Abundance Fantasies: Al-Kawthar

In the Abundance fantasies we explore the origin and contemporary meaning of symbols, stories and tropes of abundance. People have an insatiable desire for more, but in reality we constantly have to cope with scarcity. Perhaps the activation of an abundance iconography will help further ignite our desire for abundance and, because of this, our desire to shrink into a world of plenty.

Al-Kawthar means something like an ‘abundance of goodness’ but in this context it refers to a river in paradise. In the Quran it is said that if a true believer drinks only once from the river Al-Kawthar he or she will never again be hungry or thirsty. It is of some interest that a river is at the center of one of the Quran’s central abundance metaphors since the scarcity of water, especially in this region, is still one of the main concerns in relation to human existence. Again, as often in the production of metaphors of abundance, what is most scarce and therefor precious, constitutes its central promise. Appropriation within a religion context subsequently institutionalises this desire for overcoming scarcity. Abundance forms the very center of rewarding the believers, and therefor is directly connected to the notion of the afterworld, where man is never hungry or thirsty again. Could it be that our pursuit of abundance, and therefor of overproduction, of overconsumption and of our obsession with growth is connected to the idea of a divine reward, or even the notion of immortality? Could it be that our strong desire for more than we need is not so much a matter of comfort but a matter of comforting? Comforting in abundance as a heavenly sign that everything will be okay? If so, unless we shrink, we might be comforting ourselves into a very uncomfortable situation.

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