By Babatunde Jose
The world today celebrates superficiality and excess, placing greater value on material possessions and frivolities. We often concern ourselves more with what others think of us, what we own, and our outward appearance, and less with that which pleases Allah the Almighty, which would do us the most good in this life and the next. Many of us are caught up in materialism and fail to appreciate the bounties Allah generously allows each of us to secure in this life: We are vain, proud and loud in our ways. In street parlance; Eficy! In the process, we waste our time obsessively accumulating and consuming more “stuff” than we need, and wastefully tossing the excess aside rather than sharing what we have with those who are less fortunate. If you are so caught up in showing off your latest car, outfit, or diamond rings, how can you concentrate your efforts on helping those in need? Where does Allah and His injunctions currently rank in your life? As it is with individuals, so is it with nations. Nations too engage in waste; which is even more colossal.
Food, for example, is a valuable resource often taken for granted. According to a research published on the internet, Food waste—which represents a third of all food produced globally—is a major area where the Earth’s resources could be used more responsibly. Before food is even purchased, losses occur due to improper handling, quality deterioration during transport, and inadequate infrastructure for cooling and storage: This is particularly true in our clime where we lack the requisite technology. Fruit and vegetables losses during this stage have been estimated at 2-20 percent in developed countries, and at 24-40 percent in developing countries.
Consumers in high-income countries discard up to 30 percent of fruit and vegetable purchases and trim products up to 33 percent by weight during household preparation. 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year; this amounts to US$1 trillion dollars of wasted or lost food. Just one quarter of all wasted food could feed the 795 million undernourished people around the world who suffer from hunger. Food waste in rich countries (222 million tons) is approximately equivalent to all of the food produced in Sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons). A European or North American consumer wastes 15 times more food than a typical African consumer. Lack of technology and infrastructure is the main cause of food waste in Africa, as opposed to household food waste in the developed world. Food waste in Europe alone could feed 200 million hungry people.
Many of us are blessed to be able to walk into our kitchens at any time and open a refrigerator full of food throughout the year. Having the blessing of such abundance can easily result in waste if we fail to remind ourselves often that this is a blessing from Allah the Almighty. It is sinful to waste such a generosity, and we as believers are expected to make good use of our resources and not be wasteful or excessive.
Islam encourages moderation in all things. Anything over and above is considered a waste. Allah says:
It is He who produceth gardens, with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds, and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in variety): Eat of their fruit in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. But waste not by excess: For Allah loveth not the wasters. (Quran 6:141)
These limits have been set for the reason that all Muslims, in light of their social positions and wealth, have a responsibility towards the human society in which they live. If people were to be wasteful and extravagant, they would be harming that society and shirking their human responsibilities; in addition, they would develop and cultivate negative personal characteristics which would be destructive to them on an individual level.
Imam Sadiq (a) has mentioned the following in a tradition: ‘How many a poor people who might be more extravagant than the wealthy! It was asked of him: How can this be so? Imam Sadiq (a) replied: The wealthy individual spends out of what he has but the poverty stricken individual spends beyond his financial position.’
An individual who wastes in regards to the public treasury, his life, and his day to day expenditures with full knowledge and awareness is considered as being far from the reality of religion and he cannot be considered as being on the straight path (the Sirat al-Mustaqim)
A nation can only be considered powerful if, besides believing in Allah and declaring Him to be one, it has a strong economy; and its economy will not be powerful unless its savings and reserves exceed what both its population and government tend to consume, whether they be individuals or groups. This is mainly because a nation’s savings and reserves in terms of its nutritional resources as well as its total produce do represent its real power to be handed down to the future generations. If only we could heed this admonition.
The improper use and waste of resources pulls humanity towards corruption and societal destruction. This can even reach the point where an individual stops caring about the needs of others and only cares about himself.
Another social consequence of waste, is the decline of governments. Ibn Khaldun, one of the Muslim sociologists, has mentioned that whenever a government would become afflicted with Israaf and extravagance, it would soon fall into decline. Allah said:
In the end We fulfilled to them Our promise, and We saved them and those whom We pleased, but We destroyed those who transgressed beyond bounds. (Quran 21:9)
Barka Juma’at and a Happy Weekend