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Spending Money – Between Miserliness & Extravagance


Just hearing the word conjures up images of self-indulgence, luxury, and resplendence.

We perceive money to be our gateway to happiness: a means of getting all of our desires and wishes fulfilled. I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that almost everyone likes or gets pleased at the prospect of having more money at their disposal, to spend as they wish.

In Islam, money is considered provision and a trust from Allah. Muslims are allowed to earn money or acquire wealth only via permissible means, such as through trade, business, employment, and inheritance. Lending and borrowing is discouraged, if spent in impermissible ways and on things that are not allowed. Islam also disallows extravagance, wastage, and squandering of money (or any other kind of wealth) on things or avenues that are not beneficial. Charity is actively encouraged, in open as well as in secret.

Richness Depends on Mindset

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Most of the time, a person’s spending and saving habits are a result of their money mindset, or their beliefs and ingrained thoughts about money. This mindset is acquired by and large through their childhood experiences, especially as a result of the way their parents trained them about money when they were growing up. Consequently, this mindset should change with the progression of age, life experience, financial circumstances, knowledge of the world, and understanding of Islam. However, in my personal observations, I have noticed that most people stick to their childhood money mindset by default, unless they proactively try to change the way they think about money.

Many of us believe that having more money will make us more happy. We also believe that having more money automatically translates to a more luxurious standard of living and a better quality of life. That is why, most of us go to great lengths to earn more and more, and pursue a socially prestigious lifestyle. We desire the publicly visible brand labels and tags, the assets and possessions, which will not only keep poverty, hardship, and social debasement at bay, but also get us that extra, highly coveted “oomph” factor in all our social dealings with people, in all spheres of life.

Islam encourages us to earn enough money to meet our needs, so as to never have to ask anyone for financial help. We are also obliged to financially support not just our own selves, but also our legal dependents, in a moderate manner. However, despite the desirability of money as the necessary “oil” that keeps the machinery of everyday life running smoothly, we should remember that, in Islam, pomp, show, arrogance, conceit, and showing off of wealth are all highly disliked. We should not buy something expensive just to show it off to people and to garner their praise and admiration. If we do that, it indicates that there is something wrong with our hearts.

That being said, Allah has created economic disparity in human society Himself, since time immemorial. Meaning, there will always exist different social classes in any society, from which people will hail, and these classes will differ on the basis of income, wealth, lineage, education, profession, asset ownership, and political power, to name a few factors. The higher the social class, the more influence it will have over the classes below it. Allah created this disparity Himself, to allow different people to work for one and other, and thus earn money through the provision of goods and services.

Check Your Heart

Whether and how our heart, attitude, mindset, behavior, spending habits, and treatment of others change according to the amount of wealth that we own, and as a result of our upward transitions on social, corporate, and political ladders, is of critical importance in determining whether money and wealth have proved to be a boon or a bane for our faith and practice of Islam.

For most who are not wary of guarding their heart from spiritual diseases, acquisition of wealth can quickly lead to arrogance, showing off, and conceit. They can begin to look down upon others who hail from lower social classes.

As Muslims, we should keep some points in mind when it comes to money:

– Hoarding and miserliness is frowned upon in Islam, and disliked by Allah. Allah has stated in the Qur’an, that spending from one’s provision with good intentions, is the means of ensuring that more provision comes from Allah.

– Whether spending of a certain amount of money is extravagance or not, is something that is relative i.e. it depends on the spender’s needs, financial wealth, and assets. It could be, for example, that a villager considers traveling via Business Class in an airline to be a waste of money, but for an heir, it could be the norm, because of their security/privacy needs and level of wealth. Since we do not know the reality of another person’s situation, we should refrain from judging them for their spending habits.

– Spending money to compete for social prestige, one-up someone else, or to show off, are blameworthy actions as a Muslim. This kind of spending happens subconsciously, especially among peers and families, so one must be conscious not to be get sucked into the race.

Conclusion: The Middle Path

In order to treat our money as the valuable trust from Allah that it is, we need to tread the middle path that exists between miserliness and extravagance. A Muslim does not consider spending in the way of Allah as an “expense”; rather, he or she considers it an honor and a righteous deed to spend on those people’s needs or on things that Allah has commanded them to spend upon.

They also help needy people around the world, especially Muslims, by giving regular charity. They save some money aside for the future, but do not hoard. Most importantly, they do not let money become the primary factor in determining the foundation and health of their relationships, either with family members, or with their community.

Combined with the sincerity of faith in their hearts, as they continue to spend in the way of Allah according to His pleasure, their money and other forms of provision grow and increase over time, and stay blessed.