Khutbah #3 – On Environmentalism

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Call on Climate Change –– Man’s Regency – On Planting Trees – Conservation of Water (and Energy) – Hima and Conservation Sites – Worship of Nature – Day of Judgement and Planting the Last Seed

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[In]al-hamdu Lillaahi [nahmaduhu wa] nasta’eenahu wa nastaghfiruhu, wa na’oodhu billaahi min shuroori anfusinaa [wa min sayi’aati a’maalinaa]. Man yahdih Illaahu falaa mudilla lahu wa man yudlil falaa haadiya lahu. Wa ashhadu an laa ilaaha ill-Allaah [wahdahu la sharika lahu] wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhu wa rasooluhu

[Verily] all praise is for Allah, we seek His help and His forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil of our own souls [and from our own bad actions]. Whomsoever Allah guides can none misguide, and whomsoever Allah misguides can none guide. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, [alone and without any partner] and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.

 “Yaa ayyuha’lladheena aamanu-ttaqu’Llaaha haqqa tuqaatihi wa laa tamootunna illaa wa antum muslimoon” [3:102]

“O you who believe! Fear Allah (by doing all that He has ordered and by abstaining from all that He has forbidden) as He should be feared. [Obey Him, be thankful to Him, and remember Him always], and die not except in a state of Islam (as Muslims) with complete submission to Allah.” [3:102]

 “Yaa ayyuha’n-naas uttaqu rabbakum alladhi khalaqakum min nafsin waahidatin wa khalaqa minhaa zawjahaa wa baththa minhumaa rijaalan katheeran wa nisaa’an wa’ttaqu-Llaah alladhi tasaa’aloona bihi wa’l-arhaama inna Allaaha kaana ‘alaykum raqeeban” [4:1]

“O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.” [4:1]

 “Yaa ayyahu’lladheena aamanu-ttaqu’Llaaha wa qooloo qawlan sadeedan. Yuslih Lakum ‘A’maalakum Wa Yaghfir Lakum Dhunoobakum Wa Man Yuti’i Allaaha Wa Rasoolahu Faqad Faaza Fawzaan ‘Azeemaan” [33:70-71]

“O you who believe! Keep your duty to Allah and fear Him, and speak (always) the truth. He will direct you to do righteous good deeds and will forgive you your sins. And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) he has indeed achieved a great achievement (i.e. he will be saved from the Hell-fire and made to enter Paradise).” [33:70-71]

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Asalam wa alaikum beloved brothers and respected sisters. On Tuesday August 18, 2015 the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium issued an “Islamic Declaration on Climate Change”, a document endorsed by 20 countries to end greenhouse gas emissions, increase renewable energy initiatives, and move towards a green economy. Such a declaration is not new in Islam, as we will soon see, albeit surprising given the number of Islamic countries dependent on fossil fuels and non-renewables which is why I believe it is important that we explicit discuss Islam, environmentalism, and how to green our Deen.

First we must accept that environment conservatism is value that Muslims should hold dear. This is not entirely difficult and by no means a stretch of the imagination. Surah after surah is named after a natural phenomenon (‘Thunder’, ‘The Star’, ‘The Moon’, ‘The Sun’, ‘Dawn’, ‘Morning Hours’, ‘The Ants’, ‘The Bees’, ‘The Spider’, ‘Cattle’, ‘The Elephant’, ‘The Fig’, and so on). Appeals to nature are common throughout the Qu’ran and Allah (S.W.T.) creation is the best of creation. But beyond Conservationism being held as a value in and of itself in Islamic thought, environmentalism is an extension of other values from other spheres of life, namely the concepts of ubudiyya (servitude), khalifa (regency or vicegerency), and amana (responsibility /accountability)[1].

Khalifa is a good place to start, as it is explicitly mentioned and prescribed unto us in the Surah Al-Yunus:

تَعْمَلُونَ كَيْفَ لِنَنظُرَ بَعْدِهِم مِن الأَرْضِ فِي خَلاَئِفَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ ثُمَّ

Thumma ja’alnakum khalaifa fee alardi min ba’adihim linanthura kayfa ta’amaloona

“Then We appointed you viceroys in the earth after them, that We might see how ye behave”

So this ayah makes it clear that our tenure on this earth is a test, and that we are entrusted with this earth. Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) also adds:

“The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, be He exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves.” (Saheeh Muslim)

And what are the outcomes of this test? If we pass we are guaranteed a great reward according to Al-Hadid:

آمَنُوا فَالَّذِينَ فِيهِ مُّسْتَخْلَفِينَ جَعَلَكُم مِمَّا وَأَنفِقُوا وَرَسُولِهِ بِاللَّهِ آمِنُوا كَبِيرٌ أَجْرٌ لَهُمْ وَأَنفَقُوا مِنكُمْ

Aminoo billahi warasoolihi waanfiqoo mimma ja’alakum mustakhlafeena feehi faallatheena amanoo minkum waanfaqoo lahum ajrun kabeerun

“Believe in Allah and His messenger, and spend of that whereof He hath made you trustees; and such of you as believe and spend (aright), theirs will be a great reward.”

It stands to reason (and it is also supported in the Qu’ran) that those that abuse this trust are punished. We know that within the Qu’ran Allah (S.W.T.) places mischief alongside crop-burning and destroying cattle, not just for the economic property loss but for the harm done from an ecological point of view. This is where we see how amana, responsibility, arises out of khalifa. We are of course responsible for what we are entrusted, be it our bodies, our Deen, or our world.

In addition to the value of responsibility guiding eco-Islam, the concept of ubudiyyah, servitude, also comes into play. One may recall the Hadith on Planting Trees:

“If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him.”

Sowing a seed services the ecosystem and provides nourishment for all manner of beings. In addition to the seed-sower acting in the service of Allah (S.W.T), the act itself continues to give and benefit other. It should also already be noted that trees active combat the effect of global warming by consuming greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. But I’m sure you already knew that…

If I have fully convinced you of Islam’s ties to environmentalism, our next most obvious question is how do we bring this environmental-friendliness to our day to day lives? How do we act on our Islamic knowledge? The answer is provided through Imam Ahmad (6768) and Ibn Maajah (419) who narrated from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) passed by a sahabah by the name of Sa‘d when he was doing wudoo’, and he said, “What is this squandering (israf), O Sa‘d?” He said: “Can there be any squandering (israf) in wudoo?”  He said, “Yes, even if you are on the bank of a flowing river.”

Even on the bank of a flowing river. As an engineer, what this made me think of our current predicament with global warming. So, Thermo 101, to create electricity we often use a heat engine. A heat engine works by taking heat from a heat source, turning it into useful energy and dumping the leftover, unused heat into a heat sink. There are two rules. One is that you cannot create or destroy energy, which is to say the heat engine needs some heat input. The other rule is that you cannot fully use all the heat input. Some of it must be dumped into the heat sink (this is due to a phenomenon known as entropy). For a long time we used the atmosphere or a river or the ocean as our heat sinks. We are slowly finding out however that what we thought were infinite heat sinks or infinite heat sources are clearly not. There are several cases were power plants used rivers as coolant sites and ended up raising the temperature of the local river killing off the fish, ruining the ecosystem on the ground and giving way to eutrophication. Global climate change is due to our heedless dumping of toxic carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Islamically, the answer to wanton waste, a crime by itself, is to be conservative in use.

الْمُسْرِفِينَ يُحِبُّ لاَ إِنَّهُ تُسْرِفُواْ وَلاَ

wala tusrifoo innahu la yuhibbu almusrifeena

And do not waste [God’s bounties]: verily, He does not love the wasteful!

Even on the bank of a flowing river you must keep in mind that this is a trust given to you and that it may seem like an infinite source, it is not.

Aqoolo qawli hadha wastaghfirullaha li wa lakum

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So I mentioned trees and how great they are and why we as Muslims should look to grow and plant more trees. It’s interesting that in the west conservation sites are the go-to method to do this and that the Prophet actually did something similar. They are called hima, in Arabic and they are essentially sanctuaries or safe zones for nature. They are private pastures or water sources to be kept safe from contamination. On the authority Abi Ab’dillahi al-Nu’man ibn Basheer (ra) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: “That which is lawful is clear and that which is unlawful is clear and between the two of them are doubtful [or ambiguous] matters about which not many people are knowledgeable. Thus, he who avoids these doubtful matters certainly clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor. But he who falls into the doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Verily every king has a sanctuary and Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibition. In the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be sound, all the body is sound and which, if it be diseased, all the body is diseased. This part of the body is the heart”.

In this hadith the hima is used as a metaphor to help distinguish between right, wrong, and ambiguities, but as I mentioned the term is more so used to describe areas Prophet Muhammad allotted in Medina (and throughout the Arab gulf) to preserve nature. It should be noted that if Allah (S.W.T) is lord of this world and this earth is his kingdom, the earth is his hima. We know that among the many places where it is forbidden to urinate some of these include sources of standing water and under fruit-bearing trees. The notion here is that the environment and any of Allah’s creation that benefits others must be safeguarded form our human waste.[2]

I think the reason environmental friendliness is stressed so heavily is found in this ayah in Surah Al-Hajj:

الْأَرْضِ فِي وَمَن السَّمَاوَاتِ فِي مَن لَهُ يَسْجُدُ اللَّهَ أَنَّ تَرَ أَلَمْ

وَكَثِيرٌ وَالدَّوَابُّ وَالشَّجَرُ وَالْجِبَالُ وَالنُّجُومُ وَالْقَمَرُ وَالشَّمْسُ

النَّاسِ مِّنَ

Alam tara anna Allaha, yasjudu lahu man fee alssamawati waman fee alardi, waalshshamsu waalqamaru waalnnujoomu waaljibalu waalshshajaru waalddawabbu wakatheerun mina alnnasi

Seest thou not that to Allah bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on earth,- the sun, the moon, the stars; the hills, the trees, the animals; and a great number among mankind?

This ayat shows that all things worship in nature. Not necessarily like man, but similar in that they all bow down to worship. As an aside, I sometimes get the sense of that when a strong wind blows and you see the trees bend, it almost looks like sajdah…In our human forms of worship we don’t even let each other disrupt our prayers by walking in front of someone when he/she is praying. If we continue to destroy our ecosystems, aren’t we disrupting the multitudes of prayers that all living things offer to Allah (S.W.T)? How could we as Muslims destroy or halt a living thing’s worship to our Rabb and still claim to have faith? It simply does not make sense.

The idea of not being able to worship freely evokes end-times notions. It makes sense that the inability of nature to worship Allah and man’s role in the destruction of the environment are intimately tied together in Islamic eschatology. Multiple ayat in the Quran and in Hadith discuss the natural disasters that accompany the end of times. In fact, for those of you who remember Imam Atef and his Halaqa series last year concerning the Signs of Yawm Al-Qiyamah may remember that he was of the belief that the sign of the smoke that fills the earth was not a literal smoke, but the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. And Allah (S.W.T) tells us who is the cause of these signs in Surah Ar-Rum when he says:

النَّاسِ أَيْدِي كَسَبَتْ بِمَا وَالْبَحْرِ الْبَرِّ فِي الْفَسَادُ ظَهَرَ

يَرْجِعُونَ لَعَلَّهُمْ عَمِلُوا الَّذِي بَعْضَ لِيُذِيقَهُم

Zhahara alfasadu, fee albirra waalbahri, bima kasabat aydee annasi, liyutheeqahum ba’ada allathee A’amiloo, la’allahum yarjia’aoona

Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of (the meed) that the hands of men have earned, that ((Allah)) may give them a taste of some of their deeds: in order that they may turn back (from Evil).

That last bit, “in order that they may turn back (from evil)”, is important because if you look at the stories of Nuh (A.S) and Yunus (A.S.) you will find that the end of their respective nations was put-off due to repentance of some of  the member of those nations. While eco-threats like global warming seem catastrophic we still have a hand in the outcome. And it is our duty as Muslims to try to reverse the harms we’ve done to the environment and make an effort towards global prosperity. As the Nabi said:

“If the day of resurrection comes upon anyone of you while he has a seedling in hand, let him plant it.”

[1] Tawhid is also a large portion of Islamic Enviromentalism, but for its depth and Sufi-partisan overtones, we will leave this be. Similarly, Mizan (balance) plays a huge portion into Islamic ecology but is somewhat obvious.

[2] This is even to the extent that it is haram to urinate in naturally occurring holes or burrows in case one may harm some small animal or even harmful animals like snakes or scorpions (Abu Dawood)

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