With extinctions and endangerments within the animal kingdom still common place and the year 2010 possibly one of the hottest on record, the environmental crisis of today seems quite alive and far from ending.4 Moreover, the massive loss of natural recreational areas for people and the continuous repeats of “natural” disasters show that humanity itself is in grave danger. With this overwhelming plethora of catastrophes becoming more and more common in the modern world, humanity must ask itself: How has such an abnormal pattern of calamity come to be, and how can it be ameliorated or stopped?
Simply put, the environmental crisis is but an outward reflection of the inward crisis of modern day humanity. It is not just the environment that is in crisis, but humanity as well. In fact, humans’ own inward disharmony serves as causation to the disharmony prevalent in their surroundings. Humans’ lack of self-discipline and morals - such as excessive consumption and a lack of compassion - has translated onto their environment and into the crisis apparent today. The root of humanity’s disharmony with nature is therefore humans’ disharmony within their own selves.
More specifically, this inward crisis is a spiritual one. The lack of spirituality, rooted in a general lack of adherence to sacred tradition, has spurred the loss of merciful aspects such as benevolence, love and compassion. Such a loss created a void in the soul of humans that was instantly filled by the very antithesis of such spiritual characteristics. Devilish characteristics such as greed, apathy and cruelty filled this void that was previously occupied by the fruits of sacred religiosity and spirituality. This marring of the human soul has translated from humans’ inner nature onto the outward nature around them. Thus, the only lasting method for the modern human to redeem harmony in its environment is by restoring harmony within the human soul. Only with a purification of the heart, and hence the replacement of its diseases with primordially healthy attributes, can peace be attained both inwardly and outwardly.
In turn, direction is needed. Generally, the human’s self is too prone to lawlessness to direct itself to a selfless state of peace. In order to understand how to best travel on the route of love, humanity must turn to the Loving. A turn to God, regardless of the sacred tradition taken by each individual, is needed for a lasting inner-peace. Humanity’s resolving of the environmental crisis depends on the resolving of its own spiritual crisis, which, for each individual, depends on his or her reconciliation with God.
A study of this from an Islamic perspective may prove beneficial, given not only the Islamic sciences of the soul and the Islamic reverence for nature, but also what Islam shares with other religions. Given its theological correspondences to Western religions and its esoteric similarities to Eastern religions, Islam has the capacity to provide a universal basis that can benefit other religions in their own approaches to the environmental crisis. The religious approach to the environmental crisis, though perhaps different in nuance, is similar across all religions.
Ultimately, all sacred traditions affirm sacred qualities to nature and all recognize humanity’s responsibility of stewardship to this part of God’s
creation, the natural world. In this essay, Islamic philosophy serves as the lens through which these sacred qualities of nature are observed.