We all enjoy a good hearty laugh now and then. A home with laughter is cheerful and happy. It is this friendly environment at home that makes it healthy and strong. A light-hearted Muslim is also enjoyable to be with, and joking with the people close to us is a bonding experience. Humour has the power of bringing people closer, lifting their spirits, and relieving them from the pressures of daily life.
Being funny or laughing at something funny is part of human nature and creates a balance in our life. There are times when we are serious and times when we are humorous. When we are serious we should not go to extreme of being harsh, and when we are humorous we should not go to extreme of being foolish. Islaam is a way of life that is balanced and it permits and understands the need for laughter and humour. Yes, Islaam welcomes humour.
The Prophet Mu’hammad (P.B.U.H.) was cheerful with his family and there were times when he joked with the companions. The stories are various and this includes a particular story with his wife ‘Aa-ishah. The Prophet raced ‘Aa-ishah when she was young and she won the race. Later, after she put on some weight, he wanted to race her again. This time the Prophet won. He laughed and said, “This one is for that one.” (Reported by Aboo Daawood)
The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) also used to joke with a child of one of the companions. As reported in “’Hayaat A’s’sa’haabah” (3/149), the young child was called Aboo ‘Umayr and he had a small bird that he used to play with. The Prophet noticed one day that Aboo ‘Umayr was sad and he questioned why. The companions told him, “The nu’gar [a small bird, like a sparrow] which he used to play with has died, O Messenger of Allaah.” The Prophet went to the child and gently started to joke with him saying, “O Aboo ‘Umayr, what happened to the nu’gayr?” [Nu’gayr is the diminutive of nu’gar. In Arabic, this is a play on words, because of the rhyme between the boy’s name and that of the bird.] The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) humorously used the technique of play on words to make the child smile.
Another example is when an old woman came to the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) and she asked him to pray for her to enter Paradise. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) joked with her and informed her that no old women will enter Paradise. Upon hearing this, the woman cried but she was then told that she will not enter Paradise as an old woman because the people of Paradise will be young and that is how she will enter Paradise (Reported by Attirmidh>y).
The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) therefore joked and Aboo Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet was told, “O Messenger of Allaah, you are joking with us.” He said, “I only say what is true.” (Reported by Attirmidh>y). This indicates that while the Prophet joked his jokes were descent and truthful and this serves as a lesson for us.
Since humour is a positive and necessary part of life and is seen in the life of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.), why hasn’t it been welcomed properly within the Muslim community?
Taking the road of humour can be a bumpy ride, and because of this the Muslim community might have chosen to keep away from it. Some rarely smile and when asked for the reason they would reply that there’s too much to worry about and laughing is unsuitable when our fellow Muslims are suffering. It’s true that each and every one of us should be concerned with what is happening, but smiling is an act of charity and laughing is a blessing from Allaah. We express our concern by helping out and not by being passively disappointed. The Prophet, who was concerned about all Muslims and carried the big responsibility of conveying the message, knew when to be serious and when to be light-hearted.
Another reason for keeping distant from humour is that it can be considered a risky act that might involve inappropriate jokes, being hurtful to others, or conveying lies through it. Humour that complies with Islaamic guidelines is not common. The mainstream humour we see either uses unsuitable content or mocks our religion. Islaam calls for healthy humour that will not in any way challenge or go against Islaamic teachings and brings with it fruitful results. We need humour that is not offensive, has no foul language, and does not poke fun at our religion. Not welcoming humour properly therefore comes as no surprise.
However, while the path of humour is a road that must be treaded carefully, many Muslims nowadays have taken up the challenge and are welcoming humour to the community. The humour that has been welcomed brings with it promising fruits as it either serves our faith or enlightens us.
The talented American Muslim comedian Azhar Usman, in a Rising Star interview, said “it takes greater skill, more talent and craft to deliver clean material and get the same amount of laughs.” He adds, “I have a filtering process. I ask myself, ‘A - is it acceptable by Sharee‘ah (Islaamic law, ethics, and theology)?’ and, ‘B - is it appropriate and inoffensive?’ And I regularly consult with Islaamic scholars.” Azhar Usman is popularly known as part of the “Allah Made Me Funny” comedy tour with other exceptional American Muslim comedians, Preacher Moss and Azeem. In their “Allah Made Me Funny” website, Preacher Moss talks about their aim, saying “the concept of this tour is to make a comprehensive effort to provide effective, significant, and appropriate comedy with an Islaamic perspective, which is both mainstream and cross-cultural. The idea is to provide a venue whereby Muslims and non-Muslims can feel safe, relevant, and inclusive of an experience where humour is used to bridge gaps of bias, intolerance, and other social ills that are pre and post 9/11 relevant.”
The humour welcomed by such Muslim comedians has brought an experience of social growth in the community. It is great entertainment as well by Muslims to both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Humour also takes different forms. To our benefit, humour is being welcomed in various means within the Muslim community to suit various tastes. It has come in the form of stand-up comedy, as previously mentioned, and also in comic strips and humour writing.
Linda (Widad) Delgado, Author-Publisher-American Muslim, Arizona, USA, is working on a comic strip called “Grandma and Hijab-ez” based on her Islamic Rose children’s books. In her endeavour to do so, Delgado informed us that “it takes a lot of effort and time to get the main point across in a way that will be funny to many people.” Regarding her aim in delivering funny material to the Muslim community, she says, “People learn in different ways. For some, it is by reading written words
For others, it is visual images that create the necessary connection between information and learning…[and]s a good comic strip can get your message across. Prophet Mu’hammad (P.B.U.H.) had a wonderful sense of humour and his example shows us that cultivating one for ourselves is good and Islaamic. Good comic humour puts smiles on people’s faces and makes them feel good, and that makes me feel good, too!”
Nancy E. Biddle, a Canadian-Muslim writer, is stepping into humour writing and has started by writing about her personal experiences from being a convert to getting married, and the “bumps along the way.” She wants to produce work that is “humorous, but also touching and useful.” Those words probably sum up what most Muslim humorists aim for by striving to present work that is beneficial.
Azhar Usman, Linda Delgado, and Nancy E. Biddle are all examples of practicing Muslims who have entered the humour arena and are aiming to take it to a professional level. They are properly welcoming the art of Muslim humour and are overcoming the challenges on their way. In my comic strip writing experience, I could relate to them and to how this path is a constant learning process by learning what the audience likes, what to present, and how to present it. It is also important for the audience to interact with this work and to provide feedback that would help blossom this needed art according to Islaamic guidelines.
Humour is healthy and refreshing. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) had a sense of humour. The companions often laughed together. Humour is no stranger to Islaam but simply needs to be welcomed properly and could even benefit people from different religions and culture groups. So let’s welcome clean Muslim humour that is sparkly clean and sparkly funny!
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