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Mega-Malls and the Consumerist Ummah

The new Westfield mega mall recently opened in East London, amid much media hype and celebrity endorsement. A shiny futuristic maze of shops and boutiques, complete with restaurants and even hotels; all designed so that the visitor can immerse themselves within the cosy consumer bubble that is Westfield.

What is clear to anyone observing the mall, is the number of Muslims constantly entering and exiting, shopping bags in hand. In fact, for a large percentage of East London’s young Muslim population this is the prime location, not only for shopping, but for leisure and relaxation. It even has a prayer room. But what do we know about Westfield? Do we ever think about where our money is going?  We are probably all aware that big corporations are hard to avoid, and we may rationalise our buying from them, with many excuses such as price, availability and convenience, and in fact we may even balance our sense of discomfort by giving to charities, buying ‘eco-friendly’ and avoiding known boycotted brands. We excuse ourselves, rightly or wrongly, from turning a blind eye to child labour, oppressive conditions, and sweatshops, arguing ignorance and lack of alternatives. We may even argue that our money is bound to end up in the wrong hands eventually, and it is futile to try and stop it.

There may be some truth in the fact that we do not always know where our money goes, and it may possibly end up funding wars and oppression indirectly, even if we shop carefully. However, Allāh The Most High, in His infinite mercy does not hold us accountable for that which we do not know. With Westfield, however, we have no such excuse.

The founder of Westfield Group, Frank Lowy, does not disguise the fact that he is a retired Israeli commando, having fought against the people of Palestine during the 1948 war, nor does he hide his close friendships with high profile politicians including former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He gives millions to the rogue state of Israel, a state which is illegal according to international law. Furthermore, he established an independent think tank focusing on Israeli and US security and foreign policy vwhose research is consistently Islamophobic and imperialistic, and far from hiding his involvement in the project, he named it “The Lowy Institute”.

It is clear, then, that we as Muslims cannot simply blame our compulsive consumerism on lack of knowledge, because it is freely available. Nor can we just turn a blind eye to these facts. Simply put, by shopping, eating and spending in Westfield, we are directly funding the murder of Muslims in Palestine. Our money also contributes to the destructive, barbaric and inhumane policies put forth by US and Israeli Governments in conjunction with the Lowy Institute. Every pound spent in Westfield, leads to misery on the West Bank.

We must ask ourselves honestly, where do our priorities lie?  Are they with consuming, owning and spending, regardless of the consequence? Or are they with the ummah? Undoubtedly, when confronted with our obligation to deprive ourselves of luxuries and comforts, it is a difficult truth to face. It would be more convenient to forget, indeed that is what Westfield is there for: to encourage us to seek solace in material goods, and forget ourselves in designer labels. However this is contradictory to Islamic teachings. As Muslims we are fortunate to know that true satisfaction can only be gained through submitting to the will of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) and the Sunnah of our Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) has provided us with a comprehensive and fulfilling way of life. Westfield is completely built upon the capitalist philosophy at odds with Islām, a philosophy of consumption and instant gratification. According to this framework, we should adopt objects and ownership as our spiritual goals. We must work harder, in order to buy more things. In fact, if we took this as a model for our lives, we would literally shop ‘till we dropped!

A Muslim is a brother to another Muslim. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) told us,

“The relationship of the believer towards the people of faith is like that of the head to the body. The believer feels the pain of the people of faith just as the body feels the pain of the head.”[1]

We, as an ummah, need to fight collectively against our urge to dull the pain we feel at the plight of our brothers and sisters, by buying, shopping and consuming, because in reality we are only perpetuating our own destruction. Allāh tells us in the Qur’ān;

“You shall certainly be tried and tested in your wealth and properties and in yourselves, but if you persevere patiently, and have taqwa, then verily, that will be a determining factor in all affairs…”[2]

Whilst the temptation to indulge in the comforts of this dunya may be high, we should remember that wealth is a means by which Allāh tests our levels of faith, and if we succeed in using our wealth for good, and not becoming attached to the pleasures of this dunya, then we know the reward from Allāh will surely be great.

We can all make duʿā’ even if we may not be able to provide power or authority, and this is an important weapon we must make use of unfailingly. But we have been given a great blessing in our wealth, and by continuing to shop in Westfield, not only do we avoid and shy away from feeling the pain of our brothers, and not only do we fail to support them with our wealth, but we in fact actually increase and exacerbate their difficulties. Just as we would not take our own money and purchase the weapons by which our family would be killed, just as we would hate to contribute towards the death of our own mother, sister, brother; so we have a duty, at the very least, to prevent our money from funding the death and destruction of our brothers and their countries, our countries. We, as Muslims, cannot simply pick and choose our morals and principles to suit our mood, and then proceed to shout in outrage when those morals we have deemed applicable to uphold are violated.

We must no longer be our own worst enemy.

Sources: www.islam21c.com
Islam21c requests all the readers of this article, and others, to share it on your facebooktwitter, and other platforms to further spread our efforts.


[1] Narrated by Aḥmad, 32370); narrated by al-Albāni in al-Saḥīḥah, 1137.

[2] Al-Qur’ān, 3:186



About Elizabeth Aisha Simpson


  1. Thank you for this article – I’m surprised this isn’t a topic that’s more widely spoken about in our ummah. Unfortunately some of the biggest consumerist countries are in fact Muslim ones in the Gulf. This article continues to be relevant in regards to the exploitation of Uyghur Muslims by many of the brands that are sold in Westfield malls.

    “giving Palestinians self-rule whilst denying it to their own people”

  3. This is my first comment this year on the wisdom or otherwise of advocating boycotts of Israeli-supporting businesses, even if the boycotts are little more than symbolic posturing. Judging by the lack of any comments since December 2011 it is not a topic of much ongoing interest to readers.

    The reality of the Muslim approach towards getting a viable Palestinian homeland, on the land previously occupied by the Jewish inhabitants, and re-occupied by the Jews in the 20th. century, is a totally flawed failure.

    Israel, partly due to US support, is an unsinkable nuclear-armed aircraft carrier in the Middle East, with little prospect of destruction barring an atomic attack, which would hurt Palestinians and the rest of the Middle East as much as Israelis. In fact it would result in the destruction of many Moslem cities.

    This is the reality. The Jews have had enough of being hounded out and persecuted throughout their history, since their exodus from their homeland, and won’t give up their ancestral homeland, even if this means driving out the previous occupiers. If the surrounding non-democratic states had become democratic after the Turks were kicked out by the British, there would have been a chance of a settlement, but not with the present bunch of fascists and murderers.
    They can always rely on the support of the Muslim “street”, who are just being led along, using Israel as a whipping-boy.

    The constant military attempts to destroy Israel since it was founded has resulted in huge numbers of Moslem deaths due to the surrounding Muslim dictatorships’ hypocritical attempts at giving Palestinians whilst refusing it to their own citizens

    • What a poor recycling of old and refuted “Isreali” talking points. This terrorist state is an anathema to our faith and most of the people there had nothing to do with the holy name of Israel (85% of “Isreali Jews” are descendants of Russians and the actual descendants of Israelites lived with Muslims peacefully for a millennium.

      • Yes Ben, most Israeli Jews are descended from Russian and other European groups OF JEWS. Why did they go to Russia? In my home town, York, several hundred of them committed group suicide rather than die at the hands of the pogrom mob.
        The population of Jews in Israel could have been 85% German if they had escaped the gas chambers. The ones who could went to the US instead.The descendants of the Jewish diaspora “lived peacefully with Muslims for a thousand years”, ie after they were expelled from their homeland, so where have all these Jews, and the rest, gone, and why? You should have said SOME of these Jews lived peacefully in the Middle East.
        You’re probably Jewish and if so I admire your independent thinking, and recognition of the wrongness of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. A “bit” racist and anti-Russian Jewish maybe. I know that there’s a degree of anti-Russian, anti-Abyssinian etc. hostility amongst some Jews. Something to do with purity.
        Whatever your views on the history, purity and development of the Jewish race/religion, and the management/ mismanagement of their spiritual homeland, I maintain that the Muslim treatment of Israel TODAY will not destroy Israel without destruction of millions and millions of non-Jews. Why are the Muslims so exercised with Palestinians but not with Kurds? Because the persecutors of the Kurds are other Muslims, so it’s OK.

        The main barrier to a resolution of the issue in the 21st century is the failure of Islam to allow the creation and development of democracy in the Moslem world.
        If and when they get it there may be some hope for a much-needed reformation. The main barrier is religious indoctrination.

  4. The author of this article makes some universally valid points about consumerism and the neglect of spiritual life in favour of physical gratification. This is a common theme throughout religions, all of which have their monasteries, retreats etc. It is also common amongst non- believers who know the values of abstinence.
    However not all spiritual people believe in a God, neither do they need advice on leading a good life from believers, of whatever religion. Using religion to rally people against particular businesses on the grounds that they are supporting oppressive regimes is only valid if all such regimes are targeted, or it becomes discrimination and hypocrisy.
    What about the stuff produced by child labour in India, Bangla Desh and Pakistan, which I’ve witnessed with my own eyes? If you’re going to preach, then don’t do it with closed eyes.

  5. So it’s ok to boycott a company because its founder fought in a war for his country, one that some don’t agree should exist, and because some of the profits of the company will go towards helping that country carry on its fight against extermination?
    Are we talking about the Chinese occupation and rape of Tibet, or the theft by UK of countless lands eg Australia,US, New Zealand,Canada and others,; or the Spanish and Portuguese invasions of Latin America, or for that matter the lands conquered during the Muslim expansion over millions of square kilometres of the world?
    No, we’re talking about one of the smallest countries in the world, miraculously reclaimed, after its former occupiers spent thousands of years in exile and persecution, following seven million of them being gassed to death in the German concentration camps. Give us a break! Why don’t you pick on some of the Muslim dictatorships; there are plenty to choose from. Support the Arab Spring.

  6. boycotting
    i’m writing this reply to brother muhsin on how effective boycotting is and the fact that you mention and entire country boycotting is causing any effect is obvious but when you live in a country that doesn’t hold the same view on boycott then a few thousand people boycotting will make no difference whatsoever. The only real solution to any of this is to establish a state that solely governs according to Sharia, this is the only solution to any problem for all and not just in terms of boycotting.
    I salute the sister who wrote the article for being pro-active and may Allah reward her for her intentions and efforts.

  7. A little confused
    Asalaam’alaykum wa rahmatullah

    I think I may be missing something and I’m open to be corrected. I respectfully disagree with the conclusion of this article, which is asking us to boycott Westfield.

    Westfield makes money by charging rent to shops inside of it. Whether those shops make millions or nothing the rent is fixed. The shops inside there are big brands generally. Muslims spending more or less money in Westfield is going to have no impact on how much money Frank Lowy makes. Also the Muslims shoppers are in the minority, even in East London, there pulling out will have no impact whatsoever.

    In this particular instance boycotting is not going to meet its intended goal, which is to hurt the organisation financially.

  8. mr
    Thank you, a explanatory article & something new which I had not been aware of. Now when mentioned, I can make others aware.

  9. Not a boycott, just raising awareness
    I like your point Abu – i think its very valid. We are looking at things through a needle point when the reality is far bigger.

    I could be wrong but I dont think the sister was requesting a nationwide boycott or offering a permanent solution – rather she was raising awareness.

    Either way it just makes you aware of something that you may not be aware of, teaches you something you didn’t know.

    Yes it’s true, no matter what you do you’re probably contributing to some sort of fitnah, but we can only act on what we know, at least to the best of our ability Insha’Allah.

    Allah swt knows best.

  10. boycott?
    enjoining good and forbidding evil is a fard! This is not just limited to saving palestinians! neither does the muslims in britain and palestine make up the ummah!
    Are we forgetting our brothers and sisters around the rest of the world? In reality boycott doesn’t work, the quraish did it to Mohammed (saw) and it didnt work!
    What we need is an alternate way of life based on islam free from capitalism.
    This requires a very comprehensive thought about life and existence, not a shallow defensive mentality. May Allah guide us.
    jzk for the enlightening article sister, but you failed to come up with a solution to the whole problem in my opinion.

  11. Brands to AVOID- a useful resource
    For a comprehensive list of brands we should stay well-away from: http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-brands.html.

    And reading an interesting piece in Wikipedia on the Arab League’s boycott of Israel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_League_boycott_of_Israel):

    [u]’The Israeli Chamber of Commerce estimates that with the boycott Israeli exports are 10 percent less than they would be without the boycott and investment in Israel likewise 10 percent lower.'[/u] So for those who have that little voice in their head saying ‘its not worth it’….it clearly IS worth the effort.

  12. Brands to stay well-away from! A useful resource

    also for anyone who doubts the effects of boycotting, just read about the Arab league boycott of Israel on wikipedia: ‘The Israeli Chamber of Commerce estimates that with the boycott Israeli exports are 10 percent less than they would be without the boycott and investment in Israel likewise 10 percent lower’. No doubt the effect of boycotting is massive inshaAllah.

  13. Very well written.
    Jazaakillah dear Sister. The article is very well written and impressive. I look forward to more articles by you, especially on sisters issues. Jazaakillah once again.

  14. Very well written.
    Jazaakillah dear Sister. The article is very well written and impressive. I look forward to more articles by you, especially on sisters issues. Jazaakillah once again.

  15. Inspirational. We must all take action
    The truth. JazakaAllah khairan

  16. Good article but is this realistic.
    I like Imrans point on this actually. It’s a real tricky one but more importantly, articles like this can only raise awareness but they probably wont bring about mass change.

    By default people are on different levels of faith / islam, some more stronger than others. Some of the the Ummah may give up going to Wesfield altogether, others wont be able to simply because of a lack of will to change. Consumerism itself is deeper than the issue of Palestine and Israel and really pertains to the state to hearts of the Ummah.

    In my opinion the only way to bring about a change is to provide an alternative to Westfield. That way we re-direct the Ummah in a way that doesn’t totally restrict their freedom to grow within their different levels of Islam.

    Asking Muslims to give up going to Westfield isn’t realistic, it just wont happen like that unless people are strong in their Iman or have positive alternatives Insha’Allah.

    It’s still a great article and much needed awareness – dont get me wrong, no doubt this needs to be propogated.

    Allah swt knows best.

  17. westfield mall
    may allah forgive our souls i dont know of any westfield we just dont have it in toronto however are rthere alternatives if so commonsense should prevail boycott when you know for a fact that the west supports israel whether we accept or not so support your kind its all good

  18. … so where does one draw the line?
    ASalam alaikum all,

    JazakAllah for the article, may Allah swt reward you for taking your time out and presenting this to us so we benefit. I would however like to ask, where do we draw the line? How many of the people that write these articles on boycotting certain organisations actually take their own advice, how many avoid tesco and head for the local Muslim owned supermarket? How many people choose not to use a Microsoft pc to write such articles? The numbers seem bleak…!

  19. Abu Abdillaah

    Dig deeper and find even more!
    Even more disturbing stuff on the same Frank Lowy:



    I live in Nigeria but this article has a lot of sense in it.The idea could be for all Muslims to boycott all products and businesses from all Zionist interest. How ever what better or similar alternatives are we wealthy Muslims ready and willing to offer? May Allah in His infinite mercy save us from our selves. Amin.inadequacies

  21. I agree with the article, we as muslims should be concious about our day to day actions..shopping etc.. and really start thinking about the effects it has on our Ummah in the long run…u might think im just popping dwn to primark to get a pair of socks but the after effects is major if u think abourrit on a lager scale… its all crap any ways… its all hype.
    C’mon now fellow muslims lets start making an effort and shop else where..

  22. An eye opener
    Jazakhallah for this. There is no excuse especially when Frank the owner is outwardly admitting that he helps Israel.

  23. The Muslim community is not limited to East London
    People need to learn selflessness and avoid being selfish.

    Why take a £5-a-hour job or however much at such places when you know that you are cooperating in murder schemes.

    Alhamdulillaah there are always alternatives and selfish people should seek them out and stop being lazy. If it means one has to travel a bit to work then so be it.

    It’s sickening to see people so overly concerned for their ‘local community’ where the petty wages may fund date-nights and raves, adornments to get picked up by wannabe-mugs, and drugs of all sorts… all of this with total disregard for the overall effect on an international scale, where keeing these roles filled and keeping these shop-spaces occupied results in the murder of Muslims.

    The World is bigger than the dull, safe environment of East London. Open your eyes, stop being selfish, and admit the fact that your petty actions will end up having grave consequences against someone’s life.

    The author of this article correctly mentioned ‘excuses’ people will make to continue their trade at these malls and we can already see more funny excuses she can add to her list.

    Thank you for your eye-opening article. Jazaakillaahu khayran.

  24. Seyed alsakkaf

    I do agree in some context however although on the long run these are the consequences for attending such a place, if we look and find the Muslim shops they are selling more expensive than them. Even in halal food where HMC is provided its costly however some we can’t ignore than the other. These Muslim shops and restaurant don’t even keep in prayer rooms too. Even if they keep that is not very clean. Specially for families in some mosque no prayer facility for sisters when they are out. Generally market places are disliked in our religion as a means for fitan. But I don’t see how our small community can make a change for Westfield. And Allah knows best.

  25. In reply to brother Imran’s comment
    A Muslim is a brother to another Muslim. The Prophet SAW told us that “The relationship of the believer towards the people of faith is like that of the head to the body. The believer feels the pain of the people of faith just as the body feels the pain of the head.” We as an ummah need to fight collectively against our urge to dull the pain we feel at the plight of our brothers and sisters, by buying, shopping and consuming, because [u]in reality we are only perpetuating our own destruction.
    O Allah, guide us towards the right way n show us the way to deal with the problems of the Ummah.

  26. Imran – I find your point somewhat confusing. You highlight that the local area is made up of businesses owned by the Muslim community, and as a result regenerates the local economy?

    Surely a large mall diverts customers away from many of the local businesses in the area.

    I take your point however that it creates jobs for the local community – but I do think it is significant that people are aware of the background of the Westfield owner so as to make an informed judgement as to whether to work or shop there.

  27. Thanks for informing us!
    Kind regards

    May Allah bless u Ameen

  28. Excellent
    Wow, I had no idea! This article is very well written mashallah! Perhaps someone could suggest alternative places to shop when the main mall in my city is itself Westfield ?! everything seems to be owned by people like this… How do we move forward and create alternatives? We need solutions as well as lists of ‘avoid’ places… ? I mean, is there a single supermarket now that isn’t owned by such people ?? Help please (I love asda!)

    May Allah reward you for your efforts

  29. Mr Mustafa
    May ALLAH forgive us and rectify our affairs

  30. Let’s get a better perspective
    While we will never know how much the founder makes from the rent paid by the shops in the mall and whether these rents are at market rates, let’s not forget that the mall is situated in an area where the majority of local businesses are owned by the Muslim community. The mall not only helps regenerate the local economy it also provides jobs to the local community who also happen to be Muslim. There are of course both positives and negatives I just thought I’d present another perspective before we head down to the mall with banners and bandanas.

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