Need vs. Want

7 th December, 2015

In our current positions, personal circumstances and ways of living, it is gradually becoming increasingly harder to distinguish between a need and want.

For example, a typical conversation you might come across or have at some point:

“Shall we go shopping? I need some new boots for the winter.”

Now, generally, this conversation could be taken as the instigator has no boots for the cold season, which is fair enough.

However, the reality usually is that the instigator currently has various boots, but would like some in a different style or colour option.

It is nobody’s right to judge, so this isn’t meant as criticism towards anyone; but this is a want, not a need.

  • need is defined as something that one would suffer negative consequences without.
  • want is something that is not necessary or essential; it is something that is purely desired.

It doesn’t stop there, though. It is similar to all things in life, such as health, nourishment, material possessions and ways and means of living.

We wish for good health, but to a certain extent, need to take certain measures in order to achieve this.

Material goods such as a car, which is a form of transport, is classified as a want, not a need. The need acquired in this situation would be to have legs to walk and the ability to use them.

Nourishment, or food and drink – regardless of its nutritional value – is a need. However, the line between need and want here is often blurred.

We all have individual tastes and preferences as to what we wish to nourish ourselves with, but that is entirely down to having a choice, right?

  • Orange or apple juice?
  • Bread or rice?
  • Pizza or fish and chips?
  • Chocolate or biscuits?
  • Crisps or nuts? What flavour?
  • Ice cream or cake? What type?
  • Home cooked meal or take-out?

The list is never-ending, isn’t it?

So when we next do our weekly grocery shop, remember, you don’t need bread; you want bread; because you have options, which is what brings you to a supermarket in the first place.

Before reading this, it probably hadn’t even occurred to you that we class our optional extras as needs, right?

Now it has probably just crossed your mind that so many people are not, in fact, blessed with the privilege of even deciphering their needs from wants; they are so far into the list of needs, that the want does not even become a factor in their minds.


“What do I feel like? Brown bread, seeded bread, white bread, granary bread, best of both bread, sliced bread, rolled bread, seasoned bread, crusty bread, soft bread, long-life bread, freshly baked bread…”

You get the picture, right?


“I wish I had something to eat. I wish I could feed my children and my loved ones – anything to end this painful, empty feeling in our stomachs. When will my family and children eat again?”


“We need a bigger house; this house is too small for the kids, as they are sharing rooms now.”


“I wish I had a roof to put over my children’s heads. It’s so cold and dirty out here.”


“I’ve got a really bad headache and think I’m coming down with a cold. I need to get some painkillers.”


“I can’t even remember how it feels to exist without this pain.”


“I want my children to study hard, work hard and go on to be something in their lives; make so much money and always be comfortable.”


“I wish I knew things and was educated enough to end the poverty and hunger of this world and make a difference.”

Quite shocking isn’t it when it’s put like that?

Now let’s reiterate, there is nothing wrong with having the privilege of options, but many don’t have that privilege and are not responsible for the situation they are in.

But some of us are blessed enough to be able to change someone else’s situation…

The aim of this article is not to make any one person feel bad, guilty, or even to implore you to justify your needs and wants; for Allah SWT is our Creator, our Giver and our only Judge.

But let’s ask ourselves one question: If we have enough to enable us to have options, then why not do for someone else as we would for ourselves?

For us, it may be classed as a better or improved way of living; for them its purpose is purely survival, to enable them to simply live.

As human beings, we are created with feelings and emotions. It is only natural for us to feel like helping out when we see someone in a time of suffering.

Brothers and sisters, just because we cannot see these people suffer daily, it does not mean that their suffering doesn’t exist.

Donate to those in need today, with Islamic Help. We actually have the privilege of this choice; to help others in their time of need.

Islamic Help chooses to make a difference… Do you?



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