Lessons From Ramadan For The Environment
Ramadan is an important spiritual month for Muslims and is often likened to a school or madrasah. Muslims enter the month with the hope of “graduating” at the end of the Ramadan with a higher level of taqwa or God-consciousness. If taqwa, which is the main objective of fasting, is attained then Muslims would be equipped to manage the world in a better way.
The Quran contains many guidance on mankind’s responsibilities towards the environment so much so that some scholars stated that the Quran contains a “theology of ecology.” The responsibility of mankind towards the planet comes with the role of khalifah or steward. It is mentioned in verse 30 of Surah al-Baqarah that Allah tells the angels that He is putting a khalifah on earth.
Allah has provided us with all that we need to survive in this world. Even in the month of Ramadan, we note that our rizq or provisions are aplenty. Therefore, to avoid wastage, we need to manage our provisions well by avoiding overconsumption and excessiveness.
During Ramadan, while we focus on pleasing Allah through the many acts of worship, our responsibilities as khalifah in minimising wastage should not be forgotten. After all, Ramadan is a month for us to be thankful, and not a month for us to be wasteful.
Ramadan is like the rain. It nourishes the seeds of good deeds. Hopefully, the seeds of good deeds will continue to grow within ourselves even after Ramadan ends. There are many good deeds and values that we learn and obtain during Ramadan.
These include the attainment of taqwa, achieving taqarrub, inculcating sabr, cultivating adab and forging ukhuwwah. In essence, each of these good deeds is not just about maintaining our relationship with Allah and other people, but also applies to our relationship with the environment.
When we attain taqwa, we would not take part in any acts that cause fasad or destruction on the planet. This is because we would be aware that Allah is watching our every action. We would instead endeavour to uphold our amanah or trust by managing the planet in a proper manner according to Islamic teaching.
Getting closer to Allah or achieving taqarrub is accomplished by carrying out all obligatory duties. These include how we treat the natural world. A person who is close to Allah would manifest this in the form of closeness to all creatures of Allah, by feeding them and looking after them, and protecting them from harm. This is a form of manifestation of mercy, compassion and respect for other creatures.
The act of fasting teaches us to refrain ourselves with sabr or patience. We are able to subdue our temperament and control our desires from doing things which are abhorred by Islam. If we have sabr within ourselves, we would be able to refrain ourselves from committing acts that are detrimental to the environment.
Adab or good manners are continuously cultivated and inculcated during Ramadan. Adab is not just about how we treat other people, but also how we treat other creatures of Allah in the natural world. A person with good adab would strive to ensure that the beauty and balance of nature as created by Allah is maintained in a sustainable manner.
Ukhuwwah or brotherhood is an important ingredient for unity. During Ramadan, there is a sense of togetherness amongst believers who perform the fast. In terms of our role as khalifah, we need to understand that the environmental problems of the world need to be tackled as a united ummah in order to make meaningful changes.
With the end of Ramadan, each of us need to take stock by asking the question whether we have truly changed for the better. We learned many lessons during Ramadan, including values such as environmental consciousness, which we try to adhere to as Muslims. However, it is important that these lessons should not end just when the holy month ends. Fasting would lose its significance if these values are not continuously observed beyond Ramadan.
With the coming of Syawal, it is now the time to encourage ourselves to be the best possible khalifah. As stewards of the planet, we are responsible for the world around us. If we are able to take stock of our personal connection with nature, the world would be a different and much better place. This would be possible if we continuously observe the lessons of Ramadan in the coming months.