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Are there any rules on joking in Islam? Are there any specific verses of the Qur'an or Hadiths regarding joking?

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Good question!

The Prophet (saws) used humor to lighten the mood in many situations. He was known to always smile. When he laughed the whites of his teeth showed. When we read those ahadith, sometimes we don't really get the joke because we're living in a different time and different things are funny to us now.

The Prophet (saws) is known to have said: I always say the truth even when I am joking (hadith in Shama'il Tirmidhi). So the general rule is to not lie when you're trying to be funny. The Prophet (saws) said woe to the one who lies in the course of making people laugh. There are many instances in the hadith literature about the Prophet (saws) using humor with his Companions (raa). He (saws) encouraged people to joke with their spouses.

One incident I remember is when the Prophet (saws) was with Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) and they had a dozen dates. As they were about to finish, Ali (ra) saw some people approaching. He quickly moved the pile of 6 pits that he had to the Prophet (saws)'s pile and jocularly told the passersby that the Prophet (saws) had kept all the dates to himself and didn't share! The Prophet (saws) in good spirits said right back: Look at Ali, he eats the dates and he eats the pits as well! (because he didn't have any pits on his side).

So the scholars use this incident for one exception: if everyone knows what you're saying can't be true, it's OK to joke about it. If someone says for example - I was on Mars last night and something happened and proceeds to make a joke about it, everyone there knows it's not true.

Other etiquettes for joking: One is not allowed to make derogatory jokes about Islam or the Prophet (saws) or the Companions as Allah says in the Qur'an in Tawbah:65-66. One is not allowed to take someone's property as a joke, nor is one permitted to frighten or scare them in the course of a joke. And of course, general rules about backbiting, slander, mockery, etc. also apply here.

And finally, the scholars have said that excessive joking (just like going to excess in any matter in life) can harden the heart. The Prophet (saws) said “Do not laugh too much, for laughing too much deadens the heart.” (Saheeh al-Jaami’, 7312). DO it respectfully, let it relax you, but don't let it distract from the akhirah.

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    Do you know the source of the hadith about the dates? Someone is asking here: islam.stackexchange.com/questions/5932/the-date-seed-incident – ashes999 Jan 8 '13 at 17:11
  • But the joke that you mention in your answer about dates contains lies! Shi'is have the same Hadeeth but that version has no lie, but only Turiyeh which is not a lie of course. – owari Jan 8 '13 at 17:54
  • Also according to Shia lying is forbidden (Haraam) in the serious cases and lying while making jokes is only discourages (Makrouh) for the reasons you have already covered in your answer. Anyway your answer was very good ;) – owari Jan 8 '13 at 17:57
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    @owari I have been taught (in Sunni tradition) that lying in jokes is forbidden as well. There is an exception when the "lie" is so obviously a lie that everyone knows it - if someone says for example "I just returned from the moon" as part of a joke and everyone there knows it cannot possibly be true then it's not considered a lie as such. – Ansari Jan 8 '13 at 19:13
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    @owari The question is what counts as "kadhib" - obviously it depends on context. If Neil Armstrong said it, then it's not clear to everyone around that it's a lie. It counts as "kadhib" if the person hearing it thinks it's the truth. If they don't and you don't, no harm no foul. – Ansari Jan 8 '13 at 21:05
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Yes the Prophet May peace and Blessings be Upon Him joked with those around Him

Anas ibn Maalik radiyallahu anhu relates, Rasoolullah sallallahu alaihe wasallam once told him jokingly, Ya dhal udhu-nayn (O two eared one)

حَدَّثَنَا مَحْمُودُ بْنُ غَيْلانَ، قَالَ‏:‏ حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو أُسَامَةَ، عَنْ شَرِيكٍ، عَنْ عَاصِمٍ الأَحْوَلِ، عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ‏:‏ إِنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم، قَالَ لَهُ‏:‏ يَا ذَا الأُذُنَيْنِ،‏.‏

The idea is for people to feel happy and enjoy your company.

The rules are basic:

1.do not joke excessively

2.don't hurt other peoples feelings

3.do not say anything but the truth

Abu Hurairah radiyallahu anhu reports, The Sahaabah asked, "O Messenger of Allah, you joke with us?" Rasoolullah sallallahu alaihe wasallam replied, "Yes, I do not say but the truth."

حَدَّثَنَا عَبَّاسُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ الدُّورِيُّ، قَالَ‏:‏ حَدَّثَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ الْحَسَنِ بْنِ شَقِيقٍ، قَالَ‏:‏ أَنبأَنَا عَبْدُ اللهِ بْنُ الْمُبَارِكِ، عَنِ أُسَامَةَ بْنِ زَيْدٍ، عَنْ سَعِيدٍ الْمَقْبُرِيِّ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ‏:‏ قَالُوا‏:‏ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، إِنَّكَ تُدَاعِبُنَا، قَالَ‏:‏ إِنِّي لا أَقُولُ إِلا حَقًّا‏.‏

http://sunnah.com/shamail/36

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