What Is Riya (Ostentation)?

Is It Permitted to Mockingly Joke About Openly Corrupt Political Figures?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum

Is it permitted to mockingly joke about openly corrupt political figures?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

The basis is that we are instructed to hold our tongues from that which does not concern us. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say the good or remain silent.” [Bukhari & Muslim]

Human beings have an inherent inviolability gifted to them by Allah Most High, and you cannot lift that from them without a shari‘a-countenanced reason. Having said that, the Sacred Law has permitted some exceptions to the general rule which you can find here.

Otherwise, slandering (ghiba) a Muslim or non-Muslim is alike as understood from the generality of the words of Nawawi, Ghazali and others, such as Nabulsi who explicitly says slandering your “fellow human being” is prohibited. Despite the fact that many scholars conditioned the prohibition to non-Muslims living amongst Muslims and the like, it is very plausible that in our times, given a natural change in context, human beings, generally, would appear to be included in the interdiction.

As for those who are openly corrupt (tajahur bi al-fisq), it is included as a permitting reason for slander, yet on condition that a person mentions the specific thing alone, and nothing else. But as Shaykh Mustafa al-‘Arusi adds in his masterful commentary on the Qushayriyya, “as long as he does so out of rebuke, intending Allah Most High by forbidding the wrong, and not merely for self-gratification… and when he knows that such rebuke will cause the person to leave the sin.”

What we learn from this is that even when the stringent conditions are met, there needs to be care. The tongue can easily become accustomed to wrong when the door is opened just a single time, and the very fact that this question is arising is because it doesn’t sit well with Muslims striving to uphold the lofty morals of the religion. Talk about ideas, policies, principles, and don’t get personal.

In closing, it is worth reminding ourselves of Imam Nawawi’s explanation of slander: “Slander means to mention anything concerning a person that he would dislike, whether about his body, religion, everyday life, self, disposition, property, son, father, wife, servant, turban, garment, gait, movements, smiling, dissoluteness, frowning, cheerfulness, or anything else connected with him.”

[Khadimi, al-Bariqa al-Mahmudiyya Sharh al-Tariqa (3.188); Nabulsi, al-Hadiqa al-Nadiyya Sharh al-Tariqa (2.218/224); Nawawi, al-Adhkar, with Ibn ‘Allan’s marginalia; Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar (5.262); Ibn Hajar, al-Zawajir]

Please also see: What Constitutes as Slander, Backbiting and How to Avoid It? and: Slander, Backbiting and Talebearing and: What To Do When You Hear Slander and Backbiting and: What is Backbiting and How Can One Be Safe?

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

wassalam,
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorised the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.