In Defense of Zuhud (minimalism)

June 23, 2014

I have to begin by saying in defending zuhud I am not saying that having material possessions while not having an attachment to it in the heart is not a means of zuhud. I am also not saying that it is not enough to enter the gates of heaven nor am I saying that leaving off material possession is a sure means to attaining the pleasure of God, it is not. One can have pride in not having material possessions and this alone can be a source of evil for them and actually removing them from the blessings of God.

Many may be aware of the reward stated by the prophet of God, peace to him, for those who revive anything from his way. There are many sunnahs that have long been forgotten and are up for grabs, zuhud is one of them. I have yet to be in the house of a Muslim and be amazed by how few possesions they owned –with one exception. Though at the time of visiting this Shaykh’s house overseas to meet with his wife I didn’t realize it but there living room was a beautiful cross between eastern and western style in its seating being raised, western style but surrounding the walls of the living room, arab style. I think there may have been some Arabic calligraphy and some books but there wasn’t much else. Maybe because of my level of comfort I didn’t realize how bare it was. This is the first and only time I walked in to the house of a Muslim, or anyone else for that matter and didn’t gaze my eyes around all the stuff they had. Books, tv/tvs, magazines, tables, computer/s, chairs, couches, clothes, loveseat, dining set, and on and on. And it’s no different for myself. My two bedroom dressers are stacked with books as is my computer table. Under my table is stacked with papers, there is also a crate with magazine, suitcases under my bed, drawers and a closet filled with clothes, three chairs, cosmetics, lotions, jewlry, nick nacs, and lots of other stuff I either don’t have a name for or have long forgotten was there. People often forget that the prophet, peace to him, was a zahid in good and bad times. I guess we can use the word minimalist for a modern translation, remembering of course the spiritual connotation that is added when speaking of the prophet, peace to him. He died with out any monetary wealth left for his family –if you remember when the prophet, peace to him died he was the leader of a Muslim state (Medina), had conquered Mecca and droves of people were entering Islam. He chose minimalism when he could have lived like a king.

One of the ways in which we have lost the idea of minimalism is in our eating habits. Shaykh Nuh, may Allah preserve him, once said in a lesson “If you look at the state of some Muslims if reads, “We can’t drink, we can’t smoke but we can sure eat” he later goes on to say, “Unsurprisingly it is haram (forbidden) to pig out”.

I have fell in to this trap for the pass three years now, I basically just eat whatever I want. I forgot, or ignored the words of the scholars and the example of our beloved prophet, peace to him. Shaykh Nuh is exactly right, entertaining myself with all the many exiciting varieties of food became a pass time. I’ve allowed myself to become a slave to my own desires. The desire for joy, albeit temporarily, the desire for excitement and the desire to tune out and indulge.

I hope to begin to revive this sunna in my life, it would be a perfect time since I will soon be moving to Jordan and when I return home I hope to move in to my own place (though I really hope to be married and moving wherever my husband wants, lol). The less stuff I have the easier it will be to move around. And afterall our prophet said to live in this world as a traveller.

I remember when I actual began to make an effort years ago. Maybe I was too extreme so the taste of minimalism went sour too fast or maybe I didn’t continuously remind my self of the merits of my actions and so eventually it lost its point.

I’ve been wanting to lose weight for a while now, I gained about 40 pounds in my “eat whatever I want” diet over the past 3 years. I’m going to listen to Shaykh Nuh’s lessons on eating (He teaches a class on prophetic health with I’m going to re-read Ghazalis books on the manners of eating and Breaking the two desires. I may go on a juice fast for two weeks before Ramadan (muslim holy month of fasting) and reread the life of our beloved, peace. A saint once said “worship is sweeter when my belly cleaves to my back”. There are so many hadith and sayings of the righteous on eating little I don’t know how we so blissfully ignore them. Yes it’s true, we live in a world (in the west) of abundance, even a poor man has a TV and access to food. And yes, you can eat and accumulate the life of this world but never hold it in your heart and still reach a station near to God.

Yet every saint and every prophet has a way. The last prophet of God, peace to him, his way was minimalism. But if you choose another righteous path may the success of God be with you.


  • Zaakir Abdus-Salaam

    I tend to believe that the moderate approach is the best path to go down. There is a danger on both extreme ends of the spectrum. In regards to food, there is the danger of gluttony, and over consumption, which we know not only has a bad effect on the maturity of our spiritual development, but also on our health. It is through Allah’s wisdom that he prescribed a whole month of fasting. Sex and food are the two things that are most appealing to our nafs (lower selves); this month is a mercy on us all. On the other end, our body has rights over us. We must maintain a certain level of food consumption to assure we are receiving the proper nourishments. In addition to that, food (especially good healthy food) is a great blessing, and it invokes shukr (thankfulness) from those who are mindful.

    As always, thank you Nuriddeen for giving me something to ponder on. You always provide great “food for thought”, pun intended. Until next week.


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  • eternitysojourner

    I often think of zuhd as detachment or abstinence moreso than minimalism. Essentially zuhd is a trait of the heart but food tends to be our most obvious test of it. My best advice is committing to the prophetic practice of voluntary fasting even after Ramadan (and marriage). In the least, a consistent habit of fasting will help to create a healthier relationship with food. Hopefully, this will extend to healthier habits with consumption, possession, contentment, etc. and success is with God.

    • Noor

      Yes in sha Allah, I hope to do some more voluntary fasting outside of Ramadan, thank you for your advice <3

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