In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful
Tyranny of Trends
By Dr. Afzal Ahmad
We are slaves to social trends of all sorts, either because of our vain desires or our egotistical needs for self-satisfaction.
Be it the trend in eating out at the newest hip restaurant opened on the other side of the town or shopping when there is nothing better to do or acquiring lot of things just because they are new -- not that you need them. A lot of us have to have the latest trendy clothes and jewelry. Some of us have to have the latest gadgets like G3 network cell phones like the new iPhone 4, the ultra new Apple iPad, flat screen TV sets, latest video games console, 16 megapixel cameras and ultra light and thin laptop computers. Some have weakness for flashy and trendy cars loaded with everything except the kitchen sink and the chauffer. Most of us are guilty of acquiring big and lavish houses and second homes whether we need them or not or whether we can even afford them or not.
This slavery to trends and fashions of all sorts is the antithesis to sustainability, frugality, common sense and above all, the value system Islam espouses. A lot of us are so obsessed with fashion and glamour that we become oblivious to the double scourge of wastefulness and extravagance. Most of our economic and environmental problems stem from our desire to show off and impress others. Talk to any waste management experts and they will tell you about the crisis in finding ways to deal with disposal of these discarded products -- especially the ones that have non biodegradable and harmful components and chemicals. Go to any garbage dumping site and one can appreciate the old adage -- one's garbage is someone else's meal ticket. What to say about poor countries all around the world, even prosperous country like ours, some people make a living off the things discarded by others.
Simplicity and sustainability in everyday living, development, manufacturing and use of these products is paramount to the survival of the human race and it is the Islamic thing to do. Our narcissistic desire to self indulge when there are people, adults and children in the world who are going hungry, going bare feet, have no clothes and shelter, is the epitome of a gross egotistical behavior.
As Muslims we are enjoined by our Maker, Allah SWT to avoid excesses and observe and practice moderation in all aspects of life.
"Thus We have made you (to be) a nation of middle, that you may be witnesses over mankind and that the Messenger (PBUH) may be a witness over you" (Holy Qur'an, 2: 143)
The Arabic words used in the above ayah is "Umatan Wasatan" and is variously translated as "a nation of the middle", "the people of the middle path" or "people of the center position" -- a community that avoids all excesses and keeps an equitable balance between the extremes and a community that when they spend on others is neither wasteful nor stingy (Qur'an 25:67)
Children are very impressionable to what we say and what we do as parents. Any insincerity, hypocrisy and duplicity in our talk and walk are readily picked up by our children. If we want our children to be good citizens of the future and "a nation of middle" we need to lead by example. After parents, children are most influenced by their peers. Seeing and hearing their peers talk about how rich they are and how they have second homes in far away places and have fancy boats, cars or houses can lead to lot of uncomfortable questioning by our children. We should constantly talk to our children about the middle path -- the path of moderation. We need to display it ourselves as an example for our children to see. We need to continuously tell our children about things that are important than just material things. We need to talk to them about love, respect, simplicity, frugality and excellence in morality, behavior and acquisition of knowledge.
This upcoming Ramadan we should all pray that Allah SWT give us guidance to become "the people of the middle path"- Ameen.
Wish each one of you, a very blessed and meaningful Ramadan.
Akhi, I hate to sound critical; but I'm wondering about your explenation of these verses, what I've read in ibn Kathir is that in 2:145 ummatan wasatan refers to the ummah being honored by being granted the best Qiblah, and that 25:67 refers to how one spends money, ie, let his hand not be tied to the neck neither be stretched out completely. Could you perhaps point out where you get these alternative interpretations from, as I am very keen in learning this InshaAllah
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