We had a very successful Scriptural Sharing on the Environment May 31 with over 70 people in attendance and many families in attendance at the break the fast for Ramadan afterwards. Our special thanks to Pastor Jim Mercurio and the First United Methodist Church for hosting us. Virginia Fulton did an excellent job as our moderator. I have attached the remarks made by Imam Baykar as one of the panelists.
As humanity we have given some apparent authority on the Earth over all the surrounding beings. We can excavate mountains and get the sources out, we can fill up the sea and build up some structures, we can work on some DNA codes of living beings, we can launch satellites out to the space, we can use atomic power… So we assign a stewardship to ourselves. But what should be the terms of this relation.
Especially after the 2nd WW we have more and more concerns about the environment. We have had countless meetings, establishments, efforts dedicated to the particular concern, yet we are still causing more destruction, pollution and environmental degradation. Although we always express our concern for environment, learn more details about what is more harmful and what is less we generally fail to take action which is known as the attitude-action gap.
Many spiritual and community leaders as well as academicians state that we need to switch from an interest-based perspective to a rights-based perspective of nature. It sounds very logical and we have very many beautiful examples of it in our traditions, yet our efforts do not still go beyond of fixing what we already destroyed or try to prevent further distraction. So how can we fill this gap? What could be a possible way to convince and train ourselves to make little sacrifices from our comforts for some positive improvement of the relation and unity between the human and the rest.
I want to talk about a few practical ways that we can implement in our daily lives.
First way is contemplation over my own self. Everybody can do this easily
Let’s think about our daily routine. We eat, we talk and we think. How many percent of these actions do I consciously own? What portion of these acts I am “really” performing, so I can say “I” did it.
Let’s take eating process. I Chew and Swallow it. I have no idea about neither the digestion nor the distribution of the food around my body cells….Speaking, Put the words on the airwaves
I can clearly understand that I do not even really own myself. So I am not free to hurt or kill or poison or harm myself. I am not totally free, because my body is a trust. So how can I feel free to kill or misuse or harm or abuse or violate or claim a real ownership over any of the beings around me. This is a key understanding in my progress. Otherwise:
If I believe that I really own myself, I will also believe that everything else owns itself which eventually leads me to suggest that they don’t have any owner. Thus, my conclusion will be they are everybody’s property and free to use. As we know everybody’s property is nobody’s property and eventually will be subject to misuse.
So my second step should be to find the real owner: I should conclude that as I don’t own myself, nothing else really owns itself. As human beings, the most capable, smartest being, cannot claim a real ownership how come any other being can own itself? Thus, obviously all the beings are owned and working for somebody else. We always testify after long observations and studies that all the beings are doing their particular task in the best way to protect the overall harmony, balance, sustainability and so forth. They always follow the most economical, efficient, cleanest and harmless ways. Never pollute, destroy, overhunt or pouch. Whoever employs those unconscious beings for so many wise, purposeful results is very careful.
Thus, I conclude that it’s not our domination which subjugates them, but definitely our owner employs them in our service. Yes, “what clothes man, who is defeated by vermin like eyeless scorpions and legless snakes, in silk from a tiny worm and feeds him honey from a poisonous insect is not his own power, but the subjugation of the Sustainer and the bestowal of the Most Merciful, which are the fruits of his weakness.”
To bring an apple or an orange to our table it’s not enough to go to the farm or the shop, but we should be able to employ the sun, the moon, oceans, clouds, flowers, birds and even worms under the earth. They are all important officers of our sustainer, performing their duties perfectly. We need all of them except none. Every single creature is essential for my life. They are serving specifically me and you and you. If it was only me on this world still I would need all of them.
In a verse the Holy Qur’an states: “The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: There is not a thing but celebrates His praise”. Israh-44
I understand that we are all worshippers in this divine temple of the universe. So I need to be extremely careful in my relation with my fellow worshippers.
After these contemplations I need some practices to inculcate this understanding in my soul. I want to talk about 2 examples:
First one is the 5 daily prayers, a very important Muslim practice. In every prayer while reciting the opening chapter after praising the Creator Muslims say “iyya qanabudu wa iyya qanastain” which means “we worship you and we seek (whatever we need) from you”. Even when Muslims pray individually they say “we” which includes not only all the Muslims and believers of One Creator, but also all the beings in the universe. As the caliph, steward, vicegerent or deputy, in the name of the whole creation the human being presents the result of their work to the Creator everyday in the prayer. Human being has attachments and concerns with the whole universe and is capable of observing, studying and understanding their purposes. Among all the creatures human is the only one who can grasp a full meaning and make sense while watching a beautiful flower or sunset. Thus, it is the human’s duty to explore, study, witness and acknowledge all the creation’s particular efforts and service in the presence of the Creator.
If we ignore this duty it is as if the whole department has worked till the end of the day, but the supervisor is absent at the time of reporting. In short,, my duty is not only trying to fix my destruction on the earth, but to train my soul for a complete unity and continues peace and relation with the whole being.
One last practice that I want to mention is the fasting in the month of Ramadan. As you know Muslims abstain eating and even drinking water from early dawn to dusk for a month. They are also extra cautious not to hurt any creature or even say a bad word in this time. One single benefit out of many:
Fasting in Ramadan is the key to true, sincere and universal thankfulness. For at other times of the year, most people whose circumstances are not difficult do not realize the value of many blessings since they do not experience real hunger. If their stomachs are full and especially if they are rich, they do not understand the degree of blessing present in a piece of dry bread. But when it is time to break the fast, the sense of taste testifies that the dry bread is a precious divine blessing in the eyes of a believer. During Ramadan, everyone from the monarch to the destitute manifests a sort of gratitude through understanding the value of those blessings.