Mentions of Earth, her beauty and creation are numerous in our holy book, the Quran. God invites humankind to ponder upon His majesty through knowing his creation and to not only understand him through it, but also to enjoy the blessings of the treasures of Earth within it. Imagine living in your house and neglecting its needed repairs and maintenance. Allowing the roof and walls to deteriorate overtime and fall apart, then blaming fate for the misery.
Earth is our home and it is experiencing tremendous abuse through mankind’s greedy and irresponsible activities of the last few centuries. Climate crisis is already upon us, and we are experiencing the aftermath of exploitation.1 Deforestation, overuse of fossil oil (while alternate sources of energy are abundant), destruction of the Earth’s atmosphere via harmful industrial chemicals; all of these are a few to mention which have brought the existence of life on Earth to a dangerous precipice. According to many, we may have reached a point of no return.
But a Muslim is always hopeful, reflective, and never shies from doing the right thing. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Even if the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, let him plant it.”
(Source: Musnad Aḥmad 12902)
There is a tool in our toolbox that can be utilized now. We can plant the seeds of hope, love, and responsibility for our amazing and beautiful home, Earth, in the hearts of our children. This assignment is passed down to us from our father, Adam, peace be upon him, who established the parameters of faith and worship on Earth.
To raise a vicegerent or steward of the Earth, it starts with home. Many schools and communities have established curriculums to teach and implement conservation of resources, and policies that support reusing and recycling. It remains only this, until as parents and guardians we decide to adopt the practices and model civic responsibility to our children. This, in education, is known as Direct Instructions.
For example, plastic has become a nuisance presence in all aquatic life and now is presenting many harmful effects, plaguing our communities with health problems.2 Though it is a dangerous situation, we can still counter the effects of microplastic by using sensible and reasonable approaches to our activities, such as recycling plastic containers and bottles, reusing grocery bags, reducing the use of plastic, using cloth bags for groceries, etc.
Another example is paper towels, a product of trees. I love using paper towels; they are reliable for easy cleanup and no washing afterward. But at what cost? Instead, I can demonstrate to my children the benefits of using cloth towels, saving both money and trees. These are just a few to mention.
Explore ways of preservation and conservation and get the children involved in planning around family activities and events. You’ll be surprised at their creativity and willingness to participate in sharing the responsibility. There you raise a future leader who cares for the well-being of his/her Earth home.
Advocating and Educating
Encourage children to advocate for the environment in their communities. This may mean that you are spending considerable energy assisting them in the activities. Proof reading campaign letters, holding gatherings, baking, and cooking for the meetings, and of course Mom’s and Dad’s personal chauffeuring services to and from events and activities. A little price to pay, to preserve the future of our children and help them care for their environment. They may not reach the fame and influence of Greta Thunberg (a famous and young climate Swedish activist) but that is not the end goal anyway.
Educating the future leaders of our world will take more than a school curriculum. The concern and education should continue at home in the loving presence of a family. This is a task not to be left as a school assignment only or extra credit project. There are plenty of resources available for a family to learn together the many effects of climate crisis on types of life and environment.3 For parents of older children in high school or college, encourage them to select and graduate in environment related degree programs and pursue vigorous research in their areas of interest.
To raise a leader for Earth is no small task. Inculcation of responsibility, sense of ownership, and a desire to pursue goals to counter the damage already done are the requirements of the day. And they are desperately needed now. This sense is enhanced when understood as a sacred duty entrusted by God to mankind. The exploitation of the Earth at the cost of hurting her and her people then takes the form of a crime upon self and the corrupt.
To accomplish this, we teach our budding leaders from the many examples in the life of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, in how he trained his followers to be mindful of nature and care for it. We tie the responsibility of taking care of Earth as part of the religious obligation of all Muslims toward humanity, a tenet of Islam known as Huquq al Ibaad (the rights of the people upon each other). The rights of the people are violated when the climate crisis causes poor communities to be displaced due to floods, when the crops fail because of drought and billions of people go hungry, and when powerful corporations and governments exploit and enslave people for their land’s minerals and energy resources.
By teaching our children the consequences of greed and exploitation leading to the climate crisis of our times through education and modeling responsible behavior toward Earth, we instill in them repulsion for such actions that cause the dilemma. First it starts with the self and the self grows into a family, then a community. And then maybe our little vicegerent can herald a world of peace, beauty and abundance, inshaAllah, God willing. We hope, we pray and then wait for God’s mercy.
Tayaabah Qazi has a master’s degree in Educational Leadership, an AdminI/II Certification from the State of Maryland Education Department, and a Secondary Teaching Certification in Chemistry as well as a CPP certificate. She has served in the education field as a teacher and an administrator of schools. Recently, she served at Community College of Baltimore County as a Coordinator of Adult Basic Education program. Currently, Tayaabah is the Program Manager at the Office of Workforce Development at Maryland Department of Labor. She has been a long-time resident of Maryland for 17 years, with her family, but hails from Southern California. She is also a staunch believer of the 4 Cs: Compassion. Commitment. Conversation. Cultivation.