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Concept of Minimalism and Teachings of Islam

Dr. Mehtab Yasmeen discovers teachings of Islam, especially the simple lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, in the new concept of minimalism being practised in this post-modern era.

Islam promotes simple and balanced living, and condemns its followers on extravagance, display of things and extremism. It inspires people to strive only for basic needs by moderation and contentment with what is possessed. It discourages wasting of resources and encourages sharing what you have with others.

These aspects are very much in line with the latest lifestyle people practise all over the globe i.e., the principles of minimalism and slow living. There are many things one can adopt from the Islamic teachings if one wants to live a life of minimalism.

Minimalism is a new concept which means simply getting rid of things which are not required, decluttering unnecessary things, maintaining a simple and easy life. It’s living without too many possessions and also working too much. It’s all about simplifying the things which one possesses.

 

ISLAMIC TEACHINGS ABOUT SIMPLE LIVING

“Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah, you have an excellent example for whoever has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah often.” (Surah al-Ahzaab, 33:21)

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ lived an exemplary and simple life and was a true minimalist. One can follow the Prophetic way of simplicity, shunning unnecessary possessions and implementing a minimalistic lifestyle – to live a peaceful and happy life. He never strived for materialistic things or worldly possessions. The gifts he used to receive were often distributed among fellow Muslims mostly in charity.  From this we can learn that, it is desirable to adopt a modest lifestyle, and hope for Allah’s greater blessings in the hereafter, as was exemplified by the Prophet ﷺ.

Once, Ibn Masud saw the Prophet ﷺ sleeping on a straw mat which left marks on his body. Ibn Masud expressed his desire to spread soft bedding for the Prophet ﷺ, at which he replied, “What have I to do with the world? I am not in the world but as a rider seeking shade under a tree, then he catches his breath and leaves it.” (Tirmidhi 2,377 – Hasan)

In another incident the Prophet ﷺ advised Abdullah bin Umar: “Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveller.” (Bukhari 6,416). When Sahl bin Saad As-Saidi asked the Prophet ﷺ to inform him about an action which would make Allah, as well as the people, love him. The Prophet ﷺ replied, “Be indifferent towards this world, and Allah will love you. Be indifferent to what is in people’s hands, and they will love you.” (Ibn Majah 4,102 – Sahih according to Al-Albani)

This tells us that one should possess few things and live as a traveller or stranger. When you become simple, automatically you will be inclined towards Allah, can concentrate more on prayers and people also will love you for your simplicity.

When we study sīrat of the Prophet ﷺ, we find that his eating habits were remarkably simple. Anas recaptures, “To the best of my knowledge, the Prophet ﷺ did not take his meals in a big tray at all, nor did he ever eat well-baked thin bread, nor did he ever eat at a dining table.” (Bukhari 5,386)

Umar says he once witnessed the Prophet ﷺ spend an entire day hungry as he “could not get even inferior-quality dates with which he could fill his stomach”. (Muslim 2,978)

Once, Abu Hurairah passed by some people eating a roast lamb. They invited him to join them, but he declined, saying, “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ left the world without having eaten his fill with barley bread.” (Bukhari 5,414) Therefore, one should prefer to have simple meals and avoid too much eating or junk foods, which is now a new normal in our lifestyles and is a big reason for most chronic diseases.

The house of the Prophet ﷺ consisted of only a few rooms and was joined to the mosque and had only few things in the name of furniture like bed which was a piece of tanned skin stuffed with palm fibres. Nowadays, we fill our houses with luxurious furniture which is not only a means of show-off but also difficult to maintain.

The Prophet’s wardrobe was also very simple and had few clothes. He also used unstitched clothes and repaired his clothes himself. Once he told his companions, “Wearing old clothes is a part of faith.” (Abu Dawud 4,161 – Sahih)

At the time of his demise, the Prophet ﷺ wore a sheet and a thick lower garment. Despite being an influential person of significant following, he never tried to showcase his dressings and impress. Rather, he lived a life full of humility and modesty.

The Prophet ﷺ strove for the welfare of others and used to share his things especially with the needy and poor rather than accumulating wealth. The Qur’ān also at many places strongly condemns hoarding of wealth but rather motivates to distribute it among the needy.

“They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad!) of a painful doom”. (Surah At-Tawbah 9:34)

Therefore, we can have an excellent lesson of humility and gratitude in the lifestyle of the Prophet ﷺ. He accomplished his noble mission with a minimum of worldly possessions, indicating the insignificance of worldly riches. Besides, contentment of heart does not come from possessing more, but from being satisfied with what one possesses. We must, therefore, seek to make our lives simpler and value all that we have, as the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever among you wakes up physically healthy, feeling safe and secure within him, with food for the day, it is as if he acquired the whole world.” (Ibn Majah 4,141 – Hasan)

 

BENEFITS OF MINIMALISM

There are many benefits of minimalism like it lowers our day-to-day stress. Lifestyle will be less expensive and no debt. A lot of time is saved as there will be less cleaning and maintaining. There’s more room for praying, reading, analysing, cooperating, quality time with loved ones, for peace, for doing the things that give you happiness. There’s more chance to live a healthy and long life. Excesses of consumerism, material possessions, greed, lust, clutter etc., are not compelled here.

[Dr. Mehtab Yasmeen is a Faculty, Department of Botany at University College for Women, Hyderabad, and also a team member of “Greenbelt Programme” in the college. She is also active in research and participated in many national and international conferences, workshops, seminars and technical sessions, mostly related with environment protection and sustainability. Email: myashu77@gmail.com]

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