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Allah’s Will and Our Responsibility: Responding To Forest Fires

Forest Fires
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What do Indonesia, Greenland, Brazil, Siberia, Turkey, Bolivia, The Canary Islands, and The Congo, have in common? They are losing their forests due to wildfires, commonly known as forest fires.

The image above is not an image of city lights at night.

It represents wildfires that happened around the world in July of 2019. The purpose of this article is to clarify misconceptions, provide the facts, and suggest possible solutions. Despite media coverage, forest fires are not typically bad. If you remember back to your Biology class in High School, a forest fire can be part of secondary succession. It plays a role in our environment. Forest fires stimulate new growth, and it opens up the canopy allowing sunlight to hit the forest floor. Forest fires also release nutrients trapped in the forest floor. Currently, we have reached a state of panic and misinformation. High profile social media accounts have been sharing pictures and information that is not accurate in time and location. These only fuels fear and doubt, and like anything on the media, you need to fact check.

While it is true that the Amazon forest is experiencing a more significant number of fires this year than last, the pattern isn’t necessarily abnormal on a global scale. In 2015 we experienced 4.7 million forest fires globally, and that number has been steadily decreasing every year since. To date, we have experienced 2.9 million forest fires in 2019. From 2003 to 2008 we averaged 5 million forest fires annually.

Forest Fires data

Right now, we are at the average number of forest fires we would be experiencing in August, based on 20 years of data. While the media is focusing on Brazil, Brazil ranks number 5 in the number of forest fires in the last year. The Congo has ranked number 1 for several years now in regards to forest fires. The Congo loses about 1% of their forest annually to wildfires, and Brazil about 0.15% of their forest. Either way, these are huge losses. Our brothers and sisters in Indonesia are suffering as well, including some critically endangered species.

What is causing this? Nothing happens without the will of Allah ﷻ. In Surat Yusuf, verse 21 Allah ﷻ says “The Will of God prevails, but most of the people know not”

In a narration, we hear the Prophet subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) reminding us of the above verse.

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ: “كُنْت خَلْفَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم يَوْمًا، فَقَالَ: يَا غُلَامِ! إنِّي أُعَلِّمُك كَلِمَاتٍ: احْفَظْ اللَّهَ يَحْفَظْك، احْفَظْ اللَّهَ تَجِدْهُ تُجَاهَك، إذَا سَأَلْت فَاسْأَلْ اللَّهَ، وَإِذَا اسْتَعَنْت فَاسْتَعِنْ بِاَللَّهِ، وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ الْأُمَّةَ لَوْ اجْتَمَعَتْ عَلَى أَنْ يَنْفَعُوك بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَنْفَعُوك إلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ لَك، وَإِنْ اجْتَمَعُوا عَلَى أَنْ يَضُرُّوك بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَضُرُّوك إلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْك؛ رُفِعَتْ الْأَقْلَامُ، وَجَفَّتْ الصُّحُفُ”. رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ

Abu al-‘Abbas ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reports:

“One day I was riding (a horse/camel) behind the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when he said, ‘Young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of God, and He will take care of you. Be mindful of Him, and you shall find Him at your side. If you ask, ask of God. If you need help, seek it from God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together in order to help you, they would not be able to help you except if God had written so. And if the whole world were to gather together in order to harm you, they would not harm you except if God had written so. The pens have been lifted, and the pages are dry.'” Related by Tirmidhi

There is a sense of freedom through the reliance of Allah ﷻ.

But Allah ﷻ has given us a responsibility, an amanah.

وَهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَكُمْ خَلَائِفَ الْأَرْضِ وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَكُمْ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ دَرَجَاتٍ لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ سَرِيعُ الْعِقَابِ وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“And it is He (God) who has made you successors (Khalifa) upon the Earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Surah Al-An’am:165]

I worry the world is neglecting that responsibility, and taking the Earth for granted. Not only are we neglecting this responsibility, but we are also exploiting what Allah ﷻ gave us.

“Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” (Qur’an, 2:60)

We are in a state of a “climate crisis,” yet we have not taken the proper steps to address it. We worry about the world that our children will inherit, but lack the passion for doing something about it.

A lot of it is at the government level. The Green New Deal failed and living in a plutocracy, and it may not come to fruition. Capitalism that fuels our consumeristic manners only speed up this destruction we are inflicting on ourselves. The solutions are simple and need to come from the community and work outward. We see the forests of the world burning, are we going to sit and watch the world burn, or will we implement the words of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)? Our Prophet Muhammad said: “There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field for a human, bird, or animal eats from it, but it shall be reckoned as charity from him.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

عَنْ أَنَسٍ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ مَا مِنْ مُسْلِمٍ يَغْرِسُ غَرْسًا أَوْ يَزْرَعُ زَرْعًا فَيَأْكُلُ مِنْهُ إِنْسَانٌ أَوْ طَيْرٌ أَوْ بَهِيمَةٌ إِلاَّ كَانَتْ لَهُ صَدَقَةٌ ‏”

If the Forest Burns, We Plant More Trees

If the forests burn, we plant more trees; this gives us sadaqah jariyah (continous reward), and allows us to fulfill our obligation as stewards of this planet. Countries with much fewer resources are doing it, and so can you. The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa. Its foundation is in the Sahel the southeastern part of the Sahara. That part of the world is on the frontline of climate change, and the people are changing their ways to address it.

As Brazil loses 0.15% of forest due to fires, India has increased its forestry by 1% in two years. There is no doubt that capitalism plays a role, and we play a role in capitalism, and instead of being blind consumers, we can be informed consumers. Your dollar forces companies to make choices that can be better for the planet. It is essential to be cautious of your purchases and the role that the company plays in our delicate ecosystems. Three significant regions are suffering tremendously due to forest fires. The Congo, Brazil, and Indonesia, each has its unique part in our capitalistic lives.

Cells for Congo

Mining to get rare earth metals comes from the Congo; mining requires deforestation to reach the resources needed. These “rare earth” metals are used by anyone that has a cell phone, laptop, computer, etc. One thing we can do not to be part of the problem is to find more ethical companies in regards to technology usage.

Investigate for Indonesia

Next is Indonesia, and it is notorious for having corporations burn its trees down for palm oil. Palm oil is an ingredient found in many processed foods, cosmetics, and toiletries. It’s said that the equivalent of 300 soccer fields of rainforest is cleared every hour for the production of palm oil worldwide. Palm oil can be produced in a responsible manner that respects the environment and the communities where it is commonly grown. Find no palm oil alternatives here. Look for the RSPO label to ensure you purchase products made with certified sustainable palm oil. This label gives you the confidence that the palm oil was produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

Beefless for Brazil

Then there is Brazil the largest exporter of beef in the world. Cows are not small or cheap. They use a lot of water and resources to accommodate a growing demand for meat. One pound of beef uses 1800 gallons of water; this includes the water it drinks and the water used for its food. Add the amount of space needed, and one can’t help but think if beef is worth it.

These three very sought out resources and luxuries increase profits for the corporation for companies like Google, Samsung, Sony, Apple, Nestle, Kelloggs, General Mills, Colgate-Palmolive, and the beef industry supported by the populist Brazilian President. One can’t help but think that some of these fires are not naturally occurring. There is enough by the greed and selfishness by those that can impose their power on other people and our planet to fuel these fires. Use your dollar wisely, and voice your concern to any corporation that exploits the resources that Allah ﷻ bestowed upon us.

I want to conclude with a hadith that should make us respond to the loss of our forests. Planting trees and preserving what we have is so crucial that Anas Ibn Malik is said to have reported: that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), said, “If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it.” [Ahmad]

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ‏:‏ إِنْ قَامَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَفِي يَدِ أَحَدِكُمْ فَسِيلَةٌ، فَإِنِ اسْتَطَاعَ أَنْ لاَ تَقُومَ حَتَّى يَغْرِسَهَا فَلْيَغْرِسْهَا‏.

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Dardir has completed two masters in education. He is currently enrolled as a student in Mishkah pursuing a bachelors in Islamic Studies. He is working at the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) as an educational advisor. He is the founder and Chief Coordinator of the non-profit organization The Building Blocks of New Jersey whose mission is: “To aid self development, promote activism, and bolster community building”, and AJR International focusing on Muslim villages in India and Nigeria. He also consults and is a trustee at “Outreach on the Barrio” based in Houston, and Green Muslims based in Washington DC. In 2019 he published his first children’s book titled “My First Illustrated Hadith Book”.

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    Abu Ryan Dardir

    August 27, 2019 at 12:35 AM

    French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Aug. 22 that “the Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire.” This is false. The Amazon produces at most 6% of Earths oxygen.

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Civil Rights

Podcast: The Unfinished Business of Martin Luther King | Imam Zaid Shakir

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Our Muslim community is one whose existence, contrary to popular misconception, is predicated on the establishment of peace.

I believe that we have been divinely prepared to take up the torch held aloft so courageously by Dr. King and dedicate ourselves to the completion of his work.Click To Tweet

– Imam Zaid Shakir

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#Current Affairs

The New Scramble For Africa

Africa
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Africa is a blessed continent with resources and biodiversity that would impress anyone. Africa’s history in Islam (while neglected) played a major role, it was home to the first country to welcome the Muslims and allow them to practice freely. After the spread of Islam trough traders, regions across Africa became hubs for knowledge and trade. The richest man in history hailed from Africa and was Muslim, and his name was Mansa Musa. The riches of Africa have always sought after. People from all over the world have aimed to to do business or exploit the blessed continent. Unfortunately, the history of Africa is filled with strife, bloodshed, slavery, and holocausts. This rings true till today. The purpose of this article is not to dwell on the past, be it Arab influence or colonization. The events going on today needs out attention, we have ignored the struggles of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Africa long enough. 

The first major scramble for Africa was in the 19th century, when Europe carved it up like it was their property. The second was during the cold war, when East and West seek allegiances of newly independent African states. We are witnessing a third scramble that is less obvious, and more behind the scenes with “investments” and “wars”. It can be described as a cold war between China and America. 

African mines

Some see the resources they have like oil, chocolate, rare earth minerals, diamonds, etc. as a blessing (investors mostly), but to the people living through this every day it is a curse. Oil or mineral dependent countries in Africa suffer from enclave industrialization, limited diversity in their economy, and vulnerability to price shock. While this is happening, they see decay in their agriculture, manufacturing, and other trades. The continent is still traumatized by five centuries of exploitation. It is no easy obstacle to overcome. What we are seeing will only get worse as oil production is expected to peak in 2025, world scarcity will increase, and we will see more wars around oil. For the last decade, China has been using “soft power,” basically using money for leverage. This comes in the form of aid, trade, infrastructure projects, and loans. This is a plot to make them a superpower in the region. America, on the other hand, is doing what it has been doing since 1776, it is confronting Africa as a “battlefield,” basically running operations or anti-terrorism projects in dozens of countries that the American public is unaware of. 

One example is South Sudan, and the American campaign to split the Muslim country of Sudan to two. Before the split, China reportedly had invested $20 billion in Sudan. With American interventions occurring, China watched the events unfold. After the split the newly inaugurated president of South Sudan flew to China to secure an $8 billion investment. By 2013, China controlled 40% of their largest crude oil producers and was importing 77% of the country’s output. After unrest and bloodshed occurring in Libya, Mali, Sudan, etc, China has established a stronger effort with peacekeeping officers to protect their oil interest. As one superpower implements one tactic, another superpower follows its traditional method. Last year in Niger, American soldiers, including two commandos, were killed. This was surprising to me as I was unaware of American military operation in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world with Muslims making 98% of its population.

We have seen a dangerous rise of commandos in Africa. In 2006, under Bush, 1% of deployed commandos were in Africa, by 2011 under Obama it had risen to 3%. It does not stop there, before stepping down from office, in 2016, 16.5% of American commandos deployed were deployed in Africa.

In 2006, only 70 special ops were deployed across the continent, in 2014 we have 700 deployed special ops in Africa. “None of these special operations forces are intended to be engaged in direct combat operations,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem. Despite this declaration, despite the deaths of soldiers in Niger, U.S. commandos keep finding themselves in situations that are indistinguishable from combat. 

In March of 2018, the New York Times released an article of 10 unreported attacks of American troops between 2015 and 2017. Despite these attacks and distrust towards the region, the Pentagon built a $100 million drone base in Agadez, Niger, regardless of the people’s concerns towards a base being built near their home. Our worldly desires is fueling this new scramble for Africa. Our need for resources, technology, and fuel comes at a cost. This cost manifests itself as the development of the rentier state (eventually developing into a kleptocracy across Africa, professional soldiers ruling the resource-rich lands or an expansion of the “war on terror”. 

Here are a few theoretical solutions, some are to be initiated by the government and some rely on people-power movements. The government needs to reduce corruption and that can be done through a menu of policies created to control and maintain corruption. Controlling corruption can be done through; changing the selections of national agents, modifying the rewards and punishments systems, and restructuring the relations between national agents and users to reduce monopolies. Another venue the government can explore is directly distributing resource revenues to the people. This is practiced in Alaska, and has been wildly successful. Finally, the government can invest the resource revenues in social development. Harnessing the revenues for human development to include education, healthcare, job training, and housing will lift up the urban and rural poor. 

The people can pressure the government to pursue any of those ideas mentioned. A power-people movement can look different depending on the need. One idea is that consumers in the West to boycott African minerals due to corruption and/or exploitation. This can develop into “smart boycotts” where we use internet hedge funds to attack corporations that exploit and feed into corruption. Developing campaigns like “blood diamonds” in the past have been proven effective to generate awareness and bring vital change. The same was done with the ivory, and now even China has laws making the product illegal.

People-power movements work and have helped locals rid of unwanted corporations in their region. Ken Saro-Wiwa, was a leader of the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta, he rallied against the abuses of the Nigerian military regime and the oil pollution created by multi-national companies, which resulted in a change of consciousness for the better. 

In his words: “Whether I live or die is immaterial. It is enough to know that there are people who commit time, money and energy to fight this one evil among so many others predominating worldwide. If they do not succeed today, they will succeed tomorrow.”

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CAA – NRC Row: Why There Is More To It Than An Attack On Secular Ethos

indian economy caa
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‘Indian Muslims have nothing to fear. No one knows what CAA/NRC is all about. They are simply protesting because they are misled’, thus proclaimed a former classmate of mine who himself left India for brighter prospects during PM Narendra Modi’s regime but continues to believe in his promise of ‘acche din’ (good days).

Today the whole of India is divided over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which is to be followed by the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Thousands of students from India’s premier institutions like Jamia Milia Islamia, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, IITs and IIMs are thronging the streets to protest against the bigoted law.

The ripple effect has even reached top educational institutions across the world including Harvard, Oxford, Yale and MIT. From lawyers to celebrities to academicians, people across the world, belonging to different religions are raising their dissent against the law which is deemed to be against the secular fabric of the Indian Constitution.

What is this law all about?

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) provides an accelerated path to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities from three countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is an official record of all those who are legal Indian citizens. So far, such a database has only been created for the northeastern state of Assam which has been struggling with the issue of illegal immigration for a long time. In Assam 1.9 million people were effectively rendered stateless after NRC and were put into detention centers. Out of these 1.9 million, around 0.6 million are Muslim.

On November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah declared during a parliamentary session that the register would be extended to the entire country.

Why the uproar?

At first glance the CAA seems to be a harmless law, which the government claims was made to help those who are facing religious persecution. However, the question arises why only those suffering religious persecution? Millions of people are suffering persecution in the name of race, region or language in India’s neighboring countries.

Even if we talk about just religious persecution, why does the law only accommodate those from three neighboring countries? Rohingyas are suffering brutal persecution in Myanmar. Christians are suffering in Sri Lanka. Tibetans have been persecuted because of their beliefs.

Many people opine that the CAA is not problematic in itself. It becomes problematic when it’s seen in conjunction with NRC. When NRC is implemented, millions of people will be declared illegal due to lack of documents in a country where the masses live in villages and documentation is a complicated bureaucratic process with a high error rate. According Professor Shruti Rajagopalan, the State Of Aadhaar Report 2017-18 by IDinsight, covering 2,947 households, found that 8.8% of Aadhaar holders reported errors in their name, age, address or other information in their Aadhaar letter (Aadhaar is the identity number issued to Indian residents). In the NRC, a spelling mistake can deprive one of citizenship and 8.8% affects over 120 million people.

They will be rendered stateless and sent to detention centers with inhumane conditions. Out of these ‘illegals’, everyone but Muslims can seek accelerated citizenship under CAA.

The fact is that even if we view CAA alone, the very act of offering citizenship on the basis of religion goes against the fundamentals of secularism and equality as mentioned in the Indian constitution.

UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has termed the CAA as “fundamentally discriminatory”.

In this context, it’s also relevant to understand the revolt that is happening in the north eastern state of Assam. While the rest of India is against CAA and NRC for exclusion of Muslims, the people of Assam are protesting against the inclusion of 1.3 million undocumented Non-Muslims, as identified in the NCR. According to them, if these foreigners are granted citizenship under CAA, they pose a threat to the language and culture of Assam.

Police brutality against protesters

Student fraternity across the world was shocked when students of Jamia Milia Islamia who were peacefully protesting against the CAA were brutally attacked by police forces. Police accused students of destroying public property and fired tear gas shells, beat them up mercilessly and even open fired at them. They barged into the library, mosque and even the women’s hostels without authorization.

Video footage shot by students and reviewed by Reuters show students, including women, hiding beneath desks in the library, cowering in restrooms, jumping over broken furniture in an attempt to flee. It was later verified that none of the students had anything to do with some of the buses that were set ablaze outside the campus.

Reports of even more horrific police brutality surfaced from Aligarh Muslim University. A student’s hand had to be amputated after a tear gas shell hit him and exploded. Hundreds of students were severely injured.

Section 144 of the Criminal Code which prohibits any gathering of 5 or more people has been imposed across the entire state of UP. Internet has been shut down in several parts.

Videos showing police destroying properties of innocent Muslims in UP have surfaced which the ‘Godi media’, a term coined for PM Modi’s lapdog media, refuses to acknowledge. Innocent youth are being dragged out of their homes and their properties are being seized on the accusation of destruction of public property. Death toll has crossed 22. Thousands are in custody.

It’s not surprising that Narendra Modi is being compared to Adolf Hitler.

India’s secular ethos

Religion based politics is nothing new in India, the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue and Gujarat riots being two of the most glaring examples.

However, in day to day life ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, Aapas mein sab bhai bhai’ (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians are all brothers) has not just been a slogan but a way of life.

Muslims in India have held prominent positions in every sphere of life, be it arts, literature, sports or leadership and have been admired by Hindus and Muslims alike.

The current BJP government aims to change all of that with its RSS-inspired fascist ideology of Hindutva – Hindu nationalism andHindu rashtra’ (nation).

India’s faltering economy and dejected youth

One of the heartening aspects of the CAA/NRC uprising is that it is not being seen as just a Muslim struggle. It is rightly being seen as a struggle to uphold the secular ethos of the Constitution of India. However, there is more to this struggle which is being led by the youth of the country.

Underlying the CAA-NRC struggles is the country’s deep disappointment with PM Modi’s lofty promises of ‘acche din’ (good days) which gave the country a new hope . Among other things he promised to make India an economic superpower. Today the nation’s economy is in doldrums which has led to frustration and dejection in the youth.

IMF’s last forecast for India was 6.1% growth in 2019. This has slumped to 4.9%. Unemployment is at a 45-year high and industrial growth rate is negative.

One of the major reasons for the economic slowdown has been the government’s radical decision of demonetization in 2016 which sent the entire country in a turmoil and failed to achieve any of its stated objectives. Small businesses took a further hit with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

At a time when the government’s primary concern should have been the faltering economy, the government diverted the country’s attention to the Babri Masjid -Ram Janmabhoomi issue. As soon as that ended it announced the CAA and NRC, continuing its propaganda of Hindu nationalism as opposed to real issues faced by the nation.

At this critical junction the economy can be expected to take a further hit by the cost of the implementation of the CAA and NRC exercise.By conservative estimates, nationwide NRC will cost Indians a whopping 500 billion rupees in admin expenses alone. Add to it the massive cost of building and maintaining detention centers across the country and the nation looks set for an economic and logistical nightmare.

Today the educated youth of the country is voicing its frustration at the price the country has been paying due to the government’s fascist ideologies. They no longer want the world to know India for its age old mandir-masjid disputes, mob lynchings, communal riots, human rights violations, poverty or illiteracy.

The current uprising is not just against one particular law.The people, especially the youth of India are protesting for their rights to work together as one nation to take the country towards being an exemplary democracy and an economic superpower.

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