Yes, I have felt that urge too. The latest movie is out and I just have to watch it, even though I’m short of money.
Plenty of clothes are gathering dust in my wardrobe, but I just have to buy that one. I can’t be happy without it.
No matter how many things we own, there’s always something out there that we want to get. We just have to have that next thing. Our happiness depends on it.
But once we get our hands on it, by some extraordinary transformation, that thing loses its power to influence our happiness; and the power somehow gets transferred to the next thing out there demanding our admiration.
Don’t you think all the advertisement you’re bombarded with every day – popping out on your phone while trying to watch a YouTube video, demanding your attention on flashing billboards, peeking at you out of the TV while you’re changing channels – has any effect on you? Why do you suddenly want to watch that particular movie or buy that particular phone?
You’re being influenced, perhaps even without your being aware of it. That discontent you feel with your lot in life – much of it is created from outside influence.
Gratitude and Contentment
But what’s wrong with wanting things, one might ask? It’s not forbidden in Islam to want things that are halal, is it? It’s not bad to want a new phone even if you already have a good one.
But think about it. Someone already has a fully functioning phone that’s giving him good service. And yet he’s not content with it. He wants something else. What does that tell you about his focus in life? About what is important to him?
He is just one step away from being ungrateful for what he has, and fretting over what he doesn’t have. The glass always looks half empty and is never half full.
Allah says in the Quran:
If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe. (Quran, 14:7)
Want vs. Need
When you feel the urge to have something, think before you decide to get it. Is it something you really need? Or is it only a desire? Why do you want this thing? Is it really going to benefit you? Is it worth the time and resources that you will have to spend on it?
Each of us only has a limited amount of time and resources. To make the best use of them, occupy your time with things that really matter.
Be the Shepherd, Not the Sheep
Do you know what’s common about all the Prophets and messengers who ever came to this world? They were all shepherds and not sheep. And they were trendsetters of their nation. They told people what’s cool and what isn’t. They defied the trends set by the elites of their people.
Whilst others followed the social norms blindly, they used their brains and sorted out the good norms from the bad and never thought twice of throwing the latter into the garbage bin.
Take the example of Prophet David (peace be upon him). He was a king, and yet he earned his own living and lived a simple life. He used to fast every other day; and he was a true worshiper of Allah. He chose to devote his limited time and resources into things that really matter.
Be like the Prophets and the messengers, the coolest people ever created by Allah.
The Benefit of Being Content with Less
A simple lifestyle is not only a dictate of a fourteen-hundred-year-old religion. Islam is evergreen, and its teachings are as trendy in modern times as they used to be back during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Minimalism is a modern trend and is backed by science. Embracing a minimalist lifestyle can declutter not only your wardrobe but also your mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and even make you more creative. And of course, you’ll save some money for spending in things that really matter.
What are the things that really matter?
So whatever thing you have been given – it is but [for] enjoyment of the worldly life. But what is with Allah is better and more lasting for those who have believed and upon their Lord rely. (42:36)
Do you want to be rich? According to the Prophet Muhammad, being rich doesn’t mean owning a lot. A truly rich person is one who is content. (At-Tirmidhi 2373)
Do you want to be successful? The Prophet Muhammad defined success with three conditions:
- Acceptance of Islam
- Having enough to suffice one’s wants
- Being content with what one has. (Muslim 1054)
Interestingly, in a hadith Qudsi we find that, if you devote yourself to (1), then Allah takes care of (2) and (3).
In other words, if you devote your limited time and resources into worshiping Allah in the correct way, then Allah will take care of your poverty and make you content. (Ibn Majah 4107)