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What is Materialism? – Part 1

Our theme for Hajj 1442 is realising and understanding that having less can actually be having more. To understand this we need to understand two very important concepts and characteristics which are prevalent in many of us, the one being Materialism and the second is Minimalism.

With this being the season of Hajj, and even though we cannot undertake the blessed journey, it is a perfect time to try and make sense of these characteristics and put them into perspective in our lives. Because Hajj is a journey where the traveller worries very little of their looks, possessions and belongings and concentrates on just one objective, to find Allah, the Almighty.

So over the next few days and certainly these are sacred days, we will try to unpack and explain the details of these two concepts.

Commencing with materialism, the first important question is,

What is Materialism?
Materialism is a personal attitude which attaches importance to acquiring and consuming material goods.
The use of the term materialistic tends to describe a person’s personality or a society and it tends to have a negative or critical connotation. Also called acquisitiveness, it is often associated with a value system which regards social status as being determined by affluence as well as the belief that possessions can provide happiness.

Materialism can be considered a pragmatic form of enlightened self-interest based on a prudent understanding of the character of market-oriented economy and society.

Some dictionaries give the definition of materialism as;
“pre-occupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.”

The American Psychological Association defines it as;
“a value system that emphasizes the pursuit and acquisition of material goods and luxuries, typically perceived by the individual as a measure of personal worth and achievement, often at the expense of moral, psychological, and social considerations.”

As a Muslim we should remember that Allah says in Surah Al-Takaathur:
أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ

The mutual rivalry for piling up (the good things of this world) diverts you (from the more serious things). [102:1]

Since تَّكَاثُرُ means contending to increase in numbers of tangible blessings, it is clear from this verse too, that human beings are naturally “diverted” in this life by this, from their primary goal – which should be success in the Hereafter.


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