Balance and
Justice on Earth

The Egyptian Society for Spiritual and Cultural Research

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The Relationship
Between Man öAnd The Natural World

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While the starting point of any reformative transformation stems from the will of the individual human being, this reform is reflected in the way that man deals with her/himself as part of nature, and deals with the natural world as part of her/himself. By reaching this stage of awareness, the oneness of Allah means for her/him the oneness of life.

The unity of life is very apparent concept in the Islamic teachings:

Glory to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own (human) kind and (other) things of which they have no knowledge (HQ: 36: 33- 36).

There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have We omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end (HQ: 6: 38).

That is, all creatures are coming from one origin and returning to that origin. To Allah everything returns. Therefore, all creatures belong to one another.

Unity of life should be brought to man's awareness always because it represents an aspect of experiencing the oneness of Allah. According to this principle, man builds her/his relationship with nature, and with her/his fellow man. In her/his way to fulfill her/his earthly needs, s/he should not violate that principle.

Fulfilling her/his needs is not a simple response as it is in the animal kingdom. It is related to complex sets of relationships, between man and the natural kingdom (animals, birds and plants), between her/him and her/himself (is s/he greedy or self – controlled?), between her/him and her/his fellow human beings (with whom s/he shares and to whom s/he provides) and between her/him and the society where s/he should respect others’ ownership and privacy.

While her/his ultimate goal is to be a Servant of Allah, s/he should start her/his earthly journey, using the gifts that would make achieving that goal possible. Man, as a vicegerent of Allah, should behave out of this understanding, and strive to be worthy of that rank. He should be just to himself by being just to everything in the world; not to destroy a plant, shoot birds for pleasure, hurt an animal. S/he should respect life everywhere. The respect of life went to the extent that The Prophet (PBUH) advised believers to continue planting even if they foresee the coming of Doomsday.glossary

This respect of the unity of life serves two purposes, it emphasizes humans’ awareness of the Divine Law and its manifestations and, as such, encourages man to seek understanding of the Divine Law within the natural world. Out of this understanding, science develops. On the other hand, it creates an awesome feeling within man's heart, observing the Creator within His own creatures. Out of this inner interaction, art comes through.

… whithersoever ye turn, there is Allah's countenance. (HQ: 2:115).

As vicegerent of Allah, man is asked to build and invest not to destroy or mischief

Allah loveth not mischief (HQ: 2: 205).

Out of respect to Allah's creations, man should think and try to understand the relationship between the natural phenomena and to be aware not to misuse the natural gifts.



Man's Physical Body
As Part of the Natural World



Man's responsibility for her/his physical body is interrelated to her/his responsibility towards nature. To take care of her/his health and well-being can be accomplished without aggression on the natural world:

So eat and drink of the sustenance provided by Allah. And do no evil nor mischief on the (face of the) earth (HQ:2:60).

We are supposed to deal with our own body as part of the natural world. Therefore, we have to take care of it and fulfill its requirements without being indulged in its desires and lusts.

The Prophet (PBUH) says,

“It is enough for the child of Adam to feed her/himself with an amount of food that keeps her/him going" (PH).

Narrated by Ahmed, and Al Tirmidhi

In order to achieve the required balance, we need to remove the contradictions that exist between the earthly requirements and the spiritual longing. Therefore, we have to be aware that our physical existence is a gift from Allah that we should be thankful for, and that taking care of our body is a sacred task and an expression of gratitude to our Creator. In other words, our body acquires its importance as a tool through which our spirit expresses itself. It is understood that Allah provides us with instincts to keep our survival on earth. Assured that we are here for a purpose and that each of us has a mission, we should then try fulfilling our mission through this physical existence and take care of this tool.

In order to fulfill our physical needs we come across the natural world. For example, in order to survive, we need to eat. The teachings of Islam came to include a divine dimension with the way that man fulfills her/his needs. The general rule is that man was advised to say "in the name of Allah", before any action s/he intends to do. That statement stands as a continuous reminder that we have to be up to the meaning of the divine words that we utter. The implication is, we become tools in the hand of the Divine and we do what we do in His name. Out of respect to Allah who gives us that position, we should not exceed our limits, and we should always make a balance between satisfying our needs and protecting the natural resources.

Because all revelations natural and prophetic, including the teachings of Muhammad (PBUH) , respect Life in all its manifestations, it is understandable why killing an animal for consumption becomes a problem in some non-prophetic revelations. However, this seeming paradox between respecting life in all its manifestations and using animal as human food is resolved in Islam. The belief in the oneness of life and the unity of all its aspects implies that eating the meat of animal’s means that the life of the animal nourishes the life of man, and as such this animal's soul is blessed by moving to a higher level of existence. As such slaughtering animals for food consumption is allowed but according to certain values and regulations that reflect the oneness of all.glossary

During the act of the slaughtering the person must pray for the animal soul by saying "in the name of Allah. Allah is Great". Man is addressing the soul and asking it to surrender to Allah's will. The act of slaughtering should be done with a very sharp knife and directed to the neck nerve quickly without hesitation, that is, to minimize the animal's or the bird’s pain. This act should never ever be done in the presence of another animal(s), not to scare them. There is a clear order that the animals that are slaughtered without following those procedures, their meat is forbidden to eat. And it is considered a sinful action for its doer.

We, thus, have to be careful, and not to indulge ourselves in any sabotaging actions. We become more and more aware of the inner connection that ties us, humans, to the whole. With a growing awareness of that connection, we become more balanced. To be in balance requires a continuous self-observation and be open to the inspiration of Revelations without being fanatic and literal.

In other words, while man's search for satisfying her/his physical needs are considered "naturally legitimate", fulfilling those needs should be in harmony with the objective of creation. In fulfilling those needs, s/he humanizes them by elevating them from the instinctive animalistic level to meaningful responses that are purely human. While so doing, s/he is not causing harm to other aspects of life, rather helping them also fit into the purpose of their existence.

The teachings of Islam mean to facilitate man's life, and not to complicate it. For example, it would be impossible for people who live in deserts to live without depending on the sheep products. This is one of the reasons that meat is allowed. In our modern time, we came also to realize that meat and animal products provide the human body with essential amino acids that are not supplemented through other food resources.

Facilitating man's life goes to allow in certain circumstances what is forbidden otherwise. If man is obliged to eat forbidden food to survive, s/he is encouraged to do so:

But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, then is he guiltless. For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (HQ: 2:173).



óRediscovering the Oneness of Life
through Science and Art

 

Man is linked to the natural world, not just to satisfy her/his basic needs, but also in order to appreciate the order according to which the natural world was created. This appreciation is reflected in man's ability to relate between the natural phenomena, searching for rules that regulate those phenomena. It was also reflected in the deep contemplation, which resulted in learning about the Divine through artistic works as they appear in great civilizations.

Unity of life was revealed to man through her/his developing knowledge about the world and through her/his contemplations and meditation. Many verses in the Holy Qur’an push man to work her/his mind and heart, and criticize thosewithout understanding”

Islam responded to human quest for how to make the earthly life spiritually fruitful, by directing her/his way. Man is asked to make use of her/his potentials. Because s/he was created with the ability to think, s/he should use her/his mind to find continuously what is better for her/him. Her/his senses should be purified to listen to the hidden messages that are embedded in the natural world. Her/his worldly activities should then describe her/his appreciation to Allah's gifts within her/himself and in the world. That can be reflected in Islam's encouragement to science where our mental power is used and in art where the hidden insight of the heart takes the lead. That cohesion between mind and heart, reason and passion is highly recommended in Islamic teachings. That cohesion between mind and heart, reason and passion is another expression of the balance that is pointed at in The Prophet's teaching by the term al-amr al-wast.

Science

When man observes the order in the natural world, s/he becomes curious about decoding the relationships within natural phenomena. Responding to this curiosity, the Holy Qur’an and The Prophet’s teachings encouraged man to search and think of everything. The Prophet (PBUH) encouraged people to acquire knowledge even if it is in the end of the world.

He says,

“S/he who chooses a way of life where seeking knowledge is her/his prime goal, God paves her/his way to Heaven (PH).

Narrated by Al Tirmidhi and Ahmad.

“Seeking Knowledge is a religious commandment for all Muslims”(PH).

Narrated by Ibn Magah.

The Holy Qur'an constantly advises man to roar the earth and see the secrets of creation on all levels:

Would not they go and see how camels are created. How the sky is raised high. How the mountains are fixed firm. How the earth is spread out (HQ: 88: 17- 20).

Now let man consider how he came into an earthly existence. He is created from a gushing fluid. Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs (HQ: 86: 5- 7).

Science is based on the fact that there is an order in the universe. For believers, that order is a manifestation of the Divine Law. Science explains the oneness of life in a magnificent way.

Thou canst see no fault in the Beneficent One’s creation; then look again: Canst thou see any rifts? (HQ: 67: 3)

It has become known for every one that there is such a striking similarities between the smallest order men could observe in the living cell and the solar system. Those similarities clarify that there is one Order that points to the One Creator Who is Omnipresent within His creatures, and He connects them in a way that will remain always beyond our limited abilities to discover. So, regardless of man's growing knowledge, s/he remains in the state of wonder since the more s/he knows, the more s/he realizes that s/he does not know. Out of this limitation, s/he may get to be aware of The All Knowable.

It is well understandable that the holy text is not a source of scientific knowledge. However, it is amazing that what we know now, as scientific facts do not contradict with what comes in the verses of the Holy Qur’an. Moreover, there are certain verses that were not clear enough at the time of the Revelation and they are becoming understandable with reference to the scientific discovery. The examples are numerous, and there are many books that are written to deal with that subject. Our interest here is not to speculate upon the relationship between the Holy Qur’an and the scientific knowledge. Rather, we are interested in the fact that the Holy Qur’an and the teachings of The Prophet (PBUH) guide human beings to think, contemplate and interact with the natural world.

The Prophet (PBUH) himself was ready to learn from his companions about the natural world. When he found out that the palm trees did not produce dates because of his advice as not to germinate them, he told his companions to do as they had used to do. He told them, you know better in the affairs of this life”.glossary As such, there should be no confusion between the spiritual knowledge and the scientific one. Spiritual guides are not necessarily knowledgeable of the latest scientific findings, but they believe in the Divine Order that is revealed in the natural one. Scientists pursue objective observations and they should be highly disciplined in order to achieve that goal.

In few words, to know better about the world is a recommendation that goes in harmony with believing in the one order and the oneness of life. It is because of that fact, Islamic culture was open to all other cultures and civilizations and it contributed to the scientific knowledge a great deal.

Art

In the Islamic teachings man was/is asked to contemplate upon nature so that s/he can pass through the spiritual experience of existentially feeling Allah’s Face all around and within. That experience directly opens the heart to see what the eyes cannot see. An artist experiences the oneness of God from within her/his heart. Those deep interactions cannot be expressed directly, and the artist who lives such an experience needs to use metaphors if s/he writes poems or any other work of art. Or s/he may use any other artistic expressions, such as painting, sculpturing or architect.

Islam opens the heart of believers to interact deeply with the natural world and that interaction had brought to the world a kind of civilization that is distinguished with its artistic work in different branches. They all share the fact that an artist considers her/his work as tool of remembering Allah.

Artists are inspired by the hidden music in Qur’an, and by the perfect model of beauty that address the heart, while the mind claims its inability to practice its role. Reading Qur’an with devotion and openness nourishes in man talents of art. S/he can then experience a very specific kind of balance where her/his heart is tuned with her/his senses.  Next >>>


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