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Does online shopping chip away at our Iman whilst making our lives easier?

Jan 31, 2022

Shakirah Hunter

I wake up early in the morning and after my morning routines, it’s a deeply ingrained habit in the twenty first century to reach for my phone and swipe through status updates. At times they are full of positive messages, inspirational ayaat and motivational sayings. But often I am immediately hit by the adverts, sales, and latest must haves – as people have moved to online businesses. Previously when we thought of shopping online, we added to cart and had to fetch our cards and enter the OTP and then wait as the order is delivered to us. This has changed immensely – we no longer shop on a website separate to our family and friends’ apps like WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook – these apps which used to be our social connection now have become our greatest marketing tools.

There no longer is a cut off between shopping and relaxing with your phone or connecting to family. It has all merged to create a constant need to shop and wants and needs are no longer being allowed any delay – there is no time to wait for something – instant gratification has us all quickly pressing ‘add to cart’.

The pros of online shopping:

Being a person who hates being followed by a salesperson, online shopping is bliss as you can take your time and shop in peace. It is highly advantageous because it is so convenient. When your life is constantly busy – the convenience of things being delivered to you helps cut through a mountain of daily chores and responsibilities. It has the massive benefit of saving both time and money – as online shops tend to be much cheaper and allows you to search multiple items quite easily and compare prices across the board. The advantages are many, and for me the winner is that I am able to purchase gifts for family members across the world and have it sent to them without any difficulty.

The cons of online shopping:

Unfortunately, whilst we would love to live to think that online shopping has only benefitted us – it comes with many challenges and affects our spiritual health in many ways. The usual cons are risk of fraud and not knowing if you will receive what you see online, you may find it difficult to return a parcel and receive the money you spent back. The disadvantage of waiting for things to arrive, tracking items, and then losing things in the mail can drive you crazy. If you love the social engagement of shopping in a mall you definitely lose this to the quiet of online shopping.

How does online shopping negatively impact us as Muslims? 

As Muslims, our relationship with online shopping has to be deeper and focused on the harms that it brings to our hearts and souls. As we peruse statuses, and we are constantly being marketed – we develop the incredible sickness of ‘want’ or ‘greed’. Every time we see something beautiful or well packaged, we fall into the trap of our nafs being unchecked. Every time we see something and purchase without thought we are feeding the soul who would love to live the life of a spoilt child – unchecked and allowed to gain exactly what he wants.

This then takes us away from the desired quality of qana’a – a deep satisfaction with the decree of Allah. At times you may purchase a beautiful abaya or jilbab or Kurta and you love it – until you see an ad for something better, something shinier and something that everybody is talking about, this brings home a quality of ingratitude and highlights the hadith of the Prophet (s) wherein He said: “The mouth will never be satisfied until sand fills it”. Meaning that if we do not control our wants and desires, we will never reach a point of satisfaction. Online shopping can lead to a dangerous place – debt which then takes us to ribaa. This usually happens when we are unable to shop within our means and click add to cart without thinking of the ramifications of this on our credit cards and we continuously live in the cycle of debt.

How do we control impulsive online shopping?

  • Firstly, we have to take control of what we see on our social media – if you find it too difficult to unfollow -try muting accounts that you know are constantly marketing you and only go to their status or stories when you are fully aware that you would like to purchase something.
  • When deciding to purchase something recognize if it is a want or a need – wants are sometimes wrapped in needs and Shaitaan tricks you into thinking that you must purchase it -immediately or you will never get the same deal again.
  • Budgeting your income and expenses on paper – this allows you to be real with yourself and to be more aware of the amount that you are spending versus the amount that you earn.
  • Use the ‘sleep on it’ rule or the ‘delay for a day’ rule. This allows you to give yourself a little time, to delay you from the instant purchase without thought or reflection.
  • Impulsive shopping often stems from feelings of sadness, loneliness or as a reward to ourselves. Try not to shop or purchase anything in those moments of intense feelings – as the purchase is simply a dopamine hit that we are using to deal with the problems that we might be going through.

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