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What is Israaf / Extravagance in Islam?

by | Dec 6, 2013

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Islam is the religion of life, and its precepts and rules set the grounds for human felicity and success, both for the individual and society. Islam has created a complete program for every facet of human life and has advised balance and Moderation to its followers in all affairs. 

What is Israaf in Islam?

Extravagance or Israaf means spending more than your means – which means that Extravagance is relative and not something we can put a limit/number on. 

Being extravagant is also spending on anything that you don’t need. Being wasteful is owning anything that is not a necessity.

إِنَّهَا سَآءَتْ مُسْتَقَرًّا وَمُقَامًا

Indeed, it is evil as a settlement and residence.”

وَٱلَّذِينَ إِذَآ أَنفَقُوا۟ لَمْ يُسْرِفُوا۟ وَلَمْ يَقْتُرُوا۟ وَكَانَ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ قَوَامًا

And [they are] those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but are, between that, [justly] moderate.

(AlQuran 25:66-67)

It doesn’t mean that israaf is merely related to money or expenditures. Still, it includes all unnecessary use of resources, whether using water while performing ablution ! or leaving food on a plate as you filled your plate more than your appetite. And even eating more than your appetite comes under israaf.

Israaf is prohibited from exceeding the limits of what is required or customary. Those who do so will be counted among the spendthrifts, about whom Allah says:

إِنَّ ٱلْمُبَذِّرِينَ كَانُوٓا۟ إِخْوَٰنَ ٱلشَّيَٰطِينِ ۖ وَكَانَ ٱلشَّيْطَٰنُ لِرَبِّهِۦ كَفُورًا

Indeed, the wasteful are brothers of the devils, and ever has Satan been to his Lord ungrateful?

(AlQuran 17:27)

On the other hand, miserliness, spending less than what is required, is also prohibited.

What is needed is a just balance between the two extremes, the good and noble middle path between two evil tendencies.

Even overeating or eating more than your “necessities” counts as Extravagance or Israaf.

Allah says:

 يَٰبَنِىٓ ءَادَمَ خُذُوا۟ زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَكُلُوا۟ وَٱشْرَبُوا۟ وَلَا تُسْرِفُوٓا۟ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُسْرِفِينَ

O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.

(AlQuran 7:31) 

The method of determining whether or not an action is counted as Israaf is to consider whether it exceeds what is needed or what is customarily regarded by the people to be within acceptable limits.

For example, if a person needs a certain amount of clothing, but goes on and buys more than his needs, then he has acted with Israaf. This is determined by what people customarily see as usual or as excessive.

For any spending, there will be a limit that people customarily see as a proper amount. Any spending above this limit will be excessive and Extravagance unless there is a legitimate reason for it that is recognized by Islamic teachings.

Condemning Extravagance & encouraging Moderation

A classic example in Islam

Today I am just going to tell you a story that will help you understand the concept of Extravagance. And how to avoid it better. Would Insha’a Allah guide you to the right path dodging the sin of Israaf?

The story is about Hazrat Abu Bakr (R.A.), The first caliph of Islam. Hazrat Abu Bakr before he was bestowed with the rank of a caliph. He was a merchant and traded fine clothes. As soon as he was made the caliph, the companions of the holy Prophet (S.A.W.W.) unanimously declared that Abu Bakr should not continue with his trade (for the fear that people may think he gets some extra privileges in trade due to his rank).

Instead, he would be given his monthly wages from Bait-ul-Maal (the state’s treasury), and his wages were fixed equal to an average laborer’s daily wage in Medina. So he had to give up his old lifestyle and adjust his living to that of labor.

Hazrat Abu Bakr Wife:

It happened once that Hazrat Abu-Bakr had a meal at his home. After finishing the meal, he felt an urge for something sweet to eat. So he asked his wife if there was something sweet at home. His wife replied negatively, telling him that whatever the Bait-ul-Maal sends them for eating never contains anything lavish; hence, they don’t have any sweet thing to eat. He thanked Allah for the meal and stayed silent about this.

A week later, his wife brought him a bowl of homemade sweets to eat after dinner. This surprised Abu Bakr, and he asked his wife how did she manage to find something sweet for him to eat? His wife told him how she saved a handful of flour from their daily provisions every day for a week and then traded it for some date syrup to make the sweet. Abu Bakr smiled at this and thanked his wife. Immediately afterward, Abu Bakr went to Bait-ul-Maal and told them to reduce a handful of flour daily from their daily provisions, claiming that a week’s experience had led him to conclude that they could survive with a lesser quantity of flour.

Subhaan Allah!!!!!!!

what an inspiration… Isn’t it?

Now let us all close our eyes and think, what would we have done if we were in his place???

Be honest.

If it were me, I might have asked for a handful more flour in my daily provisions to eat some sweets at least twice a week. :/

Sad but true 🙁

Tips to avoid Israaf or Extravagance

Now enough has cleared about dislikes of Israaf in Islam, so passing the introduction step, we should move towards the action. Following are some Tips to avoid israaf:

  1. Determine where you spend your money. After making a list of all expenditures, prioritize them. Immediately remove unnecessary routine purchases.
  2. Don’t be a “shopaholic.” Often people consider shopping as a source of fun and enjoyment. I think that statement would be heard by most of us “oh, I’m getting bored ! let’s go shopping “. And when we enter any shopping mall, we go mad! We try to grab everything that tempts us and does not get out of the shopping mall until our wallet is empty of money.
  3. Here comes the most light trap “sale,” “discount,” “buy two get one free.” Now even if you need 1 item only, to avail yourself of the chance, you will pay for 2 items to get one free. Wherever a lady sees “sale,” I bet she would spend more than routine, no matter how modest and thrifty a lady is. I am not saying you must not avail discount offers, but be careful about israaf there too.
  4. Make the most of your clothes and other fashion accessories rather than buying more unnecessarily. Islam allows you to be trendy or look good, as it’s within certain limits. Follow the trends, but keep in mind your hijab and budget.
  5. Focus on food( in your refrigerator and on your plate too). Buy as much food as you think you can easily consume. There is no need to pile up the refrigerator with food and vegetables and then, later on, throw them out because they are expired. Likewise, add food to your plate as much as you think you will finish quickly.
  6. And please! Stop being brand conscious! Not every one of your possessions should be branded, from your shoes, dress, and accessories to your car. If it suits you and works well, it’s perfect; no need to pay a substantial extra charge for just a T.A.G. of a brand.
  7. You can replace your paper towels with cloth ones.
  8. Grow a garden. Even a small plot can yield significant amounts of fresh food.

And lastly, an important point! Many of the points mentioned above might already be practiced by you, maybe for saving money for some purpose, or maybe it’s just chronic. But most of us never would have refrained from spending money because “Allah dislikes israaf.” This would save you money and bring blessings to Allah. So ! making niyyah is very important; the same action could be rewarded 1000 times just because of inclining your intention towards Allah!

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