Tuesday, September 05, 2006

utilitarianism and ecology

I came across this hadith of Imam Jafer Sadeq (AS), and thought I'd share it here because it expresses something very important about how we view our environment.

Much of modernist thinking is based on a notion of "progress" that is defined as "development." And so, the trees, forests, deserts, rivers are all "wild" and "wasted" if they are not put to some "use." This notion of "progress" was the ideological underpining that drove the Native Americans off their lands, and led to the extremist industrialization of the United States that now, with less than 5% of earth's population, is consuming 25-30% of energy resources and produces 72% of all hazardous waste. (These figures are from US sources, and probably underestimate the consumption patterns. )

And it is not by accident that the rallying cry against the First Nations was "tradition is the enemy of progress." This meant that those Native Americans who were calling for a protection of their land, their sacred mountains, rivers, and deserts were deemed to be "traditionalists" who were holding back "progress" defined as "development."

The hadith is self-explantory: here we have a person surrounded by beauty, and all he could think about was how the grass was "wasted" because there was no donkey!
"Once I mentioned a certain person’s intelligence, worship and religion before Imam abu ‘Abdallah (a.s). The Imam (a.s) asked, "How is his intelligence? The man replied, ‘I do not know.’ The Imam then said, "The degree of reward is based on the degree of intelligence.

A man of Bani Israel worshipped Allah on an island in the ocean. The island was lush green, with many trees and abundant water. Once an angel passed by the worshipper and asked Allah to show how much reward and blessings would the worshipper receive for his good deeds. Allah showed the rewards due to the worshipper to the angel, and the angel considered it very little.

Allah then told the angel to stay with the worshipper as a companion. The angel then appeared to the worshipper in the form of a human being. The worshipper asked, "Who are you?" ‘ I have heard about your great worships and your spiritual position at this place, and I wish to join you to worship Allah along with you." The angel said.

He spent that day with the worshipper and the next day the angel said to the worshipper, "Your place is beautiful and it should only be used for worship." ‘Yes, it is, but it has one shortcoming.’ The worshipper responded. "What is that?" The angel inquired.

"Our Lord does not have an animal. I wish He had a donkey so that we would look after the donkey, and the donkey would graze all this grass. All this grass is a waste." ‘Does your Lord have no donkey?' Asked the angel.

"Had our Lord had a donkey all this grass would not have turned into waste." The worshipper answered with sadness. Allah then revealed to the angel, "We reward everyone according to the degree of his/her intelligence."

4 comment(s):

  • Just recently I had this conversation with a friend. I said: "True knowledge and progress would benefit the environment and include ways in which to be kind to the earth and preserve and protect it for the future of humanity. True knowledge and progress does not strip the earth through deforestation without finding ways of replacing the trees, and does not build vehicles that burn up the ozone layer by producing enormous amounts of smog etc. etc., and the list could go on.

    By Blogger Hajar Zamzam Ismail, at 9/06/2006 08:08:00 AM  

  • As Salaam u Alaikum,

    this is very nice. Never seen that hadith before.

    Indeed, the earth will testify against our misdeeds upon and towards the earth.

    By Blogger malangbaba, at 9/06/2006 12:02:00 PM  

  • salaam

    the hadith has been attributed in al-Kafi

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/07/2006 01:27:00 AM  

  • yes, this Hadith is in the First Volume of Usool al-Kaafi. It reflects that shortsightedness, though in worship, may lack results.

    By Blogger Mustafa Zaidi, at 9/07/2006 10:31:00 AM  

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