What does Islam say about humor and joking? Could you please give examples from the jokes of the Prophet of mercy and his smiling face?

Details of the Question
What does Islam say about humor and joking? Could you please give examples from the jokes of the Prophet of mercy and his smiling face?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Islam welcomes humor and joking as long as they are balanced. Jokes and humor, which are in line with Islamic criteria, are relaxing and means of increasing fellowship and love between people. Although being humorless is accepted as seriousness, too much of anything is excessiveness and not welcomed. That is to say, grumpy people are not loved. The word “fukaha” which is mentioned in several verses of the Quran and which stems from the word “fakiha” which means fruit means joking, entertainment, and conversation and chat of fellowship. In the 55th verse of the chapter Ya Seen, it is stated in a tempting way that inhabitants of Heaven talk and joke with each other, being content with their state. It can be deduced from that verse that appropriate entertainments and jokes which are done in a way that will strengthen friendship and relax one’s soul are approved. Joke in Arabic language is “Fukaha” and “Mizah”. The important role of jokes and humor, which have got its limits and criteria, in attracting attention, preventing people around from getting bored and strengthening love cannot be denied. Jokes and a smiling face which will serve to strengthen factors such as brotherhood and love among Muslims, conveying the message of Islam to people, warming hearts, fellowship, tolerance and forgiving are of great importance.
In our time, they are important kinds of worshipping for Muslims and sunnahs which are (made) forgotten. Humankind, stuck between the two extreme ends of the issue like in any other issue, is in the search of the best balance. On the one hand, there are a few famous comedians whose only business is fun, who can laugh disgustingly, who are free-and-easy, humiliating, who do not hesitate to lie and who are well-known for their nasty jokes or their imitation and simple adaptation of foreign comedians; and on the other hand there are people with scowled faces and personalities which reflect their impaired souls on their faces and words… Words of criticism and complaint, pessimistic, repulsive and boring manners, stiff relationships, hackneyed speeches, insincere attitudes so mannered and fake… We scream out “help!” drowning in the sea of instability and the waves of discomfort; and on the other hand is the sunnah of the Messenger, which is waiting for us, as our life buoy.
In all of hadith books (book or chapter, that is as an independent section or as a subheading), joke and humor take place. This is because there was always joke in the Messenger of Allah’s life. Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was the leading in joking with children.” There are many examples of jokes he made with the ones whom he had contact with, women, men, children, aged ones. Our Leader always had a smile on his face, as described in all books about his appearance. Smiling, grinning and laughter are different things. He did not have a scowled face; there was always a smile on his face in spite of all the torment, starvation, Jews’ perfidiousness, sinners’ mischievousness and all burdens which mountains cannot bear. Amongst plants, rose symbolizes the Messenger of Allah. And in our language, “rose” is not only the name of a flower but also an order of a verb (rose is “gül” in Turkish and “gül” also means “smile”). What a nice coincidence for the Prophet who always smiles. Scowled faced, pessimistic and grumbling people, who see thorns before the rose, must start to tidy themselves in the mirror of The Messenger of Allah, from this point. We must manage to approach the enemy with “rose” and smiling, before we attack, despite those who try to give us hard times.
The Prophet and his Companions were seen to joke with their friends many times. The Companions said to the Messenger of Allah: “O the Messenger of Allah, you are kidding us!” And the Messenger of Allah said: “I only tell the truth even jokingly; I tell nothing but truth.” (Tirmidhi, Birr 57, hadith no: 1991). He was a very joyful, cheerful and nice person. Although his duty was very serious and difficult, his company was neither boring, nor gloomy and monotonous, unlike leaders which are accustomed to see. Contrarily, he was sweet, cheerful and full of joy. Sometimes, he smiled a lot at the jokes which the Companions made with one another, and sometimes he made jokes with them too. Abdullah bin Haris said that he had not seen anyone else who smiled more beautifully that the Messenger of Allah. Jabir bin Samura narrated that he had not ever seen him without a smile on his face since he had converted to Islam and he, the Prophet, always had treated him well. Anas, who had been with our Prophet since his childhood and rendered service to him, said: “The Messenger of Allah was the nicest and the most humorous of people when he was with his wives.” According to the Hazrat Aisha’s narration, the Prophet raced with her and in on of those races Aisha won and in the other the Prophet won. He approved and encouraged joking and having fun with one’s spouse for it will increase love between them. (Abu Dawud, Adab 84, 85, 149; Ibni Majah, Jihad 40; Ahmad bin Hanbal, II/352, 364, III/67, V/32).

 One day, while Aisha and Sawda were eating a kind of dish with the Prophet in the house of bliss, Sawda said: “I do not like this dish”. Aisha said: “If you do not eat it, I will spread it on your face” and she spread some of it with her finger on Sawda’s face jokingly and Sawda did the same on Aisha’s face. And the Prophet watched them smiling. The Messenger of Allah used to like smiling a lot and to joke kindly. According to the narration by Abu Hurayra, the Prophet was like one of them when he was amongst his Companions, with his sincere and humorous words and attitudes. He made kind jokes and there was not falsehood or lies in his jokes.

Anas (r.a.) narrates: “A man came to the Prophet and said: O the Messenger of Allah. Mount me on a camel! The Messenger of Allah said to him: “I will mount you on a baby camel”. The man said: What can I do with a baby camel? (One cannot ride it). Upon it, the Prophet said: “So does another creature other than camel give birth to a camel? (Is each camel not the child of another camel?)” (Tirmidhi, Birr 57; Abu Dawud, Adab 84, 92). With these words, the Prophet both made a joke with him and also indicated that one must not hurry to oppose without comprehending a word’s deepness and essence when he hears it.
Anas (r.a.) said that the Prophet called out to him “O two-eared!” and with this word, he meant to joke. (Tirmidhi, Birr 57; Abu Dawud, Adab 92). Again, Anas (r.a.) said: “When we were children, the Messenger of Allah came and join us. I had a brother called Abu Umair and he had a bird he loved very much and with which he often played. The Prophet asked him: O Abu Umair, what happened to the birdie?” (Bukhari, Adab 81, 112; Muslim, Adab 30; Tirmidhi, Birr 57; Abu Dawud, Adab 69; Ibn Majah, Adab 24). According to a narration by Anas, once an old woman came to the Prophet and asked him to pray for her to enter Heaven. The Messenger of Allah said to her: “No old women will enter Heaven!” Hearing this, the old woman started to cry. Upon this, he said: “But that day you will not be old. Allah says ‘We have created (their Companions) of special creation. And made them virgin - pure (and undefiled)’ (al-Waqiah, 56: 35-36).” (Tirmidhi, Shamail)
Hazrat Suhaib narrates: I was eating dates and there was a pain in my eye. Seeing it, he Prophet, said to me jokingly: Are you eating dates though your eye is aching? And I said: “O the Messenger of Allah, I am eating with the one which does not ache.” With this answer, the Prophet smiled till his molar teeth appeared. A woman called Ummu Ayman came to the Prophet and said: My husband invites you to our house. The Prophet said: Who is your husband? He is the man in whose eye there is white, isn’t he? The woman said: I swear there is no white in his eye!” Upon this, the Prophet said: There is white in everybody’s eye. The Prophet meant the white part around the iris of the eye by saying “white in the eye”. However, that expression was also used to mean that one was blind and for this reason the woman misunderstood it. The Prophet also made wordplay with it.
There were some people who were well-known for their humor amongst the Companions, such as Nuayman, Abu Huraira, Abdullah Ibn Huzafa, Zaid Ibn Thabit and Buraydatu’l-Aslami. Even Hazrat Umar, who is known for his strict and serious personality, made jokes. They can be explained by the Messenger of Allah’s tolerance and his example in joking. Indeed, the Prophet did not forbid humor, which is an inborn tendency; he just set some limits to it. Nuayman, whose humor was the best-known, made jokes with the Prophet a lot of times. According to his narration, he used to buy a nice food on credit from Madinah bazaar and bring it to the Prophet as a “gift”. Later, when the time came to pay for it, he used to go to the Prophet and ask for the gift’s fee. When the Messenger of Allah said ‘You gave it to me as a gift, what happened now?’, he answered: ‘I thought you were worthy of that nice food, but as I did not have money, I did it so’ The Prophet used to react by smiling all the time and never got angry with Nuayman. And sometimes he could not help himself smiling when he met Nuayman. Another well-known joke of Nuayman was that he sold his friend Suwaybit as a slave. Upon that incident, the Messenger of Allah and his Companions laughed at it for a year.
There was a humorous person amongst Ansar (people of Madinah). One day, while he was making people around him laugh with his jokes, the Messenger poked him on his side with his staff jokingly. The man said: O the Messenger of Allah, you hurt me. Let me retaliate. And the Messenger said: Go ahead. The man said: But you have got a shirt on. I did not have it on. (you must take it off for retaliation to be exact). Upon the demand of the man, the Prophet folded up his shirt and uncovered his side. The Man embraced the Messenger and started to kiss his side reverently. And he said: I indeed wished to do it O the Messenger of Allah!” (Abu Dawud, Adab 160, hadith no: 5224).
Someone called Zahir bin Harun used to come to the Prophet from desert with gifts. And when the time came for him to return, the Prophet used to meet Zahir’s needs. The Messenger of Allah used to say: “Zahir symbolizes our people living in desert; and we symbolize him in town.” He used to love him though he was a tough and unhandsome person. One day while Zahir was selling his products in the bazaar, the Prophet caught him and held her from behind. Zahir could not turn back and see who he was. He said: let me go, who are you? But, when he turned back, he saw the Messenger of Allah, he leant his back against the Messenger’s chest and the Prophet said: Who wants to purchase a slave? Zahir said: O the Messenger of Allah, this is a valueless good! Upon this the Messenger said: No, in the eyes of Allah, your value is so high.”
Those jokes that the Prophet and the Companions made were not offensive and false. Such jokes increase love and fellowship between people. The Prophet made warnings about the appropriate manners for making jokes. For instance, there must not be lies in jokes. “Woe to those who tell lies to make people laugh!” (Abu Dawud, Adab 88; Tirmidhi, Zuhd 8). “…I promise a mansion to those who quit lying, even though it is a joke.” (Abu Dawud, Adab 8). One must not humiliate someone by joking (Tirmidhi, Birr 58). One must not make jokes by frightening someone with fire and guns. Jokes must not be excessive, even it permitted limits, and especially making people laugh must not be one’s occupation. There are some permissible things which may turn into sins when made too often. Jokes which cause torment, hardship and disturbance are also forbidden. Practical jokes and jokes made with mortal or scathing devices are forbidden, for they can be dangerous.
However, the Supreme Prophet disliked laughing too much, especially laughing loudly, as he did not like anything excessive. Sometimes he shed tears, like pearls, so much that his prayer rug got wet during the hours he spared for tahajjud prayers at nights. When he was asked the reason of it, he answered: “Shall I not be a grateful slave?” (Bukhari, Tahajjud 6, Riqaq 19; Muslim, Sifatu’l-Munafiqin 18). While he showed his gratitude to Allah by praying at nights, he proved it to people with his smiles, tolerance, optimism and friendliness. As a matter of fact, one could not be a grateful slave by complaining and scowling his face. Tears flowing down from the eyes of the Prophet were the pearls of the night ornamented with prayer rugs when he was alone with his Lord, not when with people. That eminent person’s – who said “If you knew what I know, you would laugh a little and cry a lot” - smile which spread peace and bliss around was the reflection of his gratitude. A true believer, who should follow his example, should have a sorrowful heart as a result of awe and problems of Islam and status of Muslims and pondering over them. Nevertheless, he should light up the darkness caused by unfair people, with his smiling face which shows that he is grateful. Even though his soul cries, his face should smile. He should know that scowling face towards a Muslim is insult and violation of personal rights, and his mercy for his Muslim brothers should be seen on his face.
One should show his gratitude both with his manners and attitudes and also with words, that is, verbally. Characterless attitudes, levity, sassy laughter, free-and-easy manners, and a depressed face which shows pessimism, hopelessness must equally be away from a true believer. Islam gives one peace. The era of the Prophet’s order which abolished the order of Ignorance is called the era of bliss. Muslims are amongst good deeds in the world too. They are not blind to the beauties around them. They love what is created, because of the Creator. They see the full side of the glass, the half of which is filled with water. However, if they can, they try to fill the empty half themselves first.
Let us bear in mind that the Prophet faced more troubles and hardships than us. He faced more starvation than any of us. He had more burdens and duties than the most responsible one of us. He was struggling to solve a large and difficult problem, which can never be compared to ours. Nevertheless, unlike us, he never complained and his face was not scowled; he was not, stressed, tired, troublesome or pessimistic… He had to set an example for us on the issue as well, like in everything else (al-Azhab, 33: 21). We should refresh our lives by following his sunnah properly, relocating his era of bliss to our day. One who is not smiling, peaceful and confident amongst people cannot shed tears of pearls on his praying rug at tahajjud at nights.
Let us gain thawab (reward) of martyrs by following a forgotten sunnah of the Prophet at this time, when mischief is at its zenith. Let us be cheerful and humorous towards all Muslims around us. Let our smile, our smiling face be the reflection of the fact that we have found the source of peace and that we relocated the era of bliss to today. A complaining and scowled face is rather an indicator of unbelief or ungratitude; and stress and psychological problems such as depression are indicators of the disease of mischievousness in one’s heart; a smiling face is the indicator of gratitude. Let us convey the message which we cannot put into words, at least, with out face. Let our faces be inviters to peace and Heaven. When someone looks at our face, he should adore us and try to resemble us, to be like us. Firstly our faces, then words should be harbingers of goodness, not disgust.
Hurry up, what are you waiting for, change your complaining, ungrateful personality. Though your soul may cry, let your face smile. Make us happy, cheer us up. Hurry up, what are you waiting for, caress your child’s or brother’s/sister’s hair. Make kind jokes with your spouse, show your love 61 times as a ransom for a religious brother/sister of yours whose heart you broke. Show with your face that looking at a Muslim’s face is equal to looking at Heaven. Embrace your brothers/sisters and friends around you. Salute all Muslims you know and you do not know, send your smiles to each other as gifts… Why are you still waiting? Before the day of resurrection arrives, offer people your smiles, which are the reflection of the revolution inside you, as an essential facility for that day, and as a inheritance and symbol of the Era of Rose… And copy the expressions of “Al-hamdu lillah!” and “O Lord, praises be to you!” to your head from the Book and write it on your face… Spread smiles and roses like the Rose-Prophet! Like the Rose-Prophet… Like the Prophet who made our souls smile… Like the Prophet whose both words and face bloomed like a rose… (Şamil İslam Ansiklopedisi, 6/326-328).
Fedakar KIZMAZ

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