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Islam and Consumerism (2)

5 Tips to Deal with Consumerism

In the previous part, we talked about Islam’s stance on consumerism. The article explained the general guidelines and the Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to spending money.

The problem is: it is not enough to educate the reader about the “what” (i.e. whether something is desirable Islamically or not), we need to always provide solutions. We need to discuss the “how” and try to provide some practical tips to fight the plague of consumerism, or at least minimize its effect on us and on people surrounding us.

It would be great if you can share your thoughts and suggest more practical tips with others.

1. Keep yourself busy with what matters

Spending hours in the malls and being obsessed with good deals is an implication of an empty and purposeless life.

Muslims are – by definition – men on a mission on this earth. They should constantly try to improve their lives and the lives of others.

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Therefore, my first advice is to get your sense of satisfaction from what you actually do, from your own deeds towards your Lord and towards His creation, not from your personal belongings. Allah says in the Quran:

{And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives.

And that his effort is going to be seen .

Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest return.} (An-Najm 53:39-41)

In other words: keep yourself busy with what you will actually take with you when you go, rather than collecting stuff that will not accompany you to the afterlife.

2. Stop keeping up with the Joneses

A major aspect of shopping is showing off and competing with others, bigger TVs, higher resolution, more Gigabytes of data, faster internet speed, even if we don’t need all those added features.

Of course all of this is driven by feelings of envy and jealousy. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us this supplication, and recommended us to repeat it every morning and evening:

“O Allah , whatever blessing has been received by me in this morning (or evening) or anyone of Your creation is from You alone , with no partners; so All praise is for you and all thanks is to You.”

If you think about it: it is really amazing: Islam teaches us first of all to be happy with what we have, and to thank Allah for it. Not only that, we have to be happy with what OTHERS have, and be thankful to Allah for blessing them with that.

3. Don’t get me wrong, malls are not that evil!

Islam is a justly balanced religion. Never understand from this article that living a life of luxury is discouraged or disliked. The challenge is to own the worldly material in your hands and not in your heart.

The real challenge is to buy new stuff and dress good and stay up-to-date with the world around you, but without being owned by it.

So go ahead and get that good deal, but on your way to JC Penney or Macy’s, remember the supplication when entering the market place:

“La ilaha illa Allahu wahdahu la sharika lahu,

lahu almulku walahu alhamdu,

yuhyi wa yumitu wa huwa hayyun la yamutu, biyadihi al-khair,

wa huwa ‘ala kulli shay’in qadir.”

English Translation

None has the right to be worshipped but Allah alone, Who has no partner.

His is the dominion and His is the praise.

He brings life and He causes death,

and He is living and does not die.

In His Hand is all good,

and He is Able to do all things.

(At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Maja and ranked hasan (good) by Al-Albani)

In Islam, you can be in continuous worship to Allah 24/7 while enjoying your time and doing what you do.

The wording of the du`aa’ is also impressive: people in the mall have to remember that the malls (and not only the mosques) are parts of Allah’s kingdoms. He alone should be worshiped and He alone is the one who provides and gives.

Moreover, all of us enter any shopping center with a mindset of finding a good deal, saving 20% of an item or trying to get a “buy one, get one free”. The Prophet teaches us that saying this du`aa’ will guarantee you a good deal in that day even if you ended up buying nothing:

“… Allah will write for him one million good deeds, erase from him one million bad deeds, and exalt for him one million levels.”

Man, you can’t beat that, this is why some early scholars (such as Qutaibah Bin Muslim) used to enter the mall only to get the opportunity to say this supplication, and after that he leaves.

4. After you buy your stuff…

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) one time saw Omar wearing a nice, white outfit, so he told him:

“Put on a new dress,

And may you live a praise-worthy life

And may you die (an honorable death) as a martyr” (Ahmad and authenticated by Ahmad Shakir)

This hadith shows exactly the balance that Islam wants:

– Enjoy what you got

– At the same time, aim your life at something higher and bigger than this commodity (point number 1 in this article)

– And finally: yearn to meet Allah in the best possible way, by ending this life as a martyr for the cause of Allah.

Few words in the form of a du`aa’ teach us a whole methodology of the messenger of Allah in setting standards for the companions.

5. Spiritual Training: Fasting

While there is no mention of fasting as a cure for obsession in shopping, there is no argument that it helps in depleting the heart’s addiction towards worldly affairs.

It starts with changing our daily eating and drinking schedule, and its benefits can be extended towards many bad habits (such as excessive shopping).

6. Your thoughts

At this point, I leave it up to you, to advise me and others on practical tips to fight consumerism.

All of us are being victims of the huge advertising monsters that transform people into non-stop consumers who find their happiness in more and more shopping. Write down your ideas in the comments section and share them with this article with those whom you care for.

About Dr. Mohannad Hakeem
Dr. Mohannad Hakeem is an educator, activist, and author who has studied traditionally under multiple scholars in the Muslim world for the past 20 years. He is originally from Lebanon and currently resides in Dearborn, MI, USA, where he has helped establish multiple community initiatives and organizations, with a focus on youth empowerment and education. His most recent book, "The 40 Hadith on Community Service," draws inspiration from the Quran and the Sunnah to provide young Muslims with an "algorithm" for success and excellence in both the worldly life and the afterlife. In his professional career, Dr. Hakeem earned a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. In this role, he has taught several students, conducted research, and authored 80+ patents and technical papers.