Caring For the Earth
By Amin Valliani
March 15, 2013
THE earth and its environment are the most valuable assets for all creation. Be it the tiniest insect or a gargantuan creature, all are dependent on the earth’s resources.
Among all earthly creations, the position of human beings is superb. Man has a special relation and connection with the earth. Being worthy of prostration by the angels, he is regarded as the crown of creation, a microcosm of the universe and a trustee of all that is created. He is God’s vicegerent on earth and assigned the responsibility of taking care of other creations.
He has been gifted with divine guidance, a potential to develop his intellect and build a repository of knowledge. He can also develop his intuition to become a spiritual being. These developments enable him to foresee the portents of the future and act accordingly. Allah says that “It is He who created for you all that is on earth. …”
(2:29). The resources of the earth — material and non-material — are all under man’s trusteeship.
The higher position of humans leads to higher responsibility. This includes the responsibility of protecting the earth against all perils. The earth has all the ways and means needed for man’s survival and development. Allah has created the earth for human habitation. Among the known celestial bodies, it has been inhabited by humans and other creatures from time immemorial. It is a place of worshiping Allah and prostrating before Him, seeking blessings and invoking His name day and night.
The Quran refers to the earth very often as a reflection of Allah’s power of creation and invites us to look at the mountains, rivers, trees and flowers as evidence of Allah’s grace for humanity. The earth provides divine signs and symbols, paving the way to develop one’s self, society and the world at large. Islam guides humanity about how to fulfil the responsibilities related to the earth and carry out development cautiously, thoughtfully and conscientiously.
The earth is an exciting place where man can develop a reflective self and a humane society to foretaste the promises of the life hereafter. The social interactions that take place on earth also impact on one’s faith and spiritual life. It is a training ground where a believer learns how to lead a pious life. If he is able to live a pious life here, he would resultantly be capable of inheriting an abode in paradise.
We have inherited the earth from our ancestors and will leave it behind for future generations. It has the beauty and resources to sustain humanity for centuries to come. Therefore, every human act should strengthen its beauty and safeguard its resources.
Humans have been warned over time to be cautious as every act of man has an impact and leaves an imprint on the earth. The earth has been assigned the task of providing sustenance and shelter to all creatures. It is spacious enough to perform prayers. It has been symbolised as a sowing field to harvest in the hereafter. In short Allah says “…Therein you shall live and therein you shall die and from it you shall be brought out” (7:25).
History testifies that humanity has always been capitalising on the earth’s resources. Many a time the quest for the earth’s resources has become a bone of contention among different nations. Many have fought wars and killed each other over the competition for earthly resources. The earth provides evidence of tyrannies, atrocities and bloodshed of past nations as well as signs and symbols of man’s past achievements in order for us to think and draw lessons.
The present era of modernisation and industrialisation has also brought new challenges for the earth. Myriad human activities have created a sense of fear among saner circles that rampant use of resources and unwarranted extinction of natural life would render the earth barren.
Many societies have witnessed the fast-disappearing natural beauty. Rapid expansion of population, increasing environmental degradation and uneven development has contributed to make a mess of the earth.
The environment is affected with the advancement of modern technology, cultivable land has been turned into industrial zones, mining, exploration, dams, deforestation and highways have changed the nature of the environment. Though laws exist in Pakistan requiring environmental impact assessments to regulate developmental projects and ensure sustainable development, these needs to be rigorously implemented.
Also, the growing precariousness of resources demands self-assessment with a change of mindset. Aggrandisement, avarice, excess spending and showing off are vices which the human nature is prone to. These vices have often led some to plunder and subsequently degenerate the earth.
We have been enjoined to be careful in the use of natural resources and to leave behind the world and its resources in a better shape than it was when we came into it.
Being the trustees, our ideal spending patterns should be in conformity with Islamic values that reflect simplicity, modesty and forethought. This does not imply, however, that one should refrain from utilising nature-gifted resources for meeting legitimate needs or providing necessary comforts.
Yet it does require some sort of sanity, sound and serious judgment and consideration when it comes to consumption. Islam’s central emphasis is on walking the middle path, avoiding the epicurean as well as the miserly ways of life.
Amin Valliani is an educationist.