Through our sense of humor, we are able to spread joy, love, and affection among those closest to us, and create an atmosphere of warmth, ease and trust with those we encounter for the first time.
I WAS IN the process of purchasing a new car and had finally settled on one I both liked and could afford. I had picked up the check from my bank, and eagerly arrived at the dealership to finalize the purchase. Having some last minute questions about the paperwork, I was directed to an office in the back of the building to speak with one of the salesmen who had assisted me in the purchase.
When I reached his office, I could see that he was busy with a female coworker. He asked me in, and as he attempted to answer my questions, I could see the coworker eyeing me in my hijab very curiously from every angle. At some point in our conversation, the salesman had to go find a manager, leaving the coworker and myself alone. Rather than stand around waiting in awkward silence, I proceeded to engage her in a friendly conversation. In the short amount of time that we spent alone talking, we laughed and thoroughly enjoyed one another’s company. She seemed so surprised and relieved by the ease of our conversation that before I left the office she had even complemented my headscarf. She seemed embarrassed immediately after uttering the statement, but I just laughed and thanked her kindly. She and I had both learned an invaluable lesson that day.
That one moment opened my eyes to the real power of having a sense of humor, and being easy and outgoing toward others.
Laughter is a sort of “social lubricant;” it breaks down barriers to communication. When we are lighthearted and easygoing, we become more approachable to others. Even the Prophet ﷺ was known to exhibit a sense of humor. He would often joke with his Companions; however, his jokes never went beyond that which was the truth. It was said that his Companions would say to Him, “You joke with us.” His reply was, “But I never say anything except the truth.” (Bukhari)
Where Did the Laughter Go?
It’s been reported that the average kindergarten student laughs 300 times a day, while adults average only 17 laughs a day. What causes such a drastic change? Are we taking life too seriously? Do we stop laughing because we grow older, or get older because we stop laughing?
Our sense of humor is how we view and approach life. We can be sincere about life without taking it all so seriously. Humor provides a much-needed cushion amid life’s hard knocks. We use it to laugh about our mistakes and pain. By adopting an easy-going approach to life and learning to laugh at ourselves, we openly reveal our humanness and flaws. Others are able to relate to us. Laughing during some of our most difficult moments can often help dissolve some of the discomfort, making things just a little more bearable.
Comforter or Bully?
Some of us may have some not-so-pleasant memories of a different sort of humor. Many of us have at one time or another in our lives encountered a bully –someone who used laughter and humor to humiliate and diminish others. These individuals are usually experiencing a very deep, secret pain of their own. Humor is a powerful thing. We have a tremendous responsibility to those with whom we engage in joking and teasing. If one is not honest, sincere and truthful in their humor, they can wittingly or unwittingly hurt those around them. Humor can wound and heal, indict and pardon, encourage and destroy—it’s all in the intention behind its use. Our lighthearted use of humor and jokes must never sink to the level of being degrading, cheap or dirty. Our ability to make others feel cheerful is to some degree a duty in Islam. The reward for those who strive to bring happiness and joy among those he/she regularly encounters is documented:
Whoever meets his Muslim brother and makes him happy with something that Allah likes, Allah will make him happy on the Day of Resurrection. (Ṭabarâni)
The Closer We Get
While we must respect certain boundaries established in our personal relationships in order for them to function properly, having a cheerful sense of humor and an easy-going nature can help strengthen these relationships, and establish a tighter bond. For example, in marriage there will come times when partners disagree. The mood after certain exchanges can leave a couple feeling miles apart from one another. Perhaps the couple shares a silly secret word, phrase, or action that indicates a desire to move on from the point of conflict. Humor serves as an icebreaker, allowing the opportunity to re-establish closeness without revisiting a sensitive topic.
In parenting, there is a responsibility to use care, structure and discipline in rearing children. A little humor interjected into our parenting routine now and then can do wonders to endear our children to us. Laughing with our children periodically, when appropriate, shows how approachable we can be. We are not all lectures and serious punishments. It is important that children feel free to approach their parents for discussions.
As followers of Islam, we are permitted to be lighthearted and show a sense of humor. In doing so, we must also be mindful to employ kind treatment and gentleness of speech toward others. These attributes allow us to put those around us at ease, present a positive effect on them. If our actions are pleasing to Allah, then He will open people’s hearts to us so that we may be genuinely received by everyone we have contact with.