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Last Updated: 2007/06/30
Summary of question
Islam and Imam Khomeini’s viewpoint on fun, recreation and joking.
question
The following quotation is attributed to Imam Khomeini:

Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious. Islam does not allow swimming in the sea and is opposed to radio and television series and shows. Islam, however, allows marksmanship, horseback riding and competition.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_thought_and_legacy_of_Khomeini)
Can you please verify if this is correct, and if so, how is it that this saying does not conflict with fun, joy, and humor that is Islamic in nature?
Concise answer

According to Islam, the main purpose for creation is the perfection of man and all of the different creatures this world contains all have been created for this purpose (the perfection of man), and that is because man is the highest of all creatures. The holy Quran says: “I did not create the jinn and the humans except that they may worship Me.”[i] According to commentators of the Quran, worship here means the servitude of His servants which in other words is their perfection.

Islam has paid attention to all of the different dimensions of the life of man, as Imam Ali (as) says: “The believer must observe three times during the day; one part of his time needs to be spent in worship and being with God, another part needs to go for daily activities and earning a livelihood and making a living, and the third needs to be spent in making use of halal pleasures and Godly blessings. This third part of the day is a help to the other plans (that one has for one’s day).[ii] Islam has no objection to legitimate recreation, joking and kidding and swimming in the sea. The only thing is that it has certain guidelines for such programs that the imams have also observed in their own lives. It has even been reported that the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) used to joke in order to make certain individuals happy sometimes.

The late Imam Khomeini also hasn’t objected to these things anywhere, on the contrary, he would always say that recreation needs to be (religiously) legitimate. He was never against listening to the radio and watching television, in many cases he would encourage those in charge of these programs and would of course also sometimes give them helpful directions saying that all of these different things have to be at the service of Islam and have a moral and educational side to them.

It should also be noted that in order to get accurate quotes and information on Imam Khomeini’s viewpoints, one needs to refer to the official sites that distribute his works and sayings or read the book Sahifeye Noor which is a collection of his sayings that can be found in the following website:

http://www.imam-khomeini.org/farsi/main/main.htm



[i] Dhariyat:56 “و ما خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَ الْإِنْسَ إِلاَّ لِیَعْبُدُونِ

[ii]یَا بُنَیَّ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ ثَلَاثُ سَاعَاتٍ سَاعَةٌ یُنَاجِی فِیهَا رَبَّهُ وَ سَاعَةٌ یُحَاسِبُ فِیهَا نَفْسَهُ وَ سَاعَةٌ یَخْلُو فِیهَا بَیْنَ نَفْسِهِ وَ لَذَّتِهَا فِیمَا یَحِلُّ وَ یُحْمَدُ وَ لَیْسَ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ بُدٌّ مِنْ أَنْ یَکُونَ شَاخِصاً فِی ثَلَاثٍ مَرَمَّةٍ لِمَعَاشٍ أَوْ خُطْوَةٍ لِمَعَادٍ أَوْ لَذَّةٍ فِی غَیْرِ مُحَرَّمٍ

Detailed Answer

In order to answer this question, we first need to analyze what Islam’s viewpoint is on the purpose of the creation of mankind and the usage of natural blessings such as the mountains, jungles and legitimate recreation and joy and the like. Afterwards, we will mention Imam Khomeini’s viewpoints on these things so that you can easily conclude that there is no difference between what he believes and what Islam says and that the two say the same thing. The main source of Islamic law and teachings, the holy Quran says: “I did not create the jinn and the humans except that they may worship Me (so that as a result, they perfect and draw nearer towards Me).”[1] According to this, the least concentration on the purpose of creation allows us to draw the conclusion that the main purpose is servitude (which is the perfection of man) and other reasons such as knowledge and being put to the test are all actually ways of getting us to the main goal of servitude which results in Allah’s great grace and mercy towards us.[2]   Imam Khomeini has also stated that the goal of Islam is to guide mankind and that we have been created to be raised to the heavens and that the goal is to establish a government in which Allah (swt) is worshipped in.[3]

Islam also has some statements regarding joking; for instance it has been reported that Imam Sadiq (as) said: “All believers have “do’abeh”. It was asked “What is do’abeh?” His Excellency replied: “Joking.”[4] There are many hadiths in our hadith books that say that joking is mustahabb.[5]

Yunus Shaybani narrates from Imam Sadiq (as) that his Excellency asked about how I joke with others. I answered that I joke very little. His Excellency said in a scolding manner: “Why don’t you kid with others? Don’t you know that kidding with others is part of one’s good character and behavior?” In this hadith, his Excellency goes on to say that even the Prophet (pbuh) used to kid with others, trying to make them happy.[6]

The many examples of our prophet (pbuh) kidding with others and his decent acts for making others happy all show that although his Excellency was of good behavior and a joyful and kidding personality, yet he would never cross the borders of truth in speech and his jokes were never false, bad, unacceptable or nonsense. As he himself says: “I might kid around but I only say the truth.”[7] This statement both shows us that kidding was part of the tradition of Rasulullah (pbuh) and it also lets us know of the boundaries of this tradition.

As for the late Imam Khomeini’s statement saying that Islam doesn’t joke around[8], he doesn’t mean that Islam doesn’t allow joking and kidding around, what he means is that Islamic laws shouldn’t be expressed in an unserious and joking way; because he goes on to say that all of Islam is serious and isn’t play, it is serious in both spiritual and material issues. Islam wants to train mujahids, not spoiled and pampered, pleasure seeking individuals.[9] This doesn’t mean that in times of rest (after work, effort, studying, worship etc.) one can't kid around and joke with others and have recreation. This is why Imam Khomeini has never said that kidding and joking around in a legitimate way is problematic.

Imam Ali (as) tells his son: “The believer is one who has these three times in his/her day: one part of the day needs to be spent in spiritual matters and calling Allah (swt) and supplication, one part of the day goes for earning a living and having an income and other worldly affairs and a third part must be spent in recreation and halal pleasures and fun.”[10] What is interesting is that in another similar hadith, there is another phrase in the end of the hadith that says that this third part of the day is a help to the other programs one has during the day. What is important is that recreation and the like must be religiously legitimate, or else other problems will come up. There are many illegitimate forms of recreation that cause spiritual and physical problems, resulting in the individual not being able to work for a while, and this is exactly the opposite of what the hadith calls as one of the main reasons for having fun (in order to get energy for other important plans one has for the day such as working and studying).

Recreation in Islam is a very important issue to the extent that it has been reported that competitions were held in the presence of the holy Prophet (pbuh) and that he even was supervisor and referee to some of them.[11] Imam Khomeini has also considered travelling a form of legitimate recreation in his risalah and his sayings: “There is no problem in travelling for fun and recreation, the only thing is that it needs to be legitimate.”[12] He goes on to say: “I don’t mean to say that we aren’t supposed to have any recreation and that we always have to be busy (with work), what I mean is that the youth need to organize and plan their time.”[13] He also says regarding listening to the radio and watching television: “Television is the most sensitive instrument of propagation, thus it must observe morality and be educational and at the service of Islam, not that it mustn’t be used at all.”[14]

Not only doesn’t Islam object to swimming in the sea, but it encourages us to teach our children how to swim, shoot and horse-ride.[15] Of course, one must be careful not to mix these sound activities with illegitimate acts, and that is why Imam Khomeini was against those who would go to the beach and cause illegitimate and haram acts to take place.[16]

In short, there is no monasticism and extremism in Islam, as it has been reported that the Prophet prohibited monasticism in Islam. Taking into consideration the clues that were mentioned from the Quran and traditions, one can easily conclude that Islam is a religion that has guidelines for all of the different aspects of life, even materialistic ones and how to consume and make use of the various blessings that Allah (swt) has bestowed upon us and how to joke and have fun.

Also, after precisely analyzing Imam Khomeini’s sayings, one can conclude that he also wasn’t against recreation, fun and joy, halal pleasures and making good use of Godly blessings.

In the end, we would also like to remind you to refer to official sites that have distributed his works, speeches and sayings or to study the book Sahifeye Noor (a collection of all of his speeches and sayings throughout the years of the revolution) that can be found in this website:

http://www.imam-khomeini.org/farsi/main/main.htm



[1] Dhariyat:56.

[2] Ahmad Ali Baba’I, Bargozideye Tafsire Nemouneh, vol. 4, pg. 533; Mousavi Hamedani, translation of Al-Mizan, vol. 18, pg. 583.

[3] Imam Khomeini, Jihade Akbar, introduction.

[4] Koleini, Usulul-Kafi, vol. 2, pg. 664.

[5] Sheikh Hur Ameli, Wasa’elul-Shia, vol. 12, pg. 112, the chapter of kidding and laughter being mustahabb.

[6] Wasa’elul-Shia, vol. 12, pg. 114, hadith 15794; Allamah Tabataba’I, Sunanul-Nabi, pg. 60.

[7] Allamah Majlisi, Biharul-Anwar, vol. 16, pg. 117.

[8] Imam Khomeini, Sahifeye Noor, vol. 9, pg. 455.

[9] Imam Khomeini, Sahifeye Noor, vol. 9, pg. 455.

[10] Najafi Khomeini, Tafsire Asan, vol. 8, pg. 70, Entesharate Eslami Press; Mizanul-Hikmah, vol. 10, pp. 376-380.

[11] Ibid, pg. 71.

[12] Imam Khomeini, Sahifeye Noor, vol. 1, pg. 395; Resaleye Amali, issue 1300.

[13] Ibid, vol. 3, pg. 218.

[14] Ibid, vol. 8, pg. 496.

[15] Kanzul-Ummal, hadith 45342.

[16] Imam Khomeini, Sahifeye Noor, vol. 15, pg. 178.

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