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HomeSocial Life in IslamIslam's Approach To Humor

Islam’s Approach To Humor

Humor is the name given to the art of expressing thoughts by jokingly laughing. Humor has a function that reduces the emotional load when emotions negatively affect human psychology.

In Islamic terminology, hazl (joking), latifa (waggery), wit, and satire are used instead of humor. These concepts have small nuances that distinguish them from each other. For example, hazl, humiliation by mocking; satire, vilify and criticize; waggery and wit are jokes in which words are chosen carefully without breaking anyone’s heart.

It is known that the culture of humor has existed in society since the first periods of the religion of Islam. There is no verse in the Quran that prohibits humor. However, jokes based on lies, hurting people, mocking, humiliating, and sexual are prohibited in Islam.

The religion of Islam has allowed the fulfillment of needs, which are the characteristics of creation. Prophet Mohammed liked to joke and used to make jokes from time to time. Muslim scholars have stated that it is sunnah to make correct and good jokes. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was careful that his jokes were correct.[1]  He once said, “I only tell the truth” and some of the companions said, “O Messenger of Allah! But you are joking with us.” Then prophet replied, “I only tell the truth.” [2]   While some people converted to Islam, prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had taken allegiance from them by making them say, “I will not lie even in jest.” The following hadith is considered important to understand the limitations prophet Muhammad (PBUH) drew on making jokes with lies: “Shame on that man who lies to make people laugh. They know that this is a lie. But he wants to make them laugh. Shame on him! Woe, woe!” [3]

Another point that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) paid attention to while humoring was not to break the heart of anyone he was dealing with, not to scare a person, and to stay away from behaviors that would harm a person. Concerning this issue, Prophet Mohammed; forbade offensive jokes [4] and stated that it is not permissible (not allowed) to scare a Muslim.[5]

Muhammad (PBUH) mostly jokes to the elders around him, children, and those who expect love.

Once, prophet Muhammad (PBUH) bantered with his junior assistant Anas bin Malik by saying, “What’s up with two ears?” [6]. Once in another day, to an old woman’s question, the prophet replied, “Old women will not enter Paradise.” When he saw that the woman got sad, he gained her heart by explaining, “Because old women will enter heaven as young.” In another incident, a man came to Muhammad (PBUH) and wanted to ride him on his camel. Prophet Muhammad said, “Let’s put you on a female camel’s calf.” The man asked, “O Messenger of Allah, how can I ride a camel’s calf?” Then Muhammad (PBUH) replied, “Doesn’t all camels give birth to female camels?” [7]

Also, according to the religion of Islam, there should be a measure and balance of in-jokes. One should not make Jokes in every place and situation. Muhammad (PBUH) did not welcome purposeless and unnecessary talk (Malayânî) about a person’s life in this world and the hereafter. He said, “Leaving purposeless and unnecessary talk is be formed of being a good Muslim.” [8] In addition, he emphasized that laughing a lot kills the heart, and he avoided extremism.[9]

[1] Tirmidhi, Birr, 57.

[2] Ahmed b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, II, 340.

[3] Abu Dawud, 4338; Tirmidhi, 2237.

[4] Tirmidhi, Birr, 58.

[5] Abu Dawud, Adab, 85.

[6] Abu Dawud, Adab, 84; Tirmidhi, Menakib, 45.

[7] Tirmidhi, Birr, 57; Abu Dawud, Adab, 84.

[8] Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 11.

[9] Ibn Mace, Zuhd, 19.