With all the luxury and pleasure that surrounds us, is there really the need to lead a simple life? Why should you put aside all the stuff you struggled so hard to acquire, just in the name of living simple, to become happy Muslim?
To ask these questions means to embrace the influence that the modern world has on us. The ads by which we are bombarded insinuate that we are never truly happy and not quite fulfilled until we buy the latest and best products.
Even some Imams and Scholars have this problem: “Worship Allah and get rich” is the promise we occasionally hear. What if you worship Allah and never get near riches, does that means you can never become a happy Muslim?
The Quran deserve our attention here. Not to talk of the example of the messenger of Allah, one whose name has been listed by non-Muslims as the most influential person in history. His lifestyle is the best teacher for us. Just take a look at a glimpse of it.
He was a Prophet, a teacher, a husband, a father, and so many things. Yet, he used to milk his goat himself, mend his shoes himself, also he visits the poor people when they fell sick. His life is an amazing example of simplicity and humbleness.
In his mission, he valued nothing more than Allah. He called his companions to leave everything and follow him. He elevated the poor to positions of spiritual significance and warned against the world and all that is in it.
Now the question again: Why practice a simple lifestyle?
Simply because you want to be a happy Muslim. So far, this is the shortest answer I can think of right now.
We are Mohammad followers. In fact, his 21st Century companions. He was a minimalist, yet he was the most influential fellow, and he was happy. Since we too wants the happiness, we must translate his lifestyle into ours. That’s when we can truly become happy Muslims.
And don’t get it wrong. When it is said that the Prophet lived a simple life and that we should take his life as an example, this does not mean that our homes, method of transportation, food and clothes should be exactly like his in terms of quality and quantity.
Rather, what is intended is that the current general understanding of people today regarding present conditions, changes and advancements in technology must be considered in order to determine what type of lifestyle is considered simple and free of hassle.
And also don’t ever think that it’s haram to strive for riches, far from that. I just wanted to let fellow Muslims realize that we cannot attain happiness by how much we have, but it is rather how much we can do without.
Keep reading though, you’ll understand what I mean.
What does it mean to live simple?
This is a question not anyone can answer. You have to answer it yourself because only you knows the answer. I am neither willing nor able to describe the ultimate definition of living simple, as this is not possible.
We all have our own lives. And we all think and feel completely different when it comes to living our lives. There can’t exist a definition that is suitable for all. For this very reason, developing your own definition of simple life is quite important. That’s why you will have to define it yourself, what living simple means to you.
So, does living simple to you means to have only the bare minimum of objects? Is it to live with less or stop buying things you’ll never use? Is it to declutter your house or your room of stuff you haven’t looked at for months?
In fact, there is no “right way” of living simple; we can all have our own definition for simplicity and peace of mind.
How to define your simple lifestyle
Before you even start, know that living simple is not an exercise of decluttering your stuff or living with less, but an opportunity for you to find out what matters to you and can help you in life. This is all you need to know to be able to define simple for your life.
So take a moment to think for 20 good transformational minutes. Make a list of all your goals in life. What do you want to really be? What makes you feel alive or what are you passionate about? Is it generosity? Relaxation? Peace of mind? Success? Competent? Or do you want to be physically fit and spiritually healthy?
Excellent! Write down all of these things and take note of the first five. Keep this list in a safe place where you can easily get it, and use it as a reminder of the life you’re trying to design.
Give out your stuff you don’t need or use
This seems pretty obvious, but can be the most painful step for you if you have so much love for your items. But let me assure you that this can also be the wisest decision in your journey of living simple and happy.
Just think about it. You have a life to lead, but are surrounded with things that can never in one way or the other help you achieve your dream. What better decision can you make than to give out the excess you have? That’s called generosity. And failure to do so means greed.
Don’t just give out, but with joy. Don’t make it look like you are giving, make it look like whoever is taking it is doing you a favor.
When giving, Rasul’Allah felt more joy than those receiving the gift. He never turn anyone away empty-handed when he can really help. He will give even when he himself is in need. The following illustration is an excellent example:
One day, a poor immigrant Arab came to the Prophet, asking for something. But unfortunately, that day the prophet have nothing to offer. He said, “I have nothing to give to you right now. Go and buy what you need in my name and I will pay the debt.” The man was completely overjoyed.
Some of the Prophets companions were very upset because he was overextending himself. One of them stood up and said: ”O apostle of Allah! This person has come several times before; he asks something from you and you always give to him. Now you have nothing to give. Allah does not lay a burden on you that you cannot cope with!”
The prophet did not like what had been said. Then another companion stood up and said, “O Apostle of Allah! Give as much as you wish! Do not fear that Allah, who is the owner of the throne will make you poor!”
A smile then spread all over his blessed face and he said: “That is what I have been commanded to do”
Now look at this beautiful story, see whether you can translate it into your life. I’m not saying you should give everything you have for charity. I just want you to understand that if the Prophet can give out, even when he has nothing, you should be more than happy to give what you have in excess. Don’t you think you are being greedy just by holding back what you probably doesn’t need?
Maybe the dresses you think are old will make someone smile. The shoes you never looked at for months or even years, someone will be more than glad to own it. So look around you, find something, and make someone smile with it.
To start with, there are items you obviously doesn’t need, donate them. Then take and hide everything you could do without for few months, to give yourself distance to be able to give them out. Never forget that stripping away as much stuff from your life will make it easier to achieve a more simple life and allow you to have more freedom. In a hadith, Abu Hurairah, reported that Allah’s messenger said:
“The believer is simple and generous, and the wicked person is deceitful and ignoble.”
Learn to want less
When living simple, it’s important to recognize that your needs are minimal. It is obvious that human beings have been conditioned to want much, and the wants have a way of becoming needs. Yet as a Muslim, your contentment is not in the accumulation of things or satisfying of your perceived wants, but in Allah.
Nothing you want will ever bring you joy if you consistently attach happiness to something just out of your reach. Because attaining those things will only make you emptier as it will let you forget the little you already have.
Perhaps you can relate. Have you ever exert all your effort and hope to something you wanted so badly? Either a job, home or something else? Maybe you consumed yourself with all your effort, thinking that all you want is success.
Finally you did get there, and for a darting moment, your effort seemed worthwhile. But somehow, the fleeting feeling didn’t last. When you finally get the new job, you realized there is more to climb. And the house too, you discovered it come with a list of new responsibilities. Where then is the happiness?
So before you want something, question your expectation. Ask yourself whether what you want will really give you what you expect. Just because something is true for others doesn’t mean it will work for you.
So, wanting less doesn’t mean not getting the stuff you need. But knowing what’s most important to you in life, others will say your core values. This thing about core values is found in a hadith where the Prophet said to his companions:
“Who among you considers the wealth of his heirs dearer to him than his own wealth?” They replied: “O messenger of Allah! There is none among us but love his own wealth more.” Then the prophet said: “So his wealth is whatever he spends during his life (on good deeds) while the wealth of his hires is whatever he leaves after his death.” (Bukhari: book 8; Volume 76; Hadith 449)
So you need to understand that you can have all the money in the world, but it will never be valuable to you if it cannot create happiness in your life. Perhaps it may narrow your time with people you love, restrict your schedule, tie you to work you never like doing, and most importantly distance you from your deen. However, it is possible to live a life in accordance with all your core values without ever becoming rich or having more stuffs.
Thus, learn to love and want what you have. Instead of craving for more material things, express gratitude for what is in front of you.
Before you buy, ask yourself these questions.
1. Am I buying this because I cherish it or because I can afford it?
2. Do I need this so badly that I am willing to pay 3x as much for it?
Don’t buy it because it’s cheap and don’t take it just because it’s free.
There’s a saying that “too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”
Lots of people really have problems with spending. One of which is buying more than needed. And yet, the more they buy, the more they realize that buying are not improving their lives.
It is therefore very important for you, if you really want to live simple and happy, to find greater intentionality in your consumer pursuits in every imaginable category (from homes and cars to clothing and technology).
To accomplish this, I propose you start asking yourself “Do I really need this?” before swiping your credit card. At first, you may find it easy to justify your buying out of habit. But as the question sinks in, you might find yourself realizing you don’t need many of the items you impulsively buy.
Renew your focus more often
You should be clear about why you want to live simpler (and remind yourself often). Go back to the first step above regularly, especially when things get difficult to handle, so you can remember why you’re trying to live more minimally in the first place.
Living a simple lifestyle will always vary
Already, I said this in the far beginning that leading a simple lifestyle vary from person to person and it will always vary, because we individuals will always look different. But the universal principle is that anyone who seeks simplicity for happiness, will intentionally promote the things most valued to them and remove anything that distracts them from their dreams.
You are a happy Muslim, and you deserve all what life has to offer. It’s easy to attain when you eliminate what doesn’t work and replace it with what can and will definitely work, Insha’Allah. Because everything you’ll ever need to lead a happy lifestyle is already laid down for you by the Prophet and his companions. Just learn from it and you are set for life.
May Allah increase us in happiness!
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