The Earth’s Complaint (Part 1) | MM Treasures

“We were making the future, and hardly any of us troubled to think what future we were making. And here it is!”

MM Treasures are posts on MuslimMatters that we believe are overlooked ‘gems’ that NEED to be read, especially by our new readers. Original post from 2007 is here.


In H.G. Wells’s, “The Sleeper Awakes”, Graham, a troubled insomniac in 1890s England, falls into a sleep-like trance from which he does not awaken for over two-hundred years. When he comes out of his centuries of slumber, he awakens to a world with wondrous technological trappings, yet staggering social injustice and increasing unrest. Horrified by the stark contradictions and by the mass poverty, tyranny and malcontent in this disturbing technopolis, Graham asserts in utter anguish: “We were making the future, and hardly any of us troubled to think what future we were making. And here it is!”

Inconvenient Truths

Our world is not unlike Graham’s in that it too is marked by stark contradictions. Ours is a world where, globally, there is an abundance of food, and yet there is mass starvation and grotesque human inequalities; wherein we have increased in technology, yet decreased world stability; and where global markets expand, yet social institutions continue to collapse.

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Ours is a world wherein we have mapped the human gene code, where neuroscience has unravelled many of the marvels of the human brain, where we have now unearthed the ruins and relics of countless cultures and civilizations; yet ours is a world where, having amassed all this data about man, never has there been a deeper ignorance as to his true purpose of life: why he is born, why he lives, and why he must die.Ours is a world in which we pursue happiness on the material level with such technical brilliance; yet ours is a world where we puzzle over why an increasing number of societies are becoming alarmingly dysfunctional: spiralling rates of suicide, drug abuse, chronic depression, violent crime, and broken homes.

Ours is a world where we have the technology to build space probes to travel beyond the frontiers of our own solar system, or observe galaxies and stars close to the moment of the Big-Bang; and yet ours is a world where man, having mislaid his spiritual compass, now wreaks havoc with the actual Earth itself: pushing it to the brink of environmental catastrophe. Amidst such contradictions, and modernity’s gross self-assertions, our world still contains immense beauty and goodness: not all is doom and gloom.

Nevertheless, we do live in deeply disturbing times; the healing of which we must all partake in.

The Traces We Leave

“The Earth’s Complaint” is the title Gai Eaton gave to the third chapter of his book, Remembering God: Reflections on Islam. It encapsulates the feelings many of us have, living as we do in times of great global instability. The title itself is culled from the following Qur’anic verses:

When the earth is shaken with its earthquakes, and the earth yields up its burdens, and man says: What is the matter with it?  That day it shall proclaim its news, for your Lord will have inspired it. [1]

Re-iterating the implication of the above passages, the Prophet Muḥammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), upon whom be peace, asked:

Do you know what the earth’s news is? Its news is that it will bear witness about every man and woman as to what they did upon it. It will say: “He did such and such on such and such day.? That is its news. [2]

In an age where we now realize the need for reducing our “carbon foot-prints”, the Qur’an instills in the human conscience the necessity of being responsible for our “earth prints” too.

As Gai Eaton poignantly remarks: “It might be said that we leave our fingerprints upon all that we touch, and they remain in place long after we have gone on our way. We forget so much of the past, but the past is still there and cannot be wiped out, unless God – under His Name ‘the Effacer’ (Afu) – chooses to erase it from our records.” [3]

The Earth’s Complaint (Part 2); Essential Truths, In the Shadow of Ideology
The Earth’s Complaint (Part 3); Windows into a Worldview – Dignity, Vicegerency, Trusteeship

The Earth’s Complaint (Final); Windows into a Worldview – Sanctity, Justice, Mercy
1. Qur’an 99:1-5
2. Al-Tirmidhi’s, Sunan, 3575, who said: “It is hasan sahih”
3. Remembering God: Reflections on Islam (Cambridge: The slamic Texts Society, 2000), 39.

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