If you’ve been paying attention to Canadian politics, you may have seen the recent spike in headlines regarding the Coastal GasLink/TC Energy pipeline plan and the pushback from the Wet’suwet’en First Nations people.
What does this have to do with Muslims? Is this an issue we should give attention to? Is this our fight?
Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur’an, “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” (Suran an-Nisa, Verse 135)
It is our duty as Muslims to stand up for justice. To stand up for what Allah (swt) has commanded us to, and that includes protecting what He has given us. Allah (swt) outlines the numerous bounties of natural resources that He has Created and blessed us with in Surah an-Nahl. Examining the Surah from the very beginning is required reading (go do this right now!) but here is an excerpt from verses 10-11, “[it is] He Who sends down water (rain) from the sky; from it you drink and from it (grows) the vegetation on which you send your cattle to pasture; With it He causes to grow for you the crops, the olives, the date-palms, the grapes, and every kind of fruit. Verily! In this is indeed an evident proof and a manifest sign for people who give thought.”
Every creation that sustains our life force comes from Allah (swt) – it’s not from our own hands. We may hold legal titles, we may have settlements upon lands, but they are not ours. They are the sole property of their Creator, and as such, it is only He who has the right to tell us how to take care of it. It behooves us to take care of our environment and our natural resources, not just in response to climate change, to pressure demands and mass extinction. Rather, this is part of our practice from the very beginning.
We see this from the sunnah:
Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, passed by Sa’d while he was performing ablution. The Prophet said, “What is this excess?” Sa’d said, “Is there excess with water in ablution?” The Prophet said, “Yes, even if you were on the banks of a flowing river.” (Sunan Ibn Mājah 425)
It doesn’t matter if we have a lot of resources, or a limited amount — we are still required to conserve what we have as that is the very nature of the Muslim. We see these principles present with the Wet’suwet’en people. The First Nations were the original stewards of land in North America. There is a lot of rhetoric that describes the spanning forests and waterways as ‘pristine’ and ‘untouched’ by colonizers but this viewpoint is incorrect. These forests and waterways that we boast about in North America that we proudly tout as tourist hotspots were not ‘pristine’ or ‘untouched.’ They were carefully managed by the First Nations people. They were true stewards in that even in the face of abundance they gave the creations of Allah (swt) their due in understanding the inherent value in what He put on earth.
Allah (swt) tells us in Surah Al Haj, Ayah 18:, “Have you not seen that to Allah prostrate all those in the skies and all those on the earth, and the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the animals and many from mankind? And there are many on whom punishment has become due. And the one whom Allah puts to disgrace, there is none to give him respect. Surely Allah does what He wills.”
Furthermore, he says in Surah Al-An’am, verse 38, “There is not a moving (living) creature on earth, nor a bird that flies with its two wings, but are communities like you. We have neglected nothing in the Book, then unto their Lord they (all) shall be gathered.”
All these creations of Allah (swt) have inherent value, they prostrate to Him, they worship Him. We have this in common with these beautiful creations, how can we be so arrogant as to destroy them with such abandon?
Our stance lies with the First Nations people. We stand alongside those who have been oppressed for generations, who have had their lifestyles and that which they hold dear ripped away from them by those overflowing with greed.
We don’t have much in common with overflowing pockets of massive industries with dollar signs for eyes. We have more in common with those who fight for the environment, for what Allah (swt) has created for all of mankind to make use of, but also to take care of.
Land stewardship, conservation efforts, restoring beautiful, healthy, resilient forests and wildlife corridors are part of our fight. Standing up against greed, standing alongside those who speak truth to power is part of our deen.
Allah (swt) tells us that He has Created us to be the best nation produced as an example for mankind (3:110), that we were created as viceroys on earth (2:30, 10:14). Protecting the environment, caring about wildlife isn’t something that we’ve picked up from other people’s traditions, from other communities, from research studies, rather; it is part and parcel of our deen and part of our worship- it’s time for us to remember this, rise up and take action!