Environmental Crisis

The Contemporary Islamic World  and the Environmental Crisis

by Seyyed Hossein Nasr




The Significance of the Issue:

Both people and govemments in the Islamic world, as elsewhere, are naturally paying attention to sundry problems, but outside the purely spiritual and religious dimensions of life, nothing is more important and worthy of consideration today than the environmental crisis. This crisis encompasses the natural ecological system of the globe as well as the human ambience, the air we breathe, the food we consume, the water we drink, and even the inner workings of our bodies.

The crisis also endangers the harmony of the whole fabric of life on Earth and the system that makes human life possible. And yet, most Muslims, much like their fellow human beings, are wandering through this unprecedented crisis like sleepwalkers, barely aware of what goes on about them or of the deeper causes of a crisis that threatens human existence itself here on Earth.

And this sleepwalking by the majority is taking place despite the powerful and persuasive spiritual teachings of Islam about the natural world and the relation of human beings to it.

One must ask who is going to carry out the program, and what force can confront the powerful international economie and technological engine that is wreaking havoc upon the earth on nearly every continent? The answer for the Islamic world can-not be governments alone because, although they wield great power, they are more a part of the problem than the solution.

The solution, at the present moment, lies for the most part with individuals and small groups which can perhaps expand in the future.

What is certain is that, first of all, the environmental crisis must be recognized in its spiritual and religious depth as well as its outward effects.

Second, the authentic Islamic view must be resuscitated with rigor and clarity and without compromise. Those who can be awakened must be made to open their eyes and to realize that the modern world is walking on the edge of a precipice and needs only to take another “forward step” to face its own perdition.

Awareness leads to further awareness. The Islamic teachings about God, human beings, nature, and the relation between them all constitute a clarion call for this awakening from the dangerous dream of scientism and humanity’s selfish conquest of nature.

They can set Muslims again on the correct path to a harmonious modus vivendi with nature, and they can also help the Western world to regain and recollect its own forgotten tradition concerning the role of human beings in God’s creation. Let us hope that this awakening takes place through proactive human efforts and not as a consequence of the rude awakening resulting from ecological disasters that threaten the very possibility of human life on earth. In discussing such momen¬tons matters, it is appropriate to remember the Islamic teaching that the future is in God’s hands. Ultimately, God is, as one of His Sacred Names, al-Muhit, tells us, literally, our “environment”.

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