What does Entertainment Mean? What are the things that should be taken into consideration while having fun?

When entertainment is mentioned, amusing activities, competitions and music that enable people to have good and joyful time, come to mind first. When we categorize entertainment as licit and illicit, we mean activities with which soul as well as heart and spirit are amused naturally by “licit entertainment” and, we mean activities that are contrary to what the Sustainer of the universe commanded and that only the soul is delighted by but not heart and spirit by illicit entertainment. When entertainment is mentioned, amusing activities, competitions and music that enable people to have good and joyful time, come to mind first. When we categorize entertainment as licit and illicit, we mean activities with which soul as well as heart and spirit are amused naturally by licit entertainment and, we mean activities that are contrary to what the Sustainer of the universe commanded and that only the soul is delighted by but not heart and spirit by illicit entertainment.

As an explanation for this categorization; Badiuzzaman, an Islamic scholar, classifies joy is in the meaning of entertainment into two types and says, One stimulates the desires of the soul while the other joy silences the soul and urges the spirit, heart, mind, and subtle faculties to attain sublime matters, to their original home.

When we have a look at Sunnah (the practices of the Prophet (PBUH)): licit entertainments are divided into three categories. The first one is the sort of entertainment having an aim, a benefit or a requirement. The second is the kind of ceremonies which exist in the customs and traditions. As for the third one, the entertainments which satisfy, relax and cheer the emotions of man which have been exhausted and fed up.

We can give these examples for the first sort of entertainments and amusements having an aim:
The Prophet (PBUH) organized separate races for horses and dray horses which are trained for those sorts of races and he rewarded the winners.

Sometimes the Prophets camel participated in the races between the camels and it often won the race.

Arrow and spear shooting competitions were important tournaments in Madinah at that time. According to a narrative, shooting competitions and horse races are kinds of entertainments which angels also watch.

The entertainments suchlike jogging, running in races and wrestling existed in the private life of the Prophet (PBUH), as well.

Swimming was also one of the sports and entertainment types that the Prophet (PBUH) advised.

Shooting is a useful kind of entertainment because it prepares man for hunting and for war.

Hunting dogs, falcons, arrows, spears and suchlike hunting equipments are deemed permissible.

It is also possible to give other examples regarding the issue.

These following events could be given as examples of licit ceremonies and in the bounds of Sunnah and which exist in the customs and traditions:

Before Islam, Madinah people organized entertainments on the Nawruz and Mihrijan days. After the migration of Muslims, Ramadan and Sacrifice feasts replaced them.

The prophet (PBUH) gave permission to the female servants playing tambourine and elegizing on the Feast day and watched the spear performance of Abyssinians with his wife Hazrat Aisha.
We shall narrate this glorious Hadith as a true life example:

Hazrat Aisha narrates:

When Allahs Messenger (PBUH) was with me, two female servants came over, singing epic ballads about Boas War. He lay on the bed and turned his face to the reverse side. In the meantime, my father Abu Bakr entered the house and scolded me directly and said:

Devil instruments in the house of the Gods Messenger!
Then, Allahs Messenger (PBUH) turned to him and said:

Let them sing.
(When they got deep in the conversation, I signaled a wink to the women and they left the house.)

Hazrat Aisha goes on narrating:
On a feast day, some black men were performing sword-shield play in the mosque. I cannot remember whether I requested or he asked by himself:

He said: Do you want to watch?
I said: Of course.
He let me stay behind Him and we stood for a while as I nestled my cheek on his cheek and watched the performance:

He asked: Is it enough?
I replied: Yes.

Then you can go He said. (Buharî, Iydayn: 2, 3; Muslim, Iydayn: 19)

A similar entertainment was performed during the wedding ceremony of one of the companions of the Prophet. The Prophet (PBUH) attended the ceremony. He (PBUH) let the ceremony be performed; in addition, he intervened in the praise about him and corrected it.

Khalid bin Zakwan, one of the companions of the Prophet, narrates: Rubayya binti Muawwiz bin Afra told me like this:

When I married, Allahs Messenger (PBUH) came and sat on the bed as you are doing now. Our female servants started to elegize about our parents who were martyrized during the Badr day. Meanwhile, one of the woman recited a verse in the meaning:

The Prophet who knows what is going to happen tomorrow is with us!

Then Allahs Messenger (PBUH) uttered:
No, do not say like that. Say; The one who knows what is going to happen tomorrow is Allah. (Ibn Majah, Nikâh: 21).

Perhaps because entertainments in the wedding ceremonies were disregarded, Iyaz al-Asarî said: Why do you not perform any plays as thay had been acted in the presence of Allahs Messenger (PBUH), I am surprised (Ibn Majah, Iqama: 163)

Ibn Qutayba says that the desire of entertainment exists in the nature of mankind and that resisting against creation and nature is impossible; he narrates this Hadith as a proof:

Allahs Prophet (PBUH) joked so that Muslims would joke with one another and he said to the ones playing sword-shield: Oh the sons of Arfida go on playing! so that Jews will understand your religion has tolerance. (Musnad, 6: 116)

When Asad bin Zurara married his daughter, the Prophet (PBUH), thinking that Asad bin Zurara liked entertainments, asked whether muganniyas (women singers) playing tambourine and singing had been sent.

Moreover, throwing candy, dates or similar things onto people and their effort to catch them during wedding ceremonies or during circumcision feasts is observed as another kind of entertainment. (Usdul-Ghaba, 3:488)

Abdullah bin Abbas, organized a feast for the circumcision of his son and hired actors for the party. (DIA, Dr. Nebi Bozkurt, Entertainment section.)

Entertainment tradition by playing tambourine continued in the era of four Caliphs, too. It is narrated that when Hazrat Umar, the 2nd Caliph, realized that the sound of songs and tambourine that he heard was coming from a wedding or a circumcision ceremony, he did not ban it. (Abdurrazzaq as-Sananî, al-Musannaf, 11:5)

Some of the companions of the Prophet (PBUH) who had no hesitation in using the given permission and the shown tolerance by the Prophet (PBUH) about wedding entertainments, especially two individuals from the companions of the Badr Battle, so to speak, showed us the final limits of the matter.

Âmir bin Sad narrates: I went beside Qaraza b. Kab and Abu Masud al-Ansari during a wedding. Some female servants were singing. I could not stand it and said:

You are the ones of the Badr Battle companions of the Prophet and such kinds of things are taking place around you. It is impossible!

Thereupon, they replied: Whatever you wish, you can listen together with us or you can go. We have got the permission of having fun in the wedding ceremonies. (Nasai, Nikah: 80)

The third type of amusements in the bounds of Sunnah is to satisfy, relax and cheer the emotions of man that has been exhausted, tired or disgusted.

For instance, the Prophet (PBUH) organized competitions among the youths in order to alleviate the stress caused by monotonousness during the long journeys and expeditions. Thus, He provided them with easiness and comfort. (Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, 3:311)

Being very knowledgeable about Hadiths, Abud-Darda, who was educated right beside the Prophet (PBUH), said: I relax my heart by means of useless things in order to be more enthusiastic and energetic for on the search of the truth. (Canan, Kütübü Sitte Muhtasari (Interpretation of the Summary of the Six Books)), 1:514.) When Abu Dujana, who was famous with his piousness, was busy with a cheerful amusement in licit bounds, someone indicated what he was dealing with was useless. He replied: I relax my spirit with useless activities in order to attain sublime matters.

Imam Ghazali made important statements on the matter in his book Ihya and by indicating that amusements and having fun ease the hearts and remove stress and boredom, he says:

When the heart gets stressed, it becomes useless and grows lazy. Satisfying and pacifying the heart induces it again. For example; studying lessons every day exhausts man: but a Friday holiday gives enthusiasm to him again. Praying continuously makes man lazy too; a resting, in such a case, increases that mans joy and endeavor. Because of this, amusement and having fun help to work more seriously. Only Prophets could bear being serious continuously and sorrowful truths.

Although Ghazali regards amusements as the remedy of exhaustion and laziness, he says but: All the jokes, fun and amusement must be balanced and licit, they should not be excessive. Just as the overdose of medicines which are the remedies of illnesses is harmful, so is the extravagance of amusement. Moderate amusements are a sort of voluntary worship, because of causing freshness for the body and enthusiasm for the spirit for carrying out the obligatory prayers. (Ihya Interpretation, v. II, 710).

Bediuzzaman, who knows and observes todays conjuncture well, relieved people who saw that many people had been gravitated to the influence of amusements broadcast by means of radio in the first half of the 20th, century when the communication technologies started to become widespread:

Man does only need the truth but also some cheerful entertainments. However, those cheerful entertainments must be one fifth. Otherwise, it would be contrary to the wisdom and mystery of creation and the air element (radio waves). Furthermore, through causing people becoming lazy, being on the path of debauchery and leaving important duties incomplete, it becomes a torture, instead of a great bounty for mankind. It demotivates mans will to work which is very necessary. (RNK Publishing Emirdag Addendum, p. 1837)

In another letter, Badiuzzaman, through conveying the idea of one fifth ratio for licit amusements, asserts; some communication tools, which should be used for the sake of mankind and should be assigned for licit entertainments in two tenth of its usage; its usage for entertainments, amusements and having fun at a rate of eight tenth, mankind is pushed to be lazy. (RNK Publishing Emirdag Addendum, p. 1851)

Cheerful amusements that Badiuzzaman mentions are the sorts of amusements that are licit and lawful. Opening the door to the entertainments which drives men to misguidance by understanding these statements differently is nothing, but misjudging. According to Badiuzzaman, the bounds of the licit are sufficient for enjoyment, there is no need to trespass on the forbidden. Therefore, enjoyed amusements must remain in the licit, lawful and permissible limits.

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