The Science of Laughter

Some of the comments offered by Muslim thinkers of the Middle Ages has been about anything you can think of and laughter is no exception. Below is what some of them have to say.

A physician by the name Ali ibn Rabban at-Tabari (in the mid-9th century) explained laughter as, “Laughter is the (result of) the boiling of the natural blood (which happens) when a human being sees or hears something that diverts him and thus startles and moves him. If he then does not employ his ability to think in connection with it, he is seized by laughter.”

Ibn Rabban, says it is the result of a person’s inability to think rationally about something that they are suddenly exposed to and after this passage, he shared Aristotle’s definition of the human as the laughing animal which is then followed by the Greek philosopher’s observation that states that out of all the animals, only humans can laugh.

Abu Yusuf al-Kindi (the famous Muslim polymath) lived in the mid-9th century and he commented on laughter in the same term as the above mentioned. In his own words, he said “an even-tempered purity of the blood of the heart together with an expansion of the soul to a point where its joy becomes visible”.

Later in the 9th century, a thinker by the name of Ishaq ibn Imran shared his thoughts on laughter. He own definition was more detailed and it was embed in a book entitled “On Melancholy”. To him, the laughter of children and drunk people was to talk about and it was as a result of “the joy of the soul because of the even temper of their blood”.  He also described excessive laughter as a sign of insanity and to his laughter is “the astonishment of the soul at [observing] that is not in a position to understand clearly”.

Few centuries later, the physician Ishaq ibn Sulayman (a famous student of ibn Imran) suggested that sadness is caused by anything restricting the flow of blood in the body and the release from the heart. As a result, laughter is cause by healthy circulation of the blood and works its way through an exothermic process in the body. Ibn Sulayman was the first to develop his own theory about laughter.

It should be known that the early Muslim thinkers didn’t take anything for granted not even the little things (such as laughter). They spent their time to research on laughter and realized that laughter has something to do with the circulation of blood in the body and more than a thousand years later,  modern science has established what laughter does to your general well being. So there you have it Muslim brother and sisters, Laugh out loud more often! It is actually good for you!

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