What is the criterion for extravagance and generosity? How can we distinguish between extravagance and generosity?

Details of the Question

When I go to the supermarket every week or every other week for shopping, I buy cakes, biscuits, chocolate, etc. for the household and the guests to come. Alhamdulillah, I have a good income. I sometimes think to myself, “Am I wasting money?” I remember reading something meaning “a person will not be called to account for what he spends for his family” in probably a hadith. Can this state be divine grace for us after the days of hardship?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Waste (extravagance) is something relative. Something that is regarded as extravagance for a position can be normal for another position and little for yet another position. It means it is necessary to buy things based on the position one has and place he lives in; one should buy what is necessary.

It is not permissible to buy something unnecessary just because others will see it or others have it.

Hz. Aisha narrates the following from the Messenger of Allah:

"If a woman gives in charity from her house meals without wasting (i.e. being extravagant), she will get the reward for her giving, and her husband will also get the reward for his earning and her maid will also get a similar reward. The acquisition of the reward of none of them will reduce the reward of the others." (Bukhari, Buyu', 12)  

It means charity is essential based on customs and place. We can compare it to all kinds of expenditure.

WASTER, WASTE

A person who spends unnecessarily; extravagant.

Waste means extravagance, going, making mistakes and being heedless. It also means man’s transgression in what he does. According to Sufyan ath-Thawri, anything that is not spent in the way of Allah is waste. Waste is also defined as "to grab things that Allah rendered haram". (İsmail Hakkı Bursevî, Ruhu`l-Beyan, II. 262)

To spend more than what is necessary, to tend to things that shari’ah rendered haram, to fulfill the desires of one’s soul and lust and to spend heedlessly and disrespectfully are regarded as waste.  
It is also regarded waste to cut down on one’s spending on the needs of his body so much as to prevent oneself from fulfilling worshipping.

The concepts, waster, waste and extravagance are used in various chapters and verses of the Quran in various senses: (Aal-i Imran, 3/147, an-Nisa: 4/6, al-An`am: 6/141, al-Araf, 7/31, Taha, 20/127, Yunus: 10/12, al-Mu`min: 40/128, az-Zumar: 39/53).

Allah states the following in the Quran:

"It is He Who produceth gardens, with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds, and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in variety): 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)

Man has to meet his intellectual, spiritual and physical needs through legitimate means. Otherwise, he will suffer doubts and hesitations in terms of thought, depression in terms of spirit and weakness in terms of body. In that case, he cannot fulfill his religious and physical responsibilities. As it is seen in the verse, man is ordered to eat what Allah has created through legitimate ways and sufficiently. However, this must not be excessive. For, the harms of consumption that reaches the point of extravagance exceed the individual and affect the family and the society. This is haram.

Islam has rendered intention (niyyah) necessary in all deeds of worship. Intention means for a Muslim to be aware of what, why, when and how he is doing. Therefore, a Muslims avoids all unconscious, useless and unscrupulous movements: Waste is unnecessary and unscrupulous; therefore, it is forbidden for Muslims: "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).

Allah does not like useless and purposeless expenditures. It could be a loaf bread, or crumbs of bread. It could be a drop of water, or a river that flows. It could be one’s whole life, or a minute that is wasted.

For this reason, waste being haram is regarded as one of the basic principles of the Islamic economic system.

A Muslims cannot be a waster; he cannot waste what he has and cannot use what he has in unnecessary and useless places.

The wounds and destruction caused by waste in the individual, familial and social life are among of the main problems today as they were throughout history.

Unless the unconscious consumption society is replaced by a balanced and spiritually disciplined society, realistic savings cannot be made and necessary investments cannot be made; an independent economic system cannot be established by getting rid of external dependency. This can only be achieved by a society where Islam is dominant.

It will be seen that a large budget is eliminated in a society where nearly a million tons of bread are wasted per year, foods are thrown away, water is wasted, energy is used unnecessarily, clothes and makeup are consumed unnecessarily.

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