April - June 2006, Islam

Do Muslims have a Sense of Humor?

By Juan Alvarado

Ever since I came to Islam, I’ve been struggling with this question. I tried to find out if there were Muslim comedians and in the beginning, I found none. Then I realized there were comedians. The problem was that they did not speak English. Well, that’s a relief. At least there are Muslims who try to make others laugh. Much later I found that there are English-speaking Muslim comedians. What does this matter? Lots of times, I’ve gotten the feeling that most Muslims are stodgy, unfunny characters. I’m sure others must have gotten the same feeling. We know why we’re here. We know that we must be serious about gaining Allah’s pleasure. However, there are times when we must let go. This is one of those times. This will be about funny stories I’ve heard throughout the years as a Muslim.

A cousin of mine, who has been a Muslim for longer than I, was in the habit of putting on a white jalabiyya during his salaat. During the time of this story, he lived with his family, which included his grandmother. Now if you don’t know that Hispanics are superstitious, you better learn that many of them are. Well, one day this pious brother wakes up early to do his Fajr prayers. It’s early of course and he has a stunning white jalabiyya. His grandmother walks in on him doing his salaat and thinks she sees a ghost. She gasps and moves as quickly as she can back to her bedroom. In the morning she then relates the story of how she saw “un muerto” — a ghost.

How many of you new Muslim converts from Roman Catholicism have unintentionally made the sign of the cross? Old habits are difficult to break. Many of us grew up making the sign of the prayer almost on a regular basis. Now, as Muslims, we try to take on new ways and leave behind some old ways. Unfortunately, little habits like that have cropped up in a mosque full of Muslims. Fortunately, I have never caught myself looking for the holy water upon entering a mosque.

It’s summertime, and it’s time for salaat. It must be about a 100F. Two brothers are in a fast-food restaurant. They decide its time to do wudu. Now, being that guys can exaggerate their need to cool off, the sight of splashing water over themselves is not surprising. That is until they start wetting their feet. A redneck goes to the bathroom and comments, “Damn, you guys must really feel hot!”

Many people are ignorant of Islam. They don’t know our beliefs, and we cannot blame them for this. Lots of people think that Muslims have the same beliefs as Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. I know — I’ve been on the butt end of bean pie jokes a couple of times. Anyway, what do you say to someone who asks if God is black?

There are lots of things that Muslims do that other people do not. Showing others what Muslims do and how we do it can be a challenge. I’ve taken non-Muslims to the masjid and shown them how we do wudu. The classic experience that happens which I’ve heard others mention as well is the snuffing of water into the nostrils. Since they are not accustomed to doing this on a regular basis, they inevitably snuff the water up so hard that they get that burning sensation at the base of the nose that throws them back. They feel as though they’re drowning.

Another story from a friend goes like this. He takes a non-Muslim to a masjid. He shows this person around. The prayers are about to begin. The Muslim tells the non-Muslim to wait and observe in the back. After the prayers are finished, the brother looks for his guest. He’s looking all over the place but cannot find him. He waits a little longer before deciding to leave. Right before he decides that his guest probably left him, the guy comes out from behind the curtain separating the men’s and women’s prayer areas! His explanation? “I got lost.” He also thought that non-Muslim visitors were supposed to stay behind the curtain while the Muslims pray together.

Way before I even thought of becoming a Muslim, I learned about the Muslim universal greeting “as-salaamu alaykum.” This is a most beautiful greeting. I have no problem with it. The problem is the way I learned about this greeting. Normally, maybe one should learn from another Muslim how to say it. As for me, I learned from a non-Muslim how to say it. I learned how to say it as part of a rhyme: “As-salaam aleikum — ham, cheese, and bacon!”

This story is from a friend who was faithfully attending to his salaat. His brother-in-law who is not Muslim was visiting his home at the time. The brother-in-law had never seen him doing salaat. Every time the brother would lower his head in prostration, his brother-in-law started looking around the floor. Apparently, he thought the Muslim brother had lost something and was trying to help him look for it. What “it” was, I don’t know.

A Sudanese brother asked another Latino Muslim friend of mine to teach him something in Spanish to tell people as a way of giving da’wah. So, he asked, “How do you say, ‘What’s the meaning of life?'” My friend responded, “Cual es el proposito de la vida?” Then, the Sudanese brother asked, “Now, how do you say to worship Allah?” My friend responded, “Adorar a Allah.” One day my Latino friend heard him saying this to people on the street. Everyone thought he was crazy.

He also told me another funny story. An Imam was giving a lecture at a masjid after fajr during Ramadan. Suddenly, his speech was interrupted over the loudspeaker by someone from the masjid administrative announcing that a van with such and such license plate was being towed. The imam said, “That’s my van — wait; I’m almost done.” The administration said, “No, it’s being towed right now. We can’t.” “Can’t you wait just a minute,” exclaimed the Imam. “No.” So, the imam said, “Make du’a for my van please.”

As Latinos and as Muslims, we have had many unique experiences that many people will never share. As Latinos, we get to hear and share jokes about Latinos. As Muslims, we get to hear and share jokes about Muslims. Some jokes are completely exaggerated. One common joke is about the Latino and Muslim habit of showing up late, hence, the Latino Standard Time (LST) or Muslim Standard Time (MST). Now with the rise in numbers of Latino Muslims, perhaps, we can begin to implement the new Latino Muslim Standard Time (LMST). InshaAllah, only time will tell. Or, as many Latino Muslims like to say, “Enchilada.”