Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Social Impact of Borrowed Living

The one-world materialistic consumer culture that is deliberately being promoted throughout the globe is affecting us. We are falling in to the trap of living a lifestyle based on loans. House loans, car loans, education loans, investment loans, credit cards, digital money, money borrowed from friends and family; all this is affecting us, our families and our society is a negative manner. Let us study the impact of borrowed living and look at some ways to counter it.

Responsible borrowing may sometimes be inevitable. The Prophet (SWAS) borrowed from a Jew. The problem is in living out the lifestyle of borrowed living which is being promoted nowadays. Most such transactions are based on riba and are a never ending vicious cycle which is intended to trap the borrower, affecting him, his family and the whole society.

The primary impact of borrowing is on the borrower. It affects his character. He becomes prone to lying, deceiving, making false promises, cheating and easily falls to corruption in trying to pay back his monthly installments to his creditors; his relations with whom become bad. They say if you want to destroy your friendship, borrow from a friend. Such a person becomes hated in society. People curse him for not paying back in time. He becomes lonely and in extreme situations become extremely depressed and suicidal.

Such people are prone to be led away from truth and reality. They live in the artificial world of advertisements, movies, music and perpetual entertainment which help them find comfort in avoiding focusing on their problems. They develop a mentality of constantly acquiring things rather than taking care of the weak. They look down on others who apparently have less than them and as they do not give zakaat (due to their loans); the poor become envious of them. Having easy access to loans means that often the borrower is not forced to develop good work ethics, enterprise, planning, accountability, responsibility, innovation, reform, service, learning and vision in his work. All this promotes a hollow ostentatious lifestyle deprived of any meaning, spirituality or wisdom. 

A person living such a lifestyle is deprived of all blessings as his transactions are based on riba which Allah (SWT) has promised to make devoid of any blessings. He is living a wasteful life and Allah (SWT) calls such spendthrifts as "brothers of Shaytan". The borrower's relationship with Allah (SWT) becomes weak as he begins to fear people and the future instead of Him (SWT). He always feels guilty and unsatisfied with life leading to addictions trying to find an escape from his predicament. This weak relationship with Allah (SWT) causes bad relations with those around him. He starts perceiving his family, colleagues, neighbors, friends, relatives, etc. as new potential creditors to prolong the pressures of his financial problems.

As ameer of the family a man is supposed to provide halal income, protection and good tarbiyya for those under his authority. All these become difficult for a borrower. His family becomes addicted to the easy life and their demands increase day by day. Consequently this leads to family problems and misunderstandings. The children learn the destructive character traits that come with borrowed living from a young age from their parents.

A society in which the majority of people are trapped into such a malady develops serious social problems. They destroy its very fabric, leading to deceit, thefts, violence, crime, killings, addictions, increase in materialism, loss of spirituality, etc. People become only concerned with competing with each other to acquire things and live out enviable fashions and trends. They lose all meaning in life and live out hollow lifestyles of the celebrities they watch on mainstream media. At a macro level even governments sell their independence through financial enslavement which affects millions of citizens.

The solution to these maladies is to not get trapped in the first place. Try not to take any loan ever if you can help it. Instead of a credit card, use cash or at least a debit card. If credit cards are unavoidable you can ask your bank to automatically pay the monthly balance from your account. The best cure is to change your lifestyle and live within your means. Instead of living a materialistic lifestyle, adopt a spiritual one. Engage in learning and teaching rather than shopping and partying. Adopt the Sunnah in your daily routine.

Realize that the Prophet (SWAS) called the market the worst place and the masjid the best. When you enter the market recite the dua for it. When you do go out for shopping always make a list before leaving the house. Only buy the items on the list. Do it like a chore on fixed times on a weekly basis, not like an outing or entertainment which the mall culture these days promote. Spend the least amount of time possible shopping. Do it without the wife and kids and after a meal. If you can help it, do not visit the market in between your weekly trips.

Make priorities for spending, e.g. you may decide to spend on charity, learning and health while cutting spending in other areas. Engage in free entertainment like going to parks and beaches instead of going to movies and malls. Eat at home by asking your wife to learn to home cook your children's favorite fast foods like donuts, cookies, cakes and pizzas. Buy off season clothing. Do your Eid shopping months in advance before the prices rise. Go on vacations locally instead of going to faraway places.

The Prophet (SWAS) refused to pray janaza for those who had outstanding loans. Even halal loans are not encouraged due to all the reasons cited above. Today’s social architects promote borrowed living. They aim to keep the general public deluded and entrapped so that they keep earning and prospering at their expense. As practicing Muslims, we should see through their schemes and neutralize them. Borrowed living does not only affect the individual, but also the family and society. The wise thing to do is to resolve to live within your means by adopting a simple Sunnah lifestyle with known priority areas for spending. A slave of Allah (SWT) will not rest until he frees himself from all other forms of enslavement, including financial.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Lead O Ameer!

Men are 'qawwam' of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand. (An Nisa 4:24)

Allah (SWT) says that men are qawwam of women. The word qawwam is derived from the Arabic verb qaama/uqeemu which means to stand. Qawwam is an exaggerated/excessive form which indicated constant standing.  Just as a bodygaurd continuously stands gaurding a VIP, the man of the family is supposed to watch over and protect the women of the household. The verse above explains that he is given this function because of the fact that it is he who is required to spend his wealth on them for their maintenance. When one spends on someone continuously, it is natural that he will protect them from all dangers. He will empathize with them and will be inclined to manage their affairs with their best interest in mind.

The applied meaning of qawwam thus encompasses a range of responsibilities of the man which include financially providing for them, protecting them, empathizing with them, understanding them, managing their affairs, making decisions that affect them after proper consultation with them, providing the space and opportunities for the constant learning and growth as well as catering to their every physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, educational and financial need. In short his role is that of an enabler of success of all members of the household. In order for him to successfully carry out all these responsibilities he has been granted the leadership role of an ameer of the family.

Abdullah bin Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of the people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects: a man is the guardian of his family and is responsible for his subjects, a woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and of his children and is responsible for them, and the slave of a man is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it. Surely, everyone of you is a shepherd and responsible for his flock.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

It is apparent from the above hadith that every group of people should have a leader for its proper function. It is not possible for a group to have two leaders or else chaos will ensue. Thus for a family unit, Allah (SWT) in His infinite wisdom has chosen the men to lead. It does not matter how weak the man is or how less he earns with respect to the wife, he is supposed to be ultimately responsible for all family members.

This does not mean that the man of the house is a dictator and does make his decisions based on shoora (consultation) of all his family members. It does not mean that he is to be feared by those under him; nor that he is an enforcer of decadent cultural restrictions that have little to do with Islam. Rather, the husband should study the Prophet's (SWAS) Seerah deeply to help him improve his leadership skills. To help support the husband, wives are required to be obedient to the husband as stated in the above verse. It is worth noting here that their obedience is first to Allah (SWT), then to the Prophet (SWAS) and only then to the husband, so if the husband makes demands against the commands of Allah (SWT) and His Prophet (SWAS) she should decline to be obedient.

Part of the responsibility of the ameer is to engender leadership skills in those under him. The primary manner to do so is to first be good role models themselves. Children may be trained to accept more responsibilities at a young age, e.g. they can be asked to take care of their pets, or be the captain of their school cricket team or lead be the imam at home, leading their siblings and cousins in salaat or baby sitting their siblings while the parents are away. Leadership skills can be formally be learnt in a Boy Scouts / Girl Guides troop. The key element in making the next generation future ameers of their families and societies is to make them feel emphatic to others. This can be done by engaging them in charitable services for those less fortunate than them. Lastly, by providing them comprehensive Islamic knowledge, parents would help them understand the roles required for them to carry out as young adults. The guidance from the examples of the Prophet (SWAS) and his Companions (RA) are invaluable in this respect.

Men are made responsible for a gamut of needs for their family members and hence are given leadership roles by Islam. Like everyone under a leader, wives are required to help the leader by being obedient to him, provided nothing is being demanded against Islamic principles. The man of the family should consult with his family and do everything that is in their best interest. He should use his position responsibly to help all family members develop themselves. He should not misuse the privilege of leadership he is given. He is responsible to pass on good leadership skills to their offsprings so that they become exemplary ameers themselves in the future.