The Divine Wisdom of Green and Environmental Stewardship (Gems from Ustadh Amjad Tarsin at ISNA Canada)

 On the 2nd day of the ISNA Canada Convention, we were blessed with a wonderful lecture by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin that was a reminder to be people of gentleness who are embodiments of mercy on earth, and who understand that honouring the connection between ourselves and the rest of creation is an integral part of our faith, not simply a  ‘good thing to do.” Ustadh Amjad reminded us that our faith is one of mercy, and when we learn something that contradicts mercy, we need to re-evaluate our understanding of what we’re learning. He also told us beautiful stories of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and brought joy to our hearts by sharing how all of creation loves the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. This is more than just “community service” he told us, “All of creation deserves our respect and reverence because everything worships and praises its Lord.”

Finally, Ustadh Amjad ended his talk by giving us practical ways to become stewards of the earth, and his reminder to eat halal, good, wholesome, pure food is the one that resonated most with me. Ustadh Amjad’s lecture gave us practical ways to do this in our daily life. Notes from the lecture are below.

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

  • It’s not just a popular culture interest. It’s part of our faith. Some people might ask, what’s the basis in our faith and and our practice as Muslims to be environmentally consicous? What’s the daleel?
  • When we talk about something, it’s important to root it in Divine revelation and Prophetic models of how we live our lives.
  • First narration to be taught is the hadith of rahma, the hadith of mercy. This is important because when we set off to learn about the deen, everything is built upon this foundation.
  • If learning about the faith and learning something that contradicts this hadith, we have to learn how to appropriate that teaching in the context of this hadith.

“People who show mercy to others, will be shown mercy by the All Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth, and He who is in heaven will be merciful to you.”

  • Basis of our entire faith is mercy. Allah has said about the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, “Truly, we only sent you as a mercy to all the worlds.

The Problem

  • The Qur’an tell us that “Corruption has appeared on land and in the seas by what human beings have wrought with their hands.”
  • Our generation is Generation Y/Generation Me. Everything is individualized to our tastes. Society teaches us to be greedy, because as long as you’re happy, things are ok. We’re taught to seek more, and always upgrade our possessions.
  • But we need to understand that contentment lasts a lot longer than happiness.
  • When humans become greedy and only care about their own comforts and accumulating more, it means someone else is losing out. After all,  we live in a world of finite resources. Food, oil etc, are finite, but we act as if they are infinite.
  • Ants in anthill, and fish in the sea pray for someone who teaches something good. Why? Because we’re all connected and when you teach good,  we all benefit.
  • We can’t be people who are heedless of our responsibility.
  • We want to fulfill reality of ubudiyya.
  • Beauty makes us remember the One who gave us beauty. Being conscious of the environment is part of our servitude of God.
  • Our connection to the environment is deeper than community service. We should feel connected.
  • We all know the story of the cat, of a woman who was very cruel to a cat, didn’t give it water and imprisoned it, so much so that the cat died. And the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him said that she would be punished for that act. And the fuqara in their brilliance, have thought about the different implications of this story, and asked different questions. Would it be different it was a different animal? (No). Would it be different if it was a man instead of a woman? Again the answer is no. And so this story by extension teaches us the relationship between humans and the rest of God’s creation.
  • We do not have the right to harm other creatures. This is a universal principle. It goes beyond a woman and a cat.
  • We have to respect that which is God’s creation as a sign of our reverence for Him.
  • 7 heavens and everything in them glorify Him. Everything celebrates His praise, though we do not understand their praise.
  • We have a choice in praising Allah, but other creation lives in the remembrance of God. When we say just a blade of grass, flower, rock etc, so much more than that. God created levels of existence. Other creatures and things have their own language. We don’t understand it, but that doesn’t change the fact that they praise Allah. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him favourite colour was green because green is the colour of life and of jannah.
  • A reflection from someone at an interfaith event: It’s so cool that Heaven in Islam is a garden. Islam is very environmentally connected.
  • There are so many stories about the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and animals. There was someone who came to the Prophet saying that his camel was distressed. And the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him was someone who understood animals. And then the camel calmed down in the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him’s presence, and complained to the Prophet that his burden was too heavy. The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, taught us that we have to take into consideration the feelings of animals.
  • Another story: The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him stood on Mount Uhud, and as he stood on the mountain, it shook, it began to reverberate. And the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him told us that “Uhud is a mountain that loves us and we love it.”  You might ask, it’s a rock, how can it love us? But it has a level of existence and connection to Allah.
  • The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him taught us to not waste water for prayer even washing from a river. Might ask, what does it matter if you’re washing from a river? But we learn here that we shouldn’t take more than we need.
  • We have a responsibility. We need to be embodiments of mercy to everything on earth.

3 Practical Suggestions

1) Conserve.

  • Energy sources are finite. If you’re not in a room, turn off the lights. If you don’t need something, don’t use it. If you’re done charging your phone, unplug it. If you already have something, don’t buy another.
  • Aboriginal wisdom; “Treat the earth well. It has not been given to you by your parents, borrowed to you by your children.

2) Eat good foods.

  • Way food is produced today, harmful to the environment and to our souls. Allah is Good, Pure, and only accepts that which is Good.
  • Eat organic food. Good, pure food. Halal is just the bare minimum.

3) Have reverence (tadheem) for the earth.

  • When look at the world, don’t just see something to exploit. Be balanced. Use everything with balance.

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