On the issue of environmentalism, Islam really does not address it explicitly in the modern discourse. Thus this essay is not about recycling, nor about greenhouse gases, nor about pollution. Its not about preservation, nor conservation. The religion of Islam is not about these things. The traditional texts won't address the issue of the environment in these terms, most likely because these are new terms.
However, we do find in the Quran, in many verses, the concept that God, Allah in Arabic, has subjugated the Earth for our use. We need to pay attention here, it was subjugated to us for our use, not our abuse. The current trend in the world towards the earth is abusive. The phenomena of global warming, the destruction of many ecosystems, the deforestation of many old growth forest lands, the polluting of the earth's oceans, the growing number of species becoming extinct or endangered, and the ever growing hole in the ozone layer of the atmosphere are all indications of abuse.
The first question that comes to my mind is 'why?'. Why are the humans being abusive to the earth? To understand this abusive behavior, it would help to study the history of the human belief system. Belief, or following a faith, is a critical element in a human's psyche and behavior. If we look back to the 19th century, we find a group of post-modern philosophers who had the idea that 'God did not create Man, but Man created God'. In other words God was a creation of man's intellect to answer the unanswerable questions that man had. In essence what was taking place was that God was being forsaken. The early part of the 19th century also ushered in an acceleration of science and a new understanding of the physical world. In other words, God and religion in general were being forsaken for the material world. Traditional religions like Islam, Christianity, and Judaism were being traded in for the New Religion of Science appearing on the horizon, with its gang of new priests, the Scientists.
This new religion was unraveling the mysteries of our world. New theories were developed and then an entire process was developed to prove or disprove these theories and once proved they were taken as "gospel", the Truth, etc… They learned how to harness the powers of the Natural Laws that were put in place by the Creator Himself with out acknowledging the fact that it was the Creator who gave us the ability to reason in that very manner. This new religion, in the hands of people like Darwin, even went as far as to say that there was no Creator at all. That we were just an accident that took place in a puddle somewhere. That with a random spark of electricity and some pond slime we started to evolve and transform ourselves into this thinking, feeling, articulating creatures that could balance and walk on two feet.
This trend lasted until the middle of the 20th century when man, in his arrogance, thinking that he had conquered the world and everything in it began to forsake the material world for the material alone. No longer was man interested in the workings of the natural world. No longer was man in awe of the intricacies of the world and the universe. Humans were only interested in how can we now use what we know of the natural laws for our own personal benefit. Thus the abuse of the earth started in the pursuit of one thing, Wealth. Nothing else mattered.
So now, we as human beings are simply trashing the earth where ever we go. We leave a wake of destruction and decimation as we rape the earth of her resources and we don't even care. How do we remedy this disease in our hearts? How do we stop the abusive raping of the earth?
The first step is to realize how we arrived at our present state. First God was forsaken, then the Earth was forsaken. Both were forsaken for things that are more ephemeral than the object forsaken for. The wealth that we pursue now and our selves will perish long before the Earth ever will and the earth will perish also. Only God will last forever. Second is to realize that the Earth is a creation of God. And because of that, we need to realize that it is sacred. Just like all other creations, each holds a sanctity that cannot be violated.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God upon him said, "The earth is your Mother, so take care of your Mother". The earth is our mother. We are made from the same substances found in the earth. We learn from revelation that God created the human from clay, a mixture of earth and water. The earth, our mother, feeds us from her grains, fruits, greens and animals. We drink from the water that springs forth from deep within her bosoms, and her tears that fall from the sky. And just like the relationship that we have with our human mothers, we need to listen to Mother Earth. We need to respond to her needs and take care of her as the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God upon him, commanded.
But when we look around today, we are left asking, does anyone care? Do we take care of our Mother, the Earth? Most of the people who inhabit the earth today do not care. Some appear to care. Some organizations appear to be on a mission to save the earth from an ecological catastrophe. I say appear because when one examines these groups in detail and with a discriminating eye, one finds that they really only care about themselves. They see the destruction of the earth's resources (translated: wealth) and the over population of the world (translated: consuming the resources) a threat to there own existence and nothing more. To combat this trend of abuse to the earth, they use a means of violence that endangers themselves and others as well as the earth in some cases. In their wanton attempt to save themselves from extinction, and we will all die at some point, they destroy the property of others. This only forces the expenditure of more resources in reconstructing what was damaged in the first place. One organization in particular touts itself as an organization dedicated to preserving the earth and encourages conservation and recycling etc… However, upon examining the tenets of this organization we find that it lobbies the Congress of the United States to curtail the immigration from other countries in to the U.S. Why? Looking deeper, we find that it also supports birth and population control programs. Why? This organization is worried about only one thing, the expenditure of resources. In other words 'too many people on the land translates to not enough wealth for the rest of us'. On the surface, this organization appears to be fighting to save the earth, but deep down, they are only worried about their own existence.
I fail to mention the names of these organizations for a very good reason, they have a noble mission. I do not want to see that mission jeopardized. I have the same mission, to re-establish the balance between the Earth and the humans. I am critical of the means by which these organizations attempt to fulfill their mission, not in the mission itself. The problem that they all suffer is sincerity of intention. Before we can save the earth, we have to care about the earth. We need to act out of compassion and mercy for the earth, not out of fear and anger over our own eminent demise or fear of poverty.
Continued in Part 2