To live within our means

Category: Faith & Spirituality Topics: Usury Views: 3273

Excessive spending and growing debt prompted President Obama to ask Americans to live within their means, and last month as he signed a bill that makes it tougher for credit-card issuers to raise fees and interest rates.

Many have seen this as a call to cut back on wants and focus on needs in an effort to resolve financial problems. Today bankruptcies, house foreclosures and job losses have hit historic highs nationwide.

Tent cities are springing up in every state, occupied by folks just like the family next door. Through no fault of their own, they have lost their jobs and then their homes. In some cases, crushing debt leads to tragedy. I am reminded of the news story about a dad in Middletown, Md., who had about $460,000 in mortgage and credit-card debt. In April, he killed his family, then committed suicide. In one of several suicide notes, he made reference to his financial difficulties and depression.

Overspending and borrowing huge sums has made consumers slaves of interest payments. Eliminating debt is a bitter pill but good medicine. The charging of high interest rates, known as "usury" in the Abrahamic faiths, is prohibited in Islam.

Muslims have never been allowed to benefit from or to pay interest. God says in the Quran:

And remember: whatever you may give out in usury so that it might increase through other people's possessions will bring you no increase in the sight of God whereas all that you give out in charity, seeking God's countenance, will be blessed by Him: for it is they, they who thus seek His countenance that shall have their recompense multiplied! (Ar-Rum 30:39)

Money comes without instructions, so prioritizing our spending is worth some daily reflection. In the current recession, living within our means has become more important than ever. But it doesn't have to mean giving up things that make life pleasant and fulfilling.

My parents' generation worked hard and prospered while enjoying a lifestyle focused on saving and living simply. They used to tell me, "a simple life is a good life; but only if you can enjoy it." I understand the relevance of those words more today.

Being more frugal allows people to opt out of a high-stress lifestyle and leads ultimately to contentment, depth of experience and even joy. Frugality doesn't mean poverty; it means enjoying what's really important in life while getting a good value for the things you need.

Money management is one of the most important life disciplines today. The concept is not complicated. Make a list of wants and a list of needs. Recognize which is which. Spend no more than you have coming in. If you can, spend less, and save some for emergencies.

Finding ways to limit major expenses and cut costs at home can be as easy as turning out a light or lowering the thermostat on the hot-water heater - especially during the summer. Cutting food costs doesn't mean slashing nutrition. It helps to make a weekly menu for dinners at home together and to brown-bag it for lunch.

Islam has always discouraged living beyond one's means, because it can lead to excessive borrowing. In a perfect world, financial systems would be based on values such as honesty, credibility and transparency rather than greed and excess.

I do not advocate that everybody take scissors to their credit cards, but I do believe it's best to avoid extravagance - an idea many faiths espouse.

Being aware of how we live, making good use of our resources and expressing concern for those less fortunate is paramount today as we work to rebuild our nation and give meaning and purpose to our lives.

The Creator has blessed us with everything we have, so we are obligated to be intelligent and responsible in using these resources sensibly. Happiness is not about money and possessions; it's about being responsible and accountable while living a righteous life.

Aziz Junejo is host of "Focus on Islam," a weekly cable-television show, and a frequent speaker on Islam. 

Source: The Seattle Times

  Category: Faith & Spirituality
  Topics: Usury
Views: 3273

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Older Comments:
I think that what this article says is true. However it is a simplification of the problem. There needs to be solutions rather than nice speak. For example I need a car to get to work, if I don't work I make no money. How will I afford a car? I am forced to jump into the trap of interest.

I don't belive that the problem is at the personal level but rather at the systemic level. If you study our monetary system it is a debt based system, the money in your pocket is not equity but debt by definition. Secondly the laws of supply and demand dictate that the price of a product is dictated by the supply and demand for the product.

The exsiting fincial structure forces the demand curve to shift and make all products more expensive. Therefore it is inescapable that most people will need more money than they earn (called financing).

Therefore while it is nice to encourage those that can to live within thier means it is simply not viable for most people. The solution is to lobby the governments around the world to change the current economic system, end the practice of usury at the government levels and regulate banking to only investing in equity stakes. This will allow prices to come down to where we can all afford to live debt free and stop being slaves to money and only be slaves to allah.
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