Muslim Views . June 2017
Our connection to the Creator demands care for the environment World Environment Day, spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme, is commemorated annually on June 5 to raise global awareness to take positive action to protect the environment. The theme for World Environment Day 2017 was ‘Connecting People to Nature’. DR FATIMA HENDRICKS, a student at Madina Institute, in Atlanta, USA, argues that our connection to Allah and His creation will give meaning to our civic responsibility in caring for the environment.
THE World Environment Day (WED) theme requires deep reflection, and challenges us as Muslims to interrogate our own role in narrowing the gap between civic responsibility and environmental protection and promotion but in ways that require not only an overhaul of counter-productive environmental attitudes but a critique of ourselves and our communities’ engagements with connectivity to nature on a number of levels. It is significant that the WED theme utilises the word ‘connecting’ because by its use there is a profound reference to interaction and humanity’s connection or disconnection to self, God, each other and the environment. The Holy Quran, in Surah Az Zalzala, describes this powerful,
The receding level of Theewaterskloof Dam in the Western Cape, exposes the rocks and debris that used to lie underwater. The writer argues that it is our interpersonal connection to Allah’s creation that sustains campaigns such as saving water in an effort to protect the environment. Photo courtesy Where The Light Is: Photography JON KERRIN
yet intimate inter-connectivity between the human being and the earth. Surah Az Zalzala describes the convulsions of the earth and the parallel convulsions of human beings as each casts out its burdens on the day the debts are due. It describes a day when the earth will narrate whatever happened to her, when the earth is shaken with utmost shaking, casting out her burdens from within and relating whatever happened to her. The surah ends with a powerful description when groups will be shown their deeds and whoever has done an atom’s weight of good or its converse seeing it. As a reflection, it is a significant
reminder that the goodness or evil of the human being in obedience or disobedience to God, in connection or disconnection to God, the Creator of Connectedness, impacts on our ability for environmental protection and promotion. Therefore, at a fundamental level, in this interdependent universe, we need to critically reflect on where the pressure points of disconnection by Muslims related to the environment are and how we can act as catalysts for change. We have become accustomed to binary thinking in terms of the lines of separation between us and the environment. However, we are inextricably part of the environment in the air we breathe, the earth we till, the
water we bathe in and the earth we build our lives on. It is apparent that the significant degradation by human beings of our environment is linked to a symptom of the intrapersonal disconnection to God. We are all too familiar with Hadith Qudsi – hadith of Jibreel – where ihsaan is defined as ‘to worship God as though you see Him, and if you cannot see Him then indeed He sees you’ (Al-Bukhari and Al-Muslim). Hence the need for introspection in terms of how we as Muslims can claim ihsaan yet continue to play our role in the depletion of water resources, the destruction of ecosystems, habitat destruction, pollution and the resultant extinction of our wildlife. As a sign of our times, even our bees are disappearing, with the bumble bee on the endangered list and contributing factors for colony collapse being named as toxins, pesticides and fungicides, changing weather conditions and even possibly wi-fi. It is ironic that in the surah of the bees (Surah Al-Nahl: 90) God demands of us higher levels of behaviour: ‘Allah commands justice, (ihsan) the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you that you may receive admonition.’ From this verse it is clear that Islam is clear in its requirement for goodness and harmony in the land. In fact, the Holy Quran is rich in descriptions of the beauty of
God’s creations, His majestic artistry, oaths involving nature, not to mention guidelines for how to live off the land in a balanced way, with water as a life-giving theme. Even the longest oath (kasm) in the Holy Quran, in Surah AshShams, calls on us to reflect on Allah’s splendid creations where just as the sun and moon, day and night, earth and sky are different from each other in results and effects, so too are good and evil different from each other and their effects. In conclusion, the theme for World Environment Day 2017 of ‘Connecting People to Nature’ is compelling if we as Muslims are able to step up to the challenge for personal and communal renewals of our faith. While it may be easy to make the superficial, all too familiar suggestions to save water when making wudu, to recycle, to not litter etc., we need to examine the root cause of why these behavioural changes do not last long. The key audit is based on our intrapersonal connections to God and our interpersonal relations to His creation, which ultimately is a call to reconnection to the Holy Quran and the authentic Sunnah. It is only in our personal and community renewals and transformations that we will start to see traction in narrowing the gap between civic responsibility and environmental protection and promotion. This article has been endorsed by Shaikh Dr Muhammad Bin Yahya Al-Ninowy
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