Etiquettes of Joking

Al-Muza’h, which is the opposite of Al-Jidd (seriousness), entails meanings of jest, joking and playfulness. It is a human trait that, along with all aspects of life and religion, must and should be governed and organized by Islamic Law. Otherwise, Al-Muza’h will turn into a dishonorable act that adversely affects one’s reputation and honor among people. The Prophet has taught us what is allowed and what is not allowed of Al-Muza’h, as follows:

1 – Al-Muza’h should neither entail lying, nor should it entail relaying accounts of sin and deviation. Further, it should not cause any type of harm to other people, nor should it contain what could lead to sore relations between friends and family members. Abu Hurayrah once said to the Prophet, “O Messenger of Allah! You sometimes jest with us.” The Prophet said, “Yet, I only say that which is true!” [At-Tirmithi]. Also, the Prophet said, “Woe unto he who narrates a story and lies so that the people would laugh, woe unto him! Woe unto him!” [Ahmad, At-Tirmithi, Abu Dawood & Ad-Darimi]. The Islamic Shari’ah teaches the Muslims to always say the truth, even when joking and jesting. It also teaches the Muslims to shun lying and faking stories to make others laugh, because of what this could lead to of spreading falsehood and deviation.

2 – Al-Muza’h should be lighthearted, so that it does not annoy sensitive people or harm anyone in general. Muslims are not allowed to describe a person with what he does not like, for example, or to belittle him or his status and grade.

3 – Al-Muza’h should be modest and not harsh, nor should it entail transgressing the set limits of the religion. The Messenger of Allah said, what translated means, “None of you should take his brother’s stick, whether he was serious or just jesting; and if one does, let him give it back.” [At-Tirmithi]. Also, Abu Dawood reported that the Prophet said, “None of you should take his brother’s things, whether he was serious or just jesting.” This prohibition also includes taking away one’s watch, pen, book, ring, and so forth. Furthermore, this righteous Islamic conduct teaches the Muslims to respect other people’s feelings, property and possessions.

Al-Muza’h should neither entail lying, nor should it entail relaying accounts of sin and deviation.

4 – Al-Muza’h should not frighten other Muslims, because Islam prohibits harming the Muslims in this or any other manner, even while jesting. Abdur-Ra’hman ibn Abi Layla narrated that the companions told him that they were once traveling with the Messenger of Allah, when a man stood up and left somewhere. Then, some people took possession of a rope that he had. The man became frightened when he discovered that his rope had been taken, so the Messenger of Allah said, “No Muslim is allowed to bring fear to another Muslim.” [Abu Dawood].

5 – Al-Muza’h should be practiced to bring joy and laughter to the people, so that it eases their tension, boredom and exhaustion. Anas narrated that a woman came to the Messenger of Allah, saying, “Carry us on a camel.” meaning give us a camel that we could use to move about! The Messenger of Allah said, “I will carry you on a camel’s offspring.” She said, “What can we do with a camel’s offspring?” thinking that the camel’s offspring will be young and unable to transport them. He said, “Camels only give birth to an offspring!” [At-Tirmithi & Abu Dawood]. Also, the Messenger of Allah once said to an old woman, “No old woman shall enter Paradise.” She said, and she was a reader of the Quran, “Why is that?” He said, “Do you not read in the Quran, {Verily, We have created them (maidens) of special creation. And made them virgins. Loving (their husbands only), equal in age. For those on the Right Hand.} [56:35-38]?” This Hadith also encourages the Muslims to always say the truth, even while joking and jesting.

Ali bin Abi Talib once said regarding Al-Muza’h, “Bring relief to the hearts, because the hearts get bored just as the case with the bodies.” Also, Usamah ibn Zayd said, “Bring relief to the hearts (by the permissible type of Muza’h), and they will comprehend the Thikr (the Quran).” This is because jesting brings relief and ease to the hearts and leads to an increase in the activity.

Islam allows jesting and joking, as long as such conduct is restricted and practiced according to Islamic Law. When the Muslims restrict their behavior according to the teachings of the Prophet, even when joking, they will gain the full benefit that the Islamic way of life produces and brings about, thus ensuring their happiness and tranquillity, both in this life and in the Last Life.