Is it permissible to do stand-up and to earn money by doing stand-up? What is the criteria for humor and jokes in Islam?

The Details of the Question
Is it permissible to do stand-up and to earn money by doing stand-up? What is the criteria for humor and jokes in Islam?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Firstly, Islam does not find it nice to do unnecessary things. As far as we can see, it is not a good profession to be busy with making and telling jokes, which only increases the heedlessness of people, all the time. For, a person wastes a lot of time to find issues for humor. This is the taqwa aspect of the issue.

As for its permissibility, it is permissible to do stand-up especially if a person has to earn his living by helping people to get rid of stress through exemplary, thought-provoking stand-ups that encourage religious issues, truth and respecting personal rights. We advise you to keep away from doing stand-up if you have no economic difficulties.

When Hz. Prophet (pbuh) made jokes, he observed certain criteria:

He always told the truth even when he made a joke.

b. He did not argue unnecessarily even if it was a joke.

c. He did not frighten people.

d. He did not make jokes by making fun of people.

Like Hz. Prophet (pbuh), the Companions also made jokes probably as an example of his vast tolerance.

Every act, attitude and word of a Muslim must be temperate and serious; however, seriousness must not be confused with being cold and reserved. Islam brought a different viewpoint about humor; it pointed to jokes fitting a believer and rendered it permissible to make witty remarks full of wisdom. For a believer, wit and jokes mean more than making people laugh and jump, hop, etc; they express wisdom and make people think. 

More than necessary jokes and humor are objectionable because they cause people to be lighthearted, to laugh a lot, to blacken their hearts, to waste time and sometimes to offend people. The Prophet (pbuh) prohibited the jokes that cause people to burst into laughter, that prevent people from remembering Allah or that eliminate respect and solemnity by harming the honor of people. There is a saying among Muslims which means a joke needs to be kind. Besides, jokes and witty remarks must not include any lies. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

“I make jokes but I tell the truth.

Thus, he emphasized that one's words must be true even when he is making a joke.

Yes, the Prophet (pbuh) sometimes made jokes. However, his jokes had a serious aspect and were based on the truth. On the one hand, he had a posture of solemnity and grandeur that called the feeling of respect; on the other hand, he was always humble and modest attracting love of people. Attracting attention to this issue, Busiri states the following in his Qasida al-Burda:

“As though (he is) in the midst of a large army and its retinue: Even when alone, it appears sue to his grandeur:”

He goes on as follows:

“From the two mines, of his speech and his smiles: It is like pearls well preserved in oysters.”

The Messenger of Allah was like that; he always had a smiling face, as if giving good news all the time. However, according to narrations, he laughed - in a way that fitted him - only three times in his life and he never allowed being unserious. However, he served as a model by smiling, treating people kindly, accepting everybody and making people feel easy near him; when it was necessary, he tried to make people feel relaxed by suppressing his anger and grandeur. 

According to the criteria we learn from our Prophet, man needs to evaluate his addressees based on their knowledge and speak to them accordingly; otherwise, he might pressurize them without knowing and drive away from the truth.

Yes, it is not permissible to deliberately act too lightheartedly, to make jokes in order to make some people laugh, to laugh and make people laugh immoderately, wasting time. When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) saw some people laughing, he asked them, “Have you got the good news that you will enter Paradise?” Thus, he warned them.

However, it is not objectionable for some saintly scholars who are always in real knowledge to make some jokes and utter some witty remarks in order to relax their students, who are always solemn, when they feel bored; so, it is permissible to tell some jokes and stories and to make jokes based on wisdom, having some aims in mind.  

For instance, during the reign of Murad IV, there was a man called Habib Baba living in Erzurum. This man, who was said to be a saint, decided to go to Makkah for hajj. In that period, those wanted to perform hajj came to Istanbul first and set off from Istanbul in caravans. Habib Baba arrived in Istanbul and went to a public bath in order to clean his body before setting off. The ministers of the sultan had hired that public bath for the day and did not allow anybody else into the public bath. Habib Baba begged the bath keeper to allow him to have a bath in the corner. The bath keeper felt pity for him and allowed him to enter. After a while, the ministers of the sultan arrived with their men; they acted pompously. Meanwhile, Murad IV, who often walked around in disguise, also came to the same bath and begged the bath keeper to allow him to enter the bath. The bath keeper allowed him to enter on condition that he would have a bath next to Habib Baba. Habib Baba offered Murad IV to rub his back with the bath-glove and rubbed his back. After that, Murad IV started to rub Habib Baba's back. While rubbing Habib Baba's back, Murad IV said, “Look at us and look at those ministers. I wish I were a minister to the king.” Habib Baba answered him as follows:

“O my friend! Be a minister to such a Sultan that will make your back rubbed by the sultan of those ministers.”

This is a nice joke and story. It might not even be true. However, it expresses a deep meaning. It emphasizes wisely that worshipping and serving the divine being is worth everything in the world. Therefore, it is not harmful to tell jokes and stories like that; in fact, it may be useful in explaining some truths.

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