Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Importance Of Living Within One's Means

by S. N. Smith

This article discusses the importance of living within one's means using the Quran and sunnah as a guide. The main topics highlighted in the article include materialist ideology, spirituality, balance, debt, extravagance, showiness/ostentation, contentment, setting of priorities, and delayed gratification. The article argues that, from an Islamic perspective, it is more conducive to the advancement of one's spirituality if a person learns to live within their means.

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To say that someone is living beyond their means simply refers to the practice of spending more money than they are bringing in. This is a very easy trap to fall into, especially with the ease of obtaining credit. Why people do this is because we live in a very materialist society where having more is seen as better as well as a positive statement on one's competence and even self-worth. Sadly, this kind of thinking has entered into the hearts and minds of many believers who should know better. But, if one is not careful, this practice will catch up with them and they will find themselves in debt. And debt can be a very oppressive place to be in as debtor is at the mercy of others and will cause them to lose their peace of mind.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Say in the morning and evening: ‘O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being overpowered by men.’ Abu Umamah said: “When I did that Allah removed my distress and settled my debt.” [Source Abu Dawood]

There are many similar duas in the authentic hadeeth and it is wise to refer to them on a regular basis.

It is important that in our daily lives we maintain balance and not pursue extravagance or fall into the trap of showiness or ostentation. This is a form of pride and arrogance which has no place in the life of a believer. Instead, our lives should be one in which we traverse a middle path and we seek to we live within the means Allah has given us and not exceed that.

It is also important that we learn to cultivate a sense of contentment with what Allah has given us and not compare ourselves with others or always be wanting more. And contentment itself is a source of great wealth, especially in a world full of so much turmoil.

Let us be reminded by the words of Allah who said:

“And whatever thing you [people] have been given – it is [only for] the enjoyment of worldly life and its adornment. And what is with Allah is better and more lasting; so will you not use reason?” [Qur’an: Chapter 28, Verse 60]

And, “Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth adornment for it that We may test them [as to] which of them is best in deed.“[Qur’an: Chapter 18, Verse 7]

So whatever we have been given in life is only temporary and in those things there is a test which we will be asked about when we meet Allah. It is better to be thankful and content with what one has, as it is more conducive to peaceful living and drawing closer to Allah. Go back and read again Surah Al-Takathar (Quran ch 102) in which Allah criticizes humanity's preoccupation with worldly wealth and stresses that they will be brought to account on the Day of Resurrection.

We, as humanity, are in a state of distraction from the true purpose and reality regarding our existence. Instead, we compete with one another in amassing wealth and other worldly benefits and think nothing of the hereafter. But we fail to remember that this all ends once we reach our respected graves. Dear reader, there is spot on the earth waiting for you right now that has been pre-destined to swallow you up. But humanity's attitude of mutual rivalry for the goods of this world is not a good one to have. We shall soon know, as death overtakes us, what the true reality is, and if we really knew and understood now we would change our course of action and thinking. Allah promises that we will most certainly see the hell-fire. When we do, we will see the vanity of what we pursued during our time on earth and we will be filled with much remorse. In addition, we will be asked about all the pleasures we enjoyed over the course of our lives. This is all a very sobering thought.

In order to avoid debt and living beyond our means, we should first and foremost ask Allah to protect us. In addition, we should take practical steps so that we don't fall into this trap. We must learn how to set priorities and know what is important and what is not. We also need to practice restraint and know the long-term value of delayed gratification, and Ramadan is a great time to put this into practice and then apply it to other aspects of our daily lives. It is even sometimes necessary to consult a financial planner who can help us get back on track.

Ultimately, the real problem is a spiritual one. We have internalized the values of this society and thus are never satisfied. We have failed to study the central message of the Quran, the life of the Prophet (pbuh) and the pious predecessors and arrive at an understanding regarding how they, in their daily practice, achieved spiritual success and inward tranquility.

Living within one's means is more conducive to the advancement of one's spirituality while materialism and debt will only oppress us a make our lives miserable. May Allah help us to make the right choices.

shawnsmith1964@gmail.com