Whose Environmental Crisis?
The Qur'an itself brings forth many lessons of past environmental disasters, from local to global scale crises. What it communicates to us is that anytime there was an environmental disaster, it was, in fact, brought about by people's own hands, inspired by their false beliefs -- regardless of how wealthy, powerful, or technologically remarkable the society was.
Thus Noah's message represents the lesson for us as a global civilization on the brink of disaster, and the solution: Break the humiliating and oppressive shackles of servitude to men who cannot even create a flea, and return to the humble but dignified servitude to the One who Created us. If we do, the earth shall flourish and us in it. If we continue our abuse, the earth, loosed at Allah's command, shall destroy us.
What we should remind ourselves is that the environmental crisis is a human crisis and that it stems directly from the wrong relationships we hold with God, and one another and other creatures vis-à-vis God's Divine Law. Shirk, associating anyone with the divinity of God, is equivalent to oppression as the one who rejects his own origins, nature, and truth is only oppressing his own soul. Hence, we are left with an obvious question: How can goodness emanate out of one who is oppressed by his or her own hands?
Here are four practical, personal actions we can all take to ultimately change our conditions and that of our community and environment.
1. Cultivate Self-Awareness. We must start at the beginning within the sphere of our control, personal and family activism, following the wisdom of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, who was commanded to begin with himself and then his family. The gist of it is that we must become aware of our bodies and be present in the moment, which requires practice, for this is how we learn self-control and how we can develop quiet introspection so as reconnect to our inner voice. Scoff not at this as some hippie-dippie prescription. Rather, cultivating self-awareness brings us down to intention, and that is truly where the environment, and its rescue, begins, inside us.
2. Re-Embrace Our Children. So instead of giving our children up to be raised by a "system," we must embrace them fully with all its challenges and hardships. This is necessary for both our spiritual development and because every new generation represents hope for a new opportunity for change. We must allow them the opportunity and freedom to be whom they choose out of their own experiences and the call of their hearts under the guidance of Islam, trusting in the watchful Eyes of Allah. This is far better than our current fashion of imposing on them our shallow expectations of prestigious careers and fears of social rejection. I am not talking about choosing between a "useless" liberal arts degree and "get-rich" medical school. I am talking about expanding our horizons to see the moral integrity of creating the things we use, cultivating land, and investing in real connections with each other beyond socializing, by which I mean the glue of lush economic connections. Expanding our children's horizons will allow them to think in ways we have been unable to (or don't want to) break through to. They may well be the ones to live the life we are unable (or don't want) to live. Maybe they will understand and implement the Islamic imperative to take what is good and leave what is bad.