These are the words of Imam Ensar Cutahija (Adelaide City Mosque), who delivered a talk at the multi-faith conference on climate change in late October at the Hawke Centre (Uni SA West Campus).
CORE OF THE PROBLEM
“Well, what is the real problem?”
It’s the way we live. It’s the idea of consumerism, that by and through material things we are taught that this is the way to happiness.
CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM
It’s because we have turned away from our Creator, lost our purpose, our souls seek satisfaction in the material. But we can never find it there, so we consume more and more, hoping that if we just have this or that then we’ll be happy. But we are not.
It’s only when we understand the true purpose of our life and surrender to the will of our Creator that we can find true happiness. Just see how everything follows the laws and patterns and systems laid down for them by the wise Creator. They all submit to God. It is only when we also follow the guidance and systems and patterns laid down for us by the Creator that we can also be in harmony with the universe and world around us.
ISLAMIC SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM
Islam teaches that we are responsible and accountable for everything we do. Our bodies, our health, our lives, our wealth, the planet and all that is in it has been entrusted to us, and Allah is going to ask us about what we did with it.
By being Muslim you are already on the first and most important step to being in tune and living in harmony with your environment. The whole universe is in a state of submission to the laws of it’s Creator. The very word ‘Muslim’ means someone who submits to God. In this profound spiritual sense a Muslim is in harmony with the universe.
The Almighty Creator said:
“There is not a living creature on earth, nor a bird that flies with it’s two wings, but are communities like you.”
The Qur’aan, 6:38
The Muslims know that this world is a test. You know that in good deeds and obeying your Lord and seeking His pleasure is the real path to happiness and success, and as you live and feel that, you become content with what Allah has provided you with and are happy with what suffices your bare needs. This is the way we can think in a completely different way from the enslavement of consumerism that is in part destroying our world.
We have been warned by Allah and His messenger against waste and excess:
“Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord (himself) ungrateful.”
The Qur’aan, 17:27
Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-`Aas reported that the Prophet ﷺ passed one day by Sa`d ibn Abi Waqas while he was performing wudu (ritual washing of body parts in preparation for prayer). The prophet asked Sa`d, “Why this wastage?” Sa`d replied “Is there wastage in wudu also?” The Prophet said, “Yes, even if you are at a flowing river.” [Ahmad]
So even when there is plenty, we should take care not to be wasteful! Part of being a Muslim is being conscious, modest and moderate, aware and realising that one is accountable.
Ultimately all the problems burdening humanity come from sick hearts. Hearts that are detached from their real purpose which is knowing and remembering Allah, for in this alone do hearts find rest. So it is inevitable that when humanity is distant from their Lord, evils will emerge:
“Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]”
The Qur’aan, 30:41
When we turn to other than Allah and set up false objects besides Him, in which we place our hope, trust and love, our hearts become corrupted and the earth on which we dwell also falls into corruption.
The solution, then, is to return to our Lord and to single Him out alone for our obedience and adoration. The hearts are then filled with the peace and tranquility for which they long.
It is empty, corrupt hearts that are destroying our world and it is only whole and fulfilled hearts that can mend it.
The cure for the hearts is a living, vibrant and real connection with our Creator, not merely some passive ritualistic emulation of it.
Of course many point out that the most excessive consumers and producers of carbon fuels are in fact Muslims. This is not however the correct manner in which to judge Islam itself. There are many reasons for this discrepancy between the claim to be Muslim and Islamic and the reality of what it entails. Part of the problem that besets the Muslim world is following a hollow ritualistic shadow of Islam. If we merely go through motions of the outer acts of worship without imbibing their inner dynamics we will not change anything. This is exactly the problem with many Muslims all over the world. They perform prayers without understanding a word. They fast by abstaining from food and drink but do not leave the evil in their words and deeds.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it and offensive speech and behaviour, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
This is a very profound statement, the one we should reflect upon in respect to all of the rituals of Islam. These outer rituals have an inner purpose. Islam needs to be lived inwardly and outwardly. Only then will it become the cure for the ills besetting our world.
The faith leaders must use their influence in raising awareness in their communities, starting with their places of worship. Together and only together, their voices can make the difference. Politicians will listen and corporations will act if sermons change the consumption habits and lifestyles of society.
We are not ‘eating to live’ but rather ‘living to eat’. This has to change.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught us to leave one-third of our stomach empty when eating a meal. He ate only when he was hungry and would never fill up his stomach.
We love our Prophet, but we love our super-size burgers more.
By having more than we need we nourish our selfishness and ego, becoming self-important beyond imagination. This is neither good nor moral. This is not our mission in this temporary world.
The Messenger ﷺ also reminded us that we cannot make good believers if we had enough food in our home and our neighbours go to their beds hungry without having food for dinner. By having said this he did not mention that our neighbors had to be Muslims to enjoy this courtesy – all they have to be is our neighbour!
I would conclude by the passage from the Holy Qur’an:
“And [the righteous are] those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but hold a medium way between those.”
The Qur’aan, 25:67