Monday, May 16, 2011

Material Girl

When avalanches of schtuff kept spilling out from under my five-year-old's bed, I resorted to an adult reality show to straighten her out.

I kept her up late one night and plopped her down in front of the telly when Hoarders: Buried Alive came on.

She watched wide-eyed as camera crews struggled to enter the junk-crammed house of an elderly lady.

"That," I told her sternly, "is going to be you one day unless you stop sticking everything but the kitchen sink under your bed." [Loose translation from Urdu]

In today's consumer-driven economy, the wholesale accumulation of possessions that God strictly warns us against has become the norm thanks to a culture that promotes materialism over spirituality. The average child, for example, gets bombarded with 3,000 commercial advertisements a day.

"Alas, for every slanderer and back-biter who amasses wealth and hoards it! Does he think that his wealth will make him immortal? Certainly not. He will surely be thrown into the Consuming Furnace." (Quran 104:1-4)

God condemns an attachment to worldy things that often manifests itself in hoarding wealth and showing off material belongings (houses, cars, clothes, purses, electronic gadgets, etc.) even while others go without. 

Instead, God says He gives us wealth and material things as blessings to fulfill our duties to Him, improve the general condition of people and guide them to His way. 

He wants us to remember that this world is transitory while the Hereafter our permanent abode as did Khadija, the wife of the Prophet (S) and one of the four perfect women. An enormously wealthy woman, she emptied her coffers to help reestablish God's system on earth. Indeed, this "Princess of Arabia" was forced during the most trying times to suck leather dipped in water for nourishment.

Few people are able to stay focused on God like she did once they're rolling in riches.

Prophet Muhammad (S) warned: "By Allah, I am not afraid that you will become poor. I am afraid that worldly wealth will be given to you in abundance as it was given to those (nations) before you, and you will start competing with each other for it as the previous nations competed for it. Then it will divert you (from good) as it diverted them."

"We have people who have this wealth and power behaving exactly as God's Prophet (S) predicted they would," says Muhammad al-Asi, author of The Ascendant Quran, the first explanation (tafsir) of the Holy Book written directly in English. "When wealth and money came their way, they forgot God and turned away from Him. They are a shame and a sore on the condition of the Muslims in this world."

But their days are surely numbered. 

As people awaken to the injustices being committed against them, notorious hoarders like former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (whose family stashed away an estimated $70 billion) are finally getting the boot. 

While my daughter is steadily lightening the load underneath her bed (I no longer find bags within bags of goodies nested like Russian babushka dolls.), her reputation will be more difficult to shed.

My husband couldn't find his alarm clock last week. After looking under the bed, behind the bed and all around, he gave up. 

"It must be under [our daughter's] bed," he concluded.


Jabeen said...

your article is a good eye opener. but I did not understand one thing... the meaning of the word "schtuff" .

secondly the example of your daughter is used in a wrong way here. you have explained about possessions but the example here is conferring to me, after I read the concluding sentence, as possessions against the rules. taking some ones belongings without permission is nothing but stealing. I do not know about the reality show but you need to really work hard so that she gets rid of her habit. Make a rule that she does not take anything without permission of the owner... this can stop her.
Possessing belongings more than necessary is a different issue, and its not that difficult to get rid of it unless one's basic needs are fulfilled.

Salina Khan said...

salam, jabeen,
thank you for your comments!
"schtuff" is a slang word for "stuff."
maybe i should have made it clearer in the article, she did not take the alarm clock. it was a joke referring to her habit of stuffing things under her bed. salina

camie ayash said...

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blogs! Mashallah you are an excellent writer. Thank you so much for sharing these.

Salina Khan said...

Thank you, Camie, for your kind words! I appreciate you reading them!

Sarosh said...

Salam Salina,

Jazaki- Allah Khair for The Quotes & reminders from the Quran, I just love Bibi Khadija (R.A.A) and everything about her, an excellent role model, indeed!
May Allah reward and multiply your efforts...Subhan-Allah this blog reminds me with the habit of my younger daughter. Alhamdulillah, It has improved over time...but we still joke about it in our home, If anything is missing we know where to find it or who can find it for us :-)
For some kids its difficult to part with memories, small trinkets,old toys etc., they feel secure holding on to it...insha' Allah with time, maturity & our constant admonishment the habit fades away :-)

JAK and salam.

Sr. Tasneem said...

Assalamu'alaikum wrwbth Salina,
I look forward to your blog, and always have so much to comment. I have to restrain myself.
This topic is timely and made me look inside my own closet. I truly need to return back to Allah with 'Salatul Taubah' and fewer trips to the stores. I also buy more than I need, and with my son's upcoming wedding, I feel like I have acquired a license to purchase things that are: ' Maybe I will need this for...'
Thank you for your reminder. InshaAllah I will try to wean out from this bad habit of shopping without a true need.
JAK and Ma'salamah,

Hiba said...

Salam Salina,
Thanks for an article well written! I enjoyed reading it. I think I need to have my 2 sons watch that show too in hope they would be more organized with their toys! JAK..
Also, you said something about moving to facebook..would you still send us blogs via email cuz I don't have facebook. thanks

Salina Khan said...

salam, sarosh, thanks for sharing and giving us hope!

salam, sister tasneem, i love the saying of fatima's husband ali that whatever money we have left over from our necessary expenses is a trust from Allah to see how we spend it. i just wish i remembered it more often while shopping!

salam hiba, thank you for your encouraging words! iA, i will continue to send emails to whoever would like to get them.

Anonymous said...

On a recent trip to Mexico, I had the opportunity to stay in a very nice house near the beach. What was amazing was how small the closets and storage spaces were in comparison to the U.S. The reason is simple: their culture does not have an ingrained obsession with gathering more goods. Now admittedly, this stems from decades of abject poverty in many areas, but it was a humbling reminder that we often gather more than what we need.

It reminds me of the end of Schindler's List when the protagonist looks at a pen and laments how it could have saved another person from death.

Think about it when you see a Mont Blanc pen and how all over the world for the cost of that pen, you could feed a poverty stricken family instead.

Salina Khan said...

Loved the analogies!

zeenu said...

salam...stumbled across your blog...I am never online, as busy with kids etc..but just wanted to let you know...your blogs are so are able to deliver such powerful messages in a light humourous way! I love it! what an amazing writer! and how lucky is your daughter to have a mum like you!....zeenat (UK-London)

Salina Khan said...

Thank you for your generous words, Zeenu! I started this blog to share what I learn and also to learn from others because I can use all the help I can get!