What is wrong with laughing too much? The boundaries of comedy

What is wrong with laughing too much? The boundaries of comedy

Excessive laughter

The Messenger (peace be upon him) said:

“Do not laugh too much, for verily excessive laughter kills the heart.” (Bukhari, Adab al-Mufrad; Sunan Tirmidhi; Sunan Ibn Maja; Musnad Ahmad)

And in some narrations, there is an addition,

“For verily excessive laughter kills the heart and removes the light of one’s face,” or in another version, “For verily excessive laughter corrupts the heart.” (Bayhaqi, Shu’ab])

Some people laugh so loudly in public that they draw attention to themselves which is not good. Laughter must not be out of control. If you are at home it is a different matter, but among strangers you have to have the right etiquettes.

Excessive laughter

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that loving others is one of five things the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said we should act on:

‘Who will take these words from me, so that he may act upon them, or teach one who will act upon them?’

So Abu Hurairah said: ‘I shall O Messenger of Allah!’

So he (peace be upon him) took my hand and enumerated five (things), he said:
1. Avoid the prohibitions and you shall be the most worshipping among the people,
2. Be satisfied with what Allah has allotted for you and you shall be the richest of the people,
3. Be kind to your neighbour and you shall be a believer,
4. Love for people what you love for yourself and you shall be a Muslim.
5. And do not laugh too much, for indeed increased laughter kills the heart. (Tirmidhi and Ahmad)

In his advice, the Prophet (peace be on him) said do not laughing excessively. He didn’t say ‘Don’t laugh at all’.

The revelation was sent to a human community and for this reason the Prophet (peace be on him) was human like us. Allah Almighty could have sent an angel, but instead he sent a human so we could relate to him and he could relate to us and our emotions. However angels can’t eat or drink or have feelings, so they can’t relate to how we feel. The Prophet (peace be on him) was hungry when they were hungry, happy, when they were happy and angry when they were angry – in moderation. As Islam is based on moderation, in spending, in worship, in emotions, as we are the ummatun wasata (the best and moderate the nation).

You are the best ummah that has been presented to humanity. (4:110)

The Prophet (peace be on him) is telling us to avoid laughing all the time. Laughing is part of being human, even some animals laugh. The Prophet (peace be on him) used to smile all the time, though he didn’t laugh all the time. You can find the narrations which mention when the Prophet (peace be on him) laughed.

The Prophet (peace be on him) was with his companions and he started laughing and posed the question, do you know why I am laughing, and they replied back to him,

Tabasama means he was smiling, dahika means he was laughing and you could see his teeth. We have different levels of laughter, kahkahtan means laughing raucously, in the Hanafi school laughing breaks your salah and if you do it, you have to renew your wudu.

Some people have a loud raucous laugh. They do not feel there is anything wrong with that and we should accept them as they are. However, your character has to comply with the shariah. It is not the other way round.

Abu Muhammad ‘Abdullah bin Amr bin al-‘As, reported that the Messenger of Allah peace be on him) said:

“None of you (truly) believes until his desire or inclination is in accordance with what I have brought or subservient to what I came with. (Nawawi)

We fix our character to fit with the Shariah. We do not twist the shariah to fit our character. The Shariah has the perfect model to follow. Where we do not match up, we have to fix our character.

Public and private

If you are in a public space you can’t do what you like. Once I met someone who was laughing very loudly, so I mentioned this to them politely and they responded. Sometimes you need someone close to you to tell you. Allah Almighty said:

وَاقْصِدْ فِي مَشْيِكَ وَاغْضُضْ مِن صَوْتِكَ ۚ إِنَّ أَنكَرَ الْأَصْوَاتِ لَصَوْتُ الْحَمِيرِ

And moderate your stride, and lower your voice. The most repulsive of voices is the donkey’s voice.” (31:19)

Becoming a joke yourself

If you always joke around, no one will take you seriously. You can’t make your life about laughter alone. This is what the Prophet (peace be on him) meant when he said that excessive laughter kills the heart.

Fake laughter

Sometimes if the manager tells a joke everyone laughs even though it was not funny, and that is not genuine of them, as they would not laugh if it was a different person. It is fine to laugh at a joke which is not funny, when they they lack confidence, and not laughing at their joke will make them lose even more confidence.

It is impermissible to lie to make people laugh

If someone is making up stories to make others laugh, give them general advice that we should not lie when we are laughing.

Malik related that Safwan ibn Sulaym said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) was asked, ‘Can the mumin be a coward?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ He was asked, ‘Can the mumin be a miser?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ He was asked, ‘Can the mumin be a liar?’ He said, ‘No.’ ” (Muwatta’ Malik)

Abu Umamah Al-Bahili (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:

“I guarantee a house in Jannah for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right; and I guarantee a home in the middle of Jannah for one who abandons lying even if he was joking; and I guarantee a house in the highest part of Jannah for one who has good manners.” [Abu Dawud]

A comedian he should tell the truth and not tell lies or use foul language or mention haram things. In those past being a comedian was not recommended at all. Now it is a profession.

I have come across Muslim comedians and advised them to stick to Islamic etiquettes – not to use foul language, tell lies or cover haram topics. Some of them mock the Quran. You are not allowed to dishonour the Quran by reciting it in a funny way. The Quran is off limits. You can poke fun of culture, but do not mock your deen. Glorify it.

Bahz bin Hakim narrated on the authority of his father, on the authority of his grandfather (May Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:

“Woe to him who lies in his talk to make the people laugh, Woe to him! Woe to him!” (Abu Dawoud, Tirmidhi and Nasa’i)

Shaykh Haytham Tamim – The Thursday Al Ghazali Class

Related posts

Ghazali on Joking. Laugh with others, not at them. – Utrujj

Command good and forbid evil

Brotherhood, friendship and wilayah

How to deal with difficult neighbours

The first 6 rules of how to deal with people

Dealing with gossip (7-8)

How to deal with people according to their status (9-11)

Cover the faults of others (12-13)

Shake hands (15 continued)

Defend others in their absence, be tactful, be cautious of the company of the rich (16-18)

Avoid the people of ghaflah

Be good to your relatives

Love they neighbour

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.