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In the Name of God بسم الله
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For Those Who Are Spenders...


Reza

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According to Zizek, we live in an era of "cultural capitalism".  We're not just terminal consumers of hollow products, rather we're consumers of the broader philosophies, ethos, lifestyles, and symbolisms attached to the products. Humanistic, cultural, or loftier ends are commonly invoked as an effect of the purchase. His example was Starbucks. You don't just buy a cup of coffee, but you buy into a "coffee ethics", where part of your money goes to help the coffee farmers and help starving children in poor countries. So one's "duty" to help the environment and humanity is included within a consumerist act, rather than being visibly separated from it. Perhaps this "redeems" people from being simple consumers only, and gives a feeling like they're doing something meaningful, albeit by holding a cup of coffee from a comfortable Starbucks armchair.

Charity is valuable and better than nothing, but it's quite limiting. According to him (with reference to Oscar Wilde), the idea and goal should be to adjust society so that poverty itself is minimized to near impossibility. It's not enough to simply provide poor people with a few morsels to survive one more day, but keep the core of the exploitative system intact. If the situation that produced poverty in the first place is not addressed, then the stricken poor will continue to live miserable lives, no matter how much charity is thrown at them. A quote that I remember from Hélder Pessoa Câmara, a Brazilian Roman Catholic Archbishop:

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist"

The push today is to create "capitalism with a human face", one that makes it appear liberal, tolerant, and humanistic. In other words, a system that permits the unbridled profit, greed, and gross inequality of capitalism, but is "softened" for its victims by including compensatory measures like welfare and charity. An uncompromising "have your cake and eat it too" approach. To have the antidote included within the poison, so to speak.

From an Islamic perspective, this would be missing the point. Institutions that oppress people have to be significantly reformed structurally and ideologically, such that they accommodate everyone with justice, mercy, and fairness. But the individual souls that make it up must also be reformed. It is against the spirit of God consciousness to have a brazen capitalist spirit, because that would be over-indulgence of the heart into matters of dunya. Not that being rich is a bad thing. But seeing wealth as an end, rather than a means, is against the spirit of our divine inspired natures. Simply shaving off some money from the top of the money bag into the hands of a few poor families is not sufficient, and not reflective of one's real responsibility. These measures simply alleviate some guilt or show off one's phony humanism. What is needed is a reconstructing of the soul, of faith and human purpose, as well as real social consciousness by committed believers of divine guidance, who are committed to simple lives, opposed to excesses, and whose hearts beat for the rights of mankind. Marxists and leftists, stubbornly insistent on a materialist-only worldview of life, fail to grasp the importance of these lofty, divine values. They decry inequality, but adjudicate it on no sound moral basis of God-given rights, or provide any meaningful guidance for the soul of man himself.

Reform starts within the individual first, which will then impact our families, then our communities, then the world at large.

 

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Bro, I'm currently studying the Quranic foundations of spending to alleviate social injustice. The evidence is damning to say the least. It's not obvious when verses are read sequentially, cover to cover, day in day out. Once you start to contemplate over a particular subject and slowly build the pieces of the puzzle in order to get a holistic view of a concept, that is when things start to make real sense. 

The gist of it all is summed in in Surah Al Baqarah verses 261-274. There are some general 'humanist' concepts that can be sold to the western neo-liberal world, but the reality and truth of it lies in the way the wealth is spent (for Allah's pleasure), the quality/condition of the wealth (must be of high quality, i.e. don't give anything to charity that you wouldn't accept yourself), that the charity should not be conditional or followed by reproach, and who the receivers of the wealth are. 

There's more, but I'm trying to collate it in a coherent manner so I can write it up and publish it somewhere, as I'm a strong advocate for (true, honest) philanthropy.  Living in the west does not relief us of our duty to help people in need, Muslim or otherwise. Homelessness is on the rise here in the UK, so is poverty. Muslim communities should make it their duty and priority to eradicate both.

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      So she calls desperately into the night sky,
       
       
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      Her Lord looks lovingly at the slumbering youth,
      And knows that her words carried nothing but truth.
       
       
      So He enters her soul and whispers some words,
      Sweeter than the chirping of awakening birds,
       
       
      "...Call upon me; I will answer you," (40: 60)
      And more than this, what else could be true?
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