Contrary to popular thought, humour and joking are permitted in Islam. Humour has the power of warming people’s hearts and uplifting spirits providing a welcome break amidst the pressures of life.
Abu Huraira (RA) said that the Prophet peace be upon him was asked, “O Prophet of Allah, you are joking with us.” He said, “I only say what is true.” (Tirmidhi)
Sufyan ibn Uyaynah was asked, “Is joking prohibited?” He replied, “It is a Sunnah, but the point is that it must be done appropriately.” Many of the scholars agree. Umar said, “I admire a man who is like a child with his family (playful), and once he leaves them, he is more serious.”
Thabit ibn Ubaid said, “Zayd ibn Thabit was one of the most humorous men in his home. Outside of his home, he was as serious as any man.”
It is also related that Ibn Abbas asked some of his guests to have light and humorous conversation so that they would have a good time and not feel bored. Rabi’a said, “Virtue is made of six parts, three while in town (at the place of your home) and three while on journey. The first three are reciting the Qur’an, frequently being at the mosque, and spreading the way of Allah to other lands. The other three parts while travelling are spending, showing virtuous behaviour and joking in what Allah has permitted.”
Ibn Abbas said, “Joking appropriately is permissible. For the Prophet joked but he said what was true.” Al ibn Ahmad Al Faraheedi said, “People would feel imprisoned if they did not joke”
Conditions related to humour
Do not lie. The Prophet (SAW) said, “I only say what is true.”
It is related that the Prophet said, “Do not be vague with others and do not joke.” (Tirmidhi)
Take care not to cause anger or insult: Another Hadith states that the Prophet said, “Everything has a beginning and hostility begins with joking.”
Do not cause embarrassment: Ja’far ibn Muhammad said, “Beware of joking for it causes embarrassment.”
Ibn Hayan defines permissible joking as, “That which Allah has permitted, which commits no sin and does not lead to separation between people.”
Occasional: Imam Nawawi said, “Joking is prohibited when it is excessive and consistent. It becomes ineffective and causes the heart to harden. It distracts a person from worship of Allah and concern with religious issues. It often causes harm, envy and disrespect. If these elements are absent from a joke, then it is what is permissible by Islam. The Prophet would use humour to reach people and draw them together.”
Consider your audience: bn Hayan said, “Whoever jokes with an inappropriate person will lose that person’s respect, even if what he is saying is true. One should be selective with whom he jokes.”
Ibn Al Muqafa’ said, “One should separate his behaviour between two groups of people. One group is made up of public. Here he should be serious and purposeful with every word he speaks. The other group is made up of people who are closer to him. With this group, he should be humorous and caring. Each of these behaviours will be beneficial and productive in the right place.” Try to understand the people you deal with, in order to decide whether or not it is appropriate to joke with them.
Never criticize while joking.
Show respect to the person you are joking with, as the Prophet Muhammad did when he told a man he was joking with, “In the eyes of Allah you are great.”
Monitor yourself when you are feeling humorous.
Maintain good behaviour with people who make a mistake when joking with you.
- According to a narration from Ibn Abbas, once Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) made one of his wives wear a long dress and told her; “Wear this dress and be grateful to Allah and walk like a bride dragging her skirts.”
- In a narration from Aisha, she narrates: Once the Prophet and I were on a journey. I was thin back then and I was not fat. The Prophet told the people around him: “You go ahead.” When we were left behind far enough, he told me: “Let’s race!”We raced and I beat him. He did not mention it again until I put on some weight. Meanwhile I completely forgot about this incident. During another journey, he told the people around him to go ahead. When they went far away, he said to me, “Let’s race!” This time he won and started to laugh saying “we are even now.”
- As related by Hasan, an old lady from the Ansar (residents of Medina) came to the Prophet and asked him: “Please make a dua (supplication) for me that I go to heaven.”The Prophet replied: “Did you not hear it? Old women cannot go to heaven.” The old lady became upset upon this. Then the Prophet said smiling: “Have you not read the verse: “We have produced the women of Paradise in a [new] creation and made them virgins, devoted [to their husbands] and of equal age” (Al-Vaqiah, 56/35-37). Then he explained to the old lady in a pleasant manner that old women would go to heaven as young girls, and he cheered her up.
- Once Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told a lady that her husband has a white spot in his eyes. The woman sadly came to her husband and related what the Prophet had said. Her husband told her that the Prophet had joked with her and that he actually meant that everyone has a white spot in their eyes (Ibn Kutaybah, 439).
- As related by Anas b. Malik: Once a man came to the Prophet and wanted to give him a ride on his camel. The Prophet replied: “We should give you a ride on a baby camel then.”“O Messenger of Allah, how can I ride on a baby camel?”The Prophet replied: “Are not all camels the babies of a mother camel?” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 92; Tirmizi, Birr, 57)
- Again narrated by Anas b. Malik: A bedouin named Zahir brought presents from the desert to the Prophet. As he was leaving, the Prophet also gave him presents and told him: “Zahir represents us living in the desert and we represent him living in the city.” Although he was physically an ugly man, the Prophet loved him dearly. While Zahir was shopping, the Prophet hid himself behind him and asked “Who am I?” Zahir recognized him.Then the Prophet asked “Who is going to buy this slave?” Zahir replied: “O Messenger of Allah, do you find me worthless then?”The Prophet replied: “Are you not a slave of Allah? You are very worthy in Allah’s presence (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Tirmidhi).
- Once Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was playing with his grandsons Hasan and Hussein. The kids were sitting on his shoulders. When Umar saw this, he told the children: “How precious is your horse!”The Prophet replied: “They are fine riders as well.” (Haythami, 181-182).
- Nuayman was one of the most humorous companions and he loved the Prophet dearly. Whenever a fine item came to Medina, he would buy it and then give it to the Prophet as a present. One day he saw that some fine quality honey had arrived Medina. He bought some and brought it to the Prophet. However he had not paid the salesman. He brought the salesman to the Prophet and told him to take the money from the Prophet. The Prophet asked: “I thought you brought the honey as a present?”Nuayman replied: “O Messenger of Allah! I wanted you to taste this fine honey so much, but since I didn’t have any money, I did it this way.” The Prophet laughed and paid the salesman (I. Abdilberr , el-Istiab, IV, 473).
- I always carry a picture of my wife and children in my wallet. It reminds me why there’s no money in there.
- Mum kept a photo of me, not my siblings in her wallet. Whenever she went through hard times she would look at it so I was touched, until she explained that she would look at it and say what bigger problem is there than this one and have the strength to go
- I asked my student yesterday what comes after “dhaal”? He looked at me full of confidence and said “RICE!”
- Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources Officer asks a young engineer fresh out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “And what starting salary are you looking for?” The engineer replies, “In the region of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.” The interviewer inquires, “Well, what would you say to a package of five weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every two years, say, a red Corvette?” The engineer sits up straight and says, “Wow! Are you kidding?” The interviewer replies, “Yeah, but you started it.”
- Headteacher in an air balloon over the Sahara is completely lost. He shouts out to a man on a camel below – where am I.
The man responded you are 120 degrees SE, 100 metres up etc.
The Head says thanks are you a Data Manager. Yes, how do you know? You have provided a load of data, more than I needed but I still dont know what to do.
The man shouts back – are you a Headteacher? Yes, how do you know?
You dont know what you’re doing.
You dont know where you’re going.
You got yourself into this mess and you dont know how to get out.