today shopping is an important activity for many people. for example, many people spend hours, even days, visiting stores to find clothes to show off to their friends. they spend a lot of money on clothes that they will wear only a few times in their lives, and despite the fact that their closet is full, they may buy new clothes with undiminished passion. for these people, shopping has gone beyond being a means to meet their needs and become an important part of their lives. it is characteristic of some that they actually lose themselves in shopping and very often buy things that later on they will regret having bought.
surely, shopping is necessary for everyone and can even be a pleasant chore. but the error in it is that it may instil worldly desires in people and make them completely oblivious of the afterlife. they devote their whole lives, thoughts and plans to this activity, and instead of seeking ways to please allah who created them, they try to find satisfaction in minor occupations such as shopping.
as in every area of life, a person who lives according to the teachings of the qur'an will also try to see in the activity of shopping the good that allah has created and the meaning behind things that happen. for him, shopping is not aimless wandering but the opportunity to supply him and his family with what he needs. shopping will certainly not take him away from performing the service he owes to allah. allah commands believers in the qur'an:
restrain yourself patiently with those who call on their lord morning and evening, desiring his face. do not turn your eyes from them, desiring the attractions of this world. and do not obey someone whose heart we have made neglectful of our remembrance and who follows his own whims and desires and whose life has transgressed all bounds. (surat al-kahf: 28)
a believer who goes shopping will keep the following in mind: allah has created various foods, clothing and many other blessings for believers. but in many countries, because of unemployment, poverty or conflict, people cannot find anything to eat. although living in countries with lots of resources, there are people who are too poor to buy what they need. these things are all under allah's control and there is a reason for the amount of provision that allah chooses to give people. allah draws our attention to this in the qur'an:
do they not know that allah expands the provision of anyone he wills and restricts it? there are certainly signs in that for people who believe. (surat az-zumar: 52)
allah has created various circumstances to test human beings. and a believer will not cease giving thanks for what he has been given, no matter in what state he is. he is aware that the test and his situation are transitory. for this reason, he desires to act at every moment in a way that will be pleasing to allah. he expresses his thanks to allah for his blessings in his heart, in what he says and what he does. he spends what he has been given on doing good works, and if allah restricts his provision, he will be patient and continue to give sincere thanks to him. he knows he is tested with poverty and prays for allah to give him patience. in every circumstance, a believer is content with allah and hopes that allah will be content with him.
but those who adopt the traditions, customs and values of a society that does not live by the teachings of the qur'an, immediately lose their sense of gratitude when confronted by the least annoyance. allah condemns them in the qur'an, as mut for failing to see that their prosperity and wealth are a trial equal to their experience of poverty and need:
as for man, when his lord tests him by honouring him and favouring him, he says, "my lord has honoured me!" but then when he tests him by restricting his provision, he says, "my lord has humiliated me!" (surat al-fajr: 15-16)
allah has created the countless blessings on this earth, but people who do not realise this forget that it is according to allah's will and by his permission that they can buy their food and clothing. they do not thank allah but act constantly under the control of selfish desires. all they think about while shopping is what clothing will most impress their friends. what occupies their minds constantly is where they can buy the latest and most attractive fashions in the colours and qualities they want. they are always concerned about what other people have and are jealous of them. they cannot endure being without possession and material things. they feel a great desire to own property and possessions. they compare what has been given to them with what has been given to others, and become impatient, thinking they have been treated unjustly and do not give thanks. in the qur'an, allah reveals the ungratefulness of those who are not content with what they have and always want more:
allah shows favour to mankind but most of them are not thankful. (surat an-naml: 73)
a believer who lives according to the teaching of the qur'an knows that the blessings around him are a gift from allah and is careful not to spend money rashly. while shopping, he makes great effort to avoid wasting money and time. he acts as allah says in the qur'an: "…eat and drink but do not be profligate. he does not love the profligate." (surat al-a'raf: 31) he never forgets that allah calls people who squander their money extravagantly "brothers of shaytan" (surat al-isra': 27)
just as we are required by the qur'an not to waste money in shopping or buying other things, so generosity is also required. allah reveals this in surat al-furqan: "those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor mean, but take a stance mid way between the two." (surat al-furqan: 67) this verse sums up the wisdom a believer shows in the way he does his shopping.