JKAU: Islamic Econ., Vol. 30, Special Issue, pp: 89-102 (April 2017)
DOI: 10.4197 / Islec. 30-SI.6
Consumption and Morality: Principles and Behavioral Framework
in Islamic Economics
Lecturer, Faculty of Islamic Economics and Business
Ar-Raniry State Islamic University (UIN Ar-Raniry), Banda Aceh, Indonesia
Abstract. Consumption in Islamic economics is viewed as a positive action that would
contribute to human wellbeing. Islam sees consumption as having a moral agenda and
noble goals rather than viewing it as a mere wants-fulfillment enterprise in a personal
self-pleasure agenda. The goal of consumption in an Islamic framework is not to gain
personal wants satisfaction per se, as such effort would be a waste of time and
meaningless. The goal instead, is to direct the consumption in achieving the individual
and social wellbeing (maṣlaḥah) and the higher purpose of achieving God’s pleasure.
With that perspective, the Qur’ān and Sunnah have laid down the guiding principles in
consumption that would form the framework for consumption behavior in an Islamic
economic perspective. The Islamic economic agents are expected to adopt the Islamic
morality principles in their actual consumption. The orientation of the paper is
normative in nature with the aim of conceptualizing the principles and behavioral
framework of moral consumption in an Islamic perspective and elaborating the goals
and guiding principles of consumption in an Islamic economic framework.
Keywords: consumption, morality, behavior, goals, guiding principles.
JEL Classification: A13, D01, D11.
KAUJIE Classification: H21, H22, H54.
1. Introduction 2. The Problem of Consumption
Consumption in Islamic economics is viewed as a
noble activity that would contribute wellbeing to
mankind. In many places in the Qur’ān, Allah invites
mankind to enjoy His bounties and sustenance as a
reflection of His blessings. However, consumption is
not viewed as a mere wants-fulfilment enterprise for
a personal self-pleasure agenda. Instead, it is pursued
for a higher objective of achieving wellbeing and
God’s pleasure. Therefore, the issue of consumption
in an Islamic economic framework is enlarged to
include morality and social dimension with spiritual
Islam has delineated principles and framework to
be pursued to achieve that objective in consumption.
A consumer, in an Islamic economic framework, is
expected to be equipped with the criteria of God’s
consciousness (taqwá) whereby a consumer would
follow the guidelines of consuming what are allowed
(ḥalāl) and good (ṭayyib), and avoid what are pro-
hibited (ḥarām) and bad (rijs); consuming in a
balance and just limit between the two extremes of
over-consumption in the form of wasteful consum-
ption (tabdhīr) and excessive consumption (isrāf) or
under-consumption in the form of stinginess or mis-
erliness consumption (bukhl); and consuming for the
good purposes in the spirit of obedience to Allah.
Those criteria become the moral framework of con-
sumption in an Islamic economic analysis to study
the actual consumption action. Furthermore, based on
the principles and guidelines in the Qur’ān and
Sunnah on the norms of consumption in Islam, a fra-
mework to categorize consumer behavior in accor-
dance with value-commitment will be constructed.
This paper aims to discuss the morality frame-
work of consumption in Islamic economics by
highlighting the concept of consumption in Islamic
economics in terms of the basic problem and the
objectives of consumption as well as some guiding
principles that would set a moral compass of consum-
ption in Islamic economics. Based on those princi-
ples, consumer behavior in an Islamic economic
framework will be discussed in the last section.
In economics, consumption is one of its basic prob-
lems. It emerges in the question: ‘what to produce?’
which also means: ‘what to be consumed?’ The
answer to the question will be based on the expected
wants of consumers. It is assumed that human wants
are unlimited and have practically no end. Production
activities will be continuously done to satisfy those
unlimited and multi-varieties of human wants.
Consumption is defined as the act of satisfying
one’s wants. In an economic capitalist framework,
attaining self-satisfaction is one of its ultimate
objectives. Hence, it is not a surprise, if consumption
is considered as the ultimate end of the economic
process. The whole point of production is directed to
satisfy the wishes of the consumer. As Adam Smith
puts it, ‘consumption is the end of all production’.
Producers make goods in order to satisfy the consum-
ption wants of the people (Rutherford, 2007, p. 30).
Consumption is done with the purpose of
attaining satisfaction. Satisfaction in every consum-
ption becomes the primary goal of a consumer. Uti-
lity is a term used to denote the benefit received from
consumption which can be an objective benefit in the
sense of usefulness, or a subjective satisfaction
(Rutherford, 2007, p. 215).
Bentham in his An Introduction to the Principles
of Morals and Legislation (1789) set out the principle
of utility as a standard to approve or disapprove of
every action. His notion of utility is an objective way
intrinsically inherent as a property of any object
which produces benefits, pleasures and happiness or
prevents the opposite. Gradually, utility came to be
regarded as a subjective matter, of giving satisfaction
irrespective of the nature of the good itself as an
experience felt by an individual (Rutherford, 2007, p.
In this perspective, consumption is done with the
aim of maximizing this utility as a satisfaction
gained by an individual in fulfilling his wants.
Satisfaction has been conceptualized as a product-
related judgment that follows a purchase act or a
series of consumption experiences which is inexh-
austible (Heitmann et al., 2007, p. 234).
Consumption and Morality: Principles and Behavioral Framework in Islamic Economics 91
This philosophy has its root in the doctrine that
human wants are unlimited and resources to solve it
are scarce (Robbins, 1945, p. 16). If one’s want is
satisfied, another would arise, and if that is satisfied,
still another one would emerge, and thus the indivi-
dual would struggle through all his life to satisfy an
endless chain of wants. Wants and their satisfaction
becomes the pivot in the economic struggle of man.
This struggle is perceived by economics philosophers
as the economic problem that is considered as the
subject matter of economics. As a discipline, econo-
mics would study the means to satisfy the unlimited
wants, assisting individuals in making choice/
decisions within the framework of limited resources
and multiplicity of wants so that satisfaction could be
attained and maximized.
This basic problem of consumption (satisfying
unlimited human wants) as in conventional econo-
mics philosophy is criticized by Chapra (2008 and
2009, p. 2) as something which is meaningless for
human wellbeing. This is because the act of consum-
ption has been viewed as a self-interested act with
materialist values rather than a moral (spiritual and
cultural) agenda. In the absence of moral values or
moral direction, the individual’s pursuit of wants
satisfaction (in material senses) is viewed as the
ultimate goal of happiness.
Therefore, in conventional economics, there are
no constraints to pursue any goal that is perceived by
the individual to contribute to self-satisfaction. The
only relevant constraint in this matter was income.
Nevertheless, this constraint also was weakened by
the conventional financial system where banks act as
loan pushers and constantly promote living beyond
means by both the public and the private sectors
(Chapra, 2008 and 2009, p. 9).
In an Islamic economics perspective, the facts of
the intrinsic nature of a human being whereby his
wants are always multiplied are taken into account. It
is acknowledged then, that no amount of consum-
ption would satisfy individual wants. Prophet Muha-
mmad (pbuh) said:
Narrated Abdullah bin Zubair, the Prophet
(pbuh) said: if Adam’s son had a valley full of
gold, he would ask for the second, and if he were
given the second, he would ask for the third; for
nothing fills his mouth except dust (of the grave)
and Allah forgives him who repents to Him (al-
Bukhārī, 1422H, 8:93, ḥadīth no. 6438)
However, Islamic economics does not consider
‘wants-satisfaction’ as the basic problem in econo-
mics for two reasons: wants-satisfaction is not certain
in term of goals and hence such effort is not only
timeless but also meaningless. An individual, being
attached too much with this goal in which he never
satisfies, would make him pursuing a subjective
agenda and bring him into a chronic psychological
problem instead of attaining real happiness. At the
macro level, such an action also would lead to
negative effects in society.
Islamic economics emphasizes there must be
something meaningful to be considered as a basic
problem of consumption. This is only possible if we
have ‘higher objectives’ that would direct our cons-
umption orientation by pursuing moral, social and
Consumption, in an Islamic economic framework,
is not as simple as individual wants-fulfilment or
utility-maximization. It is more than that. Consum-
ption in an Islamic perspective is having spiritual,
ethical and social dimension instead of a mere
personal satisfaction agenda. This spiritual, ethical
and social agenda becomes an integral problem of
consumption in Islamic economics that would make
consumption as a valuable action. Consumption, will
therefore, be studied in Islamic economics by taking
those dimensions into account and comprehensively
studying it in the analysis of consumer behavior.
In a spiritual orientation, consumption is guided
by spiritual ends of having God’s consciousness
(taqwá) by abiding the rules of ḥalāl and ḥarām, with
the feeling of thankfulness, patience, contentment
and other positive values that would promote the
dignity and refinement of the individual self.
Consumption is also a social and ethical enter-
prise. In a social and ethical orientation, an Islamic
consumer would ensure the full commitment to the
ethical principle and at the same time ensure the
higher-order social preferences augment and expand
in the activities consumption (Choudhury, 1986, p.
In this framework, human wants are categorized
based on their attachment to Islamic values and
implications to individuals or society’s wellbeing into
ḥalāl (allowable/legitimate wants) and ḥarām (prohi-
bited wants); ethically good and bad based on the
benefit and harm of an action to oneself, society and
environment; and spiritually praised or conde-mned
based on the attachment in having God’s conscious-
sness while satisfying wants (Qur’ān, 5:88).
The basic problem of consumption in Islamic
economics, therefore, would be how those dimens-
ions could be attained in consumption action. It is
believed that their fulfillment would lead to attaining
wellbeing for the individual himself, as well as the
society at large. In addition to that, it is also conside-
red one of the basic problems of consumption in
Islamic economics, whereby the consumption should
be directed to the higher purpose of attaining God’s
In other words, the action of consumption is
having multiple dimensions. Consumption is an indi-
vidual action of attaining self-benefit through the
fulfillment of needs. Consumption is also a social
action whereby the fulfillment of needs is done by
augmenting the social preferences, avoiding social
cost and willingness to cooperate and share for social
benefits. Consumption is also a spiritual action
whereby an individual is having God’s consciousness
(taqwá) by adhering to the principles as laid down in
the Qur’ān and Sunnah, with the feeling of thank-
fulness and contentment and aims at achieving His
3. The Goals of Consumption
Having that perspective, it is clear that the goal of
consumption in an Islamic framework would be not
to gain personal wants-satisfaction or self-pleasure
per se as such effort would be timeless and mea-
ningless. Satisfying wants is a temporary and relative
experience. An Islamic consumer should look beyond
that. It is mentioned in the Qur’ān:
Wealth and children are an ornament of the life
of the world. But the good deeds which endure
are better in thy Lord’s sight for reward, and
better in respect of hope (Qur’ān, 18:46)
An Islamic consumer would direct the consumption
activities to achieve the maṣlaḥah (individual and
social wellbeing) and the higher purpose of achieving
The wellbeing (maṣlaḥah) is defined as benefits
to be realized for human wellbeing. Its dimension is
very comprehensive to include individual and social
dimension, specific and general dimension (maṣla-
ḥah khaṣṣah and maṣlaḥah ʿāmmah) and this world
and the hereafter dimension.
The pleasure of Allah is the higher purpose of
human action. Human being is His vicegerent on
earth who should always be responsible to God in
managing the earth, utilizing the resources and
consuming His sustenance endowed to human
beings. All should be done with God’s conscious-
ness (taqwá). It is taqwá that puts weight in con-
sumption done by an Islamic man as such action
would be rewarded by Allah and deserves His
At the same time, the Qur’ān praises those who
have taken their desires for Allah (long term
perspective) instead of pursuing self-pleasure (short
term objective). The Qur’ān says:
Have you seen him who takes his own lust (vain
desires) as his god, and Allah knowing (him as
such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing
and his heart, and put a cover on his sight.
Who then will guide him after Allah? Will you
not then remember? (Qur’ān, 45:23)
Consumption in an Islamic framework is always a
moral and ethical enterprise with social and spiritual
orientation. Consumption in this regard is pursued by
abiding Sharīʿah rules, regulation and values in
consumption such as what is allowed or prohibited,
ethical imperatives of good and bad, of having
moderation, not being excessive or miserliness, and
with social concern of sharing and caring for others
and environmental protection (Khan, 1984, p. 3).
The social consumption, in the form of charity or
social contribution to society, should also be the aim
of the consumer in an Islamic framework (Qur’ān,
63:10). In this perspective, Metwally (1997, p. 946)
The objective function of a Muslim consumer
differs from that of other consumers. A Muslim
consumer does not achieve satisfaction from
mere consumption of outputs and the holding
of capital goods. His (her) economic behaviour
pivots around the achievement of God’s
Having this perspective, micro consumption goal will
be very much in line with the macroeconomic object-
tives. This is because consumption will be figured out
Consumption and Morality: Principles and Behavioral Framework in Islamic Economics 93
in terms of the optimal attainment of central social
objectives, such as full employment, price stabili-
zation, economic growth and socio-economic deve-
lopment goals (such as income distribution, allevia-
tion of poverty, environmental protection, spiritual
attainment, etc. (Choudhury, 1986, p. 237).
This is possible since consumption is no longer
viewed as an action with self-pleasure agenda, but
with a higher agenda of having social benefits and
spiritual attainment. Siddiqi (2005, pp. 25-26) in this
In the Islamic perspective there is a need for
introducing the assumption that, side by side
with their keen desire to meet their own
needs, consumers do care for others in the
society. They are especially concerned about
those whose basic needs are not being fulfi-
lled. They are also concerned about the
interests of the society as a whole e.g., about
the environment, conservation of scarce res-
ources, level of employment, balance of
payments, capital formation, etc., subject to
availability of relevant information. These
concerns may influence their choice of goods
and services, their quantities, as also their
response to changes in prices. In certain
cases factors other than price may predo-
minate in the choice as in case of essential
goods in short supply, imported items of
consumption in case the society appeals for
economizing on imports, goods and services
whose consumption is being discouraged or
encouraged because of environmental
4. Islamic Moral Principles of Consumption
The principle of consumption in Islamic economics is
developed based on the guidelines in the Qur’ān and
Sunnah. Those guiding principles will be the moral
framework for consumption and hence consumer
behavior could be something meaningful and pur-
poseful. The earlier writer, such as Kahf (1978),
Khan (1984), Mannan (1986), Metwally (1997),
Naqvi (1997), Zaman (1997), Siddiqi (2005) and
Hasan (2005) have discussed the normative frame-
work of consumer behavior in Islamic economics.
They have come up with proposed values to charac-
terize Islamic consumer behavior. The following are
the principles of consumption in an Islamic moral
A. Principle of Permissibility
Consumption activities are not only viewed as
recognition of human natural tendency, but also an
ontological connection between the Creator and His
creations. Therefore, Allah Almighty invites human
beings to enjoy what He has provided on earth and
the universe for human wellbeing. Such invitation
means a strong relationship of human being (the
created) with God (the Creator) through what He has
endowed, and hence, consumed by human being. The
Eat from what Allah has provided you as good
and lawful, and fear Allah in whom you believe
There is a general principle of permissibility in the
act of consumption whereby, in general, all things are
consumable (legally) and human beings can consume
(freely) anything they like unless there is clear
evidence from the texts that Sharīʿah prohibits such
actions or those things to be consumed.
The boundaries are set not to restrict mankind,
but to ensure benefits are preserved and harms are
avoided in consumption. What is permitted is actu-
ally to preserve the human wellbeing and what is pro-
hibited is because of the avoidance of harms or nega-
tive effects inflicted in consumption (Qur’ān, 5:3).
B. Principle of Responsibility
The principle of responsibility means to have consci-
ousness in consumption. This consciousness embarks
from the very principle that wealth belongs to Allah
and should be consumed in accordance with Sharīʿah
guidelines. A consumer in an Islamic framework is
expected to be responsible before God for whatever
consumption he has done.
Nevertheless, human being has been created in
such a way that he tends to love wealth and to have
more wealth in his life. In other words, there would
be a tendency for human being to pursue consump-
tion in a wrong way and also for undesired self-
pleasure by transgressing the limit of what is permi -
tted and ignoring ethical and social objectives of
considering other needs and public interest (Qur’ān,
3:14 and 89:20).
The Qur’ān, therefore, reminds us that all the
things are essentially a test for human being to be
directed to the higher objective as desired by Sharīʿah
rather than to be preoccupied with self-pleasure
(Qur’ān, 3:186).Human being is advised not to be
preoccupied too much with the fulfillment of desires,
as they are just comforts to the life of this world
(Qur’ān, 3:14) or the adornment of the life of this
world (Qur’ān, 18:46). Too much attached to wants
satisfaction would create tendencies to love the
wealth that might cause human being to deviate
tremendously away from the Right Path and hence,
human being might do unnecessary or prohibitive
actions that would make him to be thrown in Hell.
The Qur’ān says:
Allah intends to turn graciously towards you,
while those who follow desires want you to
deviate (from the right path), a huge deviation
A responsible consumption would be directed in the
good cause (the cause of Allah), instead of a wrong
way as whispered by Satan (the cause of Satan) by
consuming things which are sinful, prohibited or
something which are lewdness (Qur’ān, 2:268).
Furthermore, responsible consumption also means
to have consciousness that Allah’s sustenance should
not be idle or wasted or prevented from the circula-
tion and hence prevents its benefits from society.
Excessive and wasteful consumption leads to ineffi-
ciency in distribution since many resources are not
utilized in their proper place and the society is not
able to utilize them. Likewise, Consumerism – exce-
ssive attention to materialistic desires – breeds egoi-
sm that ultimately brings more frustration and futility
than the bliss of fulfillment (Hasan, 2005, p. 42).
C. Principle of Balance
Islam encourages a ‘balanced consumption’. This
balance in consumption is actually a mini-
equilibrium at the micro-cosmos reflecting a greater
balance of macro-cosmos of the world and universe
creation. The Qur’ān reminds us that Allah has
created the universe and the earth in a state of equi-
librium, which itself is composed of innumerable
equilibriums (Qur’ān, 55:1-9).
The permission to enjoy and utilize resources for
our food, clothing and others should be done in a
balanced way and not disturbing the equilibrium by
transgressing the limits. Human being is expected to
properly manage the consumption in a moderate, just
and balance way. Over-consumption in the form of
wasting, excessive, and extravagance is not allowed.
Likewise, under-consumption by having too stingy
and miserly consumption are not favored.
And those, who, when they spend, are neither
extravagant nor niggardly, but hold a medium
(way) between those (extremes) (Qur’ān, 25:67)
Islam promotes a golden mean between ascetic denial
and ostentatious consumption by setting the upper
limits (wasteful and excessive consumption) and
lower limits (miserliness) of individual consumption.
The followings are the type of consumptions that are
considered as transgressing the balance.
Tabdhīr (wasteful consumption)
Tabdhīr or wasteful consumption is prohibited in
Islam. The Qur’ān says:
And give the relative his right, and [also] the
poor and the traveler, and do not spend
wastefully. Indeed, the wasteful are brothers of
the devils, and ever has Satan been to his Lord
ungrateful (Qur’ān, 17:26-27)
The word tabdhīr means to consume something not
in a right manner or purpose. This action refers to
two meanings: (1) unnecessary-consumption which is
consuming items which are not needed or are
unnecessary merely to fulfill whims or desires; (2)
unlawful-consumption or consumption of prohibited
things, such as wine, gambling, ostentatious display,
etc.; and (3) inappropriate-consumption or consump-
tion which is not in its designated place and hence be-
comes wasteful such as, a student instead of spending
his limited income in the pursuit of knowledge (either
for tuition fee, buying books and equipment, or for
travelling to meet teachers), he spends it on
unnecessary leisure items like movies or concerts
(See Mawsu’ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah,vol. 4,
p. 177 and al-Shawkani in his tafsīr Fath al-Qadir,
vol. 3, p. 263).
Tabdhīr is connoted as not only a meaningless
consumption but sinful. It is also a kind of wasteful
consumption because wealth, if it is spent in the right
way (such as for social benefits), can give rewards as
a return. But, since it is spent in wrongful ways, it
becomes meaningless and brings nothing except add-
ing more sins. That is why in the Qur’ān, the word
tabdhīr is followed by the word brethren of Satan as
such action is whispered by Satan and his way.
Consumption and Morality: Principles and Behavioral Framework in Islamic Economics 95
Isrāf (excessive consumption)
Isrāf means excessive consumption or consumption
beyond the sufficient level of what is needed. It is
prohibited in the Qur’ān:
O children of Adam, wear your beautiful
apparel at every place of worship, and eat and
drink but be not excessive; indeed, He does not
like the excessiveness (Qur’ān, 7:31)
If tabdhīr is wasteful consumption in not what is
needed, isrāf is an excessive consumption beyond the
quantity of what is needed. In other words, it is a
willful over-consumption when the actual purpose
may be served by lesser spending or use (al-
Mawardi, vol.2, p.218). It is, in al-Qushairy’s term-
inology (vol.1, p.508), “to go beyond the limit” or “to
go above the moderate level”. In other words, isrāf is
to consume more than what is necessary or has pass-
ed the moderate or balance level limit (al-Mawsu’ah
al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah, vol.4, p.176).
In this regard, the meaning of isrāf could be more
understood in the ḥadīth of the Prophet (pbuh)
narrated by Ibn ‘amr whereby:
The Prophet (pbuh) saw Sa’ad in ablution. He
then said: What is this excessiveness? Sa’ad
then replied: Is there excessiveness in ablu-
tion? He said: Yes, indeed, even if you are on
the bank of a flowing river (Ibn Mājah, 2009,
1:272, ḥadīth no. 425)
It is very clear that both wasteful and excessive
consumption could lead to inefficiency of resources
utilization and also to the unequal distribution since
the resources are being wasted instead of channeling
them to the persons who are in need.
Bukhl (miserliness consumption)
Another unfavorable consumption is described in the
Qur’ān as miserliness-consumption. The Qur’ān
Who are stingy and enjoin upon [other] people
stinginess and conceal what Allah has given
them of His bounty - and We have prepared for
the disbelievers a humiliating punishment
Bukhl (stinginess) is a reverse of tabdhīr. Bukhl refers
to the unwillingness to spend wealth in what is need-
ed. The meaning of bukhl refers to three things (al-
Shawkani, vol. 1, p. 538):
a) Miserable-consumption whereby an individual
abstains from consuming things which are
needed for his life or his family and hence
make his life miserable.
b) Selfish-consumption whereby an individual’s
objective in consumption is a narrow one: self-
pleasure, lack of a bigger goal or public benefit
and unwilling to share with others (Qur’ān,
c) Ungrateful-consumption whereby consum-
ption is done without spiritual consciousness,
unthankful to Allah and doing consumption
not in the way of Allah (Qur’ān, 89:17-20).
D. Principle of Priority
Having priority in consumption is also encouraged in
Islam. Consumption should be done with a purpose
of attaining benefits and preventing harms which
could only be achieved if a consumer fully follows
and commits to the guidelines established by
Sharīʿah. Consumption that would bring us to that
objective should be prioritized. Likewise, consum-
ption that would ensure the balance and moderate
position should also be prioritized over consumption
that would lead us to transgression.
In this regard, the Qur’ān has revealed several
types of consumption that should be put as a priority
by a consumer in an Islamic economic framework.
a) Individual and family’s need over social
consumption (Qur’ān, 2:215 and 219)(1).
b) Consumption in the right cause and for good
purposes over consumption in the wrong way.
This would include all types of consumption
for one’s needs and family and social consum-
ption in the form of charity or social philan-
thropy activities for the good causes in society
such as for education, health, infrastructure,
public goods and others.
c) Consumption in accordance with the hierarchy
of needs as has been elaborated in the concept
of maqāṣid al-Sharīʿah (objectives of Sharīʿah)
into essentials (ḍarūriyyāt), complementaries
(1) The Qur’ān uses the word al-ʿafw to denote something
extra in wealth above one’s needs and his family and after
spending the obligatory spending (such as zakāh and
others). Infāq to society is only required if an individual
already fulfills his own needs as well as the needs of his
family (see al-Maraghi, vol. 2, p. 146).
(ḥājiyyāt) and embellishments (taḥsīniyyāt).
Consumption in the ḍarūriyyāt is preferred to
the ḥājiyyāt and the ḥājiyyāt is preferred to the
Ḍarūriyyāt consumption is essential consum-
ption of basic needs to maintain the survival
and integrity of individuals for their religious
and worldly affairs. The absence of ḍarūriyyāt
consumption would lead to life destruction,
chaos and collapse of normal order in individ-
uals’ lives and/or society (Kamali, 2008, p. 4).
Ḥājiyyāt consumption is complementary con-
sumption that would facilitate individuals’
lives into a better quality of life, removing
severity and hardship in their life. The absence
of ḥājiyyāt consumption would lead to incon-
venience or hardship in life.
Taḥsīniyyāt consumption is embellishment
consumption that would further improve the
quality of life into perfection. Such consum-
ption is promoted without any violation of
good moral standards or an excessive or extra-
vagant lifestyle (al-Shatibi, al-Muwafaqat, vol.
2, p. 22).
5. Islamic Consumer Behavior
Having those principles in consumption, consumer
behavior in an Islamic framework should be different
from that in the conventional framework. In the
conventional concept, a consumer is conceived to
behave ‘rationally’. Rationality is the quality of
economic behavior based on judgment of reason. A
rational consumer is expected to be deliberative and
not merely instinctive by having the ability to under-
stand and process data relevant to the choice between
alternatives. Rationality is also conceived as a tool to
consider, think and choose the appropriate means and
achieve the desired ends (Rutherford, 2007, p. 175).
Choice and decision is made within the frame -
work of scarcity (as conditioned by scarce resources
and unlimited wants) and self-interest (in pursuit of
self-satisfaction). A rational individual would take the
decision on something based on his interest that
would maximize his utility. The individual is a utility
maximizer who will choose a combination of goods
and services which will extract the most utility for
self from a given income (Rutherford, 2007, p. 176).
The above guiding principles show that in an
Islamic economic framework, consumer behavior is
interpreted differently whereby rationality is discu-
ssed with spiritual, moral and social considerations.
Islam has laid down guiding principles, spells out
values and disvalues; what is desirable and what is
reprehensible from a moral, spiritual and social pers-
pective in consumption. Rationality is defined with
those values and principles.
Islamic economic approach to consumer behavior
analysis is both realistic and idealistic in nature. It is
idealistic in the sense that its analysis of consumer
behavior will be based on the doctrine and values of
Islam regarding the appropriate behavior in consum-
ption. Those values which are derived from the
Qur’ān and Sunnah set Islamic ethical principles,
guidance and direction in consumption action. This
would include what to be consumed, how to consume
and objective in consumption.
Nevertheless, those ideals – values and goals – are
not something which cannot be achieved or realized.
In fact, they are applicable, very humanly, realistic,
and their actualization would ensure the realization of
wellbeing in human life. Therefore, Islamic econo-
mics is also realistic in the sense that it propagates
values in consumption which are rooted in human
nature and hence are suitable with human interest. It
takes into consideration the nature and tendencies of
human beings in totality.
If in conventional economics, the individual is
assumed to act based on self-interest and his wants
are reduced to material wants (biological and physi-
cal wants) per se, Islamic economics recognizes that
consumer behavior is very complex as human nature
and tendencies are also complex. As a consumer, the
individual has both ‘positive and negative tendencies’
which implicate that his behavior would be motivated
by either self-interest or other interests for his own
satisfaction or other benefits. Positive behavior is a
kind of action that is in accordance with Islamic
values and principles and negative behavior is vice
versa, an action which is not in line with Islamic
values and principles.
Likewise, in the domain of choice, Islamic
economics, according to Naqvi (1997, p. 9), does not
agree with an unrestricted choice because all the
individual preferences do not carry equal ‘weight’ in
Consumption and Morality: Principles and Behavioral Framework in Islamic Economics 97
the Islamic moral perspective, as they do in the
Benthamite utilitarian world. In this regard, some of
the choices should be assigned zero weight (if they
are prohibited or against ethical values). Decision
making should be done in the context of pursuing the
human being’s wellbeing, support his nature and
existence, and guide him to a perfect nature as a
In the Qur’ānic framework these two tendencies
in human behavior are explicitly described as those
who are following the Sharīʿah (i.e., Islamic values
and teachings) or merely their desires (Qur’ān, 45:18
Furthermore, in the context of consumption, the
Qur’ān also recognizes the tendency of human being
to go into various types of behavior, namely over-
consumption (consumption above the upper limit),
just-consumption (between the two extremes of
upper and lower limit) and under-consumption (con-
sumption below the lower limit). Islam prefers a wise
consumer who is able to balance and moderate by
having a just and balance consumption (Qur’ān,
A God-conscious consumer would ensure his
consumption in the middle way of moderation and
just consumption between excessiveness and sting-
iness, having prioritization to the need of one’s self
and one’s family before others. His consumption
would be in the right cause and for the good purposes
or in the way of Allah, and his consumption would
also be in accordance with the hierarchy of needs of
essentials (ḍarūriyyāt), complementaries (ḥājiyyāt)
and embellishments (taḥsīniyyāt).
Islam discourages consumers to go to the extreme
(to the upper limit) in the form of excessive consum-
ption (isrāf) by consuming permissible things beyond
the sufficient level of what is needed or wasteful
consumption (tabdhīr) by consuming what is not
needed/unnecessary or consuming prohibited things
or things which are undesired by Sharīʿah.
Likewise, to go the lower limit is not favorable as
well. It is miserliness consumption by preventing
consumption of what is needed for an individual or
his family, preventing from sharing consumption
with others, or preventing spending in the right cause
and for the good purposes or in the way of Allah.
Figure (1) Qur’ānic Framework in Consumption
1). Tabdhīr (wastefulness):
Unnecessary-consumption or consumption of what is not needed.
Unlawful-consumption or consumption of prohibited things,
Inappropriate-consumption or consumption which is not in its designated
2). Isrāf (excessiveness):
Excessive consumption or consumption of permissible things beyond
the sufficient level of what is needed.
A middle ground between excessiveness (loose consumption) and
stinginess (tight consumption).
Prioritization of the needs of one’s self and one’s family before others.
Spending in the right cause and for good purposes or in the way of Allah.
Consumption in accordance with the hierarchy of needs of essentials
(ḍarūriyyāt), complementaries (ḥājiyyāt) and embellishments (taḥsīniyyāt).
4). Bukhl (miserliness)
Miserable-consumption (consumption below what is needed).
Selfish-consumption (stinginess and unwillingness to share with others).
Ungrateful-consumption (consumption with lack of spiritual
consciousness, unthankful and misdirection in the way of Satan)
With this categorization of consumer behavior, it is
very clear that it will not be reasonable to assume that
all individuals would act totally with ethical and
social concern, and vice versa, by assuming indivi-
duals are only motivated by their self-interest (Naqvi,
1994, p. 58). Consumer behavior varies in accor-
dance with chosen values an individual believes in
and adopts in his behavior. Certainly, the analysis of
consumer behavior will not be identical(2).
In the Islamic economic analysis of consumer
behavior, both the positive and negative type of beha-
vior based on the value categories which can be seen
in actual reality will be studied. The analysis of actual
(2) It should be noted that the above categorization of
consumer behavior, while being derived from the Qur’ānic
guidelines, is very much ijtihādic in nature. Differences in
interpretation and categorization is therefore possible.
behavior will always be integrated with normative
values guidance since the goal is not to describe facts
as they are but to enlighten those actual realities with
‘what they should be’ in an Islamic framework. The
values prescribed in the Qur’ān and Sunnah will be
used as a benchmark and parameter in analyzing
consumer behavior in an Islamic perspective and, if
they are applied, could lead to a better practice in the
economic system. This would render economic
activity as having ‘moral qualities’ that will orientate
its direction and application.
Therefore, for Islamic economics, elaboration of
the ideal behavioral rules and norms is not only
legitimate but necessary. This is because those
behavioral assumptions once clearly, rigorously, and
analytically articulated in a way intelligible to
economists, would yield empirically testable propo-
sitions which, in turn, could lead to policy analysis
Consumption and Morality: Principles and Behavioral Framework in Islamic Economics 99
and recommendation on solutions to the problems of
modern societies and contribute to knowledge acc-
umulation and scientific progress (Iqbal and Mira-
khor, 2007, p. 16).
In this regard, as illustrated by Yousri (2002, p.
31), there are some Sharīʿah guidelines that would
form the axioms in studying consumer behavior.
Prohibited goods or services must be excluded from
the consumer’s feasible set of commodities. Some
other matters have to be treated on the basis of
ijtihād. For example, Qur’ān prescribes that Muslim
consumers must not be extravagant or misers
(Qur’ān, 25:67). Economists’ job is to formulate clear
economic concepts for both extravagance and nigg-
ardliness by ijtihād. Once these concepts are clearly
specified, they will help in formulating postulates that
we have to adhere to when analyzing the behavior of
the Muslim consumer.
In Islamic economics, an Islamic man (homo
islamicus) is expected to fully commit to values as
prescribed in Islam which serve as guidance in
consumption action. Deviance to those values is not
expected. Gaps in actual and expected behavior will
be studied and analyzed in Islamic economics. In this
perspective, an Islamic man is characterized as fully
committed to Islamic ethical norms in his consum-
ption behavior. Taqwá (having God’s consciousness)
is the terminology used in the Qur’ān to denote such
an individual (Furqani, 2015, p. 74).
A consumer having taqwá
is the one who has
God’s consciousness in his consumption behavior.
Chapra (2008, p. 7) in this regard argues that taqwá
attitude would ensure moral consciousness, moral
uplift and social solidarity in an individual consum-
ption behavior. This is for two reasons: (1) faith in
taqwá attitude ensures the unconditional acceptance
of values or rules of behavior, and hence (2) moral
observation of these rules in practical behavior
becomes a moral obligation. The taqwá principle of
having God’s consciousness would ensure this thing
to happen in the actual behavior of an Islamic man.
Those values which have been internalized in one’s
attitude would filter the wrongful consumption as we
have identified. Likewise, they also would guide
individuals to spend wisely and avoid wasteful and
unnecessary consumption. In addition, the state could
also play a positive role to support internalizing
Islamic values in consumer behavior through appro-
priate policy prescription.
Islam sees consumption as a virtue enterprise that
would contribute wellbeing in human life. A
consumer, in an Islamic framework, is concerned
with meeting his needs to improve his wellbeing.
These needs would refer to, as has been discussed,
sustenance of life (ḍarūriyyāt), making it easy and
comfortable (ḥājiyyāt) and also making it attractive
and beautiful to live (taḥsīniyyāt).
Consumption is, therefore, having a social, moral
and spiritual agenda rather than a wants-fulfillment
enterprise in a personal self-satisfaction agenda. The
goal of consumption in an Islamic framework would
be not to gain personal wants satisfaction per se as
such effort would be timeless and meaningless. The
goal, instead, should be to direct the consumption in
achieving individual and social wellbeing) and the
higher purpose of achieving God’s pleasure.
The Qur’ān and Sunnah have laid down the
guiding principles in consumption that would be the
framework for consumption behavior in an Islamic
economic perspective. The Islamic economic agents
are expected to adopt the Islamic morality principles
in their actual consumption that is just-consumption.
A consumer is expected to avoid ‘over-consumption’
by transgressing the higher constraints or ‘under-
consumption’ in the lower constraints.
The Islamic economic approach to consumer
behavior analysis is both realistic and idealistic in
nature. It is idealistic in the sense that its analysis on
consumer behavior will be based on the principles
and values of Islam regarding the appropriate beha-
vior in consumption. It is also realistic in the sense
that it propagates values in consumption which are
rooted in human nature and hence are suitable with
human interest. It takes into consideration the nature
and tendencies of human beings in material and
spiritual dimensions and hence portrays the whole
reality of human self.
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Consumption and Morality: Principles and Behavioral Framework in Islamic Economics
Hafas Furqani is currently a lecturer at the Faculty of Islamic Economics and
Business, Ar-Raniry State Islamic University (UIN Ar-Raniry), Banda Aceh, Indonesia
and a research fellow at ISRA (International Shariah Research Academy for Islamic
Finance). He received his doctorate degree Ph.D. of Economics (2012) and his
master’s degree Master of Economics (2006) from the Department of Economics,
International Islamic University Malaysia. His bachelor’s degree is in Shari’ah
Mu’amalah from the State Islamic University (UIN) Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta
(2002). His research works have been recognized and awarded by local and
international institutions. His paper “Theory appraisal in Islamic economic
methodology: purposes and criteria”, published in Humanomics (2012), has been
chosen as a Highly Commended Award Winner at the Literati Network Awards for
Excellence 2013. His Ph.D. thesis “The Foundations of Islamic Economics: A
Philosophical Exploration of the Discipline” has also been awarded Gold Medal at the
2012 International Islamic University Malaysia Research, Invention and Innovation
Exhibition (IRIIE 2012).
رﺎﻃﻹاو ئدﺎﺒﳌا :قﻼﺧﻷاو كﻼﻬﺳﻻاﻲﻣﻼﺳﻹا دﺎﺼﺘﻗﻻا ﻲﻛﻮﻠﺴﻟا
:ﺔﻴﺴﺋﺮﻟا تﺎﻤﻠﻟا .