Ethics of Consumption, Honest Living, Change
Issue 798 » July 11, 2014 - Ramadan 14, 1435
Ethics of Consumption
Al-Baqara (The Cow) - Chapter 2: Verse 219 (partial)
The principle of world-affirmation which devolves from al tawhid implies the legitimacy of consumption. Consumption, i.e. apprehension of the material values, or satisfaction of desires and wants, is a basic right which belongs to all humans by birth. Its minimum is subsistence, and its maximum is the point at which consumption becomes tabdhir (extravagance, indulgence). That point can be defined as that in which psychic factors play a greater role in determining consumption of material goods than material need. Where the good or service in question is itself psychological, the extravagance point can be defined as that at which consumption is dictated by other psychic needs than those immediately affected by the product or service.
An example of the former would be the person who buys a product not because he needs it but out of vanity; and of the latter, the person who buys a ticket for an orchestral performance, not in order to enjoy the performance, but to "outdo the Joneses." Under al tawhid, a person may consume according to his need. The rest of his income or wealth should be spent on charity, in the cause of Allah, or reinvested in a business where it may produce more wealth as well as employment and income for others. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked what portion of their income/wealth should the Muslims spend in the cause of Allah, the answer was given through revelation of the above verse. This answer defines extravagance retroactively, as it were, by the assignment of all that goes beyond the satisfaction of real needs, to charity or public cause. Of course, increased production and its requirements of investment and entrepreneurship are included in the term "needs" as used by this verse.
"Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life" - Ismail Raji Al-Faruqi, p. 180
Muslim has reported Abu Hurairah as saying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Verily, Allah is pure and He accepts only that which is good and pure."
One of the practical requirements before a supplication is accepted is that the supplicant must pursue an honest living and earn his livelihood through lawful means. The food that he eats or the clothes that he wears, in fact all his possessions, must be lawful and acquired through lawful means. This presumes noble qualities, like honesty, good behaviour, and contentment with what one has. These qualities make one the subject of others' love and of brotherly feelings and goodwill. A strong will is evidently necessary to achieve all these noble qualities.
"Freedom and Responsibility in Quranic Perspective" - Hasan Al-Anani, p. 201
While the modern West has concentrated on "change" and has rejected or ignored any "permanence," many Muslims have stuck themselves to "permanence" and have ignored "change," its effects, and its implications in the human life in different times and places. They became fond of the "oneness" in the Muslim thinking and the Muslim society, thinking that this is a natural and essential result of the belief in the One God and in Muslim unity. Such a fundamental misconception has developed other distortions about human nature, the message of Islam, and Muslim history.
A static understanding of the Islamic "model" has led to ignoring human diversity in conducting a Muslim lifestyle and adhering to the same faith and divine sources. The flourishing civilization under the Umayyads and Abbasids has been simply considered a deviation from the right path, since the pattern of that lifestyle was different from what had existed at the time of the early caliphate in Medina. Naturally not every difference is deviation, and all the Muslim life and the entire Muslim society cannot be restricted to the political system and the rulers. Magnificent material and intellectual developments in the Muslim civilization which were brought up by the whole people, whatever the rulers' behaviour may be, cannot be denied, and they had their impact on non-Muslim countries at the time. Hereditary monarchy and absolute authority characterized the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties, but during that period fascinating developments took place in the exegesis of the Quran, the examination and collection of Sunna and the commentary on it, jurisprudence, theology, logic and philosophy, linguistics and literature, science in its various fields, medicine with its various areas, architecture, art, agriculture, industry, trade, transportation etc. Can we ignore such total distinguished civilizational developments produced by all the people because of the negatives of palace life?
"Human Rights in the Contemporary World" - Fathi Osman, p. 11