The Lord and Creator of the heavens and earth says in the Qur’aan:
“We created not the heavens and the earth and all that is between them for a mere play.” -(Surah al-Anbiyaa: 16)
“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors. Verily, in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge.” -(Surah ar-Room: 22)
“And has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth; it is all as a favor and kindness from Him. Verily, in it are signs for a people who think deeply.” –(Surah al-Jaathiyah: 13)
“It is He who has made for you the earth as a bed spread out and inserted therein for you roadways and sent down from the sky, rain and produced thereby categories of various plants. Eat therefrom and pasture your livestock. Indeed, in that are signs for those of intelligence.”-(Surah TaaHaa: 53)
“Do you not see that Allah has made subject to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth and amply bestowed upon you His favors, both apparent and unapparent? But of the people is he who disputes about Allaah without knowledge or guidance or an enlightening Book from Him.”-(Surah Luqmaan: 20)
“Verily, We have made that which is on earth as an adornment for it, in order that We may test them (mankind) as to which of them are best in deeds [i.e. those who do good deeds in the most perfect manner, that means to do them deeds totally for Allaah’s sake and in accordance with the legal ways of the Prophet.”-(Surah al-Kahf: 07)
“Oh My slaves who believe! Certainly, spacious is My earth. Therefore worship Me alone.” -(Surah al-‘Ankaboot: 56)
“And Allaah has made for you the earth a wide expanse.” -(Surah Nooh: 19)
As Muslims we hold the Qur’aan as the fundamental source of guidance and well being, inwardly and outwardly. It is a healing and a cure, and this has a wide comprehensive meanings. Its study by the sincere Muslim, through those explanations based firstly upon the transmitted statements of the early Muslims and the explanations of guided scholars, then our personal contemplation and reflection of this, tills and conditions the soil of the heart so that a garden of fruitful worship of Allaah alone can, by Allaah’s permission, grow and flourish, and similarly enables us to gradually weed and cull the false idols, conceptions, beliefs, desires, and misguided priorities which are not beneficial to our success in this world and the next.
These verses and others had significant meaning for me as a young Muslim, as daily a little more of the message of the Qur’aan took root in my life. Daily I realized what tremendous beauty was found in this comprehensive way of life known as Islaam, and struggled to understand and implement the interwoven values and integrated guidance of Islaam in relation to people and the environment. These same verses and those like them have greater meaning now that each day I strive not only to live as a Muslim myself but also to fulfill my weighty obligation as a Muslim parent, to teach and guide my children to that which will truly benefit them.
We know as Muslims that the primary challenge we each face is struggling to realize the tremendous purpose each human being has as someone who must strive to worship the One who created them each and every day alone with no partners. And by worship we use that definition put forward by some of the scholars that worship is “that which encompasses every matter that Allaah loves and is pleased with inwardly, and outwardly -from statements, and actions”. That challenge is even more strongly felt when as a Muslim parent we acknowledge the obligation to teach to our children both the beliefs and practices of Islaam, helping them to realize both its inward and outward aspects in the way that reflected the balance shown in the authentic Sunnah of the final prophet sent to humanity.
We are blessed to live in an age of the conscious resurgence of Islaam, where Muslims worldwide, after examination and consideration, are choosing to move closer to Islaam in numerous ways. In addition to this steady change, the number of people from outside Muslim countries choosing to embrace Islaam as a way of life continues to increase. It has been noted that approximately 20,000 American and 35,000 Europeans embrace Islaam each year. The Eminent Scholar Muhammad Ibn Saaleh al-‘Utheimen, may Allaah have mercy upon him, mentioned about this revival,
” So these intelligent and discerning individuals see that that which is commonly found amongst the people, or the majority of the people, from deterioration of morals, weakness in holding to agreements and contracts, and the general misuse of the intellect- are all matters driving the people towards ruin. Then they realize and see that it is necessary for humanity to have a clear reference and guide by which it can be directed in life. So they are returning to Islaam, and this is something which it is hoped will bring about good, because these individuals have returned to Islaam based upon conviction, study and insight.”
(“Islamic Revival- Guidelines and Guidance”, page 221 )
One of the most important understanding Muslims today need is the understanding that the first and foremost matter each and every one of us should give attention to is learning our beliefs and understanding the methodology of the believer’s path we are striving to walk upon, just as the Prophet taught that to his Companions. The one who even takes small steps in this direction through studying and living the Qur’an and Sunnah, finds that his guidance, that of the final Messenger, encompasses embracing beliefs, affirming statements and individual and collective actions. Correspondingly, true belief in Islaam also requires the necessary opposite of the first aspect, consciously rejecting and disbelieving in every false object and focus of worship, removing yourself and stepping away from the worship of anything else along with Allaah, and consciously rejecting each and every belief, statement, and action related to false worship. The true meaning of worship in Islaam is comprehensive and all encompassing. Sheikh ‘Abdul-Azeez ar-Raajihee in his explanation of the work Al-’Uboodeeyah by, Ibn Taymeeyah, may Allaah have mercy upon him stated,
“Does all of the religion fall within the meaning of worship?
Yes, the religion is within it, the entire religion falls within the meaning of worship. Prayer is worship, fasting is worship, pilgrimage is worship, good treatment of your parents is worship, maintaining family ties is worship, loving Allaah and His Messenger is worship, reciting the Qur’an is worship, supplicating and remembering Allaah is worship, enjoining what is good is worship, alleviating the suffering of others is worship. In this way there isn’t anything excluded, everything is included, each and every branch of the religion is within the realm of worship. There is not a single matter which is outside the general meaning of worship.”
Today we unfortunately find Muslims unquestionably attaching themselves to many of the half and partial solutions and “programs” related to outward worldly success, just as others unquestionably attached themselves to those concept and practices that caused the original problems that these solutions are trying to remedy. This can only be because they have an incorrect or partial understanding of what Islaam guides us to for our inward spiritual success as well as outward well-being in our physical world and environment. They often have a different definition of what it means that your life is meant for the “worship of Allaah” than that given above by the tremendous scholars of the past who took their understanding from their Prophet. For many Muslims in the West this is even more significant because we see how many people are searching for solutions to the many problems modern Western society finds itself increasingly affected by. We, as Muslims in the Western nations also see these dilemmas and problems which reach into every aspect of life- spiritual, economic, and so on- and recognize how they are deeply affecting both the individual and society as a whole.
Yet, within the correct understanding of Islaam it is very clear that making material gains your fundamental priority will never lead to true success and happiness, but that taking care of one’s obligations through permissible livelihood is in fact an obligation. This is a fundamental aspect of Islamic belief- a balanced perspective towards the world we live in, as is found repeatedly within the Qur’aan and the Sunnah in numerous places. The Messenger of Allaah, may Allaah’s praise and salutations be upon him, warned the “worshiper of the dinar” and the “the worshiper of the dirham” (both types of money used in that era and even today in certain Muslim countries), while at the same time indicating the obligation of meeting the daily needs of those we are responsible for within the guidelines of permissible Islamic commerce and economic endeavors.
The Muslims in the West face the challenge of determining what their focus and priorities should be within society, and where their time and efforts should be placed. Is it what the general society calls to, part of it, or is it something else? Furthermore they, especially our youth, like many people in general, are aware of the many societal practices and conditions that shape and affect not only Western society but also the world as a whole. This brings us to the discussion of “sustainability”, living sustainably; why it is something considered by many to be important and what it means. More and more people from within Western societies are recognizing that a culture based upon consumption first and foremost does not ensure the long-term well being of people.
“I think of this story every time I try to explain the creeping dysfunction of North American life. It has happened so gradually that hardly anyone has noticed. Those who have clued in apparently figure it’s best to ignore the sh*t and just keep dancing.
In 1945, America was one of history’s great liberators. I was a kid in Lubeck, Germany, when the GIs marched in. I still vividly remember their “aw shucks” smiles and the magical way they pulled chewing gum and Hershey bars from their pockets and handed them out to all us kids. My father hailed them as the saviors of the world. Now, fifty years later, America, the great liberator, is in desperate need of being liberated from itself- from its own excesses and arrogance. And the world needs to be liberated from American values and culture, spreading across the planet as if by divine providence.
Yet the American dream is so seductive that most of us willingly keep on dreaming. We continue to drive our cars to the supermarket each week and idly wander the aisles, continue blithely to throw out our weight in trash every few weeks, continue to assume that the additives in our food are harmless shelf-life extenders, continue to play Visa against MasterCard, continue to buy sneakers made in offshore sweat shops, and continue to sit sphinxlike in front of the tube most nights absorbing another dose of consumer-culture spectacle. The images beckon us to a future in which maximum pleasure and minimum pain are not only possible but inevitable. We yearn to realize the dream more fully. We work and strive for the promised payoff. We try to catch the river in a bucket. But we never will.”
(Culture Jam- Kalle Lasn: pages 75-75)
As Muslims we believe that the framework for a balanced management of resources, whether individually or societally, is already found within the general guidance and framework of our religion, if we chose to turn to it and implement it. And that it also provides the framework for us to benefit from newly devised scientific systems of development and management of our worlds resources. It is not acceptable nor beneficial for us to simply blindly accept the fundamental reasons that direct some advocates towards the adoption of “sustainable” solutions or which drive some to adopt a “sustainable” lifestyle or sustainable alternatives. These are often simply based upon a need to ensure that an “acceptable level of consumption” will be possible for the immediate and coming future. The deficiency of this type of perspective has even been noted by some involved with developing sustainable solutions,
“However, little consideration is given to questions of why a sustainable agriculture must be ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable. Even among those who stress the logical linkage among ecology, sociology, and economics, few seem to address the question why sustainability should be an important priority for human society. Much of the continuing resistance to the concept of sustainability obviously arises from a lack of concern for the future.
Many people apparently feel that they are expected to take care of themselves, so those of future generations should expect to do likewise. Others seem to share the belief that the pursuit of short run, individual self-interest is the best means of ensuring the long run well-being of society in general, as proclaimed by neoclassical economists. Others boast that human ingenuity is capable of solving any ecological or social problems we might create and finding an alternative for any resource we might use up.
But these are simply beliefs, with little, if any, basis in fact. Differences in priorities afforded sustainability do not arise from differences in information or in intellect among its opponents or advocates, but instead from differences in fundamental beliefs.”
(Sustainable Agroecosystem Management: page 42)
The Muslim, acting individually or collectively, cannot truly understand “sustainability” without having a firm and clear understanding of the purpose of our lives, a firm grasp of the comprehensive meaning of “worship” that should be fundamental to everything we do and every step we take. This is the foundation that enables us to effectively affect the future. The importance of the issue of fully understanding the comprehensive nature of Islaam is stressed by the guiding scholar Sheikh Bakr Abu Zayd, may Allaah have mercy upon him where he said,
“And know similarly, that Islaam does not accept its being divided up nor its being selectively adopted. The Prophet, may Allaah praise and salutations be upon him, his Companions, may Allaah be pleased with them, and as those Muslims who have always followed their way and statements up until this very day always called to all of Islaam in its entirety, and never to only part of it.
Indeed Allaah criticizes those believe in part of Islaam and disbelieve in part, He, free from all imperfection says, “Then do you believe in a part of the Scripture and reject the rest?” -(Surah al-Baqarah: 85) Similarly he repudiates the one who calls to part of Islaam and without the remaining parts of it, whether this is through adding something or removing something from Islaam “ …Then in which speech after that from Allah and from His verses will they believe?” (Surah al-Jaathiyah: 6).”
(The Cure, The Explanation, The Clear Affair,& The Brilliantly Distinct Signpost: A Step by Step Educational Course
on Islaam Based upon ‘Usul as-Sunnah’ of Imaam Ahmad: Lesson 18)
As Muslims we must always remember to shape our views and perspective on “sustainable living” and sustainable development methodologies from the guidance of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and from the essential beliefs and practices that they put forth. It is important to note that the founders of Permaculture did not claim that their system was complete nor that it had been perfected, but was something flexible and still developing, as noted in Permaculture One (page 2), it states,
“What we have attempted to do in this treatment is to create a tool, an idea for future development in urban and rural areas; not in the nature of a fixed or dogmatic pattern, but as a model which integrates several principles of many disciplines – of ecology, of energy conservation, of landscape design, urban renewal, architecture, agriculture (in all its aspects), and the location theories of geography…..
It is not perfect, nor even a sufficient synthesis, but it is a start. People of all ages and occupations will find out how to adapt this idea into their own lives and environment, and in doing so will be able to see beyond the immediate uses and ends.”
This is how we, as Muslims striving to adhere to the guidance of Islaam should view each and every human developed tool related to sustainability, as this is the perspective we see the scholars past and present adopt towards various systems of technical and environmental development, simply as a tool that we must use according to the guidelines of Islaam. The Muslim perspective toward the use of technology and various developed systems of knowledge is not something new, as knowledge has always been classified and categorized in Islaam. Our Sheikh Saaleh Fauzan, may Allaah preserve him, stated,
“Beneficial knowledge is itself divided into two categories. First is that knowledge which is tremendous in its benefit, as it benefits in this world and continues to benefit in the Hereafter. This is the religious Sharee’ah knowledge. Second is that which is limited and restricted to matters related to the life of this world, such as learning the process of manufacturing goods. It is a type of knowledge related specifically to worldly affairs
…. As for the learning of worldly knowledge, such as knowledge of manufacturing and such, then it is legislated to learn whatever the Muslims have a need for. If they do not have a need for this knowledge, then learning it is a neutral matter upon the condition that it does not compete with or displace any areas of Sharee’ah knowledge.”
(Statements of the Guiding Scholars of Our Age Regarding Books & their Advice to the Beginner Seeker of Knowledge: page 81)
The guided Muslims have always used technology and the sciences as a means to further their worship of Allaah and improve their lives as Muslims, and the lives of the others around them within Islamic civilization if Allaah grants them success. We must always take heed of the warning against failing to recognize and acknowledge the patterns established in nature by the single Lord and Creator, patterns that we have no ability to change, only understand, utilize and at the most slightly adapt to our own needs and changing environmental goals of worldly development. Allaah says,
“Is not He (better than your gods) Who created the heavens and the earth, and sends down for you water (rain) from the sky, whereby We cause to grow wonderful gardens full of beauty and delight? It is not in your ability to cause the growth of their trees. Is there any god with Allaah? Nay, but they are a people who ascribe equals to Him!
Is not He (better than your gods) Who has made the earth as a fixed abode, and has placed rivers in its midst, and has placed firm mountains therein, and has set a barrier between the two seas (of salt and sweet water)? Is there any god with Allaah? Nay, but most of them know not!
Is not He (better than your gods) Who responds to the distressed one, when he calls on Him, and Who removes the evil, and makes you inheritors of the earth, generations after generations? Is there any god with Allaah? Little is that you remember!
Is not He (better than your gods) Who guides you in the darkness of the land and the sea, and Who sends the winds as heralds of glad tidings, going before His Mercy (rain)? Is there any god with Allaah? High Exalted is Allaah above all that they associate as partners (to Him)!” -(Surah an-Naml: 60-63)
So as we begin our efforts into the principles and practical efforts related to small scale sustainability here at WideEarth, I close with a reminder from the best of reminders, the Qur’aan. We say as the Qur’an directs us to say, “Say, “Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allaah, Lord of the worlds.” -(Surah Al-Anaam: 162)