Spending in Islam – “Minimum resource, maximum utility”

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Ahmed Danyal Arif, UK

Being a Waqif-e-Nau, I have always tried to be up-to-date, as much as possible, with Hazrat Khalifatul Masih’saa latest instructions. Huzoor’s addresses and public speeches – and indeed the kind advice he often gives to people who have crossed his blessed path – are all treasures of information that I keep preciously.

As I am passionate about economic and financial issues, the instructions and words of our beloved khalifa in this regard have always created a large degree of enthusiasm and a strong desire in me to expand my exploration of the specific points that Huzooraa underlines.

Not everyone knows that our beloved leader obtained a master’s degree in agricultural economics at the University of Faisalabad in 1977. I do not have the exact details of his course at university, but one thing is certain: when Huzooraa served the community for eight years in Ghana, he successfully grew wheat for the first time in Ghana while he was the supervisor of the Ahmadiyya Agricultural Farm in Depali.

So, what could have been Huzoor’s economical mantra? The answer may lie in the following words:

“When I studied Economics, our professors used to repeat the maxim of ‘Minimum resource, maximum utility’, and that is what we should always seek to achieve in our Jamaat as well.’” (Huzoor’s Tour of Germany – Part 2, April 2017, p. 56, www.pressahmadiyya.com/wpcontent/uploads/2017/01/Germany-April2017-part-2.pdf)

Upon realising that Huzooraa used this maxim frequently, I became curious as to its underlying meaning. While I began to look into this further, I almost instantaneously understood that there was in fact a deep Islamic wisdom behind it. If Huzooraa succeeded in planting and harvesting wheat for the first time in Ghana despite tough circumstances and it never happening before, out of sheer love for us, Huzooraa is now trying to plant the seeds of taqwa in our hearts.

Trust and transparency

When we think about this maxim, we realise it echoes to all those persons who are entrusted with administration, and particularly those who manage the funds of the community. Among the issues discussed in every Jamaat, the annual budget is of paramount importance. As the community’s funds are entirely based on the financial sacrifices of the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Khalifatul Masihaa has said that the economic principle of “minimum resource, maximum utility” should always be kept in mind.

Huzooraa also adds that the spirit with which financial sacrifices have been made should never be forgotten:

“At all times, the office-bearers or those who allocate or spend the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s money should keep in mind the spirit with which the funds have been collected. Often, Ahmadis set aside their own personal needs and requirements and put themselves in difficulty so that the needs of our Community can be fulfilled … If Ahmadi Muslims are making such earnest sacrifices and tolerating personal adversity for the sake of Allah’s Community, then the office-bearers and those who produce the budget must pay great attention to ensuring that every single penny is utilised extremely carefully and accounted for.’” (Majlis-e-Shura UK, 2018, London, www.alislam.org/articles/majlis-e-shura-uk-2018/)

The first Islamic teaching we can perceive here is that when a person is made responsible for a specific task, they are answerable and accountable to the one who entrusted them with those responsibilities. Man must not consider himself unaccountable just because of his material wealth or position that he is given in this world. Every office-bearer must always remember that the most basic and fundamental aspect of any position is that it is a trust, and that God will hold them accountable for their actions:

“Verily, Allah commands you to give over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice. And surely excellent is what Allah admonishes you with! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” (Surah al-Nisa, Ch.4: V.59)

It will have escaped no one that Huzooraa, out of boundless benevolence, keeps in view the sacrifices of every single member of the community. He also said one occasion that the finance of the community must remain “transparent” and that the members have a right to know how the community spends the money collected. (Huzoor’s Tour of Germany & Belgium – Part 2, 2018, pp. 64- 65: www.pressahmadiyya.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Germany-Belgium-2018-Part-2.pdf)

Huzooraa is reminding us that related to the concept of social accountability is the principle of full disclosure. Several verses of the Quran refer to “relevance”, and information is relevant from an Islamic point of view only when it includes the attribute of truth – fair and accurate disclosure of the matters at hand. (Surah al-Nisa, Ch.4: V.136)

Simple lifestyle

Secondly, this maxim also corresponds to another important teaching of the Holy Quran that would be beneficial for everyone to follow in their daily lives. Indeed, the current economic world order has brought a degree of prosperity for some segments of society in different parts of the world. However, the damaging consequences of this order prevail over its productivity. It has produced a society which believes and practices a wasteful and extravagant lifestyle rather than a moderate and frugal life that is desired by our Creator:

“And give to the kinsman his due, and to the poor and the wayfarer, and squander not thy wealth extravagantly. Verily, the extravagant are brothers of satans; and Satan is ungrateful to his Lord.” (Surah Bani Isra‘il, Ch.17: V.27-28)

“And those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor niggardly but adopt a moderate position in the middle.” (Surah al-Furqan, Ch.25: V. 68)

Defining extravagance, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra says:

“Islam does not stop us from spending money on people’s genuine needs. It only restricts individuals from wasteful expenditures that come about by neglecting the rights of public at-large. If a multi-storey building is built with hundreds of offices for the use of thousands of people, it is a legitimate expense. However, if an individual builds a house with large number of rooms to show off his wealth, then that expenditure would be considered extravagant and not legitimate in Islam. Such a person would be answerable before God on the day of judgement to explain why he did not spend money for the benefit of mankind.” (The Economic System of Islam, p. 49)

As mentioned above, Islam prohibits excess and wasteful consumption and advocates a simple lifestyle. When evaluated with respect to the worldly goals of happiness and contentment, the pursuit of frivolous luxury is harmful, and seeking simplicity in lifestyle is beneficial. This is because people quickly get used to luxury and it does not provide them with additional happiness. Simple lifestyles allow satisfaction with relatively little effort and can be achieved by all. They leave one free to do things which really matter instead of wasting one’s precious life on an empty pursuit of consumption.

Psychologically, people drowning in excessive consumption are persuaded to feel proud of themselves if they are in possession of something novel as compared to others in their social circles. But such a system of value tends to stigmatise as inferior all who fail to acquire the new items possessed by their peers and neighbours. This creates jealousy and an impulse to “catch up” and overtake others in wealth, leading to a never-ceasing rat race.

However, in Islam, the poor are encouraged not to envy the rich, but to be content since “the true richness is the richness of the soul” (Sahih Muslim, The Book of Zakat).

Namely, this consists in the feeling of satisfaction and the fact of being content with little, without attaching too much to ephemeral goods. True wealth does not consist in possessing an abundant quantity of wealth accompanied by the desire to obtain and accumulate ever more.

On closer scrutiny, we observe, therefore, that Islam provides good advice concerning the areas where the horizons of society and economy meet.

If these teachings are implemented, they can turn our dusks and dawns into twilights of exceptional beauty. And these are best expressed through the words of our Khalifa.

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