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Modesty and Extravagance

Are we guilty of Israaf?Extravagance (Israaf) is one of those types of sins that most of us often indulge in without really realizing. And that’s because there is no uniform reason or way of spending “excessively”. Some of us are extravagant in the attempt to achieve self-satisfaction and temporary happiness in this world, while for others, the drive is unconstrained greed and pride. Whatever the justification, one scary vibe which the aforementioned Qur’anic verse gives off is that our Lord possibly dislikes a vast range of practicing Muslims, particularly in the West.

Are we guilty of Israaf?“And eat and drink, but waste not in extravagance. Certainly He (Allah) likes not those who waste in extravagance.” (7:31)

Extravagance (Israaf) is one of those types of sins that most of us often indulge in without really realizing. And that’s because there is no uniform reason or way of spending “excessively”. Some of us are extravagant in the attempt to achieve self-satisfaction and temporary happiness in this world, while for others, the drive is unconstrained greed and pride. Whatever the justification, one scary vibe which the aforementioned Qur’anic verse gives off is that our Lord possibly dislikes a vast range of practicing Muslims, particularly in the West.

Israaf is a major problem in the Muslim community, and honestly speaking, I’m probably just as guilty as everyone else when it comes to it. The generalization is that we have two types of people in our communities:

  1. The “loaded” ones who constantly overspend and are extravagant and
  2. The “stingy” ones who constantly “under-spend” and are nowhere near extravagant.

But a closer look at both categories will reveal that both are equally extravagant, yet in slightly different ways. Families who eat and dress modestly may have large mansions and more cars then they have family members, while families who have more than a dozen people willingly cramped under the one roof find it necessary to go on vacation several times a year and own 100 outfits each to wear at mosque. Down to the core of the matter, the Muslim community is either in denial or facing some sort of an extravagance identification crisis. To define overspending, Imam Ali (peace be upon him) has said, “To consume more than needed is extravagance.”

Before everyone starts the “it is our God-given right to enjoy all the pleasures of Allah” tirade, it’s best to understand that obviously, this rule has its limitations. As often assumed when someone raises the issue of Israaf, I’m in no way suggesting the extreme that everyone should move into cardboard houses and adapt to a vegetarian diet with the most exciting thing on the menu being lentils. Of course, according to Islam it is highly recommended that we provide our families with a pleasant and comfortable lifestyle. We are more than welcome to enjoy the pleasures which Allah has provided us. While being modest, we are permitted to eat and wear what pleases us and live in houses and have luxuries which we enjoy.

However, one of the main reasons why Allah has warned us of spending extravagantly is that we undoubtedly become excessively attached to the materialistic pleasures and satisfactions of this world to the extent that it tampers with our faith. Imam Ali al-Hadi (peace be upon him) has warned us that people are respected in this world for possessing wealth and in the Hereafter for possessing righteous deeds.

In the midst of those shopping sprees, we often lose track of or sadly rearrange our Islamic priorities in life. This becomes a problem when we own several houses but as a community we fail to generate enough funds for a proper place of worship, we’ve got houses with home theaters at the expense of prayer rooms, we go for vacation around the world instead of going for Hajj even once, we’ve got women who own more gold than their ears can carry and literally enough Bollywood outfits to dress all the women in a poor village somewhere in South Asia. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) has said, “The destruction of my female followers lies in two things – gold and immodest clothes. And the destruction of my male followers is in abandoning knowledge and compiling wealth.” This is exactly what Israaf is doing to so many of us today.

When overspending, we need to ask ourselves: what will this wastefulness earn me in terms of rewards from our Lord? Am I being extravagant at the expense of depriving my less fortunate Muslim brothers and sisters of their right to financial support? Forget the additional charity donations, if everyone in the community paid their obligatory Islamic dues in the form of Kaffara, Khums, Zakat, and Fitra and took out the occasional Sadqa, not only will we have better established Islamic centers and communities in the West, we will also be able to provide the neglected and not-so-well-off Muslim families in our communities with the support they need to maintain a bare minimum comfortable lifestyle.

We’ve been encouraged to enjoy the pleasures which Allah has blessed us with while maintaining a balance. We must not be overwhelmed by the beauty and elegance of such materialistic luxuries of this world that it even partly consumes us and our faith. Imam Kadhim (peace be upon him) has said, “The likeness of this world is as a snake which is soft to the touch, while there is killing poison in its inside. Possessors of wisdom avoid it, but naive children are fond of it and like to catch it with their hands.” Being cautious of extravagance is a way for us to gain nearness to our Lord, the ultimate Nourisher, and subsequently nourish our worldly desires also.

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7 comments

  1. MashAllah great article…indeed we must strive to achieve the balance in our spending…thanks for highlighting this issue as there is a dire need for us to be mindful of this all the time.

  2. sensational article sister…..thank you for this

  3. Some excellent points mentioned here, but what about other interests and hobbies that can tamper with your religion (which I think is the point of this article) – it would be excellent to see an article on how to tackle ‘less sinister’ addictions such as TV addictions and over-usage of the Internet – where do we draw the line?

  4. Mansha Allah Excellent Article

  5. Thank you for this reminder.

  6. Nice reminder…i had totally forgotten about this bad habit

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