By Fatema Karimi for KidSpirit's Unity and Division issue.
I feel very lucky to be part of the Muslim community where I can study how humanity affects the earth, as well as understand my duty towards it.
Islam is a religion that teaches duty and responsibility. We are made dependent on one another so that we may help each other. My relationship with the earth isn’t limited to just my lifetime, but to those born after me. While it is true that I must use the earth’s resources, I must always keep in mind the effect that use has on the present and future. In this way, taking care of the earth is important in Islam.
We are taught to use resources carefully; not to waste any amount that can be saved, to plant trees, and extend a helping hand. Many acts we perform today will bear fruit in the future. We must understand that an act like littering might be easy for us now, but is harmful later on. Compassion and responsibility do not end with one’s life.
Karachi, Pakistan, where I live, is known as the city where no one goes hungry. There are various food distribution centers throughout the city. This is another act where the only reward is the blessing of the people, demonstrating how no distinction should be made between peoples of different color or religion. Equal treatment is required in Islam.
In the same way, kind treatment of animals is highly emphasized. We are responsible for their food and health just as we are also responsible for trees and plants. The best example of this tenant is when the Muslim army was leaving for a war during the holy prophet’s time. The prophet strictly advised the army not to cut plants or trees that provided food for man and beast. Even where war is concerned, life is to be spared — be it human life, animal, or plant.
This leads me to Africa and an old man. I was about six when I saw an old man planting trees. It struck me as odd because he seemed so tired. Why didn’t he just stop? Why did he care so much about those trees? I asked him why he didn’t quit. He replied that he might die at any time. I became even more confused. He then added that he didn’t have much money and he planted trees so that other people might eat its fruit or find shade. My good deed will live on, he said, even if no one knows who planted the trees. Allah will know.
Two things caught my attention. The first was that the man was more concerned about helping others than with his own health. The other was that he didn’t require validation, showing his sincerity, the spirit that my religion fosters. We should not do good to be recognized in this world. We should do good to help others and receive our award in the hereafter. The old man taught me that taking care of the world was about combining natural elements with human needs, the only way to maintain a sustainable relationship.
Hazrat Ali, the fourth caliph of Islam, said the purpose of our life is for the betterment of others. It is impossible for humans to be selfless. However, these exalted standards exist so we may strive to achieve this aim. It is an odd paradox. We are told that this world is temporary. Yet we must improve it. Our time on earth may be short, but this is our duty. No good deed is done in vain.
When she wrote this piece, Fatema Karimi was 16 years old and in school grade 10 in Karachi, Pakistan. At the time, her hobbies included reading, writing, traveling, swimming, badminton, and teaching underprivileged kids.