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8 - Hizbullah’s Humour: Political Satire, Comedy, and Revolutionary Theatre

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 October 2022

Bernard Schweizer
Affiliation:
Long Island University, New York
Lina Molokotos-Liederman
Affiliation:
Uppsala Universitet, Sweden
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Summary

Islam and humour

According to Geert Jan van Gelder, ‘One of the main functions of humour [is] the gentle undermining of certainties’ (Rosenthal, 2011: xvi). Adding the dimensions of purpose and structure, Schweizer argues that humour ‘is not a stable, inert form of expression, but – more often than not – it flickers through multiple modes, even in one and the same joke, cartoon, or comedy performance’ (Schweizer, 2020: 35). He adds, ‘Islamic rules that deem mockery, sarcasm, and even teasing to be an indication of moral failings (the 49th Qur’anic surah [Al-Hujurat], verse 11, as well as several Hadiths such as Abu Dawud, Book 43, 4972) have the force of moral idealism behind them’ (Schweizer, 2020: 36). In addition, verse (5:57) admonishes the believers not to engage in idle mockery, and verse (6:108) calls on them to abstain from insulting one another, and, by extension, God. Notwithstanding these Qur’anic verses and hadith, Islamic traditions confirm that Prophet Muḥammad had a good sense of humour (see Chapters 2 and 4 in this book). Al-‘Abidi deconstructed canonical hadith texts in order to demonstrate that humour in Islam has the same high status as serious discourse; they are both on a par. She argues that in addition to appearing sombre and strict – both in ritual observances (‘ibadat) and social transactions (mu‘amalat) – Islam, as a religion, left ample room for humour, laughter, smiling, joy, fun, happiness, and joking. Al-‘Abidi stresses that humour was not against the sacred; rather, humour's profane dimension functions within religion's narrow confines and is concomitant and harmonious with it, by highlighting the tolerance and openness (infitah) of religion (Al-‘Abidi, 2010).

Background: Resistance Art and humour

The Lebanese resistance movement Hizbullah – which is ideologically influenced by the Islamic Republic of Iran's wilayat al-faqih (Guardianship of the Jurisprudent/ Jurisconsult) – is infamous for its ‘terrorist’ global reach and militant face. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Hizbullah abducted Westerners in Lebanon and fought the Israeli army, until Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon in 2000, after 22 years of occupation.

Type
Chapter
Information
Muslims and Humour
Essays on Comedy, Joking, and Mirth in Contemporary Islamic Contexts
, pp. 177 - 200
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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