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Greedy Excesses

Everything in the universe has been created in accordance with the truth. The truth, by its very nature, provides balance and prevents excesses. All things run their determined course in the light of the purpose for which they were created. They do not, nor can they, exceed their term or alter it.

Surah 42 Ash-Shuraa, Verse 17
Allah it is Who has sent down the Book with the Truth and the Balance - Al-Mizaan. And what shall make you know? Haply the Hour may be nigh.

(Please see also 57:25)

Humankind is uniquely different, as it alone has been granted the gift of limited free will. This freedom enables humans to seek the meaning of their existence, or to fritter away their lives in striving after excessive material things. In order for people to attain the harmony and order already evident in creation, they must needs strike a balance between needs and desires.

Desires which are not contained or restrained dictate the destiny and direction of a person's life. Being enslaved to material things means attachments to them outstrips their actual needs.

Need for food, shelter, clothes and companionship are elementary - basic requirements for most creatures. How these needs are met and satisfied, without causing imbalances and injustices within the self and society determine the character and nature of both.

Often, a need for a particular thing becomes confused with a desire for it. For instance, during summer-time, different sets of clothes and shoes would seem to be required as opposed to those for winter. However, these may be legitimate requirements, and possessing more than one pair of shoes, for instance, need not suggest excessive behaviour.

Believers are commanded to spend as much as is possible on good causes, Q2:261,265, 271, 272, 274. But even here, balance is urged. Giving to the extent of leaving oneself and ones family destitute is neither wise nor desirable. In every single endeavour, balance between extremes is taught as the best means of achieving spiritual and material prosperity. All forms of excessive conduct are prohibited: Q17:29

1) In terms of religion: worship is to be measured against ability - not exceeding the bounds which are right and proper; not attributing to the Creator and HIS Messengers things of which knowledge is lacking. Q4:171; 5:77

2) In terms of work: using employment as a means of satisfying those needs which are inherent to all humans - but ensuring that such employment provides honest wages, without descent into fraud and deceit. In this regard, education being a means of improving oneself and society, rather than striving to exploit the knowledge gained through study by seeking to achieve highly paid jobs - in order to elevate status in society. False pride transforms learning into a material possession.

3) In terms of society: striving to build equitable communities - wherein extreme wealth and poverty are eliminated by means of a fair distribution of material resources. Q2:215

4) In terms of nations: warfare has its rights and obligations - trangressing the limits set by Allah SWT during hostilities prolongs the burden which war imposes. Thus, never committing atrocities or indulging in excessive injustices ensures warfare progresses towards its ultimate cessation, whereby peace-terms may be reached - without having caused great bloodshed or lasting humililation. Q2:190-191

As human beings tend to be more conscious of their material needs than spiritual ones, these needs often translate into excess greed: to possess lots of things seems to confer upon the owner the false belief that he is in control of the physical realms he inhabits. Even believers betray their inner inclinations in the way they strive after comforts unknown and unheard of in the times of the Prophets (pbut) Whilst sacrifice is urged, giving and sharing advised amongst both believers and unbelievers alike, in fact, success is measured by position in society and in terms of possessions. Thus, one family - whether Muslim or not - may own more than one car. This expense would, in some way or other, be justified - comfort comes before sacrifice. Lots of clothes and shoes - for all seasons and occassions - are an absolute must. In this complicated era of sophisticated technologies, mobile (cell) phones have become as important as the hands which hold them. In addition, laptops, computers, the latest in digital cameras and HD tvs are accessories even the poorest and meanest must needs possess. As the world moves into top gear, mobile phones and the rest are updated more often than clothes - even shoes. And, the larger the house, the more space one believes one has mastery over.

In fashionable times, it is considered imperative for believers to wear the latest colours, styles and patterns in head-scalfs: owning a different scalf for every different outfit is in keeping with modern trends. Colour co-ordinating one's clothes with one's scalf is as important as the scalf itself. The notion of placing the self above all else has become the norm, individuality means that the individual reigns supreme. Exhausting life-styles mean seeking breaks from them are necessary life-savers. Thus, venturing out to the cinema at regular intervals - in order to be entertained - enable the individual to escape daily hardships. Buying music or dvds further provide distractions from cumbersome chores. And, of course, the annual holiday is the ultimate in distractions from lives too unbearable to bear.

These forms of living are certainly not restricted to the wealthy in Western nations - they are becoming the model which the rest of the world hopes to follow. It is the classic materialistic pattern of life - consume as much as possible: resources may be scarce, but those who are centred upon the self are unconcerned about gorging themselves upon limited resources. The more there is, the more they want.

Believers are not required to deny themselves the blessings which their Bountiful Creator has bestowed upon them. However, restraint upon desires is enjoined - self-control is urged, in all spheres of endeavour and activity. So, a person touched by Divine wisdom does not waste time, space, resources - nor does such a one fritter away the infinity of gifts with which he or she is blessed.

Sometimes, weaknesses inherent in human nature cause greedy excesses to occur - but so long as these excesses are not a part and parcel of daily life, they might be excused and pardoned.

We often hear the plaintive cry of the materialistic: " I am not greedy - but I just want...or need... or must have...!"

Surah 2 Al-Baqarah, Verse 201
But there are among them such as pray, "O our Sustainer! Grant us good in this world and the good in the life to come, and keep us safe from suffering through fire"

Surah 7 Al-A'raaf, Verses 31-32
O Children of Adam! Beautify yourselves for every act of worship, and eat and drink, but do not waste: verily, HE does not love the wasteful!
Say: "Who is there to forbid the beauty which Allah has brought forth for HIS creatures, and the good things from among the means of sustenance?"
Say: "They are (lawful) in the life of this world unto all who have attained to faith - to be theirs alone on Resurrection Day.
Thus clearly do WE spell out these Messages to people of (innate) knowledge!"

Surah 18 Al-Kahf, Verses 7-8
Behold, WE have Willed that all beauty on earth be a means by which WE put men to a test, (showing) which of them are best in conduct;
and, verily, (in time) WE shall reduce all that is on it to barren dust!

Allahu 'Alam

Translations from: "The Message Of The Qur'an" by Muhammad Asad.

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