Eloquent humour: A less mentioned quality of the Holy Prophet


Asif M Basit

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True happiness and affluence lies in a person’s contact with God and his resignation to the will of God. Such a person who enjoys a perfect relationship with God is granted the status of Nafs-e-Mutma‘innah (the soul at rest).

By showing steadfastness in faith and actions, such people hear the comforting voice of the angels; “Fear ye not, nor grieve; and rejoice in the Garden that you were promised.”(Ch.41: V.31)

This world becomes a paradise for such believers. A succession of divine tidings is revealed to them and they have perfect belief in them. They are justifiably happy at the blessings and mercy of God and this is what God enjoins on them.

The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa used to say, “A true believer is in a unique position. Whenever he suffers affliction, he gladly endures it and is rewarded by Allah. And when he receives goodness, he is grateful and is a recipient of reward from Allah.”

This shows that a true believer is happy in every situation and is pleased with his Creator. In this respect, this true feeling of happiness and pleasant nature is not only indicative of his mental and physical health, but also becomes a sign of his faith. Who else can be at a higher status of gaining Allah’s pleasure than the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa?

He was always smiling. He advised his companionsra not to consider any good deed as meagre, even though it may only be a smile and pleasantness towards a brother. (Sahih Muslim, Kitab-ul-Adab)

The companionsra describe the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa as the most smiling one amongst the people and having the best temperament.

Hazrat Jabirra relates, “When the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa used to receive a revelation or delivered a sermon, he would look as a warner for the people who were going to be punished, otherwise his general appearance was that of the most beautiful person, with a smiling face.”(Majma-uz-Zawaid, Vol. 9, p. 17)

Hazrat Aishara relates that the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa had a humorous nature and would always be smiling and cheerful in the house. (Sharah Mawahibul Ludunya, vol.4, p.253)

The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa had a subtle sense of humour. His jokes were clean and true. He used to say that he did not lie even while telling jokes. (Jami‘ al-Tirmidhi, Kitab-ul-Bir wa al-Silah)

Hazrat Aishara reports, “The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa was very witty and used to say that Allah is not displeased with a person of true wit. (Jami‘-ul-Kabir, p. 142)

His companions relate that the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa used to sit in their gatherings and it never happened that they were sitting and enjoying themselves and he would talk about some sad or dull matter. He would sit with them, laugh and tell jokes and listen to their humorous stories.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab-ul-Fadhail)


Hazrat Jabirra bin Samurah relates, “I had the opportunity of benefiting from attending more than a hundred meetings with the Prophetsa. The Companions used to recite good quality verses of poetry and also talk of various matters from the days of darkness – the times before the advent of Islam. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa used to listen to all this quietly and, at times, would smile while listening to them. (Jami‘ al-Tirmidhi, Kitab-ul-Adab)

Hazrat Zaidra bin Thabit relates that they used to talk about worldly things. The Prophetsa would occasionally join in. He would even participate in talks about food and other matters of day to day life. (Dalail-un-Nubuwwah, Vol. 1, p. 324)

Someone enquired of Hazrat Abbasra about the nature of the Holy Prophet Muhammad’ssa jokes. He gave the example that once, Huzoorsa covered one of his wives with a shawl and told her to praise and glorify Allah and walk like brides with a trailing dress. (Kanz-ul-Ummal, Vol. 4, p. 43)

One distinctive feature of the Holy Prophet Muhammad’ssa humour was that he used to say ordinary routine things in such a manner that it would become humorous. For example, it is normal for every person to have two ears. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa would lovingly call his servant Anas, “O the one with two ears, come here.” It created the humour of a superb quality. (Shama‘il al-Tirmidhi)

The subtle aspect of this humour was that the obedient servant, Anasra, used to be all ears to answer his master’s call. Similarly, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa once called a tall person “Dhul-Yadain”, meaning the one with long hands.

Once, a companion came to the Holy Prophetsa and requested a she-camel for travelling. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa said, “I only have a baby she-camel.” The companion entreated as to what good a baby camel would be for him. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa replied, “Isn’t every camel the baby of a she-camel?” He then gave a camel to him. (Abu Daud, Kitab-ul-Adab)

Hazrat Anasra bin Malik, the attendant of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa relates that Huzoorsa would talk to children in a humorous and lovingly informal manner.  (Dalailun-Nubuwwah, Vol. 1, p. 331)

Hazrat Safinahra relates, “We were accompanying Huzoorsa on a journey. Whenever any fellow traveller got tired, he would give his sword, shield or spear to me to carry and I ended up with a heavy load. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa was watching this. He said, “You are truly a safinah (boat). You are carrying everyone’s load.” (Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol. 5, p. 221)

Once, an old lady came to see the Prophetsa. He told her, “Old women will not be in Paradise.” This made her sad and she started to cry. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, comforting her, explained, “You shall be admitted to Paradise as a young lady”, meaning that she would not be old in Paradise. This cheered up the lady. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa recited the verse of Surah al-Waqi‘ah, which says, “We have made the women of Paradise young and virgins.” (Shamail al-Tirmidhi)

The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, with his quick awareness, would say something witty in ordinary talk.

Abu Rimthah, accompanied by his father, came to see the Holy Prophetsa. By way of introduction, the Prophetsa asked his father if this was his son? The emphasis was on “this”. In his simplicity, his father understood it as if Hazrat Muhammadsa was asking, if he was really his son? His father replied, “I take oath in the Lord of the Ka‘bah, that he is my son”. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa understood his misunderstanding, but in way of humour asked, “Is it a confirmed fact?” His father became even more serious and said, “O Prophet of Allah, I firmly swear and can say that he really is my son.” The Holy Prophetsa was greatly amused and laughed at this response. The oaths taken by Abu Rimthah’s father especially amused Huzoorsa a great deal as the resemblance between the father and the son was so great that no one could have entertained any doubt. (Sunan Abu Daud, Kitab-ul-Diyat)

The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa would say humorous things to children and kept them close to himself. Once, he visited his attendant, Anas’ house and found his younger brother looking a bit sad. Upon asking the reason, Huzoorsa was told that his pet starling had died. From then on, whenever Huzoorsa visited them, he would lovingly joke calling him by his patronymic name and say, “O Abu Umair, tell me about your starling.”

Hazrat Mahmudra bin Rabi fondly recalled one such humorous event of his childhood. He said, “Once, when I was five years of age, the Prophetsa came to our house, drank water from the well and, in a playful manner, squirted water with his mouth in my direction. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Ilm)

Another companion relates, “I was quite young when my father took me to see the Holy Prophetsa. There was a raised part of flesh of the size of a pigeon’s eggs between the shoulders of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. Old scriptures had it as the “Seal of Prophethood” – a physical, recognisable sign of prophethood. I saw that part of the flesh and started to play with it. My father scolded me but Huzoorsa said, “Let him play, he is only a child. No need to reproach him.”

The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa encouraged his Companions’ sense of humour. They knew that Huzoorsa would enjoy the lightheartedness and would not be cross at them.

Aufra bin Malik relates, “During the Battle of Tabuk, I went to see Huzoorsa who was staying in a small leather tent. I greeted him and he invited me in. Realising the small size of the tent, I jokingly said, “Should I bring my whole body in?” The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa enjoyed the joke and said, “Yes, bring your whole body in the tent.” (Sunan Abu Daud, Kitab-ul-Adab)

Hazrat Suhaibra once went to see Huzoorsa and found some bread and dates placed before him. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa invited Suhaibra to have some. Suhaibra started to eat more dates than the bread. Huzoorsa, noticing the swelling in one of his eyes, remarked about his sore eye. The purpose of this remark was that he should be careful in eating dates in case as it could aggravate his sore eye. Suhaib replied, “Huzoor, I am eating from the side of my healthy eye.” The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa was much amused by his wit and smiled at his companion’s repartee. (Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol. 4, p. 61)

With his light humour, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa would draw attention to the matters of training of his companionsra. Hazrat Khawwatra bin Jubair related, “Once, during a journey, we encamped at Maruz-Zahran. I came out of my tent and saw some women sitting on one side and talking. I went back to my tent, put on a silk robe and went and sat near them. In the meantime, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa came out of his tent and asked me, ‘O Abu Abdullah, why are you sitting near the ladies?’ I became nervous and made an excuse, ‘O Messenger of Allah, my camel tends to wander off; I am looking for a string to tie it with.’

“The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa went away to perform ablution and returned. He teasingly asked me, ‘So, Abu Abdullah, what were you saying about your wandering camel?’”

Khawwatra says that he was ashamed of his excuse. He further relates, “We departed from that camp, but whenever we encamped, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, whenever he saw me, would say, “Assalamo Alaikum, O Abu Abdullah; how is your wandering camel?”

“At last”, says Khawwatra, “we reached Medina. Now I started to avoid the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa and miss his meetings. One day, I found a time when the mosque was empty and started to offer Salat. In the meantime, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa came and started his Salat. He offered two short rak‘aat and sat, as if waiting for me. I prolonged my prayer hoping that Huzoorsa would leave. The Holy Prophetsa surmised this and said, ‘O Abu Abdullah, you may prolong your Salat as much as you like, but I will not leave before you finish.’

“I thought to myself, ‘By God, today I will have to apologise to the Prophetsa.’

“As soon as I finished Salat, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa said, ‘O Abu Abdullah, tell me more about your wandering camel!’”

“I entreated, ‘O Messenger of Allah, I take oath in the name of the One, Who has sent you with truth, that my camel has never wandered off.’

“The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa said, ‘May Allah have mercy on you.’ He blessed me two or three times with this prayer. Afterwards, he never joked with me regarding this incident.” (Mu‘jam-ul-Kabir, Vol. 4, p. 243)

We conclude with an interesting humorous event which amused the companionsra for a whole year. Hazrat Umm-e-Salamara relates that a year before the death of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, Hazrat Abu Bakrra went to Basra for trade. He was accompanied by Nuaimanra and Suwaibatra, both of whom had the honour of participating in the Battle of Badr.

Nuaimanra had the duty of preparing food. Suwaibatra was very intelligent and a humorous person. During the journey, he asked Nuaimanra for food. Nuaimanra said that food would only be served when Hazrat Abu Bakrra returned to the camp. After a little while, a caravan passed from near by.

Suwaibatra asked the people of the caravan if they were interested in buying a slave. They readily showed their interest. Suwaibatra told them that there was only one defect in that slave that when someone tried to buy him, he would start to cry that he was not a slave, but a free man. Suwaibatra made it clear that they should not leave him whatsoever, once the deal was made.

The people of the caravan agreed and showed their willingness to buy the slave. So, he sold Nuaimanra in exchange for 10 camels. When these people came to collect their newly bought slave and tried to put a collar around his neck, he started saying that Suwaibatra was joking and that he was not a slave, but a free man. The people of the caravan ignored his pleas and dragged him along and took him away. Once they were gone, Suwaibatra sat down and peacefully ate the meal.

When Hazrat Abu Bakrra returned and came to know the story, he ran after the caravan, gave back their 10 camels and brought Nuaimanra back.

On his return from the journey, Hazrat Abu Bakrra related this story to the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, who was greatly amused and enjoyed the incident. (Sunan Ibn-e-Majah, Kitab-ul-Adab)

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  1. In the Name of Allah The Most Gracious The Most Merciful.

    This is a beautifully written article. Such a pleasure to read. May Allah bless you and your entire family for compiling and posting this, Ameen.


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