Halal Consumerism As Part Of Halal Ecosystem
The halal industry is arguably one of the fastest growing industries in the world. The economic potential of the industry has attracted not only the Muslim countries, but also non-Muslim countries and their conglomerates.
The main factor that drives the halal industry is the growing demand from Muslim consumers and communities who look for products and services which are manufactured according to Islamic precepts. Furthermore the halal market is no longer exclusive to Muslim consumers as the demand also comes from non-Muslim communities who acknowledge the inherent qualities embedded in halal products and services. Nowadays, the demand for halal is not only confined to food and beverages. Muslim consumers now are also looking for the halalnessin their fashion, tourism, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, media and entertainment as well as other service sectors such as logistics, financing etc.
In 2017, State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2018/2019 estimated that 1.8 billion Muslims around the world spent a whopping amount of US$2.1 trillion in various lifestyle sectors. The details of spending by sector are as follows: food and beverage at US$1.3 trillion; clothing and apparel at US$270 billion; media and entertainment at US$209 billion; travel at US$177 billion; pharmaceuticals at US$87 billion and cosmetics at US$ 61 billion.
The motivation behind this halal quest comes from a prophetic tradition which reported by Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) who narrated that the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said, “Seeking halal is a fard (an obligation or duty binding) on every Muslim.” The hadith clearly implies that it is compulsory for every Muslim to seek halal earning. However, it should be noted that not only the livelihood of a Muslim must be halal, but the products and services on which it is spent must also be halal and permissible according to Shariah.
In order to meet the demands and satisfy the tastes of the buying public of the halal market segment, industry players have made various efforts to ensure their produce are of quality and most importantly, fulfil conditions and requirements set out by the Islamic law. Even some of the manufacturers go the extra mile by subscribing to halal standards which require stringent compliance with guidelines and procedures stipulated by the certification bodies such as, in the case of Malaysia, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) and Department of Standards Malaysia.
The appetite of Muslim consumers for halal products and services is worthy of praise and highly commendable. Nevertheless, questions arise on the Muslim consumers’ purchase and use behaviours: Is their consumption behaviour in line with the principles laid out by the Shariah? To what extent is the consumption behaviour of Muslim consumers who vigorously demand for halal quality products and services truly halal from the perspective of Shariah? If there are proponents of halal industry among countries eyeing to gain economic benefits from the industry, then should there be movements that propagate halal consumerism among Muslim consumers?
According to the Business Dictionary, consumerism refers to organised efforts by individuals, groups, and governments to help protect consumers from policies and practices that infringe consumer rights to fair business practices. Generally, several accepted basic consumer rights have existed such as the right to safety (i.e. protection from hazardous goods), the right to be informed (i.e. availability of product information and protection from false or misleading claims), the right to choose (i.e. absolute right to buy any goods or services of his choice that are available in the market) and the right to be heard (i.e. the right to voice complaints and to be responded to by business and government authorities efficiently and responsively).
Considering that such explanation of consumerism put the responsibilities to serve the rights of consumers on manufacturers, service providers and authorities, therefore, hardly any emphasis is given to consumers in ensuring that they also play their role in creating a holistic consumerism environment.
Thus, for halal consumerism, all parties and in the context of this article, Muslim consumers, apart from having to know their rights, they should also ensure that their consumption behaviours are in tandem with values promulgated by Islam. This is a very important point that is often forgotten by the halal community in their halal ecosystem.
Indeed, the wholesomeness of the concept of halal should not only appear in the aspect of manufacturing and production, but also embraced by consumers and reflected in their consumption acts and practices.
In matters pertaining to food, fashion and lifestyles, for example, Muslim consumers should avoid the elements of waste, impulsive purchases or buying what are not necessarily needed. However, many Muslim consumers fail to internalise the true concept of halal in these aspects as there are evidences showing the contradiction between what the concept tries to promote and what is observed in reality. For instance, while Muslims are concerned with halal foods, it appears that at the same time they also indulge in prohibited acts such as being wasteful and extravagant in eating and spending. In Malaysia, this phenomenon is glaring throughout the month of Ramadhan and during the Hari Raya festive season.
In a conventional context, consumerism is often associated with shopping and consuming. Consumers believe that through consumerism (i.e. shopping and consuming) they not only can satisfy their physical but also emotional needs. Propelled by persuasive advertising and marketing strategies initiated by capitalist producers whose incentive is profit, consumers somehow or rather compulsively spend their money on things just because they are trendy or to keep up with the Joneses.
Indeed, if consumerism is not based on divine teachings, it could also lead to environmental degradation and ecological imbalance. This is the consequence of combined manufacturers and consumers activities who overconsume and overuse natural resources in the name of consumerism and industrialisation.
As part of the global consumer society, not all Muslims can defy the influence of mainstream consumerism. Perhaps this is the reason why some of them fail to integrate the wholesomeness concept of halal in all aspects of consumerism activities.
There are various verses of the Quran and hadith of the Prophet prohibiting Muslims from being wasteful, extravagant and improper in the use of Allah’s bounties. In a general prohibition of the practice of waste, Allah Almighty says to the effect in surah al-Isra’ verses 26 and 27: “And give to the near of kin his due and (to) the needy and the wayfarer, and do not squander wastefully . Surely, the squanderers are the fellows of Satan and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord .” On the abstaining from extravagance and worldly display, Allah says to the effect in surah al-A’raaf, verse 31: “O children of Adam! Attend to your embellishments at every time of prayer, and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant.”
Indeed, the concept of halal and halal consumerism should be looked at from a much wider perspective. The overzealous adoption of the concept by certain quarters has made it to only become an indicator on whether something could be consumed or utilised by Muslims. Efforts should be carried out to educate Muslim consumers to realise that besides concerning the halalness of food and drinks they consume, they should also align their consumption behaviour with the tenets of Islam such as avoiding being wasteful (tabzir) and extravagant (israaf), spreading evil/corruption on earth (ifsad fi al-ardh); caring for others, being grateful to Allah for all the bounties bestowed upon His servants etc. The internalisation of the Islamic traits in a Muslim’s consumption behaviour would definitely contribute significantly to the development of the halal ecosystem as it indirectly impacts the supply sides (i.e. manufacturers and service providers) to act and adjust according to their market conditions.