by Mohamed Ghilan
Our modern culture has embraced mockery of anything and everything to the extent that nothing is off limits as the idea of the Sacred has by and large been discarded. The elders, parents, teachers, religion, prophets, and even God Himself have all become regulars on comedy sketches on television and many comedy acts. Mockery has become so much the norm that when an individual or a group of people has an adverse reaction to it, they’re viewed as uptight, too serious, and lacking a sense of humour. After all, these are just words – so, take it easy. Right?
Words are not just sounds we produce to form letters that we string together and blurb out every once in a while. They have meanings and they represent an attitude and a thought process. We articulate our beliefs directly using words, but we also articulate how we see the other using words. Sometimes we directly state what we think, but most of the time our behavioural interactions that are described using words are much louder than our claims.
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, mockery refers to an insulting or contemptuous action or speech; a subject of laughter, derision, or sport; a counterfeit appearance; an insincere, contemptible, or impertinent imitation; or something ridiculously or impudently unsuitable. This English definition sheds light on the state of mind of the individual who engages in such an act as mockery. It’s a state of lack of respect or reverence, a deep hatred or disapproval, and a general view towards what or who is being mocked as being vile or worthless. It also relies on a misrepresentation of the mocked in order to make a subject of mockery out of them.
The Arabic word for mockery is sukhriyya, which comes from the three-letter root sa kh ra. According to the dictionary Tongue of the Arabs (Lisan al-Arab), this word means to debase or subjugate another thing or person to be at your service at no expense to you. This is the same word used in the Quran numerous times when God is referring to having subjugated the earth, livestock, planets, stars, sun, and the moon for Mankind to benefit from them. It’s also used to refer to the different stations humans have been granted and elevated over each other to serve one another. However, when it’s used as an active verb where one is performing sukhriyya of another, the Quranic position is the command to desist from such an act, “Believers, no one group of men should jeer at another, who may after all be better than them; no one group of women should jeer at another, who may after all be better than them.” [Quran 49:11]
As this verse indicates, the essence of mockery is a view of oneself in relation to the mocked. The consequence of mockery is the view of oneself as the mocker to be elevated over the mocked. It’s an assertion of superiority over the other by way of debasing them through mockery. In the process of doing so, the humanity of the mocked is stripped away from them as they become an object of amusement. The verse saying, “We have ennobled the Son of Adam” becomes meaningless as their dignity is discarded. The essence of mockery is “I am better than him: You created me from fire and him from clay.” [Quran 7:12]
All that is mockery, being sourced from a satanic origin, stands in stark contrast to all that is Sacred. This is evident in the main subjects of mockery, most of which are revered within religious discourse. To make it palatable, the likes of the late Christopher Hitchens say that, “Mockery of religion is one of the most essential things… one of the beginnings of human emancipation is the ability to laugh at authority.” If anything is truly deserving of mockery, it’s this statement and those like it, which fallaciously link human freedom with mockery of the Sacred. Statements such as this one are nothing but a reverberation of the first one of their nature that Satan made to Adam and Eve peace be upon them when he said to them, “Your Lord only forbade you this tree to prevent you becoming angels or immortals.” [Quran 7:20]
Only an idle mind and a diseased heart can ever engage in mockery or enjoy it. For only an idle mind not engaged in beneficial work can produce and receive mockery, and only a diseased heart lacking reverence for the Sacred can accept it. But how can the Sacred be revered in a world that has divorced it from everything anyways? It seems that today mockery is used to show how “ridiculous” a belief is in order to get the one mocked to abandon their “craziness.” Given that the mockers view themselves above the mocked, they sustain their self-delusional superiority by claiming themselves to be enlightened and pretend that their mockery is only to help the mocked. But they are similar to their predecessors as the Quran states, ”The wicked used to laugh at the believers – they would wink at one another when the believers passed by them, joke about them when they got back to their own people, and say, when they say them, ‘These people are misguided,’ though they were not sent to be their keepers.” [Quran 83:29-33]
The vile nature of mockery can never be understood within a worldview that doesn’t see the Sacred. If one is completely blinded from the spiritual realities behind everything, and is unable to see the world as a manifestation of Kun Fa Ya’koon (Be and it is), then it’s impossible to recognize the sanctity present in its essence. And so they’ll always be confused as to why believers, especially Muslims, have a problem with mockery.
Nietzsche claimed that mockery is a sign of health and everything unconditional, such as recognizing the Sacred belongs to pathology. It’s ironic that he’s the one who happened to go through a mental breakdown before his death, possibly indicating who had the pathological mind. In truth, mockery is a symptom of a pathologically warped worldview divorced from the Sacred. As long as one’s worldview is warped, they will continue to mock. Hence, the Quran commands the believers when faced with such a circumstance not to engage in any way, shape, or form because it’s futile, “As He has already revealed to you [believers] in the Scripture, if you hear people denying and ridiculing God’s revelation, do not sit with them unless they start to talk of other things, or else you yourselves will become like them.” [Quran 4:140]