Friday sermon] Muslims And The Environmental Crisis

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By Imam Murtadha Gusau

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

All Praise is due to Allah, We praise Him and we seek help from Him. We ask forgiveness from Him. We repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our own evils and our own bad deeds. Anyone who is guided by Allah, is truly guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad (Peace be upon him), is His servant, and His messenger.

O You who believe, – be aware of Allah, with correct awareness, and die not except as Muslims.

O You who believe, – Be aware of Allah, and speak a straightforward word. He will forgive your sins and repair your deeds. And whoever takes Allah and His Prophet as a guide, has already achieved a mighty victory.

O mankind! Show reverence towards your Guardian-Lord Who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate and from the two of them scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;― Be conscious of Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights) and (show reverence towards) the wombs (that bore you): for surely, Allah ever watches over you.

My dear brothers and sisters, right now, there are floods in many places in Nigeria. There are wild fires raging in the Amazon, across California and parts of Australia. There are deadly explosions in Lebanon, Afghanistan etc. There are kidnappings, terrorisms, cattle rustling and armed banditry taking places in some parts of Nigeria and generally in some parts of the world. There are coronavorus (covid-19) pandemic and different diseases destabilising everything in the world. The forces of nature are sending us a clear messages. That we’re doing something wrong, and planet Earth is complaining. But are we listening? Are we taking responsibility for our actions? Are we trying to change our bad deeds, to return to the right conduct?

Respected brothers and sisters, for today’s Khutbah (sermon), I’ve chosen some Qur’anic verses that clearly address the subject of our environmental crisis. These Qur’anic verses explain the role of human beings in the grand scheme of things. They urge us to faithfully discharge the honour, the Trust that we have been given, to be good custodians, good stewards of all that our planet Earth has to offer, In Surah Al-Baqarah we read:

“And when your Lord said unto the angels: Behold! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth, they said: Will You place therein one who will do harm and will shed blood, while we sing Your praise and sanctify You? He said: Surely I know what you do not know.” [Qur’an 2:30]

In another chapter, the Noble Qur’an declares:

“We have honoured the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favours, above a great part of our creation.” [Qur’an, 17:70]

And Qur’an declares:

“We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid of this Trust: but man undertook it;- He was indeed unjust and foolish.” [Qur’an 33:72]

In chapter 36 of the Noble Qur’an, Surah Yasin, the Qur’an reminds us:

“Glory be to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own (human) kind and (other) things of which they have no knowledge.” [Qur’an, 36:36]

And that evocative and lyrical chapter in the Qur’an, known as Surah Al-Rahman, The All Merciful, begins like this:

“Allah, The Most Merciful! He created human beings: He taught them speech (and intelligence). The sun and the moon follow courses (exactly) computed; And the herbs and the trees – both (alike) bow in adoration. And the heavens has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice), In order that you may not transgress the balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance. It is He Who has spread out the earth for (His) creatures: Therein is fruit and date-palms, producing spathes (enclosing dates); Also corn, with (its) leaves and stalk for fodder, and sweet-smelling plants. Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?” [Qur’an, 55:1-13]

My dear brothers and sisters, I think these Qur’anic verses speak for themselves. They don’t need our explanation. Allah has conferred on us a great honour to be the Trustees of planet Earth. But in Surah Al-Rum, Allah also warns us about misusing and abusing His sacred Trust. He says:

“Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea because of what the hands of people have earned, so He (Allah) may let them taste some of [the consequence of] what they have done, that perhaps they will return [to right conduct].” [Qur’an, 30:41]

My dear brothers and sisters, bear in mind that these Qur’anic verses were revealed by the Angel Gabriel, to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), 1,441 years ago. They do indeed speak to us, as if they were revealed only yesterday! The lesson is clear to all of us: To deal with our environment, climate crisis, insecurity, food insecurity, species extinction and ecological disaster; we must change our personal habits. We must change our attitude, change our lifestyle, change our character. We must stop being so wasteful. We have to stop treating Planet Earth as if it’s just another giant shopping mall orbiting the sun!

Islam not only explains our role as human beings in our precarious relationship as stewards of the environment. Islam also provides us with practical advice. It shows us how we can fulfil our Allah-given role as caretakers of Planet Earth, in a way that is sustainable for future generations.

One example: Don’t waste water. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was standing next to one of his companions, who was washing himself, preparing for prayers. He reminded his companion not to waste water. The companion asked:

“Even if I’m using water from a river? The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) replied: Don’t waste water, even if you’re by the riverside.”

My dear brothers and sisters, Allah and His angels send greetings on Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), O you who believe, send greetings on him, and salute him with a worthy salutation!

O Allah, send peace on Muhammad and his family, just as you sent peace on Ibrahim and his family. O Allah, send blessings on Muhammad and his family, just as you sent blessings on Ibrahim and his family. In both worlds, You are Praiseworthy and Exalted.

My dear brothers and sisters, as a great teacher, role model and exemplar, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) lived and ate very frugally. He advised us that the worst thing we can fill is our stomach. In a well known Hadith, he said that we should only fill one third with food, one third with water, and leave one third empty. Nowadays, with growing problems of obesity and diabetes, medical professionals confirm that this is really good advice from the great Prophet of Islam. It’s a simple matter of priorities. Need must always prevail over greed. We must satisfy our need, and stop our greed. If we can control our appetite for food, it becomes a lot easier to control our appetite for so many other things…!

On planting trees, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said:

“The Earth is green and beautiful, and Allah has appointed you His stewards over it. The whole earth has been created a place of worship, pure and clean. Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded. If a Muslim plants a tree or sows a field and humans and beasts and birds eat from it, all of it is love on his part, an enduring charity.”

Again, on planting trees and keeping focussed on our duty, even in times of calamity, he said:

“If the day of Judgement comes upon you while you are holding a little seedling in your hand, then go ahead and plant it.” [Sahih Muslim]

In other words, Don’t panic. Be Islamic! Trust Allah. Love, worship and adore Him. Biyadikal Khair, Says the Qur’an: In His Hand is all good. History is safe in His hands! He is our generous Landlord who has entrusted us with the keys to His property. We are the tenants. We’ll be held to account. We have to treat all the other tenants well. The other tenants are: fellow human beings, the animals, the plants, the soil, the water we drink and the air we breathe. We enjoy all this as a gift from the Generous Life-Giver. We abuse it to our own peril.

Islam invites us to treat every human being, every animal, plant and natural resource with respect. When we do so, we show a courtesy to our Generous Benefactor. In Islam, sharing the earth’s resources in an environmentally responsible way isn’t just a catchy slogan. It’s a moral obligation, a spiritual imperative.

My dear brothers and sisters, let us fulfil this awesome responsibility of caring properly for our living environment. Avoid waste and greed, and be conscious of the impact our actions have on others.

Respected brothers and sisters, to conclude my today’s sermon (Khutbah) I will say:

“Surely Allah commands justice, good deeds and generosity to others and to relatives; and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, so that you may be reminded.” [Qur’an, 16:90]

“And remember Me: I will remember you. Be grateful to Me, and do not reject faith.” [Qur’an, 2: 152]

“And without doubt, Remembrance of Allah is the Greatest Thing in life, and Allah knows the deeds that you do.” [Qur’an, 29:45]

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.

Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: [email protected] or +2348038289761.

This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Dhul-Hijjah 17, 1441 A. H. (August 7, 2020

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