The Quran’s Message for the Anthropocene

(Actual nuclear explosion superimposed on city.) Anthropocene: a name given to the modern era where human activity has caused major possibly irrevocable systemic changes to planet Earth.

Empiricism as scientific method excludes values, scrupulously avoids assigning value and meaning to things as these are “non-objective” or non-empirical and cannot be scientifically proven, but if a system of knowledge actively denies or excludes meaning, always preferentially validating (thus in fact assigning value to) randomness and coincidence as explanations for phenomena or observed things—in effect limiting their search for knowledge to that which is meaningless—, they have created in effect a system that is systematically avoiding meaning or in another sense purpose in any wholistic sense, thereby rendering the entire system, as a guide to living, invalid (considers nothing as intrinsically “valuable”) and meaningless. The point was to avoid the illogical interpretations associated with religions. At the same time, God is by definition uncontainable by the limits of empirical evidence. Thus we have a “guidance system” whose knowledge has been used for destroying the balance and system of our “home” source of survival, the Earth.

One of the main reasons for this is the unnamed presumption of religion as being exemplified in Christianity, the main version of which involves worshipping another human being defined as “god-man,” thus relegating the concept of God to some part of creation, while simultaneously claiming God to be the Creator. Obviously this can only be false, because a Creator by definition cannot self-create but must already Be, therefore must have no beginning or end, the definition of eternal. A Creator cannot logically create Himself or place Himself in a part of creation, because these are by their very function, categorical differences. The Creator must by definition be in a category by Himself, the only One, and at the same time, have total knowledge—consciousness—of what He created. Those religions which muddy the waters by misinterpreting how total and obvious this categorical difference between Creator and his creation has to be, fail to compete with science for a working truth, and neither system adequately addresses their own shortcomings.

Islam, as presented in the Quran, on the other hand, does present a truth that satisfies the need and indeed longing for consistency and logic, while simultaneously also fulfilling the even greater need and longing for meaning and purpose and fulfillment, which dogmatic and water-muddying “leaps of faith” religions seek to provide by negating the value of logic or intellect. The Quran presents what have been shown over time to be scientific truths as evidence of His very Being, and the value and fulfillment of the system of values and behavior, deen in Arabic, usually called “religion” as a “straight path” to becoming or one could say fulfilling who we are as human, humble before God but exalted in sincerity and acts of compassion, seeking “His face” a word with profound meaning referring to what is knowable about God.

Surat Al-Baqara 2:11

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ

And when it is said to them, “Do not cause corruption on the earth,” they say, “We are but reformers.”

The word for “corruption” is fasad, which also refers to “despoiling” or “ruining,” so it clearly includes the meaning “environmental destruction/ pollution/ despoiling.” Scientists themselves have issued a warning that “humanity is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity and, with it, Earth’s ability to support complex life.” In other words, we are killing ourselves. The root cause of this is of course greed, the capitalist-driven relentless push for ever-increasing profits.

Surat Al-R’ad 13:25

وَالَّذِينَ يَنقُضُونَ عَهْدَ اللَّهِ مِن بَعْدِ مِيثَاقِهِ وَيَقْطَعُونَ مَا أَمَرَ اللَّهُ بِهِ أَن يُوصَلَ وَيُفْسِدُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۙ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمُ اللَّعْنَةُ وَلَهُمْ سُوءُ الدَّارِ

But those who break the covenant of Allah after contracting it and sever that which Allah has ordered to be joined and spread corruption on earth – for them is the curse, and they will have the worst home.

Here the same word for corruption is used as above, again includes the meaning of destroying ecosystems as well as cultivated lands. The “curse” referred to in the Quran is all the consequences of our “value” system, where religion has ceased to function as an ethical motivator, and science cannot by definition fill that role. With loss of faith in God/ Allah, we are destroying ourselves at the hands of the richest and most “powerful” among us, who unsuccessfully seek to fill their inner emptiness and meaninglessness by ever-increasing profits.

Surat Al-‘Araf 7:56

وَلَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ بَعْدَ إِصْلَاحِهَا وَادْعُوهُ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا ۚ إِنَّ رَحْمَتَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ مِّنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

And cause not corruption upon the earth after its development/ reformation. And invoke Him in fear and aspiration. Indeed, the mercy of Allah is near to the doers of good.

This third aya commands us not to corrupt/ destroy the earth after developing it, that is, after building homes, irrigating crops, and other beneficial forms or systems of making the earth more habitable for human life. It is at this point of human development that pollution and other forms of destruction become possible, as we have discovered in the last century and this one with climate change, plastic pollution, air and water pollution, animal abuse, and other modern corruptions. All of which define the modern era as the destructive Anthropocene. Our greatest obstacle is lack of motivation to do otherwise on the part of those who do the most damage.

The Quran gives us a guidance system to address this problem, in meaningful, intellectually sound, and effective ways. We can no longer afford to be guided by a system devoid of values or meaning!

The Quran is eminently understandable, revealing Who Allah Is in beautiful and eloquent ways. Because of His unimaginable greatness and power, the nature of Who He Is, we cannot perceive Him in the way we perceive everything else, as all else is so much less in every sense. Yet He gave us in our intuition the knowledge of Allah’s reality, hence even scientists whose search for knowledge excludes His very existence are basically, and admittedly, in their search for a “theory of everything” looking for some kind of “god” particle, element, force, equation, or something.

The Quran, in contrast, helps us think “outside the box” of our senses and the empiricism that would limit us to them. People are noticing humanity’s destruction of ecosystems that sustain us and life itself, and trying to find a way out of the “Anthropocene” era of pollution, dead zones, and a climate emergency caused by human conceit, immorality, greed, and godlessness. The guide to that is already with us! Who else could guide us to becoming the good stewards of earth and its resources but Allah who created us and the “heavens and the earth”?

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