As I’m sure you’re aware, many people call the day after the holiday known to many as Thanksgiving “Black Friday.” It is marked by rampant amounts of consumerism, celebrating corporate and capitalist excess with panicked stampedes at the door of electronics stores and shopping malls, frenzied shoppers stepping over and on top of one another to grab their purchases off the shelves. People camp out overnight and people look forward to it all year. It’s like an orgy of consumption that drives people completely insane.
To many this obscene display of greed and scavenging for things that are unnecessary is offensive, and in response there is a global movement towards a new way to mark this day known as “Buy Nothing Day.” It started over two decades ago, and is promoted most notably by the Canadian magazine AdBusters. Buy Nothing Day is an attempt to slap the sense into the deranged masses who have spent the year imbibing the liquor of having-as-being. Buy Nothing Day proposes we opt out instead of driving our precious planet’s surface resources into oblivion with our excess, and supporting the demonic, satanic forces that have hailed wealth and privatization, growth economies, and the destructive capitalist system that has made a McSociety of our culture.
#BuyNothingDay as promoted by AdBusters
“This year’s #BuyNothingDay stands to be the most critical yet in the activist tradition’s nearly 30-year history. Why? It hardly bears repeating: the coronavirus has decimated the economy and (re-)exposed nauseatingly profound inequalities. In its wake, barely any but the biggest and most ruthless of businesses can hope to survive while the rest drop like flies.”
“Meanwhile the world’s richest keep getting richer, even as their own employees face outsize risk just to make minimum wage (and ends meet). And as the virus rages on, the devastation — to the health and wealth of millions — will only worsen for all but the most affluent.”
“It didn’t have to be like this. The virus merely served as the catalyst for the second economic drubbing in a generation — the severest in a century. Not just four years but decades of bad government and backward policymaking brought us to these depths of suffering and disparity.”
Buy Nothing Day is an attempt to slap the sense into the deranged masses who have spent the year imbibing the liquor of having-as-being.
“Should the economy serve the many or the few? Do we stand for justice and the common good or injustice and mass deprivation? Is ours a government of, by, and for the people, or just the prosperous?”
“We can’t overhaul the whole system in one day.”
“But we can take a meaningful stand.”
“Corporations have never been more powerful. And amid lockdowns and self-isolation, their one-click hold on us has only grown stronger and stronger. Simply put, however, the source of their might is your wallet — close it up and their sway over you vanishes.”
“This ̶B̶l̶a̶c̶k̶ ̶F̶r̶i̶d̶a̶y̶ Buy Nothing Day, November 27th, do the least you can do — for your bank account, your mind, and the planet. Refuse to let parasitic corporations feed off your hard-earned bucks. Cut them off at the source . . . break their spell. Prevent the likes of Amazon — symbols of totalitarian, anti-human capitalism gone off the rails — from crushing the local shops we love, and becoming the only places left to buy everything from food to diapers to TVs.”
“Buy Nothing during the high-volume shopping season that extends into Xmas and the New Year . . . before the Amazonization of everything is complete.”
Anti-Consumerism in the Hadith
In a sense, this is the most Muslim non-Muslim holiday of the year. Our prophet (PBUH) was notably ascetic in his lifestyle choices. He did not believe in overeating, or drinking in excess. He lived a simple life. There is a famous story of his companions as well that shows the value the early ummah put on self-sacrifice around material goods. It goes as follows:
Umar ibn al-Khattab reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, ordered us to give charity and at the time I had some wealth. I said to myself, “Today I will outdo Abu Bakr, if ever there were a day to outdo him.” I went with half of my wealth to the Prophet and he said, “What have you left for your family?” I said, “The same amount.” Then, Abu Bakr came with everything he had. The Prophet said, “O Abu Bakr, what have you left for your family?” Abu Bakr said, “Allah and his messenger.” I said, “By Allah, I will never do better than Abu Bakr.” -Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3675
There are some reports that Abu Bakr, (RA) even took the buttons off his clothes and tied his shirt with a stick. The Prophet (PBUH) told the Sahabi that all the inhabitants of Jannah dressed like Abu Bakr (RA) that day.
The Prophet (SAW) was an ascetic. He lived simply. His family also lived minimally. They followed the rule “Live simply that others may simply live.” Excessive indulgence in the dunya that we see, with closet full of shoes, dressers full of scarves, expense after expense is not the sunnah. It is even more noticeable that in the suffering we see around us as a result of COVID19, going out in an orgy of consumerism is completely disrespectful and haram.
Anti-Consumerism in the Quran
The Quran 57:20 states: Know that this worldly life is no more than play, amusement, luxury, mutual boasting, and competition in wealth and children. This is like rain that causes plants to grow, to the delight of the planters. But later the plants dry up and you see them wither, then they are reduced to chaff. And in the Hereafter there will be either severe punishment or forgiveness and pleasure of Allah, whereas the life of this world is no more than the delusion of enjoyment.
What will our Prophet (SAW) and our God think of our deeds on the Day when we stand before him with no wealth, no money, no buying power, only our deeds? Will our behavior on this day be for or against us? Will this day make us richer or poorer?
Read more on the AdBusters website and in their magazine HERE.
Sarah is a social worker in the San Francisco Bay Area with at-risk and homeless youth. She likes to paint, drum, sing, and spend quality time with her family and God.