This is a problem that is widespread, especially among the youth. Someone asked:
“Our gatherings with friends and colleagues are filled with too much laughter, and it goes to extremes. This phenomenon is becoming ever more widespread. What is the solution?”
In response, the solution to this problem has two aspects: theoretical and practical. The theoretical aspect may be further broken down into two points:
Firstly, we should know how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) conducted himself when it came to laughter, and he is the best example in this as in all other things.
It is reported in a saheeh hadeeth that his laughter was never more than a smile. (Reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad, 5/97; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4861). According to another hadeeth, he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to remain silent for long periods, and laugh little. (Reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad, 5/86; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4822). ‘Aa’ishah, may Allaah be pleased with her, said: “I never saw the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) laughing so heartily that his back teeth showed; he would only smile.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 5098).
According to a saheeh hadeeth, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Do not laugh too much, for excessive laughter kills the heart (i.e., spiritually).” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, no. 4193; Silsilah al-Saheehah, no. 506). According to another report, he said: “… too much laughter corrupts the heart.” After knowing this, if a Muslim laughs to excess it is as if he is undertaking a journey that he knows will lead to his doom.
This is the theoretical response to this problem, in brief.
Before we turn to the practical aspects, we must point out that laughter is not haraam, and the Muslim is not expected to be dour-faced and stern and rigid. Laughter is something which is quite natural, and indeed Allaah says in the Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning): “And … it is He (Allaah) Who makes (whom He wills) laugh, and makes (whom He wills) weep” [al-Najm 53:43] But the problem which we are discussing here – excessive laughter – has a number of bad effects, including the following:
It makes gatherings explode with guffaws and echo with raucous laughter.
The believer’s heart is spiritually corrupted by too much laughter, and he opens his mouth too wide, instead of being serious and of sound character.
It leads to daa’iyahs (Islamic workers) making people laugh as a means of winning them over and having an influence on them, or so they claim. What they do not realize is that people gather around them only for the sake of laughter, and they do not benefit from them at all.
The problem is that some people use laughter as a safety valve or release from their stress and worries, resorting to an inferior means rather than what is better. I remember a young man who one day was suffering anxiety because he was behind in his studies, and was going through some family problems, and had other troubles as well. He went out of his house and bumped into a friend on the way, who asked him, “Where are you going?” He said: “I am worried and stressed out, so I’m going to see So-and-so, so he can make me laugh and forget my problems…” He did not realize that his friend’s ability to make him laugh was like a drug which makes people forget while they are under its influence, but when it wears off, everything is still as it was before.
The Muslim should know better, and should treat worries and stress in the way prescribed by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). When something was troubling him, he would pray (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4703), and if something distressed him, he would say, “Ya Hayyu ya Qayyoom, bi rahmatika astagheeth (O Ever-Living, O Eternal One, by Your mercy I seek Your help).” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4777). According to another saheeh hadeeth, when he was overtaken by worries and distress, he would say, “Ya Hayyu ya Qayyoom, bi rahmatika astagheeth. Allaahu rabbee wa la ushriku bihi shay’an (O Ever-Living, O Eternal One, by Your mercy I seek Your help. Allaah is my Lord, and I do not associate anything with Him).” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4791).
In the famous du’aa’ to relieve stress and anxiety, he said: “Allaahumma inni ‘abduka, wa’bnu ‘adbdika wa’bnu amatika… (O Allaah, I am Your slave, the son of Your slave, the son of Your maidservant…).”
This is a concept which has to be understood properly before we move on to a discussion of the practical ways of dealing with the problem of excessive laughter, which can be dealt with in the following ways:
Remembering death, the grave, the Last Day and its reckoning, the bridge over Hell (al-siraat), the Fire, and all the other terrors of the Hereafter. The way to remember all these things is to read the texts that describe these scenes and to study the details and commentaries, as well as sitting with people who are ascetic (zaahid) and whose hearts are devoted to Allaah.
Thinking about the situation of the Muslims and how they are suffering because they have strayed from their religion; they are behind in all fields of life, facing oppression, hardship and destruction, and subject to the plots of international conspiracies. When the Muslim thinks long and hard about this situation, it needs must have an impact on how much he laughs and cries.
Feeling the weight of his great responsibility towards his ummah, which is need of huge efforts to save it from the danger of falling. If this becomes his main concern, he will start making active efforts to reform his family and friends, and his society, as much as he can. He will not have the time for cracking stupid jokes or for excessive laughter or trivial pursuits.
Avoiding mixing with jokers who are well-known for making people laugh and trying to be funny, and keeping away from gatherings where they are present, whilst also trying to advise them and the people who sit with them. We have already referred to some Islamic workers who use the tactic of making people laugh as a means of winning people over, and in some cases the general public may say, “Where is the shaykh who makes us laugh? We want the shaykh who makes us laugh!” This is a step backwards, which we hope the ummah will avoid, because the Religion of Allaah is great and strong. Allaah says (interpretation of the meanings): “Verily! This (the Qur’aan) is the Word that separates (the truth from falsehood…). And it is not a thing for amusement.” [al-Taariq 83:13] and: “…Hold fast to that which We have given you…” [al-Baqarah 2:93]. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If you knew what I know, you would laugh little and weep much, and you would go out to the hills, beseeching Allaah for help.” If we really understood what is required of us, and what lies ahead, we would never even sleep peacefully.
Resisting the urge to laugh as much as possible, as well as tying to stop others from laughing. There may be a gathering where the people are accustomed to laughing and chortling most of the time. So the Muslim must first suppress his own laughter, just as he suppresses a yawn, then he should advise the other people present and help them to control themselves. It takes a persuasive, determined and serious person to do this. There is a lot of goodness in people, praise be to Allaah, and they are ready to respond to the one who wants to reform them and improve them. This can be achieved in a number of ways, such as telling them how bad it is to laugh and make others laugh, because it can lead to lies and falsehood when the “comedian” cannot find a true story to tell, so he makes up a tale from his imagination to make people laugh. This is the kind of person who was warned by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Woe to the one who talks and tells lies to make people laugh… woe to him, woe to him!” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 7136). It can also make him an unstable person who is held in low esteem by others, because the person who makes people laugh is despised by them, even if he thinks otherwise. They have no respect for him at all, and the same applies to the person who laughs too much.
Changing the subject that led to the laughter, and introducing another, useful subject. If you see that the people have gone too far with their laughter, try to bring them to their senses, using a proper method, and introduce a serious topic and help them to make good use of their time, by reading a useful book, discussing an important topic, exchanging ideas, or suggesting some charitable project or other good work that Allaah likes and is pleased with. As a last resort, if you have done all that you can to advise them correctly, get up and leave the gathering, to protect yourself from corruption. “… and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another…” [al-An’aam 6:164 – interpretation of the meaning].