2 Ways of looking into Consumption

Consumption is the end of the economic story. Companies spend a large amount of money on training employees, facilities, research, promotion, transport and many other things to reach this end. Many people consider consumption as an ultimate goal; to have this and have that, do this and do that. But is this really the case in Islam?

In this research, I am going to touch upon the concept of ‘consumption’ in Islam and in conventional economy. The comparison will look on the following areas:

  • Purpose of consumption
  • Bare necessities
  • Surplus and Extravagance
  • Marketing
  • Materialism or Asceticism

The purpose of consumption:

In Islam:

Is lam looks at consumption as a means to other goals, not as a goal. It assists the person to carry on his duties; however, Islam understands the human nature – humans look forward to the good things. Allah says, the meaning of which is,

“O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good” (Qurán 2:168)

“They ask you [O Muhammed] what has been made lawful for them. Say, ‘Lawful for you are all good foods …” (Qurán 5:4)

This means that Islam looks at the ultimate goal as well as the means to reach this goal. It regulates consumption as there is clear evidence in the Qurán and sunnah that certain foods or types of clothes are forbidden due to their harmful effects, other than this all good طيب  foods are lawful.

In conventional economics:

While it might be argued that some governments or even private sectors may raise consumers’ awareness of being productive, the truth of the matter is that people are consuming more than producing. It is believed that the corporate culture aims at producing goods to make people consume to get interest. One example that might highlight this is the amount of ads we see every moment hidden in plain sight.

The bare necessities:

In Islam:

Consumption is guided in Islam. For a person to have the bare necessities of his life is the bedrock of production. As a rule, the more we should possess or consume, the more we should produce.

The prophet (PBUH) says, “Whoever of you is secure in his flock, well in his body and has the provision of his day, as if he possesses the entire life.[1]

Islam, then, looks at shelter, security, provision, i.e. food and drink as the very basics that everybody should have. Striving to get more, in my opinion, should be for the sake of extra production a person aims at.

In conventional economics:

There are 2 points to consider: the first point is to look at Europe and America, and the other point is to look at countries under the poverty line. We can easily notice that corporate greed is so dominating that some rich countries throw wheat in the ocean to maintain a certain price ceiling, whereas other people are, by definition, dying out of hunger. Despite the efforts that some organizations exert, still, there is an immense body that controls the world’s corporate culture- which is mostly ‘monopoly’.

Surplus and Extravagance:

In Islam:

Islam did not ignore this issue as there is great emphasis on the extra property one may have. Zakat being the third pillar of Islam highlights this point.

Allah says, the meaning of which is, “And in their properties there is the right for the beggar and the mahroom (the poor who doesn’t ask others)” (Qurán 51:19)

“Take alms from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it. And invoke Allah for them” (Qurán 9:103)

The prophet (PBUH) would say in his supplication: “… and I take refuge with you [O Allah] from cowardice and stinginess …”[2]

In conventional economics:

There are 2 types of people: the ones who use the surplus of their wealth to invest for additional projects to gain more interest. As long as it is within the limits of sharia and its due zakat is paid, there no problem. However, the real problem exists if the person does not think of the falah concept. On the other hand, there are those who use surplus to be involved in a more unnecessary luxurious life. This is totally forbidden in Islam as Allah says, the meaning of which is, “Verily, spendthrifts are brothers of devil, and the devil is ever ungrateful to his lord” (Qurán 17:27)

Marketing:

In Islam:

Marketing is one of the main reasons why consumption is constantly increasing nowadays. From an overall perspective, Islam is not against marketing, but the main issue is that Islam is against cheating, deceiving and lying. If marketing is kept within the bounds of morality and falah then there no issue whatever. I remember reading a story about a Muslim scholar who used to sell clothes. When a customer came to buy an item of clothing, and there was a guest in the shop, the guest said, “What a nice piece is this!” with the aim of making the customer buy it. The scholar who owns the shop refused to sell it in order not has deceived the customer.

In conventional economics:

Marketing in conventional economics plays a crucial role in consumption. I would imagine that without marketing, there would not have been this consumer curse. Companies produce new items nearly every 3 months convincing customers that they need to have the new one. If we analyze the techniques used in marketing, we can conclude that companies in general are money-driven. It is crucial to limit this type of greed to achieve the necessary balance.

Materialism or Asceticism.

Islam takes a halfway through. The Holy Quran has adopted a Golden Mean between the two extreme ways of life, i.e. materialism and asceticism. On the one hand, it forbids excessive expenditure on the gratification of personal desires; while, on the other, it condemns abstention from the enjoyment of good and pure things of life.[3] Allah said, the meaning of which is, “O you who believe, forbid not the good things which God has made lawful for you and exceed not the limits…” (Qurán 5:87)

Which is better?

To conclude, it is clear cut that the Islamic way of looking at consumption is better due to the fact that it is a divine method ordained by Allah the creator of everything. Islam understands the human nature, it establishes the most ultimate balance, it cares for customers and it regulates the relationship between the producers and the consumers.

 

References:

  1. The Noble Qurán, Android application, iQuran pro.
  2. Sahih Al Bukhari, Windows® PC application, المكتبة الشاملة
  3. Al Aahaad wal Mathany, Ad-Dahhak, Windows® PC application, المكتبة الشاملة
  4. Afzal-ur-Rahman, Economic Doctrines of Islam (IOU, Islamic Economics) http://bais.islamiconlineuniversity.com

[1] Al Aahaad wal Mathany, Ad-Dahhak (2126)

[2] Sahih Al Bukhari

[3] Afzal-ur-Rahman, Economic Doctrines of Islam (IOU, Islamic Economics) http://bais.islamiconlineuniversity.com

About Ahmed Othman

Ahmed is an English teacher, a teacher trainer, a public speaker, a writer and a therapist.

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