Aaisha’s Ramadaan diaries, Day 17: On consumption

Day 17: On consumption

When I was in first year, I was in an English lecture on Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger when my lecturer said something I’ll never forget: to what extent does what you consume, consume you? I don’t remember the context of it, but I do remember being distracted and pondering on that point quite heavily.

It also kind of takes me full circle to the first two verses of Surah Takathur, which are of maximum depth and put EVERYTHING into perspective.

أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ
حَتَّىٰ زُرْتُمُ الْمَقَابِرَ

Roughly translated, this means:

“Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you

Until you visit the graveyards.” (102:1-2)

I find this to be extremely impactful because of the reminder it provides that this life is only temporary. That as a Muslim, I am not here for hedonistic purposes. That worldly gains are a test for me – the true increases I should be striving to attain are spiritual. That upon death, whatever material things accrued in this world become meaningless.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget these things. And I want to relate this back to the concept of hijab.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know by now that it is my life mission to debunk the myth that “hijab” is only a headscarf. Hijab instead refers to an entire state of being and a code for behaviour. It is an instruction to all Muslims to behave modestly and conduct themselves with humility in all that they do. It is a guide for character.

Consumerism in its entirety is counter-intuitive to what this notion of hijab actually is. And sometimes we forget that.

We cannot become slaves to this world and its physical pleasures – that in itself remains a form of jihad (again, my regular readers will know: internal conflict, NOT the Islamic State). Because we do. Hell, I do. I love shopping, I love nice things, and I don’t think that that makes me a bad person. But the VALUE of material things is what it is that holds the most importance. The way that I view it – is the attainment of a certain shoe or jacket really more important than anything else? (a question I ask myself as I guiltily sift through racks at Rosebank).

I saw a great blog post once which sticks in my mind and I cannot find anywhere, which talks about the Japanese anime movie Spirited Away (a film I studied in my Honours course as well) and draws parallels to the month of Ramadan. In the movie, the main character is transported to a spiritual world after her parents eat greedily and are transformed into pigs. Greed and food are central themes of the film (I am explaining extremely badly but here’s the Wikipedia page). Anyway, it really stuck with me how it posed the question – to what extents are we tied to the world from which we eat and consume?

Greed remains a sin and something that is warned against in all major religions, and everything that I am saying is not new. But I think it’s especially relevant to consider during the month of Ramadan – a time when we should strive as best as possible to detach from worldly things, but a time that is becoming increasingly commercialised.

It’s not just the iftar meal that’s been coloured by the ghostly hands of capitalism

Some big-name lines are even releasing products specifically aimed at Muslims for this time.

And so I pray, today and always, that God does not let me get attached to that which will – in the greater scheme – not add any value to my life.

This is a special Ramadaan series by our fave Muslim reporter, Aaisha Dadi Patel. For Day 16’s musings, click here.