By A. O.
The Shallow People’s Sense of Humor
Shallow people laugh at shallow things. Most of the things that amuse these people would not amuse anyone else removed from that shallowness. For example, human deficiencies are an important element of humor for people in this culture.
These deficiencies must be overcome by using will and intelligence, and no sensible person would ever make these a matter of discussion. But for the shallow, they can be a source of rich entertainment. But no one wants to hear about people’s shortcomings and, if they do so inadvertently, pretend that they did not. Superficial people, on the contrary, make a special joke of these weaknesses and laugh at them. This primitive sense of enjoyment can also be seen in some films and television programs.
Similarly, laughing at some people’s physical imperfections has an important place in the entertainment of this shallow culture. When such people see a person who is shorter than normal, for example, they break out laughing. Because they are themselves unaware and shallow, they do not consider that their situation in life comes by the will of Allah and that He could test them with similar deficiencies. Besides, it never crosses their minds that their laughing at people can embarrass them.
In general, the jokes these people make are detracting, intended to exalt themselves, but belittle, criticize and humiliate someone else. The humor shown by Muslims who practice religious morality is intended primarily to amuse others. Were they to make a criticizing joke, its humor would only criticize themselves.
Muslims have a highly developed sense of humanity and therefore attach importance to others’ feelings. If they sense the slightest displeasure, they do not pursue the conversation. However, shallow people do not regulate their humor. They joke about matters that others are sensitive about and go too far. They do not consider that they are making others uncomfortable; and even if they did, they would not care, because shallow people do not have any sensitivity. They cannot grasp subtlety or keep details in their minds. They take no pleasure in showing their humanity.
Those who live in a shallow culture use mockery in their humor, which believers would never do. These people often use mockery to put someone else down and elevate themselves, to make themselves the center of attention. When they detect that another individual has said something wrong, mispronounced a word, or is uninformed on a certain matter, they point this out with a humor intended to ridicule the other person. They use human mistakes and deficiencies for entertainment. In this way, they try to make themselves appear more intelligent, attractive, and knowledgeable and, in short, superior compared to others. But this is highly superficial. A person who practices the morality of the Qur’an would never think of making the imperfections of others a matter of humor.
On the contrary, he would pretend not to notice such things so as not to embarrass the other. For example, if a shallow person saw someone trip while walking down the street, he might laugh, and not go to assist him, even if the person appeared to be injured or needed help. Instead of acting humanly, he might pretend that he was laughing too hard to speak. Besides, he would laugh while pointing out human deficiencies he could have pretended not to notice. For example, he gives nicknames that point out people’s imperfections. However, in the Qur’an, Allah forbids giving people derisive or maliciously intended nicknames:
“You who believe! People should not ridicule others who may be better than themselves; nor should any women ridicule other women who may be better than themselves. And do not find fault with one another or insult each other with derogatory nicknames.” (Al-Hujurat: 11)
Those who are entertained by mocking humor do not consider that they are encompassed soul and body by an infinite Power. They can act in such a superficial manner because they do not realize that Allah could punish them at any time, that He could take their lives and bring them face to face with the angels of death. But a person who knows that he is in the presence of Allah could never mock another because of the respectful fear he feels in his heart. The humor based on mockery displayed so often by superficial people is an indication of their shallow thinking and lack of proper reverence for Allah.
Those who live in a superficial culture do not feel uncomfortable engaging in conversations that are not observant of the respect due to Allah, or religious and sacred concepts. Allah tells us how people of shallow character did this unseemly thing in the days of the Prophet (saas):
“When an example is made of the son of Maryam your people laugh uproariously. They retort, “Who is better then, our deities or him?” They only say this to you for argument’s sake. They are indeed a disputatious people. He is only a servant on whom We bestowed Our blessing and whom We made an example for the tribe of Israel.” (Az-Zukhruf: 57-59)
People in every age have spoken in this unseemly way. Jokes against religion do not make people uncomfortable if they have a weak attachment to religion. Even if some people feel discomfort at such humor, it is not enough to make them withdraw from that environment. But the hearts of Muslims have been created to take pleasure in remembering Allah, to practice Islamic morality. For this reason, they immediately separate themselves from any environment dominated by an irreligious sense of humor. In the Qur’an, Allah commands those with faith to leave such environments:
“It has been sent down to you in the Book that when you hear Allah’s signs being rejected and mocked at by people, you must not sit with them till they start talking of other things. If you do you are just the same as them. Allah will gather all the hypocrites and unbelievers into Hell.” (An-Nisa’: 140)
Places of superficial entertainment will awaken in a truly religious person the desire to protect and defend Islam. Such a person will never allow topics to enter conversation that are not respectful toward Allah and religion. Because of his love and respect for Allah and his attachment to Him, he remains on guard against ideas and suggestions opposed to religious values and will take no part in such conversation. In the Qur’an, Allah describes this noble quality that marks the Muslim character:
“When they hear worthless talk they turn away from it and say, “We have our actions and you have your actions. Peace be upon you. We do not desire the company of the ignorant.” (Al-Qasas: 55)
Shallow people often seem unaware while amusing themselves. For example, if they are watching a television program they like and someone nearby has a health problem, they will show no interest. They may even be irritated if asked for help, as if the person in distress has spoiled their entertainment. Because they are shallow and inhumane, they prefer entertainment to helping those in distress. And they continue sitting in front of the television without any pangs of conscience.
However, their behavior prevents them from enjoying their entertainment as they expected. Their shallow sense of amusement is reflected in what they choose to laugh at. They will be amused for hours by a program that repeats the same old jokes and has nothing in it to give a person enjoyment.
Of course, the shallowness spoken of here does not lie in watching television or taking entertainment from it. These people’s shallow culture develops in them an unaware sense of amusement that is far from human values. A Muslim who fears Allah and practices religious morality is always aware. Because he always acts with the intelligence given to him by his faith, he can quickly overcome all situations that confront him. He is aware even when it comes to entertainment. Allah is always in his heart and mind. Whether he listens to loud music, watching television, or playing games in a crowded, noisy environment, his conscience and attentiveness remain keen. For this reason, he takes great pleasure from his entertainment.
People like to watch a wise person laugh and being entertained. But the things shallow people laugh at and how they laugh is superficial. How shallow people laugh is not pleasant to the ear, and others do not enjoy listening to it.
It’s very important to understand what superficiality is, from the point of view of its sense of humor and enjoyment. Of two people sharing the same entertainment, one may live by superficial culture, while the other may not—because superficiality is a philosophy, not limited to just a few ways of behaving and speaking. A person may laugh spontaneously, but his intelligence and depth of understanding make him different from superficial people.
For this reason, a shallow sense of entertainment or shallow laughter should not be misunderstood. Natural laughter arising from intimacy is not shallow; natural enjoyment is good in itself. Avoiding superficiality does not restrict this naturalness. But superficiality does not come from naturalness and intimacy; but from a closed conscience, from not being aware of the negative effect of jokes and laughter, from being immoderate and going to extremes.
Some people think that avoiding superficiality implies a false seriousness with cold, artificial smiles. One person in a rich society may laugh in an affected manner, while another in an uneducated circle may have a vulgar laughter. But, in the essence, both are superficial. No matter what a person’s culture, there is only one solution to superficiality: A person must attach himself to Allah and practice the moral teachings of the Qur’an. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“But all honor belongs to Allah and to His messenger and the believers.” (Al-Munafiqun: 8)
A. O. is a Turkish writer and author.