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The second group to which I referred is made up of those who are commonly described as 'fundamentalists', and this includes the political revolutionaries. Whatever you choose to call this particular segment of the Ummah Islamic community , they are characterised by a similar attitude. They do not say 'all that matters is what you have in your heart,' but they say 'all that matters is the moral rule', the distinction between what is in their view halal and haram. This morality is, so to speak, removed from its context within the totality of the Muslim's life, and is expected to operate in a kind of vacuum.

They forget, if they ever remembered, that Allahu jamilun yuhibb ulJamal Allah is beautiful and loves beauty. Like our so-called 'fundamentalists' they regard beauty and even comeliness as a luxury which is to be despised by those intent upon a moral 'crusade'.

The Concept of Faith in Islam

Now at a very early stage and with astonishing speed and effectiveness, the Muslims constructed around themselves a human environment which was in accordance with their religious needs and in accordance with their irmer faith. This seems to have happened spontaneously, it was, so to speak, a natural by-product of the new, revealed Faith. It demonstrated that beauty and comeliness can be combined with the utmost simplicity and with practical considerations. The traditional Islamic city was so constructed that it facilitated adherence to the Shari 'ah.

It encouraged worship and, by its structure and lay-out it provided the ideal setting for the Muslim's daily life.

Reason and Rationality in the Quran « Muslim Heritage

Islam and lhe Environment Moreover, it blended perfectly into the surrounding natural environment. It was not, as are Western cities today, a denial and a defiance of the natural world. Let us say that it 'belonged' where it was, a human habitation as much in accordance with Allah's creation as the spider's web or the bird's nest, yet with an extra dimension in that it was designed as a home for those who choose consciously to worship and praise their Creator. The Muslims today, bowing down before secular norms, have constructed around them a human environment in which faith can only seem out of place, prayer superfluous and the Shari 'ah an inconvenience.

Men build according to their beliefs and what they build expresses these beliefs in brick or concrete. Western cities, like Western art in general, express in their own medium the agnosticism, the pride and the greed of their builders. When they are copied, as they are almost universally, by the Muslims, they bring with them their values - or lack of values - their worldliness and their emptiness. People who only a few years ago lived among things that were beautiful and entirely fitting to the Islamic way of life, now live amidst imported trash which they do not even recognise for what it is.

The spiritual and psychological influence upon them of a human environment totally alien to Islam is all the more dangerous for being unperceived. At the same time, the natural world, filled with reminders of Allah for those who have eyes to see, is exploited and ruined so that there is no escape from this prison.

It is true that the spiritual man seeks to rise above nature, but in Islam nature itself is an aid to the ascent, for it reflects a higher reality, that same Reality towards which the spiritual man journeys. It is a 'reminder'; but I shall return to this matter of the 'signs' in the Book of Nature which cry out for attention later in this paper.

For the moment, there is a different point I should like to make. The Qur' an is an ocean, but human intelligence and understanding are strictly limited. As human creatures we are scarcely capable of encompassing all the facets of our religion and giving to each its correct weight. Only the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him could do that!

It is inevitable that we did, in the past, emphasise certain aspects of the Faith according to our needs and neglect others. That is to be expected. There are in the Qur'an, as also in the Sunna. And yet, if I may replace the image of the ocean with a different one, both these sources might be compared to the rocks from which sprmgs gush forth and from which new springs may yet gush forth when times demand this renewal. Let me take an example which may not, in itself, be of crucial importance but which may serve to illustrate what I mean.

If we compare the three Monotheistic religions, the three 'Abrahamic' religions, we find little or no concern for the ammal creatIOn either m Judaism or Christianity, in fact the early and mediaeval Christians seem to have had only contempt for the animals, seeing them only as symbols of man's lower nature. The case of Islam is very different. For us, if we study the Qur'an and follow, so far as we can, the Sunnah, this animal creation and our obligations towards it assume great importance.

There is a hadith report concerning a woman who was condemned for shutting up a cat and allowing it to starve to death, and of a prostitute who was pardoned for saving the life of a thirsty dog. Another concerns a prophet of earlier times who had an ants nest burned because an ant stung him and whose Lord reproached him saying: 'You have destroyed a community which praised Me! We cannot doubt our responsibility towards the animal creation. Would I not be correct in suggesting that this is an obligation which has been much neglected by Muslims?

1. The Fundamental Texts, the Approaches, the Issues

It must be said that, for us Muslims, obligations take precedence over rights, indeed our rights are conditional upon our carrying our obligations. The rebel against the Lord has lost all rights, since he no longer recognises any obligations, and it is precisely this rebel who today exploits and devours the things of this earth. Only Allah has absolute rights over His creation.

Such rights as we may clann, are delegated to us and strictly limited in accordance with the needs that He has implanted in us, and, as creatures, we are ever in need. It goes without saying that the concept of man as a little god, self-sufficient and independent, deprives him of those delegated rights. The world of nature which, to the eyes of those who possess lman faith , sparkles 46 with light since it reminds them of Allah, would be dark were it unperceived by man, as the central being in creation, that is to say the point of communication between what is above and what is below.

Through being taught the 'Names' of everything, Adam peace be upon him and his descendants gained dominion over the animals, but only as the servant fulfilling towards them the wishes of Allah. Whereas, for the contemporary Westerner, economic progress is an end in itself, and the pseudo-religion of progress demands sacrifices: not only the animals, but the forests and the rivers and all the many riches with which this theatre has been endowed by its Creator.

English Translation Of Holy Quran - 2. Al-Baqarah (the Cow) - Muhammad Awais Malik

There was a time when the spiritual life was thought of as the ascent of a mountain, but this was an interior ascent which might, perhaps, be inspired by the sight of an earthly mountain in its majestic splendour. That perception, that dimension, has been lost, hence the thirst to 'conquer' mountain peaks physically. A man is hailed as the 'conqueror' of Mount Everest; no one asks whether he has conquered himself, although that would be a far greater achievement.

Again and again we fmd the modern world offering secular, material substitutes for things spiritual, or else the interpretation of spiritual principles is reduced to exclusively worldly tenns. If you have not ambition to climb the inward mountain and if you cannot conquer your nafs, then what is the point of going out and conquering some rocky peak simply because it is there?

Today we see man no longer as Khalifah, caring for his sector of the earth, or as contemplator, learning from the earth how to rise above it; instead we have man as predator and exploiter, devouring this earth. His needs grow, they are never satisfied, and the more he consumes the more ravenous he is. There could be no clearer proof that man, when he is not kept within certain bounds, certain limits, becomes the destroyer of the natllral environment upon which, none the less, he depends for his existence. The loss of harmony between man and nature, the opposition set between them, is but an aspect of the loss of harmony between man and his Creator.

Those who tllrn their backs upon their Creator can no longer be at horne in creation; they might be compared to bacteria or viruses which ultimately destroy the body which they have invaded. Today man is no longer the custodian of nature. This makes the human creature like a stranger in this world, not in the higher sense which led the Prophet pbuh to command the believer to be 'as a stranger in this world', but in the sense of one who comes as an enemy to the earth upon which he is born.

Although I am speaking specifically of Western man, it may perhaps be acknowledged that Islamic man, now so much under the influence of the Western mindset, is perilously close to following the same path. What was it that made possible this view of the natural world, so different to that of all other peoples at other times? Consider for a moment the French philosopher Descartes. He emerged from the culture into which he had been born.

It was, I believe, Christian dualism, which made such an absolute division between the spiritual and the material, that gave rise, after many centuries, to the secular conviction that the visible world is indeed a separate and hostile order of reality to the human one.

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English Monograph Series Book No. 23

From this it was a short step to regarding matter as the only reality. We hear a great deal about contemporary 'materialism' and the love of this world which has replaced the love of Allah. It might be more accurate to say that this is simply the wrong kind of materialism, the wrong kind of love. It is when we imagine that the world belongs to us, with absolute rights of ownership, that love of the world becomes a great evil. The Prophet pbuh is reported to have prayed: 'Lord, increase me in wondering!

For this we need to regain something of the child's vision of the world, before it is overcome by self-interest and stale habit. Should we not be astonished when we see the splendour of what Allah has made? But let me return briefly to the dualism of Descartes' secular 48 philosophy, originating in the dualism inherent in Christian theology.

For Descartes the whole of reality could be reduced to two poles, mind and matter, both cold, both lifeless, both cut off from the source of Light, which is also the source of wisdom and of all true understanding. It was on the basis of this dualism and the exclusion of Transcendence that modern science arose, that same science which so dazzles many Muslims that they become angry if one speaks of it critically.

It sometimes happens that I am invited to talk to student Islamic associations at British universities.


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