Humor and Jokes

Musa Kâzım GÜLÇÜR

When kidding and joking with friends, the thing to pay the most attention to is not to say something that is untrue. Unfortunately, most people actually “lie” when they joke. There is a good quotation from our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, about this: Abu Hurayra tells how some of the Companions said to the Prophet, “O Messenger, you are kidding us!” He said, “Certainly, even if it is a joke, I always speak the truth!” [Tirmidhi, Birr, 57, 1991]

Jokes that are not based on untruths are good for relaxing the mind. We should also be careful not to be hurtful while making jokes. For instance, it is one thing to make pleasant jokes appropriate to a child’s age, but it is quite another to make jokes at their expense or to belittle them. Whether a person is mature or still a child, giving them the feeling that you are laughing at something they think important is very destructive. A joke that intends to belittle another person always has a cruel side.

Many people think that any kind of joke is acceptable if they or others are having a good time. But looking closer, there may be ulterior motives at work, particularly if what is said gives one the “upper hand” or power over the other person. Such motives may arise from an impulse to mock or relish another person’s difficulties, or to belittle them. Or it may be an attempt to make others think that we are clever; we may see mockery as humorous or perhaps we just do not accept responsibility for what we say and do. But it is common sense that no one likes to be the butt of a joke, even if it is perpetrated by their best friend. The Prophet instructed, “Let none of you take his brother’s (another person’s) property, in jest or for any other reason. If anyone takes (even) the staff of his brother, he should return it.” [Abu Dawud, Adab, 93, 5003; Tirmidhi, Fitan, 3, 2161]

There is no need to point out that such aggressive “kidding” is much more than a simple joke. Similarly, it is not acceptable to try to scare people for fun. For example, putting on a frightening mask to scare people and laugh at their fear is not moral behavior. In fact, the Prophet forbade children and adults to play scary tricks on one another. Ibn Abi Layla says, “The Prophet’s Companions told us that once while they were on a journey, someone took another person’s rope while he was sleeping. When he woke up, the man was afraid he had lost it. When the Prophet saw this, he said, ‘It is not permissible for a Muslim to frighten another Muslim!” [Abu Dawud, Adab, 93, 5004]

It is cruel beyond words to frighten a little child whose motor skills and mental development have not yet matured. They will only feel angry, belittled, and confused at such “jokes.” Parents and close relatives of the child should take care that they never do such things. On the contrary, they should give the child reason to trust them as they play a key role in the child’s ability to develop trust. Therefore, joking about a child’s imperfections or clumsiness is repugnant and should not be permitted. Such actions can harm children irrevocably and negatively affect their capacity to develop social skills.

Translated by Jessica ÖZALP

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