By Mahmoud Ahmad
Jan 18, 2016
Few weeks back, a man was caught on video being pretentious while trying to display to his family and friends his wealth in a very ostentatious manner. He did not care for the fact that his display did nothing but salve his ego while proving to be utter wasteful.
His act was to show off his wealth in a unique manner. He had set up a flashy welcome for his guests, whose hands were washed with Oud — a dark resinous heartwood that forms in Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees, large evergreens native to Southeast Asia — as his way of welcoming his guests. The quantity used to wash the hands of the guests was estimated at tens of thousands of riyals, if not even more. In the clip, which was widely circulated on the web, the man said that his guests only wash their hands with Oud and not with water.
If this was a one-off incident then we could either treat this as an isolated incident or even attempt to bring that man back to his senses. But that seems not to be the case. There seems to be a veritable competition on between people on who is the most ‘generous’ and this has triggered a virtual race of brazenness. The competition between these self-centered people has really intensified on who can be ‘crazily generous’.
Another clip that was widely circulated showed a group of people welcoming guests to their home by cutting two big bags containing cardamom, a spice made from the seeds of several plants in the genera Elettaria and Amomum in the family Zingiberaceae. Cardamom is an edible spice used in cooking, and it is expensive. As soon as guests arrived, a man with a knife cut the two bags in front of the guests and threw cardamom on the ground.
In another vulgar display of grandiose, a video clip making the rounds, showed a man waving large bundles of money (all of large denominations) in front of a fire, while stating that he is trying to fan the fire to great intensity. This and many other similar clips and negative behaviour that have made it to social media are doing more damage to Saudi Arabian society than serving it.
In large gatherings, most people publicly parade their wealth and importance by cooking large quantities of food that could be enough to feed people in a small stadium rather than for few guests. I have seen pictures of people cooking a whole camel that’s served on a large plate. This camel with large quantities of rice is then served to a maximum of ten people at one plate. What madness is this? From where does this concept of showing off by wasting money and food to receive guests come from?
I remember reading the history of our ancestors and that they were poor and found difficulty feeding themselves and their families, but even they were generous in serving guests as they shared the little food they had at home or tent. Their main rule in serving guests is to serve them with what is there. So it is really incredible that their descendants are practicing such brash acts. I wonder from where we have inherited this showiness.
The only positive outcome from this series of clips making the rounds is that the people showing off for self-praise were widely condemned by people for their wasteful acts. They also called on authorities to punish these people and put them in jail because of their wasteful attitudes — wasting money and food. A judge from the Ministry of Justice called on authorities to arrest these people who made these clips and similar other clips that encourage wasting money and food. It even showed that large segments in our society are not even aware of how to preserve wealth, while thanking God for providing us with this bountiful wealth.
The egoistic concept of competing to show off is completely stupid. I cannot understand the mentality of these people and what goes inside their heads when they decide to spend large amount of money just to show the world their importance! What is even more painful is that all this food will end in garbage containers like we have seen many times on numerous occasions. Even when there were plenty of leftovers, they did not even bother to contact the charity organizations that take leftovers, repackage it and serve it to families in need.
If these people were smart enough they could have shown good hospitality and warm welcome with good tasty food that is enough for the number of invited guests. The excess amount of money they spend — money to show off —could have been paid to feed poor people; pay the cost of a needy’s medical treatment or even free people in prison who are there because of debts.
What we seriously need to do is to criminalize this egoistic act and to create a new law that those who circulate such clips to show off should be first reminded that this act is against the principle of Islam. These people need to be re-educated on how to preserve food and spend money in the right way. Welcoming guests the way it was shown on the clip goes against the teachings of Islam. When there are people who are dying of hunger all over the world, such crass behaviour should not be tolerated.
We should thank God by appreciating the wealth He has given us. We should not waste food and we should spend money judiciously and in the right way. We should remember how our ancestors lived in the past and thank God that we were given an opportunity to better our lives.
I will end here by reciting two verses from the Holy Qur’an that describe these people. In one verse it said, “Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord (himself) ungrateful.” In another verse it said, “Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes).”