- بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
- bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm
- In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
During my college years I had a Christian friend who was devoutly Christian. She converted to the faith after being raised with basically no religion. Upon graduation she did something that I found very hard to understand, she moved into a one bedroom hotel like apartment in an area of town that was not the most safe or inviting.
I found this difficult because she went from sharing a spacious house (with a roommate) to living in an apartment that literally used to be a hotel with only a small window that one could barely open to get some fresh sunlight! This friend had a well-paying job and was on her way to a successful career, so for her to choose to live under such conditions was unbelievable to me. So I asked her one day why doesn’t she live in a better place where she can have windows and not be afraid to go out at night. She laughed and said my parents say the same thing and it’s not what I want.
I soon found out through our conversations that it was her religion that had influenced her to do this. She believed that Christianity meant having to forsake all the comforts of this life (dunya) and making do with little even when you can afford to have more. Basically it was the belief that things are a distraction from the worship of God and that in order to truly be close to Him one has to get rid of all these distractions. At the time I did not understand my own religion well enough (May Allah forgive me) to offer any point of view. Yet even then I knew in my gut that this was not the correct way to get closer to God.
Islam teaches balance. You can have a nice car, a nice house and nice clothes but hoarding these things should not be your main goal in life. As Yasmin Mogahed put it so eloquently these things are just tools to be used to get to the ultimate goal (jannah) and none of the glitter of this life should be in the believer’s heart.
But what does it mean that wealth should not be in the believer’s heart? What kind of behaviors and habits can one watch out for to determine if in fact the glitter of this life is what is in his heart and not the akhira? These questions are what we all should ask ourselves to evaluate our lifestyle from becoming too excessive, for only we can know what is in our hearts (as well as Allah (swt) of course!). Hence, while these questions are for us to answer here are some behaviors I found myself doing so much so that I felt it was a detriment to my end goal. What follows after the list is another list of things one can do to avoid becoming a Muslim who does things other than for the Pleasure of Allah (swt).
1. Going on various store websites while putting together in your head what new outfit would look great and what you should buy next (even though you don’t NEED any of it).
2. Thinking about the next great outfit you will put together so much so that it consumes your whole day and soon you’ve wasted time that could have been used to gain knowledge or do a good deed.
3. Figuring out the defect in other people’s (brand new) house they just bought and making a list in your head of all the things you DON’T want in your own house when you buy one. (Note: the intention of this is to “outdo” others’ houses and not simply to have something that serves your needs)
4. Looking at what others have (i.e. cars, clothes, etc) so much so that you forget to look at their character.
5. Buying something even though you have the same thing at home that works fine but just simply because it is no longer in “style” or it doesn’t suit your “taste” anymore.
Here’s the list of what one can do to try not to become a Muslim who seeks the temporary dunya (this life) rather than the permanent akhira (life after death).
1. Before you buy anything, wait a week or two and see if you can live without it or if you even remember that you needed that “thing” ….chances are you will forget it and the glitter of that thing will fade. Unless you absolutely needed it.
2. If you find yourself buying too many clothes or shoes, do the following:
a. Clean out your closet! Donate what you have not worn for a year.
b. After seeing all the stuff you don’t use, try to use/wear everything you have in your closet at least ONCE before you buy anything else.
c. Look at what you love to wear and even if it is expensive just buy a few of similar pieces. This way, instead of having a bunch of things that are cheap you have just a few things you love to wear over and over again even if they are a bit expensive.
d. If you really want to buy something and can find no reasons why you should: Buy it and gift it to someone else!
By doing so, you’ve just done two things: 1. You wanted for your brother/sister what you want for yourself. 2. You have done something that brings pleasure to the heart of a Muslim…inshaAllah (God willing) you will be rewarded!
3. Busy yourself with doing good deeds (visit the sick, help your mother, visit your neighbor, read a book etc) and you won’t have time to think about buying anything.
4. Remember death. Watch this and imagine your janaza . Will you care how much possessions you have then? Or How many deeds you did for the Pleasure of Allah (swt)? When you remember death, your desire to buy anything completely fades and your focus becomes something far more important than this dunya.
I hope this helps me and all of us who have this problem to stop buying into this consumerism and to focus on what really makes us feel good and what has the most tangible benefits for us: doing things sincerely for the Pleasure of Allah (swt).