IT’s a commonly witnessed trend at weddings and parties: impatient haste in scurrying to the tables laden with food, jostling and shoving, spilling food while bringing it to the plate, piling the latter high with meat and rice, eating it at a speed that would render the already spice- and oil-rich food difficult to digest, and forcefully filling up children’s plates with much more than they can possibly consume.
Among ladies, it is common to withhold mutual envy and fierce competitiveness in couture, footwear, and jewelry. Be it a Qur’an lecture, religious gathering, or an Eid party, the expensive dresses are taken out and matched meticulously with jewelry and sandals; make-up is applied and the hair is coiffed, in order to try to outshine the rest and get the most compliments.
“O children of Adam! …eat and drink, but do not waste by extravagance; certainly, He (Allah) does not like those who waste!” (Qur’an, 7:31)
Allah has granted us countless blessings, telling us to enjoy them in this world: an inexhaustible variety of food, clothing, jewels, and dwelling; His one condition for using these blessings is, however, that we do not commit excess or go to extremes in our enjoyment.
It is difficult to put an exact definition to what is ‘excess’ or ‘extravagance’ in our daily life – because the concept is relative. What might be too expensive for one family, might be a normal standard for another, depending on income and familial heritage. For example, a country’s elite may consider a certain type of car ordinary, but for a family residing in the slums, the same car would be the epitome of luxury and fortune. Extravagance, therefore, lies in a person’s heart; it depends on their intention for using or acquiring that blessing.
To check if you’re extravagant in life, ask yourself these questions:
• Would you buy a dress, pair of shoes, a tech gadget, a piece of crockery, or an item of furniture if you knew that no one would see it or praise it? The answer will determine if you are spending for your own pleasure or as a show-off.
• When someone comes over for a visit, do you frantically rush out to buy certain pricy food items to serve your guests, which you normally won’t yourself?
• When you attend a social gathering, do you feel jealous of other’s pricy acquisitions and accessories? Do you keenly take interest in the dress and decor, vying to get the same for yourself as soon as possible?
• Do you buy anything on a mere whim, exhausting your monthly budget and leaving your cash supply dwindled for the rest of the month?
• At the end of a meal, do you throw away an amount of food or drink that could easily have filled a person’s stomach?
• When making friends, do you give precedence to looks, social status, income level, educational background, residential location, and profession? Do you socialize on the basis of their couture choices, clientele exclusivity, elitist mindset, and corporate reputation?
All the above questions, when answered honestly, will tell you whether you are really prone to extravagance, pomp, and show-off. Here are a few desires that drive the urge to be extravagant:
• Desire to outshine others;
• Desire for fame and emulation; to be praised publicly;
• Desire to be seen as unique and exclusive in personal fashion choices;
• Fear of being upstaged by someone else, of being ostracized or downgraded;
Is there a remedy?
The remedy for extravagance lies in truly following the Deen of Islam. It takes time to change one’s wasteful habits, but for starters, you can undertake the following steps toward balanced spending:
• Gain knowledge of Islam, by studying the Qur’an and Sunnah, with the intention of acting upon it;
• Curb a desire when it is created in your heart. The best remedy for desires of the nafs (self) is to nip them in the bud – Allah has Himself endorsed this by obligating us to fast for a month and give Zakah every year;
• Supplicate earnestly to Allah to cleanse your heart from desires and from the love of this world;
Last but not least, keep reminding yourself that there is just ‘one place where eternal and euphoric happiness of blessings can be truly enjoyed, and that is Paradise.
“…(and they will be told:) “Eat and drink comfortably for what you used to do (in life)!” (Qur’an, 77:43)