Sisters Magazine: Green Sunnah

Sisters Magazine, which can be a bit hit and miss most of the time, have recently re-launched their website and will now inshallah be publishing a monthly magazine. It’s really great to see them up and running again, especially as they have a section dedicated to Green Islam.

On the website they have a great little feature by Najma Mohamed, who is an environmental Muslim writer from Cape Town, South Africa that I thought would be great to post it on ‘A World of Green Muslims’. Here are the highlights!

“Amid the worsening state of the health of our planet, scholars are beginning to acknowledge that the environmental crisis is in fact a human crisis. Some even call it a spiritual crisis. As millions continue to live in abject poverty, barely able to meet their basic material needs for food, shelter and security, approximately 20% of the world population living in high income countries consume close to 80% of the earth’s resources (EarthTrends). Yet ever-increasing consumption has not necessarily improved contentment, au contraire. Worldwide, it is being recognised that the standards by which we gauge happiness, prosperity and fulfilment need to change…

From the Ecological Wisdom of the Sunnah:

Love for creation
From his upbringing in the desert environment of Arabia, his shepherding during his youth, and his years of contemplation in the mountains of Makkah, the Prophet (SAW) displayed a deep love for the natural world. He (SAW), recognised that creation, aside from being of service to humankind and all living beings, were also signs of the Most-High, worshipping and glorifying Him. In a famous tradition, the Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said, concerning Mount Uhud in Madinah, “Uhud is a mountain which loves us and we love it” (Bukhari). This love for the aayat (signs) of Allah and gratitude for His Bounties need to be reflected in the manner in which humans interact with the rest of creation and the way in which we discharge the responsibility of khilifah or stewardship.

Stewardship
Abu Sa’id Khudri reported that Allah’s Messenger said: “The world is sweet and green and verily Allah is going to install you as vicegerent in it in order to see how you act.” (Muslim)

The gift of khilifah is a test of humankind’s obedience to the laws of Allah. True stewards are just, moderate, content and grateful for the gifts which have been bestowed upon them. They recognise that they will be accountable for all the goods in their care. They know that khilifah is not about dominion, mastery or control over any part of creation, but is centred on responsible trusteeship in accordance with the purpose, wishes and expectations of its Bestower, Allah. The Prophet (SAW) is the exemplar of true stewardship.

Mercy to all
Muhammad’s (SAW) compassion did not only extend to the weak and oppressed in society, but included all creation. In the following narration by Abdullah bin Mas’ud, pay careful attention to the beautiful words which show his understanding of the fear of a bird for her chicks:

We were on a journey with God’s Messenger when we came across a bird the size of a sparrow with two chicks.We seized the chicks, whereupon the bird started beating its wings and screeching. God’s Messenger turned and when he saw what we had done, asked: “Who separated those children from their mother? Return them at once!” So we let them free. (Abu Dawud)

Simple living
Incidents describing the Prophet’s (SAW) manner of eating, drinking, sleeping and daily activities speak volumes about the simple lifestyle which he led. It was not a life of luxury, comfort or needless consumerism, but one of in which even his basic material needs were at times not met. Days would go by without food. Nights were spent sleeping on the floor. No guest would be turned away. Time was well-spent with family, community, and children. Even when the early Muslim community started increasing in wealth, he (SAW), lived in the same way – eating and sleeping on the floor, mending his own clothes, and tending his animals. SubhanAllah!

Protection and conservation of natural resources
His prohibition of wastefulness, evident in his daily life, extended to matters of worship. Once, the Prophet (SAW) passed by his companion Sa’ad who was performing ablution and said, “What is this wastage, O Sa’ad?” “Is there wastage even in washing for prayer”? asked Sa’ad. “Yes, even if you are by a flowing river!” (Imam Ahmad)

Many scholars commenting on this hadith note the importance of taking care not to waste water or to be excessive in matters of ablution, washing body parts more than three times for example. If we consider that the Prophet (SAW) prohibited wastefulness even in a situation of abundance, what would he (SAW) say about the way in which many natural resources are being over-used and polluted today, harming living beings and violating the rights of present and coming generations to a safe and healthy environment?

We need to implement the beautiful teachings of his Sunnah which embody care for all creation, resist the tide of rampant consumerism, and always remember his words that “True wealth does not lie in possessions but in the richness of the soul” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Najma Mohamed is an environmental researcher and writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently enrolled for her PhD in Islam and Environmental Education.

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