Wednesday, 24 March 2010

For The Love Of Money

Zaynub is more of an acquaintance than a friend. She married Bilal almost 8 years ago in a lavish ceremony attended by over 600 guests. But long before they got married, Bilal informed her that he doesn’t earn much and that he has a financial responsibility to his ailing geriatric mother because he’s the eldest and the only son. But he promised Zaynub that he’d take care of her needs and she was so in love, shitting hearts and rainbows, that she agreed to the arrangement and even supported it. For the first few months, she didn’t expect anything from him but things came to boiling point when, in the 6th month of their marriage, she felt entitled to a monthly allowance for shoes and clothing.

To keep the peace, Bilal took on extra hours at his job and tightened his already tight budget to acquiesce to her request. But over time, designer clothes became more expensive and when her allowance didn’t cover all her expenses, she demanded more money. Over-worked and suffering from exhaustion, he refused telling her that she did not “need” a R5000 dress. In the meantime, Zaynub was pissed and resented the fact that Bilal refused to pay for her medical bills because according to him “there is nothing in the Shariah” (Islamic Law) to state that he has to pay for her medical bills. To make matters worse, he felt it necessary to not only take care of his mother financially, but two of his sisters too because their mufti husbands did not think it necessary or Shariah compliant to support them either.

So the question is who is in more need of a solid kick up the ass? My answer is both of them. She deserves it because she has to stop WANTING and being a materialistic bitch and realise that his obligation to her is to see to her NEEDS and not her WANTS, and she doesn’t need a R5000 dress to impress the Joneses when a R50 one that covers her ass and keeps her warm will do. He needs it because he can’t go around making fucked up decisions, using the Shariah as an excuse for not wanting to support his wife’s necessities because he’s too afraid to stand up and be the man especially when he’s too busy playing Santa with his over-indulged sisters.

I’m not going to mince words here or beat around the bush. Here’s the deal. We all like nice things right? We all love the idea of living in luxury… or at the very least the idea of being able to afford to live in luxury… even if that luxury is monotone and minimalistic and simplistic at its very core. I mean, who doesn’t want to drive a nice car? And who doesn’t want to be able to jump on plane and fly off into the Bahamian sunset without giving a second thought to pesky issues like unpaid bills and next months rent? But unless you live in a palace in Brunei, it’s a given that not every single person is going to be rolling in the green… or in South African terms… with the Buffalos and Leopards.

BUT… when you’re in a relationship, where do you draw the line with your spouse? How much is enough? I can tell you this much, amongst MOST of the SA Indians/Asians (most South African's in general, but SPECIFICALLY the Indians here), money forms the foundation of their relationships. Most of the men love their women and children with money and the women aren’t any different… the “I-love-you-so-much-you-need-to-drive-around-in-a-flashy-car-s” is not uncommon… because let’s face it, most of them are devoid or incapable of expressing any real human emotion aside from being bitchy (yes that’s the men going on like women for you) and aside from the snot and tears churned from the standard melodramatic Bollywood flick. So much of their identities are formed around what they own, that they don’t know who they are without their possessions.

I have to wonder, if it’s a genetic predisposition to want to not only acquire but flaunt so much wealth; wealth that’s automatically attached to a false sense of status and authority; all in a desperate attempt to escape the squalor that most of their ancestors came from. Lets just imagine for a moment,  that you come from shit and you had jack shit… now you have to prove yourself to the world… make a statement that you’re not shit and that you’re actually worth something in monetary terms (because you can’t flash your character see and personality doesn’t buy status so it becomes redundant). And so money becomes part of their identities and forms the basis of how they value themselves. And the more they have, the more they want. And the more they want, the more they acquire; and the more they acquire, the more they waste. It’s a fucked-up-never-ending-cycle I tell ya… and most of these people are the ones who will preach about Islam, conveniently forgetting those laws against excess and extravagance.

I’ve blogged about this before. Now I love money as much as most people do, and for over a decade I’ve said that money will NEVER make you happy but a lack thereof will DEFINITELY make you miserable. But it does not define who I am. It doesn’t make me any more or any less of who I already am. It just allows me to enjoy certain aspects of life that are only attainable when you have money. Nutella does not grow on trees. And the fuel on every Boeing 747 going to Greece does not come from rainwater (although we wish it did). Most things come at a monetary price and yes we need money, but it's not everything. There is a huge distinction people often fail to make... the distinction between what we NEED and what we WANT.

But the real question that everyone needs to ask themselves… IS THAT HOW YOU DEFINE YOURSELF? Does having money, or the lack thereof, determine WHO YOU ARE in society? Does it dictate the estimates of your self-worth? If it does, then there’s no point in going on and you should just do the world a favour and kill yourself. Please. Right now. Seriously. I can loan you my Dad’s semi-automatic, but I want it back when you’re dead. Mother Earth does not need people like you. Mass consumerism has already wreaked havoc and ruined her endocrine system, almost irreversibly. Thing is, all the money in the world won’t buy you Class, or Respect, or Manners... or most importantly, some real estate in the land of Contentment. Chew on that.

11 comments:

  1. You are so right. I find this happening everywhere. I feel blessed to have a husband that knows his duties in terms of maintaining me and even tho I earn more than enough, its difficult for him to accept my offers to pay for anything.. I also know that consideration plays an important part in marriage, especially when it comes to finances.

    When are ppl going to learn what life is really all about huh?

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  2. It's so important, before marriage, for the female to know what the economic reality is for the male. I think that's the wisdom behind the recommendation that you marry someone of similar or higher economic status. It's not a case of discriminating against poor people - but rather the reality that, if you come from a spoilt / comfortable background, you're most probably going to expect that as the norm once you're married - EVEN IF you go in knowing that the husband can't maintain you to the level you're used to.

    I feel bad for the guy, because he does have the Islamic duty to take care of his mother. But not the sisters. If what you're saying is true, I find it appalling that their husbands won't take responsibility for the wives...it's just insane; ESPECIALLY from 'ulema' who are supposed to be TEACHING others about the rights and responsibilities of marriage in Islam.

    But he does need to stand up. Or he may be headed for disaster, because living beyond your means ends up in debt - which is one of the most dangerous things ever. We live with a sick, credit-driven financial system which sucks people in and can destroy them...so the only protection is to stay away from credit. Don't even consider it. If you can't afford something - change circumstances and your expectations to what you can afford and what you NEED. Debt ruins lives and destroys families, and that's just THIS life. Let's not forget that interest is Haraam...so the consequences in the Hereafter are much worse.

    As for materialism: well, that's the sad reality of life in our communities. In theory, almost all of us know that money isn't the most important thing in the world. But in reality, i guess the deep down desires yearn for that luxury of the world. You're right - we'd all want that. And when you see the level of luxury that some have in this world, you'll think it's possible and you may chase after it - in which case it may well consume you.

    But the luxury of the Hereafter (if you make it to the right destination, that is) is way better than what we can even imagine right now.

    And, while we know this too; the problem, in my understanding, is that we don't have a connection to the Herafter...not in our hearts, at least. We don't really, really, really feel connected to that as our ultimate reality - because if we did, we'd all be behaving a lot better than we do at the moment (myself included).

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  3. nk - You really are blessed :) And may you always stay that way, InshaAllah Ameen.
    People need to wake up now and smell the cold coffee...

    dreamlife - I agree with you. But I also think that:

    1. If people didn't have so many expectations from their partners, from life in general, they wouldn't have half the problems they do have.

    2. As a society, we need to re-define out definitions of success and happiness as well as what is required to be happy, because honestly, I know lots of really rich people who are utterly miserable and acquiring "things" is just the mask that camoflages that misery.

    3. People who are about to get married should fix themselves first, before trying to fix others and in addition I find too many people who think they will "change" their partners once they're married. The only man/woman you can change is in diapers.

    4. I believe if a rich girl ardently wants to marry someone from a poorer background (like Zaynub), she should work for what she WANTS, whether that be selling cupcakes or giving yoga classes. Problem is most of these women are bored and have nothing better to do with their lives then to go shopping. Only her NEEDS should be met by the husband... and whatever else he wishes to give her out of the goodness of his heart.

    5. The fact that this is how our so-called future "ulema" think, as men, it's appaling like you said. The problem comes in with parenting... Indian parents over-indulge their kids and treat their kids like children long into adulthood. Brother Naeem from my blogroll said it perfectly in his post on rearing kids in an over-sexualised society... We have to treat our kids like adults when the age calls for it.
    Anthropologically speaking, in Arab culture, there is no adolescence. There's childhood and adulthood... and the result is that their "teenagers" are more like adults and that is why they get married so young. In our society, adults are still treated like kids by their parents so they get married and still behave like kids with their spouses... hence all the problems.

    6. Living beyond our means is the entire reason the world is in such a financial mess with endless disasters on our doorsteps. The repercussions of our actions are devastating. Yet most people continue to fill empty emotional voids with things designed to make you believe that you're a better person if you're in possession of them.

    7. In SA, our deep rooted materialism stems from more than just greed. Its the product of the effects of colonialism and apartheid... where people have never had any means of acquiring what they can today. So alot of people have that attitude that they should "make the most of it" and over-indulge before all the cars and houses in the universe are all gone and used up. There's no culture of preservation or conservation in SA... consumerism is at its ugliest especially amongst the previously disadvantaged.

    8. And right on the marker... I do believe that we are not "God Conscious", not enough anyway. Because when you're cognisant of Allah SWT all the time, theres a level of guilt with comes with that kind of greed... if people were conscious, they wouldn't do half the things they do (including lying and stealing to make money).

    9. But I think the most warped and abhorrent of all, is that people actually believe that having money makes you a better person. They ACTUALLY BELIEVE that (even amongst our so-called leaders in Islam)... whether its subliminal or unconscious, the fact that they believe that is morally reprehensible. I've heard many times of so-called Imams and Moulanas who have more regard and respect for the rich then for the poor. Very sad.

    This was like an entire post on its own :P

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  4. I’m going to stoke the fire here…

    I think the money issue, only really became ‘the money issue’ when women entered the workplace. And I’m not talking about half day secretary work. I’m talking about women having the ability to earn more money than their male counterparts.

    Even if the man marries a women who is not in the working world, the very idea that she can earn her own money, draws the line in the sand for ‘mine’ and ‘yours’.

    I do think, guys have the shorter end of the stick here, because Islamically women can say, what’s mine is mine and what yours is mine.

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  5. I’m going to stoke the fire here…

    I think the money issue, only really became ‘the money issue’ when women entered the workplace. And I’m not talking about half day secretary work. I’m talking about women having the ability to earn more money than their male counterparts.

    Even if the man marries a women who is not in the working world, the very idea that she can earn her own money, draws the line in the sand for ‘mine’ and ‘yours’.

    I do think, guys have the shorter end of the stick here, because Islamically women can say, what’s mine is mine and what yours is mine.

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  6. Azra:

    Well, that reply was pretty much a follow-up post...

    Point 3 is an enormously important piece of advice that i think every single unmarried person should hear / read. It's logical enough thinking about it yourself; but the things that really happen out there confirm it. For example, we went to a marriage class where the teacher was heavily involved in marriage counselling and related social work stuff. He always used to tell us 'horror' stories about cases he'd dealt with (keeping the parties anonymous, of course). In one case, the woman knew the man had a drug problem, but she married him thinking she'd change him. In the end, SHE became a drug addict.

    I think it's not a case of the single person having to wait until they are perfect BEFORE getting married. Perfection (which is impossible anyway) is not a prerequisite; because you grow so much in the relationship. But, the person should be striving to become better, and see the marriage as one of the tools to advance that personal development.

    I agree with point 4. Idle hands are the devil's plaything - and boredom can lead you such dangerous paths; especially in the case of a female - who KNOWS she doesn't have to work, because it's her right to be maintained. A lack of motivation to do anything constructive can just cause so many problems in a marriage - and i think if a husband finds his wife in that situation, the two of them need to make it a high priority to find something fulfilling for the wife to do.

    Yes, Indian kids - and boys especially - are generally spoilt - and for many of us, it's exactly like you said: we don't 'grow up' until long into adulthood. I count myself as part of that category - and I didn't really 'grow up' until my mid-20s. (And it was all so overwhelming when it did happen...)

    I think the 'teenage years' are an artificial construction - because like you say, in Arab culture, there's no such thing. Once you're "of age", that's considered adulthood - which is why marriage is allowed from that time. In Western civilization it was exactly the same - wasn't it? Many used to marry at young ages (early teens) - and they'd work from those ages too.

    I haven't studied this area much, but from what I remember - that's the way it is. The "teenager" stage is a relatively new thing in human history.

    One advice I heard about raising kids is to teach them responsibility from an early age. They must help out in the house, and be encouraged to work / do something productive. And they should be groomed with future responsibilities in mind - to know that once they're grown up and married, they're going to have a LOT of stuff on their plate - so they shouldn't get used to just doing nothing and relaxing all the time. (Of course, balance is required here - because childhood must still have fun and relaxation. But the way some kids waste time [and again, I was one of them] - it's just very sad; and does nothing to prepare them for adulthood. In fact, it probably makes things *more difficult* for when they reach adulthood.

    Point 6 - materialism: Try to find an online video called "The Story of Stuff". It explains how consumerism was deliberately introduced to fill a void in human life - a kind of replacement for spiritual fulfillment.

    Point 7: It's sad that we have that result of apartheid: because some people didn't have it before, they feel it's their right to have it now. it's a sense of entitlement - which leads to such arrogance, innefficiency, and corruption. some of these so-called 'public servants' (including ministers and high-ranking officials) act like they don't even know they're supposed to be SERVING the public - not taking our tax money to buy 2 million Rand cars and live the high life.

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  7. THere's no worldly accountability -or if there is, the justice system isn't a strong enough deterrant to stop their abuse of power and position. (Which just proves why the lack of divine consciousness in politics and public life is doomed to failure...that's secularism for you).


    Trinity:
    I think the bigger issue is materialism and consumerism. The older generations were happy with what little they had - and they coped, survived, and thrived. Our world today is very different: we're always seeking more and better; and there's no contentment because it's a never-ending pursuit of material things. Those things can never fulfill a person - because the desires of the self, if allowed to go rampant, truly has no limits.

    So nowadays, getting all these material things is difficult for a man alone. So, if a wife has earning potential, then he sees it as practical that she should contribute - so that they can live happily with all their material things.

    And that kind of thinking is obviously wrong - because the intention is wrong; so what follows is wrong.

    Where the wife NEEDS to work so that they're financially OK (i.e. NOT aiming for luxury and excessiveness) - then that's a different story. But pursuing material things just for the sake of 'having' it (or social status) is, to me, more of the underlying problem here.

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  8. This is a story that's often told and yet no one learns from it.

    A guy from my hometown recently got divorced because his wife was 'too demanding' and wanted, as Zaynub wanted, 'too many things.'
    I don't know the elements of the story or what part he played in it, but personally, I just don't see why it has to be a make or break factor in a relationship. Communication and understanding is needed from both parties. Nowadays, that seems to go out the door as soon as a few months of marriage have passed, which is really sad.

    I think most families go through some sort of financial difficulty at some point in their lives and in my experience it's just made me more grateful to Allah for what we do have. My family has been through a lot over the years and are sort of still going through it. It's been tough, but with duas and supporting each other after the many obstacles, arguments and annoyances, we've come out ok.

    People say working in the family business is not really working, but I have worked at a job elsewhere and it was much more cushier than the job I had within the family business! Sure I had more perks on various things, but being in the family business has more stress than a job elsewhere as you're intertwined emotionally. The highs and lows truly affect you more, especially since you know that those that are closest to you will be affected by the business as well.
    I 'quit' my job the day I got married, but I still 'temp' there from time to time when needed ;)

    I don't want to live an extravagant lifestyle.
    My best moments were living on the border of Hillbrow with my husband and driving an old Toyota Corolla that we shared.

    Btw, what is with your blog? I tend to blab on here more than I do on my own blog!!!! :P

    Back to your blog post:

    I'd love to know what would Bilal do if Zaynub gets pregnant. Is it not his responsibility to look after his wife's health, even when she is carrying his child?

    Those so-called-mufti's are a disgrace to the mufti's out there that do justice to their wives and family. How can you not support your wife and expect her brother to do it?
    I hate how they distort shariah for their own disgusting views!
    Why get married to a woman if you can't support her needs?
    Zaynub needs to grow up and get over the R5000 dress thing and deal with her needs and not wants.

    We can make a difference by teaching the next generation starting with ourselves and our future (inshAllah) children not to be so mindful of materialism. At least we'll know that we'll be making a difference in this crazy world we live in.

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  9. Azra baby.. one day, i shall introduce you to Betty :-D .. our beloved Chicco babyyyyyy *vrrooomm vroomm*

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  10. Trinity - I think there are alot of unspoken issues of emasculation when it comes to women working and earning more than their male counterparts, but I think most of those issues are reserved for older more traditional generations. If you look at these younger generations, the guys are just too happy to have the wife earn all the money because it means that they dont have to do all the work.

    Dreamlife - Once again, I agree with you. I do believe in "fixing" yourself first though. For example... I know many people who are jealous and insecure, yet will complain about their partners' being jealous and insecure and fail to see their own shortcomings. Its not so much a matter of expecting perfection than it is about being realistic and honest with yourself. Its akin to expecting your kid not to smoke but you're huffing and puffing 24/7. You have to change first before you can inspire change.

    And yes its true, this whole "teen" thing is a new one. My parents got married when they were 17 and 20 respectively and at that age they'd both already been working for quite a while and were independant and responsible.

    My Mother and her siblings are avid believers that "You don't bring up your kids for yourself, you bring them up for the world". I couldn't agree more. Because parents aren't around all the time. And the rest of the world has to deal with the son/daughter that you've reared. And therefore, it's important that they know the value of life. Teaching them responsibility is an excellent way of getting them to know the value of money... and things like manners etc (things that only your parents can teach you) are important because they carry the child through life.

    Unfortunately, we live in an era where real leaders no long exist. Real leaders were those people looked up to, they were role models and mentors.

    Fatima - They are divorced now... luckily its only one talaaq.

    Zaynub was going for fertility treatments (trying to give him a child) hence the medical bills. When things got ugly, he accused her of being "a reject"... when ironically, HE'S the one who has a problem. So here she is, trying to alter her body to give him what he wants, and he doesn't even want to pay her medical bills.

    But Zaynub is no angel either. She always thought she could change him. And it's not like he sprung the situation on her either. He told her from the beginning, that he had to support his mother. It's not like he promised her the world and never delivered. She was just too used to getting what she wants when she wants it and couldn't handle a "no" or "just give me some time and I'll get it for you"... she couldn't wait.

    In retrospect, it really really didn't have to become so ugly. But they both lost respect for each other. And the really sad part is that from where I sit, there is no one else better for either of them. They are fantastic people, and as a couple, when it was good it was more than great. Pity that such a stupid thing had to come between them.

    Zahera - I look forward to meeting you and Betty ;D

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  11. I've noticed from so many women that are married that if you're patient at the beginning of your marriage with regards to finances, then you tend to get more later on in life.

    Patience is beautiful, right?

    I just get so sad when I hear of this. It's heartbreaking and as a young wife I wouldn't like to be in their shoes.
    A few people close to me have gone through divorce and I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy.

    People like to use it as gossip fodder when it should be used as lessons and we should be praying and helping the couple to reconcile somehow.

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