May 1, 2012

Stopping Affluenza - Tips On Fighting Consumerism

By An Ghela


Remember when you were a young child and your parents bought you a new toy? You had the sudden urge to take it everywhere. You would show it off to your classmates and rejoice at their admiring comments: “wow that’s so cool”, “I want one”. Well now that we are adults we would like to believe we left that show off little girl behind with all the “mine” tantrums and the hovering of toys. Sadly we come to realize that some of us still love showing off. It has surprisingly become more acceptable in our internet-based society to buy extensively and proudly display our new things. You would now find online videos of people who proudly post their “haul” videos with all their newly acquired items. From makeup, to clothes, to gadgets, to hijabs? Yeah it seems that even the massive shopping sprees of Islamic items are now worth spreading the word around.

But how much is amounting worldly possessions affecting us and our communities? We’ve grown accustomed to the shifts in our societies that had made what was once considered a luxury now a necessity. Some of us will cringe at the mere idea of living without our cellphones or should I now say “smartphones”. But, where does it end? With a new gadget being introduced every couple of months we found ourselves becoming slaves of everything shown to us as the new “must have”.

So why are we so easily driven into consumerism? As with other addictive like behaviors we are compensating what we need with the consumption of material things. I can honestly say that I am guilty of going into a mindless shopping spree as a way to deal with stress or problems. However as Muslims we know that only in the remembrance of our Lord will our hearts find rest.

We know better, we need to be aware that our consumerism behaviors are affecting our mental well-being by turning us into greedy machines that are not satisfied with what we have is affecting our interactions with others; we are so busy with our material possessions we have neglected our social interactions. We are using TVs and computers to raise our children and quick texts to communicate with friends is affecting our environment; this earth has been turned into a landfill full of our “too old for our taste” items is affecting our economy; with our necessities increasing we are being forced to work more and even take loans to afford the type of lifestyles we have made indispensable. Even our schools and parks are being turned into giant shopping malls and our food is being genetically modified to be able to fill our ever so hungry appetites.

So what can we do? Is there a solution to fight the consumerism bug?

Here are some tips and reminders that can help:

1) Beware of what you spend
- The Quran says: "Believers are merely those whose hearts feel wary whenever God is mentioned and whose faith increases when His verses are recited to them. On their Lord do they rely. Those who keep up prayer and spend some of what We have provided them with are truly believers" (Quran 8:2-4). We have to bear in mind that all our provisions come from Allah and that He has entrusted us with this blessing, expecting that we would use it in what is best for us and not in something that would make us fall into sin. Our wealth should be spent in what guards us from vices such as arrogance, gluttony, distrust, greed, etc. Wealth is as much a blessing as it is a test; let us ace it by using it for the sake of our Creator.

2) Remember the inevitable end - “No matter where you may be, death is going to reach you, even if you are in fortified towers” (Quran 4:78) We know that rich and poor will all end up in the same grave and be judged only by their actions. The remembrance of death makes any possession as much beloved as it may be to us completely useless. I often feel sad when I see someone that suffers greatly when he or she losses something or when their valued item is damaged. Things in this life are just mere creations and are prone to being damaged, but when your heart is with your Lord, the vanishing of worldly matters won’t take a toll on your peace of mind.

3) Striving for a Simple life - "And strain not your eyes in longing for the things We have given for enjoyment to various groups of them (polytheists), the splendor of the life in this world, that We may test them thereby." (Quran 20:131). We are all aware of the way our beloved Prophet salAllahu aleyhi wasallam and companions lived, they had only what they needed and lived a simple life as well as gave charity from the little they had. Most of us nowadays have more in our closets and houses than any town in the time of the Sahabas or even in Third World Countries of our times. So next time we are about to buy a new “something” let us ask ourselves if we already have something similar or the same that has not yet become obsolete. Let us question the whole purpose of our purchase. Striving to live a simple life would ultimately turn us into more humble and serene individuals.

4) It all starts from the womb - Parents feel the need to provide their children with everything they didn’t have. From education to nourishment to toys, they often believe the more the better. I’ve recently came across an article about parenting styles in France. Something that stroke near home was the delay of gratification method, which explained how children should not have access to everything they want and they should be asked to wait or even be denied some things at times. It is essential that children are not raised in an environment where they are made to believe all their whims would be fulfilled immediately, opposite to that they should learn that things are obtained through hard labor and that the ultimate happiness lies in the improvement of the spiritual self. We should be more preoccupied in raising the next Imam instead of raising the next Donald Trump.

5) Avoid Wastefulness - “Children of Adam, take your adornment at every place of prayer. Eat and drink, and do not waste. He does not love the wasteful.” (Quran 7:31) Wastefulness is indeed something we should avoid, but how? Well as a first step we should try to avoid having more than what we really need. The excess of things inevitably would create more and more waste. The second step would be donating and recycling items. Do you have extra food that you would not eat? Try sharing it with someone in need, you would be fulfilling your charitable duties and also creating ties with people. Are you one of the sisters that can open her own hijab store? Realistically speaking most of us have more hijabs that we could ever need so why not donate some of them to sisters in need. I’ve came across a great organization called Muslimahs Covered with Care ( that uses Islamic clothing donated by sisters to help newly reverts or sisters that cannot afford Islamic clothing. Let’s follow the example of Aisha radiAllahu anha and save ourselves from hellfire even with half a date.

6) Time is not Money - “By (the Token of) Time, verily Man is in loss. Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy” (Quran 103: 1-3). We indeed have limited time in our hands, and we have been given instructions on what to do with our time. Fortunately these instructions do not include spending hours at malls or internet shopping looking for what we need next. Most of the time the things we purchase serve as distractions from what we should really be doing. So we need to start thinking that time is not money but a gift from Allah to pave our way towards our final resting place. After all, we can have all the things we would like in jannah, no taxes no malfunctions. Isn’t that grand!

7) We are mere travellers - "My similitude and that of the life of this world is that of a traveler who took a rest at mid-day under a shade of a tree and then left it." (Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and al-Hakim) Imagine if you are going away for a week long retreat to a strange and remote place. You would wisely take only what is essential for you, knowing that anything more would only create a burden upon you. The same way we are only on this world for a little while and our primary purpose should be to do our best in order to go back safe and sound where we came from. Your real home is awaiting and you won’t be taking anything from this temporary shelter.

8) Make sure it is halal – I often see how devoutly Muslims check packages of foods to assure themselves there are no haram ingredients in it or anything that may raise a suspicion. However sometimes we fail to dig a little deeper and see how the conditions of the things we buy may contradict our values. What good is if a chicken or cow is certified halal but the conditions that such animal had to endure were horrifying? What if the products that we are blindly buying were made by children in factories that often have human rights violations written all over? We need to be more careful on what we are getting and at the end supporting. There are new initiatives nowadays where you can buy meat from animals that were raised in farms without cages or hormones and they are halal! We could be supporting our Muslim brothers and sisters who are starting their new businesses with the certainty that their products are halal in every single possible way. This way not only our money would go to the right cause but our ummah would thrive.

9) More possessions = less peace of mind – Have you ever seen those who are so wealthy they cannot go buy the newspaper without being surrounded by bodyguards? They would constantly be worried of losing it all or being robbed. They would always doubt if people who approach them are really there for them or for what they have. Who would want that life right? The fact is the more you have the least in peace you become. At the end of the day nothing would ever buy a good night sleep or a clean conscience. Let’s not look at what the rest have but be content with what we have.

I pray that our lives with be fulfilled through the remembrance of Allah ta’ala and that material things become just a provisions through which we could survive in this resting place and strive to our final end inshaa’Allah.

I would appreciate your comments, opinions and if you have any other tips to fight the consumerism bug please be sure to post them in the comments section.


I really liked reading this article; ghela you have raised some extraordinary points. Keep up the great work :)

mashallah ta barak allah perfect

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