Mockery in Unbelieving Societies
Since they do not live by the Qur'an's morality, which Allah has chosen for humanity and with which He is pleased, the unbelievers' character is totally alienated from the Qur'an. For this reason, mockery is widespread among them.
At the bottom of this moral defect is their pride and their inability to follow high morality. This pride reveals itself in various ways and for various reasons. They want to be the most superior people in their society, and so they mock whatever good characteristics they see in other people to belittle them, demean them in the eyes of others, and destroy their morale. They do not want them to earn another person's admiration and praise. Since they do not live according to the true love, compassion, and mercy of Allah, they do not hesitate to harm each other through mockery.
Everyday life is filled with examples of this. The unbelievers mock their friends or other people by picking on their defects, physical blemishes, or mistakes. When they see someone stumble, choke on some food, or make a slip of the tongue, they resort to harassment accompanied by prolonged and exaggerated laughter. Afterward, they continue to deride that person by trying to implant feelings of shame through a pattern of constantly reminding him/her about it. The people they mock display exactly the same moral defect, for they also mock anyone they can when the opportunity presents itself. In other words, it is as if these people have established a kind of tacit acceptance of this behavior. When they are mocked, they try to deflect the mockery by laughing louder than those who are laughing at them. Even when they are deeply hurt, they try to hide it, because they think that if it's realized by others that they are hurt it would be demeaning for them.
In addition to this, the unbelievers do not shy away from pointing out, sniggering at, and doing their best to mock even those who are physically handicapped. They do not retreat from this disgraceful behavior even when the handicapped person is fully aware of what is happening. Some people mock other people's clothing, hairstyles, ways of speaking, accents, occupations, and lifestyles as a form of entertainment. As we said earlier, they do this with the sole intention of satisfying their own pride, preventing others from being praised, and belittling them.
Mockery: Ignorant Cruelty in Everyday Life
In societies that are far removed from religion, mockery spreads among young people, starting in the middle and high school years. For example, a talented or attractive student arrives at a school from another city. Due to their immoral attitudes, most of the other students will try to hide their jealousy by mocking him/her and doing their best to find his/her weaknesses and regard his/her good aspects as defects. For example, if he has straight hair they call him "brush head," or if she is tall they liken her to a giraffe and give her an insulting nickname. Through their mockery, they try to persuade everybody else to regard the newcomer as small and somehow inferior.
They use the same approach when dealing with a student who is harder working and more successful than they are. In order to belittle him, they resort to nicknames that ridicule his/her success.
They seize every opportunity to mock other students, especially if a lack of money is involved. Talking in a mocking and belittling way behind someone's back because he wears last year's uniform or last year's shoes is very common. The districts and houses in which students live, as well as the furniture therein, also provide fuel for mockery. They regard many things as fit for mockery: his father's job, the place where her mother works, or having an unusual name or the name of a famous person. Some students particularly target their teachers. If the teacher is inexperienced, they mock her inexperience. If she is elderly and does some things slowly or has weak eyes, she is mocked for that. Her clothes are also a subject for mockery. For example, if she often wears the same clothes or if her clothes are not ironed, the students point this out to one another and mock her.
The same is true of one's office. Here, the mockery varies according to what position the person holds. People usually reserve their most intense mockery for those who hold lower positions in an attempt to satisfy their own pride. Since they cannot show their arrogance to their superiors, they try to crush those under them or those in junior positions. For example, managers mock their secretaries and how they do their job. This mockery differs from that found in high schools, because it is done in secret via such methods as facial reactions, belittling behavior, and mocking glances. Speaking while not looking the other person in the face, refusing to answer, acting as though he has not been heard, grinning when the person encounters a situation beyond his experience, and casting ironic glances at others also fall into this category of behavior.
Rivals in the workplace also mock each other. For example, two rival secretaries will try to ensure that the entire office hears about the other's failings and mistakes. Or, they will try to demean each other in other people's eyes by mocking each other's physical defects, choice of clothes, manner of walking, or any other personal characteristic. If one is timid, someone will constantly try to crush him through verbal needling or belittling glances and words. In general, people who are quieter and more docile than others constitute an oppressed group at work. Those who are estranged from the Qur'an's morality constantly irritate such people. However, they stay away from people in superior positions and those who they think they cannot dominate. Indeed, they always try to maintain on good terms with such people.
Mockery, which rules the daily lives of people in such societies, can be observed in just about every area of communal life. In particular, the poor are targets for mockery due to their clothes, way of talking, choice of colors, and way of life. Thus it is no surprise that mockery is endemic in schools, workplaces, and other communal environments that bring rich and poor people together. However, we should remember that the poor can mock the rich just as easily. But since each group bases its morality on ignorance, neither one wants to admit the unpleasantness of such behavior. Above all, there is no limit to it, for their lack of fear and respect of Allah causes them to ignore the punishment that such behavior will earn them in the hereafter. They live their lives without ever considering the Day of Judgment.
Within this character, which is totally alienated from religion, unbridled extremes become readily apparent. People who are jealous of a rich person's clothes call him all kinds of unpleasant names and mock him, for example, by saying that he looks like a clown. It is as though they are trying to create the impression that what he is wearing is very unpleasant and unfashionable. In fact, they are doing it simply out of envy. Such people are jealous of those who possess what they want for themselves and think that they are taking their revenge on them by mocking them. People who do not live by the Qur'an's morality also make fun of each other's minor physical defects: having big or small hands or feet, being bald, being very thin or very fat, being shortsighted and having to wear glasses, or not being able to hear well. Women, especially among themselves, mock the style and color of their friends' hair. In short, people who do not live according to the Qur'an's morality can find enough ammunition to mock just about anything and anyone. Their everyday lives are filled with examples of this, since they begin to mock others as soon as they meet them. For example, if the person is well dressed on that particular day, they make her uncomfortable by implying that she is overdressed by asking: "Where are you going … to a wedding?" Or when someone politely asks an acquaintance "How are you?" he responds in a mocking tone: "Why, were you worried about my health?" They are offended when they are treated the same way, but they never think of giving up such behavior, because they consider it to be natural. This type of mockery is often encountered when friends talk among themselves, for friends continually make fun of those close to them behind their backs.
In particular, mocking a clumsy person is a great source of entertainment. On birthdays or other special occasions, they make jokes about the presents they did not like, saying that the giver has chosen a cheap gift or made a tasteless choice.
Such mockery may not always be obvious, for one of the most widespread methods is mocking by implication via barbed words and meaningful glances. In particular, because they cannot directly mock someone whose position is superior to their own in terms of rank and power, they do so among themselves with their eyes. By mocking him secretly, they think that they are demeaning him and making themselves superior to him. For example, when a manager makes a mistake, a slip of the tongue perhaps, the workers nearby cannot mock him openly. However, they can look at one another meaningfully and with a mocking light in their eyes. One who watches them carefully can notice this right away; however, because their mockery is not open, it is impossible to prove its existence.
Finding themselves surrounded by such negative forms of behavior, people in such societies are forced to live in an extremely uncomfortable environment. Everybody finds a way to mock everybody else but experiences extreme discomfort when the mockery is directed toward them. In spite of this, people make no effort to change the surrounding environment, because if they say that mocking others does not conform to the morality laid down by Allah, they will be unable to mock others. Thus, they accept being mocked as if it is a fact of life and fail to distance themselves from another person's mockery. Allah informs us of this incorrect attitude: "They would not restrain each other from any of the wrong things that they did. How evil were the things they used to do!" (Surat al-Ma'ida, 79). In conclusion, when people do not live by the Qur'an's morality, all types of mocking behavior, belittling speech, and provocative glances and sniggering can be observed in their societies. The only way out of this troubled and uncomfortable environment is to adopt, practice, and keep alive the superior morality taught by the Qur'an.
Allah Forbids Mockery in the Qur'an
O 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. Do not find fault with each other or insult each other with derogatory nicknames. How evil it is to have a name for evil conduct after coming to faith! Those people who do not turn from it are wrongdoers. (Surat al-Hujurat, 11)
In the above verse Allah forbids mockery at all times, for it is a form of immorality. Now, we will consider the issue of mockery in more detail from a Qur'anic viewpoint.
Allah draws our attention to the fact that mocking others, regarding oneself as superior to them, and belittling them are all the results of a community's lack of religion. In Allah's Sight, superiority depends upon one's fear [and respect] of Him. In other words, financial clout, physical strength, advanced technology, or any other worldly value on its own, without one's fear [and respect] of Allah, cannot make people superior to others. Moreover, such factors as gender, race, or skin color do not indicate superiority:
O humanity! We created you from a male and female and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in Allah's Sight is the one who best performs his duty. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Surat al-Hujurat, 13)
In Surat al-Hujurat 11, Allah forbids women to mock one another. Women who live in societies that are far removed from religion often use mocking words and pointed expressions against each other. Indeed, it has become so common among them that such conversations are no longer surprising. A woman refers to the physical defects of another as often as possible. Even if there is no obvious defect, she will try to make others believe that any characteristic at all is a type of blemish. Her own envy may drive her to any kind of slander or mockery.
In the Qur'an Allah defines making others feel uncomfortable and harassing them as low morality. In another verse, Allah tells us how ugly it is to set people against each other and pry into their secret aspects:
O you who believe! Avoid most suspicion, for some suspicion is a crime. Do not spy and do not backbite each other. Would any of you like to eat his dead brother's flesh? No, you would hate it. Fear [and respect] Allah, for He is Ever-Returning, Most Merciful. (Surat al-Hujurat, 12)
In another verse, Allah draws attention to mockery via insulting words or looks:
Woe to every fault-finding backbiter. (Surat al-Humaza, 1)
Clearly, people have to refrain from such behavior. People will definitely receive a return for their mockery whether it be in looks or mimicry or words. In this verse, Allah warns people who do not live by the Qur'an's morality and who never think about the Day of Judgment.
Mockery is a moral defect characterized by people in societies that are far from religion. Among the believers, such behavior is not permitted, for they know that Allah bestows all human characteristics (e.g., beauty, intelligence, wealth, and talent) as He wills. They take great pleasure in other people's good characteristics. Since they conform not to their own selfish desires but to Allah's will, they do not feel pride, envy, and other negative emotions that people who live in societies far removed from religion harbor inside themselves. As a result, they always maintain a cheerful, well-intentioned, positive, and modest approach toward each other. In the same way, they know that each person's defects have been sent by Allah as a test. Therefore, they do not focus on these defects; on the contrary, they exhibit good behavior in an attempt to compensate for them. They strenuously avoid the slightest act, glance, or word that could be misinterpreted as a form of mockery. The believers' opinion of mockery is reflected in the words of the Prophet Moses (as):
And when Moses said to his people: "Allah commands you to sacrifice a cow," they exclaimed: "What! Are you making fun of us?" He replied: "I seek refuge with Allah from being one of the ignorant!" (Surat al-Baqara, 67)
As we can see, before acting in any way that resembles mockery, the believers immediately take refuge in Allah. They know that behaving in such a way is not suitable. Their most important reason for avoiding it is their knowledge that such behavior does not meet with Allah's approval.