It’s the Thought that Counts

Today, known as Black Friday, marks the beginning of a holiday shopping season here in the US characterized by increased spending and to a certain degree extravagance. While Muslim majority countries also have shopping seasons around Eid Al-Fitr, after Ramadan, and Eid Al-Adha, during the hajj, where there are seasonal products, the level of extravagance is not the same. Stores do not open at midnight or in the middle of the night and there isn’t the same drive to buy so many gifts. Having said that, though, giving gifts is important in Islam, but moderation is the guiding principle.

The Prophet Muhammad encouraged giving gifts. In one hadith, he said,

Exchange gifts, as that will lead to increasing your love to one another. (Al-Bukhaari)

As this hadith underscores, the purpose of a gift is to strengthen the bonds between people. However, there should be moderation even in giving a gift. Verse 67 in chapter 25  of the Qur’an describes the servants of God and highlights that among their positive traits is their moderation.

Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not grudging, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes).

As this verse illustrates, giving and spending is not prohibited, but  there should be moderation. This is not to suggest that Muslims are miserly, but that they should avoid extremes in everything. The avoidance of extravagance also acts as a reminder that the value of a gift is not in how much it cost, but truly in the thought, emotion, and effort behind it.

What do you think about Black Friday and the level of spending during the holiday season? Is it extravagant? What do other faith traditions say about giving gifts? Please share your comments below.

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