ummah which smiles more, laughs more, brings smiles to other people, while all the time remembering our purpose and our ultimate destination of Paradise, insha Allah.
Can Humor Be Worship?
While we have established that humor is permissible, and has been a part of the life of our beloved Prophet and his companions, it is important to ask a very pertinent question- can it be made into an act of worship?
Worship is any act that is done sincerely for Allah that He loves and is pleased with. So if humor is done well, and done to please Allah, it can actually be an act of worship for which we are rewarded by Allah, and helps fill up our book of good deeds on the day of judgment!
Here are three scenarios where humor can actually be a great thing in creating a lasting legacy!
1- One of the most celebrated aspects of our deen is the focus on the family. Keeping family ties, being good to one’s spouse and being the best to one’s children are among the most rewarded aspects of faith.
It is no wonder that humor, if done properly, helps bring great rapport within the family.
Jokes and fun between spouses, between parent and child, between cousins and between siblings help keep a very healthy relationship between everyone.
It can help in improving relations between family members who do not always get on well, and can help soothe a family member during their more difficult times.
2- One of the best acts of sadaqah jaariyah (continuous charity) that one can do is to teach people. For teachers of both adults and children, and also for parents teaching their children, it has been seen that humor actually makes a lesson better.
We are more likely to remember lessons where there is humor, and benefit more from it.
Moreover, for children growing up, Islamic lessons given with humor and fun will remain lifelong good memories they can always cherish even through adulthood.
Part of the training in the department of education is to embed humor in the classroom! What better way to use humor than in teaching Islam to someone else?
3- Many comedians accepted Islam, and yet kept their comedy- Muslim Belal, Omar Reagan, Baba Ali and Preacher Moss to name but a few. There are other Muslim scholars and preachers who use a lot of humor in their speeches and lectures.
One of the best ways we can use humor is in spreading the light of our faith. There is no deed that probably comes as close in reward as does dawah for the sake of Allah.
Helping someone else understand Islam, and bringing them closer to Allah is something that fulfills us in our lives here and in the hereafter! In the field of dawah, humor is a great way to get the message of Islam across and engage them in conversation.
People are more likely to talk to a smiling funny person than someone who is uptight and angry all the time! Moreover, in the current times when Islam is put in a very bad light, humor is a great way to refute those misconceptions and clarify our message!
So go out there, use your humor, and earn the pleasure of Allah!
(This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.)