Monday, January 18, 2010

Prophet Mohammed: A Pioneer of the Environment

NOTE: Father should be a model in this sunnah.

By Francesca De Chatel

“There is none amongst the believers who plants a tree, or sows a seed, and then a bird, or a person, or an animal eats thereof, but it is regarded as having given a charitable gift [for which there is great recompense].” [Al-Bukhari, III:513].

The idea of the Prophet Mohammed as a pioneer of environmentalism will initially strike many as strange: indeed, the term “environment” and related concepts like “ecology”, “environmental awareness” and “sustainability”, are modern-day inventions, terms that were formulated in the face of the growing concerns about the contemporary state of the natural world around us.

And yet a closer reading of the hadith, the body of work that recounts significant events in the Prophet’s life, reveals that he was a staunch advocate of environmental protection. One could say he was an “environmentalist avant la lettre”, a pioneer in the domain of conservation, sustainable development and resource management, and one who constantly sought to maintain a harmonious balance between man and nature. From all accounts of his life and deeds, we read that the Prophet had a profound respect for fauna and flora, as well as an almost visceral connection to the four elements, earth, water, fire and air.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Seerah and your kids

Assalamu alaikum,

A few months ago I thought it would be a good idea to read the Seerah of the Prophet, alayhis-salam, to my 6 year old boy. I purchased a few books and began to read from them to my son. The endeavor soon went very, very stale. The author had chosen to omit the more dramatic incidents of the Seerah, such as Bilal's torture, the conversion of Hamzah, and any level of detail regarding the famous and pivotal battles of Islam. I presume the author felt that such intense and sometimes violent content was inappropriate for children and while I respect his decision and efforts, I do not agree with him. The Seerah is about Life, or to be more precise, how Life Should Be Lived. And according to the Quran, The Sunnah, and the experience of every human being in history, Life is full of struggle, defeat, pain, victory, joy, death, birth, and rebirth. Are we doing our children a favor by sheltering them from these realities at such a young age? Is it not better to gently introduce them to these truths through the Seerah of the Prophet, alayhis-salam, as told to them by their own Father, in the comfort of their own home and bed? That is the conclusion that I reached and I did not believe that any of the Seerah books for children currently available would meet that goal (feel free to let me know if I am wrong and that you have found a great resource), so I proceeded to deliver my own narration of the Seerah to my son.

As a reference, I used one of my favorite Arabic books, السيرة النبوية في ضوء مصادرها الأصلية, "The Prophetic Seerah in the Light of its Original Sources", by Mahdi Rizq-Ullah, and to put it simply, the experience has been absolutely awesome. Together, my son and I have experienced all the most dramatic moments from the greatest and truest adventure ever lived, toned down (and sometimes exaggerated for comedic effect) to a level that I felt was appropriate. We visited the Prophet's infancy and the loneliness of his childhood after the death of his parents, then his growing prestige as a trusted merchant of Quraish, alayhis-salam. We witnessed the awesome terror and power of the first revelation and the comfort given to him by his noble wife, alayhis-salam and radhy Allahu 'anha. The ups and downs, the joys and defeats, the sacrifices and the struggles of the greatest generation this world has ever seen became a part of our nighttime routine and I swear that at times I was so moved that I could barely continue ... in fact, out of all the ways that I have experienced the seerah of Muhammad, alayhis-salatu was-salam, through reading, listening to tapes, and even attending a seerah class as a student of Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Uthaymeen, rahimahullah, I feel that this has been the most rewarding... may Allah forgive my inadequacy at finding the right words, but all I can say is that it is one thing to learn the Seerah for yourself and an entirely other thing to learn it and teach it for the sake of your children.

My experience in re-delivering the Story of Muhammad, alayhis-salam, and his Companions has been one of the most positive endeavors that I have undertaken as a father. It provided me with an unique opportunity to teach my son lessons about perseverance, mercy, faith, bravery, and a long list of other virtues rarely talked about in today's society. I've shared this with you in the hope that there is something useful to be learned from it for yourself and your family. And Allah knows best.