The world is on fire.
Wildfires are raging down the U.S west coast, across forested areas, sending up large clouds of smoke that are sending a haze across the sky.
Sound familiar? It is because this is a repeat of last year. Last summer saw the same intense heat burn in these exact same areas. Experts say these fires are the effects of climate change manifesting itself. Some experts even warn that this may be the best it gets. Climate change from human pollution is a decades-long phenomenon. The new weather trends we’re seeing now — not just fires, but floods and tropical storms, too — have now become inherent to the climate and it is likely the best climate we are likely to see in the future.
Islam is a religion that encourages environmental responsibility. We believe that Allah (SWT) created all things for us to use for a time, we are not owners but rather caretakers (Khalifah). We took a trust (Amanah) from Allah (SWT) to uphold and care for the bounty He created on earth. As a result, it is imperative to learn about how Islam can facilitate the caretaking of the earth and mitigate further damage.
Ibrahim Abdul-Matin has created and applied a contemporary understanding of ecological principles in Islam as modern environmentalism. In a logical and engaging way, he has inspired many to replant stewardship of the earth through his book “Green Deen”. One of the concepts he speaks about is “walking gently on the earth”, which is inspired from the verse, “The servants of the Lord of Mercy are those who walk gently upon the earth…” (Quran 25:63). It denotes the concept of living sustainably and in zhoud, living is minimalist fashion. As well as, sharing what you have with those around you. Abdul-Matin speaks to the fact that most of the problems we are facing now are because of human greed, not wanting to share resources, resulting in an unbalanced economy and earth. If you are interested in reading more about Ibrahim Abdul-Matin’s ideas about how we can use Islam to protect the planet, you can purchase his book, Green Dean.
Odeh Al-Jayyousi, a member of UN Global Scientific Advisory Panel and a scholar in sustainable innovation at Arabian Gulf University in Bahrain, used the Islamic worldview as a unique model for the development of a more sustainable world through justice, degrowth, and harmony between human beings and the earth. Odeh’s model is based on our “natural state” (fitra) and in respecting balance (mizan) and proportion (mikdar) on earth. These concepts provide a moral dimension for humanity to respect nature and all forms of life. Prof. Al-Jayyousi, calls to bring back the concept of Green Endowment Fund (Waqf) to facilitate a transition to a sustainable economy through innovation (ijtihad) inspired by nature and culture. He proposed a conceptual model with three main areas to address climate change and sustainability: Green activism (Jihad), Green innovation (Ijtihad), Green lifestyle (Zohd).
One of the most poignant ideas that Odeh Al-Jayyousi puts forth is in reference to the Quran verse, “Every living thing is in a state of worship”. He commented that when one hurts a bird or a plant, he/she is silencing a community of worshippers. To celebrate the symphony of life, all humans need to protect biological and cultural diversity. You can read more of Odeh Al-Jayyousi’s thoughts in his book Islam and Sustainable Development.
Here are some suggested actions that are good for the environment and are mutually spiritually beneficial: Educate yourself on how you can utilize Islamic principles and resources to benefit the environment. Share this knowledge with others. Consider donating money or resources to parts of the world that are suffering the most. Embrace the sunnah way of life by downsizing your apartment, car, or anything that you don’t need, then give it away to Muslims who need it more. Donate to second-hand establishments and shop there too. Support the Uma by purchasing your products and goods from Muslim retailers that are environmentally conscious, bonus if you can buy from parts of the world that have less. Relocating your purchasing power to places like Palestine, Syria, Northern Africa will move the Uma forward and create more balance (mizan). Finally, implement the classic three principles: reduce, reuse, recycle as much as possible into your life. You don’t have to do it all, just do what is manageable for you. Doing one of these things will hold great benefit for you and your children in this life and the next.