Posts Tagged ‘ecology’

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
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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

Ecology and Islamic Values – I

March 21, 2010

I could understand “do not drink the water.” Or even “no swimming—polluted water.” But “do not touch the water”!? Something about that sign, and the reality it pointed to seemed deeply, irrevocably wrong. The fact that it was the nearest campground to Disneyland somehow made the whole situation even creepier.

 

The memory of that toxic waste dump campground remained with me for years. I gradually realized that the place was not just the perfect anti-campground, but also an image of anti-paradise: a place where the flowing water is too filthy to be used to purify ourselves before prayer, and where the natural plants and creatures are poisoned and dying. The Quran tells us that the Paradise promised to believers, is a garden with rivers flowing beneath. It is filled with fruits and flowers and growing things, offering nectar better than the finest earthly wine, and beauties and pleasures beyond earthly imagination. While we can never create such a perfect paradise on earth, Muslim architects, land-use planners and artists have sometimes used this image as a model for their efforts to preserve and celebrate the natural beauty of creation. Why not? The Quran tells us that all of nature is a sign of Allaah, reflecting some of His mercy and magnificence.

 

Indeed, all of nature, in the Islamic view, is in a state of continuous worship. Trees and grasses, fish and animals, are all bending in a sweet, invisible breeze that wafts their worship back toward their creator. Human beings can learn from this process and seek harmony with it by joining creation in worship of the Lord of all worlds and creation. Or else, they can obstinately rebel, imagining themselves cut off and self-sufficient, and persist in transgressing the bounds that Allaah has set for them until the inevitable payment comes due.

 

In contrast to the prevailing view of nature in the West as a savage, fallen chaos that must be tamed by conquest, Islam insists that nature is respected and invites humans to learn from it and join it in harmonious coexistence.

 

The polluted-campground experience awakened me to the fact that something is very wrong with the way of life that produced such a place, and that Islam holds the keys to understanding the root causes and solutions of our current environmental dilemma. It convinced me that we Muslims should be putting Islamic environmental activism at the very top of our social and personal agenda. Our planet is in a state of environmental crisis, and as Muslims we are the custodians of Allaah’s last revelation, a revelation that gives humanity the knowledge and inspiration it needs to live in peace and harmony—in this life and the next.

 

The Quranic solution to the problem of environment is, in a word, holistic and comprehensive. Living a truly Islamic life requires avoiding the evils of extravagance and the insanity of materialism, and that we attain harmony with our surroundings and have compassion for other creatures.

 

It all begins, however, with the right orientation towards life: complete submission to Allaah, The One Creator of all, and that this submission should be marked by pious awe, loving gratitude, inner peace, the struggle to do good, and the constant awareness that Allaah is greater than any aspect of His creation. The Quranic orientation provides the key to restoring the lost balance between humans, nature, and The One who created both (i.e .Allaah)

 

Materialists and atheists say that nothing is sacred, which implies that there are no limits to what humans can do to gratify their material desires. Materialist culture, as my wise humanities professor once said, has two distinguishing characteristics: A tremendous drive to achieve more and more control over the natural world, and an equally energetic drive to re-make and perfect human society.

 

Humans as trustees and keepers of the Earth

 

Islam teaches that we are the successors and trustees of Allaah on this beautiful earth, not prisoners in a flawed world that needs to be radically re-made. As successors, our task is to preserve and appreciate the beauty and goodness we find, in grateful submission to its Creator. All of our planet’s scientists are needed for a more obvious and simple task: Taking care of the planet Allaah has given us, and taking care of our fellow human beings. This means finding ways to live, and live well, while expending far less physical energy, and making far less obtrusive changes to our physical environment, than is customary today. It means finding ways to redistribute the planet’s wealth more equitably, in the environment of zero economic growth or even negative growth that will surely be upon us in just a few short years, when oil production peaks and starts to decline.

 

“Allaah loves not the wasters”

 

So, too, is the Islamic injunction: “Waste not!” Both Quran and Sunnah make it absolutely clear that avoiding waste and prodigality is a matter of the highest importance. For example, Allaah Says (what means) : “Do not be extravagant, for Allaah does not love the wasteful” [Quran, 96:141]. And He Says (what means): “But waste not by excess, for Allaah loves not the wasters” [Quran, 7:31]. And (what means): “Squander not in the manner of a spendthrift. For wasters are the brothers of the Satan, and the Satan is to his Lord ungrateful” [Quran, 17:26-27]. Here we see that the root of wasting is ingratitude: those who respond to the marvelous beauty and bounty of Allaah with gratitude and amazement are happy with a little, while the ungrateful one is never satisfied no matter how much he has, so he abandons himself to an ever-increasing cycle of consumption and waste. If humanity is to survive, it will have to move from the spiritual state of ingratitude to gratitude and give up its wasteful ways, as the Quran urges.

 

Conserving food and water

 

Along with this Quranic teaching, the Sunnah (prophetic tradition) provides us with the best example of living in a state of gratitude and avoiding waste. The Prophet Muhammad was famous for his attention to conserving and avoiding waste. He was careful not to waste a crumb of food, licking the last morsel from the utensils so that nothing would go to waste. He urged believers to avoid using more water than necessary when performing an act of worship like ablution. If we must be careful not to waste a drop of water in our ablutions, how much more necessary must it be to avoid waste in less-important activities.

 

Unfortunately the dominant way of life among well-off people everywhere, especially in the West, is marked by unbelievable waste and extravagance. We eat more than what is good for us, buy things we do not really need, throw away things that either still work or could be repaired, buy over-sized large vehicles and drive short distances instead of walking or bicycling, build larger houses than we need and heat and cool them far beyond minimal comfort standards, waste huge amounts of water maintaining herbicide-sprinkled lawns and golf courses, and so on. In perhaps the single most absurd display of extravagance in all history, we are, at the USA, currently burning up fossil fuels at a rate that will ensure that our economy, our environment, or both will completely collapse in the near future. (See: peakoil.com for details.) This lunatic way of life, whose seductive pleasures and comforts disguise its utter madness, its complete lack of sustainability, was not developed by Muslims.

 

To be true to our religion, we must change our ways, and make an effort to conserve, educate, and build alternative institutions to mitigate and help cope with the coming economic and environmental meltdown, preserve and strengthen of our Islamic communities and institutions,and think about how they can be of service in the struggle to help humanity exercise responsible stewardship over our corner of creation.

 

Ecology and Islamic values -II

Ecology and Islamic values – III

 

Sunday : 19/07/2009

This piece is taken from the website IslamWeb.

See on-line at: http://english.islamweb.net/ver2/engblue/article.php?lang=E&id=101557