Sounds familiar? Many kids often plead with their parents about what they want; in the past it was toys and now it’s usually more expensive gadgets such as the latest phone etc. As adults, we also sometimes give in to impulses and buy things well beyond our means, perhaps a very expensive car or items of clothing. Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with having expensive items if it is within ones affordability and they are also paying the Zakat and Khums on wealth; however the problem arises when this goes to excess.
Alhamdulillah, material needs for people are very few, mainly food, shelter and clothing. However, our wants can be endless – multiple holidays abroad a year, the latest computers, phones etc. Also, when needs are taken to excess, they are actually wants; for example, eating is a need but when we insist on eating at expensive restaurants this is a want; similarly, spending a lot on designer label clothing, renting/mortgaging property beyond ones means to afford etc. are also wants if cheaper alternatives are available.
Many of us may throw away food on a regular basis too due to buying too much and/or improper planning. Allah (SWT) has not forbidden the good things in life, but he has forbidden excess:
“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.” (Quran, 7:31)
As always the middle way is recommended. We are neither to be too stingy or too extravagant:
As per the ayah above, many people have experienced bankruptcy and home repossession by the bank due to living too extravagantly and beyond their means.
The more one tries to fill his or her wants at all costs, the more stress and trouble is experienced. First, there is the constant striving for money and possibly position to facilitate the goal of meeting various desires. This detracts attention from doing everything for the sake of Allah (SWT) and instead the individual is striving to satisfy their own desires. Then with each desire, whether a better car, bigger house, more money, there is desire for even more – an even bigger house, even more money, indulging in more physical desires e.g. eating more and more to try and enjoy the wealth etc. Corresponding to this is a chain of illnesses of the body and heart and, ironically, the emptiness and thirsty desperation actually increases, as in the wise words of our sixth Imam:
Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) says, “The example of this world is like the example of [salty] seawater; whenever the thirsty drinks from it, he gets more thirsty, until it (the seawater) kills him.” (Al Kafi)
Before undertaking any major decision in life and also on a daily basis question whether your actions are for the sake of Allah (SWT) or not; be honest and careful not to convince yourself that something displeasing to Allah (SWT) is pleasing to Him.
Also, be clear in your purchases in whether something is a need or a want and, if it is a want, then whether it is well within your affordability. Encourage children to have the same attitude so they grow up with positive habits and follow the middle way as prescribed by Islam.