Evaluation about throwing bread away and wasting: Is it not a sin to throw away bread?

The Details of the Question

Evaluation about throwing bread away and wasting: Is it not a sin to throw away bread?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There are basic needs that man has to meet in order to survive; they are the needs that man has always felt since beginning of the universe though they changed only in shape and content. We can mention eating, drinking, dressing and shelter as the most basic ones. However, when we meet these needs, which are necessary for us, we face some limitations related to some issues. As a matter of fact, the following is stated in the Quran:

“O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters.” (al-A'raf, 7/31)

The following is stated in another verse:

“...Eat of their fruit in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters.” (al-An'am, 6/141)

As it is seen, Almighty Allah virtually orders His slaves to eat and drink, and to dress in a clean and nice way. However, when people spend money to provide these needs, they should not forget that they are means, not purposes. Yes, eating, drinking and dressing are only means of continuing the life or worshipping, which is the purpose of creation. As a matter of fact, this issue is stated as a rule as follows: "Man does not live to eat and drink; he eats and drinks to live."

The fact that we are ordered to eat and drink on the one hand and we are forbidden "to waste" on the other hand by the verse indicates that aimlessness is not allowed in this respect. It is regarded as waste to go to extremes in halal and legitimate places; it is also a waste to eat haram. For instance, it is halal and even necessary to eat and drink moderately but it is a waste and haram to stuff your stomach and to eat so much as to make yourself ill.  In addition, the use of religiously prohibited substances such as alcoholic beverages and drugs are also regarded as waste. Allah clearly states that He does not like His slaves who are extravagant. The Prophet (pbuh) states the following regarding the issue:

“Eat, drink, dress and give to charity without conceit and waste.”(Bukhari, Libas 1)

Today, there is such a great waste everywhere, especially in eating and drinking, that it is possible to eliminate the problem of hunger and poverty on the earth by feeding hundreds of thousands of hungry people by preventing this waste. The meals, bread and other food items that are consumed individually at home and in public places are sometimes bought in large amounts without taking the need into consideration; consequently, this causes large quantities of food to be wasted inevitably. I think it is not something that any responsible and conscientious person will accept not to eat the bread and the food left from yesterday and to throw them away. Let us put aside throwing a lot of bread away, the Prophet (pbuh) did not tolerate wasting even a morsel and warned us as follows:

“When any one of you drops a mouthful he should pick it up and remove any of the filth on it, and then eat it, and should not leave it for the Satan.” (Muslim, Ashriba 133–135)

The use of bread like a napkin and throwing it away, which we sometimes hear, is not a sign of modernity but the clearest indicator of disrespect to boons. In fact, Allah regards all boons, primarily bread, respectable. Bread and food may seem to be our things but we should not forget that others, especially poor people, have some rights on the food items that we eat. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) states the following:

“He who eats his fill and sleeps while his neighbor is hungry is not one of us.”(Muslim, Iman, 74, Birr wa Sila, 142; Ahmad b. Hanbal, 1,55)

Instead of cooking a lot of food or eating too much and drinking mineral food or taking digestion pills after that, it is more appropriate, in terms of our religion and humanity, to eat as one needs and to feed a poor person with the extra food.

In addition, it is the duty of everybody to avoid wasting while using the resources that are used by public and everyone has the right to use. We should be conscious of this responsibility when we use water from faucets and switch on the lights, and we should avoid using them unnecessarily.

We have seen that the issue of clothing is also expressed along with eating and drinking in the verse. When Allah Almighty created Hz. Adam and his wife Hawwa (Eve), He clothed them. Dressing is a necessity in life. One of the two purposes of dressing is to cover the body by obeying the order of tasattur and the other is to protect ourselves from the damages that may come from outside. The garments to serve this purpose may vary from place to place. What matters is to dress within legitimate boundaries. Being clean and pure is a necessity of the belief of a believer. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to cleanliness in dressing. However, it is unacceptable to fall into extravagance due to show off and imitating others. The Prophet advised wearing clothes that would not cause arrogance and pride; and he himself preferred plain clothes. Clothing can never be a means of superiority and privilege among people. It is a natural need. For, superiority is based on taqwa (piety) only.

One of the areas where waste is most prevalent today is the extravagance in engagement and wedding ceremonies. Engagement is the beginning of a marriage and the first step taken to establish a new home. The aim is the promise of two people to marry each other and to announce it to other people. The attempt to celebrate this event, whose importance is mentioned above, in a very showy and expensive way causes both parties to undergo financial difficulties before the marriage takes place. Extreme and unnecessary expenditures are also made in the wedding preparations and ceremonies followed by this. The aim of wedding is to show the legitimacy of the deed by announcing the marriage of two people. What is in accordance with the Sunnah in wedding is to obtain the basic necessities based on the financial state of the couple, to throw a wedding feast if possible, and to lay the foundations of a home with prayers. It is impossible to expect a happy and a good future from a home that is based on extravagance and haram. In short, it seems possible today to marry a few poor young couples and have three or five poor boys circumcised by the unnecessary expenditures made in wedding and circumcision ceremonies. Instead of saying, “whatever has been bought has been bought” and “store is no sore”, it is better to spend money on clothes and household goods by asking the question, "is this really necessary or is it luxury?"; thus, waste will be prevented. Spending money on useless and unnecessary things is regarded as luxury.

Islam is against luxury and show off, not wealth, when it prohibits extravagance.   It is necessary for a Muslim to work and be rich in order to fulfill the fard duties of his religion like hajj and zakah, and the nafilah deeds like umrah and sadaqah, which are beneficial to himself or the community. Allah likes it when the boons He has given are used in appropriate places. For, the Prophet (pbuh) states the following regarding the issue:

“Allah likes to see the traces of His boons on His slave." (Tirmidhi, Adab, 54; Abu Dawud, Libas, 17)

Man should never allow wealth to pamper himself, and lead him to luxury and extravagance. It is necessary not to confuse luxury with benefitting from the advanced technology of the age. He should keep pace with the current developments, and be open to any innovations that make life easier and practical and that save time. Luxury should be understood as trying to look wealthier than one is, and as being addicted to consumption excessively. In a sense, luxury is the opposite of a simple and plain life.

While Islam restricts the right of having private property with the prohibition of extravagance, it basically adopts the principle that the community has certain rights on wealth no matter who has it; thus, Islam wants to prevent the elimination of this right through extravagance.

The things we have tried to explain so far about extravagance are material things that can be measured by money. Apart from all these things, we have two valuable things that we consume abundantly and without thinking and whose value cannot be measured by anything; they are health and free time. Health and time are the two things that man wastes the most. For, the Prophet (pbuh) says,

“There are two blessings which many people lose: Health and free time.” (Bukhari, Riqaq 1; Tirmidhi, Zuhd 1; Ibn Majah, Zuhd 15)

Thus, he expresses that we do not appreciate those two important boons and that we use them immoderately. The great Ottoman Sultan, Sulayman, the Magnificent, expresses the importance of health nicely in a couplet: 

“There is nothing as respectable as the state among people
There is no state like health in the world.”

Alcoholic drinks, drugs, cigarette and other harmful habits are among the leading elements that threaten seriously the health of both the individuals and the community. In fact, protection of health is one of the five things that Islam wants to be maintained and protected. It is a religious responsibility to avoid being ill and to try to lead a healthy life. For, everything is dependent on being healthy. Health is the greatest blessing Allah has given His slaves. Allah Almighty states the following in a verse:

“…And make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction…” (al-Baqara, 2/195)

Thus, He states that man should avoid the things that will risk himself, harm his health and his life. The harmful habits mentioned above are not limited to the lives of individuals; they also affect the community and threaten the health of the community. No matter how you look at it, harmful habits like, alcohol, drugs and cigarette lead individuals and the community to destruction.

Another blessing we waste, along with our health, is time. This means consuming our life, which is like our capital given to us by Allah. Muslims should not be wasting time. It is necessary to understand the term "free time" as time remaining after the necessary works and tasks to be done. Today, masses of people have virtually been enslaved by television. Those who never stop watching television from early hours of the day until midnight by trying not to miss any series waste their time, which is very valuable and make it useless.

“He whose two days are equal is a loser.” (Ajluni, Kashful-Khafa, II, 323)

We should make use of our time under the light of the hadith above, and to make efforts and research in order to improve ourselves. As a community, we are among the people that read the least.

When we see people, especially young people, playing cards in coffeehouses, gamble in casinos and waste their times in places of amusement, we observe sadly how life, not time, is given very little importance. I think it will not be wrong to include them in the statement “Allah does not love the wasters.”

Everybody with a good sense should spend his life under the light of the following hadith: 

“Appreciate five things before five things come: Your life before death, your health before illness, your free time before becoming occupied, your youth before old-age and your wealth before poverty.”(Munawi, Faydul-Qadir, 2/16)

Life, health, free time, youth and wealth mentioned in the hadith above are very precious boons given to people by Allah. If we thank Allah for them, He will increase them; otherwise, all of those boons may be lost one day. 

Precautions to be Taken against Extravagance

Since the one who uses material and spiritual possessions extravagantly is man himself, the education of man is one of the first measures to be taken. For, in every field, man that is well-trained and educated will continue his life by appreciating his life, health, youth and time, and will work for the benefit of the community he lives in as a productive person by getting rid of laziness and inertia.

Man first should know his value by knowing himself and use his material and spiritual wealth properly so that he will be able to look at others through the same viewpoint and appreciate them. In this regard, there are some duties for everybody, beginning from the highest units of the community to all levels. Those who are in charge of schools, families, mosques and other institutions should tell people, young and old alike, about the harms of wasting on every occasion and convince them that it is necessary to be frugal and to encourage them to practice economy. 

The role of religious education in the prevention of waste can never be denied. For, if Muslims heed the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah and arrange their lives according to them, it will be impossible for them to act extravagantly. For, man tends to show-off, wealth and abundance, but our religion advises man to be content with Allah's boons and not to ignore gratitude. For, contentment is a never-ending treasure. Contentment causes a person to be frugal, which is the best attitude against extravagance. The Prophet states the following regarding the issue:

“Thriftiness in spending is half of livelihood.” (al-Fathul Kabir, 1/507)

Thus, he attracts attention to the importance of thriftiness. It is unthinkable for a thrifty person to be extravagant. To be thrifty does not mean to be stingy because thriftiness is frugality. When we mentioned the causes that led to wasting, we said that the addiction of people to luxury and abundance played a big role in it. Imitating others has also a big share in it. Imitating others can cause a person to put himself under a great burden without thinking. The result will always lead him to extravagance. A person should always look at the people that are lower than himself related to financial issues. That is the right thing to do. As a matter of fact, the Prophet (pbuh) states the following:

“Look at those who stand at a lower level than you. Do not look at those who stand at a higher level than you. This is the best for you so that you will not despise Allah’s boons that you have.” (Muslim, Zuhd 9)

If we can adopt this criterion expressed by the Prophet (pbuh) fully, we will realize the value of the blessings we have, and this understanding will protect us from imitation and extravagance. In addition, it is an important step in the struggle against extravagance to adopt a plain life to the extent that we can and to regard it as a principle. Besides, the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) requires this. For, he always preferred plainness both in the most troubled times of Islam and when the level of prosperity of Islamic community rose due to victories and booties; he served as a model to people in this issue as he did in other issues.

In conclusion, waste is something that our religion forbids. Therefore, to violate this prohibition anywhere means to exceed the limits and to disobey Allah's order. It means to risk losing His love and consent. It is possible to say that this spiritual loss is the biggest harm caused by waste. On the other hand, waste is one of the factors that overshadow the peace and happiness of both the individuals and the community. People who are overcome by spending a lot and extravagance will take for granted both their boons and the national wealth, which belongs to the community. Consumptions made thoughtlessly will eventually cause the level of the material welfare of the people and the community go down. For this reason, it is an important duty to regard waste as a major threat to the future of individuals and the community and to take necessary precautions against it. However, in order to be able to achieve this, it is necessary to believe really that waste is harmful. If we do not act sensitively and do not take urgent measures in this regard, we will be a mere spectator to the exhaustion of the natural resources of the world, the entire environment and eventually elimination of life. At the end of this article, it will be appropriate to mention here the following prayer taught to us by Allah Almighty:

“...Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and anything We may have done that transgressed our duty: Establish our feet firmly, and help us against those that resist Faith.” (Aal-i Imran, 3/147)

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