This article is from Living Green: The Way of the Greatest Environmentalist (peace be upon him). Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Ali Hani, and Ustad Amjad Tarsin answer questions on care, responsibility and stewardship of the environment. This is the fifth article in the series.
Submission is to make one’s action in accordance with the Divine command with sincerity. All our actions are acts of submission to Allah. The human being has been granted moral responsibility. We’ve been created with a subtle and rather mysterious reality of choice.
This is the basis of our vicegerency on earth. We have been commanded by the Lord and we have been made morally responsible for acting in a particular manner.
Justice is to give others their due. Another interesting definition of it is to put things in their right places.
Life is an opportunity to seek Allah through upholding justice. Upholding justice but also excellence. Excellence in all things and with all things in all possible ways. It is the Prophetic way to uphold excellence with all things and in all ways.
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ یَأۡمُرُ بِٱلۡعَدۡلِ وَٱلۡإِحۡسَـٰنِ
“Verily Allah commands being wholly fair and just, doing even better for everyone that one must” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 16:90]
There are some underlying values related to this sense of responsibility and trust.
The first two are that the very foundation of our responsibility, Guidance has come to uphold two principles: the avoidance of harm and the preservation of good.
Any religious understanding that goes against this, is a misunderstanding. In any choice that you make, avoid harm. Do not harm yourself and do not harm others. Do not harm anything. Promote and preserve good.
A third underlying ethical value is recognising that everything has a right, as well as fulfilling the rights of all things.
Above and beyond that is to strive to have excellence with all things.
What you buy has consequences. Avoid excess and waste. Excess and waste in small amounts are morally disliked. Gross excess and gross waste are sinful. It is sinful. It is no less bad than missing prayer or deliberately leaving a fast.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) summarized beautifully how we approach life, work and everything. He said:
أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَجْمِلُوا فِي الطَّلَبِ
“O people, be mindful of Allah, and pursue all matters with beautiful balance.”
Pursue all matters with beautiful balance. Ijmal is to have restraint, not to have excessive avidness, but at the same time not to be lax. Not to pursue with greed or avarice with a lack of concern for others.
A beautiful balance is a balance in which you seek good for yourself while seeking good for others with due consideration of what is pleasing to God. Pursuance in a manner that upholds truth, beauty, dignity, mercy and good.
As believers, we have two levels of responsibility. One is our Individual responsibility. Personal obligations. But, these are not the only responsibilities.
We also have a share of collective responsibility as a moral obligation. The preservation of every good and the prevention of every harm in life is a collective obligation.
So, you are one part of a far greater whole. You have a share of responsibility for all that preserves good (for everything in existence) and all that prevents harm for everything in existence.
To the extent of your circumstances and abilities, you are responsible for the collective good. One has to think very carefully about one’s share of collective responsibility. “What am I actively doing for these to be fulfilled?”
Regarding our concern for the environment, our responsibility is firstly to uphold concern for creation in the way we view what is around us. If we don’t see God’s creation as it is, then we are just governed by me, myself, and I. A path to plodding away. See things right!
The second is upholding the ethics of concern in our conduct, and striving for excellence therein. Do not harm anything. Do not waste anything. Prevent harm and promote good.