City of Brass

City of Brass

April Fool’s Fatwa

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

UPDATE: Yes, this was an April Fool’s post. Seeing as I’ve called Qaradawi a “moderate monster” I’m sure that my implied endorsement of his fatwa had some people worried for my sanity. Scroll down below the fatwa for more details.

According to the dictionary, April Fools’ Day is a day for practical jokes, but in many places those jokes take the form of lies.

Islam condemns lying. Good people in general consider it a vice. If lying is originally forbidden, then April Fools’ would consequently be forbidden because of the unwarranted dismay and chagrin it causes, even if it is for just one hour. It plays with people’s trust, and is a pure emulation of vice.

In this regard the eminent scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi states:

Telling lies is bad conduct. It is not proper for righteous people and true believers; rather, it is a sign of hypocrisy, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The hypocrite has three characteristics: he tells lies, breaks his promise, and breaches the trust” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) warned against lying for the purpose of entertaining people. He said, “Woe on anyone who speaks to entertain the people by lying, woe on him, woe on him…” (Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, and An-Nasa’i).

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “One is not considered a true believer till he abandons lying for fun and arguing even if he was telling the truth” (Ahmad and At-Tabarani). Several Prophetic hadiths warned the Muslims against frightening others seriously or jokingly. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “It is not permissible for anyone to frighten a Muslim” (Abu Dawud).

Consequently, lying is forbidden in any form, and on this occasion (April Fools’ Day) it is forbidden for four reasons:

1. The prohibition of lying which is confirmed by the Qur’an and the Sunnah,
2. The unwarranted grief or fear it may bring on a person or his entire family, even if only for one hour,
3. The betrayal of trust it entails,
4. The emulation of a silly custom that is not ours, that of lying.

Sometimes the idea of telling a lie on this day may be obnoxious to the whole society, not only to a person.

Moreover, Sheikh `Atiyyah Saqr, former head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, adds:

It is agreed upon by all religions and sound minds that truthfulness is a virtue and lying is a vice. To tell the truth, your words should reflect reality; to tell a lie is to contradict what you are actually saying or doing. The worst kind of lying in sayings is perjury and in deeds it is hypocrisy.

Lying is forbidden unless it is for necessity. In that case, the principle “necessity makes the unlawful permissible” applies. Necessity has to be evaluated and used when no other option is available. Some of these acceptable lies is what we call connotation, a word carrying a double meaning. The Muslim may use the positive not the negative interpretation of the word.

It was reported that lying was legitimatized to benefit (someone or something), not to impair (the same). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “A person who reconciles between two people and says good things, even if it is not true, is not a liar” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim). Umm Kulthum bint `Uqbah also said, in an addition to the hadith, “I never heard the Prophet permitting lying except in three cases: during war, to reconcile between two belligerent parties, the usual talk between the spouses.” What is meant by this talk is love talk to relieve the sufferings of life.


The fatwa above is the actual text of a fatwa by Yusuf al Qaradawi at IslamOnline (copied from the Internet Archive, since IslamOnline was censored a while back).

My original plan for this post was to write up a fake fatwa in which I sternly warned muslims not to participate in April Fools’ Day, because it was tantamount to lying and this is forbidden for the pious muslim. As I crafted my (fake) argument it occurred to me that it’s possible I wasn’t being all that original, so I did some cursory research on google, and the result basically ruined my joke.

Remember, a fatwa is nothing more than a religious opinion. The opinion against April Fools hinges on equating humorous satire with malicious falsehoods, which literally misses the joke. Techcrunch has a great lineup of this year’s online April Fools’ jokes and I think it’s clear that the intention here is general amusement. Granted, it does verge on being obnoxious, and is definitely silly, but a betrayal of trust? And who exactly is feeling grief or fear? (apart from children-hating people who can’t buy a ticket for a no-kids flight after all).

Is it possible to take an April Fools’ joke too far? Obviously, yes – calling someone and telling them their parent has died or some other horibly unfunny trick is obviously crossing the line. But this is where we need only employ common sense, not religion, as a guide. Fulminating against April Fools’ Day because of “grief or harm” is treating people like infants; obviously that’s not part of the tradition.

A related fatwa at IslamOnline makes the point:

TITLE: Lying Jokingly

QUESTION: Dear scholars, As-Salamu `alaykum! Is it a sin if you jokingly say things but know it is wrong if you were to actually do it? For example, if you jokingly say you want to have a beer, but deep down you know it is haram, and you know you would never try it or even seriously think about trying it? Even though you may joke a lot about it but you’ve never tried it nor do you plan to try. Is it still sinful to joke like that? Jazakum Allah khayran.

ANSWER: Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear questioner, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.

In his response to the question you raised, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, former president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), states the following:

“Islam is not against jokes. Good humor is part of Islam. Many books of Hadith have chapters on the humor of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). These are called An-Nawadir or Al-Fukahah.

However, Islamic position is that even in jokes one should not tell a lie or laugh at or ridicule the laws of Allah. Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an: “If you question them, they declare (with emphasis); ‘We were only talking idly and in play.’ Say: ‘Was it at Allah, and His Signs, and His Messenger that you were mocking?'” (At-Tawbah: 65)

Sometimes these types of jokes lead to sinful acts or at least they make a person take the Haram things lightly.”

(It’s worth noting that the question was answered by an American muslim scholar)

The point is that there’s plenty of room for humor – as long as in the process, we don’t cross the line into the hurtful or profane. There’s always the danger of taking a joke too far. Even Qaradawi agrees, that laughter and fun are good things – in moderation, as are all things.

Now, excuse me – I’m going to go fret anxiously about Peak Bandwidth.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Terry

    From the website of Terry Jones’s Dove World Outreach Center, an article dated September 2 on “Ten Reasons to Burn a Koran.” And here is a follow-up: “Five More Reasons to Burn the Koran.”
    At the very least, one must say that Jones’s planned act is not mindless. He is performing a certain act, and he has laid out his reasons for performing it. His reasons are that Islam is anti-Christ, anti the West, anti liberty, and anti human decency. His view is that Islam is a danger to everything we cherish and everything we are. By burning a Koran, he is expressing his complete rejection of Islam, and causing other people to think about why he is rejecting Islam. Since I myself believe and have frequently stated that Islam does not belong in the West, how can I condemn a man who is expressing the same idea through a strong symbolic act? An act that is not illegal and is not harming anyone. An act that will force people to think—is Islam the enemy of ourselves and of everything we cherish, or not? Does Islam belong among us, or not?

    People are saying that the Koran burning will cause Muslims to kill innocent people. Perhaps it will. But the Danish cartoons caused Muslims to kill innocent people. Islam demands aggressive war against non-Muslims, including the killing of innocents, because from the Muslim point of view there is no such thing as an innocent non-Muslim. The clearest and most frequently repeated message of the Koran, appearing on almost every page, is that all non-Muslims are guilty of the monstrous crime of rejecting Allah and his prophet, and thereby deserve death and eternal torture. Why should we respect such a book? Why should we respect such a religion? Sooner or later, people in the West (and people in the non-Muslim world generally) must come to recognize the nature of Islam. They can have that recogition sooner, and prevent much violence, or they can have that recognition much later, only after Muslims have gained substantial power over our societies and get in a position to harm anyone who opposes them. My view is: the sooner the truth comes out, the better; the sooner things come to a head, the safer we will be.

  • Arif Hakim

    The above writer Terry needs to learn about Islam before furnishing his ‘expert opinions’ the superficial knowledge, hearsay or the unauthenticated material could only lead to such acts which the ‘other’ Terry is doing. Must be astonishing for the writer that Islam give a thorough respect to Jesus, David, Moses and all other prophets of God, the Quran which they are trying to burn fully endorse the responsibility upon every Muslim to pay respect to all the aforesaid apostles and their respective religious scribbles. Have you ever find a Muslim showing disrespect to Jesus? David? or any of ‘your’ holy men? None of the Muslim could dare to… As, if he does, he ceases be a Muslim! All the apostles are ‘our’… there is no ‘yours’ or ‘others’…
    None of the Muslim have ever burnt Bible or Torah, why? Because They respect other books… very simple. Islam gave a complete code of life, socio-economic structure, law and the most latest Science 1400 years ago.. when the so called ‘west’ was still drown in the dark ages.
    Read Islam carefully, then comment.. Islam is the only religion which has even furnished even the ‘rules of War craft’, No killing of Children…. Women.. Elders and those who chose not to fight, these are the basic rules of War provided by God through His last Book the “Quran” the same Quran which Mr.Terry id trying to disgrace.. He can burn those papers no big deal however, what could they be doing of Millions of Muslims who have learnt it by heart …. every single word… comma and full-stop? Christian scholars accept themselves that Bible has been amended time to time and numerous versions have numerous differences… However, Not in the case of QURAN, the protect of which is none other than GOD Himself… have you people ever thought how this heavy Book of 114 chapters, hundreds of pages and thousands of sentences is still intact same as it was 1400 years ago… even a single letter could not be amended? How a child of 9 to 10 years old is able to learn by heart this complete Book? Have you ever noticed the authentic surveys regarding Islam as the fastest growing religion in USA and Europe? Well! think about it …..

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Arif Hakim

    Arif Hakim have you ever read the Koran? Do you understand it? In the Name of Allah what has happenend? Terror.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Phyllis

    The Koran incites more hatred than Terry Jones , the Koran should be put behind bars.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Arik

    The pattern of violence and aggressive disregard for human suffering that is persistent in Muslim history and contemporary attitude toward non-believers reflects the message of the Quran, which is one of personal superiority and arrogance.

    In today’s world, Muslim dominance is characterized by the oppression and discrimination of non-Muslims, while Muslim minorities within larger societies are distinguished by varying degrees of petulant demand, discord and armed rebellion. Few Muslims are uncomfortable with this blatant double standard, in which Islam either plays the victim or unapologetically victimizes others, depending on its position of power – and the reason is obvious.

    Islam is a supremacist ideology in which the role of non-believers is subordinate to the position of Muslims. Those who resist Islamic rule are to be fought until they are either killed or fully humiliated and forced to acknowledge their inferior status by converting to Islam or by paying a poll-tax and otherwise accepting the subjugation of their own religion.

    There is simply no other religion on earth that draws such sharp distinction between its own members and others, or devotes as much time of its holist text toward condemning and dehumanizing those who merely choose not to follow its dogma.

    So much about Islamic terrorism and the general indifference of the broader Muslim community toward the violence makes sense only against this dual nature of Islam – as does the strange willingness of Muhammad’s followers to tolerate their own subjugation under Ottoman or Arab tyrants, such as Saddam Hussein, while being violently opposed to a Jewish neighbor state.

    The apologists are correct in saying that Islam teaches love and kindness, but they fail to add that this applies only to the treatment of those within the Muslim community. Loyalty to one’s own identity group is valued above all else and empathy for those outside the faith is optional at best – and even explicitly discouraged in places.

    If this is a “misunderstanding” of Islam by modern-day “radicals,” then it is an error that the founder of Islam made as well. In Muhammad’s time, non-Muslims were put to death merely for speaking out against the new religion and its self-proclaimed prophet. Likewise, the Jews of Qurayza were summarily rounded-up and executed on Muhammad’s order, even though they had not even fought in battle. Since the life of a non-Muslim is cheap, actual physical harm to a Muslim is not necessary to justify murder according to the example of Muhammad.

    The Quran meets every criterion by which we define hate speech. Not only does the message inspire loathing and disregard for others, but the text mandates the superiority of Islam, even if the means of establishment are by force.

    In his later years, Muhammad directed military campaigns to subjugate other tribes and religions, “inviting” them to Islam at the point of a sword and forcing them to pay tribute regardless. He set in motion the aggressive military campaigns that made war against all five major world religions in just the first few decades following his death.

    Islam incorporates the ultimate devaluation of non-Muslims in the most obvious way by teaching that while a Muslim may be punished with death for murdering a fellow Muslim (Bukhari 83:17), no Muslim can be put to death for killing a non-Muslim (Bukhari 83:50). The Quran’s “Law of Equality,” which assigns human value and rights based on gender, religion and status, is the polar opposite of equality in the sense intended by Western liberal tradition, which ideally respects no such distinction.

    One can always find apologists willing to dismiss the harsh rhetoric of the Quran with creative interpretation, tortuous explanation or outright denial, but their words and deeds almost always belie a concern for Islam’s image that does not extend to Islam’s victims – at least not with the same sense of urgency – thus proving the point.

    Of course, there are also exceptional Muslims who do not agree with Islamic supremacy and sincerely champion secularism and respect for all people. Some even find verses or fragments of such to support their independent beliefs. But, for these people, the Quran as a whole will always be a constant challenge, since it explicitly teaches the distinct and inferior status of non-Muslims.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment nnmns

    Those who incited the riots (both Jones and the Muslim clerics) are guilty of, I should think, manslaughter. I sincerely hope they will be punished.

    The mobs who killed people are murderers and should suffer the appropriate punishment. Will they, or will religious fervor protect them?

    There are a lot of level-headed Muslims but there are way too many Muslims ready to incite and way, way too many ready to be incited. (Of course the same could be said of Christians and Jews and Hindus but to a somewhat lesser extent.)

    It’s time for all societies with a large number of religious extremists, certainly including Pakistan and Afghanistan, to bite the bullet and put a lid on their crazies. The tragedy is, that won’t happen.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Linda

    I wish I could say this list is an April Fools joke, but sadly it is not:

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment johna
  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Zeno

    what are all these stupid comments…

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