Question # 455: Someone told me that I should not laugh loud or too much from Islamic view point. Can you please let me know what is the ruling in this respect?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: The following are the etiquettes of laughing:

  • Smiling is permissible according to the agreement of the scholars, but laughing loudly (Qahqahah) is disliked by the jurists and they forbade laughing loudly too much. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said “Do not laugh too much, for much laughter kills/deadens the heart.”
  • It Is forbidden to lie in order to make others laugh.
  • It is prohibited to laugh at the sound of someone passing wind.
  • Muslim women should not laugh loudly in the presence of non-Mahram men, as it contradicts the bashfulness of the woman.
  • Joking should not be excessive, so that it becomes a habit. Joking should be considered a break, a rest from ongoing seriousness and striving; it is a little relaxation for the soul.

Lastly, we should remember the laughter of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was only smiling. And he (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “If you knew what I know, you would laugh little and weep much.”

Long Answer: The Kuwaiti Fiqh Encyclopedia reads: “Laughing is either smiling or laughing loudly (Qahqahah); in principle, if it is smiling, then it is permissible according to the agreement of the scholars, as the Prophet  (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to smile and urged us to smile. ‘Abdullah ibn Al-Haarith (رضي الله عنه) said, ‘The laughter of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was only smiling.’ [Narrated Ibn Jaz: “The laughter of the Messenger of Allah (saws) was not but smiling.”(Jami` at-Tirmidhi; graded: sahih)] Moreover, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, ‘Smiling in the face of your Muslim brother is an act of charity.’” As regards laughing loudly, the jurists disliked it and forbade laughing loudly too much.

[Therefore,] people show neither honor nor good Islamic etiquette when their gathering is dominated by laughter. Small doses of laughter energize as well as relax the soul; much laughter, however, is like a disease that destroys the heart. Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) related that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said “Do not laugh too much, for much laughter kills/deadens the heart.” (Related by Ibn Majah, and Al-Albani ruled that it is authentic)

Tanbeeh Al-Ghaafileen bi Ahadeeth Sayyid Al-Anbiyaa’ wal-Mursaleen, authored by As-Samarqandi, reads, “This narration is evidence that smiling is permissible. The forbiddance (in the hadith) is relevant to laughing loudly, so a sane person should not laugh loudly.”

[Furthermore, joking should not be excessive.] Some people joke too much and it becomes a habit for them. This is the opposite of the serious nature which is the characteristic of the believers. Joking is a break, a rest from ongoing seriousness and striving; it is a little relaxation for the soul. ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Fear joking, for it is folly and generates grudges.”

Imam al-Nawawi said: “The kind of joking which is forbidden is that which is excessive and persistent, for it leads to too much laughter and hardening of the heart, it distracts from remembrance of Allah, and it often leads to hurt feelings, generates hatred and causes people to lose respect and dignity. But whoever is safe from such dangers, then that which the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) used to do is permissible for him.”

[Along the same line,] it is forbidden to lie in order to make others laugh. There is nothing wrong in making other people smile or laugh; however, some people resort to unlawful means in order to achieve that effect. So, in order to make people in a gathering laugh, one might lie and make up a false story, not knowing perhaps that he has perpetrated a great sin. Mu’aawiyah Ibn Haidah (رضي الله عنه) reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) say, “Woe unto him who relates and then lies in order to make the people laugh; woe unto him! Woe unto him!” (Abu Dawud related it, and Al-Albani ruled that his narration of the hadith is hasan. The others who related it are Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi; Ad-Daarimi; and Al-Baghawi, in Sharhus-Sunnah)

And in another narration, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “Verily, a man speaks a word to make his companions laugh, but because of it he falls down from farther than the Thurayyah (the Pleiades, a cluster of stars, of which six are easily visible to the naked eye).” (Narrated by Ahmad)

[Also,] the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) has prohibited laughing at the sound of passing gas from others. ‘Abdullah bin Zam’ah (رضي الله عنه) said: “The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) forbade laughing at a person who passes wind.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari).  He also narrated that he heard the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) delivering a sermon in which he advised them not to laugh when somebody breaks wind saying, “Why should anybody laugh at what he himself does?” i.e. why should someone laugh at something that no human being is immune from?

Imam Al-Bukhari classified the first narration under the following title, “The chapter of Saying of Allah: “O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name [i.e. mention] of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent — then it is those who are the wrongdoers.” (Soorah Al-Hujurat, 49:11)”

Imaam Al-‘Ayni  said: “The relevance of the narration to the verse is that laughing on passing wind by someone implies mocking and ridiculing him.”

[Next,] the most preponderant opinion of the scholars is that the voice of the woman is not Awrah.  [However,] Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an: “O wives of the Prophet! You are not like any other women. If you keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft in speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease (of hypocrisy, or evil desire for adultery, etc.) should be moved with desire, but speak in an honorable manner.” (Soorah Al-Ahzab, 33:32)

Hence, bashfulness is one of the characteristics of the Muslim woman. [Therefore, women should observe certain etiquettes] when talking, among which is that she should avoid being soft in her speech in the presence of non-Mahram men. She should also neither speak loudly nor laugh loudly in their presence, as this is not appropriate for a Muslim woman and it contradicts the bashfulness of the woman.

Lastly, we should remember that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “If you knew what I know, you would laugh little and weep much.” In Fath al-Baari it says: “What is meant by knowledge here has to do with the might of Allah and His vengeance upon those who disobey Him, and the terrors that occur at death, in the grave and on the Day of Resurrection.”

(The above reply is based on the following resources:

  • Islamweb.net, a web site belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar
  • ‘The Book of Manners’ by Fu’ad Ibn ‘Abdul-‘Azeez Ash-Shulhoob
  • Various answers provided by Islam Q&A on similar topics)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam