By Hanaa Hamad
Ever 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)