Minimalism in Islam: How to live with less

minimalism in islam how to live with less
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Publié le 3 juin 2022, par Samir | 15 h 00 min
Temps de lecture : 9 minutes

What is Minimalism?

Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art. — Richard Holloway

Minimalism, in simple terms, means living with less. It is an alternative to consumerism and a subtle concept to keep us organized. It implies practicing ‘Zuhd’ (Asceticism). However, the core idea of a minimalist life revolves around living in fulfillment with a lesser need for belongings.

According to powerful advice by Marie Kondo in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing: picking to perform only those tasks that serve one of these things:

  1. Serve a definite purpose in your life.
  2. Add joy to your life.

Minimalism is not just about our possessions but about what we consume. It’s mindful of what we consume. It offers insights into life events from a different perspective. The idea is to reassess what we have, our possessive relationships, and those who adore us.

In short, minimalism does not restrict us to having lesser and lesser; instead, it shifts our focus on making space for more experiences, time, joy, and contributions. We can achieve that fulfillment by decluttering things from our lives. It’s a journey towards conscious self-improvement and being grateful for what we have to earn fulfillment.

Minimalism in Islam 

Islam, the religion of peace and blessings, is strongly associated with minimalism. Our religion encourages its followers to become cautious about their belongings and every instance of life. Living in moderation and simplicity are the basic guidelines of Islam because religion is all about guidance; ours teaches us to live a simple, meaningful life without going extravagant.

« Eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly Allah likes not those who waste by extravagance » [Quran 7:31]

How to live with less?

Do not compare yourself to others.

Comparison with others, how much they earn, what they consume, etc. These thoughts are not encouraged in Islamic teachings. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) always taught his companions not to compare their lives with that of others. Instead, Islam and modern studies prove that the key to contentment is focusing on those who own lesser things than us. When we feel attached to the material world, Islam expects us to shift our focus on individuals who are ore devoted to Allah, even if they do not earn a lot.

Let’s understand that nobody is born equal or perfect. Everyone is unique, and our lives are different than that of others. The more we learn to avoid comparing ourselves to others, the easier life becomes.

Detach from impulsive buying

Humans are naturally wired to seek happiness by buying things. We feel sad, and the next moment our shopping spree starts. Instead of finding reasons for our discontentment, we prioritize our purchasing behaviors. This act, in return, adds no value to our already dissatisfied thoughts.

Hence we must learn to understand that worldly desires do not reduce our spiritual desires, and thus the cycle will continue.

Focus on the life hereafter

Our beloved religion, Islam, doesn’t restrict spending for our basic needs or luxury. There is no harm in earning a Halal livelihood for our family and ourselves. However, Islam guides us in attaining Zuhd by prioritizing our life after death and Allah’s pleasure. When a Muslim strives to achieve Allah’s closeness and leave his matters to The Lord, then our problems or matters become too insignificant to worry about. Those matters for which we seek Allah’s help turn out more successful and more superficial.

By focusing on our actual world, the hereafter, we can prevent ourselves from the worldly traps of this shiny life. Learning to hand over every matter, every life decision, business deal – everything and seek The Almighty’s favor becomes a turning point in our life. Indeed, He is the best guide and protector.

Focusing on life hereafter makes us mindful of our worldly acts and deeds; we become cautious of our earnings and how and where to spend them. This responsible mindset keeps our life and business decisions on the right path. The only path that leads to lasting success and happiness.

Spend and earn mindfully

Let’s take a look at our purchasing habits and analyze if we are buying and storing unnecessary items or the ones spending cautiously? If former, they might need to change our focus and perspective on earning and speaking with mindful tactics. Islam encourages moderation and balance in each aspect of life, earning a Halal and modest livelihood in one of them. Remember, we are answerable for every penny and each item we spend or hoard on the Day of Judgement.

The modern globalized world pushes us towards extravagance and lavish lifestyles, but Islam guides us to live within our means and control our desires (Nafs). Keeping a check on our wants and needs help us simplify our life and be patient. We tend to refuse the traps of this world and focus more on achieving the will of our Lord. Otherwise, there would be no end to our expenditures and worldly desires, and we will keep falling into the depth of mindless spending.

As we balance our earnings and spending, do not indulge in piling up stuff, and prioritize our matters following Allah’s commandments, He blesses us with peace and contentment. And there is no blessing more significant than internal joy and fulfillment.

Minimalism and Zuhd

In the same context comes the subject of Zuhd or asceticism, another name for minimalism. Zuhd, one of the virtues in Islam, teaches Muslims to lead a moderate life and get rid of lavishness and extravagance. The concept of Zuhd is about practicing self-discipline and not becoming a part of worldly blockers. Instead, it brings us closer to our Lord, The Almighty.

Zuhd and a minimalist lifestyle don’t expect us to leave worldly affairs and start living in a deserted place. It’s about getting rid of the unnecessary stuff and picking up the most fundamental things. 

Zuhd or a ‘Zahid’ person doesn’t relate to poverty. Islam neither promotes poverty nor considers it a standard of life but encourages Muslims to preserve and cultivate wealth. Developing wealth is one of the significant objectives of Islam as, through this resource, they can work for society’s welfare, devote themselves to Allah and strive for a better world.

The Islamic concepts about living with less are incredibly connected with the principles of minimalism. Hence it is safe to say that minimalist living is not an alien concept; instead, it aligns with Islamic principles. The basics of slow living that modern researchers offer, Islam presented those fourteen hundred years back to guide us towards modesty.

Islam preaches moderation and stepping towards a middle route to deviate from extremist paths. Minimalism teaches the same life balance. We do not need to collect 30 dresses in our wardrobe when our maximum need is wearing 5 of them. In other words, needing minimum belongings and own only those things that serve our survival.

Zuhd and its Islamic concept

According to Oxford Islamic Studies Online, “Zuhd is a fundamental principle in the Islamic tradition that holds a general and a specific meaning. The word means to “abstain from” or “do without.”

It can be described as a denial of worldly possessions, whereas, in the context of Islamic modesty, it is about “abstention” from all that pulls an individual back from The Creator.

An excerpt from the book Earning Barakah: An Islamic Guide to Blessed Sustenance says,

“The actual definition of Zuhd is to detach one’s heart from this world. Hence, self-discipline may be the closest English concept to Zuhd, but that too does not do the term justice. How we define, Zuhd is very important. The definition shapes our understanding of the topic. When Zuhd is linked to poverty, it takes people in the wrong direction. When it is focused on the state of our hearts, it becomes a productive, powerful tool for growth. Zuhd is not about wealth, status, or lifestyle as it is about purifying the heart of greed and materialism.”

Hadith and Quranic Teachings on Minimalism

Minimalism and the principles of Zuhd are mostly about aligning our life under the teachings of Allah and His Prophet’s Sunnah. It implies detaching ourselves from materialism and attaining contentment through trusting Allah and His favors.

We can be wealthy and still practice gratitude and Zuhd. Muslims can work for wealth development while living a fulfilled and content life.

The following Ahadith and Quranic verses shed more light on the importance of minimalism:

  • A man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and said: “O Messenger of Allah, direct me to an act which if I do it, [will cause] Allah to love me and people to love me.” He replied: “Be indifferent to the world, and Allah will love you; be indifferent to what people possess, and they will love you.” [Ibn Majah]
  • The life of this world is nothing but a flitting pleasure. [Surah al-Ra’d Ayah 20]
  • But may you prefer the life of this world although the life to come is better and more enduring. [Surah al-A’la Ayah 16-17]
  • “The competition to pile up the good things of this world (At-Takaathur) distracts you until you visit the graves (i.e. until you die), No! Then you will come to know! Again, No! Then you will definitely come to know! No! If only you had true knowledge! (of the end of a person who chases this world) You would definitely see Hellfire! You shall see it with your own eyes! Then, on that day, you will be asked about how you spent the bounty (that Allah blessed you with).[Surah At-Takaathur 102:1-8]
  • “Nothing fills (satisfies) the son of Adam except dust.” [Sahih Bukhari, Book: 76, Hadith: 445]

How to achieve joy through minimalism?

Although there is no standard formula to achieving joy through minimalism, we can apply the ways mentioned earlier on how to live with less to organize and align our life goals. Minimalism is not a one-time process; instead, it is an ongoing journey of self-realization and self-improvement. It is also not each ride as it sounds. But becoming a minimalist requires a conscious change in our mindset, habits, thoughts, and actions.

May Allah guide us all and shine our hearts with His light.

“God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is a niche in which there is a lamp. The lamp is in a Glass, the Glass, like a glistening star, kindled from a blessed olive tree, neither of the East nor the west, whose oil well nigh glows though no fire has touched it: light upon light. God guides to His light whom He wills, and God strikes parables for human beings, and God knows all things.” [Al Qur’an 24: 35]

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