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The Matatu industry folks are the masters of the game of cards. They are smart. They are quick, very resilient and sometimes, even cunning. Now here’s the thing about them, they know for a fact that you need them. But they also know when to lure you into their game when need be.

You get to the matatu stage at 6 or 7 am in the morning, and the stage is already crowded with all manner of people. The matatus are scarce and with scarcity, comes one other thing, MONEY. At this time, the conductors won’t even look you in your eyes. The moment the matatu stops at the stage, they say what they need to say, without blinking their eyes. “Tao express, 100” and because the mwananchi is desperate to get to work early or else their salary will be sliced, they might as well just board the matatu as is. You will see some reluctant faces, some trying to whisper to the conductor, in a desperate attempt to get him to be more reasonable with the price. But this is not ‘the right talking’ moment. More times than not, the conductors are not interested in hearing your sad tone that early in the morning. So, they allow in who can afford it. The rest wait until the next humane conductor stops.

On other mornings, the matatus are so scarce, everyone is scrambling into the matatu like a tag of war. Some go further by jumping in through the window, and by the time everyone is settled down, we all need a minute to straighten our shirts and skirts and take a breath. I know, the struggle is real!

At this point, the matatu folks know very well what they are doing. There are totally no compromises, no humanity at this point. On other mornings, they will listen to your desperate bargain, ask you to board and when the time to pay your fare comes, they tell you, ‘Don’t you know it is rush hour?!’ My friend, if you had given the conductor more than the fare you bargained, best believe you will not get the change you expected or not get any change entirely. And because this money was budgeted, you try to reason with him, ‘Tuliongea’ or ‘Lakini ulikubali’ but your attempt will not be fruitful. So you attempt using your aggressive, firm tone but you know what? That doesn’t scare them either. In the end, you get tired and keep quiet or they ask you to alight before your actual destination. But do you know which the most annoying scenario is? You talk to the conductor and agree on the fare. You board the matatu, and next two stages ahead, the conductor you talked to alights. He wasn’t even the one in charge and now the next one who comes in doesn’t have time to listen to your blame story.

Darwin’s theory of ‘survival is for the fittest’ makes sense in so many ways. Like in this case, we are all desperate Kenyans, barely making ends meet. The economy is rough on everyone. But who suffers the most? The middle and lower class of the society. Barely anyone wants to be the next Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi. We are all hungry. We are all hustlers. So it really isn’t ‘their’ fault to spike the fare prices in an unreasonable manner when they are just trying to survive too right? At least that’s how some think.

I mean, how many times have you boarded a matatu during morning or evening rush, or during the rain season or holiday season or a matatu strike, and you are told 100 bob every stage. EVERY. SINGLE. STAGE. That means it doesn’t matter if my stage is fifteen minutes away or one hour away, we are all paying the same.

The ones who get it the roughest are the visitors from other parts of the country or abroad especially during the holiday season. Funny thing, it is always very easy to spot a visitor because oblivion and confusion is always on their faces. They will constantly remind the conductor to drop them at their stage, keenly staring at the road ahead. Or the instances where we have teachers’ conferences here in Mombasa and suddenly the prices are doubled for every person, whether a local or a visitor. It is as though the teachers are coming with some funds to share with the community over here. I mean, what’s even the explanation for such manipulation?

Now flip the coin, to during the non-rush hours like between 10:00 a.m. to 3 p.m., you will see totally different people. Same faces, just different behaviour. As soon as they see you coming towards the stage, the conductor will come for you. Sometimes, the driver even reverses his car to where you are. In another second, there are three or four other conductors, all trying to convince you into their matatu. One will try holding your hand, another will tell you their matatu is about to leave; only two people remaining before it fills up (by two they actually mean five or seven people), another will offer you a way lower fare price. If you came to the stage with a bodaboda, they will rush to pay off the bodaboda guy so you are left with no choice but board their matatu. They will plead with you. They will remind you that ‘you are our daily customer’. Another will tell you the driver is calling you or your friend is in their matatu. They will fight for you. If you have low self-esteem, they could actually make you feel that you matter. And yes, you definitely do because their survival game is affected by your coins. Yet, they could crash that same self-esteem they built moments ago by selling you off to another conductor for only 20 bob 😀

Their faces turn from 0 to 100 real quick. They know how to navigate around the police system. They know when to be aggressive. When to be swift. When to be stern. When to be greedy; overloading the matatu with passengers until people are suffocating. When to be friendly. When to be kind. When to be empathetic. Of course this is not how it is with all of them. Some are more understanding of the struggle fellow Kenyans are in too and some are friendly and reasonable regardless of the time. However, most times than not, they are just playing their cards.

Funny thing is, most Kenyans with white collar jobs perceive the matatu industry to be of a lower grade; for the illiterate, poor, uncivilized people. However, the money that matatu drivers and conductors make is way more than what an average Kenyan earns in a white collar job. How they use the money is a different story but we’ve had students educate themselves throughout college using the money earned being a matatu conductor/driver.

So next time you want to pity them or underestimate them, think twice. You are probably being played more than you realize it.

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I find it quite amusing that the longest verse in the Qur’an is about debt rather than murder and crime or marriage and divorce, or worship or oppression and war or any other matter that we perceive to be huge in our lives. This is how heavy the matter of debt is, quite unexpected right? In our lives we consider debt as this small dismissible issue that doesn’t require our worry. We take loans, borrow money and disappear for years with someone’s wealth until they hopefully forget about it or forgive us. They don’t need it, we say.  They have enough money, what I took is like a drop of the vast ocean, they won’t even feel the loss.

We let people follow us like eagles as we play hide and seek with what is rightfully theirs. We let them beg and pester us endlessly to pay them back. We rub their hearts like sandpaper on wood as they weep for their money, as they sleep hungry, as they pray for justice. We still assume that debt is something as small as the ant, compared to the elephant in the room i.e. bloodshed and crime and divorce. But this one verse commonly known as ayatul dayn, is clear proof that debt is one of the last things you should ignore and underestimate.

When we go for jobs, we ask for contracts because we always need something that can bring us justice when manipulation or injustice happens. One of the hardest lessons I ever learnt is that you must and should write a contract with whoever you have a deal with, whether small or big, whether a family, friend, neighbour or boss especially when it is family because we usually disregard them as being manipulators. Yet it happens; family manipulating family and friends betraying their closest friends. Sometimes you or the lender forget what the initial agreement was and eventually, doubt comes in between you because of the different statements each gives. Remember when Allah (S.W) said in surat Anfal verse 28, And know that your properties and your children are but a trial and that Allah has with Him a great reward.’ Indeed, wealth has been known as one of the biggest matters to break marriages, friendships and even kinship all over time, all over the world. It happens, a lot.

In this longest ayah, surat Baqarah, verse 282, Allah (S.W) gives us a lengthy description on how to conduct financial transactions, about contracts, how to fulfil promises, being God-conscious and the importance of witnesses.

‘O you who have believed, when you contract a debt for a specified term, write it down. And let a scribe write [it] between you in justice. Let no scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him. So let him write and let the one who has the obligation dictate. And let him fear Allah, his Lord, and not leave anything out of it. But if the one who has the obligation is of limited understanding or weak or unable to dictate himself, then let his guardian dictate in justice. And bring to witness two witnesses from among your men. And if there are not two men [available], then a man and two women from those whom you accept as witnesses – so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her. And let not the witnesses refuse when they are called upon. And do not be [too] weary to write it, whether it is small or large, for its [specified] term. That is more just in the sight of Allah and stronger as evidence and more likely to prevent doubt between you, except when it is an immediate transaction which you conduct among yourselves. For [then] there is no blame upon you if you do not write it. And take witnesses when you conclude a contract. Let no scribe be harmed or any witness. For if you do so, indeed, it is [grave] disobedience in you. And fear Allah . And Allah teaches you. And Allah is Knowing of all things.’

A few things we learn from this ayah is that:

  • Financial transactions, debts and agreements are NOT a small matter as we usually perceive.
  • It is very important to write down any transactions however small or big or even how much you trust another person.
  • Every person should dictate what his terms are.
  • The writer of the agreement must be a third party; an honest person with integrity.
  • The writer must write with all fairness and justice and use clear, precise words.
  • When one can’t dictate his terms due to young age or feeble-minded or is unable to do so for any reason, his guardian or trustee may do it on his behalf.
  • Witnesses are required when making a deal just in case one of you forgets or tries to manipulate another.
  • Witnesses are required to be two trusted men and if not available then one man and two women so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her.
  • Witnesses should not refuse to give evidence when required to.
  • All those involved in the transaction must be God conscious and not manipulate the other.
  • No harm must come either to the document writer or to the witnesses and their rights must be observed.
  • If a transaction is occurring in the present moment then it isn’t wrong if they don’t write it down.

 

In the verse that follows, Allah (S.W) says: ‘And if you are on a journey and cannot find a scribe, then a security deposit [should be] taken. And if one of you entrusts another, then let him who is entrusted discharge his trust [faithfully] and let him fear Allah, his Lord. And do not conceal testimony, for whoever conceals it – his heart is indeed sinful, and Allah is Knowing of what you do.’

In this ayah we learn the validity of mortgage (pledge) commonly known as ‘Rehani’ with the proper Islamic rules. In a narration by Aisha peace be upon her: The prophet peace be upon him bought some food stuff on credit for a limited period and mortgaged his armour’ (Sahih Bukhari: Vol. 3, hadith No. 686)

To further show the emphasis given to debt, here are a few hadiths on the subject:

The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said: “The soul of the believer is held hostage by his debt in his grave until it is paid off.” Tirmidhi,

Explaining this hadeeth al-Suyooti said: “It (soul) is detained and kept from reaching its noble destination. Al-‘Iraaqi said: “No judgment is passed as to whether it will be saved or doomed until it is determined whether his debt will be paid off or not.”

Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 2929 Narrated by Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Jahsh, The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: By Him in whose hand Muhammad’s soul is, if a man were to be killed in Allah’s path then come to life, be killed again in Allah’s path then come to life, and be killed once more in Allah’s path then come to life owing a debt, he would not enter Paradise till his debt was paid.” This is how serious the matter of debt is.

Another beautiful story on paying a debt is related in Sahih Al-Bukhari from Abu Hurairah (May Allah be satisfied with him) from Allah’s Messenger (May Allah exalt his mention and protect him from imperfection): A man from the Children of Israel asked another man from the Children of Israel to lend him 1000 dinars, and he answered, “Bring witnesses who will bear witness (to this transaction).” The first man said, “Allah is enough as a Witness.” He said, “Then bring me a guarantor.” He said, “Allah is enough as a Guarantor.” The man said, “You have spoken the truth.”

He gave him the money for a fixed term. The debtor travelled by sea and when he fulfilled the purpose of his journey, he was looking for a ship that he could board and return on to pay the debt at the appointed time. However, he was not able to find a ship, so he took a piece of wood, pierced it, and thrust into it 1000 dinars along with a letter to the creditor. Then he took it to the ocean.

He said, “O Allah, You know that I borrowed 1000 dinars from such and such person, and he asked me for a guarantor. I said: Allah is enough as a Guarantor. He was pleased with You, and he also asked for a witness. I said: Allah is enough as a Witness, and he was pleased with You (as a Witness). And I have not been able to find a ship on which I could send him that which is due to him, so indeed I trust it to you.”

He threw the piece of wood into the ocean until it was swallowed by it, and then he went away. He then continued to search for a boat on which he could return to his country. The creditor went out looking – perhaps a boat would come with his wealth. He found a piece of wood – in which was the money – and he took it to his family as firewood. When he broke the wood open, he found the money and the letter.

Then the debtor returned, bringing with him 1000 dinars. He said, “By Allah, I continued to search for a boat in order to return your wealth to you, but I did not find one until I found the one that I came on now.” The other man asked, “And did you send anything to me?”… “For indeed, Allah paid for you through the wood that you sent.”

Is that what we do today with other people’s wealth and possessions? Can we go this far to ensure we have kept our promises and paid back as per the time frame originally given?

As we go on with our busy lives, make sure to take a pause at some point and pay back our dues even if it means missing out on something else. You never know how much the lender desperately needs what he gave you. Be empathetic and just. Fear Allah in all your dealings and transactions because for sure, all these things we will be questioned about on the day of judgement. Start paying back now!

P.S Writing down your agreements doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t trust the other party. Both of you are human beings, either of you could forget or get confused about what was initially agreed or die in which his family might need proof to pay back the debts. There is so much wisdom in this ruling. Let’s put it to work.

P.S 2: Don’t you find this to be so beautiful and amazing? That our religion has covered every single aspect of our lives, we just need to read, understand and follow? Indeed, Islam is not just a religion but a way of life too.

May Allah protect us from the burden of debt. Ameen.

I’ve met gamblers before. I’ve sat with them, eaten with them, worked with them. They always amuse me. One because most of them are people of middle or low class so they know what being broke is. Two because of their strong faith in the whole thing. Faith could be a strong word in this case but I lack the precise words to describe what they do.

I’ve seen several of them skip lunch or gulp down water to quench themselves and hopefully stop their stomachs from rumbling. I have seen them deny themselves a proper meal and budget their lunch for anything less than fifty shillings so that they can bet. They would do it everyday, endlessly, with so much anticipation. They would become so engrossed with it that they wouldn’t hear what you are saying especially when someone is telling them how the betting is ruining them.

I would watch and just for a moment, a small tiny moment, envy their faith. How they would dedicate their entire lives to this one thing with the hope that just one day, one brilliant day, one perfect day, they would win more than they ever dream. They would sacrifice their meals and walk to save the fare and cut down any expense that could save them just one more coin for betting. I often picture it like a beggar going to this mansion to request for food. They would arrive at the gate and the dogs would bark so loud chasing them away. They would go back and this time the guard would ask them to leave. Yet, this persistent beggar would use all his means and ways to go back to the mansion and beg. Before they know it, the house owners are slamming doors at him but guess what, this poor man is very insistent on getting anything from this mansion even if it is the left-over food. All this time though, he forgets that he is using up all his energy and remaining coins to go beg instead of using what he has in a better investment. Well, the food beggar is still better than the gambler though. I always wondered how much better their lives would be if they that kind of faith in something else, maybe in their own potential, in God, or their own hard work.

One ex gambler told me his story of how he started betting since he was in form two. Being a football fanatic and wanting an easy way to earn money, he decided that betting would be the best way to channel his passion and focus to. There weren’t many betting sites then but his friend helped him register to one of the sites. Slowly he started betting every other weekend when they would sneak out from the dormitories to go watch football outside. When he got a hang of things, he graduated to betting every day on champions league in mid week and EPL on weekends.

At times he’d lose hope when he lost the bets but later the loses just pushed him further into making multiple bets in a day especially on weekends when many games were being played. He started using up almost all his pocket money on it and seeing that he was losing only by slim margins, he’s be under pressure to get back his money. At that time the bets were 100 Kshs each so he was losing quite an amount for a student, thus, he would put more bets the next day with the hope his money will be regained.

He went on that like that and when he was in form three, he would be too broke that he would call his dad every Monday to ask for money. His father was convinced that his son was smoking bhang, or why else would he need money all the time? Being a notorious boy himself, it was hard to believe otherwise. Spending all his money on this, his pocket money used to be over by the first week of school.

Soon enough he started sneaking with the phone to class so that he could bet during the day. This led him to being suspended from school several times for phone possession and finally in the third term of form three he was expelled.

Sometimes he would earn some money from the betting but he would still use the money on more betting and taking out his friends when they sneaked from school.

When he joined campus, he went on with the same habit and ended up using his fees for one entire year without the knowledge of his father who in his mind knows he has cleared his son’s fees. Campus gave him more freedom and of course more money. The second year he spent an entire semester’ fee on the betting. His idea was he’s invest on the betting and then earn enough for the fees and more for himself. Before he knew it, he had used up thirty thousand out of the forty seven he had for fees. He was now under more pressure to get back the money and he did not know any other way to earn money except by betting.

Soon he was losing friends because he was always on the betting sites, sometimes for a whole day. He wouldn’t want to spend time with people and conversations were bothering him because his mind was always absorbed with the betting. He was avoiding going home lest they ask him about campus and his studying. There was a time he spent his hostel rent on the betting and opted to be sleeping at the entertainment area in the campus. He missed exams due to unpaid fees. Prayers became non-existent to him. Every thing he ever wanted to buy, his mind would automatically go back to betting, like, ‘Let me bet then the profit is what i’ll use to buy the shirt’, ‘Let me bet then if I win I can buy the boots.’ He even sold his phone, bought a cheaper phone just so he could bet. That is how serious it was. Maybe faith isn’t the word after all; addiction it is.

After losing all the fees for the second year, he applied for an academic leave and went somewhere else to stay while his parents believed their son is in campus studying.

He was in his third year; his friends were ahead of him, he was sleeping on the benches and he was ashamed of himself he couldn’t face his dad. At this moment he was just alone.

It wasn’t until last year when campus was being closed and he had to leave the campus when it finally dawned on him. Staying away from home, he went to a friend’s place to stay in the mean while. His friend told him how broke and wasted he seemed and how he really looked like a bhang smoker. His friend would sometimes buy him food because he knew he has nothing. Time came his friend also got tired and started avoiding him. When he’d request for money he’d tell him to go and get it from his father. He didn’t want to go home yet because he was ashamed but his friend too was already bothered with his betting habit.

This got him to keenly look at himself; how rough he looked and he decided it is high time to stop the habit. He would stop for a while but when he’d get money he’d still go back to betting. It was a hard addiction to let go so he had to put more effort to not go down that lane again. He would avoid watching the games in public, he stopped putting money on Mpesa, and would avoid receiving money in big amounts at once.

Last December he lost twenty two thousand in less than a week and that became his last blow. He didn’t play again since then. Its been 8 clean months and that’s huge progress for him. Alhamdulilah.

I would say this is a brave man for coming out openly to share his story so the rest of us can learn from his. For being able to learn from his own mistakes and to let go of his strong addiction. He is among the lucky ones because as he says, many know how damaging it is yet still opt for it. Not everyone gets that chance to start all over again and make lemonade from the lemons they had.

High time we started having these conversations amongst ourselves and with our friends and younger brothers and sisters. May God guide and protect us all from being the enemies to our own souls. Ameen.


N.B: This essay was initially submitted to Islamic Online University, Department of Psychology (with a few additions). It is thus subjected to copyright. Enjoy!

There is a reason why we all love to see ‘SALE!’ on our favourite shopping malls or anywhere really; it means buying, buying and more buying. There is some sort of excitement that comes with shopping and an ego-inflating thrill of owning it afterwards when we buy things we want, even when not really needed. We often confuse this short-term spark of endorphins and dopamine to be happiness until the stuff we have bought lay around for some while and we realize it wasn’t such a big deal anyway. This leads to further acquisition of other materials so as to acquire the same kind of elation once again. When we become too engrossed in the consuming habit and making it a priority, we end up being materialistic people.

Belk (1984) describes materialism as “The importance a consumer attaches to worldly possessions” and “possessions assume a central place in a person’s life and are believed to provide the greatest sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction”.

Advertisers play a big role in influencing materialism. Advertisements eat away at people’s happiness and erode the general satisfaction they have with what they already own. It makes people feel inadequate and sometimes tamper with their self-worth and in return, brainwash them into buying ‘happiness’ or items that would make them feel better about themselves.

Unhappiness unfortunately generates a need for material possessions and more wealth. For this reason, unhappiness and materialism reinforce each other; materialism breeds unhappiness and vice versa. (Akers, n.d.) This has been depicted in TV shows, movies and many other online posts where unhappy or depressed people go for shopping in pursuit of extinguishing the emptiness or pain within them. In retrospective, people who frequently watch these TV shows and consume the media a lot, end up believing that materialism is an effective and spontaneous way to acquire happiness.

While many have fallen victim of materialism in pursuit of happiness, another plausible explanation as to why people continue to purchase materialistic goods is the social comparison theory (Festinger, 1948). By the social comparison theory we refer to how people often compare themselves to their peers, friends and family. Trying too hard to fit in, people go an extra mile to purchase, acquire and own things that sometimes don’t work with their current income or savings. Some take huge debts and some misplace their priorities for the same. This might grant them social acceptance and to be regarded from a certain class, it doesn’t grant them happiness or inner peace.

Materialism has adverse effects on the minds and happiness of people. The first thing is that, materialism causes erosion of moral values. When a person puts a great importance to money and worldly possessions, they tend to give up most of their moral values to get what they want. Sometimes they lose their sense of right and wrong and become too pre-occupied in gaining what they yearn for. They become selfish, envious and too aggressive in being discontent with themselves and what they possess. An example of this is when people indulge in disgusting sexual relations just to acquire wealth and status or when they turn against their own friends and family and commit injustice to take wealth from them.

People tend to be blinded with greed once they taste the thrill of materialism. They want more and more and they’d overcome all limits to get what they want. Some people go to the extent of committing murder and breaking the law just to acquire the things they want. It becomes like a dangerous addiction where one no longer cares what they have to do, to get these worldly possessions.

Consumerism may breed narcissistic personalities. According to psychologist Tim Kasser, narcissists turn to actions of arrogance and are very concerned with issues regarding their worth to other people. They turn to other people for self-assurance. Materialism affects the mind in the same way.

Narcissists’ desire for external validation fits well with the conception of materialistic values as extrinsic and focused on others’ praise. They seek power and prestige to cover their inner feelings of emptiness and low self-worth. People in consumerism driven cultures believe their worth as a person is measured by how much stuff they own. As such, it is quite expected that a materialistic person may turn out to be narcissistic as well.

With all the moral values gone, it becomes very difficult for a materialistic person to have healthy relationships with other people. Their entire world revolves around money, wealthy people and how to gain more. As such, they rarely have time to make proper connections and to be compassionate with other beings. Materialism has been proven to be one of the reasons for lower marital quality and unhappiness in marriages.

With all the social media channels that we have, life couldn’t be harder for teenagers and young adults. They spend hours online scrolling and admiring how their peers and their idols seem to be spending and ‘being happy’. There are new trends coming up every other day and keeping up with it all becomes too overwhelming. Society pressures them to ‘look cool’ and keep up with these trends so as to fit in. This makes some of them fall into depression or to be manipulative so as to acquire what they want. Materialism in teens could also lead to self-esteem issues and bullying, because they are pressured into buying these things and are often teased if they don’t.
The alarming mistake we are making is allowing ourselves to believe that material possessions will enhance our well-being and the quality of our lives. Despite this being a wrong belief, it is widely embraced by both the poor and the rich.

Our deen, Islam has set for us the perfect way of living and if followed, most of the agony and pain we inflict on ourselves wouldn’t be available. As much as we as Muslims are encouraged to seek better and comfortable livelihoods, there are limits to everything. Material possessions are regarded as secondary to moral and spiritual development of human personality. We therefore are to strive for the hereafter more than the temporary worldly possessions.

To effectively deal with materialism, a Muslim can adopt the following principles as established by Allah (S.W.) in the qur’an and by the prophet (P.B.U.H).

1. Focusing on the purpose of this dunya: Allah (S.W) clearly states in the qur’an: “And this life of the world is nothing but a sport and play; and as for the next abode, that most surely is the life, did they but know.” (Surah Al Ankabut: 29: 64) This life is temporary and when we die, everything we ever possessed becomes for those we live behind. This should motivate us to strive for the hereafter which is eternal.

If the purpose of life is to become wealthy, there would be no purpose after becoming wealthy. Many people yearn to become wealthy with the thought that this is what will give them happiness and satisfaction of this life, however, when they attain the wealth, the reality dawns on them that materials can never fulfil them. This eventually leads to feelings of despair and depression.

The true purpose of our existence is to worship Allah (S.W) and to seek his pleasure and if we follow His path, then this dunya wouldn’t mean so much to us. We would focus on attaining jannah in the hereafter where we will attain the true happiness and bliss.

2. Being content (Having qan’a3a): Prophet Muhammed (saws) said, “Riches does not mean having a great amount of property; real wealth is self-contentment.” Sahih Bukhari. For us to be content we need to look at those below us and not those above us. We should buy what we need and not just want. We should be content with Allah has given us without being greedy. This will set the limits on how much one seeks to spend on material world.

3. Acting selflessly and giving charity: When we look outward and strive to help other people, the more we become happy and content with our own lives. Allah (S.W) says: “If you offer up to God a goodly loan, He will amply repay you for it, and will forgive you your sins: for God is ever responsive to gratitude, forbearing.” We should feel empathy for the poor and know that they have rights on our excess money. The benefits of sadaqah have been mentioned in many ayahs and hadith and they act as a good shield from materialism.

4. Avoiding Israf: Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) said: “If a son of Adam (as) possessed two vast valleys wherein gold and silver flowed, he would still wish to search for the third one.” This shows how weak we are as human beings when it comes to wealth. Nonetheless, Allah (S.W) warns us, “…and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant.” (Surah al-Ar’āf 7:31)

5. Showing gratitude to Allah (S.W): Allah promises us in the qur’an that if we are grateful He will indeed increase His favours upon us. Showing gratitude is beneficial for our souls for it makes us appreciate what we are granted and be content with it.

From all the above, we can see there is no direct correlation between income and happiness. Wealth may help in improvement of quality of life but even so, once the basic needs are met, wealth makes very little difference to one’s overall well-being and sense of happiness. In fact, extremely wealthy people actually suffer from higher rates of depression.

In conclusion, materialism has proven to be a dreadful disease in our current society and for us to be truly happy in this life, we need to follow our shariah and sunnah that gives us the right way to live well in this dunya.

I was seated with a friend; a lady thirty years older than me (By the way, having older friends is one of the secrets to better growth no joke) and during our conversation about my career journey, I blurted out my thoughts aloud with a sulky face, “I don’t even know what I’m doing with my life.” She looked at me with an astonished face, “Do you even know how lucky you are that you got to start your dream journey so early?!”

So she went on to tell me her own personal story on how she quit her job after working there for 19 long years to pursue her goals. It was a crazy move because she was getting really good pay but decided to let it all go so she can do something she is passionate about. I just sat there with WOW written all over my face because she wasn’t someone you’d think struggled that much to be where she is. You know, the kind of people with a high intelligence, great network, wonderful resume, a name and an identity that makes her very respected. And it just marveled me so much because it just confirmed to me what I’ve always thought; that when you see someone you look up to and consider successful, do know they also had to sweat their way up to where they are.

Sometimes, I am sure of what I’m doing, I’m sure it is the right thing, I’m sure this is what I want until someone just comes out of nowhere to remind me what the society expects. So the narrow path the society expects you to follow is Primary school-Secondary school-University-Get a job-Get married-Do your masters-Have children etc etc and this path isn’t always fixed like this. Sometimes one thing comes before another. Like some get married before university, some do masters before they have children and all that. But then in the end, it is all about this common steps of life people expect you to do in life such that when you step out of the ‘system’, something is very wrong with you. It doesn’t make sense why you’d choose the far and wide path yet everyone else is taking the long and narrow one.

Anyway, as we went on with our conversation, my friend said, “Let me tell you something someone I consider my mentor told me when I informed her I am quitting my job. She said to me, ‘My girl, people will laugh at you. They will think you are crazy. They will say a lot of things, but just go for it. Go after what you are passionate about. THE MONEY WILL COME. Slowly, you’ll start getting clients and you will be fine.” So now I’m telling you the same thing. The money will come. It may be a long-term sacrifice and struggle but I believe you will break it through sooner or later in shaa Allah…”

What I’ve learnt is that the criticisms will never stop. You will remain a mystery because people just don’t understand what you are doing. You will make a lot of sacrifices. You will be BROKE. Did I say BROKE? Yes, you will come face to face with poverty. You will question your choices over and over again because those who took the long, narrow path are succeeding and leading good, comfortable lives. Your friends and age mates are already fulfilling their life ‘expectations’ while you are still trying to figure out who to approach to help you with this new project you want to do or who you can borrow some cash from so you can implement this other new idea. And people will think, ‘This one is always trying a new idea’. It will become hilarious for everyone, sometimes including you. You will be tempted to just settle for anything that comes your way and say, ‘At least I tried.’ Please don’t. You didn’t come this far to quit now. Not this time. Not in ever.

After that conversation, the phrase ‘The money will come’ kept ringing in my mind. Not because the money is the main objective of going after my dreams, but because it would mean I have finally reached the level of being the achiever I want to be. And I wanted to share this with you because I know I am not alone. The free spirits amongst us who are hungry to lead exceptional lives. So here I am telling it to you, ‘All these sacrifices you are making now? They will pay off. Everything will fall into place if you keep walking. Look at the horizon; the long-term benefit not what is just ahead of you. And yes…the money will come! In shaa Allah. And i’m leaving this with you so you can pass it forward to anyone who needs to hear it.

Dare to be different. Be unique, be brilliant. And keep praying. Someday, you will be real proud of yourself and your journey.

A toast to all the go-getters!