My dear brothers and sisters Allah The Almighty forbids us from mocking people. It is one of the characteristics of the disbelievers and the hypocrites that leads to the disunity of the society. In fact, it is a direct violation of the commands of Allah SWT, and it keeps one away from the pleasure of Allah SWT.
This point is mentioned in the Glorious Quran and the imam referenced it in today’s reminder. Allah SWT says in ayat 11 of Sura Al-Hujarat:
O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them
Some of the scholars of Quran have said that this verse was revealed when members of the Banu Tameem delegation were mocking the poor Companions like ‘Ammaar, Khabbaab, Bilaal, Suhayb, Salmaan, and Saalim the slave of Abu Huthayfah, may Allah be pleased with all of them, because of their shabby clothes. This context allows us to understand the translation and better apply it to ourselves and the situations that we face in our lives.
Allah SWT is referring here to all sorts of mockery in this prohibition for the believers. Hence, it is impermissible for any believer to mock another believer: either for being poor, or for a sin that he has committed, or for any other reason.
In general, no one should dare to ridicule another person even if that person was shabby, handicapped or inarticulate. Reason being, that person may be more sincere or may have a purer heart than the one who is not shabby or handicapped or inarticulate. Allah SWT illustrates through the passage referenced that ridiculing such a person would be despising someone whom Allah SWT has honoured.
Three practical examples during the life of the Prophet SAWS help illustrate the seriousness of this point further.
In the first, the Prophet SAWS, took this matter very seriously even with his very close ones. In a Hadeeth on the authority of ‘Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, she said, “I said to the Prophet ‘It is enough for you that Safiyyah is such-and-such [meaning that she was short].’ The Prophet replied: ‘You have said a word that could adulterate the water of the sea if it were mixed with it.’
Another example is when Abu Tharr, may Allah be pleased with him, abused a man by calling his mother bad names, the Prophet, , said to him: “O Abu Tharr! Did you abuse him by calling his mother bad names? You still have some characteristics of Jaahiliyyah in you.”
In a Hadeeth on the authority of Umm Haani’, may Allah be pleased with her, the Prophet, SAWS, said about the 29th ayat of Sura Al-Ankabut, which translated is
and commit in your meetings [every] evil
that the ayat is given because they used to despise and mock people.
Dear brothers and sisters, calling people by offensive nicknames means calling them by names or attributes that they hate are forms of mockery. Allah SWT generalized this rule and did not specify certain nicknames. It is impermissible for any Muslim to call his fellow brother by any nickname or any attribute that he hates. Allah SWT mentions this in ayat 110 of Sura Al-Muminoon which is translated to say:
But you took them in mockery to the point that they made you forget My remembrance, and you used to laugh at them
Dear brothers and sisters, this verse is a warning against mocking, despising or ridiculing the weak and the needy to the point that it would make us forget remembering Allah SWT and would thus keep us far from Him.
The problem we have in the current time and place is that mockery has replaced humour in many modern forms. From memes for those of you who know to the behaviour of so-called comedians, this is now considered the cutting edge of what is considered funny.
The justification given for this is that humour is an expression of free speech and therefore cannot be censored. If it’s funny, it should be said. This lends to the idea that limits should not be placed on the humour.
This is a dangerous tactic as what one man finds funny, another potentially finds deeply offensive. If we succumb to the notion that there is no limit on humour then how can we take a stand when the humour is directed at our Lord, our Prophet SAWS or our faith?
We need to practice what we preach and therefore set that standard within ourselves. Our life is about limits that we do not transgress, both in religion and life. To say otherwise makes no sense. For example, we have speed limits when driving, we have volume limit on the TV when it’s too loud for our ears. To say that some area of our life is without a limit, poses problems and causes discord such as the topic today.
The best thing about humour is that it crosses boundaries of race, culture, age and language. The innocence of a child’s speech causes even the hardest of people to crack into a smile and so it is possible to find humour within the limits of respect and decency.
Let us take today’s reminder as a challenge to go against the status-quo in society and encourage one another to avoid mockery, even if it’s funny, and instead reserve humour for those things which cause no hurt in others. That way, we restore our honour in each other as well as set a standard on how humour can exist, not with censorship imposed but with love and respect for one another.