|Narrated 'Amr bin 'Auf Al-Ansari:|
...Allah's Apostle said, "Rejoice and hope for what will please you! By Allah, I am not afraid of your poverty but I am afraid that you will lead a life of luxury as past nations did, whereupon you will compete with each other for it, as they competed for it, and it will destroy you as it destroyed them."
excerpt from: Sahih Bukhari, Book 53 Hadith #385
One of the negative things the immense wealth brought into this culture--a new culture of showing off. To show off money you have, and money you pretend to have. It is a competition amongst many Emiratis.
I first saw a glimpse of it when I first moved to UAE. I was over at one of the in-laws' homes and one sister-in-law took me to her room to show me her make-up collection, She took me to her basket of make-up products and instead of just letting me rummage through to look at the products, she just started pointing to each and every one and what came out of her mouth was pretty much just like this:
"This is Christian Dior, this one is Chanel, Chanel, Christian Dior, Guerlain, Christian Dior, Chanel, Christian Dior, Christian Dior, Christian Dior, Christian Dior, Christian Dior, Christian Dior, Christian Dior, Christian Dior, Christian Dior, Christian Dior..."
where I finally had to interrupt her and say "Wow, you are obsessed with Christian Dior, aren't you?"
When my friends and I show each other our make-up, we do mention the brands but that is so they can know it just in case they would also like to buy the stuff. More importantly, we show each other the products themselves by opening them so we can see the colors. All she wanted me to see was that her products were name brands!!
I have seen more with my own eyes. Jealousy when one woman gets a designer handbag (oh and it must be a handbag that is hard to get) and the look of shock and envy in her eyes questioning her, "Where did you get that and where?" --Then all of a sudden the jealous one shows up with 2 or 3 new designer handbags (hard to find ones also) to get the upper hand.
I have seen unmarried local girls still living with their families who spend every single penny of their salaries every month, all on things that make them look like they can regularly afford the big brands-- designer clothing, handbags, watches, make-up, shoes etc... I am not talking about a few pieces to mix and match--I am talking trying to look like they have lots of money by having many designer pieces. So many pieces their salaries no longer are enough to pay for all they want. So they take loans. Ohhh before the world economic crash, loans were so easy to get. Loans to go on shopping sprees, loans to take vacations, etc....
They must keep replenishing their designer abayas from known designer shops or else everyone at work will know they have been wearing the same old abayas for weeks/months on end. And they can't think to just wear plain black abayas with cute shaylas instead to save money, and then wear a designer abaya on special events for work. Oh no, all the other girls are busy showing off their designer abayas too so they must compete with them!
Then if they should get a phone call from a bank offering them a credit card--who are they to refuse such a temptation? Then they go off on shopping sprees again and max their card limit in just a few months. Hmmm? How to pay this off and still be able to shop? Easy!! Get another credit card and just pay off the minimum monthly balance with that new card!! Then go shopping on that card as well. Keep paying the minimum balance and tell themselves they will pay more with next month's salary, because this month "I MUST get that new Gucci."
Then there are the local guys who have to save face by taking loans and credit cards to afford designer watches, Na'al (the sandals they wear with Kandoras), pens, designer caps, and of course, what else? Their more-than-they-can afford cars and homes! Paying off their loans/credit cards at the minimum balance level each month all the while bragging to others they paid for everything with cash. Many local guys can compete with a woman with their knowledge of fashion brands and the number of fashion designers they know about.
There is someone I know whose huband's nephew, on an 8,000AED salary, was able to secure a 250,000AED loan. Later on, his salary rose to 18,000AED and he was able to secure even larger loans. Now he owes 700,000AED. What was the money spent on? An expensive car, expensive vacations, and on his wife who cannot stop spending money. On top of that he has borrowed money from a family member, and as soon as his monthly salary is finished (part on bills, part on more frivolous things) he calls that family member for small amounts of money here and there.
A sister's husband has a friend in Abu Dhabi who knows three local women who occupy high positions in companies. They are all getting phone calls everyday over unpaid loans. These women are all divorced so they don't have husbands to help pay their debts.
At first I was all surprised that people with high salaries would also be like this, but I had a discussion about this with sis Alice and she told me something that I should have realized---if a poor person is taking out tens of thousands in loans, a richer person is taking hundreds of thousands to millions in loans.
You can also see this attitude when you go shopping. Wearing niqab, a person working in a store won't realise at first I am not a local unless they look at my eyes-- and the first things that come out of their mouths is usually something like, "Hello madame, this is the newest collection." or "This is an exclusive collection" etc... I know some of y'all have had this said to you while shopping. You know that the ones who want to show off are immediately attracted to these words. Everyone wants to be the first to own whatever new collection comes out.
Another family member had her driver go sit outside a mobile phone shop hours after it opened so he can immediately buy her this one latest phone so she would be the first amongst her friends/family to own it. This woman is in her fifties!!
Now, of course, if your family has the money and can afford the things, there is nothing wrong buying nice things-- Islamically-- so long as the money is halal, and you give in zakaat and charity. But it becomes an evil thing if all of the buying is for the purpose to brag about how rich you are.
There are many families who are well off who own many nice things but they are not in your face about what they own.
So what is going on here? Where is this coming from? There is definitely a social pressure. People started wanting what others have, and then before you knew it, everyone wanted what someone richer than they had. And then everyone started validating each other based on what they have and talking negatively about what people don't have. Then parents spoil children, and you have the spoiled ones who brag, the others want that too, and everyone, adults and young teens are all obsessing about material things.
Look at all the pre-economic crash projects that were coming up. 99.999999% of them were advertised as luxury this, and luxury that all of the time. This is especially with Dubai. Dubai caters to the wealthy with all of their new projects, so much advertising is geared toward the wealthy, and everyone is growing up watching all of this, talking about it, obsessing about it.
One conversation with one Emirati woman I had:
her: "My mobile broke so I asked my brother for one. He refused and asked what I do with all of my money. I asked him to just give me 3,000AED so I can get a phone and he refused again. I know its his wife who tells him not to give me any money."
me:"ummmm, I doubt it has anything to do with his wife. I think your brother is wondering where your money goes each month. Why is it that you can't afford a mobile phone if you have no financial responsibilities at your house? Aren't you saving any of your money?"
her: "Don't you know, Dubai is SO expensive!! Sometimes I have to buy breakfast, go to lunch, go out with my friends, and pay for my mobile phone bills!"
me.. silence with mouth dropped open.
it is scary to think she might not be the only one who thinks like this!!