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Luxury: Cause of Nations’ Ruin (Part 1)

By A. S. Halawani, PhD

Academician and Writer

Part 1 

In his Autobiography, C Caplin says, “The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury.” Similarly, Gibran describes luxury using very impressive words such as in, “The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.”

While Chaplin was afraid of the bad effects of luxury on his own life, Gibran described the way luxury penetrates and then dominates the life of an individual turning him into a slave who can no longer control his own life. This is simply how luxury affects the life of an individual, but, how does it affect the life of a whole nation?!

  • The following lines are meant to stand in some detail on the nature of luxury, its definition according to the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah, its massive destructive effects, characteristics of those who lead a luxurious life, and the fate of luxurious people.

Allah Almighty says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an what may mean

{Thus when We intend to destroy a town for evildoing, We first command its affluent to become righteous. Yet should they continue to commit flagrant deeds of ungodliness therein, then the divine word of doom comes to pass against it. Then do We demolish it- and demolish it utterly}. (Al-Israa’ 17: 16)

Here, the Qur’an tells us about one of the most crucial factors causing the downfall of nations. It starts when power is assumed by a punch of affluent persons who practice all sorts of extravagance and enjoy sinful luxury; a matter which leads in the long run to the disintegration of society and the prevalence of injustice.

Indeed, if there is one dominant trait that emerges from the possession of authority and wealth by the sinful luxurious, it is adamantine rejection of the truth save when they are visited by death. This can be attributed to their arrogance and immorality.
History attest to this as José Antonio Conde comments on Muslims’ defeat and expulsion from Spain (Andalusia) in his The Dominion of the Arabs in Spain: A History as saying, “The Arabs were defeated when they forgot the virtues with which they came [to Spain] and their hearts turned towards frivolity, excessive joyfulness and indulgence in sinful pleasures”.

Consequently, the wrong-doers dare to inflict harm upon the guided reformers in society. Those who enjoin what is righteous and forbid what is wrong are forced to keep to themselves. Power, wealth, egoism, and selfishness become prevalent and the common people resort to adulation, hypocrisy, lying and negativism. In addition, bribery, embezzlement, manipulation of public wealth, and exploitation of power are all used in devouring other people’s riches sinfully. Spiritual and ethical trends are besieged; and while the channels of moral awareness are blocked, new channels for immorality and debauchery are licensed. By then, utter destruction becomes the inevitable fate of the whole nation!


Luxury defined

Luxury is defined by Al-Asfahani as, “the lavish expansion in leading a life of ease and comfort.” It is to exceed the normal boundaries set by the Creator in enjoying one’s life and meeting one’s carnal desires.

This is what the Prophet (peace and blessings be uponhim) warned Mu`adh ibn Jabal against upon sending him to Yemen as saying, “Beware of luxury! Verily, the worshippers of Allah are not those who lead a life of luxury.” (Ahmed)

Though luxury is mentioned eight times in the Qur’an all of which come in a context of dispraise, Islam does not prohibit luxury per se. However, it prohibits expansion and going too far by leading a life of ease and comfort that may drag one to fall in extravagance, gluttony, and excessiveness. Allah Almighty says what may mean,

{O Children of Adam! Don your adorning apparel when setting out for every place of worship. Moreover, eat and drink freely. But do not be excessive. For, indeed, He does not love those who are excessive.

Say to those who would ban God’s blessings: Who is it that has prohibited the adornments of God, which He has brought forth for His servants, and the wholesome things of His provision?}. (Al-A`raf 7: 31-32)

Lady `Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) narrated that, “Allah’s Apostle was fond of honey and sweet edible things.” (Al-Bukhari)

Islam abhors excessiveness and extravagance that kill morals, spoil natural disposition, and prompt injustice, ingratitude, pride, arrogance and debauchery. Islam abhors extravagance that makes one forget all about the hereafter, the Creator, faith, death, and the grave. Rather, it makes one increasingly absorbed in ephemeral position, social ranking and sensual lusts and desires until one deems what has been declared as prohibited by Allah permissible as is clearly explained in the following hadith,

Narrated Abu `Amir or Abu Malik Al-Ash`ari: that he heard the Prophet saying,

From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful.” (Al-Bukhari)

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) warned Muslims against what may follow from giving themselves up to excessiveness and luxury that they may become conceited and start to hire servants from other nations as saying,

“When the people of my Ummah walk with pompous bearing and the sons of Persian and Roman kings serve them, the wicked ones from among them [Muslims] will be made absolute masters over the righteous.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Ibn `Abbas said, “Eat what you wish and wear what you wish, as long as you avoid two things: extravagance and arrogance.” (Al-Bukhari)

Al-Miqdam bin Ma`dikarib Al-Kindi said that he heard the Messenger of Allah saying,

The Son of Adam will not fill a pot worse for himself than his stomach. It is enough for the Son of Adam to eat a few bites that supports his back. If he likes to have more, then let him fill a third with food, a third with drink and leave a third for his breathing.” (An-Nasa’i and At-Tirmidhi)

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