Understanding Islam: Minimalism in Islam

Zuhd is a virtue in Islam which enjoins that a Muslim should live a life of moderation and leave every kind of extravagance. Zuhd is often translated as asceticism, moderation or minimalism. Zuhd is an act of self-discipline to avoid the traps of materialism and in order to be closer to Allah. Zuhd is not about living like a beggar or a hermit. Zuhd is avoiding that which is unnecessary.


Today we live in a society where getting more, bigger or newer is the norm. Materialism often referred to also as commercialism makes us continually strive for material things such as a bigger house, a newer mobile phone, a faster car, and others. Most of us unwittingly and unwillingly become part of a rat race in order to impress the people that we live the good life which is aggravated  by the subconscious competition we have against each other by posting our material possessions on different social media sites in order to see who gets more likes and approval of people we may not even know.

This rat race makes some us strive harder at work in a negative way. Makes us work merely in order to afford the material objects we wished for. Some even work double jobs while some would resort to breaking the law by stealing or devising financial scams. This is more widespread now that people love things and use people and not the other way around. Allah said in the Quran,

“And verily, the human being is intense in the love of wealth.” Quran 100:8

Prophet Muhammad said, “If a son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would desire to have two. Nothing can fill his mouth except the dust of his grave.” Narrated by Imam Al Bukhari and Imam Muslim.

He also said, “By Allah, I do not fear poverty and starvation overtaking you, but I fear that you will have abundant wealth at your disposal as it had been at the disposal of the nations before you. You will then become extremely greedy in accumulating this wealth just as the previous nations had done. This greed will be the cause of your ruin and destruction just as it destroyed the people before you”. Narrated by Imam Al Bukhari and Imam Muslim.

It has been human nature to love material objects that is why Islam teaches us not to be extravagant through the virtue of Zuhd. But Zuhd is not only about avoiding greed. Zuhd is about avoiding that which is unnecessary as someone may not be greedy but he may be extravagant in his spending for his food, travels and his lifestyle as a whole.

Extravagance happens whenever somebody spends much more than what is necessary. Extravagance leads to wastage and it is un-Islamic. Allah said in the Quran,

“Eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly Allah likes not those who waste by extravagance” Quran 7:31

The Permanent Committee on Religious Rulings in Saudi Arabia issued a statement, “Wasteful extravagance is forbidden, and wasting money is forbidden.”

Prophet Muhammad himself lived the simplest life despite the richest that is available for him to take if he wished so. Until his death, he lived in a very tiny house, sleeps on a mat and never really owned much.

Omar bin Al Khattab, the second Khalifah or Muslim leader of the entire Muslim nation after Prophet Muhammad’s death, imposed an austere lifestyle upon himself and upon others especially government politicians. All these happened despite being the most powerful person in the world in his time and in command of a very loyal army and constituents and vast lands conquered.

This realization makes us question our present norm where religious leaders and public servants tend to become the richest in the world and acting like kings in their own little kingdoms.


First, it must be clear to everyone that Allah’s blessings do not come in the form of material possessions alone. Someone may be poor yet he may be blessed with health and happiness while someone may be rich but he is very restless and unhealthy. Allah’s blessings may come in many different forms and is totally different from what our materialistic world understands today.

Second, it must be understood that the wealth we may collect in this world is not totally in our hands to achieve and control. Allah bestows His blessings to whom He wills and takes it away from anyone He so wishes. Wealth is also something we cannot take to our graves.

Third, contentment is a virtue that is both practical and godly. Contentment is practical because it gives you the peace of mind and does not make you join the rat race in procuring material possessions. Contentment is practical because it does not make you buy every latest mobile phone or gadgets out there. Contentment is practical because it makes you live within your means.

Contentment is godly because it makes you appreciate the blessings you have and be thankful for what Allah has blessed you with. Contentment is godly because due to it, we don’t envy anyone simply of their material possessions. Contentment is godly because it makes us live our life for nobler purposes and not to merely be a slave of this material world.

Fourth, avoid buying things beyond your needs. Never buy on impulse because you wanted it to make you look rich or powerful. Buy things because you need them.

So what do we do of the things we have in excess? What do we do with our excess money? If we have more than what we have then we may save it for the future which is something that most of us do not do nowadays. We may also invest it in business in order for it to grow. And one of the best things to do with extra money is to donate to charity by helping build a mosque or helping them pay their bills and maintain its cleanliness and others.