REVIVING ECO – CONSCIOUSNESS
Earth quakes, Cyclops wind, hurricanes, Tsunamis, famine and droughts, Floods and other natural disasters. Have you ever wondered why these keep occurring repeatedly in different parts of the world in recent times? For over five decades, the entire globe has continuously made efforts to draw the attention of people to the ecological ills that seem to have engulfed the earth we once held so dear. The health state of our planet continues to deteriorate each day that passes and the consequence is the global unrest that we are experiencing at present. How can we thrive in a planet that seems to be rebelling against us? Our forests are dying, our animals are being driven into extinction, our soils and vegetation are crying for immediate attention, the atmosphere is angrily taking its toll on us, the biosphere has resigned its primary duty to sustain us and the entire hydrosphere has suddenly turned into a wild beast, destroying and wiping out human races in different parts of the world. What then is responsible for the terrible state of our environment? The answer is not far away. It is simply that which the greedy palm of our hands has fetched us.
As a matter of fact, Allah (SWT) did not create us in isolation. It is only natural that our existence on the surface of this earth depends on the existence of other occupants of same. These other occupants which include the atmosphere made up of the ozone layer (protecting the celestial bodies such as the sun, the moon, the planets and the clouds) and the air, without which man will cease to exist, the vast land comprising of seas, oceans, mountains and hills, forests and vegetation as well as soils of different types and the animals all sum up as our environment. However, by our own very nature, Allah (SWT) has made us the captain of the earth and it is therefore reasonable to say that by this very position, the power to steer the affairs of the earth lies in our hands. This is evident in the words of the noble messenger of Allah (SAW) which was reported by Abu Sa’id Khudr thus:
“The world is sweet and green and verily, Allah is going to install you as vicegerent in it in order to see how you act.” (MUSLIM)
Well enough, our creator has designed the earth in such a way that whatever happens to the environment happens to man. In its ordinary meaning, the wellbeing of the environment is the wellbeing of man. Thus, we are what we make of our environment. However, over the decades, we have almost forgotten this theory by allowing the greedy and avaricious parts of ourselves take over our sense of reasoning. The search for the various treasures in the belly of the soil without any consideration for the pain which the latter can suffer; Seeking more space through the expansion of the earth by reclamation of swampy areas around oceans and seas; Wiping out every tree in the forest in order to build more industries; diverting all chemical and toxic wastes into the rivers and atmosphere; Turning every bare soil into waste dumping grounds; Wiping out rare animal species and other vain acts, not only bring unprecedented hardship to us but also constitutes the breach of an important amaanah bestowed on us by our Creator which we are sure going to account for on the day of Qiyamah. This is evident in the verse of the Qur’an thus:
“Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned. Thus, He (Allah) may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return”, Q 30 V 41
The messenger of Allah (SAW) possessed exemplary characters for the generality of the ummah to learn from. This does not exclude his interaction with his immediate and distant environment. His entire life which started from the desert environment of Arabia, his shepherding activities during his youth and his years of meditation in the caves and mountains of makkah showed nothing less of him than a passionate lover of the natural world. He saw all components of the environment as signs of the existence and greatness of our creator which should be cherished and protected for the rest of his vulnerable life. Shouldn’t we rather follow the ecological footsteps of our dear messenger of Allah (SAW)? His kindness towards the animals, his declaration of protective zones around public areas such as water courses and roads and his encouragement of tree planting all confirms the importance of protecting our land and water resources as Muslims. This has been emphasized in the Qur’an where Allah said:
“Verily, in the messenger of Allah, you have a good example, for him who looks unto his Creator and the last day and remembers his Lord much”, Q 33 v 21
In order to regain our ecological consciousness, we need to look back at where we went wrong to correct the present situation. It definitely starts from each and every one of us in our homes, on our streets, in the suburbs, in the villages, in the towns and in the cities. Are we treating our environment the way it should be treated? If not, in what areas are we lacking? Here are just a few tips to diverting our minds towards the protection of our environment:
- 1. DEVELOP A DEEP LOVE FOR THE NATURAL WORLD
It may not be too easy to start diverting our minds to something that never had a place in our hearts. But with determination and focus, we can win the struggle towards environmental consciousness. This begins with a mindset that Loving Allah also entails loving everything He has created which includes the natural world. It is an uncontroverted fact that when we love something, we tend to care for it, protect it and guard it jealously. This also applies to the natural world. We should try to picture every aspect of our environment as part of Allah’s favours which he has bestowed upon us. And as a result, the love we have for our creator must also extend to the natural world which is just one of the creatures of Allah. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) was reported to have said concerning the mountain of Uhud that:
“Uhud is a mountain which loves us and we love it”, (BUKHARI).
Thus, the kind of love we cultivate for our environment determines our treatment of same. This is a very important tip in bringing out the environmental consciousness in us.
- 2. VIEW THE NATURAL WORLD AS AN OBJECT OF AMAANAH
As earlier stated, Allah (SWT) has put us in charge of the earth which includes our environment. By our very nature, we have been made trustees of the creatures of Allah. So the moment we start seeing these creatures as objects of trust which we will account for on the day of Qiyamah, the better for us. Thus, being a trustee is not about dominating and controlling the entire universe as we wish but about exercising reasonable care as regards that which our creator has entrusted to us. In dealing with our environment, we need to employ taqwa. By instilling in ourselves, the principle of “Wanting for our environment, what we want for ourselves”, then we are one step ahead. Thus, being aware that cutting the leaf of a tree for no just cause or dropping a liter on the bare ground irrationally, amounts to a great sin will go a long way in reviving our eco – consciousness for the sake of Allah.
- 3. SEE THE NATURAL WORLD AS A LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM
The mere fact that man cannot exist without his environment is enough to bring out the eco – consciousness in us. What can we ever do in life without air? Block your nostrils and the other air ways in your body to see what will happen to you. Moreso, imagine a day without water. These are just few of the thousands of the blessings of our creator which we can never deny. The realization that our environment serves as a life support system for us is enough to hold it so dear. Bearing in mind that when we destroy our environment, we destroy ourselves and that when the environment is not at peace, we are not at peace, are important ways of placing an immeasurable value on our environment. A terminally ill patient whose life is being sustained by a life support machine will definitely die when the life support machine is detached from him, likewise a situation where the environment is detached from us, we definitely lose the touch of life and existence. Our environment has been made as a life support system for us. We should therefore treat it as such.
- 4. ADOPT A SIMPLE LIFESTYLE
This entails evicting all forms of avaricious wants and unlimited love for the worldly treasures from our hearts and purifying same by adopting a simple lifestyle. The description of the Prophet (SAW)’s way of eating, drinking sleeping and other activities speaks volumes about the simple lifestyle he led. It was a life free of greed and unbridled consumption. Adopting this way of life goes a long way in influencing your treatment of the natural world. Rather than destroying nature to fulfill your covetous desires, you will find yourself appreciating more and more aspects of nature than you can ever imagine. This is premised on the fact that only contented minds appreciate the blessings of Allah (SWT) in all ramifications and this includes that of their natural environment.
- 5. CONSERVE NATURAL RESOURCES
This is a way of carefully using natural substances that exist either in limited amounts or in abundance in order to make certain that they will be available for as long a time as possible. Thus, in protecting the environment, we should make sure that we are as far away from wastage as possible. This also entails preventing the pollution of natural resources such as water, air and soil as best as possible, preventing the violation of living beings, ensuring a clean environment and also ensuring the rights of the present and future generations to a safe and healthy environment. The messenger of Allah (SAW) was reported to have passed by his companion Sa’ad who was performing ablution and said “What is this wastage, O Sa’ad?” Sa’ad replied “Is there wastage even in washing for prayer?” The Messenger of Allah (SAW) then replied “Yes, even if you are by a flowing river.” This greatly emphasizes the need to preserve everything that Allah has bestowed us with, whether it is limited or in abundance.
- 6. BRING NATURE CLOSER TO YOU
We can definitely reach the height of eco – consciousness by being in close contact with the natural world. This creates in us, a special kind of value and appreciation for our environment. One of the few ways of doing this is by planting trees around you, especially where you live. It may be an orchard or a vegetable garden. You can also do this by rearing pets such as parrots, cats, pigeons, chicks, goats and sheep and other animals which are not haram for us to keep. You may also beautify your surroundings with beautiful flowers such as the rose and the lily and build a water fountain just at the back of the balcony of your room. Owning one or two horses is not such a bad idea; a day may come when you will feel like taking a horse ride out of town. Doing one, two or even all of these will make you fall head over heels in love with nature. Is it the gentle, fresh breeze coming from the orchard, or the rhythmic sounds of the birds and chicks at dawn, the sweet scents coming from the flower garden or the splash of water from the fountain? These are some of the blessings which Allah has bestowed on you. Why should you deny yourself of them?
The need to revive our eco – consciousness thus becomes more important than ever, not only to sustain the existence of the human race, but also in fulfilling an important aspect of the deen, in order to obtain the pleasure of our ???creator. We have beautiful examples to emulate in our noble messenger of Allah (SAW), who has not only taught us to develop love for our environment and see same as amaanah from Allah, but to also protect our natural resources and eliminate all forms of avarice from our hearts by adopting a simple lifestyle.
O Allah, Guide us to the right way; the way of those on whom you have bestowed your grace and not of those who have earned your anger, Amin, Q1 v 6 – 7
Wardah Abbas is a Law student at the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria. She is a great lover of Islam, an aficionado of the natural environment, a passionate Muslimah and writer who believes in intellectualism as a prerequisite to change. You can reach her through her e –mail, email@example.com
24th Rabiul Awwal 1434/5th February 2013