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Should Religious People Be Materialistic?

13 July, 2017
Q Hope you can answer my question: Why does Islam give importance to material and matter? A religion should be more spiritual. I don’t mean to be offensive, but I need to understand how you look at things. Thank you in advance.


Salam (Peace) Dear Adam,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam

In fact, it is a unique feature of Islam that it does not divide life into watertight compartments of matter and spirit! It stands not for life-denial, but for life-fulfillment.

Islam does not teach in asceticism. It does not ask man to avoid material things. It holds that spiritual elevation is to be achieved by living piously in the rough and tumble of life and not by renouncing the world. The Quran advises us to supplicate and pray as follows:

… Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and defend us from the torment of the Fire! (Quran 2:201)

Also Allah strongly criticizes those who refuse to benefit from His blessings. The Quran says:

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Say: Who hath forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of God, which He hath produced for His servants, and the things, clean and pure, (which He hath provided) for sustenance? Say: They are, in the life of this world, for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Judgment. Thus do We explain the signs in detail for those who understand. (Quran 7:32)

On the other hand, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

A Muslim who lives in the midst of society and bears with patience the afflictions that come to him is better than the one who shuns society and cannot bear any wrong done to him.

He also directed Muslims to keep the balance by saying:

Keep fast and break it (at the proper time) and stand in prayer and devotion (in the night) and have sleep – for your body has its rights over you, and your eyes rights over you, and your wife has a claim upon you, and the person who pays a visit to you has a claim upon you.

Thus, what I am trying to clarify, Adam, is that Islam does not admit any separation between “material” and “moral”, “mundane” and “spiritual” life. Islam teaches us that moral and material powers must be welded together.

Spiritual salvation, dear friend, can be achieved by using material resources for the good of man in the service of just ends, and not by living a life of asceticism or by running away from the challenges of life!

Haven’t you noticed that the world has suffered enough at the hands of the “brilliant” one-sidedness of different ideologies? Some have laid emphasis on the spiritual side of life but have ignored its material and mundane aspects. They have looked upon the world as an illusion, a deception, and a trap!

On the other hand, materialistic ideologies have totally ignored the spiritual and moral side of life and have dismissed it as fictitious and imaginary. Both these attitudes have spelled disaster. They have robbed mankind of peace, contentment, and tranquility.

This was due to the disequilibrium or dis-balance produced by one-sided ideologies.

For example, the Modern Western Civilization was really successful in building a nobly proportioned outer structure. Yet, it has neglected the essential requirement of an inner order!

It has carefully designed, decorated and made clean the outside of the cup; but the inside was full of extortion and excess! It used the increased knowledge and power to administer to the comforts of the body, but left the spirit impoverished!

Well, Adam, Islam aims at establishing equilibrium between these two aspects of life – the material and the spiritual. It says that everything in the world is for man – but man himself is for the service of a higher purpose.

This is the establishment of a moral and just order, so as to fulfill the Will of God. Its teachings cater for the spiritual as well as the temporal needs of man.

Islam urges man to purify his soul and to give supremacy of virtue over vice. Thus, Islam simply stands for the middle path and the goal of producing a moral man in the service of a just society.

Adam, I hope my answer satisfies you. If you need to know more about the topic, please refer to the following book, from which the above was taken: Basic Characteristics of Islamic Ideology, by Khurshid Ahmad 

Thank you again for your question, and always come back to us – you are always most welcome.


This answer is from AboutIslam’s archives and was published earlier

Satisfy your curiosity by checking out these other helpful links:

Materialism – Thought Provoking


Finding the Perfect Balance


Spirituality in Contemporary Time

About Sister Dalia Salaheldin
Sister Dalia Salaheldin is: - An instructor and consultant of interfaith & intercultural Dialogue - A speaker and orator on interfaith and intercultural discourse - An instructor of Arabic and Quranic language at the American University in Cairo - A trainer of interfaith and intercultural discourse and dialogue - A founder of Reading Islam Website - A bilingual writer and proem poet - A social and political activist who has traveled through the world widely - A human development adviser and alternative medicine practitioner