Muslims Should Care About Climate Change

by Arsalan Iftikhar

Most people do not need NASA to tell them that the “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal†when considering the impact of climate change on our planet today. With tropical storms and hurricanes with harmless-sounding names like Harvey and Irma devastating parts of the United States and entire islands within the Caribbean; these natural disasters seem to be symptomatic of global warming and ominous warning signs for what lies ahead for our planet if we do nothing to change our environmental ways.

According to NASA, the empirical evidence for climate change is quite compelling: increasing global temperatures, warming oceans, melting ice sheets, shrinking glaciers, rising sea levels, and soaring numbers of extreme climate events across the globe.

As needlessly demonstrated by several tragedies such as the recent deaths of 8 elderly patients at a Florida nursing home facility during Hurricane Irma, we are dangerously ill-equipped to deal with global warming even within industrialized nations like the United States. Fossil fuels have been a curse for the Middle East and our planet because we incessantly burn the cores of our planet in order to power our over-developed digital age. Needless to say, this has vastly contributed to global warming and is already leading to potential upcoming conflicts over drinking water. The rising temperatures from global warming will continue to dwindle supplies of palatable life-giving drinking water, which will obviously first affect poorer under-developed regions, but which is already adversely impacting some of the largest cities in the world today.

According to National Geographic, the groundwater has been so depleted in China’s capital city of Beijing- home to more than 20 million people- that this could ultimately cause serious disruptions in Beijing’s rail system, roadways, and building foundations. Beijing, despite tapping into the gigantic North China Plain aquifer, is the world’s fifth most water-stressed city and its water problems are likely to get even worse if we fail to do anything about it.

Most Muslims know that charity is one of the fundamental pillars of Islam. The well-known concept of “waqf” (or “endowment”) is one of the oldest legal traditions in Islam. The classic precedent case used by Muslim lawyers concerns the Caliph Omar who based upon the advice of the Prophet Muhammad set up some of his lands as a source of income for the greater good of society.

Since that time, every great figure in Islamic history established waqfs (or endowments) to serve their local communities for generations. These Islamic endowments included everything from scholarships for students, fruit orchards to feed the needy, water wells and irrigation systems, to free hotels along trade routes for weary travelers, watchtowers to protect civilians, and lighthouses to guide ships.

On the topic of Islam and environmentalism, journalist Tom Verde once noted that the Prophet Muhammad established the world’s oldest conservation system (known as “hima” or “protected place”) in which nature and natural resources could not be disturbed or damaged, and was a public asset for all of society.

“The Prophet Muhammad laid down guidelines that transformed the hima into one of the essential instruments of conservation in Islam,†once said Othman Abd ar-Rahman Llewellyn of the Saudi National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development.

Locally here in the United States, we do not need to look any further than the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma and Tropical Storm Harvey on millions of people, especially in Florida and Texas. With government agencies like FEMA potentially running out of money for disaster relief, we must turn to non-profit organizations who are valiantly trying to raise sufficient funds for disaster relief in places like Houston and Florida.

Protecting the environment should be the duty for every member of the human race. As Muslims, we should revive our own Islamic ethical traditions of environmentalism and conservationism to mitigate the impact of climate change and natural disasters to help preserve our planet for future generations.

Arsalan Iftikhar is founder of and brand ambassador for Penny Appeal USA.