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.