By Babatunde Jose
And render to the kindred their due rights, as (also) to those in want, and to the wayfarer: But squander not (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord (Himself) ungrateful. (Quran 17:26-27)
All charity, kindness, and help are conditioned by our own resources. There is no merit if we merely spend out of bravado or for idle show. How many families are ruined by extravagant expenses at weddings, funerals, etc., or (as they may call it)? To no one was this command more necessary than it is to Muslims of the present day. Spendthrifts are not merely fools: They are of the same family as the Evil Ones. And the chief of the Evil Ones – Satan himself – fell by his ingratitude to Allah. So those who misuse or squander Allah’s gifts are also ungrateful to Allah.
Weddings and Burials
The best marriage is that upon which the least trouble and expense is bestowed. (Hadith)
Our society today has imbibed a most detestable culture when it comes to celebrating weddings and burials. Dressing in garbs procured through debt, and winning and dinning on borrowed money, many have been sentenced to perpetual debt and in some cases bankruptcy as a result of excesses committed in the course of entertaining guests. We were told recently of a man who had to take out a bank facility in order to pay N10Million for a hall to host his daughter’s wedding: This does not include the cost of catering and choice drinks and the entertainment. Another is still in debt, seven months after the wedding of his son, because of the mountain of Champagne he ordered on credit. Unfortunately, this proclivity to profligacy is not limited to the rich; even the poor, and not so well to do indulge in this show of shame to the detriment of their personal well being. My late father once said “we do not celebrate death as we celebrate birth”. This axiom is foreign to the ears of the lost souls. I once had a neighbour who lost his mother; kept the poor body in the morgue for over six months because he wanted to show off his new house in the village on the day of the burial. Paradoxically, my neighbour has not visited the village in years, since the burial: What a waste! What profligacy! There is a case worse than this. We were told of a family who have kept their father in the morgue for nearly two years now; meanwhile they have sold most of his properties, in the run off to the burial ceremony which is yet to happen. One is tempted to as; what manner of people are we? Recently a family, who could hardly afford to make ends meet, celebrated the burial of their mother by plunging head on into the abyss of debt.
Wedding customs and practices alien to our culture have crept into the society and become an integral part of our matrimonial fabric. Of course, the canker of alien influence has eaten into every aspect of life of a Muslim these days, but nowhere has this poison spread so conclusively as in the matrimonial sphere. What is required to save the Moslems from this hydra headed incubus is nothing short of a total revolution in the matrimonial field; where Islamic injunctions have been flouted with impunity by our so called social superiors. Marriage, the most important aspect of the social life, has become an occasion for ostentation, which has no place in Islam. Those Muslims whom Allah has blessed with the good things of life feel it beneath their dignity to marry off their daughters without an extravagant reception. The idea of a nikah being performed in the sacred precincts of a mosque has become repugnant to the haves of our society; for such a wedding ceremony might besmirch their reputation. A Muslim owning a big business, large mansions and a couple of cars feels his equals in affluence might look down upon him for opting for a simple nikah in the mosque; as though he could not afford to solemnize his daughter’s wedding in a five star hotel or with an extravagant reception with all its attendant adjuncts to ostentation. Here ostentation takes precedence over the dictates of Islam. Is this not arrogance? And Allah has a short way with those who, in spite of the fact that all the worldly riches they are possessed of have been His gifts, defy His commandments and vie with one another to project the image of their affluence through extravagant receptions. The have-nots’ of the society, labouring under the delusion that the ostentatious path blazed for them by the haves’ is the right path, try to emulate the haves’ with disastrous results. The expenses of a wedding in extravagant receptions with the inevitable dinners and so on, reduce a lower middle class family to the verge of bankruptcy. At the end of the day, the poor parents have nothing left but to recourse to the begging bowl. A marriage becomes a disaster, a veritable curse. Did Islam make it so? Or is it the society that has made it so? If the society has a conscience it is not too late to mend matters by reversing the trend and making a nikah performed in a mosque into a status symbol.
The revolution must be so total that every Muslim must fight for the right to perform the nikah in a mosque and extravagant receptions must become a thing of the past, a shameful but forgotten past. It is up to the haves’ of the society to undo the mischief which lies at their door. If they set the trend of a simple nikah ceremony in a mosque with no frills, the rest are bound to follow suit for the affluent can afford to go simple. When those who can afford to waste money through ostentation prefer simplicity, it has all the makings of a revolution.
Ostentation and profligacy is not limited to our Moslem brothers, it rears its ugly head among our Christian brethren too, even among the so-called men of God; who choose to lay their treasures in this world against the teaching of Jesus. There was a story in the British press some time ago about a Nigerian pastor who chalked up over a thousand wrist watches of very exotic variety. There was the story of a young Nigerian pastor during the run-off to his brother’s wedding and he visited the home of their prospective In-law. After the date for the engagement had been fixed, he noted that the seating room did not meet with his standard, so on getting home, he bought a new set of furniture, air conditioners and other goodies which he asked to be delivered to the In-law’s house. Of course, the In-law saw it as a windfall and accepted: A very detestable show of vanity and profligacy for a man of God. Yet, I once followed my friend to FESTAC to visit his prospective In-law, in their very modest low-cost bungalow. After the visit, the man decided to treat us to bush meat pepper soup at a nearby joint and we drove there in our Rolls Royce with a convoy of escorts. We entered the joint and had our pepper soup; to the surprise of all observers. We were not scorned, but admired for being humble enough to enter such a place. Suffice to note that my friend has married off three of his daughters from the confines of his seating room, without any fanfare or profligacy and the marriages have been blessed. His son too got married with a modest reception in his flat: His marriage is also blessed. Our arrogant Pastor would never do such a thing.
Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity. (Quran 3:104)
The religion of Islam is the religion of life and its precepts and rules set the grounds for human felicity and success, both for the individual, as well as the society. Islam has brought forth a complete program for every facet of human life and has advised balance and moderation to its followers in all affairs. Extravagance and waste means going past the proper boundaries and is the opposite of moderation.
The Quran has labelled the people who waste and are extravagant as the ‘Brothers of Satan’. People who waste on purpose and with full knowledge are considered as being one with Satan and he cannot be considered as being on the straight path (the Sirat al-Mustaqim).
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.
Islam is strictly against wastage of anything and even more so when wastage takes place due to extravagance. How can it be justified that on one hand there are people who are not able to get their daily meals, while on the other hand there are people who eat half of their plate and throw the remaining half in the trash bin?
While the idea of consumption has grown as never before, global waste and extravagance have increased in a parallel manner. According to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), one out of every three food items produced for consumption in the world is thrown away. The global level of food wasted stands at 1.3 billion tons a year: Yet every year, 18 million people around the world die from hunger and malnutrition, while a staggering five hundred million people are undernourished. Every year, some two million children die from starvation, malnutrition and related causes. Enough food is thrown away by the developed countries to feed 15 times the number of people who starve to death every year. Although it has long been noted that waste can be prevented with good planning and the problem of hunger can be overcome through a more balanced distribution of the world’s wealth in the world, hunger still tops the list of ‘the world’s 10 greatest health risks.’
However, there is only one way to completely eradicate waste and profligacy from the world, and that is for people to become more sensitive to the tragedies going on all around them. That is what must become the primary issue for all of us. Only then can love, peace and security prevail everywhere and the world can become a better place to live in.
Let the man of means spend according to his means: And the man whose resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. After a difficulty, Allah will soon grant relief.
The most blessed marriage is that which is affordable; the less the expenses are, the greater the blessings. Incidentally, many of these one-in-town weddings crash in no time and the daughter over whom so much resources was spent returns to her father’s house in shame and become the topic of society gossip.
Extravagance is not allowed and is blameworthy in all matters, whether it has to do with marriage or otherwise. What is prescribed in Islam is that the individual should not make things difficult for himself and should not burden himself with more than he can bear. Rather he should spend according to his means and what he is able to afford, whilst avoiding extravagance and going to extremes in spending.
O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: Eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters (Quran 7:31)
Extravagance means crossing the limits or spending wastefully.
Sayyid Abu A’lā Maududi writes in his book, Islam and the Economic Problems that: “All the evils in the world are due to the wasteful expenditure of rich people and their vain pastimes. In the face of such wasteful expenditure are the destitute and deprived masses who cannot have even their basic needs fulfilled.”
The Qarūns (profligates) have acted blatantly against humanity and against the principles of Islam by their wasteful expenditure. If only they had used their excess wealth for alleviating poverty and fulfilling the needs of the poor, they would have done a service to humanity.
May Allah guide us aright!
Barka Jumuah and a happy weekend.