Once again we saw the shops being flooded with people as Eid came by and went just as we did when Ramadan was about to set in. Honestly, it will take just about any event for people to get to the grocery stores, malls and bazaars and fill their already filled houses with even more items that are redundant and not needed. Interestingly, the more people are spending in life on themselves, their children, their houses, the more the concept of ‘decluttering’ is appearing in social media. We see there is a wise stance against it and there is a reason for that opposition. The reason is that it is unnecessary.

New ideologies are introduced by the social media and the commercialism concept brought in by secular countries to change the mind set of many people. Let’s first understand what consumerism is to know why it is being advocated.

Consumerism is the idea that increasing the consumption of goods and services purchased in the market is always a desirable goal and that a person’s wellbeing and happiness depend fundamentally on obtaining consumer goods and material possessions [1] 
(Hayes, 2021)

This is also termed as ‘materialism.’ The goal is to achieve satisfaction through goods and services. It does not take a rocket brain to understand that the reason why companies do this is to sell their items, otherwise they will be out of business. It is a marketing ploy. All such days celebrated in name of ‘love of mother’, ‘love for father,’ etc. are nothing but a means to fill more pockets. There really are no true sentiments involved. It is what makes the world go round anymore. Earlier on, back in the days, we used to value the phrase, “Love makes the world go wrong.” Sadly, this is no longer the case. Today we are impressed by the wealth of the kuffar (disbelievers) and want to follow suit with their lifestyle and celebrations. In fact, we as Muslims get even more carried away in the show off especially when it comes to spending on our marriages and such happy occasions.

However, the religion of Islam and its principle values and fundamental teachings are still to stay with the basics. Islam provides a structure that is balanced, complete and structured. Whereas now Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand theory is inadequate and indicates possibility of greed in its implementation suggests that:

“The invisible hand theory basically tries to convey that without any intervention, if all individuals in the economy act in their best self-interest, the result is automatically in the best interests of the economy. The results will always be better than those of a centrally planned and regulated economy.” [2]

Islam promotes the idea of sharing and spreading of wealth. It is an economic system that many economic theories idealize where the have-nots receive from those who have been blessed and considered the rich in the community through sadaqat and zakat. The most beautiful thing in the giving of the rich is that their wealth is not decreased rather Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) puts barakah in it and increases it manifold. A verse of the Qur’an beautifully explains our religion. Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) says:

الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا

This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.
[Al-Maidah: 3]

The ideologies given in Islam with regards to spending in general is very balanced and controlled. Islam teaches us the concept of being satisfied with what Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) has given. There is no hoarding. We witness this every year during the month of Ramadan.

Yet, as Ramadan has ended and as we quickly transit back to what is our “real world,” we see the influence of the Western ideologies in our lives once again. One of the ways this is manifested is through our spending styles especially on happy occasions, celebrations of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc. The West has slowly through marketing and media “educated” the Muslims that the way to go is to spend and when you spend, you “feel better.” As the definition of consumerism states above, the wellness and the happiness of an individual is in the having of material possessions. This is not the essence given to us Muslims in the teachings of Islam.

Ironically, we see that the theory of materialism is faulty. We learn through The Easterlin Paradox  that massive gains in wealth in societies have not caused corresponding increases in happiness. This is true both in time series for single countries, and for cross sectional studies across countries. There is no relationship between the wealth of nations and happiness. [3] (Zaman, Can Money Buy Happiness, 2018)

Commercialism promotes the concept of what is known as israf in Islam. Let’s take a moment to understand what the meaning of israf is. Islamicmarkets.com describes Israf as the following: Israf refers to immoderateness, exaggeration and waste and covers spending on lawful objects but exceeding moderation in quantity or quality. [4]

Israf is also spending more on superfluous objects while the basic necessities are not fulfilled. It is the wanton spending consumption and production. For example, you already have three pair of shoes, one in each color maybe that is what you need. Yet, you go out see another few pairs of black shoes, think that you need another one or if it is on sale, you hoard and purchase it. This is what falls under the category of over-spending or israf. Another everyday example is that there is food cooked at home, a dish that is considered decent or even lavish by standards of a poor family. Yet, the family decides to eat or order in having the food at home either go to waste or left over and eventually wasted.

Consumerism Vs. Islam

It is important that it be pointed out that this is totally against the concept of our religion which promotes qinat ( قناعت ); that is being satisfied with what one has. Consumerism promotes the love for duniya. That does not mean that from now we all start wearing scruffy clothes, withdraw from people or continue to sit in a corner on our musallah the whole day. Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) is pleased with the one who has been blessed with the worldly gain and that individual uses it to live a good life. All material benefits are a gift from Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) and He likes it when an individual avails of the blessings. In a hadith we learn: Jabir (RadiaAllahu Anhu) reported: The Messenger of Allah, ﷺ  said:

 إِنَّ اللَّهَ جَمِيلٌ يُحِبُّ الْجَمَالَ وَيُحِبُّ مَعَالِيَ الْأُمُورِ وَيَكْرَهُ سَفْسَافَهَا

 “Verily, Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. He loves the loftiest of affairs and disapproves of pettiness.

Alongside, Islam advices balance in all walks of life and that includes spending. It advocates zuhd (ascetism) which is defined as the following in Islamqa.com:[5]

Zuhd is shunning that which is haram and that which Allah hates; avoiding shows of luxury and overindulging in worldly pleasures; focusing on doing acts of worship; and making the best preparation for the Hereafter.

This balance is given to us through verses of the Qur’an in the following verse where we ask for the goodness of both the worlds yet the inclination is towards the Hereafter and not the worldly gain. Two part of this dua is asking for the Hereafter whereas only one part is asking for this world.

رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِىْ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِىْ الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَّقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّار

Our Lord! Give us in this world [that which is] good and in the Hereafter [that which is] good and protect us from the punishment of the Fire.

Also we learn that one of the characteristics of the servants of Ar-Rahman is that they do the following:

وَالَّذِينَ إِذَا أَنفَقُوا لَمْ يُسْرِفُوا وَلَمْ يَقْتُرُوا وَكَانَ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ قَوَامًا

And [they are] those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but are ever, between that, [justly] moderate
[Al-Furqan: 67]

This spending is for all our walks of life including our eating, living, clothing and working. There needs to be moderation and that is the key to a healthy emotional balance as well as being physically sound.

A great scholar, Muhammad Bin Ibrahim Bin Abdullah Al-Tuwaijri in his book, Fiqh-ul-Qulub talks about what happens when a man indulges in the luxuries:

وإذا عاش الإنسان مع الأسباب بدون الإیمان نزلت به خمس عقوبات، كل واحدۃ أشد مما قبلها

And if a person lives with causes (i.e resources or means) without faith, (i.e without having spent with iman) five punishments are inflicted on him, each one more severe than the one before it:

  1. : الإسراف  Overspending
  2. : التبذير Wasteful spending
  3. الإجرام : Crime
  4. العقوبة والتدمير: Punishment and Destruction
  5. التراف: Luxury

We do not think of spending on material things in a manner that is redundant and as something that may displease Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ). A verse in the Qur’an makes this evident for us:

يَقُوْلُ اَهْلَكْتُ مَالًا لُّبَدًا

He says, “I have spent wealth in abundance.”
[Al-Balad: 6]

This is the unnecessary spending that is spoken of here. This wealth was spent in a manner that is displeasing to Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) and was not shared with those who were deserving of the help.

We ought to know that the material things given to us are a blessing but we ought to also know that they are a test for us. Muslims must practice moderation in spending and use our material blessings and skills in the path of Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) and use them to earn Jannah. A part of the beautiful masnoon dua is to ask Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) to help us make good decisions on the use of our resources:

اللَّهُمَّ مَا رَزَقْتَنِي مِمَّا أُحِبُّ فَاجْعَلْهُ قُوَّةً لِي فِيمَا تُحِبُّ

O Allah, whatever you have provided me from what I love, make it strength for me for that which you love.
(Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3491)

May Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) make us those who are mindful of our blessings and we are given the ability to use it in ways that please our Creator the most. Aameen.

[1] https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/consumerism.asp

[2] https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/knowledge/economics/what-is-invisible-hand/


[4] https://islamicmarkets.com/dictionary/i/israf

[5] https://islamqa.info/en/answers/105352/what-is-zuhd-asceticism