Posted by: Dawud Israel | March 10, 2008

The Spirituality of Environmentalism in Islam

Note: Have a read through this twice. This is an important issue. 🙂

When I say Environmentalism most people conjure up images of recycling, green peace, global warming etc. This is sad because we Muslims have such a different understanding of the environment–so powerful and unique that we really need to pause and try and appreciate it.

Read this verse and you will see what I mean.

Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding.
Those who remember Allah standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying): “Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory to You! (Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners). Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire.
(Quran Surah Al-Imran 3:190-1)

Had Allah not given us the world around us with its beautiful nature, would we be able to realize that it had a Creator? That is to say, that if we were the only ones here on Earth–wouldn’t we think that we were ‘gods’? But Allah has put the world around us and shown us that there is One who is much greater than us.

But there is more to consider. The above ayah mentions that we are to contemplate upon the creation of the Heavens and Earth. How exactly are we to do this?

Say: “Behold all that is in the heavens and the earth,” but neither Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) nor warners benefit those who believe not.
(Quran Surah Yoonus 10:101)

Allah does not say “behold the Heavens and the Earth” but rather what is “in the Heavens and the Earth.” What does this mean?

This is one understanding of it: symbolism is not meant for simply books or fictional stories–but rather is meant to be understood in our own world, our own reality–that symbols are living metaphors placed before you and I, creatures of intellect, to learn from and contemplate. When we see events occurring they are not always arbitrary but Allah’s wisdom is at work and the existence of these small events or “daily narratives” is an elucidation and explanation of how we can better ourselves through them and come closer to Allah SWT.

This is hard to explain except through clear examples:

The sign of God’s love is to bestow three attributes on His lover: A
generosity like that of the sea, a kindness like that of the sun, and, a
humility like that of the earth.

– Bayazid Bistami

And here is an example from a Shia text (so for authenticity-lovers this may be an issue)

Prophet David (a.s.) asked Allah: “Oh Allah! All kings possess treasures; where is yours?” ‎

Almighty Allah replied: ‎

I possess a treasure which is greater than the sky, vaster than the Heaven’s
firmaments, ‎smells better than the perfumes of Paradise, and is beautiful than
the Celestial Kingdom. ‎

Its earth is enlightenment. Its sky is belief. Its sun is enthusiasm. Its moon is love. Its stars ‎are inspiration and attention towards Me. Its clouds are reason. Its rain is blessings. Its ‎fruits are obedience, and its yield is wisdom. ‎

My Treasure has four doors. The first one is the door of knowledge. The second one is the ‎door of reason. The third one is the door of patience, and the fourth one is the door of ‎contentment. Know that My Treasure is the heart of a believer.‎

‎~
Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, p-59

Do you see how these natural objects portray a symbolism so powerful that it can only be understood through them? In other words, nature can explain and teach more powerfully than any human can.

And this is the stuff wisdom is made of–understanding the “Nature” of nature and relating it to our own nature. Can it be done by command? Can a person sit down and create wisdom? No, it comes as an inspiration from Allah unexpectedly through contemplation.
Now, I ask you: Would we be able to gain the beauty of wisdom and understanding if Allah had not created the Heavens and the Earth? We know that we would not.
Now consider how people all around the world are destroying the Earth. Are we not losing wisdom and understanding? It’s one thing to lose nature by damaging the environment but to lose the wisdom that Allah teaches through it–means that we will eventually lose our understanding of ourselves and therefore a key avenue for coming closer to Allah SWT. That is why we must take a serious and hard look at preserving the environment.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk. Ameen.


Responses

  1. That quote from the text was really nice.

  2. […] Israel explains to us the importance of preserving the environment, citing verses from the Quran that urge us to contemplate what is in the heavens and the earth: […]

  3. Jazakullah Khairun. that was beautiful.

  4. As Salaamu ‘alaikum

    Great post. Certainly in agreement with what I was taught, namely that that ‘mankind’ has four responsibilities:
    to Allaah;
    to his fellow ‘man’;
    to the environment;
    to other creatures.

    wa Salaam

  5. […] gone Green I talked earlier regarding the environmentally friendly spirit of Islam. But I am easily not the greenest […]

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