God's Waqf: Give Them An Eco-Endowment Plan
Looking at the state of the Islamic World these days, it seems like not all Muslims really care much about the environment. We intend to c...
Pictured above are eco-Muslims in Jordan who took the tree management course with Permaculture News in 2013 and this year in April the Ethiopian based organisation are hosting a permaculture design training course in Jordan. You are all invited!
Climates Crises In Muslim Countries
Canals which carry Nile water to irrigate farmlands in Egypt are so full of rubbish they frequently get blocked up, stagnate and spread diseases. Saudi Arabia has pumped its aquifers dry to such depths that they may take thousands of years to replenish. Ironically Saudi was hit with flooding in November, with deforestation stripping the land of the capacity to regulate the water cycle.
In Pakistan this problem has been far worse in recent years, with wide-scale deforestation magnifying the effect of the Himalayan snow-melt to devastating proportions. In Indonesia meanwhile, rampant deforestation has made way for oil palm plantations, which grow and burn off an oil palm monocrop on a 20-year cycle. Carelessness with this technique, which is destructive anyway, has led to the spread of massive forest fires, wiping out much of the remaining rainforests and causing severe air pollution in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia. Meanwhile at the other end of the “Middle Nation”, deforestation in the Sahel of West Africa pushes the encroachment of desertification south year on year causing repeated famines.
Deforestation, desertification, droughts, floods, pollution, mass consumption, obesity, poverty and hunger: are all ailments which affect our 21st century Ummah.Those of us in the west are by no means un-involved in all this!
Think oil, resource exploitation, industrial agriculture and supermarkets. Every time we fill up our car with fuel or buy a loaf of bread we have an effect on the wider world. The question is, are we a force for good or just another cog in the corrupt system?
Muslim Battles of Being Green
Some Muslims seem not to really be too concerned about this state of affairs. When someone with `Aql (reasoning) points to the extravagance and over-consumption in the rich countries, they accuse you of wanting to go back and live in the dark ages. “Islam does not prohibit development! Islam does not prohibit technology!” Well yes, that’s true, but what kind of development are we talking about here?
And are living standards actually getting better for most Muslims? Does the unsustainable exploitation of resources causing all this actually lead to a better standard of living for the vast majority of the Muslims? Probably not, I would say.
It may be nice for people in Dubai to binge-shop at mega-malls and have Jacuzzis, but does that absolve them from acknowledging the people suffering from flooding, droughts and crop failure in the rest of the Muslim world?These catastrophes echo the stories of the perished nations mentioned in the Qur'an, who rejected their prophets and were ungrateful to their Lord. Allah says again and again, look at what happened to them.
"Corruption has appeared on land and on sea for what men’s hands have earned, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, so that they may repent." (Qur’an 30:41)Meanwhile, other 'extreme' Muslims will say; “Ah well, it’s only Dunya (this world); here today, gone tomorrow. If God wills, it will all be destroyed anyway.” It seems a great way to absolve one’s self of responsibility for one's actions. Many Muslim groups call to worship by saying, “leave your worldly affairs behind and spend your time in prayer, reading Quran and learning Hadith (prophetic sayings). Forget about the Dunya and focus on your faith.” Indeed, the following Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, has been quoted to support the later notion.
It was narrated that the Companion Abdullah bin Mas’ood, may God be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet of God, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, said
“I am in this world like a rider who halts in the shade of a tree for a short time, and after taking some rest, resumes his journey leaving the tree behind. (Ahmad, Tirmidhi)On face value this reading of Islam says the Dunya is worthless. Muslims believe we all leave earth to head towards the Akhirah (life after death) forever, sun-bathing on the fertile banks of the Al-Kawthar river, insha-Allah (God willing). So, sure, ignore this world and focus on your “Deen”.
Wait a minute. Neglect earth completely? Is that right?
Is that what our beloved Eco-Prophet Muhammad, God’s peace and blessings be upon him said. Surely the “Deen” Islam is more than just a spiritual practice. Indeed the Prophet was not just a holy-man! He left behind a complete set of environmental guidelines for society – and it didn’t just cover the menials of how to keep good hygiene in the bathroom! The guidance covered everything starting from the day to day stuff of how to eat and brush your teeth with a Siwak, going right through family and social relations, political administration, law, trade, finance and land management; from the personal to the social and through to the ecological!
The Islamic faith encompasses our complete worldly conduct, not just our prayer. It’s all in there: sanitary, dietary habits, work ethics, honest trade, social interactions and obligations to kith and kin, the wider society and, wait for it… Our obligations to the Planet Earth itself.
Islam says we are obliged to engage in the Halalun (permitted) and the Tayyibun (wholesome or good). So it is no good for us Muslims praying five times a day, fasting all the time and standing in Dhikr (spirituall remembrance) all night, never committing a major sin, growing a beard, wearing an fashionable Thobe and tying a turban in a particular style–if we then go to work engage in an occupation that contributes to natural disaster and impoverishment of the majority.
Global warming, land degradation, pollution and upsetting the balance on the land and in the sea. These are the creation of God but they are the consequence of us.So let’s look at that Hadith again more closely: “I am in this world like a rider who halts in the shade of a tree for a short time, and after taking some rest, resumes his journey leaving the tree behind.” The parable surely has a deeper meaning. If the world is like a tree, and we are referring to a tree in the desert under which we shelter for a bit and then move on,, we do not intend to live under it forever. A tree offers temporary shade to the traveler. Shade is one of the many benefits trees offer.
Allah has endowed us with this tree as a temporary resting place, of which we are temporarily its stewards, obliged to pass it on to the coming generations in the condition we found it! Hence we should not cut down the tree to build a house we claim as our permanent abode, for that we would surely be held accountable!
Now think about the Hadith of the Dunya as a tree. What did we do with our time under the tree?
God's Waqf: Endowment Plan
In terms of economics, the Prophet, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, also set a clear and noble precedent. Mu`amalaat is the Arabic term for “administration of economic affairs”, relating to trade and finance. One concept of Mu`amalaat which is very relevant is the Waqf-endowment. For example a shop may be attached to the premises of a mosque, and rented to a merchant to perform his trade there. The rent money is used to feed the Imam and cover other running costs for the mosque.
The Waqf is a fixed asset. It is not consumed in itself but generates income. Trees and indeed the whole natural environment are a Waqf bestowed upon mankind by Allah.So, to reach a conclusion with all this, Allah has bestowed nature and all that is in it upon us, not as our property to be wantonly consumed, but as an endowment-Waqf-to be used wisely and passed on to those that will come after us.
“Yes well, that's all good ma-sha’Allah and very interesting, but what do you expect ME to do about it?” You may say.
Aha! Well to draw a line under all this, you may remember that Permaculture, a system of ecological design and land management, has within it many equivalent aspects to the Islamic institutions discussed here.
What’s more, permaculture is a system which can be applied to any kind of community project in any area of the world, we just use it to design our needs while working harmoniously with the natural system, just as the Prophet Muhammad, God's peace and blessings be upon him, did for the cities of Mecca and Medina.
Train In Jordan - Give Your Mosque An Eco-Waqf Plan
Our permaculture team are running a course on this eco system in Jordan in April. As I mentioned in my last post, I am based out in Ethiopia in a little place called Konso. I have a brother coming out here from Morocco next week and we are planning to design an Eco-Waqf for our local mosque.
Photographs © Craig Mackintosh
You see, people here are pretty dirt poor. The mosque lacks basic facilities such as running water for Wudu or any kind of income generation, so that the small Muslim community-we are in a majority Christian area-has to pay our Imam out of their already shallow pockets.
Hence the idea is to establish a socially, ecologically and economically sustainable income generating system in our mosque which will both support the community and provide better facilities for worship and community activities, insha’Allah wa huwa ar-Razaq al-Kareem (if Allah wills, and Allah is the Provider, the Most Generous).
I hope to report back to y’all with a lot more info on that soon, and perhaps, if it be the Will of Allah, you can chip in to support this project, and offset a bit of your carbon-footprint, once we have a project design to show you.
Until then, merry eco-Jihad, insha-Allah.
Ethiopia + Permaculture News
+ Permaculture Training Course in Jordan (begins April 2014)
More like this:
- Muslim Green Guide To Reducing Climate Change
- Haqiqah, The Big Jihad - Permaculture & Islam