The Shaytan in the Market
by Um Yaqoob
You go into the supermarket to pick up a few items on your list. You are pleased to find you are the only customer in the store. As you walk up and down the aisles, many items attract your attention that you “forgot” to put on the list. By the time you reach the checkout, your basket is full. You have a friendly chat with the clerk as you pay and then go merrily on your way.
When you reach home, you are angry with yourself for talking with the clerk so casually (you are a man and she was a woman or vice versa). You get even more upset when you realize that what you thought were a lot of groceries are very little and you spent a lot of money. As you put things away—or even weeks later—you ask yourself, “Why did I buy that?” After some time, you find yourself throwing unused food from that trip into the trash.
This happens to anyone, anywhere in the world. There is a simple reason for this. The Prophet (peace be upon him) warned us: “If you can, do not be the first one to enter the marketplace. And do not be the last to leave it. For they are the places of the Shaytan and therein he raises his banner.” (Recorded by Muslim)
Yet buying too much and spending too much money in the markets are not the only concerns Muslims should have. Other problems arise to which we should devote our attention.
For example, many people are in the market at prayer time and miss the prayer because they were busy bargaining or comparing prices. Shopping is not an excuse for missing the prayer, particularly in Muslim countries where mosques are sometimes contained within the marketplace. We must either pray in or near the market (in a mosque), return home to pray (if we are women or if we cannot find a proper place to pray) or be careful to time our shopping trips well away from prayer time (e.g., early or mid-morning or after isha’ prayer).
Another problem is the mixing of men and women in the markets. This makes great potential for fitnah, particularly if the people are not dressed adequately and do not behave modestly (e.g., they do not lower their gaze, women soften their voices when speaking, customers and merchants argue angrily with one another and cheat each other). Men and women in a crowded market may even come into physical contact with each other; thus, it is wise to try to avoid these busy times. Worse than this, many “women’s markets” in Islamic countries — supposedly set up to allow women to shop without the presence of men — have become centers of prostitution!
In addition, many people use the market as a place where they can waste time and money. They go to the market for no specific need but just to walk around and buy only for the sake of spending money or, worse, to look at the women (in the case of men) or the men (in the case of women)! If this habit takes the place of spending time in worship or doing other good deeds or spending our money in Allah’s way (e.g., giving charity), or in any way enters us into the haram, then we must stop it. People are even known to become “shopaholics” where they have physical symptoms, including depression, if they do not go shopping regularly!
Allah has not left us alone in our fight against the Shaytan in the marketplace, however. The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us the following du’a to say before we enter the market:
La illaha illa Allah wahdahu
La sharika lahu
Lahul mulk wa lahul hamd
Yuhyi wa yumeet
Wa huwa hayyu la yamoot
Wa huwa `ala kulla shay’in qadir
None has the right to be worshipped except Allah, alone,
To Him belongs all sovereignty and praise.
He gives life and He causes death,
And He is living and does not die.
In His hand is all good
And he is over all things omnipotent.