The climate crisis has always been part of my conscience. I grew up with information about holes in the ozone layer, mass consumption, oil spills and other environmental tragedies of unfathomable magnitude.
As with any tragedy, I have gone through the five stages of grief and have come to accept that we as human beings make choices that continue to contribute to this crisis. To say that this realization was overwhelming is an understatement. I found myself carrying a nihilistic outlook until I realized I needed to find a more productive way to process and act on this realization.
I found myself turning to my faith, for it is my north star; it leads me to gratitude and guidance in all situations. Although many people in today’s society use religion and science as antonyms, this is far from true. Scholars have discovered many scientific discoveries in religious texts, including the Quran and Hadith.
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In the Quran, there are so many references to the environment. Thinking of ozone, I remembered the ayah “And we have made the sky a sheltered ceiling, but they from its signs turn away” (Quran 21:32). Fortunately, since the 80s, when the problem of the hole in the ozone layer became common, we have been able to eradicate 98% of the substances that damage this protected ceiling that we have.
Knowing that the Quran mentioned ozone and its role in climate reminded me that other climate concerns should also be covered in religious texts, so I kept looking. I wholeheartedly believe that Islam presents us with a complete code of life, especially for how to manage and combat this climate crisis.
Through the Quran and Hadith, I learned a lot about appreciating and conserving natural resources. The Quran says: “O children of Adam! Seek to adorn yourself in all places that are worthwhile, and eat and drink, but do not be lavish. He does not love prodigals” (Quran 7:3).
It taught me a valuable lesson about waste. I sought to avoid wasteful attitudes and raised my children with the same awareness. Food insecurity is a big problem all over the world, but here in the United States we have no problem with mass consumption. If we are careful in our consumer behavior, a large part of the resources can be used for people in need.
Being a careful consumer of resources goes a long way. In fact, an article published in the Columbia Climate School studied the effects of consumerism and climate change and found that “it is not enough to simply green consumption by purchasing more sustainably produced goods; it is essential to reduce consumption. Indeed, 45% of global greenhouse gas emissions come solely from the production of the things we use and buy every day.
Also, Islam puts a lot of emphasis on balance. “Verily, We created all things in proportion and measure” (Quran 54:49). What is an ecosystem if not a delicate balance. How everything is connected is nothing less than a miracle where the challenge lies. We all have a role to play.
“And do not abuse the earth, spreading corruption” (Quran 2:60). Again, the emphasis is on individual responsibility. Prophet Muhammad said “the world is soft and green, and verily Allah will install you there as vicegerents in order to see how you act” (Sahih Muslim). The whole world with its abundance of resources is for our use, but like any other privilege, it comes with a responsibility.
I found a model in the life of Prophet Muhammad. He led a simple life with moderation in everything he did. He was careful in his use of water, even for performing ablution. Anas Ibn Malik reported: “The Prophet would perform ablution with one mudd (half a kilogram of water) and perform a ritual bath with one sa’ (two kilograms of water) up to five mudd (two and a half kilograms of water)” (Muttafaqun ‘Alayh). Even in wudu, which is something we immediately associate with water, there is an example of conservation and awareness.
While there are many other contributors to climate change to focus on, I have found that focusing on reducing consumption and being more aware of what I consume has led to less waste in my life. name. By using the guidelines I found in the Quran and Hadith, I was able to reduce my anxiety about this crisis.
I’m a big believer that a little goes a long way. Being cynical and indifferent is not an option, especially when it comes to our climate. This is a problem that concerns us all. It’s overwhelming, sure, but like any other problem, the best thing to do is take it one step at a time. It is important to continue even when we are unsure of the outcome.
It is this indomitable spirit of perseverance that has brought us all as a human race to this point, and it is what will bring it to fruition.
Nausheen Rahman is a mother of three and lives in Cumberland County.