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FaithSociety

Consumerism and Warnings from the Merciful (SWT)

315
FaithSociety

Consumerism and Warnings from the Merciful (SWT)

The fundamental reason for consumerism is the common belief that we are buying comfort and pleasure and ultimately happiness. The sad reality is that the search for comfort and pleasure in this way has serious consequences for humanity such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness of the soul.

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The fundamental reason for consumerism is the common belief that we are buying comfort and pleasure and ultimately happiness. The sad reality is that the search for comfort and pleasure in this way has serious consequences for humanity such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness of the soul.

“See you not that whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth, and the sun , and the moon, and the stars , and the mountains, and the trees, and living creatures , beasts and many of mankind prostate themselves to Allah…”  (Quran; 22:18) [1]

This Quranic verse aroused my curiosity in order to find the commonality in the commandments of Allah (SWT) related to nature and human beings. The first connection that I could make is that both nature and human beings are created to be in constant movement, which means dynamic and imbalanced systems.

I understood that the earth is imbalanced in energy because the sun does not equally warm up the different regions of the earth. This “gradient” in energy is responsible for the different natural flows. As for humanity, the inequity is due to the fact that Allah (SWT) also created us within a “gradient” of wealth including finances, material elements, health, appearance, intelligence to learn, and the ability to master different skills. 

Moreover, based on the two Quranic verses (55:7 and 15:21) [1] used to perceive the divine science and a spiritual view of movements in nature, I came also to understand that Allah (SWT) installs balance both between different regions of the earth and between people by establishing two divine laws of charity in order to create justice between the rich and the poor and harmony in the universe and humanity. 

While nature is created to obey the Divine Laws of Charity, human beings are born with the ability to think and the freedom to obey or not the Divine commandments. In this perspective, striving to satisfy physiological needs, security, connection to other human beings, esteem, and reaching one’s full potential are the driving forces behind corresponding social and professional activities. As consumption is closely connected to selfishness and an opposing concept to charity, this social activity and its consequences are investigated in this paper. 

Consumerism, Marketing, and Loans

“And man has been created weak (lacking firmness to control his vain desires and passions)” — (Quran; 4:28) [1]

As shown in Figure 1, in terms of esteem, students transition through a social flow of education to prepare for their careers. In their quest to achieve security in life, people follow the social flow for professional activities. To meet their physiological needs, people engage in the “flow of consumption” that leads them to shopping and buying, and they spend time with family members, friends, and neighbors for the flow of love and belonging. Finally, according to self-actualization, individuals who are highly creative demonstrate the desire to resolve dichotomies inherent in ultimate contradictions, such as life versus death and freedom versus determinism [2].  

The application of the universal law of dynamic systems for social flows of any social or professional activity could be represented as:  

In this social flow of consumption, people are motivated to spend their money in order to buy required goods, defined as “utilities”. On the other hand, the amount of funds spent depends on personal income. In general, when income is lower, less spending occurs. Therefore, the personal income could be seen as a “conductor” for shopping and, by consequence, the inverse of income could be interpreted as the resistance to shopping. Finally, for any shopping activity, the flow of consumption (FC1) could be qualitatively described by Equation (2) [3]: 

“O children of Adam, take your adornment while praying, and eat and drink, but waste not by extravagance. Certainly, He likes not those who commit extravagance.” — (Quran; 7:31) [1]

In order to compete in this consumption-based economy, companies started to focus on using advertisements for their products as a tactic to influence the mind of the public, and to encourage them to spend more money. By influencing the consumers’ preferences and behavior to become impulse buyers instead of only buying necessities (utility). As a result, marketing increases the driving force for buying and by consequence, the flow of consumption will become the flow of overconsumption  as described by Equation (3) [3]:

“Then on that Day you shall be asked about the delights.” — (Quran; 102:8) [1] 

Moreover, loans were introduced by banks and companies as an “artificial income”, thereby falsely boosting the disposable income of consumers. As a result, some statistics show that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. That means that many of us have closets full of clothes that we no longer like or no longer fit us properly [4]. The corresponding flow of consumerism could be qualitatively described by Equation (4) [3]:

The fundamental reason for consumerism is the common belief that we are buying comfort and pleasure and ultimately happiness. The sad reality is that the search for comfort and pleasure in this way has serious consequences for humanity such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness of the soul. For example, the research paper “The High Price of Materialism” [5] shows that people who manage their lives around extrinsic goals such as product acquisition are likely to experience greater unhappiness in relationships, poorer moods, and more psychological problems.

Closer to us, Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) voices warnings about the consequences of being attached to material possessions: “Be happy, and hope for what will please you. By God, I am not afraid that you will be poor, but I fear that worldly wealth will be bestowed upon you as it was bestowed upon those who lived before you. So you will compete amongst yourselves for it, as they competed for it and it will destroy you as it did them” [6].  

Warnings From the Merciful (SWT)

“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” — (Quran; 51:56) [1]

Consumerism, enhanced by marketing and loans, could be explained by the fact that the goal of companies and banks is always to maximize their profits in order to stay competitive. However, in contradiction with the 1st Divine Law of Charity imposed by Allah (SWT) on the whole universe, money in the flow of consumerism runs from the poor consumers to the rich companies and banks (Figure 2). 

Indeed, after being influenced by marketing to buy more than is needed, it’s common to become trapped in a debt cycle of repaying companies credit debt for goods that may even have become worn or worthless. The other results of this self-centered human tendency are extensive: the increasing gap between poor and rich, the rise of poverty worldwide, the human emigration flows to rich countries, crimes, and wars.

“And do not do mischief on the earth after it has been set in order.” — (Quran; 7:56) [1]

Moreover, based on this Quranic verse, the increasing amount of carbon dioxide emissions caused mainly by consumerism is disrupting the chemical order imposed by Allah (SWT) on the atmosphere. This chemical disturbance is causing natural disasters because it is becoming more difficult for nature to reach a new balanced state. In this topic, scientists at the COP 21 have warned us that the outcomes of global warming include increased risk of drought and increased intensity of storms, including tropical cyclones with higher wind speeds, a wetter Asian monsoon, and, possibly, more intense mid-latitude storms [7].

“Evil (sins and disobedience of Allah, etc.) has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds, etc.), that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allah, and begging His Pardon).” — (Quran; 30:41) [1]

Every day, new evidence of our unsustainable impact on the environment is emerging. We can’t have a prosperous future on a depleted planet, and all signs are pointing to human activity is driving the Earth to the edge. In reality, this increasing intensity of natural disasters could just be a global warning as a bitter medicine from The Merciful (SWT) through nature in order to cure our plague called “consumerism”.

Indeed, looking for solutions to global warming, the IPCC’s report indicates that behavioral changes could reduce energy demand by up to 20% in the short term and by up to 50% of present levels by midcentury [7]. The significance of these statistics suggests that future events on the planet depend more on our daily attitudes than on the advancement of technologies. This is now supported by the recent coronavirus pandemic that could be another global warning from The Merciful (SWT) to force humanity to change the lifestyle based on consumerism. Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has obliged countries around the world to scale down economic activities. As a positive result, global carbon dioxide emissions have significantly decreased [8].  

According to this Quranic verse “Truly, Allah is full of kindness, the Most Merciful towards mankind” (Quran; 2:143) [1], the wisdom that will save humanity is to obey the Divine Laws of Charity of the Merciful (SWT) who created us and certainly knows what is best for us. It is time to shift from consumerism to charity-based societies. For example, in order to reduce consumerism and its consequences on human health and nature, some people are already adopting “minimalist” lifestyles [4]. The most important benefits of this way of life are reducing waste to help the environment, decreasing global carbon dioxide emissions, and saving money and time used for excess consumption for charity-based activities. 

On a last note, The Merciful (SWT) says: “Verily, along with every hardship is relief. So, when you have finished your occupation, devote yourself to Allah’s worship. And to your Lord (Alone) turn your intentions and hopes” — (Quran, 94:6-8) [1].


References

[1] Interpretation of the meanings of the Noble Quran by Dr. Muhammad Taqui-ud-Din Al Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, DARUSSALAM (1996).

[2] McLeod, S. A. (2018, May 21). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html.

[3] Zin Eddine Dadach, 2019; Effects of marketing, bank loan and credit debt on consumer spending: Mathematical models based on an engineering concept, Grin Publishing.

[4] Joshua Becker, 7 Ways to Sample Living with Less, becoming minimalist,  https://www.becomingminimalist.com/minimalist-living/.

[5] Theresa Domagalski and Tim Kasser (2002); The High Price of Materialism; The Academy of Management Review 29(1):135.

[6] Quranic Definitions and Hadith Al-muflihûn, ridwân, Happiness in Islam, in Living Islam https://www.livingislam.org/k/qdh_e.html.

[7] The Impact of Climate Change on Natural Disasters, Earth Observatory, 2017.

[8] Jeff Tollefson, How the coronavirus pandemic slashed carbon emissions — in five graphs, Nature news, May 20, 2020. 

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