Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Harry! Who!

Harry Potter and Materialism

With the release of the final episode of Harry Potter, the reverence to a magical wizard will be coming to an end and the Harry Potter maniacs will have to search for another object of reverence to fill the spiritual emptiness - a malaise sustained by Western culture. However, the fact that reverence instinct is an inseparable part of the human makeup, various forms of reverence naturally appear which are triggered by the external environment such as the media.

So, if one form of reverence were to end another one emerges almost automatically. One particular form of reverence that is most common in the West is the reverence to pop stars, writers and sportsmen. Revering personalities for no matter how skilful or powerful they are is an irrational idea riddled with so many shortcomings.

Firstly, the very nature of reverence demands that human beings venerate an entity that is superior to him. Such an entity should be devoid of the human attributes of limitedness and dependency.

Secondly reverence to an entity should be a concept that take shape in the mind based on conclusive evidence. Writers, sportsman and scholars are humans and their so-called superior skills are prone to the same rules of created things.

That is, all created things are limited and dependent. Meaning that these skills do not exist forever. And the other inescapable reality is that every human being will die. The same can be said about the products of human mind such as technological inventions and gadgets. They are also limited. Limited in the sense that when people have used all the functions of a tool or a gadget, the need for a better gadget arises. Ironically, these gadgets are not promoted as just tools or means that enable a person to accomplish a specific task.

For example, a car is not advertised as a means of transport that will help you to get from point A to point B. Rather advertisements claim that owning a certain brand of car will ‘give you the ultimate happiness'. Therefore, if anyone were in pursuit of acquiring the latest gadget to 'achieve the ultimate happiness' he/she will never achieve it because better innovations emerge all the time. Simply put, there is no ‘ultimate gadget’. Perhaps this explains the reason why Westerners and their imitators find it extremely hard to grasp the concept of 'certainty' .

Reliance upon humans and the products of the human mind for answers to the most fundamental questions about life, universe and mankind will yield uncertainty. The success of Harry potter is so overwhelming because it revolves around a fictional character that could perform extraordinary feats. It is understandable that ideas such as depicted in Harry Potter episodes that break the shackles of human limitation can captivate human nature that is constrained by limitedness and dependency. Some may argue that this sort of rabid addiction to fictional stories are better than living a life of chasing more cars, more gadgets and accessories.

Such people would also claim that chasing wealth is materialism and being addicted to fictional stories is spiritualism.

From an Islamic perspective, acquiring wealth is not the problematic issue. Rather, elevating the thought about wealth acquisition to the ideological level and making that thought the basis for other partial thoughts is what contradicts Islam. Also, it should be noted that, from an Islamic angle, obsession with wealth and addiction to fictional characters emanate from the same corrupt fundamental thought: venerating created things. Books are the products of the human mind, which is also created. Technological gadgets are also the products of the human mind. Reverence to any assortment of created thing is considered materialism. To be in awe of one’s individuality is also materialism. Similarly detestation of wealth does not strengthen a person’s relationship with the Creator. Islam does not consider created things as indices to determine the spiritual elevation of a person.

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