Reading Surah Ibrahim: Responsible stewardship of the Earth

Joe Bradford

| 04/08/2012

From the beauty of Allah’s speech is the variant modes of reciting the Quran and the variant meanings that stem from them. In Surah Ibrahim verse 34, Allah says:


قُلْ لِعِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَيُنْفِقُوا مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ سِرًّا وَعَلَانِيَةً مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يَأْتِيَ يَوْمٌ لَا بَيْعٌ فِيهِ وَلَا خِلَالٌ (31) اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَأَنْزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجَ بِهِ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ رِزْقًا لَكُمْ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الْفُلْكَ لِتَجْرِيَ فِي الْبَحْرِ بِأَمْرِهِ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الْأَنْهَارَ (32) وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ دَائِبَيْنِ وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ (33)

“Say to my servants who believe: Establish the prayer; spend from what we’ve provided them secretly and openly; before a day in which no business nor friends. Allah is the One who created the heavens and the earth, and sent down from the heavens water, and with it bring fruit forth from the earth as sustenance for you. He made sea vessels subject to you by his command, so as to travel by sea, and he subjected the rivers to you. He made the Sun and the Moon subject to you pursuing their course; the night and day were subjected as well.”

He then says:

وَآتَاكُمْ مِنْ كُلّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ

This verse is read in two ways:

1-      In the genitive case, i.e.: “And He gave you everything you have asked for…”

2-      In the negative, i.e.: “And He gave you from each, you did not even ask …”

What effect does this have on how we understand the verse? After having been reminded of all the things in creation that Allah provided, we are again reminded that whatever we have, regardless of whether we’ve requested it specifically or have not asked for it at all, then it is from Allah. If it is from him, then it is a blessing that Allah has given to us. Because of his omniscience, wisdom, and love he gives us blessings that were we to be tasked with requesting, we would not be conscious enough to even recognize our need for them. Think about the creations mentioned in these verses: rain, vegetation, the sea, the rivers, the Sun and the Moon, even the night and day. When I think about these things, I automatically think about energy, how we get hydrogen generators from water, eco-fuels, oil drilled from the sea, rivers dammed up for generating electricity, and solar energy.

We did not ask for these blessings, if we leave them as they are undeveloped, we benefit from them immensely in their raw form. If we seek to develop them, they are even greater blessings!

Allah then says:

وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا

“If you were to count the blessings of Allah, you would not be able to enumerate them…”

The question that we should be asking ourselves here is not whether we are masters of our domains and have the ability to develop our environments to benefit ourselves, but whether we will develop them responsibly, and not waste the great blessing we’ve been given. Will we develop them in ways that allow them to be renewable sources of blessing for all of mankind, not just a select few?

إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ

“Man is transgressing and ungrateful”

While this last portion of the verse tells us of how we are, the question is how will we be?

How do you all view the blessing mentioned in this verse, and what can we do to live up to the responsibility of us them wisely?


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