Extreme Consumerism: The Great Deception


By Hanaa Hamad

2125697998_b053ac13e1_bEver notice how attached to shopping people have become? How buying new things is now a common hobby? This phenomenon can be condensed into one simple, elusive word: overconsumption. Within the last few decades, it has completely engulfed the American economy. Today, Americans are seemingly obsessed with the superficial. They consume their money until they are in debt, and yet they still want more and more. It becomes a kind of addiction, and like Imam Amir Abdel Malik said, for them “more is not enough.” Even the government has placed itself in an immense fiscal crisis by overspending.  And why is that? Why have so many American Muslims become possessed by consumption and the thought of materialistic gains?

It is the media that is popularizing this interest in a superficial mentality, and the Shaytan is the ultimate infiltrator behind all of this. He has been able to control the minds of the youth by indoctrinating them through the media, inconspicuously teaching them rebellion, carelessness, and materialism. He has succeeded in teaching Americans to do as they wish, nurturing their desires and promoting selfishness and the ideology of “survival of the fittest.” It is evident that young adults in America have been highly influenced by a superficial agenda, and it has caused many Muslims to deviate from Allah’s path. These false worldly desires are created by the Shaytan, and they are all a part of his insidious plan to deceive mankind.

But it isn’t just American Muslims and it isn’t just Americans. It’s a global phenomenon. The whole world is being possessed by it. Heidegger, an influential German philosopher called this ideology “the forgetting of being.” It means to forget one’s soul, to forget one’s self and one’s moral values. It is disappointing that so many of us have forgotten what’s truly important.

Now, none of this is to condemn the idea of spending from the wealth Allah have given us. In Surat Al-Baqarah, in the first few ayahs, Allah states:

“This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah – Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them.” (2:2-3)

We are told to spend on our necessities, on our families – but there is a difference between consumption and overconsumption. A Muslim can tell when he has become a victim of overconsumption when he has difficulty parting with his money in times of giving charity.

My intention is not to rebuke one’s interest to dress nicely; it is to remind that the Rasool ﷺ taught us moderation in everything we do. A Muslim should know when he’s spent enough on himself, and instead contribute to the Islamic injunction of altruism. Because when a Muslim gives zakat for the sole purpose of pleasing Allah, he is purifying his soul just by the act of giving. The Rasool’s ﷺ example was one of immeasurable philanthropy. He lived simply and tied a rock around his stomach to suppress his hunger. This demonstrates how The Rasool ﷺ valued his soul, humility, and his connection to Allah, rather than worldly pleasures.

Being of the youth myself, I can state without hesitation that most of our hobbies consist of the following things: eating out at restaurants, going to the movies, playing video games, surfing the internet and – most commonly – shopping. And there is nothing wrong with Muslims having fun and enjoying their lives. But when these habits become the significance of one’s life, when it interferes with their prayers, and with their connection to Allah, this is when they have become a victim of extreme consumerism and the Shaytan. Their carelessness in the test of life will deepen, and they’ll chase money and popularity. They’ll want it intensely. And when one becomes entangled in the superficial, his materialistic values will supersede his spiritual connection to his Lord.

It is the Muslim’s job to find the logical balance when being a consumer. Do we really need another pair of expensive designer jeans?  Because if one does, then he or she has allowed themselves to yearn for material things more than Allah, and they will love, want, and worship those things more than Allah. This is how one falls away. But where will it take us?

We should not let the superficial mentality overtake us because behind it is the Shaytan. And it doesn’t matter if we didn’t get the most exclusive and expensive pair of designer shoes. Allah judges based on the soul, and the more one purifies his soul by evading the superficial, the more he increases his spiritual wealth. In the end, the spiritual wealth will take us to the best of places.

In Surat Ash-Shams Allah states,

“And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it and inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness, He has succeeded who purifies it, and he has failed who instills it [with corruption].” (91:7-10)

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28 Comments

  1. Ghassan H. says:

    Hanaa, this was a great article! Very well written. It connects with the reader very very well, and applies to us youth. While reading it, I was relating myself to all the points you were making.

    Here are some other related Hadiths I got from Gems of Wisdom that relate to your article:

    “Prosperity should not be measured by material possessions. True wealth is contentment of the heart.”
    (money does not buy happiness. True satisfaction lies in being satisfied with what you have.)

    “Eat, drink, spend, and dress without extravagance or arrogance.”
    (Extravagance is wastefulness while arrogance blinds from the truth)

    “Cursed is the slave of gold and silver”
    (Dont be a slave to money, it has an inherent attraction that can enslave people and ruin their lives. Dont live in pursuit of wealth)

    “Poverty is not what I fear for you. Rather, I fear that the world will open up its treasures for you the way it opened up for those before you. You will compete for it and it will destroy you the way it destroyed them”.
    (Fear excessive luxury. Prosperity has the ability to cause even more problems than poverty. One must learn from the past and be careful not to fall into the same trap that others once fell into)

    “Every community has had a test. The test of my community will be wealth”.
    (Wealth is a test. Wealth is a blessing from God that has been loaned to every individual. They will be held accountable on the Day of Judgement as to how they used it.)

    Inshallah you find my response helpful. I wish you the best of luck Inshallah!

  2. Hadil says:

    This is probably one of the best articles I’ve read on here. Definitely one of my favorites and captured my attention by jumping right to the essential points. Being a young Muslim American myself, I can relate to everything stated on here. Good job I really like it.

  3. Sumer S says:

    Assalamu Alaikum,
    SubhanAllah I completely agree with this article. After witnessing how the people of Gaza, who have next to nothing, sending assistance by providing blankets, food, and other necessities to the people of Haiti, I can’t help but question how am I spending my time and money? Jazak Allah khair for posting this eye opening article. InshAllah we will all work towards strengthening our ummah, not the shaytan.

  4. Great article, I once read a book titled; Born to Buy. It describes how from the cradle we are marketed to via media. Furthermore one should check out the video on youtube, titled Century of the Self. This is a very old video that speaks about how corporate America uses Sigmund Freud (Fraud’s) views and tactics to get you to buy things you will never need. Also check out a movie from Amazon.com called “Brand It.”

  5. Suhaib Webb says:

    Asalamu alaykum,

    Hannaa:

    Great article!

    SDW

  6. Samyra Hamad says:

    Mashallah, amazing article! It was very well written, and I completely agree with this article.

  7. Zaufishan says:

    Excellent reminder.

    Globalisation HAS encultured us with ‘living us to the max’; no there has never been stipulation against living according to one’s socio-economic status, the trick and fools’ trap is GREED, wanting more, taking more, wasting more. This opposes a Muslims’ ‘moderation’ rule – live in moderation, not wasting in excess (when things could be recycled), not falling for commercialism for those trends, never end. Asking yourself EVERY TIME you see something the heart wants to buy: Do I NEED it? If no, walk away.

    I remember the hadith of Rasool’Allah looking at a slightly larger than average man (he had a pot belly) and remarking kindly “That (your extra consumerism – round belly) could be on that (the thinner, poorer, famished man)”…

    Also in the Quran Allah asks ‘What are you chasing? What are you accumulating wealth for?’ (surah Takathur – competing for materialism)

    Marketing plays its role, life IS a monopoly of who can disenfranchise whom the fastest and climb the economic ladder. Debt too, damn you debt!

    Great piece sister Hanaa -smiley- =)

    Zaufishan.

  8. Saifa says:

    Oh I love this article so much.

  9. Suna says:

    I agree with everyone, GREAT ARTICLE!
    If you havent already, you all may want to check out these videos on youtube titled, “THE ARRIVALS”. There are several parts to it, but they are extreme eye openers. I think its about time as Muslim Americans we are made more aware of the deceptions around us.
    Keep up the amazing work!

  10. Deama says:

    Hey Hanaa,

    I actually thought your article was well written, it was very clear and to the point. Also, I think many people in the world needed something to bring them to their conscious level and I think you did that through this article! I look forward to reading more of your articles!

  11. mike says:

    I agree with you essentially; but now we are stuck in catch 22.
    Americans over consume and run the whole world economy. Everyone sells to the US or sell capital goods to make goods for the US. If US stopped buying luxury cars, fancy clothes, cheap electronics etc… India, Pakistan cloth trade would die. German makes cars plus capital goods that everyone from Iran to China uses. China makes sells over 50% its goods to the US.

    If US curtails its overconsumption… the whole world goes into a massive depression.
    Its not going to be pretty. It already started happening and the American govt; leaders are trying to figure out how to stop this. Its slow destructive process; that is going to hurt a lot of people.

  12. Taher H. says:

    Asalamu Alaykum

    JazakiAllahu khairan ya Hanaa! This is very relevant and important to our life today. Many youth actually unconsciously practice bad habits without even noticing. Insh’ Allah this will be used to make people aware of that. Not just the youth, but their parents as well.

    BarakAllah feeki

  13. abu majeed says:

    Our agenda is the underdog but as long as we know what we’re up agianst it is easy to deal with.

    Great article sister. I hope it changes many of our materialistic attachments

  14. Holly Garza says:

    great article and right on time as income tax returns are arriving and about to arrive her in the USA

  15. Wardah says:

    Great article mashAllah!

    Here is another one- Ten Qualities of the Youth Da’ee

    http://ladyinsight.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/ten-qualities-of-the-youth-da%E2%80%99ee/

  16. Shereen A says:

    MashAllah, a very well-written article!

    It raises a good point pertaining to our society today, and the overconsumption we have fallen victim to. We should always remember the Rasool as our qudwa and basis of Islamic knowledge and the simple way he lived his life. Many people would truly be more content if they learned to lives their lives in moderation.

    BarakAllahu feeki sister!

  17. Yasmine says:

    MashAllah! This article discusses such a critical topic and touches on so many important points. Very well written, I’d love to see more from you!

  18. samahir farha says:

    جزاك الله خيرا هناء
    i am very proud of you hanna , i am not proud to say that i am one of these people as well but i needed a reminder that all these materials are not lasting and only our actions are lasting to the judjment day am going to try to improve my self and my family and try to focus on what matters most which is the things that keeps us close to god thanks a lot hanna for opening our eyes, and please continue to educate us great article.

  19. Hend A says:

    Mashallah, very enlightening and proves an excellent point about the flawed and deluded nature of this generation. I can only pray that these desires have not become a veil upon the modesty of our hearts and the purity of our soles. May Allah always keep us strong in our faith and never let shaytan lead us astray. amen.

  20. mysterygirl says:

    mashAllah such a wonderful article, I am impressed. :)

  21. Ashhab Ashraf says:

    a must hear eye opening lecture about the topic mentioned here “COCA COLA MUSLIMS” -by Abdur Raheem Green….

    must hear it, just google it for the mp3.

  22. Aisha says:

    Salaam Hanaa, You made me shiver… thank you for sending this message out to our youth and families of our society we really need a wake up call. I was actually putting myself in place of some of the things you mentioned about how many individuals are wanting to live materialistically rather then living moderately and simple. We all need a reminder so thank you. I look forward into reading more articles.

  23. Mr. G. Hussein says:

    This article was very well written. It brings up very important messages and truly does connect with the youth. Thanks for the eye opener!

  24. Br. Corey says:

    Assalaamu alaykum,

    JazakAllahu khair for the article… It has served as a good reminder for me, and prompted me to take action on something I had been procrastinating doing. May Allah(swt) reward you

    -Corey

  25. Sanaa says:

    i like ur article. very good. this is one topic people choose to ignore and they try to out do what those around them do. we all must remember when we die non of this world is going with us, so having the biggest house or the best car means nothing to Allah swt

  26. Derrick Peat says:

    Nice post! Masha’Allah.

  27. Um Sumayyah says:

    well said indeed. loved this article, ma sha’ Allah.

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