The Environment The Holy Qur'an

Glimpses into the Qur’anic Concept of the Environment – Part 2

50 The Review of Religions – July 2005 As the real object of man’s life in this world is his spiritual advancement, it is beyond any doubt that if Allah has made ample provisions for his physical needs, He could not have neglected the provisions for man’s spiritual needs also. And as man very gladly accepts and uses all the physical provisions made for him, he should also not decline to make similar use of Allah’s spiritual gifts. A human being is comprised of a body and a soul. If Allah has provided man with the food that nourishes his body and keeps him fit and well, he must have provided him also with the spiritual food which nourishes his soul and raises it to the highest spiritual levels. As a person should be aware of his body’s physical health, he should also be conscious of his soul’s spiritual wellbeing. If Allah has provided man with a suitable environment to maintain the best health of his physical body, He must have provided man also with the perfect spiritual environment to ensure the highest spiritual station of his soul. Hence, it is the duty of man that just as he should protect his physical environment, he should also take care of the purity of his spiritual environment. To fully understand this, man must reflect on the physical objects in the universe because they symbolise spiritual aspects as well. The physical world materialises the spiritual one so as to make it easy for man to comprehend. The Holy Qur’an is full of illustrations to help us in this regard. It will suffice to cite a few examples here. GLIMPSES INTO THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF THE ENVIRONMENT By Maha Dabbous – UK PART 2 51The Review of Religions – July 2005 If we study what the Holy Qur’an has mentioned concerning the plants in the physical world, we will learn some amazing spiritual lessons. As a matter of fact, the Holy Qur’an has likened human beings somewhat to plants when Allah said: And Allah has raised you from the earth like the raising of vegetation. (Ch.71:V.18) Allah also said about Mary – the mother of Jesus(as): So her Lord accepted her with a gracious acceptance and caused her to grow an excellent growth and made Zachariah her guardian… (Ch.3:V.38) According to the physical laws of nature, a plant can grow in a land if a healthy seed is sown in its soil which happens to be rich and fertile. In the same manner, a human soul can develop spiritually if it is provided with the healthy spiritual seed of faith and the healthy spiritual soil in the form of a sincere heart that accepts the truth. However, the power to make a seed grow into a plant might be hidden in the soil, but it does not come into play unless the soil receives water from heaven. The latent powers of the soil to enable vegetation to grow together with the health of the seed that is sown in it will never produce anything without the help of water. Similarly, the latent and inherent powers and faculties of man fail to find their real spiritual development and growth without the help of the spiritual water. Life on earth depends on water which descends from heaven in the form of rain. In the same way, the spiritual life cannot exist without spiritual water which descends from heaven in the form of Divine revelation. And He it is Who sends the winds as glad tidings before His mercy, and We send down pure water from the sky, that We may thereby give life to a dead land, and give it for drink to Our creation – cattle and men in great numbers. (Ch.25:Vs.49-50) The heart of a believer may possess the most excellent faculties and natural powers, but these cannot develop without the help of Divine revelation. Without the help of Divine revelation, human intellect GLIMPSES INTO THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF THE ENVIRONMENT – PART 2 52 The Review of Religions – July 2005 GLIMPSES INTO THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF THE ENVIRONMENT – PART 2 alone can never rise to full spiritual stature. For this reason, since the creation of man, Allah has been sending His Messengers to the world to provide people with the spiritual sustenance that they need. These Messengers brought with them the Divine commandments and laws that people should follow so that they could be nourished spiritually and advance in their progress. With the help of these Divine provisions, the Messengers of Allah themselves emerged spiritually like the living green plants that grew into large trees producing fruits to be enjoyed by their true followers, who followed their examples and transformed themselves into further spiritual green plants as well, according to their capacities. Yet as we reflect on the physical world, we find that Allah sends down rain although the rain water does not stay in the earth permanently. It disappears by evaporation or flows into the sea through streams and rivers. The earth again becomes dry and then fresh rain is needed to make it fertile. The same is the case with the Divine messages. They powerfully influ- ence the lives of men and bring about great changes in them for a certain period. Then they begin to be neglected, ignored and misin- terpreted and hence fresh revelation is needed to revive them back to life. Look, therefore, at the marks of Allah’s mercy: how He quickens the earth after its death. Verily, the same God will quicken the dead; for He has power over all things. (Ch.30:V.51) This system of Allah came into operation with the life of man on this planet and it will remain in operation till the end of time. Allah continues through the ages to shower His spiritual rain on His Messengers and their true followers so that they can nourish the spiritual life on earth. He brings forth the living from the dead, and He brings forth the dead from the living; and He gives life to the earth after its death. And in like manner shall you be brought forth. (Ch.30:V.20) But again, in the physical world, plants need sunshine and a healthy 53The Review of Religions – July 2005 GLIMPSES INTO THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF THE ENVIRONMENT – PART 2 surrounding atmosphere to develop and bloom and it is obvious that Allah did not ignore providing the world with the physical sun and all the other necessary conditions of a healthy atmosphere. Allah must have also provided the spiritual world with a sun and a healthy atmosphere to ensure the perfect spiritual development of mankind. This spiritual sun reached its zenith with the advent of the Holy Prophet of Islam( s a ) who was described in the Holy Qur’an as a radiant source of l i g h t . O Prophet, truly We have sent thee as a Witness and a Bearer of glad tidings, and a Warner, and as a Summoner unto Allah by His command, and as a radiant Lamp. (Ch.33:Vs.46-47) The word ‘Siraj’ – translated as lamp – that was used in the above verse to describe the Holy Prophet of Islam( s a ) was used in another verse as referring to the sun. ‘And has placed the moon, therein as a light, and made the sun as a lamp’. (Ch.71:V.17) This spiritual sun of Islam and the surrounding healthy spiritual atmosphere have continued to bless the spiritual world and will continue to be a blessing till the end of time. Just as the sun brightens the darkness on earth, the Holy Prophet of Islam(sa) illuminates the spiritual sphere and turns its darkness into manifest light. Allah has described his advent in the Holy Qur’an as the coming of light. ..There has come to you indeed from Allah a Light and a clear Book. (Ch.5:V.16) The light of the Holy Prophet of Islam(sa) materialises as the light of Allah Himself and, just as in the physical world the sun is the central point around which the other bodies rotate, the Holy Prophet of Islam(sa) is the central point in the spiritual realm. He is the sun in the firmament of Prophets and heavenly reformers who are like many celestial bodies revolving round him and who borrow light from him. Although he appeared in the world only fourteen hundred years ago, yet all the previous events that took place in the history before his advent, were paving the way for his 54 The Review of Religions – July 2005 GLIMPSES INTO THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF THE ENVIRONMENT – PART 2 appearance and preparing the world to receive his blessed message. He planted the seed of the tree of Islam in the world. This tree is the tree of his own person. It is the tree of the true submission and love for Allah that sprouted from his own self when he appeared in the world and received the Divine message and completed the mission for which he was sent. Allah planned that this was to be the perfect and final tree which should yield its fruits in abundance and in all seasons, for all times to come. Allah mentioned this tree in more than one place in the Holy Qur’an. Dost thou not see how Allah sets f o rth a similitude of a good word? It is like a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches reach into heaven. It brings forth its fruit at all times by the command of its Lord. And Allah sets forth similitudes for men that they may reflect. (Ch.14:Vs.25-26) Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a lustrous niche, wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a glittering star. It is lit from a blessed tree – an olive – neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would well-nigh glow forth even though fire touched it not. Light upon light! Allah guides to His light whomsoever He wills. And Allah sets forth parables to men, and Allah knows all things full well. (Ch.24:V.36) Surely, Allah was well pleased with the believers when they w e re swearing allegiance to thee under the Tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down tranquility on them, and He rewarded them with a victory near at hand. (Ch.48:V.19) Nevertheless, this tree needs to be nourished with continuous spiritual water and proper healthy sur- rounding conditions for its growth and development. The mere existence of the teachings of Islam is not enough to keep it as a living religion. We see in nature that although water, which is so essential for life, is present in such abundance in the sea, it is unfit either for drinking or for irrigation purposes unless it is distilled by the process of evaporation and is made usable. In 55The Review of Religions – July 2005 GLIMPSES INTO THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF THE ENVIRONMENT – PART 2 the same way, the mere existence of moral and spiritual truths in the world can be of no avail to man unless they are continuously purified and presented so to suit his needs. Allah has set the laws of nature in such a way that the sun sends its rays to the earth to evaporate the water in the seas and turn it to fresh rain water. In a similar way, the spiritual rays of light of the Holy Prophet of Islam ( s a ) continue to reach his true followers all the time to light up their hearts and to produce fresh Divine revelation that descends on them, according to their capacities. These true fol- lowers are the reformers who continue to appear from among the Muslims whenever the need arises. Allah sends them to the world to revive and refresh the teachings of Islam whenever they are corrupted. The fresh Divine revelation con- tinues to descend upon their hearts to provide them with the guidance needed to purify the teachings of Islam and restore it to its original form. Their own souls continue to flourish into new spiritual plants filling the spiritual environment with fresh green vegetation all the time. This ensures the continuous restoration of the spiritual atmos- phere to a pure and healthy condition. Now turning to the celestial bodies in the universe, we will also find some illustrations concerning the spiritual kingdom. From the above, we have seen that the Holy Qur’an likened the Holy Prophet of Islam(sa) to the sun upon which depends the life on earth. However there always comes a time every day when we see in the physical world that the sun sets leaving us in darkness. The sun still exists, but as the earth turns round, the sun goes out of our sight for some time. For this reason, Allah has provided us with the stars and also with the moon that reflects the light of the sun, to light up our way and guide us through the dark night until the sun rises once more. In a similar way, when Muslims strayed away from the true teachings of Islam, they lost the spiritual light of the Holy Prophet of Islam( s a ), in spite of the fact that his light exists all the time. When spiritual darkness overcame the world, leaving Muslims wandering in ignorance and corruption, Allah first provided the world with the spiritual stars who borrowed their light from the Holy Prophet of 56 The Review of Religions – July 2005 GLIMPSES INTO THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF THE ENVIRONMENT – PART 2 Islam(sa) and guided the Muslims to the right path of Islam. And He it is Who has made the stars for you that you may follow the right direction with their help amid the deep darkness of the land and the sea. We have explained the Signs in detail for a people who possess knowledge. (Ch.6:V.98) These were the companions and the true followers of the Holy P r o p h e t( s a ) who were sent as reformers to the Muslims. The Holy Prophet(sa) is reported to have said: ‘My companions are like so many stars; whomsoever of them you follow you will be rightly guided.’ But after some time, as the spiritual darkness increased and encom- passed the whole world, Allah, out of His Grace and Mercy, provided the spiritual world also with the moon that would prevail over the darkness and reflect the light of the sun, until it rises once more and fills the spiritual world with brightness and warmth. This spiritual moon was manifested in the person of the awaited Imam Mahdi and the Promised Messiah(as). He was the perfect follower of the Holy Prophet of Islam ( s a ). He reflected in his person the noble qualities of the Holy Prophet(sa) and thus became his perfect image who could guide the Muslims and revive them back to a new spiritual life. Hence he brought them out of darkness to light. The Promised Messiah(as) restored the tree of Islam back to life and left it now for his followers to look after it and nourish it until its green branches can spread to cover the whole world. The true Muslims today are responsible for keeping this blessed tree healthy and well at all times. They are responsible for protecting it from any danger that may affect its health and for weeding out the harmful weeds that may grow around it and choke it or cause corruption to it. They must ensure that the spiritual rain water which descends from heaven, remains pure and fresh, and continue to water this tree and provide it with the nourishment it needs. They must purify the spiritual atmosphere that surrounds it so that it can maintain its healthy condition and produce its 57The Review of Religions – July 2005 fruits in abundance at all times. They must taste its fruits and make use of this to sprout themselves into new saplings to surround the original tree. They must fill the garden of Islam with vegetation until the whole earth is covered with ever living green plants so that the earth is transformed into a paradise and everybody in the world can enjoy the taste of these fruits. But one thing must be clearly remembered. It is not by any human effort that this spiritual environment will be protected. It is only by A l l a h ’s Grace that this can be achieved. Say, ‘Tell me, if all your water were to disappear in the earth, who then will bring you clear flowing water?’ (Ch.67:V.31) It is only Allah Who can bring this pure running water to our help. Or, Who created the heavens and the earth, and Who sent down water for you from the sky w h e rewith We cause to gro w beautiful orchards? You could not cause their trees to grow. Is there a god besides Allah? Nay, they are a people who deviate from the right path. (Ch.27:V.61) We have seen from the above examples that it is Allah Who provides for the means by which our environment is healed and maintained in a healthy state. As we see in the physical world, Allah has set the laws of nature in such a way that nature cures itself of the ill e ffects of the pollution resulting from human abuse. In a similar manner, Allah has set the spiritual system in such a way that it is revived and cured from any corruption through the Grace of Allah, Who declared: Ve r i l y, We Ourself have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We will be its Guardian. (Ch.15:V.10) This verse does not only mean that Allah will protect the text of the Holy Qur’an from any corruption. In its wider implication, this promise extends to all factors that bear upon the preservation of the Q u r’an as the perfect source of Divine guidance for the whole of mankind, for all times. It means that Allah will continue to safeguard the benefits and effects of the Qur’an. It is also understood from this that GLIMPSES INTO THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF THE ENVIRONMENT – PART 2 58 The Review of Religions – July 2005 Allah will always safeguard Islam at the time of trials and dangers. This is done in accord with Divine practice, from time to time, through the appearance of reformers, who set forth from the Holy Qur’an the true guidance that may be needed by mankind at any specific time. So whether we look after our environment or not, it will be healed through Allah’s Grace. But we will still benefit if we choose to make ourselves a part of the means by which our envi- ronment is healed. Doing this, we will definitely reap the good fruits thereof. Otherwise, the one who will detach himself from this living tree, and who will not care about its wellbeing, will deprive himself from its blessed fruits and will be destroyed in the same manner as a dry branch of a tree withers and dies away. Allah has emphasised the importance of performing these duties in the Holy Qur’an when He described the true followers of the Holy Prophet of Islam (sa). …And their description in the Gospel is like unto a seed- p roduce that sends forth its sprout, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and stands firm on its stem, delighting the sowers… (Ch.48:V.30) The Holy Qur’an informs us that this description is mentioned in the Gospels which implies that it refers to the true and sincere followers of the Promised Messiah of the Muslims whose advent has been prophesied in the earlier Divine scriptures as the second coming of Jesus(as) in the latter days. This description teaches the Muslims the real essence of Islam. It urges them to be humble and submissive and obedient to Allah’s orders. Just as a seed cannot sprout until it buries itself in the ground and mingles itself with the dust of the earth and loses its own identity, a Muslim will never transform his soul to a new spiritual life until he gives up all worldly interests and kills his personal ego and loses his own self through complete obedience and submission to Allah, as if he is prostrating at the feet of His Creator in readiness to sacrifice anything he possesses for the sake of Allah. He should be ready to encounter any d i fficulties that he might be subjected to in treading this path and he must occupy himself in GLIMPSES INTO THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF THE ENVIRONMENT – PART 2 59The Review of Religions – July 2005 earnest prayers with complete humility. Then Allah will turn to him with mercy and will provide him with the means by which he can nourish and transform his soul to sprout into a new spiritual life. Addressing his followers, the Promised Messiah(as) has explained this in the following extract from his writings : ‘Do not think that God will let you go to waste. You are a seed of the Hand of God which was sown in the earth. God says that this seed will grow and flower and its branches will spread in all directions and it will become a huge tree. So blessed is one who believes in what God says and does not fear the trials which he suffers on his way to God. For the coming of trials is essential so that God may try you to see who is true in his declaration of Bai’at and who is false. Whoever slips at a trial, he would do no harm to God whatsoever and ill-luck would take him to hell. Were he not born, it would have been better for him. But all those who remain steadfast till the end – they will be shaken with quakes of calamities, and storms of misfortune will batter them, people will jeer and mock them, and the world will treat them with extreme hatred – shall at last come out victorious. And doors of blessings shall be open to them. God addressed me and said that I should inform my Jama’at that those who believed and their belief is not adulterated with worldly considerations and is free from hypocrisy and cowardice and is such as it does not fall short of any stage of obedience, these are the people who belong to those who are favorites of God. And God says that these are the very people who have a sure footing with their Lord.’ (Ruhani Khazain – Vol.20: Al- Wasiyyat, p.309) Our life on this earth is limited to a certain period and once we die and leave this world, our physical bodies will be turned into dust and will exist no longer. But our souls will continue to live on. So looking after our souls and our spiritual advancement is the worthwhile effort in this world. Every person must exert all the efforts in his capacity to purify his own soul and ensure that it sprouts into a new spiritual life. Then he can join and unite his efforts with others who GLIMPSES INTO THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF THE ENVIRONMENT – PART 2 60 The Review of Religions – July 2005 achieved the same results to spread this spiritual greenness into the whole world and turn the earth into a real paradise. This is what the religion of Islam teaches us. It emphasises the importance of the purification of the soul beside the physical body. As we have seen from the above examples, the purpose behind all the physical commandments and acts of worship is the spiritual progress of a person. The teachings of Islam regarding any physical action symbolise a similar action in the spiritual sense. So as Islam teaches the Muslim to clean his physical body and his environment, it implies that he should purify his soul and his moral and spiritual surroundings as well. As the green plants on earth refresh the atmosphere and produce oxygen for the continuation of life on earth, Islam teaches its followers to purify their spiritual environment by producing new spiritual plants, so that all the souls in the world can be revived and purified. This will protect the blessed tree of Islam from any corruption that might affect its health. Then it can continue to live and yield more fruits to nourish all the people in the world for all times to come. This is the actual environment the protection of which should concern every Muslim. This should be the environment that concerns all human beings. And the life of this world is nothing but a pastime and a s p o rt, and the Home of the Hereafter – that indeed is Life, if they but knew! (Ch.29:V.65) GLIMPSES INTO THE QUR’ANIC CONCEPT OF THE ENVIRONMENT – PART 2