بسم لله الرحمن الرحيم
This time of year is, in my opinion, a very magical time of year. There is something about the colors of the leaves, the crispness in the air, and all the wonderful traditions that surround this season that somehow invigorates the senses and inspires the soul. It seems that in almost every agricultural culture across the world, people during this time of year, feel a sense of connection with the land and the Earth then they do other times of the year. Perhaps it's because for most people around the world, Fall is the time of the harvest, when the crops from summer are harvested, and for people in cooler climates, it is when communities traditionally come together to stock pile foods and other necessary supplies for winter. For people of European descent, there are many traditions that surround this season. The Halloween holiday, while itself having some pagan origins, many of the traditions that surround the “holiday” like trick or treating, bobbing for apples, hay rides and carving pumpkins were originally not necessarily pagan rituals, but were simply celebrations of the season. The season of Fall, in any case, brings people back to their origins, the Earth itself.
Allah tells us in the Qur'an, "He created man (Adam) from sounding clay like the clay of pottery." (Chapter 55:Quran).
It is narrated that the prophet Muhammad (sws) said, "Allah created Adam (the first human being) from soil from different lands of the Earth, so the children of Adam have been created according to the composition of the land. Thus, from mankind we have white, red, black and yellow ones. We have good and evil, ease and sorrow, and all that comes in between."
If you ask any scientist, what materials primarily make up the human body, what will they say? They will most likely say, "carbon and water". This is true we are carbon based life forms as they say, and wouldn't you know it, the Earth too, as far as the soil, is primarily composed of carbon, and this is why ash and soot can be used to increase the agricultural productivity of soil, such as the natural effect of forest fires. So these scientific facts confirm these miraculous signs from Allah (swt).
So what about the other primary element we are created from, water?
Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an, And We have made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? (21:30)
These verses confirm what scientists are only recently finding out, that we as human beings are absolutely, fundamentally joined and attached to the Earth. Without the Earth, we would simply perish. All of the fundamental things we need to survive, ultimately come from the Earth.
Allah (swt) says again in the Qur'an, "And the Earth has been put down for the creatures. Therein are fruits, date palms producing sheathed fruit stalks. And also corn, with leaves and stalks for fodder, and sweet smelling plants."
This verse, once again points to our utter reliance on the products of the Earth.
While we are undoubtedly tied directly to the Earth, what is our purpose to it? If we are tied to the Earth, is the Earth tied to us? Well yes and no. The Earth existed before there were human beings on it and certain types of plants and animals thrived on it before Adam (as).
However Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an "And He has sent down generations (after generations) of vice-generates on the Earth". The word khalaa'if is used in Arabic which means "vice-generate", but what does vice-generate really mean? Sometimes we think of a khaleefa as ruler or king, but really this is not the true spirit of the word. The truer spirit of the word is someone who is a trustee, or in other words, someone who is entrusted with looking after a particular post. So just as the khaleefa of the Muslim Ummah (nation) is someone "entrusted" by Allah and the Muslim people to look after Muslim affairs, we, mankind, as khulayfa (plural of khaleefa) of the Earth, are "trustees" and "custodians" of this magnificent planet. We are entrusted by Allah (swt) to take care of the Earth, and to preserve the delicate balance that Allah (swt) has set up for this Earth. Allah says in the Qur'an, "And observe weight with equity and do not make the balance deficient". (55:9)
This is one of the primary areas where we as the khulayfa of the Earth have come up far short of the goal. Today, experts in the field of meteorology are increasingly more and more convinced that our own misconduct in regards to the environment is contributing to the destabilization of the Earth's balance. We see it everywhere. Snow in the Middle Eastern deserts. Increasingly stronger and deadly hurricanes in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Shorter Falls and Springs. The Melting of polar ice caps, and the recession of the worlds major glaciers. All of these things are making it more and more obvious that we are failing as trustees and custodians of this Earth, and we, the Muslims of the world, are not only among the one's contributing to the problem, but even the issue is hardly raised in Muslim countries, where trash lined streets are common place.
We, the Muslims of the world, with our guidance in the Holy Qur'an from the Lord, Creator, and Sustainer of the Earth, should be leading the charge to combat the degradation of our planet, and the squandering of our precious resources. Most of the biggest fossil fuel producing countries in the world are Muslim countries. The burning of these fossil fuels has been proven to reek havoc on our environment; to the point where it is no longer a scientific or even political issue, it is a direct moral issue. However, unfortunately greed and blind lust for wealth has replaced the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah of our prophet Muhammad in these oil rich countries. We need to all do our part to stop all injustice including the injustice that is being committed against the very Earth that allows us to thrive. The prophet Muhammad (sws) said, "When one sees munker (wrong/injustice) they should stop it with their hand, and if they cannot stop it with their hand, they should stop it with their tongue, and if they can't stop it with their tongue, then they should hold hatred for it in their hearts, and that is the least of faith". My brothers and sisters in Islam, this is not something beyond our grasp. We CAN stop it with our hands simply by picking up pieces of trash that we see on our way to class or work, or carpooling to save gas and cut emissions. We can stop it with our tongues by voicing our opinions to politicians and others in a position to regulate and change environmental policies, and for all the rest we CAN, at least, hold hatred in our hearts against those who are too dumb and blind to realize that they are destroying the very planet that brings them life.
Now moving away from the doom and gloom of global warming and climate change, we can and should refresh ourselves with the beauty of the Earth that we can experience in our every day lives; even right here in Ashland, OH. When European settlers first laid eyes on the land that is now Ohio, they said that a squirrel could travel from Lake Erie all the way to the Ohio river, without touching the ground. Ohio was once a lush, thick, and beautiful forest land.
The native tribes that once lived here including the Shawnee, the Iroquois, and the Delaware to name a few, saw this land as not only beautiful but also sacred. You see they understood who Allah (swt) was. They referred to Him as "The Great Spirit", and they were not only well aware of their connection to the Earth, they're entire lives revolved around honoring, keeping, and protecting the Earth. Europeans eventually came and settled the land, and while some Europeans equally treasured the land and the crops it produced, many squandered it's resources to the point where today northern Ohio would no longer be recognizable to those native peoples who lived here so many years ago.
We are instructed by Allah (swt) and our prophet (sws) to stay connected to land, and all that is in it. Why do you think it's important for a Muslim to actually slaughter their own sacrifice on Eid ul Adha, or for Aqeeqahs, as opposed to having someone else do it for them? Because it keeps that Muslim connected with that which nourishes him. Why is it the Sunnah of Muhammad (sws) to eat with the fingers of our right hand, as opposed to using utensils? Because it keeps us connected with the Earth. The prophet Muhammad (sws) said, "If any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal eats of it, he will be rewarded as if he had given that much in charity." Given this hadith imagine the reward you might get if you were a farmer, but unfortunately we don't see many Muslim farmers here in the US. But why do we receive reward for planting a crop? Because it keeps us connected with the land. He, the prophet (sws) also said, "For charity shown to each creature with a wet heart, there is a reward". And, Allah tells us in the Qur'an, "There is not an animal in the earth, nor a creature flying on two wings, but they are nations like you." (6:38) So this reminds us that we, humans and animals, are in this together. We serve each other. They serve us by providing meat, milk, labor, protection, etc. We serve them by ensuring their survival and prosperity, and respecting them as the noble creatures of Allah that they are. I'm reminded of two stories about two different women. In one story, A women who was generally regarded as a pious woman had left a cat locked away with no access to food or water, until it eventually died. The prophet (sws) said that Allah will punish her and throw her into the fire of hell on the Day of Judgment. In the other story, the prophet (sws) related that a prostitute had seen a dog nearly dying of thirst, so out of kindness, she drew water from a well to quench it's thirst. The prophet (sws) said that on the Day of Judgment, this women's sins will be forgiven. All because of this simple act of kindness shown to a dog.
There were animal rights in Islam, long before that concept was ever conceived in the West or most other parts of the world. The prophet (sws) forbade overloading beasts of burden such as camels, horses, oxen and the like. He forbade the killing of animals for sport. He ordered that when you slaughter an animal, to put the animal at ease, not allowing other animals to see the slaughter, and making sure the knife is as sharp as it can be, for the sake of causing the least amount of suffering. And, when hunting an animal, using the sharpest of spears or the most effective bullets to also ensure that the animal has a minimal amount of suffering. All of this is because we and animals are both in this together. We both share this world, and as Allah's vice-generates on this Earth, it is our responsibility watch over and treat all of its creatures with the utmost respect and dignity.
There is so much reward in "experiencing nature". For those living in larger cities, it is becoming increasingly harder to view and appreciate nature. However, we in this small rural community, have the unique opportunity to experience the wonders of Allah's Earth first hand. We can stroll through the countless nature preserves and parks that dot the countryside. We can buy fresh produce grown at the very farms that we drive past on a daily basis. We can hunt wild game for fresh meat, and fish in nearby lakes and ponds. So the next time you feel bored in our sleepy little town because there aren't as many "man made" attractions as we may be used to, try appreciating the numerous attractions that Allah (swt) has made available to you, for the sake of remembering His power and majesty and mercy, and for the sake of gaining the reward of being part of the very Earth from which we all come.
...And Allah Knows Best...