Climate Change And The Water Crisis - A Muslim Responsibility

By Dardir


Please Read: The One Number That Shows Why Climate Change Is Making Hurricane Season Worse

"Hurricanes form, with sea surface temperatures between 0.5°C (0.9°F) and 1°C (1.8°F) above average, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)."

Pat Mulroy on Lake Mead, Water Scarcity, and Climate Change

When we think of water, we don’t initially think of life, nor do we think of our deen.

The Quran mentions how all life is made of water:

أَوَلَمْ يَرَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَنَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ كَانَتَا رَتْقًا فَفَتَقْنَاهُمَا ۖ وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاءِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ ۖ أَفَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

“Do not those who disbelieve see that the heavens and the Earth were meshed together then We ripped them apart? And then We made of water everything living? Would they still not believe?” [Surah Anbiya;30]

This was declared over 1400 years ago, long before it was confirmed by modern science. Science tells us that the average human body of an infant is close to 80% water, and for an adult it is approximately 60%. That is why it is considered the most valuable resource to any human being. The reason why for this valuable resource, people are willing to flee their lands, wage war, or buy out land and resources. Major companies have been doing this for decades.

The ecosystems were developed with such perfection in terms of balance, that one disruption by man can alter it permanently.

“Protoplasm is the basis of all living matter, and ‘the vital power of protoplasm seems to depend on the constant presence of water’” [Lowsons’ Text-book of Botany, Indian Edition. London 1922, p. 23]. Imagine then how the protoplasm would be impacted if water was contaminated or gone?

وَهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَكُمْ خَلَائِفَ الْأَرْضِ وَرَفَعَ بَعْضَكُمْ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ دَرَجَاتٍ لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ سَرِيعُ الْعِقَابِ وَإِنَّهُ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“And it is He (God) who has made you successors (khala’ifa) upon the Earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Surah Al-An’am:165]

We look at the obvious sins, such as murder, adultery, lying, and stealing, not realizing what the duty is upon us. We are oblivious because we choose to ignore the impacts and the side effect of such actions. It was that important, that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentioned it in the Quran, to remind us, and for us to reflect on it.

In another verse:

إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَن يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنسَانُ ۖ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولًا

“Indeed, We (God) offered the Trust to the heavens and the Earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it; but man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant” [Surah Al-Ahzab;72]

We took on the responsibility and now have to deal with the consequences. Homo sapien is the latin name of our species, its literal translation is “Man Wise”. How wise could we be to hurt ourselves in this world and the next? Our ignorance is overshadowed by our arrogance.

We need to hold onto this precious resource and be conservative in its use and care. With severe climate changes happening, it is a matter of time before droughts, famine, and even civil strife reach critical points. We have not upheld our trust of the water that was left to us.

Our oceans and rivers are contaminated to levels humanity has never seen before. Mercury levels are high, not just making water unsafe to drink, but harming wildlife and oceanic ecosystems in the process. When life in the ocean is gone, life on Earth won’t last much longer. Plastic compounds fill our oceans and sea life, filling the stomachs of fish and birds.

Climate change is real and it isn’t going away

It impacts water, which impacts livelihood. It can cause war, as it has in our past and present. The world’s earliest documented water war happened 4,500 years ago, when the armies of Lagash and Umma, city-states near the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, battled with spears and chariots after Umma’s king drained an irrigation canal leading from the Tigris. “Enannatum, ruler of Lagash, went into battle,” reads an account carved into an ancient stone cylinder, and “left behind 60 soldiers [dead] on the bank of the canal,” according to a Smithsonian Article from 2013. Between 2003 and 2009 water was measured at the Tigris-Euphrates Basin; comprising of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and western Iran. They discovered that the bodies of water are the fastest losing bodies of water on the planet after Northern India. This has caused thousands of rural residents that relied on farmland, to relocate to urban area, making them more densely populated. This puts considerable pressure on the economy and, in turn, strains the political climate which is often a precursor to uprisings and war. Some might see this connection as an exaggeration, but it is myopic to see these issues as separate entities, and by treating them as such we further demonstrate our arrogance.

We may start to create water treaties to avoid similar scenarios in the near future. The world’s first international water treaty, a cuneiform tablet now hanging in the Louvre, ended the war between Lagash and Umma. We can explore further west and see how Egypt built the dam and relocated the Nubians, or the ramifications of the drought in South Sudan. We can even look here at home in the Western parts of America and how the Colorado River was suffering a drought that lasted many years, that just ended recently.

Recently, researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia have found that the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region might be uninhabitable by 2050. May of 2016 was the 11th month in a row of average record temperatures. The situation becomes more and more dire for the people residing in those regions. As temperature increases, water becomes scarcer which equates to less vegetation and less food overall. People will retaliate and civil strife will manifest.

Some examples of water wars or water crises are directly caused by the ignorant interference of man, and that is a major sin. As narrated by Abu Huraira RadyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

“The Prophet Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, ‘There are three types of people whom Allahsubhānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will neither talk to, nor look at, on the Day of Resurrection. (They are): 1. A man who takes an oath falsely that he has been offered for his goods so much more than what he is given. 2. A man who takes a false oath after the ‘Asr prayer in order to grab a Muslim’s property, and 3. A man who withholds his superfluous water. Allahsubhānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will say to him, Today I will withhold My Grace from you as you withheld the superfluity of what you had not created.” [Bukhari;2370]

Think of countries withholding it from citizens, or corporations looting poor countries of their water. Corporations like Nestle or Coca Cola. They see the economic value of water and deprive natives of it for consumers of their products. The list of cities fighting Nestle through protesting, boycotting, and legally are growing. From San Bernardino to Ontario and many small towns in between. What is your socio-economic role in this? What is your role as a Muslim, who was sent us a steward to take care of this amaanah (trust)? Do not belittle your business with any company, or miss the value of your consumerism with said companies.

We take unsung heroes for granted. I can’t think of any group of people that has a better chance of saving us than women. Yes women! Because what needs to be implemented is more of a cultural change, and women have the authority to make that change. The burden is not on them, it is on all of us.

“A man came to the Prophet Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and said: ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship?’ The Prophet Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Your mother.’ The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Then your mother.’ The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Then your mother.’ The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Then your father.'”[Bukhari, Muslim]

Aren’t our mothers companionship and love worth the extra effort?

When Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) left Sayida Hajer in the desert with Ismael'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), and the water sprouted from under his foot, who then was in charge of that water? That water that created a civilization, that eventually became the the city where Islam started. Makkah started with water, the water of Zam Zam

The Prophet Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was reported to have told one of his wives, Ai’shahra RyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him): “The day you give water to people out of charity, and especially if it is the time when people are in dire need of water, or during the dry season when people are greatly suffering from scarcity of water, you will have the reward of one who sets a slave-girl free.” [Ahmed]

It is the women that walk miles in developing countries to fetch water for their children; they understand its value, they appreciate its purpose. Over 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water which is about ⅙ of the world population. Half of the children born in the developing world will live in homes that do not have accessibility to an improved water and sanitation system. This in turn will greatly increase the chances of their survival and development. With that type of situation, 1.5 million children under five die every year because of diarrhoeal diseases alone. Ensuring that our brothers and sisters in all parts of the world have easy access to safe drinking water is our responsibility as Muslims.

An-Nu’man ibn Basheer reported: The Messenger of Allah Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” [Bukhari;5665 and 2586]

Based on hadith narrated by the Prophet’s Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) wife, Ai’shaa RyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), the women in my life, and the ones I read about, I feel that they have a greater awareness of the surrounding environment, and are able to convince others in their community of its importance. There are grassroots all over the world led by women and are extremely prosperous. Launched in Kenya on Earth Day in 1977, The Green Belt Movement was one of the first efforts to incorporate the links between gender and natural resources within a grassroots environmental campaign – in this case, by mobilizing women to plant indigenous trees.

Since its inception, the Movement has created a national network of 6,000 village nurseries, designed to combat creeping desertification, restore soil health and protect water catchment areas. About 20 million trees have been planted by the Movement’s 50,000 women members. This is a great way to empower women. This is a great initiative to empower the largest oppressed group in the world. How is someone so valued by their children, oppressed all over the world, at different levels, in this day and age? That is something for us to ponder, and lose sleep over.

The world in which we reside is a trust bestowed upon us for future generations. We seem too distracted with many global issues to focus on water and how we impact our environment. Before this topic is pushed aside for the latest breaking news story, or a trendy new cause, consider this: would these stories and causes matter if there is no Earth to sustain us?

From my experience, true peace, true harmony, comes from working together to save our homes, our resources, and the natural environment. When we solve our environmental issues, a lot of our worldly issues will be alleviated. Less demand and fighting over oil, more accessibility to clean water, abundance of food distributed to the hungry, and an equal opportunity for all humans to succeed.

Dardir has recently completed his first Masters specializing in chemistry and his second in Educational Leadership. He is currently enrolled as a student in Mishkah pursuing a bachelors in Islamic Studies. He is working at the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) as an educational advisor. He is the founder and Chief Coordinator of the non-profit organization The Building Blocks of New Jersey whose mission is: “To aid self development, promote activism, and bolster community building”