The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, "Ramadan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers. In it, Allah looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted." [Narrated by Tabarani]
I’d like to think that Fasting For Change isn’t only about Muslims doing something good during the month of Ramadan. I’d like to see people of all faiths and from all types of backgrounds join us on this endeavour. And I would like to see it as a rallying cry to all my fellow human beings out there to pull our heads out of the sand and realise that some of our habits as consumers and members of the society we live in are unsustainable and inequitable.
Do we really need designer labels and V6 engines? When the time comes to settle down and build our own houses, is it really necessary to live in a six-bedroom mansion?
Is there some way we can build that will take less of an impact on the environment around us and consume less energy resources? Why shouldn’t we say no to genetically modified foods in our supermarkets? What can we do to touch the life of someone who really needs empowerment?
Islam prescribes kindness to all animals
"There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end." - Qur'an 6:38
This verse clearly explains that every kind of animal in the wild lives in communities with social structures just as humans do, and implies that they are not so different from us after all, thus deserving of our respect and protection. The last sentence is clear in its meaning: just as human beings will be raised up on the Day of Judgement, so will all the animals be returned to the Creator.
“We were on a journey with the Apostle of Allah(s), and he left us for a while. During his absence, we saw a bird called hummara with its two young and we took the young ones. The mother bird was circling above us in the air, beating its wings in grief, when the Prophet came back and said: 'who has hurt the FEELINGS of this bird by taking its young? Return them to her'.” - Narrated by Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah bin Mas'ud. Muslim.
This hadith demonstrates the empathetic nature of Muhammad (s) towards all living beings and shows that we should not only worry about the physical well-being of animals, but their emotional well-being as well and that we should not upset the natural order of things.
And another hadith states that:
“The Prophet(s) was asked if acts of charity even to the animals were rewarded by Allah. He replied: 'yes, there is a reward for acts of charity to every beast alive.'” (Narrated by Abu Huraira, Bukhari, 3:322. Also Muslim, Vol. 4; Hadith No. 2244.
Islam entrusts care and protection of the environment to human beings
Allah says: "Lo! We offered the trust unto the heavens and the earth and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it and man assumed it Lo! he is a tyrant and fool." Qur'an 33: 72
“Corruption doth appear on land and sea because of (the evil) which men's hands have done, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return.” Quran 30:41
The Qur’an often discusses the beauty and majesty of our natural surroundings and orders us to pay heed to them as a sign and a warning: the sky, the stars, the moon, the sun, the seed, the rain, the oceans and the mountains are all mentioned repeatedly and we are asked to understand the signs that are in them. But how can we be appreciating these signs if we are systematically destroying them?
Another injunction in the Qur’an is against waste:
“But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters” Quran 6:141
With six billion souls alive on the planet, jostling for resources, can we really afford to be so wasteful? Islam forbids us to waste water, food or spend of our wealth on unnecessary things. Each one of us is responsible for wasteful behaviour and we will be held accountable for it spiritually.
Reward for those who strive for good
"When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me: that they may walk in the right way." Qur’an 2:188
This Ayat was revealed to Muhammad (s) to let his followers know unequivocally that Allah is with us, listening to our pleas for help. He is also reminding us that although he does personally care for each of us, we also have a responsibility to reciprocate that love by trying to do the right thing in all aspects of our lives.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in a Hadith, quotes Allah as saying:
"When a worshipper moves closer to me by good virtues and voluntary acts of worship (nawafil), I will be his hearing by which he can hear, I will be his eyes by which he can see, I will be his hand by which he can act, and his feet by which he can walk. If he asks Me [to give him] I will give him what he wants, and if he asks for protection I will protect him." (Al-`Asqalani, 1959: 11, 341)
So it is obvious that Islam is not just about going through the motions of obligatory prayers and other things which we feel we have to do. It is about giving of yourself freely and striving to be a better person and making the world around us a better place. By doing this we attain a closeness with Allah that is akin to Oneness.
On that note, I wish all of you a Ramadan Mubarak and I urge you to take this opportunity to do three things: one that will benefit another human being, one that will help the environment and one that will uplift and refresh your own soul. Let it be a springboard for changes in your life long after Ramadan 2010 and let it be the line that ties you to your Cherisher, Sustainer and Provider.