-Abdallah ibn Umar (son of Umar ibn al-Khattab)
In Arabic, the key word above is wara’, a “safeguarding scrupulousness.” The Prophet PBUH and his companions were quite scrupulous about what they ate and what they wore, no doubt. But sometimes I find myself thinking that must have been so simple to do that back then. People were only separated by two or three degrees, if that, from the source of their food or clothes.
Does it matter that our world is much more globalized and complicated now, leaving us that much more separated from the origins of items like our food or clothing? Or is it a matter of principle that we know where such items came from?
In this day and age, we’d call that being an informed consumer: someone who knows something about the life history, so to speak, of the goods they consume. More specifically, how “factors of production” like the earth, plants, animals and people were treated in the production process.
Virtually anything we buy or use can embody the injustice of mistreating any of the factors involved in its production and distribution. This applies as equally to vegetables and clothes (to say nothing of the myriad of other modern consumer goods) as it does to a pound of beef of uncertain origin.
Imam Abdallah ibn Alawi al-Haddad – whose chapter on scrupulousness from The Book of Assistance I’ve based this post on – outlines a simple yet elegant framework with which to deal with people (and remember corporations are, legally, also people) according to 3 categories:
- People you know to be just or good: so deal with them without inquiring.
- People you know nothing about: so inquire gently, but desist if this would cause harm.
- People you know to be unjust: so it is best not to deal with them at all, but if you must then inquire greatly and continue to be careful even if you find nothing wrong.
If such inquires reveal these producers or their products to be questionable (think the modern meat industry and sweatshop clothing) then we have two choices. The first is to choose to buy nothing (see Sanjana’s Freegans post for inspiration) and the second is to choose to be scrupulous and ever vigilant (more on ethical consumers and businesses).
Thanks to Sanjana and Anila for the links!