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WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

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How often did we hear this as children? How often did these words go in one ear, and out the other? However, as we reach adulthood, all the little phrases used by our parents and grandparents come back to haunt us. The difference now is that we do not just accept it at face value; we actually ponder and reflect on the deeper meaning of what they were telling us.
When we ponder on this particular phrase: ‘waste not’ we realise,  that when we have something, be it a good job, lovely clothes or food to eat, we must be grateful that we are not of those who have nothing. We feel gratitude to our Creator, because ultimately, all we possess and enjoy comes from Allah. Allah promises us that when we show gratitude for what we have, Allah will give us more. Therefore the rest of the phrase: ‘want not’ makes perfect sense. With gratitude to Allah for what we have, we will never be in need.
We are instructed in the Quran not to be wasteful:
“Do not be extravagant, for Allah loves not the wasteful”
(Quran: 96,141) Further, Allah says that wasting originates from ingratitude:
“Squander not in the manner of a spendthrift. For wasters are the brothers of Satan, and Satan is to his Lord ungrateful”
(Quran, 17:26-27)
This concept of not wasting is particularly relevant in today’s world situation. The current drive in society worldwide is to work more so that we can earn more. With more money we can buy more and possess more. Our measure of success and worth hinges on how much we earn the type of house we own and what model car we drive. In this frenetic chase to have more we ignore the effect this lifestyle has on the environment and on the natural resources so generously given to us by our Creator. When we appreciate the many bounties provided for us by Allah, when we are in constant gratitude for our health, for whatever we have, even if it be a little, Allah grants us so much barakah that we will never be in need.
If we look to the way of our beloved Rasul (SAW), we find that he used to lick the last morsel of food from the utensils, for fear of wasting. He also urged the people to use less water for ablution. What a contrast to today when copious amounts of water are used to wash cars, clothes are washed in a machine and left overnight so that tomorrow or the next day it has to be washed again. Men have been sees at the Masjid taking wudoo, they first open the tap and let the water run while they roll up sleeves and pant legs.
At the moment there is a crisis of gigantic proportion in Somalia, where the country is suffering the worst drought in sixty years. Alhamdulillah, the community has rallied magnificently with donations to aid the Somalians. The question is, are we taking a lesson from what is happening there? More to the point, do we ever think of the people here on our doorstep that live under the most atrocious conditions, going to bed hungry more often than not? Are we as a community wasteful?
We often use the West as a scapegoat, pointing out what they are doing wrong. Certainly they have a very extravagant life, and definitely they have virtually raped the environment. They eat more than necessary as is proved by the high rate of obesity. They purchase what they want and not just what they need; faulty items are dumped because the manufacture of most items ensures that it will be cheaper to buy a new one than to repair the faulty one.
The United Sates alone is using fossil fuel at such an alarming rate that the world’s resources will be depleted in the very near future. Perhaps it is time that we stop criticising what others are doing, and sweep our own front step? Are we doing all we can to preserve our own resources? Are we educating our children so that they will have a sustainable future? Or do we labour under a sense of entitlement? Do we blindly continue to cook more food than we can possibly consume? Do we teach our children that it is okay to want the latest gadget or designer clothes?
According to what we learn in Islam, everything created in nature is in a continuous state of worship to Allah. Look at a tree, it takes nothing from us, nor does it need anything. It grows magnificently with the help of the Creator, and gives untold bounties. It provides oxygen to humans, a home for birds, serves as a welcome shade from the heat of the day. This is all in addition to those trees that provide fruit, the purest form of nourishment for the human body. Islam commands us to respect nature and we should learn from and join it in harmonious co-existence.
With the current environmental crisis, we as Muslims are perfectly poised to lead the way to at least attempt to redress the balance. We have the Quran which clearly spells out how we should live, in harmony with nature and with compassion for those less fortunate. We also have the perfect example of our Rasul (SAW), who showed utmost respect and kindness to all of Allah’s creation. Contrary to this is man’s insatiable need to gain more and more control over the natural world. To bend what Allah gave us as a mercy and a bounty, to man's will.
As we enter the month of Muharram, the start of a new year, we also find ourselves in the holiday season. Traditionally, this is the time when waste and excess reaches horrific peaks. Sadly, we as Muslims are very tempted to join in this frenzy. The time to ponder is now. As the Gregorian new year approaches, everyone is making new resolutions. Now is the time for us as Muslims to reflect, this is our new year. Remember that our children are entrusted to us by Allah. Our duty does not end when we provide them with food, shelter and clothing. It is our duty to leave them a sustainable world. We did not inherit the world from our parents and ancestors; we have it on loan for future generations
Let us move forward with consciousness, but be sure it is consciousness of Allah. Let us be grateful for our limbs that can move eyes that can see the beauty of nature, ears that can hear the sound of birds. Let us resolve right now to not only ensure that our children will have the ability to make a living as adults. Let us make sure that they inherit a sustainable world, filled with all the benefits and benefits bestowed upon us. Let us understand and internalise the true meaning of ‘waste not, want not’.
Muharram Mubarak.
May Allah purify our intentions for the New Year, Insha’Allah.

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