The Lodgepole Pine is a tree that stands tall and beautiful, a tree that is a marker of Canada – it densely populates the interior forests of BC and is the provincial tree of Alberta. Its needles are long and slender, they withstand harsh winters and allow snow to flow smoothly through their dense brush. Their wood is excellent for construction, its inner bark and pith once used for food and medicines by the First Nations people of Canada. This tree was a blessing given to us by Allah (swt), and yet within the past decade, we’ve lost a whopping 18 million hectares of this tree. Completely wiped out — trees that stood for a century are now dead and gone, leaving enormous gaps in our forests, the size of the entire land mass of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick combined.
How did this happen? How did we lose such important members of our native forests? Did we play a part in this?
Who was involved in such a massive wipe out of such deeply rooted organisms? A beetle which exists at the length of 5 mm. This tiny insect caused such a massive ripple effect that it wiped out entire stands of tall, healthy trees. This beetle, however, did not carry a murderous intent — it was part of a natural process, it is a native species of the interior forests and plays an instrumental role in thinning out our forests and providing opportunity and space for new trees to seed and grow. Was it meant to wipe out such massive quantities that recovery seemed nearly insurmountable? Did we increase the effect of its actions and encourage a devastating outcome?
Short answer: yes. Typically, this beetle lives for one cycle and is killed off by the cold winters of the interior. It does its job in targeting certain trees and continues the cycle of life and death in a sustainable way. However, due to climate change leading to a shift in the temperatures of summers and winters, this beetle was able to thrive and survive where it normally died and was able to multiply in leaps and bounds and spread to cause such a devastating effect across millions and millions of hectares. These dead trees littered the forests, creating the perfect amount of fuel for natural wildfires to build to an unnatural intensity and size that grew far out of our ability to manage. The effects have compounded and lead to more and more issues within our provinces. The beetle is not done, however, it completed its reign in BC, and is now making the move to Alberta and Saskatchewan, heading to attack their Jack Pine. We cannot stop this — the environment was created for its effect to spread and all of us now stand here as witnesses. All we can do is manage the aftermath, instead of being proactive, we are now stuck acting in reaction.
The Prophet (saws) told us that “Riya’ is more hidden than a black ant on a black rock on a dark night.” In this we see a parable of how destructive even the most minuscule insect can be, as riya’ can prevent believers from the bounties of Paradise. We see this in the mountain pine beetle — although minuscule in nature, its effect was exacerbated and exploded in a way that we couldn’t control – we were left to watch and deal with the aftermath that lasts to this day. In 2005 we witnessed the peak of deaths, and in 2018 we are still scrambling to manage.
We stand here today looking at the massive amounts of ghafla (heedlessness) and fahsha (indecency) that exists in our societies. We are heartbroken looking at our Muslim communities and cannot understand how to manage the devastating spread of sins and immorality. How did this begin? Did we create the environment for this to spread?
Our actions will always have a reaction — nothing we do is without consequences, whether positive or negative. Our actions may seem minuscule and tiny in nature, often we hold the thought that one individual or one action is useless. We may minimize a sin and think of it as ‘not a big deal.’ We may also minimize good deeds, viewing handing out flyers at the masjid for a community event with disdain. What we fail to realize is that one sin could lead to the corruption of friends and families, entire communities, and then entire populations. One halaqa could lead to the guidance of individuals to friends and families, entire communities and entire populations.
Our actions are a seed — they can lead to massive change in the way the mountain pine beetle changed the landscape of interior BC forever. The message of Islam started with one man, and grew to encompass the entire world and create billions of Muslims across the globe.
Viewing individual actions as existing within a vacuum is reckless and naive. Whether we acknowledge it or not, every single one of us are actors within the fabric of our societies and if we are not acting for the deen, for Islam, then we are acting for something other than that and the wide-sweeping consequences that follow are related to whatever we put forth in the environment.