Islamic Environmentalism: Doing What’s Right In Hopeless Times

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Editor’s note: Author Aaliah Elnasseh is a writer and researcher focusing on psychology and public relations; she calls Richmond, VA home but currently lives in the DC metro area. She is a guest blogger for Green Muslims, all views are her own and do not represent Green Muslims.

Two months ago, we heard of the mass murder of millions of corals in the Great Coral Reef. We also learned about the 58% population decline of global wildlife in the span of only four decades -a number that even more dramatically increases if we account for only the aquatic wildlife. In recent years, there have been countless other human-caused environmental disasters, including ash, chemical, and oil spills you might have never heard of. News about the environment and the issues relating to natural disasters caused by human activity is not only underreported by some of the most consumed media in the country, but it’s also a problem that may seem too overwhelming for the average individual to tackle.

The world lacks large-scale action to mitigate the effects of climate change. Public awareness efforts, made to motivate our understanding of the seriousness of climate change, often leave the average individual feeling powerless. For example, Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent documentary “Before the Flood” highlights the urgency of problems caused by global warming and explores some of the corporate and political interests that drive resistance toward finding solutions. Realizing that the problem is primarily caused by -and the solution primarily hindered by -such powerful interest groups leaves many feeling powerless.

It’s normal to wonder: does my recycling really matter if there are millions of TONS of waste being produced every year? Should I really worry about my car’s CO2 emissions if the majority of greenhouse gas emissions are not caused through transportation means? It’s normal to question whether your actions will matter in the grand scheme of things and if it’s worth all the hassle it may cause you. But how do you approach this issue as a Muslim?

This is where one of my favorite hadiths comes in.

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it.” Sahih Al-Albani

The wisdom of this hadith is profound. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is telling us to plant a seed for a tree that will never see the light of day because it’s the last day on Earth. He’s telling us to plant a tree even if there is absolutely no hope for tomorrow. He’s telling us to do the right thing even if we have no hope that it will be fruitful.

This hadith on taking action in what seems like a hopeless situation is a very useful reminder that principled action is both the ends and the means. Our aim is to trust in God, find the best way to do good and then to keep at it.

We don’t let despair rob of us of the opportunity to do good. And we don’t stop being protectors for this Earth and its inhabitants even if we believe there is no tomorrow.

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