Islam forbids extravagance, i.e., excessive spending on things or activities that are acceptable within their due limits. An example of extravagance is the construction of tall structures or expensive decorative gardens for just ostentation. There are, of course, orchards with fruit trees, which are not forbidden in Islam. However, some large private gardens are made only for display and personal enjoyment and pleasure. This was so when kings built huge gardens just to entertain themselves with song and dance. Spending large amounts of money for personal leisure is considered extravagance.
However, large gardens for public use, as are found in many cities, where people can go for enjoyment, relaxation and exercise is not banned in Islam at all. If a city spends a large sum of money on a garden for its inhabitants to enjoy, that is a legitimate expense.
To illustrate, Lahore currently has a population of about 900,000. If Lahore Corporation were to lay out public gardens and parks at the cost of a few hundred thousand rupees, Islam would not call it extravagance, as the whole town would derive benefit from these gardens. The per capita expenditure on such a garden would be quite reasonable relative to the benefits that the entire population would receive. On the other hand, if a king or a rich person were to lay out similar gardens for the sole use of his family, Islam would disapprove of it. Such expenditure would mean that millions have been spent for the benefit of a few individuals only, while the same expenditure could have benefited hundreds of thousands of people, which might have also been beneficial for their health.
Thus Islam does not stop us from spending money on people’s genuine needs. It only restricts individuals from wasteful expenditures that come about by neglecting the rights of public at-large. If a multi-story building is built with hundreds of offices for the use of thousands of people, it is a legitimate expense. However, if an individual builds a house with large number of rooms to show off his wealth, then that expenditure would be considered extravagant and not legitimate in Islam. Such a person would be answerable before God on the day of judgement to explain why he did not spend money for the benefit of mankind?
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