Materialism in the Name of Spirituality Dilemma of Muslims -By Sohrab Hussain


As a practicing Muslim, everyone wishes to lead a spiritual life for the satisfaction of Allah. For lack of academic and religious knowledge, in most cases, we majority of Muslims nourish paradoxical characters inner side and apply practically in outer arena of our individual, family, social and cultural life. We do practice believing the part of our spirituality, but actually it serves the materialistic ideology in terms of spirituality. The subtle and tricky difference can barely be identified, which inevitably destructs the virtues we achieve by worshipping Allah. We should no doubt know the way how it works and how we can identify the practical appearance of the materialism to escape ourselves from its claw. To identify the materialistic elements, come have a walk through the long aged history and development of materialism, which has clouded the way of getting the satisfaction of Allah. Renaissance, destruction of family, social, cultural and religious norms in west, search for happiness, idea of materialism and then, capitalism, consumerism and commercialism to get happiness- all are interlinked in the way of getting so called worldly happiness with which Islamic norms have no relationship as they believe that happiness can be achieved by the submission to Allah and it is obvious if we look over the autobiography of Mohammad (pbuh) and his fellows.
After renaissance, which was brought as the revolt against unreasonable interference and control over the subjects imposing restrictions and gripping the individual, social, cultural and religious life in Europe, the religion had been separated and outcast from all spheres of life. In return, everyone felt vacancy in mind and became ardent to get the peace and happiness in mind. As the feelings to religion had already been eroded from heart, they took the materials as an alternative to the religion and only by development of materials, they believed they could bring the happiness in life. Since spirituality restrains the unfettered consumption of goods or use of power, they, considering as weeds, uprooted it from lifestyle. Then in order to develop the materials, they privatized the property over which owners had absolute right to exploit the property in the name of capitalism. After privatization of property, people began to capitalize the money by producing and reproducing the product. Consequently in Europe, revolution of industrialization produced unlimited and unnecessary number of products, which were not needed to lead a comfortable life and thus, consumerism was invented for the consumption of products by producers themselves and customers as well. In the word of Marx, any surplus from that production was allotted in different ways for instance in ancient society, between ruling class and slaves; in feudalism, between landowners and serfs and in capitalism, between capitalist class and the working class. Since less, or least, or unnecessary number of products, which were not needed to lead a happy and peaceful life, enwrapped the whole market. General sentiment of the people was not to buy the products until they felt want of such products for enjoying a happy life. As they identified the short of consumers comparing to the production supply, they started to manipulate the choice of people by advertisement through media and by this process, the concept of commercialism was invented to produce consumers of those products. For the impact of such commercialism, need replaced the desire and desire became want of and thus, consumers started to nourish the desire, which replaced the greed and gradually consumers lost their control over themselves ultimately they wished to drive a materialistic life capturing unlimited power and property as the byproduct of greed. As earlier said that such materialistic inner characters have the practical appearance created by the multinational companies for their profits, now we discuss the answer to the question of what are the practical features of materialistic characters and how does it function in our religious life and how do we hold such paradoxical characters simultaneously and at last, we shall justify through the bioscope of religion to find the way out of paradoxical position. In perspective Bangladesh, first and foremost vivid example is the competition among mothers for good marks or healthy result of their children and constant pressure of study on them by several tutors and coaching to get such score; ultimate purpose of such attempt is to pride their children on positioning as the high officials or intellectuals, which is totally linked to the materialistic approach. Similarly, some pious Muslim parents also send their child to a religious institution expecting that their child will score a good result and get a high position, or not purely for Islam but for completing their funeral and ritual or even as the last resort of escaping from the wrath of god, they send the youngest, or lame, or deaf, or any other kind of defective child to religious educational institutions. Religious teaching purely for funeral or ritual can no way be the Islamic norm though it is not out of purview of Islamic, but such study for being famous or get honor in the society is rooted to the materialistic belief which is overlapped by some spiritual purposes of ritual, working as Imam, doing Waz etc. It means every attempt has a worldly benefit as of natural system, but making that ‘worldly benefit’ as ‘sole purpose’ of life is materialistic approach. Who does not like to jump into the water of love, which lures us to make an extra-marital relation with opposite gender? Multinational companies use this concept in their advertisement, cinema and drama to broadcast by media to normalize, socialize and legalize in the society to cut the profits by manipulating the choice that if lover wants to make and protect the relation he/she has to give gifts made by such companies. The very term ‘Smartness’ is familiar to the young generations in Bangladesh. This wind of smartness has already shattered all kinds of moral boundaries and young generations doing everything to make them ‘smart’ irrespective to their culture, social, family and religious norms. In the name of fashion to lure the customers, the multinational companies, by pouring the unbridled greed on show-off, are constantly instigating to buy their products in order to cut the profits. As the companies are manipulating the choice by controlling their psychology, they frequently change the articles of fashion advertising that if they want to be smart they have to purchase such new products because previous products have become obsolete. Some days ago which was the matter of prestige, now is the matter of uncultured!!!!! Now question is what the position of Islam is in this regard. All these kind of show-off are the part of materialism. In Islam, smartness is to work for humanity in order to eradicate inhumanity from the world; the purpose of such smartness is to get the satisfaction of Allah. In Sura al-maun, Allah says about two types of people one is the disbeliever of thereafter and another is ‘Munafiq’ (cheater). The character of a disbeliever is to impinge the orphans and the character of a Munafiq is to perform everything to show off himself as the pious Muslim though actually not. So doing anything to show off is forbidden in Islam. The smartness of young should be to help the helpless people, to work for orphans, not to fire slums but to protect those people, if possible could help the beggar not to humiliate them; in total, all humanitarian activities should be the part of smartness and all inhumane activities should be part of backward. The persons working in the intellectual field of Islam should earn knowledge to get the satisfaction of Allah by contributing to knowledge movement, not to be renowned or get respect at all. The multinational companies are using many festivals by promoting as national festivals and making as a part of our culture. They make different dresses for different festivals and they broadcast by media as such whole festival will be worthless if they do not buy, wear and go out of home to celebrate the festivals. They produce ‘Fasguni Sharee’ for ‘Falguun Utsob’, special dresses for ‘Puja Utsob’, green saree for ‘Pohela Boisakh’, even mournful days like ‘26th March’ or ’16th December’ have become the occasion of enjoyment. To wear exotic dresses, exhibiting their beauty towards opposite gender, once was considered as anti-social dress up but now has become the part of our culture especially in urban areas; more importantly, some young girls wear veil as a part of fashion to protect their skin from the harm of weather, not of religion. ‘Is your skin dark color, do you want to be a beautiful girl?’- These are common slogans, which many multinational companies especially ‘Uniliver’ promoted by advertisement. They used the general sentiment of the girl majority of whom are of dark color promising that if they use the cream their face will be changed and they will be beautiful. Through this process, they are manipulating the psychology of the girls who have dark color skin. To use any material to become beautiful to show off the others means that the person is not satisfied with what Allah has given him and he/she wants to get admire for his/her beauty which is related to materialism as showing off the beauty is a way of getting worldly happiness. We always prompt in purchasing a luxurious plat to enjoy the life, which is offered by developer companies. Though Muslims perform all basic rules and regulations of Islam, rich they never feel guilty to buy such plat to lead a luxurious as they have capacity to buy such high costly plat and actually it is not a matter of feeling guilty since it is not sin in the eye of Islam. But the will of luxurious may lead him to breach the Islamic principles gradually in future. Most importantly, such expensive life may make a pious Muslim indulgence about his representative responsibilities for what he had been sent to this world. Since luxurious life is related to the materialistic approach, which was the main purpose of development of materialism, we Muslims should escape ourselves from this materialistic element. At last, as a Muslim, we should know the core elements of materialism, and be aware of the propaganda of media of spreading the materialism in the name of modernism, and should have an eagle eye on the practical existence of materialism by which we are surrounded.

The writer is a post-graduate student of Law at the University of Dhaka.

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