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LifeSociety

Why We Need More Minimalist Muslims

361
LifeSociety

Why We Need More Minimalist Muslims

It may be difficult to say no to the latest trend, to resist that late-night purchase, but imagine that we diverted just one-third of our usual material expenditure to the way of Allah (swt). What if we asked for donations to our favourite charity, instead of a mountain of gifts?

361

It may be difficult to say no to the latest trend, to resist that late-night purchase, but imagine that we diverted just one-third of our usual material expenditure to the way of Allah (swt). What if we asked for donations to our favourite charity, instead of a mountain of gifts?

“O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.” Al-A’raf (7:31)

Perhaps now more than ever we are reminded of our habit to accumulate material wealth. After half a year of spending most of our time in our homes, many of us have may have started to analyse these spaces that we previously only used for rest – now our work and social spaces.

For some of us, a room full of our prized possessions is a source of great comfort. Layers upon layers of cushions on our bed, a gaming chair, scented candles, a tower of our favourite reads; they all serve a purpose. We may not use them, but it sure is a comfort that they are there – gifts from loved ones or little treats to ourselves. But how much of it do we really require to feel “at home” and at what point does comfort become excess?

Those wardrobes of clothes not worn for years, books not opened for decades, that rice cooker mum bought for us – never opened. If you have an Amazon account, you’re probably familiar with that twinge of guilt one feels when that list of unnecessary goods piles up. Offers of almost instant delivery and free returns draw us in ever closer to late-night purchases, complete with a consumer hangover the next morning, “Do I really need that USB mug heater?”. 

The struggle of trying to find the balance between modesty and excess is, of course, not limited to the 21st century. A divide between rich and poor has been a hallmark of our species since the foundation of early civilizations. But if we simply look back to the behaviours of our grandparents, we see that there has been a significant shift in consumer habits over just a couple of generations. The birth of a mass middle-class around the world, as well as the availability of credit cards and no-questions-asked loans are surely fuelling our thirst to buy and sell at an ever-increasing rate.

On the contrary, however, an idea of minimalism has seen a rise in popularity in recent years. Taking tips from Japanese and Scandinavian cultures, a fashion of empty walls with mellow colour schemes and a stripping away of excessive bling has become fashionable across the West. 

But how does the new minimalist trend fit into our faith? How can we as Muslims know where to draw the line between necessity and greed?

It has been reported that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said to Aisha: “A’isha, if you want to be joined with me, take of this world as little as a rider’s provisions, beware of associating with the rich, and do not deem a garment worn out until you have patched it”. What a strong statement to make to the “Mother of the Believers”, that she should commit to such a minimalist lifestyle – even going as far as to warn her of mixing with those who accumulate material wealth.

It was also narrated by Anas, with regards to the wedding of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Safiya: “Then, when we were on the road, Umm Sulaim prepared her (Safiya) for him (the Prophet) and brought her to him at night, and so the Prophet awoke the next morning a new bridegroom. Then he said: ‘Whoever has something, let him bring it.’ (In another version, he said ‘Whoever has an excess of provisions, let him bring it.’)

Anas continues: “And so the leather eating mats were spread out and one man would bring dried milk, another dates and another clarified butter and so they made Hais. The people then ate of this hais and drank from pools of rainwater which were nearby, and that was the wedding feast of the Prophet.” (Al-Bukhârî, Muslims and others). Not only for the daily life of the Prophet (pbuh) and the Sahabah, but also during times of great joy and festivity such as a wedding night that the utilising of material wealth was kept to a minimum.

As a revert to Islam, the little contact I have with Islamic culture is often via social media and the odd trip to the Middle East. But I can’t recall once seeing a modest reflection of this Sunnah of such a wedding “feast”. Our Facebook and Instagram feeds often sparkle with the pomp and excess of faux Bollywood and Hollywood ceremonies – modesty takes a back seat.

It may be difficult to say no to the latest trend, to resist that late-night purchase, but imagine that we diverted just one-third of our usual material expenditure to the way of Allah (swt). What if we asked for donations to our favourite charity, instead of a mountain of gifts? What if we cancelled one of our subscriptions and made it a donation to our local Masjid – who desperately need it in these challenging times?


Sources

Stowasser, B. F. (1994). In Women in the Qur’an, Traditions, and Interpretation.

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