Bint Ahmad Sulaymaan – Cii Radio | 19 Dhul Hijjah 1436/12 December 2014

It’s the holiday season and shopping malls are crazy. There are Xmas specials enticing people to visit and buy things they don’t need. Xmas songs are being played at louder than usual volume in every store and passageway of the mall. In some centres, expansion is taking place to improve future shopping experiences. There are decorations, free wrapping booths, new entertainment areas just for children, the “take a photo with Santa” gimmick and specials on restaurant menus.

Even the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi unveiled a “spectacular” Xmas tree decorated with 11 million dollars worth of jewellery allowing them to attempt to break a Guinness World record for the most expensive tree. It is decorated with 131 pieces of jewellery including gold and precious stones. Tourists and visitors stop to take pictures with the tree or stare at in amazement – giving visitors “a chance to be part of something really special and unique”-  when they aren’t indulging in cappuccinos topped with gold flakes.

But these are just the Xmas extras to keep you unnecessarily occupied and ultimately “trapped” inside the mall. People are unaware of the psychology of architecture and the design devices employed to keep people engaged for long periods of time in particular types of buildings such as shopping centres, casinos, airports, hotels etc.

They are all extremely well lit to make one forget the sense of time. Casinos are often designed with a daylight scene to add to this manipulation. Music, which Islam recognises as having an effect on the heart, is a constant in all social places. Even Muslim owned restaurants.

In his PhD write up, Dan Lockton wrote that some of the principles of behaviourism have potential application in design for behaviour change. “Considering means and ends may provide a useful perspective on design for behaviour change. The end from the user’s perspective effectively becomes the means by which the designers end might be influenced.”

The fact is that Muslims tend to get caught up in these traps too. We forget that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) has said, “The most beloved of places to Allah are the Masaajid, and the most hated places to Allah are the markets.”

The superiority of the Masjid doesn’t need mentioning. It is the sacred space in which we pray and worship Allah (subhana wa ta’ala). It is where the whispers of the recitation of the Quran travel throughout the space. It is a place where one encourages another to obey Allah (subhana wa ta’ala). During the time of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) the Masjid was the headquarters of the Islamic State wherein all matters of state were discussed.

It’s a pleasing sight when many men walk and run to the Masjid at the time of the Adhaan, but as soon as Salaah is over the same numbers exit the Masjid. The Masjid should also be a place of sitting from one Salaah to the next.

In stark contrast, bazaars, marketplaces, malls, shopping centres and hotels – which feature their own shopping levels – are places where people forget Allah (subhana wa ta’ala). The Adhan and time of prayer go unnoticed. Even if shopping malls have a Jamaat room. The many shops tease us with the glitter and glamour of worldly goods. Their objective is to flirt and flaunt by means of brands and taglines. We indulge in careless and Haraam activities like window shopping, wasting money, lying and gossiping, inadvertently – if not intentionally – listening to music and watching movies. Let’s not forget it is also a place that tests our ability to lower our gaze and plays havoc with our nafs, either to purchase what we cannot afford, spend lavishly or engage in Haraam.

Today, teenagers and young adults – even older – escape to shopping malls to “hang out”. Islam teaches us the importance of valuing our time and using it wisely but we think nothing of spending several hours in the company of people who might end up being our undoing. What we do every second that we are alive counts in our final judgement. Our time is meant to be spent in the Halaal and in the path of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) yet we’re involved in activities that cause us to forget Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).

When we forget and neglect Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) we ultimately forget ourselves. Our hearts become hardened and darkened and when that happens we become unhappy. We then seek happiness and value and pretend to find it in the company of people, things and substances and in the imitation of celebrities.

There is going to be the group of people who will say, “Take it easy”, “life is meant to be enjoyed”, she’s way too serious”, “what about fun”. Then there are those who will probably hit back and say you’re too extreme and have no balance. But these are all excuses because we have lost the objective. Other things instead of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) have become our objective and the most important thing to us. We’ve become distracted.

We’re too busy balancing “having the best of both the worlds” – a Muslim way of life and a Western (oops modern) one. A Muslim isn’t meant to balance these. We’re supposed to survive this world – with all its enticements, threats and intimidations – as Muslims, for the ultimate world – the Hereafter.

We get so caught up in doing things that are either Haraam or distasteful that we think we will be forgiven just because of some of our good deeds, or because we aren’t committing major sins. We take refuge in knowing that Allah SWT is Ar Rahmaan and Ar Raheem but by taking advantage of the knowledge of these indescribable attributes of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala)we forget that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is also the Master of Judgement Day. We are meant to take refuge in these attributes of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) when we actively regret our wrongs and repent.

In addition to loving Allah we are meant to vigorously seek His Pleasure, stay away from that which displeases Him. In fact we should fear causing Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) any displeasure. We cannot risk thinking our wrongs will earn us Allah’s Mercy by forgetting that Allah’s Wrath is a reminder to stay on the correct straight path.

The purpose of life is simply to qualify for Allah’s Grace and His granting us everlasting happiness in Jannah. When a person stops any act which Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) hates it means that they are only wanting the Pleasure of Allah. By controlling our eyes, ears, tongue and body by abstention from Haraam we will find a feeling of sweetness in our heart. Worldly things mean nothing to a person who has earned this sweetness.