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Why did we start to waste so much? An Islamic View

March 20, 2007:

Fazlun Khalid

Fazlun Khalid is the founder of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES). This article is an extract from a recent commentary in “The Green Room”, a series of thought-provoking environmental pieces published by the BBC.

”Until quite recently, the human race functioned unconsciously within natural, unwritten boundaries. They had an intuitive disposition to live within the natural state (fitra), though this was achieved by a conscious recognition of the existence of a superior force, the divine. This was an existential reality, neither idyllic nor utopian.

We are clearly no longer functioning within these limits. Two events in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe allowed people to break free of the natural patterning of which they had always been a part.

The first of these was the appearance of the Cartesian world view, from which point onwards the human began to worship itself. We now have reason to support us in our acts of predation.

The second event was when the early bankers developed a system whereby they can lend money to others which they have created out of nothing. In Islamic terms, this sabotaged the balance (mizan) of the natural world.

This explosion of artificial wealth provides the illusion of economic dynamism but, in reality, it is parasitic - endless credit devours the finite fitra. If kept up, this would eventually result in the Earth looking like the surface of the Moon, as it is already doing in some places.

People who lived in the pre-Cartesian dimension, before we were told that nature was there to be plundered, were basically no different from us. They had the same positive and negative human attributes, but the results of human profligacy were contained by the natural order of things, which transcended technological and political sophistication and even religious disposition.

Excess in the natural order was contained because it was biodegradable. When old civilizations, however opulent, profligate, greedy, or brutal, died, the forests just grew over them or the sands covered their traces. They left no pollutants, damaging poisons or nuclear waste.

By contrast, and assuming we survive as a species, archaeologists excavating our present rampant civilisation are going to have wear radiation protection suits. The Koran says:

Corruption has appeared in both land and sea Because of what people's own hands have brought about So that they may taste something of what they have done So that hopefully they will turn back (30:40)

But will we?


Links

Link here for the IFEEs website.

Link here for the full article from the BBC.

Link here for the Islamic Statement on the Environment.

Link here for more information about Islamic beliefs about ecology, including information about tawheed (unity) and akrah (accountability).

Link here for more information about the Africa Muslim Environment Network, formed in 2006.



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