Community Islamic Character Reflections Youth

The Satisfaction of an iPhone

By Deena Majeed

You have owned an iPhone 4 since it came out. You accessorized it with different covers, a wall-charger, and even a car-charger. Then in October 2011, the iPhone 4S emerges. Suddenly, you want the new iPhone, you need the new iPhone, you envision the new iPhone in your hands. So you upgrade, and you get rid of your (suddenly) old model. The newer version is minimum two hundred dollars with a two-year contract, you add on insurance (just in case), and a new cover or two.

You are content…until the iPhone 5 comes out in 2012, and then the cycle repeats.

This scenario is familiar to many Americans who like to keep up with the latest trends. It is a cycle of replacing and upgrading perfectly usable objects that we own, and it is a result of ‘perceived obsolescence’. Perceived obsolescence is a concept that explains how we believe that the items we own, that are still usable, have suddenly become ‘obsolete’ (The Story of Stuff). They cannot be used anymore because there is a better, newer, and more functional version out there. Remember the first version of the iPhone? It has become so obsolete that the concept of buying and using one now is laughable.

However, perceived obsolescence applies to more than just iPhones; it applies to any material object that we buy. Down the line, we decide that we want to get rid of these objects because they are no longer trendy; this includes clothing, electronics, and even home décor.

The Qur’an tells us how we have become so distracted with material objects:

“Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you, until you visit the graveyards,” (Qur’an 102:1-2).

Do we wish to spend all of our lives racing to accumulate material goods and benefits that will never bring us true satisfaction? Although it is exciting to receive a new iPhone, how long until we get bored and decide that we want something better, newer, and more expensive? We spend countless hours per week working, only to spend a great percentage of our paycheck on things that we do not need.

As for the solution, are we supposed to shun all material aspects of this life and deem them haram (prohibited)? No, not necessarily. But we do need to realize that the problem is not in the practice of being consumers, but in the actual mindset of consuming. We need to learn how to alter our perspective and realize the difference between wanting something and needing something. Of course we all know the actual difference between wanting and needing, but the line between these two concepts becomes fuzzy when we desire the wrong things. We begin to believe that we actually need the new iPhone, video game console, or pair of jeans, even though we simply want it and in reality, our life would not crumble or fall apart without it.

As Yasmin Mogahed reminds us: “Remember that everything in this life is only a glimpse. Love, beauty, happiness are only imperfect approximations. Only the dunya (worldly) version of these things. Seek the Real thing […]”

The line between the ‘real thing’ and ‘approximations’, however, has become blurred. We have become so bombarded with advertisements that lure us into believing we want things that we do not even want. Men are convinced that if they buy a certain cologne they will look as handsome as the model wearing it, and women are convinced that if they buy a certain mascara they will have eyes as beautiful as the model’s, even though both the male and female models in the advertisements have been heavily photoshopped. Many times we believe the advertisement, we fall for its promises, its deceptions, its lies, and we buy the cologne, the mascara, the jeans, the camera—anything and everything that is advertised these days. We buy the product, we may use it for a while, and eventually it becomes clutter that fills up our homes and our lives. Eventually our homes and our minds become so stuffed with clutter and things that we do not need that our values become inflated as well. We forget what is important and what is not.

Remember our main goal in this life: to serve Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), and to reach jannah (heaven) in the real, everlasting life. Enjoy the beauties of this world because they are gifts from Allah (swt) but do not be led astray by them. The less stuff we have, the more grateful we will be for the things we do have.

Studies have shown that truly happy purchases are not material objects, but experiences that we create. These types of purchases create memories that will never be forgotten, that we can carry with us at all times, and that will never clutter up our shelves.

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  • Assalaamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh,
    Jazakumullahu Khairan for a beautiful reminder!!! Barak Allahu Feekum:)

  • As salamualikum, reminds me to look around my home and mentally , throw out a lot or abandon many items , decide what I’d keep should an emergency evacuation occur.

  • @No!!!

    With all due respect, the author didn’t say anything about Americans or westernization… More than likely, the author is an American… And as a muslim and a proud American (born and raised), I can tell you that the author had no intentions of saying only “those Americans get wrapped up in all this materialism…” No, it is a very real muslim problem and it has been a very real human problem since the beginning of the first human being… According to the Islamic tradition, as soon as God (All Praise be to Him) breathed life into Adam while he was in heaven, Adam jumped and started running around because of his amazement of all of what he was seeing… heaven. God revealed a verse referring to this story, the meaning translating something to the effect of “Human beings have been created in haste.”

    Imam Webb told a story that happened about 1400 years ago that Umar ibn Khattab, the second Caliphate, saw a man running, and he could tell that the man was in a hurry. And so he asked him, “Why are you in such a hurry?” So the man replied, “Because I’m in a rush to go eat my favorite food.” So Umar replied, “Have you no control over your desires?”

    Materialism is a very real problem that we all have to deal with, muslims included. So please don’t take it as an offense against the, like you said, lifestyle of a very few number of Americans. Everyone knows Kim Kardashian does not represent the majority of Americans, who are hard-working people. This country was founded on hard-work. But this article was only to give a message, to be grateful for what you have, and recognize that this world is not the target. The target is in the hereafter, heaven. We’re all here trying to improve ourselves, together, am I’m glad that you posted on this website.

    • I certainly don’t remember reading a verse like that in the Quran. Please, if someone knows it, cite that verse.

      • hi sister, i remember that reference but could not recall the verse so i looked it up. aside from that given by Muslimah below:

        al-Isra, 11 “And man supplicates for evil as he supplicates for good, and man is ever hasty.”

        al-Ma’arij, 19-20 “Surely man is created of a hasty (or anxious) temperament; When evil touches him, impatient,”

        and several others referencing man’s foolish desire for a hasty world.

        anyway the article reminded me of when i bought my car (still have it), and telling the saleswoman that i’m looking for a car that will work reliably given that i was intending to have it for at least 10 years. i mean for certain reliable brands, this is completely achievable. i could see from her face the saleswoman had some difficulty with this, as she asked whether i was not intending to swap it over in 5 years or 7 like most people? (but she recovered quickly and accepted it when i indeed assured her so.) i reckon the next time i consider changing it is when there’s sufficient technological advancement in fuel efficiency technology.

        but it’s hard to resist the cultural norms; you’re gonna have to suffer being joked about for still not changing a relatively early (but perfectly adequate) Nokia smartphone running on Symbian… 🙂 i’ve got used to it though.

  • As-Salaamu-Alaikum,

    May allah reward you, great post.

    Another added bonus to not needing the latest cool gadget is a rise in the bank account. If you can keep your current Iphone, to use the analogy from above, working for the long term, you will not have to dish out hundreds to get a new one.

    If you can make it habit to purchase older models of the technology gadgets, you save hundreds. If you can make them last also, then even more saved.

    After all, they do say “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

  • @Sabrah

    Assalamu Alikum

    I believe the verse is not that Allah (swt) created man in haste. It is that man is a creation characterized by haste.

    The actual verse is:

    خُلِقَ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنُ مِنۡ عَجَلٍ۬‌ۚ سَأُوْرِيكُمۡ ءَايَـٰتِى فَلَا تَسۡتَعۡجِلُونِ

    “Man is a creature of haste: soon (enough) will I show you My Signs: then ye will not ask Me to hasten them!” (21:37)

  • jazakallahu akhairan 2gda we wil mek it,American,European,African,Asian,Australian etc alla Muslims r brothers to 1 anoda.

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