Needs vs Wants

( What does the Quran say about being wasteful? / Wasting in Islam )

“…and do not squander wastefully, surely the squanderers are the followers of the shaitans and the Shaitan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.” (Surah Al-Isra, Verse 26-27)

Changing the question from, ‘what a person wants’ to ‘what a person needs’, shortens the list of answers drastically. But do people think twice before squandering ? After all, life in these times is more about wants than needs. So, what is it that makes it so difficult to sift needs from a person’s endless wants? If a person asks themself this question, they might be able to identify the common traps they fall into.

  • Dream meals and everything in between

The culture of spending too much on daily meals takes a toll on grocery budgets. Starting from a shopping cart in the supermarket to placing the meal in the best possible way on the table has become more of a ‘cooking show’ imitation rather than a family meal time special. Firstly, the colourful aisles of a supermarket lure people into piling unnecessary stuff into trolleys. This leads to people buying things they end up not using. I have personally, given away stuff many times before I realised that I had gotten trapped in this culture.

Second comes the influence of television, and social media ads which sell highly sophisticated equipments to customers. Needless to say some appliances are absolutely important. However, people (generally women) tend to get carried away when they start managing their own kitchen and fill every gap the space provides with thick, shiny metal machines. It is important to detach from media ads, cooking shows, and from whatever provokes unnecessary expenditure.

Thirdly, the ‘eating outdoor’ culture needs to be addressed. Over years, the availability of quality meals at affordable price has led to heavy dependency on outside food. Experts have shed light on the ill-effects of overly consuming prepared meals and stressed how it deteriorates a person’s health. Yet another aspect in this regard is the pressure it puts on the overall house budget.

“…and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant.” (Surah al-Ar’āf 7:31)

  • Merchandise and the fake culture around them

If a person needs transport, is it necessary that they own a Mercedes-Benz ? The need of owning a car is to transport people from one place to another. So, why do low budget vehicles get frowned upon ? The same can be connected to owning any goods, items or service. Unfortunately, the branded culture has ripped homes of their basic livelihood. Some people face severe budget crises due to over spending on things they don’t need, which leaves them in debt or with no money for basic necessities.

Then there is the shopaholic. With or without the sale / discount ads, many people want to shop because they have the means to do so. These people are completely oblivious of what is needed and what is not. They hoard their home with materials and items they are never going to use. This attitude has created a wide gap between those who can afford a luxuries life and those who can’t even afford one meal per day. Such people fail to understand that the only reason Allah(swt) has given them more than they need, is that they should reach out to those in dire need. Since, this attitude is not prevalent among those who have been blessed with more, the gap between the rich and poor has only widen over the last two decades.

To avoid the above extravagant culture, one must ask the basic question repeatedly: “Do I need this?” By doing so, one is able to control those impulsive urges. One must learn to be a smart buyer. It requires strict measures and a strong will. Make a list when going to the supermarket and stick to it. Roughly calculate the total bill and take the exact amount. This will prevent unnecessary expenditure.

Visit malls only when needed. Allah (swt) reminds us of our weak nature and instructs us not to even venture close to sin or sinful behaviour. If a person is a habitual spender, staying away from malls is absolutely necessary. One must also remember that ‘shaitan’ is whispering into the heart and making ‘the want’ seem like it is ‘a need’.

Some might also experience over spending due to peer pressure. There are plenty of grown-ups who just cannot reign their desires. Steering clear of all such friends and parties is a must. If a person feels small on account of his / her financial status and splurges in order to keep up with such a company, then it is a recipe for disaster. And, most importantly, always look at those beneath on the social ladder; it helps to be thankful to Allah (swt) and makes a person realise that they can be content with less. It also helps a person to channelise their wealth in the right direction.

That said, it is important not to act miserly. Fulfilling one’s need is highly recommended in Islam. If Allah (swt) has given a person vast wealth they need to eat and dress accordingly. Looking deprived of worldly leisure is not an achievement. The idea is to strike a balance by understanding the difference between needs and wants.

“And [the servants of the Most Merciful are] those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but are ever, between that, [justly] moderate” (Surah Al Furqan, Verse 67)