The Sin of Joy

Maybe you have come across Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç saying that laughing loudly is not allowed for women in Islam.

Women should not laugh out loud in public, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has said while complaining about “moral corruption” in Turkey.

Speaking during an Eid el-Fitr meeting on July 28, Arınç described his ideal of the chaste man or woman, saying they should both have a sense of shame and honor.

“Chastity is so important. It is not only a name. It is an ornament for both women and men. [She] will have chasteness. Man will have it, too. He will not be a womanizer. He will be bound to his wife. He will love his children. [The woman] will know what is haram and not haram. She will not laugh in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness,” Arınç said, adding that people had abandoned their values today.

That of course is not his personal opinion – many Muslim theologians say the same thing, about men and women. Look at this site for example:

Excessive laughter or laughing loudly,

This is a problem that is widespread, especially among the youth. [...]

Firstly, we should know how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) conducted himself when it came to laughter, and he is the best example in this as in all other things.

It is reported in a saheeh hadeeth that his laughter was never more than a smile. (Reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad, 5/97; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4861). According to another hadeeth, he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to remain silent for long periods, and laugh little. (Reported by Ahmad in al-Musnad, 5/86; Saheeh al-Jaami’, 4822). ‘Aa’ishah, may Allaah be pleased with her, said: “I never saw the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) laughing so heartily that his back teeth showed; he would only smile.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, no. 5098).


Before we turn to the practical aspects, we must point out that laughter is not haraam, and the Muslim is not expected to be dour-faced and stern and rigid. Laughter is something which is quite natural, and indeed Allaah says in the Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning): “And … it is He (Allaah) Who makes (whom He wills) laugh, and makes (whom He wills) weep” [al-Najm 53:43] But the problem which we are discussing here – excessive laughter – has a number of bad effects, including the following:

It makes gatherings explode with guffaws and echo with raucous laughter.

The believer’s heart is spiritually corrupted by too much laughter, and he opens his mouth too wide, instead of being serious and of sound character.

Laughing too much is a problem. It’s a social problem we should really remedy in our youth, and it corrupts the soul if you’re too happy. This is what we were taught in school too, teachers and principals chastised us for laughing loudly and in all our books one of the greatest moral powers of Imam Reza, the 8th Imam of certain Shiites, was the fact that he never laughed aloud.

But the Islamic hegemony is not only against loud laughter, they’re basically against what laughter represents. They’re against joy. And this opposition to joy can be seen in their behavior and many of their rules.

The Taliban not only banned women laughing aloud, they banned bright colors for women’s clothes, listening to music, watching movies and TV, celebrating Nowruz, keeping pigeons as pets, some games such a kite-flying, and internet. [source]

Of course, the Taliban are an extreme, but this tendency can be seen in all traditional conservative Isalmist movements to a stronger or weaker degree. Although movies, TV, and music are free in Iran, and booming at least in quantity if not in quality, there are many Shiite ayatollahs who consider them haraam, and some elements in the regime have long tried to move away from Nowruz to religious holidays.

If you just look at the traditional Islamic laws you will see this repulsion of joy. Many clerics oppose music because it causes joy, many of them say music that doesn’t cause joy is OK.

Of course I believe Shiites are even worse when it comes to this. They fetishize mourning and sadness. We have 12 Imams, and 11 of them we claim were killed in a very sad manner, and they mourn each, but they mourn the third one, Hussein, in a very special way. They mourn the entire month of Muharram for him, and then they mourn him again 40 days later just because. Have you seen those grotesque pictures of people wounding themselves, making themselves bleed, even children? If not look at this link, but be warned that it contains graphic violent imagery.

All this mourning for someone who a millennium ago, just because mourning for mourning’s sake is good. And I have come across many Shiite hadiths that praise mourning and crying, like “Whoever is sad and cried in Ashoura, Allah will make Heaven a happy place for him”, or “If someone cries as little as the amount of the wing of a fly for Imam Hussein, Allah will guarantee Heaven for him”. These links in Persian contain more than 40 hadiths in praise of crying.

So, laughing is bad, crying and mourning are good.

There’s a whole industry around this mourning for Imam Hussein. You can see an example of it here:

And even when they celebrate the births, it’s not much different. Instead of hitting themselves on the head or on the chest, they clap, but there is hardly anything happy about it.

So what is their problem with joy, and what is this glorification and fetishization of death, mourning, and tears? I don’t know, but there is something very perverse at the heart of Islamic, especially Shiite, mythology, something greatly opposed to human happiness, and greatly obsessed with sorrow.

Let me end this piece with this hadith:

Then, he (Prophet Muhammad) admonished them saying, “Do not laugh when somebody breaks wind. At what does one of you laugh at that which he himself does”. [source]

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About Kaveh Mousavi

Kaveh Mousavi is the pseudonym of an atheist ex-Muslim living in Iran, subject to one of the world’s remaining theocracies. He is a student of English Literature, an aspiring novelist, and part-time English teacher. He is passionate about politics, video games, heavy metal music, and cinema. He was born at the tenth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. He has ditched the Islamic part, but has kept some of the revolutionary spirit.