Extravagance means Israf in Islam. Islam is strictly against wastage of anything and even more so when wastage takes place due to extravagance. It should be understood well by Muslims that Islam emphasizes a lot on social equality and a peaceful equal society; a society where no one is above another, where everyone is equally happy, where everyone is equally satisfied, where everyone is equally free and equally responsible. Some of these may vary in degrees from one instance to another, but as a basic requirement of its foundation, Islamic society stands for equality, in other words, Islamic society ensures that HAQ(Truth) prevails.
Extravagance is one thing which comes against the establishment of this equality. If a Muslim wastes some resources or provisions etc. by extravagance, he is directly wasting the haq of others, those who could have been satisfied by the wasted things. This leads to a vicious circle of wrong-doings and a big unwanted imbalance in the society, thereby, creating a hindrance in maintaining equality among all.
How can it be justified that on one hand there are people who are not able to get their daily meals, while on the other hand there are people who eat half of their plate and throw the remaining half in the trash bin? How can we defend a case where one portion of society has their wardrobes full of clothes, so big in numbers that the person may not be able to wear it once a year or once a month, whereas on the other hand there are people who live their lives depending on a dress or two and in some cases not even this? Islam takes a strong exception to this.
And those, who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor niggardly, but hold a medium (way) between those (extremes).
Extravagance is of two types.
Israf can be understood by an example where a person needs, let us say, two breads in order to satisfy his hunger. But he takes 3 or 4 breads for his food. Naturally, as his diet requirement is 2 or may be 2 breads and a half, he won’t be able to eat more than that, thereby wasting the remaining bread. This is a classic example of Israf. However, Israf is not limited to food only; it can be observed in other things also. Qur’an speaks in strict terms about Israf; refer to following ayath: “O Children of Adam! Take your adornment (by wearing your clean clothes) while praying and going round the Ka’bah, and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifin (those who waste by extravagance).” Quran Surah Al-A’raf, 7: 31 Allah does not like people who waste by extravagance.
This type of extravagance may take place due to either carelessness, or due to negligence, or due to arrogance, or due to foolishness. Whatever be the reason, it is not allowed in Islam. Israf can also take place due to one another reason. A person may end up doing Israf, in spite of his / her intention of doing something noble. To understand such a case, let me quote a ayath of Qur’an.“And it is He Who produces trellised and untrellised, and date palms, and crops of different shape & taste, and olives and pomegranates similar & different. Eat of their fruit when they ripen, but pay the due thereof (its Zakat) on the day of its harvest, and waste not by extravagance. Verily, He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifin (those who waste by extravagance).”Quran Surah Al-An’am, 6:141
It was said that extravagance prohibited here refers to excessive charity beyond normal amounts. Ibn Jurayj said, “This ayath was revealed concerning Zabit bin Qays bin Shammas, who plucked the fruits of his date palms. Then he said to himself, ‘This day, every person who comes to me, I will feed him from it.’ So he kept feeding (the people) until the evening came and he ended up with no dates.” On this Allah sent down: “And waste not by extravagance. Verily, He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifin (those who waste by extravagance).” (Ref. Tafsir by Imam Ibn Kathir).
On similar guidelines, if a person is very poor and in debts, then he/she is not supposed to do charity. That also becomes a type of Israf. Following hadith explains it clearly. Jabir (RA) narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) rejected the gift of charity (given by a poor man) before he prohibited him (for giving in charity). Malik said, “If a person is in debt and he has nothing except a slave, it is not permissible for him to manumit the slave.” Book of Quarrels, Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 3
When a person spends his money or resources for the things which he / she does not need and can easily live without it, it leads to Tabzir. For example, someone has a wardrobe full of dresses, but when he / she goes around a shopping mall, he keeps on buying dresses etc. Another example can be of a person who is a high dignitary and does an air travel. And his position demands security and that he must use a separate aircraft, but when we find such a person’s caravan being followed by two or three extra aircrafts (in the name of security), it becomes a classic example of Tabzir. Haven’t we heard of some extremely rich persons paying millions just to fetch a unique number plate for their cars? This is Tabzir. A big business conglomerate throwing a party in mid air, on a private aircraft gives us another example of Tabzir.
Let see how strictly Qur’an talks about Tabzir. The following aayaath, Allah said:“And give to the kinsman his due & to the Miskin (poor) and to the wayfarer. But spend not wastefully in the manner of a spendthrift.” “Verily, the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayatin (devils), and the Shaitan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.” Quran Surah Al-Isra’17: 26,27
There is a difference between Israf and Tabzeer. To spend more than necessity in those avenues in which spending is permissible is termed as Israf. Allah says in the Qur’an: eat and drink, but be not excessive. Quran surah Araf 7:31 Eating and drinking are necessities of life and to spend in them is permissible. So spending extra in them is called Israf.
And to spend in those avenues wherein spending is not necessary is called Tabzeer. Allah says: Verily, spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayatin (devils), and the Shaitan (Devil - Satan) is ever ungrateful to his Lord. Quran Surah Isra 17:27
Extravagance in any form is prohibited in Islam. Whatever be the reason for a person to indulge in it (foolishness, arrogance, carelessness etc.), it is to be avoided. We should understand that the wastage is not simply food or money or something being wasted by us, rather it belongs to some other people (i.e. the poor, the needy); it is their haq, which we waste by our extravagance. The practice of wastage of food is very prominent among us and gathers both pace & volume during the month of Ramadan, which is totally against the spirit of Ramadan and Saum.