Thursday, April 23, 2009

Global Environment & Islamic Thought

Centrality of Environment for the ‘Articles of Faith’ (aqaid) in Islam

Second Seminar: Global Environment & Islamic Thought
Sunday, 19th August 2007
Aiwan-e-Iqbal Complex, Lahore

1. Issues of environment
We begin with first things. There is a saying in Urdu 'Jan hai tau jahan hai' i.e.
'We must be alive to be in the world'. I think we should ponder on its reverse too
'Jahan jai to jan hai' i.e 'There must first be a world to live in!'

I am aware that issues of environment don’t have a punch in them. We still feel that these are “Western” issues thrust on us when we are in the middle of developing our own economies. After all they have degraded the planet and they now tell us not to pollute it anymore… such hypocrisy!

In this talk I plan to share with you some reflections on our most basic articles of faith - the aqaid - and the modes of worship - the arkan; and show that we are wrong in thinking like this.

“Muslims today do not know two things: they do not know how to live as a majority and they do not know how to live as a minority.”

2. How do we define islam?
Most textbooks would say that these are cardinal elements:

Aqaid, Arkan & Muamalat (huqooq al ibad)

But this misses two important dimensions. I have come to believe that it is this missing out of these two aspects that has placed us in the quandary that we are in. Surely suicide at the individual level and ignorance at the collective level cannot be our future…

2.1 The Five Model of Islam
The image is of five concentric circles
• Aqaid [Inner Most Circle]
• Arkan
• Islah-e-batin [i.e. Inner purity]
• Muamalat
• Husn-e-musharat [i.e. Beauty of environment] [Outer Most Circle]

Let us define these:

Briefly, aqaid are the five articles of faith i.e.

Tauhid (Unity of God), risalat (Prophethood), malaika (Angels), kutub (Books), qiyamat (Day of Judgement).

Arkan are the basis… the modes of worship i.e

Kalma (Creed), salat (Prayer), saum (Fasting), zakat (Charity), hajj (Pilgrimage).

Islah-e-batin is inner purity.

Muamlat is dealings, huqooq ul ibad.

Husn-e-muasharat is beauty of the environment.

3. Ecology crisis
From day one we have been told not to waste water during wudhoo because it is makrooh.

And in 1997 we read in the cover story of the Time magazine that the next wars will not be on oil but on water. We have only thirty-nine more years to go before all the fresh water table of the earth will be finished. It is a question of husn-e-muashrat.

4. Application of the aqaid
We will now apply each of the aqaid to the demands of the outer three circles
and then arrive at a profound understanding of the five articles of faith and why they are so central.

4.1 Tauhid

Islah-e-batin = Integrity

Muamlat = Allah and his creatures/servants (justice)

Husn-e-muashrat = Cosmos: a vast integration

4.2 Risalat

Islah-e-batin = Role models

Muamlat = Millat

Husn-e-muashrat = Sacred geography

4.3 Malaika

Islah-e-batin = Witness

Muamlat = Sura saffat

Husn-e-muashrat = Aroma

4.4 Kutub

Islah-e-batin = Books/rules

Muamlat = Laws

Husn-e-muashrat = Signs of nature

Corresponding use of the word ayat. The word ayat is also used in three senses in the quran:
Ayat in Kitab Allah is a sentence
Ayat in Kitab Mubeen are signs in the universe
Ayat in the Kitab un nafs are the states of the self

4.5 Day of judgement

Islah-e-batin = Consequence

Muamlat = “goat”

Husn-e-muashrat = Chaos

5. Application of the Arkan
We now turn to the arkan i.e Kalma, Salat, Saum, Zakat, Hajj.

5.1 Kalma
This is the confession of faith: 'No God but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet'. But to say the kalma is to say the word, not just any word but the true word; not just any true word, but the only true word. Thus all lies are a pollution!

5.2 Salat
This magnificent mode of worship cannot be discussed unless we discuss its steps… its structure as it were…

Clean clothes/space

5.2.1 Now each of these has its inner aspect.

Wuzu a respect for water
Clean clothes/space environment
Qibla a direction in life
Takbir a jihad against false values
Niyyat an alignment of inner/outer self
Tilawat a connection with wisdom

5.2.2 Then we look at the four physical postures:

Qiyam standing all trees
Ruku bowing creatures
Quud sitting birds/fish/ reptiles
Sujud prostration

And finally thanksgiving to the Prophet without whom we would not have received this great gift:


And so in salat we are offering as ashraful makhluqat the combined worship
consciously, deliberately of the universe, all creation.

5.3 Saum
No better metaphor of contentment, of less is more, of realizing that in fact we need much less to live by than our greed allows us to see, exists than in fasting.

5.3.1 The inner meanings of fasting
The inner meanings of fasting are captured in the sayings of the great masters:

This world is four days: and fasting for four days is not difficult
---Hazrat Bayazid Bistami

We fasted from this world and broke it (iftar) with death
---Hazrat Junaid Baghdadi

5.4 Zakat
The root word of zakat gives us the word tazkiya i.e purify. And when we connect that to the purposes of prophet hood, we find that our care of the planet and making the material substance of our lives better and purer is zakat.

5.5 Hajj
This all encompassing mode of worship deserves a whole talk to itself! For now I will simply say: In the congress of world cultures and lifestyles, what better way to look at the diversity of Islam?

6. 'The Whole Earth like a Mosque'
The Prophet (s.a.) says that three things have been given to me which have not been given to other prophets: One is the whole earth that has been granted to me like a mosque.

Any place where the sunlight hits the ground and it is clean, you can offer namaz. Consider this as husn e muashrat. We know that it is not allowed to pollute a mosque, but if the mosque is the whole world? Think of this: If you cannot take care of the earth you cannot take care of the mosque!

Sadly we have omitted this as our Islamic duty; as if the pollution of air, noise, water and other things were not sins! We gave our muamilat to profit and loss banking, to other ways of dealing with profit and money. Islah-e-batin we have handed over to our psychiatrists and psychologists. We reduced religion to the inner two circles. And when we did this the crisis came upon us, we came to the situation where we began being proud of things that were none of anyone’s business…

7. Islam is 'mukammal zabtae hayat'
So then, Islam is mukammal zabtae hayat. Like this:

The aqaid impacts on the heart (qalb)
The arkan impact on the limbs
Islah-e-batin impacts on the nafs, the self,
Muamlat impact on society
Husn-e-muashrat impacts on earth; the planet.

As for the arkan they can be seen as units of time metaphors.
Kalma is speech: moment to moment. Salat is five times a day. Saum is for a month. Zakat is once a year and Hajj is once a life. Last thought: Of the oaths in the Quran more than 70 are about signs in nature… Surely Allah swt’s oaths are a serious matter?

Thank you.

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