The Counter Crusade

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Kings and Caliphs on Earth: More on the Environment

this is a quick addition to my last post on man and the environment... it was sent to me by a social sciences professor that I know. He was telling me about it earlier and I asked him to tell me what he said again to refresh my memory...

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"I was talking about a movie I'd watched with Peter O'Toole playing Robinson Crusoe. The sequence at the end involves Friday putting Crusoe under custody and taking him to his original people to put Crusoe on trial. Friday wants to execute  Crusoe but the tribe say that to do this would be to sink to his level. Crusoe also defends himself and says that he can make up for what he'd done by knowledge, teaching their children about the world, which is what makes Friday so angry in the first place.

So they punish him instead by sending him back to his island again and leaving him there to live by himself. Then you have a shot of Crusoe reading from the bible how God gave man the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea. Then you get a shot of Friday and his people singing how nobody can tell the tree not to bask in the light of the sun.

The contrast here is between a people - the 'primitive' tribesmen who worship nature and respect it and don't see it as theirs to do with as they please, and Crusoe the modern European thinks of nature in terms of 'ownership'. He is a man who has a material and imperialist interpretation of the Bible. Instead of understanding the verses in the bible that are talking about nature in terms of 'taskheer' - wasakkharna lakum ma fi samawati wal ard (in the Quran, God makes nature to serve man and his needs, but nature and man both belong to God) - he thinks in terms of ownership. He interprets God 'giving' man the birds and fish literally, as in that they are given to man to do with as he please - 'ownership'.

If you own a chair, it belongs to you, you can smash it if you like and no one can tell you otherwise because it's yours. In Islam money is the money of God and we are mustakhlaphin in it. We have been given the money, as a trust - amanah - and so we mustn't spend it wrongly and must always remember where the money came from - God - and so not think there is anything particularly special about you and why you are rich and so always remember to give money to the poor. By extension the whole idea of man as khaliphatu allah fil ard (God's viceregent on Earth) is a reference to man's responsibility to God's religion and to the earth and obey God's orders, not 'rule' earth and all its creations as such, in terms of 'ownership'.

In Christianity you have the divine right of kings and various religious arguments that use Adam's status on earth as justification for the king actually owning the land and the people on it. ..."

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The movie is called "Man Friday", from 1975.

2 Comments:

  • Very interesting and thought provoking.

    Ecological issues are very important to me, and I'm distressed how little attention they receive in the Islamic community as a whole. Destruction of Allah's creation should be something we take a high priority in dealing with.

    By Blogger DA, at 3:48 AM, December 28, 2005  

  • the islamic community doesnt seem to know all the hadiths and verses about nature and the environment...

    it saddens me how great the world could be, if only everyone had a proper islamic education... and yet here we are.

    By Blogger Silencer, at 11:26 PM, December 28, 2005  

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