Ebrahim Moosa – Cii Broadcasting (12-06-12)
Page through the Quraan and before long, you will realise that you are in fact paging through the book of the Universe and the marvels of Allah’s Creation. From the great celestial bodies like the sun, moon and stars to the earth, its oceans, rivers, plants and variant creatures, you will find Allah describing the magnificence of nature in breathtaking detail. Several chapters of the Quraan are named after animals and natural phenomena, and at numerous junctures, the Creator Himself takes oaths on these elements to underscore the importance of His Message that follows.
That universal message as contained in the Quraan is intended to stir the hearts of human beings and propel them towards the submission and worship of their Lord. But with the widespread phenomenon of large numbers of global citizens turning a cold shoulder to nature or shunning it altogether, is the modern human being sufficiently geared to absorb the the full purport of Allah’s message?
This is the throbbing concern of Australian Muslim scholar and environmentalist, Imam Afroz Ali, who recently toured South Africa. The seasoned Fijian-born traveller and campaigner told Cii that he had found Muslims to be the least active community with regards to conservation and positive action for the environment on a global level. Added to that, he said was the rapid adoption of new technologies in Muslim societies which he cautioned, could leave a disastrous spiritual legacy if left to spread unchecked.
He explains. “One of the virtues Islam teaches is patience, but being on computerised internet, [for instance] does not teach you patience – because you want the fastest internet! So even 10 milliseconds, becomes an impatient experience. So some of these technologies – if you do not have the right transformative tools with you, then blameworthy characteristics of the human being will be nurtured within you, which is actually a destructive path.”
To circumvent this risk, he advocates a return to a true understanding of Islam, which he says empowers the student with the tools needed to navigate though elements of the material world that appear outwardly attractive, and then to learn the virtues and human qualities that will allow one to transcend this superficial attractiveness and empower one to see their reality. This reality, he says, is that technology is merely a means: “A means first and foremost to do beneficial things; and beneficial things are there for us to find our Lord.”
Using a parable, Imam Afroz explains why a true believer can never contemplate desecrating the environment. “Allah has given us two signs: the Quraan and the entire Creation. Can we desecrate the Quraan? Never! No Muslim will stand for that, because it is full of the Aayaat(Signs) of Allah. How then can we as Muslims be a people who either allow or engage in the desecration of the environment?? If we were to truly understand what the environment is, we would immediately fall in love with it as it is another of the Signs of Allah that allows us to know Him, Worship Him and Love Him.”
The traditionally educated scholar who is also a founding member of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, laments that environmental issues today are too clouded in science for them to resonate with ordinary citizens. He cites the response to climate change as an example. “The amount of science and mathematics that is going on out there is not addressing the ecosophical issue, which is the disease that is actually causing climate change. The real problem is consumerism. Human beings are having a very dirty and large footprint on this earth, and we have become materialistic and consumerist at a level where we have started to make that consumerism our favourite past time.”
Here too, Imam Afroz says, Islam has the solution. “It is called Zuhd – how do you live a frugal life. Islam provides the moral propositions that allows us to reduce our consumerism and materialism.”
The alternative to this approach, according to him, is a lifestyle fraught with guilt and the inability to connect adequately with ones Creator. “I personally and firmly believe that its not until the Muslim starts to respond to the Creation and the environment in a positive, honorable and in a foremost manner, that we will find our connection with Allah to be constantly and continuously being problematic. We need to urgently return to our role of stewardship and custodianship.”