God reminds us in Surah Hijr, in the miracle words of the Qur'an, that this earth was spread before us, unfolded like a meticulously organized plan created by God, in order to create for us a habitat and a living space. God created on this earth everything in a meticulously balanced fashion. The way that the earth has been calibrated for our lives, as well as the lives of all living things on this earth, is an absolute miracle because, given to its natural processes, it is an earth that maintains its own balance and its own cycles that, as the Qur'an puts it, are remarkably, intricately balanced.
But then God reminds us in Surah A'raf that God created this habitat and gifted it to us, for us to hold as a trust until God claims it once again. God also reminds us that we have an intimate problem with gratitude. As human beings, we enjoy and indulge in the blessings, and sometimes, we will marvel at how intricately everything is balanced and at the miraculous creation of earth. But our normal course of behavior is to indulge without thinking of the meaning of this indulgence or of the meaning of our existence in such an intricately balanced habitat.
In Surah A'raf, right after saying, “You are rarely grateful, although God has made this habitat intricately balanced and intricately calibrated for your life,” God mentions the narrative of God commanding the angels to prostrate before human beings. There is no question that God is honoring human beings, but the minute one thinks of that narrative and the act of the angels prostrating before human beings, any moral human being that has a live, robust conscience would immediately think, "Am I worthy? Am I worthy of anything, leave alone angels prostrating before me?"
This act of honoring human beings also created an obligation; a duty to reflect upon the meaning of being honored in that way. If we inhabit the earth - and after God reminds us that on this earth is everything that is balanced and calibrated - and we undo the balance; we upset the equilibrium; we corrupt the inherent creation, then in what way are we worthy of that ultimate, primordial act of honoring? This is something that each human being living on this earth must reflect on as a matter of conscience. Think of the way you handle your life on this earth. Are you worthy of that act of grace and honor that God bestowed upon you?
I mention all of this because in this month, nations of the world are going to meet in Glasgow, Scotland to discuss climate change. I spent a good part of my night reading about what will be reported to the nations that will be meeting in Glasgow. The earth's temperature and equilibrium - the balance that God speaks about in the Qur'an - has remained constant and unchanging ever since human life was created on this earth. In the past century, after the Industrial Revolution, suddenly the equilibrium on this earth started being undone, and in the past 50 years in particular, since the 1970s, the rate at which this equilibrium is being undone has reached unprecedented levels.
Since the 1970s, the temperature of this earth has risen 1.5 °C. The consequences of that rise in the earth's temperature are everything that we witness constantly: the fires that broke out in California, Greece, Canada, and Germany; the flooding in Belgium, Germany, Britain, Saudi Arabia, and Oman, are all a result of that increase of 1.5 °C. If the earth's temperature rises 2°C, a Muslim country like the Maldives will go entirely under water. Flooding will get 10 times worse, fires will get 100 times worse. If the earth's temperature rises 2°C, crop failure will be rampant around the world. As it is, millions of people die every year because of that 1.5°C increase in the earth's temperature. Millions of people.
If we allow the temperature to rise 2°C, five billion people on this earth will not have an adequate water supply. The shocking thing is that this earth - that was given to us by God in an intricately balanced state - will rise 2°C in temperature unless there is radical, immediate change within the next decade.
We notice when people die in terror attacks. We notice when a plane falls from the sky and kills people. We notice when there is a Coronavirus that affects the way we live our lives. But the temperature rise of 2°C will kill 30 million people globally without anyone bothering to even report about it. And of course, climate change underscores the endemic racial, ethnic and cultural inequities in this world. Rich people rely on their purchasing power to pay for the higher price of water: to buy bottled water so that they can continue to drink and pay a higher bill so that they can continue to shower every day. But five billion people around the world will not even have enough water to guarantee themselves a wash once a week, nor will they be able to afford bottled water, which has become a multi-billion dollar business. It has been monopolized by Western countries, the same countries that pollute the world.
By 2050, the earth is guaranteed to rise 3°C and when that happens, 90% of the coral reefs will be dead. Countries like Greenland and Iceland will have constant rainfall, not snow. The ice caps will be mostly gone, and the weather patterns of flooding, fires and hurricanes will be truly unprecedented. In 2050, when the earth reaches a rise of 3°C, life on this earth will become extremely difficult. At our current rate, we burn $11 million worth of fossil fuel every minute.
Within a century, life on this earth will not be possible, regardless of whether you are rich or poor. In 2050, my youngest son will only be in his 40s and it terrifies me to think of the world that he would have to live in by his midlife. But the reason I am talking about this is because there is an Islamic, moral point. That is, it is beyond question that corrupting the earth in this fashion is a major sin. The very fact that already with an increase of 1.5°C, millions of people die every year is a major sin.
We, of all religious groups, are the recipients of the one Revelation, the one divine book that talks to us again and again about how carefully calibrated life on earth is. Of all the religious books, the Qur'an is the one book that talks again and again about the balance, and that God has created this carefully balanced, calibrated life for us. And of all the divine books, the Qur'an is the one that warns us: Do not corrupt life on earth.
A Muslim representative of the Maldives spoke in 2015, begging the world to prevent a rise of 2°C as it would mean an end to life in the Maldives. I did quick research to see what type of support the representative of the Maldives received in the UN from fellow Muslims: these “great Muslim countries”: Saudi Arabia, the servant of the two holy sites; the Emirates; Indonesia; Malaysia; and Egypt. Sadly, just as I expected, no support came. Muslim countries are completely on the receiving end on the issue of climate change. Those who discuss climate change most robustly are western countries, the countries who contribute the most; and China, a country that has a bizarre duality. It contributes enormously to pollution on this earth, but it will be among the first victims to suffer from the temperature rise to 2°C.
The consequences of climate change on China will be truly devastating, but the consequences on Muslim countries will also be truly devastating. In fact, after spending time researching, I discovered that the scientific community has warned Saudi Arabia that with a rise of 2°C, hajj during the summer will be nearly impossible. Remember, we are on schedule for that rise to occur in only 10 years or so. Yet, the voice of Muslim countries in the UN when it comes to climate change is completely absent. When it comes to the voice of Muslims generally on environmental matters, it is as if Muslims do not exist on this planet.
Already with the rise to 1.5°C, Muslims bear the brunt of that rise. It has affected Muslims more than any other population on this earth because it just so happens that Muslims live in places like Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and that Muslims tend to be from the poorest countries in the world. And, the wealthiest countries in the world are not Muslim, with obvious exceptions like Saudi Arabia or the Emirates, but these rich Muslim countries are simply consuming countries. They do not want to alienate the wealthy top of the crust, so the Emirates makes it a point not to bother its investors with talk of climate change. Saudi Arabia has completely removed the issue of climate change off the map of its 2030 plans to develop a free market similar to the Emirates; basically another Las Vegas in the Middle East that Saudi Arabia is dreaming of. Of course, people who indulge in a Las Vegas type environment do not want to think about how God calibrated this earth.
I found myself pondering the act of the angels prostrating before human beings. This is God's business, but what is my business is that as a Muslim, when I meet God, can I tell God I was worthy of that honor? Was I, as a Muslim, worthy of the honor? Why do my fellow Muslims not think that way? Isn’t this what you would expect from the pulpit of the Prophet? Isn't this what you would expect from the voice of Haqq (Truth)? But where is the voice of my fellow Muslims in a disaster that will inevitably impact all of our children?
I am then reminded of the economy of the “Guardian of the Holy Sites”; that Jerusalem is occupied; and that Muslims do not care. The country that has appointed itself to be the custodian of the two holy sites is a country that relies on fossil fuel for its wealth, for its luxury, for its indulgence. Without this fossil fuel, there would not be much going on for this country that is the “Custodian of the Two Holy Sites.” Fossil fuel and the burning of fossil fuel is the main reason for the rise in the earth's temperature and a major, major factor in the projections forward as to what will happen with the earth.
So, the irony is that the “Custodian of the Two Holy Sites” has a vested interest in not opposing corrupting life on earth. What a stunning revelation - an entire shake up of one's conscientiousness. The beginning of the road is always awareness. God blesses a people to the extent of their awareness, because awareness is what activates and ignites the conscience. If God gave us an earth that is intricately balanced and we are undoing this balance, then the least one would expect of every Muslim is that their conscience has a firm stand on the matter - that at least their conscience does not accept the idea that the “Custodian of the Two Holy Sites” has a vested interest in undoing the balance that God has created on this earth. I speak to your conscience before anything else. I want to wake up your conscience before anything else.
Imam Izz ibn 'Abd al-Salam, the famous Shafi jurist has said if a jurist goes into a town that is plagued by sexual promiscuity and the jurist decides to talk about riba (usury) instead of the problem that plagues that town, that jurist has betrayed God. The role of a scholar – and an imam should be a scholar, although the vast majority of our Imams are not - is to have their pulse on the conscience of the Ummah, what the Ummah should be awake and alert to. We live in an age in which social media has just become a fact of life, as necessary as the cell phones that people stare into day and night; as necessary as the cars that people ride back and forth; and as with all the other equipment that we have become dependent on. But there is a reality that I have talked about in the past about social media: that social media is owned by human beings. These human beings have interests, structures, institutions and processes that serve these interests. The reality is that for the most part, Muslims are consumers of these institutions, not creators of institutions.
I saw an article recently about Facebook and it answered a reality about Facebook. Although Facebook was used egregiously in the genocide against the Rohingyas in Burma, and although Facebook continues to be used egregiously in the human rights violations perpetuated against Muslims in India, Facebook has a three-tier system of what it designates as dangerous individuals, organizations or businesses. The Intercept magazine recently published a list created by Facebook of individuals and organizations that Facebook considers to be dangerous.
What this means is that if you are on this list, Facebook will not allow you to have a presence. But even more, if you, as consumer of Facebook, say something supportive of any of the individuals or organizations on Facebook's list, or if you yourself say something that Facebook does not like, Facebook will censor you in turn. And of the 4,000 organizations and individuals that Facebook has on their list, the vast majority are Muslim: Muslim organizations and Muslim individuals that Facebook designates as dangerous.
Of course, none of these organizations or individuals are Israeli. White supremacist groups are often placed in tier three, which means low level censorship. People who justify and defend the executions of innocent people by the Sisi regime in Egypt are not designated as dangerous by Facebook. People who defend the arrest and the torture of innocent victims by the Sisi regime in Egypt are not designated as dangerous. People who defend the regime in Saudi Arabia and its crimes against humanity, and people who defend the Emirate and its crimes against humanity are not designated as dangerous by Facebook.
But people who document human rights abuses committed by the Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Haftar in Libya are designated as dangerous. Those who expose the atrocities committed by these fascist regimes are designated as dangerous by Facebook. The problem is that Facebook gets its information directly from the US government, and what the US government considers to be dangerous comes from organizations that provide a private subscription-based database. There is an organization called Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium and another called Sight, which is a terror tracking operation, both grossly Islamophobic.
These are organizations that welcome the likes of Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer, and rely on their conspiracy theories. In turn, these organizations are relied upon by Facebook. Facebook has four billion subscribers and so what it decides to censor or not censor matters greatly in this world. And of course, there is no effort by Facebook to flag extremist organizations in Israel for any attack against Palestinians, when they throw them out of their homes and their land or violate the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa mosque. Facebook does not receive any blow back for the way that it treats Muslims. Facebook does not receive any blow back for its relationship with China in light of their genocide against believers. Facebook does not receive any blow back when it censors those who stand up to the despotism of Emirati rulers, Saudi rulers or Egyptian rulers.
I was struck by a recent example that, again, should be nestled in our conscience. Going back to India, Hindu nationalists are perpetuating all kinds of theories in India using sites like Facebook, talking about the “Love Jihad” conspiracy. The “Love Jihad” conspiracy, according to Hindu nationalists, is that Muslims are engaged in a worldwide conspiracy to control the world, just like Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer told us. Hindu nationalists say that Muslims are engaged in a worldwide conspiracy to convert Hindu women through love. So apparently, Muslim men have a grand design to get Hindu women to marry them and convert to Islam; and as a result of spreading this “Love Jihad” conspiracy, various provinces in India are making it illegal for a Muslim to marry a Hindu woman and for that Hindu woman to convert.
It is not just that they are not allowed to marry, but Muslim men are arrested and charged with a felony and sent to prison for engaging in this “Love Jihad.” So, there are thousands of Muslim men in prison because they fell in love with a Hindu woman and because the Hindu woman indicated a desire to convert to Islam. The women are not jailed, but the Muslim men are jailed. What has Facebook done about that? Hindu nationalism gets legitimized vehicles to articulate its biases and prejudices, as do all forms of Christian nationalism, as do all forms of Zionist nationalism. Censorship is mostly reserved for Muslims.
For the millionth time, we need to wake up. We cannot afford to get together to talk about our wudhu and talk about halal meat, to talk about the covering of women and to continue to be largely irrelevant in the world. This cannot be pleasing to the God that we worship. This cannot be the role of Islam. How can we say that the Prophet was sent as a mercy to humankind when we, who bear the message of the Prophet, simply do not matter. How could it be that God tells us this was the Final Message, that we bear the most important responsibility until the Hereafter, and we still largely do not matter? How could it be that Muslims are persecuted all over the world and we still love speakers who stand on the podium of the Prophet and tell us, "No, there is no problem. Do not worry about it. Just take care of your taqwa, take care of your prayer, take care of your fasts, eventually go to Hajj and do not bother your little head with anything else. We are all fine, it is all great." How could that be?
If you are among those Muslims who say, "I do not know what to do, how can I help? Tell me what can I do?" Here is something concrete and specific. The book came out called, In the Camps: China's High-Tech Penal Colony. It is only around $15. But it talks about how Muslims in China have been arrested for simply downloading WhatsApp on their phone, and how these Muslims are arrested for what the Chinese calls pre-crimes, how they are sent to concentration camps where they are subject to all types of abuse including medical experiments, are forced to disavow Islam, are forced to not pray or fast, are forced to erase Islam from their consciousness and instead embrace the creed of the communist party.
Some of them never make it out of the camp because their organs are harvested or they simply are killed and die from abuse. The book is horrifying, it tells a horrifying story of young Muslim kids in China arrested just because they downloaded an app on their phone or they used their phone in an unauthorized manner. Here, a non-Muslim published a meticulously documented book about the horrors inflicted against Muslims. The least you can do is support the book; the least you can do is instead of spending your $15 on your own indulgence is to support the book by buying it.
Doing so is bringing attention to the plight of fellow Muslims, saying to them, “I support you.” If you have the space, invite the scholar to your mosque, invite the scholar to your Islamic center, have the scholar give a lecture about the book, have the scholar do a book signing, make the scholar feel valued and honored because the scholar paid attention to the plight of Muslims. This is what all people do. The only people who do not do this are, unfortunately, Muslims.