What is the advice of our religion on issues like laughing, smiling and laughter? Are there any manners of laughing?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Answer 1:

Laughing is generally defined as "the stretching of the face in a way that makes the teeth visible as an expression of joy or psychological relief" in classical resources; the slight type of laughing is called smile and the loud one is called laughter. (Raghib al-lsfahani, al-Mufradat, "dhk" item)

It is understood from the examples in the Quran that it is natural for man to laugh in the face of some good news and interesting happenings. (Kindi, Rasail, I, 126) The verse stating that it is Allah who grants laughter and tears (an-Najm, 53/43) expresses the naturalness of laughing and weeping as well as the greatness of the power that creates opposite traits in the same being. There are verses indicating that laughing is an expression or mocking and despising. (al-Mu'minun, 23/ 109-110; az-Zukhruf, 43/47; an-Najm, 53/ 59-60) The polytheists laughed at the believers in the world but the believers will laugh at them in the hereafter (al-Mutaffifin, 83/29-36); on that day, some of the faces will be beaming, laughing and rejoicing while other faces will be covered by blackness. (Abasa, 80/38-41)

Since laughing is a quality that determines human character and is an attitude frequently seen in human relations as something peculiar to human beings, resources related to Islamic ethics have analyzed this concept. There are hadiths stating that the Prophet (pbuh) smiled and laughed in the face of witty remarks, interesting contradictions, surprising developments and some other deeds (see Wensinck, al-Mu’jam, "bsm", "dhk" items) Those hadiths reflect his tolerance along with his lenient character. (see Bukhari, "Adab", 68: "Fadailu Ashabin-Nebi", 6; Muslim, " Fadailus-Sahaba", 22)

However, it is stated in the hadiths in question that the Messenger of Allah’s laughing was in the form of smiling and that he provided joy and peace to the people around with his smile. (Bukhari, "Adab", 68; "Tafsir", 46/2; Muslim, " Fadailus-Sahaba", 134; Tirmidhi, p. 120-124)

According to what is understood from hadiths, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was generally a gracious and cheerful person. That is, he put on a happy face even when he was distressed and did not do anything that would sadden the people around him. When he met the people whom he loved very much, his smile would increase. (see Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 10; Abu Dawud, Istithqa, 2)

Taking also the hadiths into consideration, Islamic ethicists state that laughing is in compliance with human nature, ethics and good manners but that it is difficult to maintain the balance in laughing as well as in humor. Therefore, ethicists attract attention to the fact that not to laugh and to try to suppress laughing under normal conditions make a person unattractive but that to laugh very much harms the personality and solemnity of a person, makes him not to take important matters seriously and leads to heedlessness and that to laugh by making practical jokes and by making fun of people and backbiting them lead to hostility among people. (see Mawardi, Adabud-Dunya wad-Din, Beirut 1978, p. 302; Ghazzali, Ihya (Bei­rut), III, 127-132, 147; İslam Ansiklopedisi, DİA Gülme item)

Answer 2:

There are differences among smiling, having a smiling face, laughing a little, laughing a lot, laughing out loud, smirking, laughing unnecessarily, laughing sarcastically, laughing jeeringly, making others laugh and making others laugh unnecessarily. None of them is the same as another. Some of them are encouraged and some of them are regarded permissible while we are advised to avoid others. Let us deal with them separately:

1. It is sunnah to smile, to have a smiling face and to laugh a little. One gets the reward of sadaqah with them. They give peace to the heart and the spirit. They bind people together, forming trust, warmness and closeness among them. They increase friendship, end enmity and prevent resentment. They eliminate the hatred, grudge, fury, anger and resentment, which come from Satan.

The Prophet (pbuh) smiled and had a smiling face. He would not sulk in the presence of people. When he was angry, he would not show it. He said,

“It is a sadaqah for you to greet people with a smiling face.” (Jamius-Saghir, 4/1513)

“Allah loves a person who is lenient and who has a smiling face.” (Jamius-Saghir, 2/503)

“You cannot please everybody with your wealth. Then, please them with your smiling face and good manners.” (Jamius-Saghir, 2/661)

“Allah does not like a person who pulls a long face at his believing brother.” (Jamius-Saghir, 2/500)

“Fear Allah and do not underestimate any favor even if it is in the form of giving some water to a person who wants water or welcoming your believing brother with a smiling face.” (Muslim, Birr, 144; Tirmidhi, At’ima, 30)

2. Laughing a lot, laughing out loud, smirking, laughing unnecessarily, laughing sarcastically, laughing jeeringly, making others laugh and making others laugh unnecessarily are forbidden by degrees.

“The Prophet (pbuh) kept silent a lot and laughed a little.” (Musnad, 5/86)

The Quran does not approve of laughing unnecessarily:

“And will ye laugh and not weep!” (an-Najm, 53/60)

The hadiths that warn us regarding the issue are as follows:

“Laugh a little because laughing very much kills (hardens) the heart.” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 2; Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 19)

“If you knew what I know, you would laugh a little and weep a lot. You would go up to high mountains and beg Allah because you do not know whether you will attain salvation or not.” (Jamius-Saghir, 4/1427

“He who commits a sin by laughing will enter Hell.” (Jamius-Saghir, 4/1534)

“There are two kinds of laughing: There is one kind that Allah loves and there is another kind that Allah punishes a person because of it. The one that Allah loves is as follows: A person meets a believing brother that he wants to see and becomes happy due to seeing him. The one that Allah punishes a person because of it is as follows: A person utters an offensive, hurting, biting, despising, mocking, vulgar or bad word in order to laugh and make others laugh. He falls into a hellhole of seventy layers down.” (Jamius-Saghir, 3/1149)

“I am surprised by a person who chases the world though death chases him. I am surprised by a person who acts heedlessly though he is not left unattended. I am surprised by a person who laughs out loud though he does not know whether Allah is pleased with him or not.” (Jamius-Saghir, 3/1174)

“I have just been shown Paradise and Hell at the edge of that wall. I have never seen the important outcomes of doing good deeds and avoiding bad deeds before. If you knew what I know, you would laugh a little and weep a lot.” (Bukhari, Salah, 51; Muslim, Fadail, 134)

“Eating before getting hungry, sleeping before feeling sleepy, smirking without seeing anything funny, screaming in the face of a misfortune, playing a musical instrument illegitimately at the time of boons are things that bring Allah’s wrath.” (Jamius-Saghir, 3/1313)

“Allah regards the following six things ugly:

1. Doing unnecessary things while performing a prayer,
2. Rubbing it in after a charity,
3. Doing things that could endanger fasting,
4. Laughing next to graves,
5. Entering a mosque as junub,
6. Looking inside a house without the permission of its owner.” (Jamius-Saghir, 2/479)

It is permissible to laugh normally unless it aims to humiliate and mock others and unless it is not exaggerated. However, it is not appropriate to laugh out loud and to make programs that last for hours in order to make people laugh. For, laughing excessively might be the result of being heedless of Allah, not being a joking, witty or smiling person.

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