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On laughter festivals and women’s hair attachments

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In the name of the Almighty, the Beneficent, the Merciful “O ye who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter are better than the (former): Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong.” — Qur’an 49:11

During the last Ramadan, a brother enquired from me whether he should grant the request of his wife to attend a laughter festival which was then being put together by one of the communication outfits in that city. She is a subscriber and in appreciation of her ‘loyalty’ an invitation to attend a stand-up comedy show was extended to her. The event was going to take place in a popular hotel in the city; day of event was 10th Ramadan 1438; time was between Zuhr and Asr (2p.m to 4p.m).

Our sister then told her husband she would like to go; she wanted to go an ‘enjoy herself’, have fun and be merry. Her husband said: “Yes it is okay that you ‘enjoy’ yourself but attending a stand-up comedy and in the month of Ramadan, I do not know”. He then told her to give him some time. He decided to seek my opinion.

As soon as he contacted me and explained the problem, I immediately formulated, like the advocate in a court of law, some questions for resolutions. Exactly what happens in laughter festivals? Is stand-up comedy lawful and permissible in Islam? If indeed such is permissible, how lawful would it be for such to be organized during the month of Ramadan and for a Muslim who is fasting during the month to attend such an event? In other words, I considered it very pertinent for us to explore the permissibility or otherwise for a housewife, immersed as she was in the spirit of the moment, in the spiritual capital of the month of Ramadan, to attend an event that would return to the soul to the earthly not the otherworldly? But exactly what is stand-up comedy?

Stand-up comedy is a comic style in which a comedian performs in front of a live audience, usually speaking directly to them. The performer is commonly known as a comic, stand-up comic, stand-up comedian, or simply a stand-up. In stand-up comedy, the comedian usually “creates” stories, jokes, monologues, routines, or acts, usually out of imagination and therefore largely untrue and fabricated in order to make people laugh and merry. Some stand-up comedians use props, music, or magic tricks to “enhance” their acts. Nowadays, stand-up comedy events are usually hosted by corporate organizations. They are sometimes equally put together by the comedians themselves. In the latter, they would serve as host to other comedians.

In many parts of our cities today, stand-up comedy is fast becoming an outlet for the congregation of the crème-de-la-crème of the society. A seat in such events usually costs ten times more than the minimum wage that that state is presently paying civil servants in its work-force. Attendance at stand-up comedy events has also become an avenue for making fashion statements. Men attending the show would come out in the best clothes money can buy. As for women, it is a given. Social events such as stand-up comedy shows are where “society ladies”- whatever that means-insert their agency and subjectivity. Last week I chanced upon the broadcast of one of the events. What I witnessed provided the background for the second issue of interest to me in this sermon, namely hair attachment being used by our women as part of their “make-up”. Do I hear you say: “make-up”? Yes. But before I explore this, let me return to the story of our Muslim sister who sought the permission of her husband to attend a stand-up comedy show.

Since my intervention was required quickly, I told our brother that inasmuch as I do not know of any text in Islamic law and jurisprudence which expressly forbids laughter and merry-making, though excessive indulgence in such is in itself frowned at (makruh), it would be better that our sister rejected the invitation since it was taking place during the month of Ramadan. Ramadan is not a month of laughter and merry-making; it is a month that is worth more than a thousand years in our reckoning.

Now what I saw on the television a couple of days ago which gave urgency to this sermon today was the image of a hijabi sister who probably had been invited to the event the same way the wife of our brother had been invited to the show during the last Ramadan. She was completely in another world; she was lost in the crowd of fun-seekers some of whom had started shedding tears out of excessive laughter.

Seeing her in the crowd returned me to the library. I can confirm what I thought I knew before: that the glorious Quran makes reference to laughter in various ways- as a synonym for life while weeping is synonymous with death; that it is He (the Almighty) who ‘creates the condition for laughter; that it is He who creates the condition for sadness. I can confirm what I thought I knew before today: that the Messenger of the Almighty once laughed till his front teeth became exposed.” I also can confirm that it was he, the Prophet who said that “If you knew that which I know, you would laugh little and weep much”.
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