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Tuesday, 18 November 2008 08:15

Qur'anic View of Environment

The Quran speaks of the universe as a grand State ruled by One Majestic King. And this universal system survives due to an extraordinary discipline with every single particle without failing following the Physical laws of the universe the Lord established. While the Physical laws control the universe as a whole, the planet Earth also has biological laws in place. In addition, mankind has been given the spiritual and social laws to follow. While physical and biological laws are beyond human control, social and spiritual laws are within the powers of human beings. The earth has a unique system in which mankind plays an extremely important role. 

 The Quran says:

"And He (God) raised the sky high and set equilibrium in it, so that you may not violate the balance; establish the measure with justness, and dont harm the equilibrium. (55: 3-13/A)

He who created the seven heavens one above another: no want of proportion wilt thou see

in the creation of (God) Most Gracious. So turn thy vision again: Seest thou any flaw? Again turn thy vision a second time: thy vision will come back to thee dull and discomfited, in a state worn out. 67: 3-5/A)

The Quran tells us that:

 1.       God has established a universal system, which runs without any disturbance, and God has also created a balance in the atmosphere of the Planet Earth.

 2        God has created this equilibrium in a way that human beings cannot annihilate it. Nature has an inherent tendency to correct any disturbances that might destroy the equilibrium.

 3.       Though human beings cannot annihilate this equilibrium altogether, they can certainly harm it

 4.       The natural disasters are of mans own making; Nature only judges and takes corrective action resulting in what we know as natural disasters. These disasters are a way to correct the equilibrium and save the mankind from bigger disasters. See the following verses:

 .           Lo! Allah wrongeth not mankind in aught; but mankind wrong themselves. (10: 44/P)

 ·            Whatever good, (O man!) Happens to thee is from God; But whatever evil happens to thee, is from thy (own) soul. (4: 79/A)

 ·            Whatever misfortune happens to you, is because of the things your hands have wrought, and for many (of them) He grants forgiveness. Nor can ye frustrate (aught), (fleeing) through the earth; nor have ye, besides God any one to protect or to help. (42: 30-31/A)

 Whether natural disasters are man made or not has been a topic of debate among environmentalists for decades. The Quran categorically declared it about 1500-years ago that the disasters are the result of mans actions. Now the environmentalists too have finally accepted it. Only recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change formed by the UN issued a report declaring that the global warming is human made. This report has the following salient features:


       The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changewas its fourth such assessment since 1990 and its most urgent warning yet about global warming: what has already occurred, and what lies ahead.

 2. By unanimous agreement, the 2,500 scientists and government representatives said there is now at least a 90-per cent certainty that mankind is to blame for the warming already being observed.

       As to the future, the projections were stark. Among them:

-in this century, the planet will warm up by between three and nearly eight degrees Fahrenheit;

-the weather will be hotter everywhere, with some areas becoming dryer, while others see more rain; and

-sea levels will rise.

 3.       It is not just the global mean temperatures the six years since the last report are in the top warmest seven years on record but also a whole host of other variables that provide compelling evidence to suggest that warming is happening. These variables include snow cover and sea ice, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, drought around the world, changes in hurricanes, etc.

 4.       As a result of warming, the extremes of water are going to be much more unmanageable, both the drought extreme and the risk of floods. The planet is really sure to warm up between 3.2 and 7.8 degrees Fahrenheit; it is 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the beginning of the 20th century and about 1 degree Fahrenheit since about 1970. So the rate of warming has increased. That is one of the key aspects of the global temperature increases.

 5. With a greater warming, the amplification of the effects the world is already seeing is expected. So around the subtropical region, there is a drying that has been going on, there are increases in droughts, and some increases in rainfall at higher latitudes. And it is rainfall, some of what used to be snowfall is now occurring as rain.

 6. There are large-scale patterns of changes in the rainfall and the rainfall distribution, which has real consequences for human activities and for the environment, because it increases the risk of droughts in the subtropics and other places around the world. This is owing to the fact that as temperatures warm up, it creates a drying effect off the atmosphere, on the surface. In other places where it does rain, it is likely to rain harder. And this relates also to changes in hurricanes. And so it means that the extremes of water are going to be much more unmanageable, both the drought extreme and the risk of floods.

 7. One sort of nugget in the report is that the last time the poles were as warm as they could get over the next few decades, due to the greenhouse gases, substantial parts of the Greenland ice sheet and perhaps the Antarctic ice sheet had either melted or disintegrated into the ocean. And sea level was something like 15 feet higher than today.


Now there may be many reasons for the natural disorders:

 1.       Emissions of gases from the industries and vehicles, the reason being well known; 2.       Irregular distribution of population. This has not been studied in details it demands. Economic growth has not been uniform on earth, and the type of the model of the economic growth the economic fundamentalists adopted necessitated population control. But the population control resulted in a great gulf between the population densities of the different parts of the world. The Northern Block saw the thinning of not only the human population but also the animal population in general. The Southern Block witnessed the rise in human population. This has also resulted in a huge gulf between average weights in different populations. The world now has high weight, normal weight and low weight people in significant percentages. In fact the majority of human population is either overweight or underweight. These differences in the density of population of human beings and animals and the differences in weight would surely cause natural disturbances, and the nature will try to correct this by killing humans and animals where the population is large. If this threat is to be avoided, the North Block must start efforts to restore the animal weight it must share according to an equitable distribution. If it fails to do that, the death will keep visiting the South Block in one form or the other. If the South also follows an extensive population control programme, it will not solve the problem. The bio-mass of animal kingdom has to remain the same, and if human population decreases, it will have three effects:

 (1) rise of average weight of human beings, (2) the longevity of human life with an increase in the population of the elderly and (2) rise in the population and weight of animals.

 According to the Quran, natural disasters do not only come on account of mans violations of environmental poise but also due to widespread moral degradation. See the following verses:

 The word came: "O Noah! Come down (from the Ark) with Peace from us, and blessing on thee and on some of the Peoples (who will spring) from those with Thee: but (there will be other) peoples to whom we shall grant their pleasures (for a time), but in the end will a grievous penalty reach them from Us." (11: 47-48/A)

 Mention (Hud) one of Ads (own) brethren. Behold, he warned his people about the winding Sand-tracts: but there have been warners before him and after him: "Worship ye none other than God. Truly I fear for you the Penalty of a Mighty Day." They said: "Hast thou come in order to turn us aside from our gods? Then bring upon us the (calamity) with which thou dost threaten us, if thou art telling the truth?" He said: "The Knowledge (of when it will come) is only with God. I proclaim to you the mission on which I have been sent: But I see that ye are a people in ignorance!". Then, when they saw the (Penalty in the shape of) a cloud traversing the sky, coming to meet their valleys, they said, "This cloud will give us rain!" "Nay, it is the (Calamity) ye were asking to be hastened! A wind wherein is a Grievous Penalty! "Everything will it destroy by the command of its Lord!" Then by the morning they nothing was to be seen but (the ruins of) their houses! thus do We recompense those given to sin! (46: 21-25/A)

 Then see what was the end of their plot!- this, that We destroyed them and their people, all (of them). Now such were their houses, in utter ruin, because they practised wrong-doing. Verily in this is a Sign for people of knowledge. And We saved those who believed and practised righteousness. (27: 52-53/A)

 (He said to his people): "Do ye indeed approach men, and cut off the highway?- and practise wickedness (even) in your councils?" (29: 29/A)

 But the (mighty) Blast overtook them before morning, and We turned (the cities) upside down, and rained down on them brimstones hard as baked clay. Behold! in this are Signs for those who by tokens do understand. And the (cities were) right on the high-road. (15: 73-76/A)

 This can generate a lot of opposition in the scientific community but the truth remains that according to the Quran the natural catastrophes can be the result of depraving beliefs and practices. Degradation of morality if it becomes widespread can attract natural punishments. Obviously the current International sciences will find it hard to accept, but this must be noted down as a prediction that the future scientific developments will prove the relationship between natural disasters and degradation of morals and beliefs. It must however be clarified here that the Quran does not say that all natural disasters are the result of failures to act righteously. The scholars of Islam can object here by saying that the Quran talks of specific events when God chose to punish the culprits in a special way and it did not reflect a general rule. It can be argued that though several of the ancient natural calamities were the result of the erroneous beliefs and moral corruption but this does not hold true now.  There is no denying the fact however that the Quran is categorical about the afflictions being the result of disturbances of the environmental equilibrium. If the disturbances of physical environment at a larger scale bring disasters, disturbances of social and spiritual environment at a large scale may also herald disasters. How this relationship works is not clear at the moment; but as the time matches ahead there is surely likelihood that this relationship will be unveiled.  It should also be noted here that the scriptures of other religions including Old and New Testaments and Ramayana also describe the history of natural disasters having been caused by Gods punishment.

 That the Quran speaks of the extraordinary ecological, biological and atmospheric balance is indisputable. Quran says: Andwho sendeth down water from the sky in (due) measure? And We revive a dead land therewith. Even so ye will be brought forth; He who created all the pairs and appointed for you ships and cattle whereupon you ride; that ye may mount upon their backs, and may remember your Lords favour when ye mount thereon, and may say: Glorified be He who hath subdued these unto us, and we were not capable of (subduing them). (43: 11-13/P)  

 We sent down water from the sky in due measure and lodged it into the earth. But, if We please, We can take it all away. With it We caused vineyards and palm-graves to spring up, yielding abundant fruit for your sustenance. Also a tree which grows on mount Sinai and gives oil and relish for the eaters. In the cattle, too, you have an example of Our Power. You drink of that which is in their bellies, you eat their flesh, and gain other benefits from them, besides. By them, as by the ships that sail the sea, you are carried.    (23: 18-22/Z).

 Heknows all that goes into the earth, and all that goes out thereof; all that  Comes down from the sky and all that ascends thereto; and He is the Most Merciful, the Oft-Forgiving. (34: 2/A)

 Say: Have ye thought: If (all) your water were to disappear in the earth, who then could bring you gushing water? (67: 30/P)


Environmental equipoise requires a separate full-scale discussion. Here it will suffice to say that:

 1.Quran describes all the major players in the ecological balance animals (birds, insects, mammals, fishes and "invisible" living beings), plants, air, water, mountains, water, canals, rivers, oceans, soil, land, fields, forests, orchards, gardens etc. as the indicators of Gods creative powers. Their repeated mention in the Quran is the proof of the importance to preserve the roles of each of these players.

 2. The Quran gives the human beings control over the products of the universe, especially the ones on the Planet Earth. It allows them to avail the products of Nature. But at the same time it clarifies that they should be used judiciously and for the general welfare of the people.

 3. The Qur
an permits human intervention but warns against negative intervention for personal gains. The provisions of God can be remodelled, cleansed and purified for specific purposes, but only the methods and procedures that do not harm the equilibrium and balance are permitted. Those that can seriously hamper this balance are forbidden.

 4. Quran categorically states that the whole universe submits to the Laws of God and also directs the human beings to serve Him by following His System. God warns that the failure in submitting to His System and the negation of His commands can lead to various forms of natural disasters and afflictions like diseases, famines, floods, huge rains, earthquakes, fall of meteors, destruction of corps by locusts and heavy rains, etc.


by DR JAVED JAMIL, Radiance