Community Reflections

On Excess

Photo: Ashley Ringrose

By Meltem Baykaner

The day of Eid al-Adha last year was happily spent with my husband’s side of the family.

With the men in one room of my brother-in-law’s house and we women in the other, we laughed as the children bounced around us excitedly, concentrating on one of the activities thoughtfully set up for them for no longer than a few seconds at a time before moving on to another.

Meanwhile, the adults sat around the table, having just eaten, saying alhamduliLah (praise be to God) for the good food and company. As my sister-in-law commented gratefully on how the meal had turned out to be just the right amount for the entire gathering—each member of our party having contributed one dish to the spread—I agreed and commented that I was glad, because “I always worry that there won’t be enough food for everyone.”

Months have passed since then and only now have I realised what a strange and unnecessary anxiety that is to feel.

In a society where every street offers a host of fast food places and express supermarkets, with websites telling us to Just Eat whilst offering a multitude of top-rated fast food chains, where ready-made food is constantly available every day of the year like it never was before, I was concerned that “there won’t be enough.” Such an anxiety is not only unnecessary, it is greedy.

In Dr. Muhammad Ali al-Hashimi’s book The Ideal Muslimah, he observes that a person should “not eat to excess […] just enough to maintain [their] health and energy.” The idea of neither depriving your body of food nor over-indulging it to preserve good health is not a novel one, but is perhaps one that we no longer observe as we should.

Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exhalted is He) says, “Eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.” (Qur’an, 7:31) This message is conveyed to us repeatedly by Ar-Razzaq (the Sustainer), but have we ever considered how we commit excess all the time by over-spending, over-eating and essentially over-doing? And have we reflected on the effect that this may have on our minds, our bodies and most importantly, our relationship with Al-Wadud (the Loving), as highlighted in this verse?

Dictionaries will define greed as excessive desire, and waste as useless consumption, and we have been explicitly warned against these things. Perhaps now is the time to heed the warning—and not just with regard to food and drink—before we sink further into what seems to be the new global norm, where appetite for more is unquenchable.

Each one of us has a personal struggle. Perhaps there is something you have been indulging in so frequently that it has become mindless routine for you, and you are no longer aware of the detrimental effect it is having on you, on your wealth, or on your time. Perhaps you are ready now to consider what it could mean, how you could benefit in mind, body and soul if you were to change your way of thinking and limit this indulgence.

Of course, change must start within ourselves, and as I consider the changes that I can begin to make in my life, to do away with the excess that is taxing all my human faculties, I urge you, reader, to do the same; may Allah (swt) make it easy for you.

O you who have believed, let not your wealth and your children divert you from remembrance of Allah.”(Qur’an, 63:9)

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  • This really hits home with me. For a while now I’ve been living on my own in a European country, and so it’s been a little easier for me to control my consumption and live up to my ideals. But whenever I visit home I am shocked by the culture of excess, of hoarding, of constant desire for more, the culture I grew up within. Expensive gadgets used for a couple of months and then forgotten in some drawer. Tons of shoes that you never get around to wearing because you can’t actually keep track of them, and you still feel like you want to buy more. Old TV sets and cassette players stored in closets, collecting dust, but you don’t give them away because “they might come in handy”.

  • This beneficial post is a very good reminder for the Muslims living in a free country. Sometimes, it is easy to forget how much we have. I hope the Ummah benefits from this as I have benefited from this. Jazzak Allah Khair!

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