Wanting a sofa is not a sin….

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

Salaam Alaikum wa Rahmatullah
DISCLAIMER:  I have to do this before articles where I write about stuff that ticks me off:  I am NOT talking from personal experience here in this following blog post.  My husband, mashaAllah, is kind, generous, wants me to buy stuff for myself, take time for myself, relax, enjoy, etc., etc.  He is not a miser and I am not talking about or thinking about him when I write what is below.  He agrees with what I am writing. Okay, disclaimer over.  Carry on…. 

Okay, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I just feel the need to get it off my chest….

A lot of times, if you complain about something, you’ll be told “You should be grateful to Allah for what you have!  Don’t complain!”  I find this mindset to be limited, to say the least.

Now, I am the first person to say “alhamdulillah”, praise be to Allah.  My family is healthy, I have a roof over my head, I have food in the fridge, I have a car that runs, and I have more than one outfit of clothing to wear.  Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah.  I recognize that there are  people who would fight to eat some of the scraps of food that end up in my trash or compost heap.  I get it, I really, really get it.  I am thankful to Allah and I know I’m in a better financial situation than a majority of the people on this planet.

Having said that, I want to say this:  Saying that something is not right, or something is broken and needs to be fixed, or saying that you wish you had a certain thing, does not imply ingratitude to Allah.  Seeking your rights or seeking justice is not ingratitude to Allah.  Being poor and refusing to strive to be rich (in a permissible fashion) is not necessarily a worthy thing or a healthy mindset.  Just as living for the dunya only is not a virtue, neither is failing to strive for the best in this world.

Imagine that you were the victim of a mugging and the mugger shot you in the arm and stole your money. You go to the police to file a report, and the police officer says “You should be grateful!  Don’t you know another guy got shot in the head and they stole his money and his jewelry!”  And then they tell you to go away.  What kind of logic is this?  You are grateful that the wound was not more serious, but you still expect the police to investigate, arrest the criminal, and return your property, if possible.  Yet often times we ask for simpler things than this and are told that we are not being grateful for what we have.  Women especially are put in this position if they are not working outside the home and they have to approach their husbands for their needs.

“Honey, I need money to buy curtains for the living room”.  “Curtains?  Why do you need curtains?” “Well, the bedsheets we have up now look kind of tacky.” “Don’t you know there are people in (insert third world country name here) who would be grateful to even have bedsheets?”  And there you are, left feeling like you are an greedy person obsessed with the trappings of dunya, when in reality you were making a perfectly reasonable request for window coverings that are customary in your society.

This accusation of ingratitude is used as a cudgel to discourage a woman from asking for her rights.  American revert women usually get taken the worst, because they are seen as women who can be acquired cheaply without a high mahr (bridal gift) and without the high maintenance required of a bride in many other societies.  You want a sofa?  The floor is good enough.  You want more than one set of bedsheets?  Wasteful lazy woman, go wash them.  You want a mixer so you don’t have to mix the bread dough by hand?  Hah!  Meanwhile, the man is often styling in the nicest galabiyyah (have to look good in the masjid!) talking on his 4G iPhone (have to be able to download the Adhan!) and visiting the local shisha place a few times a week with his friends (have to network with the brothers!) while his wife sits at home, on the floor, watching local TV because he won’t spring for “evil cable TV” (which, ironically, plays constantly at the shisha place – take your pick, soccer or Arabic music videos).

So, let me tell you, my brothers and sisters – because this cudgel can be used against men, too, though not as much.  Telling someone that you are not satisfied with the landscaping in your yard is not a sin.  If your yard looks like a blasted moonscape and all the other homes on the block are sporting neat lawns, it’s a sin not to spend money on it.  If you only have chipped thrift-store mugs in which to serve tea, and only four of those so you can’t invite more than two people at a time over for a visit, it’s not a sin to invest in a decent tea or coffee set.  It’s not a sin to have enough towels, or a couple of changes of bed linens, or curtains, or a car with air conditioning.  If you can’t afford it, truly can’t afford it, alhamdulillah ala kulli hal and you should be content with what you have.  But if you can afford it, if you can budget for it, buy wholesale, buy used, find it on craigslist, somehow take care of that need, then do it.

See, there’s a concept in Islam of the ‘urf, or custom.  For instance, here in the United States it is customary to have a stove and usually a microwave in the kitchen rather than a wood fire in a pit in the yard.  It is customary to have a mixer or food processor so you don’t have to cut everything by hand.  It’s customary to eat at a table, sit on a sofa or chair, and sleep on a bed with a mattress.  It’s customary to have air conditioning in the car in hot climates and it’s customary for a woman to have a matching set of dishes.  The person who is in charge of setting up and furnishing the home should do so in the customary way that is within his means.  If you want to eat on the floor off of a common dish in the sunni fashion, then that’s great.  But if you’re marrying a woman who grew up eating dinner at the dining room table and sitting on a sofa in the living room, you have to take into account her custom and respect that and accommodate her as much as you can.  Don’t just say haraam alaiki and tell her the floor is good enough. Because if you want to go that far you may as well strip off the carpet, pull up the hardwood floor, and take it down to the dirt.  And buy a camel to commute to work on.  Because if you’re gonna be Sunni, you may as well go all the way.

I’m not saying that you have to go into debt or, Allah forbid, use a credit card or a bank loan to get the best this, the most up to date that, or the fanciest the other.  I am saying that you need to recognize that there are certain things which, while not vitally necessary, are really needed in order to make your home match the customary modest standards of the country in which you live. Here in the US, that’s furniture, bed linens, pillows, curtains, dishes, a stove, a refrigerator, a shower curtain, and so on.  It’s not haraam to make your house look like a home, and you can do so while still being frugal and giving sadaqah and being a good Muslim.  Be reasonable, be moderate, and be realistic, and inshaAllah you can balance your dunya and your aachira.  And Allah knows best

  • Anonymous

    also he paid for his brother's wedding for the girl to have her makeup done, he dress, her "honey moon clothing", the professional photos.. we left with 10,000 came back with nothing but some sheets, a blanket and a few cheap abayat.. i love this man but he does not care.. oh and we were living on pb, rice, and cereal for 2 mths and just got food. He spent so much on everyone else, and on the wedding that we had to make some serious sacrifices. It has been very hard on me, as i have never lived like this. I lived with my grandma most of my life and she is very well off. I was accustomed to a certain way of life.. and while he says i am trash and everything i have should be looked at as a luxury that is so very far from the truth.. i want to be able to have guests over without feeling ashamed. I want what most everyone else in my family/neighbor/social class has. I feel i am not living up to my standards. I was fooled int he beginning, thinking that it would be better to be patient, but with time i have seen this has made him worse, and calling me ungrateful, and greedy more frequently. I am greedy for wanting more to eat than cereal, or pb. I am greedy for wanting my own place, or own stove/appliances. I am greedy for wanting my own bed, and beds for my kids.. and according to him if i want more than maybe i should work for what i want instead of "complaining" truth be told periodically i ask if we have money for this or that (nothing extravagant) and am always met with the same answers.. "ungrateful *****" and he fumes all day muttering obscenities under his breath, sometimes even bringing up past requests as "examples" of how 'greedy' i am.. Allah help me.. because i have come to the point of no return.. job offer out of state with insurance, and a place to stay while i get on waiting list for a low income town house.. ( i can't afford it on my own) and he surely isn't going to help.. am seriously thinking on leaving.. i can do better all by myself.. inshAllah

  • Anonymous

    MashAllah! very well said! I have been thinking the same things since (marriage) and all your points hit right on. I am left wondering why we have a $700 plasma on on wall in living room, yet our sofa is falling apart.. my husband a iphone while i use the magic jack with mic (because he gave the portable to his parents while awya for visit) why it's okay to buy the latest and greatest gadgets that he loves digital cameras, pc's with cam built in etc. When 1. i spend more time at home then him 2. we have 3 sheet sets and after 3.5 years of marriage we just bought the 2 over seas. No touch of femininity seen in this place you would think single men all live here. Also after 3 years of marriage i just got a stackable washer and dryer after having to drive to laundry mat to wash/dry and wait hours to get it done.. and his mother got a new one 6 mths after we married and gave the old (barely 2 years) to his sister. His mother got a deep freezer, and stove (we don't own these things in our apartment they stay when we leave) we don't even have a microwave let alone a toaster (which i honestly don't need a toaster) anything and everything he wants that is new as far as gadgets go he buys, anything his mother/sister wants the money gets sent to them.. yet my kids are sleeping on toddler mattresses on the floor with nothing else, and we have a cheap bedset that is made of this thin fake wood that chips (may i add this was used for 6 years before given to us) not trying to complain *yes it seems that way* but whenever ask for something he says i am ungrateful and i feel like crap.. seems everyone else gets what they want.. and didn't anyone ever tell him the wife has the right to get spent on first.. not last??? also he has never bought his kids anything but diapers, food, and formula.. no clothing or shoes.. had it all given to us, or i bought it myself when i was working.. our son will be 3 shortly and he bought him $20 worth of clothing because we decided to keep him in Egypt… i just felt like crap when we went to go visit and they live in a village (where everyone else has dirt floors) yet his parent's house is decked out and looks like a house out of a better homes magazine (they had designers in) i can say at least i have a nice house *somewhere* but it's not truly mine.. it's his.. AND because i wanted to marry for religion not other things the mahr he gave me was enough to buy a pizza.. Yeah i am serious… turns out he is NOT religious, and doesnt care that much.. just wanted a woman to please his needs, and treat poorly.. all the while telling her "your ungrateful" i am expected to just live like this.. while everyone else gets what they want.. (mother/father/sistrs (married by the way) i am so sick.. but i had to get this out. i am sorry i used your post as a way to vent you can delete my comment if you wish. But i am so glad someone brought this up and someone else gets it!! I felt so happy to finally feel like someone understands how i feel. JazakAllah sister!!

  • Nancy Shehata

    Af_oak, when you find that lady, send her my way and I'll give her tips on how to make a lovely home on a budget. I've had 12 years and five kids to practice being frugal :).

  • Anonymous

    Valid though terribly apologetic! Even I who resides deep in the 'dark continent', got you well from the headline :)While I understand we Muslims have issues with anyone, especially a sister expressing a point…..any point….it does feel like a breath of fresh air when guys like you and me start talking about these thingsLAME DISCLAIMER: Go easy on the rallying call for spending to our ladies, or at least chill till the bachelor-me gets the new and improved 'Inflation-buster' wife 2.42 powered by Wall-Mart Asian sweat-shops Ultra (insert silly jingle)Keep on….!Af_oak

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06782355039225832351 Muslim Convert

    :P funny but at the same time a good lesson for all :D

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16236457671838790594 Jennifer


  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12077982247254680743 Glenda Faye

    I love this post. Keep them coming!