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Don't be a Victim of Crass Consumerism

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By Sheikh Salman al-Oadah

The American ambassador was called upon to preside over the grand opening of a McDonald’s branch in the country where he was stationed. He arrived that the event wearing a baseball cap with the golden arches emblazoned across the front.

He was surprised when a young man came up to him carrying a similar baseball cap, and asked: “Are you the ambassador?” When he replied in the affirmative, the young man asked him to autograph his baseball cap.

This request pleased the ambassador, and he said: “This is the first time anyone has asked for my autograph.”

The young man said: “But your job is awesome. You get to go around the world opening McDonald’s restaurants as their official ambassador.”

The ambassador was taken aback. He said: “I am the ambassador of the United States, not the ambassador of McDonald’s.”

The young man’s face fell in disappointment. When the ambassador asked him if he still wanted his autograph, he took back the hat, said “no” and walked off.

An affluent European once decided to take his young son to a poor person’s home, so he could appreciate the great blessings he had. The man took his son to a rural farm and brought him inside the poor farmer’s house. Then he said in a self-satisfied voice: “What do you see?”

The boy replied: “It is so sad. We only have one dog and they have four. We have one bath and they have a all of these flowing canals. Our yard is only so many meters across, and they have all this wide open ground. Thank you father, you have shown me how poor we are”

Consumption instills selfish values, while giving cultivates selflessness and consideration for others. Look how Allah praises the people of Madinah:

But those who before them, had homes (in Medina) and had adopted the Faith,- show their affection to such as came to them for refuge, and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the (latter), but give them preference over themselves, even though they were in poverty themselves. And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls,- they are the ones that achieve prosperity. [Sūrah al-Hashr: 9]

Those who want to sell you something unimportant need to convince you that it will either improve your self-image or how others see you. They need to convince you that it will make you more impressive.

This is why giving up material possessions for Allah’s sake liberates your spirit. The less you engage in consumption and acquisition, the more capable you become of self-actualization and personal growth. You become a more compassionate and understanding human being. You develop your inner skills instead of chasing after external validation. Your life becomes brighter and happier.

Possession gives us a false sense of security. Power does the same thing. Ownership does not add anything to who we are. This is equally true for real estate, bank balances, and corporate shares. So quickly you can become separated from such things. Kinds and tyrants have been stripped of their palaces and have had their bank accounts frozen. Even the clothes we wear gets discarded sooner r later. None of our possessions are ever really a part of us.

When the moral and ethical dimensions of life become marginalized, that is when people turn to conspicuous consumption to distinguish themselves, like luxury cars, expensive cell phones, and designer clothes.

A person’s needs tell you something about who that person really is. As for accessories, they speak about other people’s wants and expectations, how people are judged in public. These thing actually obscure our true identities.

You should not let other people’s wants and expectations distract you from what you really want for yourself.

The things we truly possess are things which make us more humble. No one grows vain on account of the genuine faith they have in their hearts, nor on account of their good manners. The same goes for beneficial and true knowledge. False possession, on the other hand, makes people boastful and conceited.

Today’s most technologically advanced consumer goods will be looked upon as ancient artifacts five years from now. Sony releases a particular model for only 90 days before introducing on the market a better one with more features. In the future, this frequency will be reduced to a mere 18 days.

Industries are intent on making their products old as quickly as possible. They induce people to view their older production as inadequate in order to encourage them to buy the latest thing.

The amazing devices that appear in today’s science fiction films are tomorrow’s everyday consumer goods. Google is coming up with glasses which will including applications like facial recognition, saving people the time and bother of having to get to know one another. Smart books are coming to the market that can sense your reading rate slowing down and offer you synonyms and definitions for difficult words.

With seventeen patents being secured every second (104 new inventions a day), we will go on panting after everything that is new. We are in danger of losing ourselves in all of this consumerism.

Source: Islam Today

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