Discover how embracing ethical consumption and rejecting israf in line with Islamic teachings can lead to a more mindful, grateful, and responsible way of life, benefiting both the environment and society
Ethical Consumption in Islam: Embracing Mindfulness & Justice
Recent events have called us to question how we spend our money and explore the intricacies of the corporate world. Many of us are paying closer attention to what our funds could be supporting behind the scenes and investigating whether we may be contributing to unjust practices and unethical business transactions.
In a world increasingly driven by consumerism, the Islamic principles of ethical consumption and the rejection of wastefulness (israf) have never been more pertinent. As Muslims, we are called not only to be mindful of what we consume but also how we consume. The teachings of Islam on ethical consumerism can guide us in making more mindful, deliberate purchasing decisions, in turn teaching our children the value of conscious consumption.
The Quran states, “It is He who has made you successors, inheritors on the earth” (Quran 35:39). This profound statement places a considerable responsibility on Muslims to steward the earth responsibly. Our consumption choices should reflect our commitment to this divine mandate, ensuring that we do not partake in practices that oppress others, harm the environment, or support unethical labour practices.
Being vicegerents (Khalifah) on Earth, as appointed by Allah, encompasses the responsibility of making ethical choices that benefit our environment and society.
Every purchase decision should ideally reflect our commitment to justice, compassion, and sustainability.
In a global economy, the products we purchase often have a long history involving numerous people in their production. The Quran admonishes against exploitation, stating, “Woe to those who give less [than due], who, when they take a measure from people, take in full. But if they give by measure or by weight to them, they cause loss” (Quran 83:1-3). This principle urges us to be mindful of how our consumption impacts the lives of workers. We should endeavour to support brands and businesses that treat their employees fairly, provide just compensation, and uphold dignified working conditions.
Islam strongly condemns israf, or wastefulness. Allah says in the Quran, “…and do not be extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant” (Quran 6:141). This principle of avoiding excess applies not only to our use of natural resources but also to our overall lifestyle, including the way we consume goods and services. Mindless consumption and the accumulation of more than we need is seen as an imbalance, diverting us from the path of moderation that Islam advocates.
As parents, we have a unique opportunity to model responsible consumption for our children. By making deliberate, mindful purchasing decisions, we teach them the value of quality over quantity and the importance of supporting ethical and sustainable practices. This approach to consumption aligns with the Islamic values of moderation, gratitude, and stewardship.
Ethical consumerism involves considering the entire lifecycle of a product – from how it’s made to how it’s disposed of. By supporting brands that employ fair labour practices and use sustainable materials, we contribute to a healthier environment and a more just society. Furthermore, by rejecting products from companies that exploit workers or harm the environment, we take a stand against injustices often hidden in global supply chains.
Today’s consumer culture is marked by a constant push for the latest trends and disposable products. This not only leads to environmental degradation but also fosters a sense of discontentment. Islam teaches us to find contentment and joy in what we have.
By consuming less and choosing well, we resist the tide of disposable culture and make choices that are better for the planet and for our souls.
One of the challenges of ethical consumerism is the additional cost and effort required. Ethically sourced and environmentally friendly products often come at a higher price point. Moreover, determining the ethical standards of different brands and products requires time and research. However, this extra cost and effort align with the Islamic principle of consuming ‘Tayyab’ (pure and wholesome). Allah says, “O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good” (Quran 2:168).
One of the most beautiful aspects of mindful consumption is the sense of gratitude and contentment it brings. Recognising and appreciating the blessings Allah has bestowed upon us fosters a deeper sense of fulfillment than any material possession could. This attitude of gratitude is a key component of mental and spiritual well-being in Islam.
Practical Steps Towards Ethical Consumption:
Educate Yourself and Family: Understand the impact of your consumption choices and educate your family about the importance of ethical consumerism.
Prioritise Need over Want: Before purchasing, ask whether it is a need or a want. This simple question can reduce unnecessary consumption.
Support Ethical Brands: Choose products from companies that are transparent about their manufacturing processes and that adhere to ethical labour and environmental standards.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Embrace these principles to minimise waste and environmental impact.
Teach Children the Value of Moderation: Encourage children to value what they have and to understand the impact of their consumption choices.
Incorporating the principles of ethical consumption and avoiding israf into our daily lives is a powerful way to live out our faith. By doing so, we uphold our duty as vicegerents on Earth, contribute to a more equitable and sustainable world, and teach our children the invaluable Islamic values of moderation, gratitude, and responsibility. Our choices as consumers have far-reaching impacts – it’s time we align them with the profound wisdom of our Islamic teachings.