Archive for the ‘Environment From Islamic Perspective’ Category

Educational Materials Concerning Islam and the Environment

August 21, 2011

I have posted many educational materials concerning Islam and the environment in the website of Green Compass Research:

http://gc-research.org/educational%20materials/

The educational materials include environmental fatwas:

http://gc-research.org/environmental%20fatwas/

Islamic environmental values:

http://gc-research.org/islamic%20environmental%20values/

and, environment as appears in the Qur’an in Arabic:

http://gc-research.org/environment%20in%20the%20quran/

I will regularly update the educational materials section in the Green Compass Research’s website and all this kind of material will be put there and not in this blog.

All of you who are interested in Islam and the environment is invited to visit the educational materials section.

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Sufis Are Islam’s Eco Guardians

April 4, 2010

Sufism is the undiscovered sect within Islam known only through its most famous disciple, the 13th century philosopher poet Rumi whose work reflected strong themes pairing nature and spirituality.  Sufis, “heirs of a mystical ancient tradition”, helped propagate the faith to the height of its expansion in Islam’s coined “Golden Age”.  The then flourishing multiculturalism played a key role resulting in the large number of Muslims today, roughly 1.5 billion followers world wide. A great but under represented percentage this figure are still Sufi Muslims.

Initially rising out of a reaction to materialism and over indulgence resulting from excess wealth and power, Sufis are mystics at heart, lovers of the natural world inclined toward heterodoxy in a culture in which ego and possession is the norm. The key aim of any Sufi is to separate themselves from the material and seek enlightenment by way of serving God, achieved through an internal process that shifts perspectives away from to ego and toward the divine.

The process is usually performed through one of two ways. The less frequented approach is the view of “Signifier to signs”, in which Sufis work to look at the world through a macro to micro lens – in other words, understanding the bigger picture and then applying it to the individual instance. However, the majority of Sufis use the “signs to the Signifier” approach. The Signifier being a divine source, the analogy is similar to the process of understanding an artist through studying his creations.  In this way, many Sufis embrace the natural world, and as such it’s no surprise that Sufis are great defenders of the environment.

Relevance of Sufism within the Arab World

Sufism emphasizes “eco-spirituality” – the fundamental belief in the sacred virtue of nature. Since Gnostic teachings, the Kabalah, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc, all hold this as a key truth, it’s easy to see how Sufism has the capacity to bridge perceived divides between Islam and other faith groups.

According to Sufi expert and director at the Moroccan Ministry of Religious Affairs in Rabat, Ahmad Kostas, “Progress and change are basic tenets of Sufi philosophy.”  With this in mind, and with the premise of mutual appreciation for environmental initiatives, the common interest in eco-spirituality is a potential conduit for possible future partnerships between Mid East nations and their neighbors.

A Green Middle East

With the reasoning that a physical environment is reflective of a moral and cultural environment, proactive Sufi efforts to protect the environment can be seen in Morocco, where local Sufi youth gather regularly to “debate timely topics of social and political importance, ranging from the protection of the environment and social charity to the war on drugs and the threat of terrorism.” It’s no wonder that this esoteric branch of Islam is now not only gaining increased worldwide attention as a possible solution to prevailing conflicts, but is also helping pave the way for a greener Mid East.

A green Mid East is slow in the making – mostly because as Green Prophet’s Karin Kloosterman points out, “environmental education is seriously lacking.” And while Sufis make up about 1/3 of all Muslims, unfortunately their reach and global presence is still limited. It’s Saudi Arabia that’s still the front runner role when it comes to Islam and Mid East issues. If there’s to be a trickle down effect of green Muslims in the region, then Saudi Arabia is a good place to start.

– This guest post is written by Shireen Qudosi.

Shireen Qudosi is writer and natural living enthusiast who believes that despite political attitudes towards climate change, there is no harm in trying to live a more sustainable life. Her passion for conservation and the environment is reflected in her Sufi beliefs, which has a deep respect for the natural world.  Her interest in Sufi philosophy is also what inspires her work as editor of The Qudosi Chronicles, an online journal that looks at issues stemming from Islam and the Middle East.  For more information, visit www.Qudosi.com. Based in Los Angeles, Shireen considers herself a galley slave to pen and ink, and hopes to some day carry out her indentured servitude from literally green pastures.

This piece is taken from the Green Prophet website.

See on-line at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2009/10/28/13099/sufis-are-islam%E2%80%99s-eco-guardians/

Islam, Environment and Sustainability: “The Environmental Crisis Is also A Spiritual Crisis” – Interview with Dr. Sigrid Nökel

April 4, 2010

Islam, Environment and Sustainability: “The Environmental Crisis is also a Spiritual Crisis”
Interview with Dr. Sigrid Nökel

by Eren Güvercin

For some years now a global environmental discourse has been underway, one that connects ecological themes with Islamic ethics. But to what extent can Islam really give us guidance on ecological sustainability? Eren Güvercin seeks answers from expert Sigrid Nökel

It’s rather unusual for Islam and environmental protection to be mentioned in the same breath. What sort of environmental concepts does Islam have to offer?

Sigrid Nökel: The type of environmental problems that we are familiar with are the result of industrialisation and capitalism, so they are relatively recent developments. The Islamic sources, on the other hand, are more than a thousand years old and originated in a completely different context. So we can only draw on ideas about the relationship between people and their environment that are of a more general nature.

There are terms that have come down to us, such as fitra – which refers to creation as an original natural order; tawhid – the unity of creation, which tells us that all things in the world are related to one another and because they are all equal signs of God, all are equally important, valuable and worthy of preservation; mizan – balance, is the state of well-ordered creation, which must be maintained or restored.

Finally there is khilafa, referring to the role of mankind as the trustee of creation. It is the duty of mankind to maintain the order of creation. The fruits of the earth are to be enjoyed, but its resources must not be wastefully exploited.

Also, in the words and deeds of the prophet and the early Muslims, which have come down to us, there are examples to be found that tell us we should be sparing and prudent in our use of natural resources and provide well for our animals. They provide an example to be followed by later generations.

Does the Islamic tradition offer any fundamental concepts related to protection of the environment?

Nökel: There are regulations known from the Islamic regions from former times that one could describe as instruments for nature and wildlife conservation and attempts are now being made to try to revive these. Among these are the so-called harim and hima zones, for example. They include the idea of having protective zones around springs and watercourses, where, for example, no settlements are permitted, so as to keep the water from becoming polluted.

There were also meadow or forest areas, where people were allowed to go at certain times only – after the pollen harvest, for example, or when dry periods were threatening. With privatisation of land, intensification of agriculture and increasing building these practices have been forgotten. There have been attempts at their reintroduction going on for a number of years now as part of water, riverbank restoration and species conservation projects.

You’ve written about the eco-theology of Seyyid Hussein Nasr in your work. What is that about?

Nökel: Seyyid Hussein Nasr is a Persian philosopher and theologian who was born in 1939. Like some Christian philosophers, Nasr places the question of ecological balance in a religious context. It is based on a cosmological view of the world, with nature, man, God or heaven and earth forming a natural and well-balanced order.

He believes that man has been denying this order since the time of the European Enlightenment, replacing it instead with an anthropocentric order that places man at the centre and gives him free reign, in the absence of a connection to any higher order, to exploit nature.

Nasr sees man as an incredibly selfish and greedy creature, albeit one constantly striving for transcendence. Rootless in a cosmological sense, however, and unable to find true satisfaction, he seeks consolation in ever increasing consumption and the perfection of technology. He sees the environmental crisis as a spiritual crisis. This also applies to Islam and to Muslims who, he believes, need to find their way back to their original path.

Nasr aims, in the Sufi tradition, at individuals first and foremost, who must recognise the cosmological laws and follow them in their own lives. The focus on spiritual orientation would then replace that on consumption. This is at once both very conservative and very topical, if one considers the ubiquitous demands on us to decrease consumption and change our lifestyle.

Muslims have so far not been terribly conspicuous in the debate on environmental protection. Why is that?

Nökel: Muslims are hardly represented in public debate or organisations, at best only very occasionally in their role as ‘migrants’. The religious attitude is seen as a private matter that one does not comment on publicly in order not to compromise oneself. It is, so to speak, a taboo subject.

Most Muslims are unaware of the relationship between religion and environmental conservation, though they are conscious of it in a more general way. The Munich-based foundation Stiftung Interkultur is currently carrying out a small survey. What this has already made evident is that Muslims who take religion seriously express the view that religion demands “respect for nature” which then prompts them to actions in their everyday lives, such as helping to protect green areas or persuading others to be more economical with water and food or to think more about their consumption.

There are, however, no comprehensive empirical studies on the environmental awareness of Muslims. They have so far not been considered as a relevant group in this context, or they have been seen as beyond the reach of these sorts of issues.

What sort of contribution do you think Muslims could make to this currently very hotly debated topic of “environmental protection”?

Nökel: It seems that Muslims still need to more clearly understand the relationship between religion and environment. For many, they are two completely different things that they have so far not managed to bring together. Possibly an idea such as “eco-Islam” could provide new ideas, enable people to identify with the environmental issues, and to look afresh at their lifestyle and everyday habits in this respect.

Nasr does not want to see Islam exhausting itself in the observance of rites and rituals, but instead taking a personal responsibility for the world, one that goes beyond denominational boundaries. This is something that each person has to work on for him or herself. Environmental and climate protection will become matters of spiritual rather than just fashionable significance.

A large number of people could be reached via mosques and Islamic groups, people who do not normally feel that such issues have anything to do with them. Environmental discourses could take root here. Networking with other environmental groups and organizations would be possible. The environmental movement will then have taken a step forward.

Are there any “eco-Islamic” projects or initiatives in Europe?

Nökel: One of the best-known organizations is the British Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, IFEES for short. It is a UNO registered NGO and a sister organisation of the internationally active Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), with whom they have worked together on coastal protection measures in Africa. This, along with their initiatives in the UK, has been very effective in helping build up an effective media image for an eco-Islam. They present an impressive synthesis of Islamic and environmental discourses in their professionally produced ecoIslam newsletter.

It provides a skilfully produced mix of articles covering the global issues as well as the everyday and practical. IFEES maintains links with regional British organisations that have started up in the last few years. In comparison, Germany is still something of a developing country in this context.

Interview: Eren Güvercin

© Qantara.de 2009

Dr. Sigrid Nökel is a sociologist. Her PhD on The Daughters of Migrant Workers and Islam (in German) was written at the University of Bielefeld. She has also carried out research work on “Euro Islam” at the Kulturwissenschaftlichen Institut Essen (KWI) and at the University of Bremen. She has authored a study on Islam for the Munich-based Stiftung Interkultur as part of a series on migration and sustainability (Stiftung Interkultur – Skripte zu Migration und Nachhaltigkeit (Link to PDF – in German).

This piece is taken from the website of The American Muslim.

See on-line at: http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islam_environment_and_sustainability_the_environmental_crisis_is_also_a_spi/

Environmental Ethics in Islam

April 4, 2010

Environmental Ethics in Islam
By Abdur-Razzaq Lubis

Introduction

Over the past few decades or so, there has been a growing realization that the accelerating deterioration of the environment is not so much an environmental problem as a human one, and has its root in a distorted and unbalanced perception of existence. Many in the West are engaged in articulating a new eco-philosophy” or “deep ecology”, emphasizing the importance of developing an ecological consciousness, and in the process formulating a comprehensive and radical environmental ethic. The Muslim response to this, all over the world, has been virtually absent.

In order to alter the kufr (concealing of the truth) world-view responsible for the state of our environment, it would require a fundamental change in the way we live our lives at the personal and societal level. Islam is the willing submission to the Lord of Creation and a personal taking-on of ad-Din (the life transaction). Allah has guided us to the life transaction, which is nothing but the perfection of human behaviour or character. It is behaviour towards Allah, behaviour towards people, behaviour towards all of Allah’s creatures. It is the pattern of living by example and discernment, and of living in a natural state in accordance to the laws that govern the universe, which we in Islam call fitra. The fitra the natural pattern of creation itself and the Qur’an locates humankind in it:

So set thy face to the religion,
a man of pure faith –
God’s original upon which He originated mankind.
There is no changing God’s creation.
That is the rig ht religion;
But most men know it not (Qur’an 30:30).

God created humans as part of His original creation to function within its primordial pattern. Humanity is then inescapably subject to God’s immutable laws, as is the rest of creation. In this sense, human beings are equal partners with nature. Creation cannot be changed. Where there is an action there is a reaction, according to God’s laws. Global warming can be seen, in this light, as the earth’s endeavour to maintain a balance in response to the human assault against it.

The Oneness of Creation

Tawheed is the fundamental statement of the oneness of the Creator, from which everything else follows. It is the primordial testimony to the unity of all creation and to the interdependence of the natural order of which humanity is an intrinsic part.
Allah says of Himself in the Qur’an:

Say; He is God, One God,
the Everlasting Refuge.
and about creation:

To Him belongs whatever is
in the heavens and the earth
all obey His will
and it is He who originates
creation,,, (Qur’an 30:25).

The whole of creation – being the work of one Originator – works within a defined pattern.
Another verse in the Qur’an refers to the heavens and the Earth as extensions of God’s throne, thus conveying the idea that creation was designed to function as a whole. Each of its complementary parts, including humankind, plays its own self-preserving role, and in so doing supports the rest.
The Order of Things

Allah has created the world and the universe perfect in proportion, measure and balance as a life-supporting system.

Behold, everything have We created in
due measure and proportion (Qur’an 67:3,4).

Allah created the heavens and the earth, and everything between them.

Unto Him belongs all that is in the heaven and
all that is on the earth, and all that is between
them and under the ground (Qur’an 20:6).

The primary function of all created things, including humans, is to obey and glorify its Creator:

The seven heavens extol His limitless glory,
and the earth, and all they contain;
and there is not a single thing but extols His limitless glory and praise;
but you (O men) fail to grasp the manner of their glorifying Him (Qur’an 17:44).

All the elements in the universe are interdependent and connected, and have a value to each other, over and above their value to humans; for humans need the earth in order to subsist, but the earth has no need for humans. Allah has said:

Greater indeed than the creation of man is the creation of the heavens and the earth:
yet most men do not understand (Qur’an 40:57).

Indeed the earth and what it contains is a means of subsistence for all creatures, not only for humans:

And the earth We have spread out wide, and placed on it mountains firm,
and produced therein means of subsistence – for you (0 men) and for those whose sustenance does not depend on you (Qur’an 15:19,20).

Thus each single element plays an essential part in the maintenance, sustenance and preservation of the whole. In other words, the function of all created things is to serve creation itself. In contemporary parlance, all created things have an ecological function.
A further function of creation is to service humans:

And He has made of service to you (as a gift) from Himself,
all that is in the heavens and on the earth;
in this, behold, there are signs indeed for people who think! (Qur’an 45:13)
.

Allah has passed the whole of creation to humans by virtue of the trust placed on them.
In summary, all creation have a hierarchical function or value:
An inherent value as things-in-themselves
An ecological value as integral parts of the whole
A utilisation value to humans
The Nations of Allah

Humans are not the only creatures that are worthy of protection and recognition in Islam. All that Allah has created are “nations” or “communities” unto themselves:

There is not an animal in the earth nor a flying creature flying on two wings but they are nations like unto you. We have neglected nothing in the Book (of our decrees).
Then unto their Lord they will be gathered (Qur’an 6:38).

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is reported to have said:

All creatures are God’s dependents and the most beloved to God,
among them, is he who does good to God’s dependents (Kashf al-Khafa’)
.

In Islamic belief, humans have certain obligations towards other living creatures. We will be responsible on the Day of Judgement for how we have treated these creatures. The owner of an animal is obliged to feed it and to treat it if it is ill.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

Allah punished a woman because she imprisoned a cat until it died of hunger.
She neither fed it, nor let it obtain its own food (Riyadh as Salihin).

It is wrong for anyone to over-burden and mistreat an animal and cause it unnecessary pain. A man cannot even milk an animal at a time or in a way that would damage its young, as the milk rightly belongs to the young animal. Before a Muslim milks a cow, he is expected to cut his nails so that he does not unwittingly hurt her. Likewise, when honey is taken from a beehive, enough should be left for the bee’s own use. The protection of animals extends beyond mere physical protection. Cursing an animal is also frowned upon. Ahmad and Muslim have transmitted a hadith, narrated by lmran, in which the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, while traveling, overheard a woman cursing a female camel. He reprimanded her, saying, “leave it alone” (spare it from your curses).
The Guardian of Planet Earth

Adam, the progenitor of the human race, primal man, and prophet was appointed khalifa, and, by extension, every man and woman, has inherited the power and responsibility in relation to the planet and all its life forms.

We have honoured the children of Adam and carried them on land and sea,
and provided them with good things, and preferred them greatly over many of those We created (Qur’an 17:70).

A khalifa is one who inherits a position, a power, a trust, and who holds it responsibly and in harmony with its bestower – in this case, Allah. He does not violate the trust. The verbal root of khalifa is khalaf, which means “he came after, followed, succeeded” and holds with, despite, be at variance with; and offend against, violate or break a rule, command or promise. This is significant in the light of the angel’s prediction:

And lo! Your Sustainer said to the angels: Behold,
I am about to establish upon earth a khalifa.
They said: Will you place on it such as will spread corruption and shed blood whereas it is we who extol Your limitless glory,
and praise You, and hallow Your name?
Allah answered: Verily,
I know that which you do not know (Qur’an 2:30).

Of the nine times the word khalifa and its plural are found in the Qur’an; seven times it is used in conjunction with the prefixed fil’-al-ardh- on earth, on this planet. In each case it refers to a person, people, or mankind in general, to whom Allah has entrusted part of His power on earth. The term has been variously translated into English as a successor, deputy, viceroy, and trustee. We would like to add yet another translation, that of the role of stewardship. In that, the human race are more than “Friends of the Earth”- we are its guardians. Although we are equal partners with everything else in the natural world, we have added responsibilities. What we are not is it’s lord and master.
Humankind as Trustees

In this context, a concept unique to man is amana or trust. Allah offers amana to the heavens, to the earth, to the mountains – to the rest of creation – but they all refused; only mankind was foolish enough to accept it.

Verily, We did offer the amana to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains; but they refused to bear it Yet man took it – for, verily, he has always been prone to tyranny and foolishness (Qur’an 33:72).

A trust entails one who entrusts and a trustee. Allah offered the trust to man, the trustee, and he accepted the responsibility. Man chose the amana the faculty of choice and relative free will – and gained thereby the capacity to live for good or evil. As khalifa on earth, man must fulfill that trust placed on him by Allah, by acting justly in accordance with Allah’s laws, or be false to that trust and perpetuates tyranny and injustice against Allah’s earth and His creation.

For He it is Who has made you khalifa on earth,
and has raised some of you by degrees above others,
so that He might try you by means of what He has bestowed on you.
And thereupon We made you their
khalifa on earth,
so that We might behold how you act (Qur’an 6:165).

This is confirmed by part of a hadith, reported by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri and transmitted by Muslim, that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), said:

The world is sweet and green, and verily Allah has installed you as khalifa in it in order to see how you act.
History of the Environmental Crisis in the Qur’an

So the picture we get from the Qur’an is of a khalifa who is a trustee on earth and is responsible and accountable for his conduct towards his fellow human kind, creatures, and the Earth itself. His purpose is to serve and worship Allah, by acting in harmony with Allah’s laws, thereby fulfilling his trust and gaining the pleasure of Allah. If he abuses his God-given power and violate the laws of Allah, he brings about his own destruction, and severe loss in the Hereafter.

The consequence of violating the trust is attested in the Qur’an by the frequent recounting of the histories of the people of Ad and Thamud. Both were powerful tribes in their respective times and lands – Ad were “endowed abundantly with power” and Thamud were “settled firmly on earth” – but they arrogantly abused the power given to them by Allah, and were destroyed by an environmental cataclysm. The relevance of their stories to contemporary man – truly endowed with devastating power and so firmly settled on earth – is alarmingly frightening.
Resource Use in Islam

As a social creature, man has biological and ecological needs for the sun, water, food, shelter and community, and he, as with other living creatures on earth, may utilise the earth’s resources to secure those basic necessities. Clearly there is a potential conflict of interest between spiritual and material, man and nature, man and man. In this regard, Allah reminded humans of the balance:

The All-Merciful has taught the Qur’an
He created man and He taught him the explanation.
The sun and the moon to a reckoning,
and the stars and trees bow themselves;
and heaven – He raised it up and set the balance.
Transgress not in the balance,
and weight with justice, and skimp not in the balance.
And earth – He set it down for all beings,
therein fruits and palm trees with sheaths,
and grain in the blade, and fragrant herbs.
Of which your Lord’s bounties will you and you deny? (Qur’an 55:1-12).

It is a test of the amana or trust, that humankind pass on to future generations these resources. There is no Qur’anic sanction of the use by one group of people over another, so that no power may usurp the resources of the earth for its own sole use as is perpetrated by contemporary ‘developed’ societies. All peoples, as well as all other creatures on the planet, have an equal right to benefit from these resources. Similarly, all future generations have an equal right to Allah’s bounty. The use of the earth’s resources ought to be in accordance with our material and spiritual needs, the needs of all other creatures, now and in the future, so that we do not jeopardise the planet itself.

And you devour the inheritance (of others) with devouring greed (Qur’an 89: 19).

There is a price to pay for this misdemeanour. According to lbn Majah, Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

If any one deprives an heir of his inheritance, Allah will deprive him of his inheritance in Paradise on the Day of Resurrection.
From Development to Debt

The conventional Western model of industrial growth through maximization of resource use is seen to be the only path to economic development. All economic activity ultimately depends or is dependent on natural resource input that is neither unlimited nor free. Development agencies and banking institutions have been interested only in high-profits, capital-intensive development projects such as large-scale dams and irrigation schemes, mineral extraction, livestock-rearing programmes and monoculture plantations. These projects are chosen for their relatively fast return on investment, and are calculated to generate foreign currency to repay the debt and the interest as well as for the imported technology deemed necessary for national development. From the outset, social and environmental considerations are subordinated to short-term economic gains. The hidden costs of exploiting natural resources do not enter the economists’ equations.

The resulting breakdown in the social fabric of traditional societies only exacerbates the poverty, chronic malnutrition, and recurring threat of famine and starvation in a world of plenty. And with every piece of land given over to export crops, much less land is available for growing subsistence crops for the local people. Nevertheless, the interest on the debt must be paid or the debtor country will not be able to take out further loans. There is absolutely no way of paying the interest except by further plundering the natural resources, which for the “third world”, usually means cutting down their forest and clearing their lands. Trees are felled and the land is cleared and large-scale mechanized monoculture is substituted for traditional husbandry and the natural ecology, resulting in the lost of top-soil which will ultimately impoverish the land. And the vicious cycle continues.

Debtor countries are obliged by the system to incur further debts, and are thus forced to exploit more and more of their already diminished resources and degraded environment. To remain in the game, these nations have to mortgage their God-given capital with absolutely no chance of winning it back. Indeed, the winners are the banks, the transnational corporations, and a small, mostly corrupt, third world elite. If such a wicked debt-slaver operated on a personal level, the perpetrator would be called a tyrant, an oppressor and an exploiter, but at the national and international level, it is called development.

That nature suffers at the hand of the corrupt and tyrannical is borne out by the Prophets saying that the death of a profligate was a relief to the people, the land, the trees and the animals. Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that when the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, heard a man say, “The oppressor harms none but himself”, he replied, “It is not so, I swear by Allah that even the bustard dies in its nest on account of the oppression of the tyrant.”
Usury Driven Development

For a host of reasons not unconnected to the global market economy and fundamental flaws in the development model itself, these grand projects have not paid off. It is astonishing that despite all the evidence, people still firmly believe that development means economic growth, which equals industrialisation, equals modernisation, equals progress, equal success. Given that the conventional Western model of development leads inevitably to environmental destruction, to say nothing of social and economic injustice, it would be no exaggeration to say that this kind of development has no place in Islam.

The environmental tragedy now being played out is the result of kufr development model and economic system fueled by usury (riba) and greed. There is little doubt that through usury, creating illusory wealth by charging interest on loans and other unjust monetary transactions, is directly responsible for the destructive development the world over. Since riba (usury) lies at the very heart of the development issue, and Allah has absolutely forbidden riba any form whatsoever, it is only right that Muslims reject this kind of development.

O believers, fear your God;
and give up riba that is outstanding,
if you are believers.
But if you do not,
then take notice that God (and His Messenger)
shall war with you (Qur’an 2:278, 279).

Those who devour riba shall not rise again except as he rises, whom satan of the touch prostrates (Qur’an 2:275).

The banking and financial institutions have, in Islamic terms, sabotaged the mizan (balance) and fitra (natural state) of creation by not only charging interest, but by doing so on money which they create endlessly out of nothing. This explosion of artificial wealth provides the illusion of economic dynamism: but in reality it is parasitic. Endless credit devours the finite earth’s resources. No other prohibition in the Qur’an contains such forceful language and, unlike the restrictions on food, there are absolutely no concessions in this area. We are now beginning to understand why this is the case.

The issues that relate to credit creation are obfuscated by the arguments over interest that is only a part of a larger issue. Riba has a wide definition and if the charging of interest conveys the notion of unlawful gain when a rent is charged on capital, then gains that arise from profits made from intangible created capital also falls into this category. This fraud assumes greater proportions when the banks demand and get security or collateral for the non-money they give us as loans. What is at stake here is the principle of justice – mizan – equal for equal in a freely and openly entered transaction. The community strives to contain greed but the state and the banks have colluded in institutionalising and legitimising it.
Beyond Growth and Greed

For those over-developed and affluent nations, the Qur’an is full of warning. Pharaoh, the peoples of Ad and Thamud and Madya, Gog and Magog, were all powerful and wealthy but spread tyranny and corruption on the earth, and thus destroyed themselves. They are described again and again as the mufsidin fi’l-Ard, those who spread fasad (corruption, degradation, and ruin) on earth. The mufsidin fi’l-Ard abused the trust of amana and are in clear contrast to the khulafa fi’l-Ard, Allah’s trustees on earth.

In the Qur’an (2:205) fasad is connected to the destruction of tilth and fertility. Indeed the destruction of tilth and fertility is a most apt description of the environmental damage now common throughout the third world. It is the loss of biological productivity and diversity that has occurred as a direct result of inappropriate development. Allah warns:

Allah loveth not al-fasad
Do not spread corruption on earth after it has been so well ordered, (for) Behold what happened in the end to the
mufsidin, the spreaders of ruin (Qur’an 7:85,86).
The Pharaoh, the people of Ad and Thamud are referred to as Mufsidin al-Ard, as those who “transgressed all bounds in the land” (taghawa fi’l-bilad) (Qur’an 89:11, 12).

Tagha is to transgress or exceed the bounds, to overstep the limits of Allah’s laws, to upset the balance and harmony of the creation “after it has been so well ordered”.

Limits are transgressed when pursuing limitless wealth, and living a life of sumptuous affluence (teral) and wasteful extravagance (isral). The pursuit of wealth and the greed that fuels it is none other than ungratefulness, for:

Verily, towards his Sustainer man is most ungrateful. And to this, behold, he (himself) bears witness indeed: for, verily, to the love of wealth is he most ardently devoted (Qur’an 100:6-8).

Even though Allah has given man everything that he could possibly need, man’s greed knows no bounds:

Leave Me alone (to deal) with whom I alone have created, and to whom I have granted vast resources, and children as witness, and to whom I have given so generously; and yet he greedily desires that I give yet more! (Qur’an 74:11-15).

And of the surah at-Takathur (Greed) itself, Allah says:

You are obsessed by greed for more and more until you go down to your graves. Nay, in time you will come to understand! …And on that day you will most surely be called to account for (what you did with) the boon of life (Qur’an 102:1-7).

The blind pursuit of increased material possessions, increased technological progress, increased power over man and nature, inevitably breeds greed for more and more. This unbridled greed leads to transgressing the limits of all that is good, bringing waste and wreaking destruction on the face of the earth. In the words of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him:

By Allah, lam not afraid concerning you that you will commit shirk (associating another with Allah), but I am afraid that you will vie with one another (for the possession of) the treasures of the earth (Muslim).
The Middle Path

In contrast to wanting more and more, the Qur’an guides us to moderation, balance, and preservation. On moderation in all things, Allah says:

“And We have willed you to be a community of the middle path (umatan wasatan)” (Qur’an 2:143).

For Muslims, the path between extremes – the middle path – is enjoined on us:

For, the true servants of the Most Gracious are they who … whenever they spend are neither wasteful nor niggardly, but (remember) that there is always a just mean between these two extremes (Qur’an 25:63).

In a hadith reported by the Prophets wife Aisha, and transmitted by Muslim, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, urges us to actively pursue moderation: “Practice moderation, and if you can’t practice it perfectly, hen strive towards it as far as possible.” Thus all our actions should be guided with the spirit of moderation, from consumption and production, to the use of natural resources. For moderation is balance, and its opposite disturbs the balance:

And the sky has He raised high, and has devised (for all things) a balance, so that you (too, O men) might never transgress the balance: weigh, therefore, (your deeds) with equity,
and do not upset the balance! (Qur’an 55:7-9).

The principles of moderation, balance and conservation, are the core of sustainable living as it provides the framework for discernment, without which there are no limits to wasteful extravagance, affluence and greed.
Conclusion

In order to fulfil the function of khalifa on earth and deliver the trust, Muslim men and women have no exemplary model other than that of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, his wives, and Companions. Muslims should follow his lead in everything, and in this context his impeccable behaviour towards the earth, its creatures, and resources. In the words of his wife, Aisha, “His character is the Qur’an itself” (Muslim).
In conclusion, Islamic environmental ethics may be summarised as follows:

– Allah is the Creator, Sustainer, and Owner of all creation.
– Humankind is the trustee on Planet Earth.
– Each man and woman is, as such, accountable to Allah for his or her actions on the earth and towards its creatures.
– Every created thing has inherent values, an ecological value, and a utilisation value for humankind both as spiritual sustenance and material resource.
– Humankind’s rights over nature are rights of sustainable use – of usufruct – based on moderation, balance, and conservation; future generations have a similar and equal right.
– Nature’s rights (haq) over humankind include the rights to protection from misuse, degradation and destruction. Greed, affluence, extravagance, and waste are considered a tyranny against nature and a transgression of those rights.
Discussion

The panel on Islamic perspectives discussed the relationship between the beliefs of Islam and the process of maintaining a viable and healthy environment, including the emphasis on protecting natural resources by utilising these resources to satisfy the needs, rather than wants, of society. The panelists also noted the importance of each individual acting in a responsible manner and as a moral leader in society. The embodiment of Islamic principles in the form of Islamic educational institutions is one method to instil and disseminate an ethic of environmental sustainability.

The discipline of the Pesantren and the teachings of Islam are based on fundamental principles of self-reliance, which require the careful use and management of resources. The Pesantren is based on religion, in the context of which other subjects are taught. However, not all Pesantrens encompass the national curriculum as it is sometimes felt that the need to pass through the national system of examinations can distract students from following the fundamental aims and spirit of the Pesantren.

A comment was made on how similar the principles of Islam and Buddhism appear. The idea of individual and community responsibility and leadership are common to both religions, as are the notions of simplicity, self-reliance, and noble character. As in Buddhism, Islamic teachings fit well into the humans-nature-culture matrix framework which has been referred to throughout this seminar. A diversity in religions has to be recognised and celebrated, but it is also clear how much unity there is between the different faiths.

The notion of the Islamic Brotherhood was discussed, with particular reference to the role of women. The panelists described how women are much respected within the Islamic society, and are treated with modesty and regard. Men and women are frequently segregated for these reasons, and women are allowed to devote themselves to the study of the Qu’ran. In rural areas in Indonesia, many women are educated through the study of the Qu’ran as there is limited access to the public schools.
Source: Toward an Environmental Ethic in Southeast Asia, Proceedings of A Regional Seminar, The Budhist Institute, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, 1998

This piece is taken from the website of www.mandailing.org

See on-line at: http://www.mandailing.org/Eng/envethicsislam.html

Man and Ecology: An Islamic Perspective

April 4, 2010

Environmental Crisis

“When the earth is shaken with a (violent) shaking,
And the earth reveals what burdens her,
And man says: What has befallen her?
On that day she shall tell her story….” (Qur’an 99:1-4)
In light of today’s environmental crises, many secular and religious  scholars have begun to look into underlying philosophical causes for man’s rapacious attitude towards his environment. Part of this search involves a look at root philosophies affecting the human outlook and interaction with the world and the responsibility religion shares in creating the attitudes and philosophies that have led to the desecration of nature that has occurred in the past few centuries and which seems to be accelerating in our times. As Ziauddin Sardar writes;

“The roots of our ecological crises are axiomatic: they lie in our belief and value structures which shape our relationship with nature, with each other and the lifestyles we lead.” (Sardar, Ziauddin. Islamic Futures. New York; Mensell Publishing Limited. 1985. pg.218)
For this reason traditional religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam are held accountable as they supposedly espouse an anthropocentric (human-centered) reality. Writers like Lynn White Jr. see this as being the root cause for the ecological/environmental problems of today. He decries not only the dualistic nature of man’s relationship with nature but also the idea “that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper end…” as “Man shares, in great measure, God’s transcendence over nature.” (White, Lynn. The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crises. Science, 155. 1967)

Note: Lynn White refers specifically to the problem inherent in the Christian tradition, but in a general sense extends it to all the monotheistic religions, as opposed to the pantheistic ones. About blaming Christianity, Parvez Manzoor, in The Touch Of Midas, writes: “…Christianity does not bear the blame for our environmental problems. It is the divorce of Christian ethics from the pursuit of knowledge, in fact what is known to be the age of ‘rationalism’ that ushered us into the era of environmental degradation.”

This short essay is a sincere effort to investigate the validity of White’s view that the disrespect for nature is inherent in the very nature of these religions. Dealing only with the Islamic tradition, it will take into consideration the nature of man, his place in relation to God, his rights and responsibilities before God, and his relationship to the rest of the world with regard to his rights over it. In other words the world-view of Islam is to be the starting point for the examination of man’s relation to the world of external nature.

“All religions, customs, schools of thought, and social philosophies rest on a world view. A school’s aims, methods, musts and must nots all result necessarily from its world view… A world view can become the basis of an ideology when it has attained the firmness and breadth of philosophical thought as well as the…sanctity of religious principles.” (Mutahhari, M. Fundamentals of Islamic Thought. Berkeley; Mizan Press. 1985)

The primary basis of an Islamic world view is the idea of Tauhid, or the oneness of God. A world view based on tauhid  sees this universe as originating from God, returning to Him, and centered around Him. It is a world created and sustained by God with a purpose, and a design. As this entire universe is a product of His divine wish, it is a universe unfolding with a divine purpose. The reference point, the center of all things is God.
“…Tauhid  is the matrix for human thought and action, it is all pervasive and penetrates every aspect of our endeavour.” (Sardar, Ziauddin. Islamic Futures. New York; Mensell Publishing Limited. 1985. pg.225)

The essential prerequisite, in Islam, is the belief in this absolute oneness and unity of God.

“God the Ultimate reality is One, and everything other than God comes from God and is related to Him. No true understanding of anything is possible unless  the object in view is defined in relationship to the divine. All things are centered on God.” (Chittick, William. Article, ‘The Concept of Human Perfection.’ from, The World & I. New York; News World Communications. Feb. 1991. pg. 500)          

Tauhid  is the point of origin of a theological doctrine of ecology. All things seen or unseen are God’s signs (ayat) and act as witnesses to His existence. All things in the universe are manifestations of Him, all are from Him.

Human nature is the other key facet of the world-view of Islam. Man fulfills a very important role in this cosmos. Although all things are made by God and identified with God in as much as their being created by Him, man enjoys a role as God’s vicegerent (his representative) having a freedom and far-reaching power latent within him. In the Qur’an God says He has breathed His spirit into man.

“When thy Lord said unto the angels: lo! I am about to create a mortal out of mire, And when I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, then fall down before him prostrate.” (Qur’an. Ch 38- vrs 72, 73)

This verse provides essential insights into man’s position and nature in this universe. Although he is a creation of God he is superior to the rest of God’s creation as he has within him the Spirit of God. In this way he is unique among the creations of God. It is only man to whom the angels  are commanded to prostrate themselves.
Another aspect that separates him from the rest of creation is his acceptance of the trust offered by God. This trust was offered to all of creation and man was the only one who accepted it.

“We did indeed offer the trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof. But man undertook it (the trust);…” (  Qur’an. Ch.33 vr.72)          

In a matter of trust and trusteeship, the giver of the trust is giving a responsibility to the trustee. In other words the guardian of the trust has a high degree of freedom and accompanying responsibility in the use (or misuse) of the given trust.

The trustee is expected to fulfill the trust in the manner that the giver of the trust would expect of him.  If man did not have the power to either use or misuse this trust given to him by God, then the whole idea of offering the trust, in the first place, would be futile. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, a commentator of the Qur’an says of this verse;

“There is no trust if the trustee has no power, and the trust implies that the giver of the trust believes and expects that the trustee would use it according to the wish of the creator of the trust, and not otherwise.” (Ali, A.Y. The Holy Qur’an; Text, Translation and Commentary. Maryland; Amana Corporation. 1989. pg. 1080)

Note: This is not an attitude that is unique to Islam as can be seen in the following quote from the Bible “When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.” (Luke: 12:48). It is, however, an attitude that is all pervasive in the Islamic world-view.

Thus man has the freedom to do what he wills with the power invested in him through these two means. One is his closeness to God in spirit and second is his acceptance of the trust. Man’s superiority, control and power over nature and the rest of creation was thus a part of this trust. After having taken the responsibility man had to show that he was indeed worthy of keeping it. If he forgets about the responsibility of the trust and instead takes full and destructive advantage of the power conferred upon him, the other side of his  superiority takes over. Because he has the spirit of God within him, he now deems to set himself up in rivalry to God. He wishes to take control of the destiny of the world not as a trustee but as a demi god.

“…He was indeed unjust and foolish. ” (Qur’an. Ch.33 vr.75 & 76)      
When the power of his relationship to God is applied without the temperance of the responsibility of the trust, man misuses and abuses the abilities, potentials, and rights given to him by God. Nature has been given to man as a trust and nothing more. His right of domination over it (is) only by virtue of his theomorphic make up, not as a rebel against nature.’ (Nasr. S.H. The Encounter of Man and Nature. London; George Allen and Unwin Ltd. 1968. pg.96) God has given revelation, and the law (shariah) derived from the revelation to assist and guide man in fulfilling this trust. Ziauddin Sardar writes:

“The ultimate consequence of man’s acceptance of  trusteeship is the arbitration of his conduct by divine  judgment. To be a Muslim is to accept and practice the  injunctions of the Shariah. Thus the Shariah is both a consequence of one’s acceptance of Tauhid and it is a path.” (Sardar, Ziauddin. Islamic Futures. New York; Mensell Publishing Limited. 1985. pg.228)

The Shariah gives practical shape to the ethical norms in Islam. No moral or ethical issue is only an abstract idea in Islam. They are codified in the Shariah to be preached, practiced and incorporated into the laws of the land. The Shariah seeks to provide a framework, an environment within which men as individuals and as a society can fulfill the role of trustee. This Shariah sets the limits and parameters and the practical guidelines for giving shape to an ethical principle and when ignored causes the kind of disruption in human life, which can now be seen in the form of severe ecological crises. This is because that part of the Shariah pertaining to nature has been completely ignored. Instead of working in subservience to God as his vicegerent, man has developed an axiology that invites him to dominate nature rather than act as a protector over this aspect of God’s trust. Rather than fulfill a trust, man elevates himself to the status of dominator – deciding the fate of nature without reference to revelation. He has set himself on par with God and about this type of an action the Qur’an says:

“Indeed you have put forth a thing most monstrous! As if the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin.” (Qur’an. Ch.19. vr.88-89. This verse actually deals with the attribution of Jesus, son of Mary, to be the son of God. In this context it is being used to demonstrate the abhorrence of any equal being set up with God.)

In the Islamic world-view the relationship of man with nature should be like that of a just ruler with his subjects. Although the ruler has power over his subjects, his subjects are a trust over which he stands guards. He is expected to act in a responsible way (as defined by the revelation) toward them. Misuse and abuse of his power would shift him from being a leader to being a tyrant. The end result of tyranny is nothing but a revolt against the tyrant. This is precisely what is happening between man the tyrant and nature the tyrannized. Tyranny is effective only in the short term.

Among the works of Zain-al-Abideen (the fourth Imam of the Shi’ites), is his “Treatise on Rights”. Among the many  types of rights described he puts forward the rights of the subjects over their ruler. In this context they can be extended to form a value system for the formation of an ethic toward the environment or any other aspect of the world over which man has power or dominion.

All acts towards the ruled should be imbued with mercy and justice; the ruler’s disposition should be like a father toward his child.

“The right of your subjects through authority is that you should know that they have been made subjects through their weakness and your strength. Hence it is incumbent on you to act with justice toward them and to be like a compassionate father toward them….” (Zain al Abideen.  The Psalms of Islam. London; Mohammadi Trust. 1988. pg.286.)

Man, being above material nature due to his theomorphic make-up and the burden of the trust, must deal in a similar way with the environment. The “Treatise on Rights” also describes the rights a subject enjoys over his ruler through the aspect of the ruler’s knowledge. Taking knowledge to be synonymous with intelligence, man is endowed with a higher intelligence than the rest of creation. Because of this he must assume a role of guardianship over the rest of creation and interact with nature in a way that is worthy of this intelligence. If man does what is befitting of his high station, then God will increase His bounties toward man. If he does not, then whatever he was blessed with is withheld or taken back. Imam Zain-al-Abideen states it as follows:

“The right of your subjects through knowledge is that you should know that God has made you a caretaker over them only through the knowledge He has given you and His storehouses which He has opened up to you. If you do well…, not treating them roughly or annoying them, then God will increase His bounty toward you. But if you … treat them roughly…, then it will be God’s right to deprive you of knowledge and its splendor and make you fall from your place…” (Zain al Abideen. The Psalms of Islam. London; Mohammadi Trust. 1988. pg.286.)

Zain-al-Abideen then goes on to talk of the rights of those over whom you are in a position of mastership, such as a servant.

“…you should know that he is the creature of your Lord….You did not create any of his limbs, nor do you provide him with his sustenance; on the contrary, God gave you the sufficiency for that…and deposited him with you so that you may be safeguarded by the good you give to him. So act well toward him, just as God has acted well toward you.” (Zain al Abideen. The Psalms of Islam. London; Mohammadi Trust. 1988. pg.286.)

Nature has been made subservient to man, but it is as much a creature of God as man is. Neither has man created nature nor is he in any way able to sustain it. It is only because God has given him the sufficiency and capacity can he in any way do so. If he is able to plant a tree and administer its growth or manipulate its genetic characteristics, it is only because of the intelligence placed within him by God. Just as God has been good to man so also man must act with the same beneficence toward nature so that he may safeguard  himself when facing God.

Another key aspect of the Islamic world view is its immense stress on eschatology. Belief in a day of judgment is essential to the faith of an adherent. It creates an action guide arising from an awareness that actions have consequences far beyond their immediately apparent effects. Since man will be called to account for how he looked after the trust bestowed upon him, he is forced to not only consider present gains but to plan for the future in order to fulfill the responsibility with which he has been invested. His acts have repurcussions that ripple out horizontally from himself affecting what surrounds him in this world as well as vertically since his substance has a presence in the higher worlds. So the consequences of his actions accumulate within his substance and after his death he faces the reality of what he has done and what he has become.

“Then on that Day, Not a soul will be wronged in the least, And ye shall but be repaid the meeds of your past deeds” (Qur’an. Ch.36 vr.54)

Eschatology is the policing force within Islam which guides the believer to fulfill the trust that he had taken on. The thought of an impending judgment stops him from taking actions according to his own whims and fancies. It puts a brake on self-centered aspirations.

Man’s role of vicegerency, his mantle of superiority and his responsibility of trust are laid bare before him in the Qur’an, it is then his decision to choose which path to take. On the one hand he has before him all the treasures of nature to use and exploit as he wishes through the fulcrum of his knowledge. On the other hand is the temperance of the responsibility which coexists with the trust and intelligence given to him by God. The world-view of man and the conceptual foundations which underlie that world-view decide which course man will take.

“Can we…check this threat to our planet simply by introducing stricter legislation against pollution, industrial waste and nuclear spill? Can we reverse the degradation of our environment by adopting conservationist policies on both national and international levels? Or could it be that the whole ecological imbalance betokens the spiritual and teleological crisis of modern civilization itself? Does it require fundamental revision of our own way of life, our cherished goals, indeed our very conception of ourselves and the world?” (Parvez Manzoor, Touch of Midas)

It has been the contention of this brief essay that the roots of the man made environmental crises, and therefore their resolution, lie in man’s conception of his role in the overall scheme of creation. The crises that are being faced today are approaching a point of critical mass such that man is forced to confront certain basic questions about his relationship to the environment. These are not questions of technology, but questions about the fundamental nature of man, the nature of the universe he exists in, and of the ultimate nature of Reality.

– Atiya and Irshaad Hussain (1991)

This piece is taken from the website Islam From Inside.

See on-line at: http://www.islamfrominside.com/Pages/Articles/Ecology%20Environment%20and%20Islam.html

Muslims Concerns for the World Environment

March 26, 2010

• In today’s Western-dominated global order, conspicuous consumption has become of the highest order. Money, or as the modern world has contrived it, has assumed the characteristics of a virus that eats into the fabric of the planet. The consequence of this has become the global environmental degradation that we have become sadly witness to. From the pollutants that choke the air we breathe and seas we travel to the dark threat that global warming presents, the situation of the environment and its rectification has become a priority for many. From the embattled cries of environmentalists to the staged drama productions of politicians, many have presented solutions and amongst the plethora of ideas and case scenarios, initiatives have been undertake to reverse the damage caused to the environment. Though some have a cause for optimism, there are many who share disquiet that not enough is being done. With this is mind, concerned Muslims should now be presenting the solution that was bequeathed to them 14 centuries ago, a radical, world-changing force that can restore the balance between man and nature – Islam.

An Emerging Response
In our current situation a practical expression of Islam has now become severely attenuated, having been swept aside into a domain that treats the natural world exclusively as an exploitable resource. As what we understand by modernity advanced, as the secular ethic progressively seeped into the Muslim psyche and as industrial developments, economic indicators and consumerism became the governing parameters of society there has been a corresponding erosion of the Muslim perception of the holistic way Islam solves problems and a withering understanding of the sacred nexus between the human community and the rest of the natural order.
So what is the Islamic understanding? The planetary system, the earth and its ecosystems, all work within their own limits and tolerances. Islamic teaching likewise set limits to human behaviour as a control against excess. In essence, Islam describes an integrated code of behaviour which deals with personal hygiene, at one end of the spectrum, to our relationship with the natural order at the other. This is including inter alia family law, civil law, commercial law and environmental law. Regarding environmental law, Islamic jurisprudence contains regulations concerning the conservation and allocation of scarce water resources; it has rules for the conservation of land with special zones of graded use; it has special rules for the establishment of rangelands, wetlands, green belts and also wildlife protection and conservation.
The concern for the environment is instilled in every level of society, when the Qur’an uses an environmental theme in exhorting mankind to be moderate –
“it is He who produces gardens, both cultivated and wild, and palm trees and crops of diverse kinds and olives and pomegranates both similar and dissimilar. Eat of their fruits when they bear fruits and pay their dues on the days of their harvest, and do not be profligate. He does not love the profligate” (Holy Qur’an 6:142)
– This applies to Muslims in their personal and societal sphere. So they would be careful not to litter unduly nor would they ignore requests to effectively utilise recycling units in their community. From its earliest years the Islamic Caliphate (state) had an established agency known as the hisba whose specific task was to protect the people through promoting the establishment of good and forbidding the wrong-doing. This agency is headed by a Qadi Hisba who functions like a chief inspector of weights and measures, as well as a chief public health officer rolled into one. In a modern sense this could also be described as an environmental inspectorate, checking that local businesses are complying with stringent pollution control methods.
There is a restricted right to public property.
• Abuse of rights is prohibited and penalized.
• There are rights to the benefits derived from natural resources held in common.
• Scarce resource utilization is controlled.
• People who reclaim or revive land have a right to ownership.
• Land grants may be made by the state for reclamation and development.
• Land may be leased for its usufruct by the state for its reclamation and development.
• Special reserves (hima) may be established by the state for use as conservation zones.
• The state may establish inviolable zones (al-hareem) where use is prohibited or restricted.
These are only a few examples of the legislative principles that would be institutionalised in an Islamic model. But what of environmental changes that transcend the boundaries of nation states? This can be no better exemplified than with global warming, an issue that highlights the true inability if western models to propound any meaningful solution, but given a chance to the Islamic model, could well be our last hope.

Global Warming
Withholding from citing extreme examples, the discussion on global warming and its effects, has taken a front seat in the prologue of human endeavours that alter the face of our planet. A catalogue of possible catastrophes has been presented repeatedly by workshops, conferences, summits and even big-budget Hollywood films. Even though there are some circles that dismiss global warming as a scientific fallacy or a product of estranged environmentalists hell-bent on having their way, there is a growing body of evidence pointing to actual anthropogenic changes that are altering the chemistry of the atmosphere. [Interesting to note is that the skeptics of global warming are largely from institutes that originate in the US, who are also funded by Exxon Mobil].
In response to this growing concern, many of the world’s nations have tried for the past two decades to find a resolution to this problem. Through many stalled conferences, finally a framework was devised that would be the starting point for world healing to begin – the much vaunted Kyoto Treaty.
Optimists praise the treaty for being a beginning, a beginning that could save our grandchildren. Sadly it’s a beginning that’s been crippled from the start, as it is, the future of the treaty shows little chance of it walking, let alone racing for the future. Behind the glaze of statistics, the desired result of the Kyoto protocol is to only reduce greenhouse gas emissions for ratified countries to 1% percent below 1990 levels (and this would only be an attempt to ‘stabilize’ the atmosphere). This ignores the fact that two of the fastest developing countries – India and China – are not included in the framework. While the largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, the US, has decided to not even ratify the treaty. Not surprising, as US policy is no stranger to being a danger to humanity, in fact any act of altruism by the US would come as a shock to many. Still the question remains as to how the problem of global warming can be resolved.
Fortunately, technical solutions exist that can drastically reduce our output of gases that have a high global warming potential. Advanced gas scrubbers and carbon capture units can be retro-fitted to thermal (fossil-fuel) plants. While matured renewable energy power plants in the form of wind and solar can sufficiently help reduce the base-load demand of even the most industrialised of nations. With further research and investment, upcoming renewable energy technologies in the form of marine current turbines, wave power and the sustained use of bio-energy could solve world energy woes and provide an effective strategy to the near elimination of greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, much of this is still not being realised. Even with heightened interest in renewable technologies, progress is still seen as achingly slow, especially in relation to those who even have a passing interest in saving the world. Primarily the problem lies with how nations view how great a necessity it is solve the crisis of global warming. As it stands, even with the enforcement of the Kyoto Protocol and the introduction of Carbon taxes and Green levies, the overriding factor has been economic concerns. Since profits form the motive in investment, many have relegated renewable energy technologies to the sidelines, as the technologies are new, seen as capital intensive and viewed as not having the security of supply that fossil fuels have.
But even in Capitalist states, (perceived) vital issues often take precedence even if economic sanctity is at stake. Two simple examples can illustrate this. The defence budget of many Western nations and the nuclear industry. Despite demonstrating that it has “No Capability”, the US’s ‘Star Wars’ program has an annual budget of nearly $10 billion, a tenth of this amount would be required to power the city of London through wind turbines alone. While the UK in the middle of the last century faced with a growing energy shortage due to the expanse of its industries, resorted to the costly building of nuclear power plants. Even during the 80’s the British government provided subsidies to the tune of £6 billion (through the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation) to the ailing nuclear industry. Profit was not a concern since energy production was viewed as a state enterprise, providing a pressing need demanded and required by the people.
If we take global warming to be the result of rapid industrialization with the sole concern of profit making. If we say that there exist technologies and techniques that allow the development of clean low-emission industrial development, but they just cost more. Then we say that the Islamic approach is to adopt the more costly but cleaner technologies as capitalism is not the basis of Islamic thinking.

Conclusion
There may be some of you who are reading this article, wondering why some of the contentious issues raised have been given such a brief treatment. This article was not meant to be an elaborate articulation, indeed we will hopefully have occasion for that later. Rather, its scope was meant to widen the debate on how mankind is to approach the pressing problems the world faces, more so it is meant for us to take a fresh evaluation in this approach. Arguably, global warming is not the only threat we face from our own actions and inactions; AIDS, Malaria and dire poverty are just a few of the global tragedies that nations have failed to resolve despite the resources, expertise and wealth which exist in abundance.
There used to be a schizoid tendency in Muslim societies whereby it strove to maintain its deep attachment to Islam, but it persisted in tasting the fruits of the current order. With praise to the All-Mighty this is now changing, with a growing consensus amongst Muslim masses that the ruling by Islamic governance is a command they have ignored for far too long.

Saad Mannan, Reading University

This piece is taken from the website of Imam Reza Network. 

See on-line at: http://www.imamreza.net/eng/imamreza.php?print=4154

 

Ecology and Islamic Values – IV

March 21, 2010

Fitrah, “Deep primordial nature”

 

 

 

 

As opposed to certain popular doctrines, which hold that the cosmos is flawed and human nature is basically bad, Islam tells us that our deepest nature is beautiful, harmonious and right. It is only ignorance and bad choices, not an original built-in flaw, that can prevent us from realizing the fullest fruits of our Fitrah, our beautiful deepest human nature, which is a gift from Allaah. In other words, we were made to live in harmony with ourselves and our world. We simply have to pursue the knowledge, and make the decisions, that will allow us to do so. The Quran and Sunnah, designed to awaken the built-in rational and intuitive knowledge of our Fitrah, contain the gist of the knowledge we need. The Quran and Sunnah can be supplemented but not replaced by instrumental reason and empirical science. A world guided by this viewpoint will avoid the errors of original sin and unbridled science, and put all its efforts into establishing and maintaining the harmony between humans, creation, and the Creator that is the deepest essence and potential of our humanity.

 

 

Corruption upon the earth”

 

 

 

The Quran incessantly warns us against spoliation and corruption. One aspect of this corruption, besides the spiritual one, is the corruption

 

of the earth—the environment, the animal species, and the plants. The two forms of corruption are closely related. The following passage seems especially appropriate to today’s environmental dilemma, which is closely linked to humanity’s spiritual dilemma. Allaah Says (what means): “Corruption is spread over land and sea/from what men have done to themselves/that they may taste a little of what they have done: /They may haply come back (to the right path)./Say: “Travel on the earth and see/how came the end of those before you.” [Quran, 30:4l–42]

 

 

 

If we accept Allaah’s invitation and travel around the earth, we will see the ruins of countless civilizations that fell due to some combination of spiritual corruption and environmental heedlessness. The highly advanced Mayan civilization, for example, crumbled in just a few generations, as unsustainable farming practices coincided with an explosion of ever-bloodier warfare aimed at gaining captives for human sacrifice.

 

 

 

Variations on this theme have been repeated countless times throughout 10,000 years of human history.

 

 Jared Diamond, in a new book called COLLAPSE: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, suggests that today’s industrial-capitalist civilization seems on the brink of following its predecessors into oblivion through environmental degradation. But Diamond does not fully appreciate the spiritual dimension of the problem. The Quranic passage quoted above continues: “Most of them (the ruined civilizations) were idolaters. / So set your face towards the straight path before the day arrives from God which is irreversible.” Various forms of idolatry whether warfare for egotistical ends and human sacrifice to pagan idols, or the worship of money, consumer goods, social status, and shiny erotic televised images—are the root cause of natural catastrophes. To save ourselves and our communities we must turn toward the straight path, the path laid out with unsurpassed clarity in the Quran, before our situation becomes irreversible. There are signs that our environmental situation (not to speak of our moral situation) may soon become irreversible. British scientist Steven Hawking has warned that as little as a 7 degree rise in global temperatures could set off a negative feedback loop that would send temperatures sky-rocketing until the earth becomes as the boiling, molten surface of Venus, completely inhospitable to any form of life. Meanwhile, just last month, a new global warming study suggested that previous estimates were far too optimistic, and that the world is likely to experience a global 10 degree temperature jump within the next century. The London Independent headline for January 23rd, 2005 puts it starkly: Global warming approaching point of no return, warns leading climate expert.

 

(See: http://copvcia.com/free/ww3/012705_ g1oba1_warming.shtml(.

 

 

 

Look around us at the beautiful life forms that Allaah has created as signs pointing to their creator, and contemplate the potential transformation of this jewel of a world into a ball of molten toxic waste. We must resist wastefulness, egotistic consumerism and disregard for the creation around us. We must realize that our commitment to Allaah requires us to be conscious and protective of our environment and merciful towards animals. We must use the strength of our religion to rise proudly to the defense of our Ummah and the planet that is its home.

 

 

 

Source: Al Jumu’ah Vol. 16 Issue 12

 

Tuesday : 13/09/2005
This piece is taken from the website IslamWeb.
See on-line at: http://www.islamweb.net/VER2/engblue/article.php?lang=E&id=101579

Etiquette Towards Animals

March 21, 2010

Islamic guidelines:

A Muslim considers most animals to be deserving of a certain level of respect as creatures. He shows mercy to them due to the mercy of Allaah upon them. He also adheres to the following manners with respect to them, which are part of the etiquettes that Islam encourages Muslims to fulfill:

1. A Muslim feeds or gives water to an animal if he finds it hungry or thirsty. This is based on the Messenger’s statement: ”There is a reward (for serving) everything with a moist liver (that is, every living creature).” [Ahmad]

2. A Muslim should have compassion and mercy towards animals. The Prophet said: “Whoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

He said in other narration: “Have mercy toward those on the Earth and The One above the Heavens will have mercy on you.” [At-Tabaraani]

The Prophet himself set the best example in this regard. When he saw a group of people using a live animal for archery target practice, he said: “May Allaah curse the one who uses any creature with a soul as a target.” [Muslim]

Once a bird was distressed because someone had taken its young from her nest. Allaah’s Messenger then said: “Who has distressed this one because of its baby. Return its baby to her.” [Abu Daawood]

3. The Muslim must be kind to the animal, even when he is about to slaughter it. Allaah’s Messenger has said: “Verily, Allaah has prescribed excellence in all things. Thus, if you kill, kill in a kind manner. If you slaughter, slaughter in a kind manner. Each of you should sharpen his blade and spare suffering to the animal he is slaughtering.” [Muslim]

4. A Muslim should never torture an animal by any means of torture, such as beating it, making it carry more than it can handle, mutilating it or burning it by a fire. The Prophet also prohibited the tying down of animals until they die. Allaah’s Messenger once said: “A woman entered the Hell-fire because of a cat that she tied down. She neither fed it nor let it free to eat the insects of the earth until it died.” [Al-Bukhaari]

Allaah’s Messenger once passed by an anthill that had been burnt to the ground and he said: “It is not becoming that anyone should punish by fire except the Lord of the Fire.” [Abu Daawood]

However, it is permissible to kill the harmful animals, such as voracious dogs, wolves, snakes, scorpions, rats etc. This is based on the Prophet’s statement: “Five noxious or harmful animals are to be killed whether or not one is in the state of pilgrimage: the snake, the speckled raven that has whiteness either on its back or stomach, the rat, the voracious dog and the kite (a bird similar to a hawk).” [Muslim]

It is also confirmed from Allaah’s Messenger that he cursed the scorpion and killed it. [Al-Bayhaqi]

Other related matters:

1. It is allowed to brand grazing animals in their ears for some overriding need. The Prophet was seen branding, by his own hand, the camels given in charity. As for other than camels, sheep, goats and cows, it is not allowed to brand them. The Prophet saw a donkey branded on his face and said: “May Allaah curse the one who branded that (donkey) on its face.” [Muslim]

2. One must recognize the right of Allaah concerning his animals by paying the Zakaah due on them if they are from the animals concerning which one must pay Zakaah.

3. One must not become so preoccupied with animals or playing with them that one disobeys Allaah, or does not remember Allaah properly. Allaah has said, (what means): “O you who believe! Let not your properties or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allaah.” [Quran 63:9]

Allaah’s Messenger stated concerning horses: “A horse may be kept for one of three reasons. For one man, it may be a source of reward, for another it may be a source of living and yet for another it may be a sinful burden. As for the one for whom it is a source of reward, he is the one who keeps his horse for the sake of Jihaad in Allaah’s cause (i.e. fighting); he ties it with a long rope in a pasture or in a garden. So whatever its rope allows it to eat will be regarded as good, rewardable deeds (for its owner). And if it breaks off its rope and jumps over one or two hillocks, even its dung will be considered among his good deeds. A horse is a shelter for the one who keeps it so that he may earn his living honestly and takes it as a refuge to keep him from following forbidden means. (The third is) a horse is a sinful burden for him who keeps it out of pretense and show and with the intention of harming Muslims.” [Al-Bukhaari]

These are, in general, the etiquettes that a Muslim should adhere to with respect to animals, out of obedience to Allaah and His Messenger and in adherence to what the Islamic law has ordered him… the Sharee’ah of mercy… the Sharee’ah of general goodness for all creatures, be they human or animal.

Sunday : 21/06/2009

This piece is taken from the website IslamWeb.

See on-line at: http://english.islamweb.net/ver2/engblue/article.php?lang=E&id=67544

Ecology and Islamic Values – III

March 21, 2010

“Tawheed” and ‘Adl, “Unity” and ‘Justice”

 

 

 

Allah’s Tawheed or Unity is central to the Quranic message, and with that unity comes perfect justice. The idea that everything in this world, indeed everything in all of the many worlds that surround us in space and time, and perhaps other dimensions as well, stems from a single source, is a powerful message of unity. Since all of us, and everything around us, are creations of the one Creator – Allaah, we must respect the hidden unity that links the many to The One, and recognize that whatever we do to that which is outside of ourselves, we are ultimately doing to ourselves. If we abuse other people, we abuse ourselves—though the full effects of that abuse may not be apparent until the last day. Likewise, if we abuse nature, we also abuse ourselves, and the consequences of that abuse will in the end be fully felt, and perfect justice dispensed by Allaah when we return to Him. Those who reject this knowledge rationalize their behavior by saying, “Well, I’m not going to curb my wasteful lifestyle now, because this catastrophe you’re predicting probably won’t happen during my lifetime.” They do not believe that they will suffer the full consequences of their own actions. But the Quran stands as a clear warning that this is not the case, amplifying the inner voice of conscience Allaah built into our deepest nature: “Then each will see what he had done in the past; and they will turn to Allaah, their true Lord, and all the lies they had fabricated will be of no avail to them.” [Quran, 10:30]

 

Zuhd, “Renunciation, asceticism”

 

 

 

Zuhd is an especially hard word to translate into English because the closest cognate, asceticism, carries traces of Christian attempts to “mortify the flesh.” Mortification implies self-torture aimed at making us feel revulsion for our physical, earthbound existence. Islam, however, has no such tradition of self-torture. Instead, Zuhd describes a balanced, judicious approach to abstaining from excesses of ease, comfort and pleasure-seeking, in order to detach the soul from potential addictions and instead turn towards Allaah. The wise detachment of Zuhd is meant to be practiced not just by a few self-flagellating monks in hair shirts, but by each and every Muslim. That is why Ramadhaan is a universal requirement, not an option: Fasting is a perfect lesson in moderation and self-control, as well as compassion for the less-fortunate. This moderate, universal Zuhd could, Allaah willing, help us create a genuinely sustainable world, by healing the current order at both the spiritual and physical levels. (These two levels, of course, are intimately connected.) Zuhd teaches us that giving up our excesses is a blessing, not a curse—especially if we do it voluntarily, rather than waiting for Allaah-given natural limits to do it for us. In practicing Zuhd, we are following a very important Sunnah. Though the leader of a powerful, rapidly-expanding community, the Prophet Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) , lived and died in a small, hardly-furnished house, leaving behind virtually no material possessions. He was moderate in his consumption of food and drink, careful not to waste a drop of water when performing ablutions, fasted frequently, and prayed devoutly late into the night. Let us pray that humanity soon discovers the wisdom of his example.

 

 

 

Fardh, “Obligation”

 

 

 

Islam prescribes certain specific obligations: prayer, fasting, bearing witness that there is none worthy of worship but Allaah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allaah, paying alms giving, and performing pilgrimage are the best known. fardh has been viewed by some scholars as involving general as well as specific obligations, that is, obligations from Allaah that may not be specific enough to be enforceable by the community: being charitable, just, and merciful, remembering Allaah, putting ones family, community, and planet ahead of oneself, and so on could be viewed as obligations in the general sense. In the more common, specifically legal sense of fardgh, there are obligations incumbent on everyone (fardh al-‘ayn) and others that can be fulfilled for the whole community by some of its members (fardh al-kifaayah). Because these obligations are from Allaah, they demand to be taken seriously. Thus the Islamic world-view emphasizes the notion of obligation, in contrast to the Western preoccupation with individualism and rights at the expense of obligations and responsibilities. The notion of obligation is obviously essential to any serious attempt to save our environment. If we are governed by the principle of individual “rights” we will not want to infringe on anyone’s “right” to consume more and more material goods—and to cut down forests, dig mines, exterminate animals, spew pollutants, and ravage ecosystems in pursuit of those goods. An ethic built on obligations before rights, like the Islamic ethic, seems better suited to a world in which is more than six billion people pursuing their “right” to unlimited material consumption will spell doom for the planet as a whole. In particular, the obligation of the fortunate to care for the less fortunate must be universally acknowledged if we are to limit planetary consumption in a humane, rational manner. Clearly the Islamic ethic of obligation is well suited to saving the world by correcting the unbalanced Western, and especially American, ethic of “rights” whose bottom line is the right of the wealthy and powerful to unlimited consumption of the planet’s resources.

 

 

 

To Be Concluded

 

Tuesday : 13/09/2005

 

This piece is taken from the website IslamWeb.

See on-line at: http://english.islamweb.net/ver2/archive/article.php?lang=E&id=101578

Ecology and Islamic Values – II

March 21, 2010

Living with and loving Allaah’s Creation

 

 

 

Let us think about some of the ways that Islam’s spiritual orientation and its concrete rules for social and economic life, offer potential solutions to concrete problems that face us.

 

 

 

Islam asks us to submit to Allaah, to bend toward our creator as a reed bends in the wind. Put in another way, this suggests we should live with divinely-ordained nature, not opposed to it. We should not strive to create radically artificial environments, but instead adapt ourselves more flexibly to the natural environments we have. Allaah has made this easy for us in many ways: We have been given a lunar calendar to keep us in touch with the natural lunar rhythms, and a daily time-keeping system based on the sun, whose position is the key to the timing of the five daily. By orienting our time-frame around these divinely provided systems, we automatically move in harmony with the solar and lunar rhythms that are, according to the Quran, among the most powerful signs of Allaah.

 

 

 

At a more mundane level, we have to ask ourselves questions like: Does living in harmony with nature mean that we should give up air conditioning? Certainly if we attain gratitude and inner peace by the grace of Allaah, we will be less desperate to make every last detail of our physical existence as comfortable and luxurious as possible. Since air conditioning will always be a luxury that only a tiny percentage of the world’s population will ever be able to afford, perhaps we should at least be frugal (and grateful) in our use of it, and try to use our wealth to feed our hungry fellow human beings. Likewise, we should build modestly with local, natural materials, and eat modestly with locally-grown, natural foods. We should use mechanical transport with moderation, relying as much as possible on such healthy, pollution-free, non-fossil-fuel burning means as walking and bicycling, and as little as possible on private auto-mobiles.

 

 

 

Social and Political Activism

 

 

 

None of these individual actions, however, will save the planet if it continues to be dominated by ruthless exploiters. We need to become Islamic-environmental activists, organizing and agitating for both Islamic and environmental causes and showing how the two are closely linked. By demonstrating concern for our planet, and a commitment to finding solutions, we will be spreading a positive image of Islam to all. Together, the rising army of eco-warriors and the awakening Muslim Ummah will carry the green banners of Islam and environmentalism to every corner of the planet, creating the basis for the sustainable, balanced, harmonious society of the future.

 

 

 

Quranic Concepts: The Deepest, Purest Source of Environmental Wisdom

 

 

 

Meezaan “Balance”

 

 

 

Literally “the scale of balance.” The word Meezaan expresses the harmony of Allaah’s creation. It expresses the perfect equilibrium and absolute justice of creation, which humans, as successors are obliged to help maintain. Allaah Says (what means): “The sun and moon revolve to a reckoning/and the grasses and trees bow in adoration/He raised the sky and set the balance/so that none may transgress against the balance.” [Quran, 55:5-8] Humans must help maintain the cosmic balance by acting justly toward nature as well as toward each other. The built environment and the natural environment should be in perfect harmony, as suggested by the fact that Meezaan also means, “ground design” in architecture. Traditional Islamic architecture, especially masjid architecture, harmonizes building, landscape and sky in many marvelous ways. The most famous and influential 20th century architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, drew heavily on traditional Islamic architecture as he revolutionized Western architecture. Wright refused to build the usual rectangular boxes that squat like alien presences on the landscape. Instead, he used graceful Islamic-derived forms to harmonize and balance indoors with outdoors, building with landscape, and humanity with the rest of creation.

 

 

 

Ayah, “Sign”

 

 The word ayah means, “sign” as well as “Quranic verse.” The first way the early Muslims recognized that the Quran is the word of Allaah was due to the miraculous beauty of its verses. Likewise the Quran invites us to look at the beautiful world around us as a sign pointing to its Creator. We are meant to “read” these signs and gain ever-deeper knowledge and appreciation both of creation itself, and especially of the Creator Who set such signs before us. The Quranic revelation began with the command “iqra'”, “read!” This commanded Allaah’s last messenger, Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) , to begin reading/reciting the words of Allaah. It also commanded the people to whom the message was sent to become literate—and within a few generations Arabic, with the Quran as its central influence, had become the world’s leading written medium of expression. Finally, at the most general level, “iqra’!” commanded all humans to “read” the book of Allaah’s creation to decipher its truth and beauty, which always points beyond itself toward its Creator. If we look at the world around us as an ever-shifting panorama of signs of Allaah, rather than as a meaningless heap of dumb brute matter, we will contemplate it with awe and act as cautious and respectful stewards rather than hyperactive, transgressive exploiters.

 

 

 

Haraam, “Forbidden, Off-Limits”

 

 

 

The concept of Haraam, whose legal meaning is “forbidden,” suggests the necessity of setting limits that must not be transgressed. Traditionally the “Haraam” was the intimate part of the house which was off-limits to strangers and casual visitors. Westerners, colonialists, wishing to transgress whatever limits they found in the lands they invaded, projected their own fantasies upon the private areas of the Muslim home, turning this innocent word into the salacious English word “Haraam.” But the original word Haraam, with its implication that limits sometimes need to be drawn, is the word Western culture really needs to borrow from Islam. Among the places where limits need to be drawn, and spaces set aside, are the earth’s remaining natural areas. Nature parks, game preserves, wilderness areas, and so on are absolutely essential to the future of our planet. Yet when a secular government says, “Don’t transgress in this area because the law says so”, many people, driven by greed or desperation, will not listen. Under an Islamic system, when an area is declared Haraam, and Quranic precepts invoked to protect it, Muslims will be much more likely to sacrifice their immediate self-interest and respect the lines that must not be crossed. This is just one example of how sacred law, which touches our hearts and carries Allaah’s imprimatur, is more effective than secular law, which requires ever-greater armies of ever-more-corrupt police, soldiers, bureaucrats and prisons to try to enforce it. In the absence of Allaah’s guidance, man imagines himself self-sufficient and is driven to violate limits. Allaah Says (what means): “No! (But) indeed, man transgresses, because he sees himself self-sufficient. Indeed, to your Lord is the return.” [Quran, 96:6-8]. When humans understand that they are not self-sufficient, but utterly helpless and dependent on a marvelously beautiful and unimaginably complex natural world—a natural world which, like us, is utterly dependent on Allaah for the tiniest nanosecond or smallest subatomic particle of its existence—they will be overtaken by awe and accept the limits that sustain the balance (meezaan) of Allaah’s creation.

 

 

 

To Be Continued

 

Monday : 12/09/2005

 

This piece is taken from the website IslamWeb.

See on-line at: http://english.islamweb.net/ver2/archive/article.php?lang=E&id=101577