One of Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s (BFoE) key campaigns is on ‘Faith and Climate Change’. This campaign aims to explicitly get people of faith on board in collectively saving our one Earth…, where choice of words between ‘secular’ arguments and ‘faith’ arguments wouldn’t always connect people of faith to the issues. Thanks to a recent grant from the Birmingham Environmental Partnership (BEP), BFoE has been enabled to hire a temporary worker to dedicate to taking this campaign to the next level.
Whether we are Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew etc, we all share this single Planet and either we work together for a habitable future on it or we all go down together. With 3 of the world’s 10 largest companies selling oil and 5 selling cars (Fortune 500), it’s an uphill struggle to get the truth out as when you sell oil or cars it’s very difficult to admit/ be serious about climate change… or as Upton Sinclair so succinctly put it: “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” And to give you an idea about how large ‘large’ is: Exxon’s turnover is bigger than the GPD of Bangladesh (CIA FactBook) or Belgium (WorldBank) and Exxon’s profit alone is similar to GDP of Uruguay or Cambodia (CIA FactBook).
So it’s a challenge with such powers against us, but inspired by our faiths we need to give it our best try, for the sake of those generations after us who have just as much right to enjoy the Earth as we do! Thus, are you active in your Church/ Gurdwara/Synagogue/Mosque/Temple etc? Have you always wanted to become active in your place of worship, but didn’t know what task to focus on?! Then wonder no longer, but become your place of worship’s own Climate Change Ambassador (CCA)! Want to know more, want to be kept informed what other CCAs are doing?! Then contact Maud now: our aim is to have a CCA at every place of worship, community centre and place of work. There are no formal conditions to becoming a CCA, just some enthusiasm and commitment.
As part of the ‘Faith and Climate Change’ campaign the BFoE newsletter will highlight, over the course of the coming months, a short overview of the different faiths’ teachings on the environment. In this issue we start off with Islam and Environment.
Away from the terrorists abusing the religion (like all are/ have been from time to time!), away from the wilful misrepresentations, ignorant remarks etc etc, Islam has very clear guidelines: Islam is not just a religion, but a way of life. Islam organises the believers’ relations with God, with oneself, with one’s children, with one’s relatives, with one’s neighbours, with one’s guest, and with other members of Creation. This shouldn’t scare non-Muslims, as nowhere is the killing of innocents sanctioned (on the contrary!), but should highlight a permanent remembrance of Muslims’ submission (islam) to God, being at peace with our Creator, ourselves and those around us. That said, not all, starting with myself, are anywhere near perfect examples of fully living by all the teachings.
Muslims believe that Islam came for the benefit of humanity and God has tasked humans with the job of ‘khilafa’ or guardian of Creation (“It is He who has appointed you viceroys in the earth and has raised some of you in rank above others, that He may try you in what He has given you. Surely thy Lord is swift in retribution; and surely He is All-forgiving, All-Compassionate.” -Qur’an 6:165). Also we are but one tiny part of Creation: “Indeed, the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of mankind, but most of mankind do not realise it.” (Qur’an 40:57) and “No creature is there crawling on the earth, no bird flying with its wings, but they are nations like unto yourselves. We have neglected nothing in the Book; then to their Lord they shall be mustered.” (Qur’an 6:38).
Even the aims of Sharia (‘the way’, based on the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammed) clearly require we all work to maintain a living planet: protection of life, dignity, progeny, religion and property cannot be sustained on a planet with increasingly extreme weather patterns!
Sometimes we may think that the earth can’t be as ruined as ‘the environmentalists’ say, because we surely would have been replaced (as the Qur’an warns us God has done with the people of Ad and Thamud)…but “If God were to punish people according to what they deserve, He would not leave on the back of the (earth) a single living creature: but He gives them respite for a stated term: when their term expires, verily God has in His sight all His servants.” (Qur’an 35:45). So when a man denies an animal (or vegetation) its right to mercy, then the right to mercy the man has from God is similarly withdrawn, and he will be punished (either in this life or the next).
The whole of creation works because it follows the laws of the Creator. The only creature that can act contrary to its preordained patterning and upset the balance is the human being as it has been given a free will (otherwise the life in this world can’t be considered a test). When we pray and place our foreheads on the earth in obedience to the Creator it should remind us that in the end, maintaining the balance of creation requires continuous awareness of the work and the will of God.
Muslims believe that this life is a test and on Day of Judgment our life on earth will be reviewed and those that ‘pass the exam’, that is have absolved well of our duties on earth, will be granted paradise. Others will not be so lucky. The ‘exam’, however, is not a ‘one size fits all’: the more power, money, intellect etc we have in this world available to us (those “raised in rank above others”), the harder the test, the more actions (or opportunities for actions) we are accountable for.
As an example: prayer is very important for Muslims (something we should do five times a day). For our prayer to be accepted we need to make ablutions. And even for such ‘trivial’ actions, Prophet Muhammed has given us clear guidelines that half a litre (1 mudd) or two litres (1 sa’a) of water (depending on type of ablution necessary) should suffice for this. There was a clear occasion when the Prophet saw someone performing ablution and said, “What is this extravagance, Sa’ad?” He said, “Is there extravagance in the use of water?” He said, “Yes, even if you are at a flowing river.” Extravagance is to use water without any benefit, using more than your fair share and thus denying it to others, either fellow humans or of any other species.
Finally some advice from Muhammed, should you wish it: “If the Day of Judgment comes upon anyone of you while he has a seedling in hand, let him plant it.” (again highlighting importance of duty of care towards Creation… you’d have thought that one might have other priorities at such time).