Sacred Creation in the Muslim Tradition

We are meditating on Islam’s teachings on mother Earth, the cosmos, and human responsibility.  The Sufi path is about service and returning from our mystical experiences to help with compassion and justice. This applies to all beings. The Islamic Midrash quotes Mohammed: “All creatures are God’s children, and those dearest to God are the ones who treat His children kindly.”* Kindness to animals, respect for all of God’s creation, are enjoined.

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad reflects on the Islamic tradition’s understanding of the environment and how Muslims are called to interact with creation. Video by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

If an animal is to be killed, it must be done swiftly and in a merciful manner. Tyranny and oppression of any of God’s creatures whether by an individual or by a government are very strictly prohibited and constitute very grave sins.  Generosity and hospitality are highly valued qualities among Muslims world over. 

To be a dervish (Sufi) is to serve and to help others. . . . Mohammed was told about a man who spent all his time in the mosque praying. He asked, ‘Then who feeds him?’ ‘His brother,’ was the reply. ‘Then his brother is better than he,’ he said.* 

People are to rejoice at one another’s good fortune and share in one another’s griefs. “A man does not believe until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”*  Belief takes one into one’s heart to a place where compassion is felt deeply.

“Roadside Service” Iraqis offer rest and refreshment to pilgrims heading south to Karbala for the Islamic religious holiday Arba’een. Photo by United States Forces Iraq on Flickr.

In his book, Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, who was an adviser on long-term sustainability issues for New York mayor Michael Bloomberg,  offers six principles of Islam bearing on environmental sustainability:

1. understanding the oneness of God and His creation (tawhid);

2. seeing signs (ayat) of God everywhere;

3. being a steward (khalifah) of the Earth;

4. honoring the trust we have with God (amana) to be protectors of the planet;

Pocket-sized stewardship: newly constructed rain gardens at the Islamic Cultural Community Center in Northeast Minneapolis. Photo by Mississippi Watershed Management Organization on Flickr.

5. moving toward justice (adl);

6. living in balance with nature (mizan).

His book treats each of these elements as part of an “environmental ethos of Islam.” 

            Abdul-Matin begins with a teaching of a “basic tenet of Islam” that he learned on camping trips with his father: that “the Earth is a mosque, and everything in it is sacred.” The term ayat or “sign” means a sign of the presence of the Creator. An ayat can refer to any of the verses of the Qur’an “or the same word can mean the signs around us — the mountains, the trees, the seas. These signs are evidence of God.”

This sounds to me like Eckhart’s teaching that “every creature is a word of God and a book about God.”

Says Abdul-Matin:

“The Green Deen Tribe Retreat.” Visual meditation from a Muslim women’s eco-retreat by TheRabbaniProject.

We can fine-tune our attention to see every aspect of creation as being a divine message. . . . We are immersed in the amazement of the sign Allah has spread out before us. These experiences can lead us into a state of awe. Our awe is our sense that we are part of the amazing beauty of those signs.

Awe, amazement, reverence, gratitude — these are the starting points for Abdul-Matin’s spiritual journey as well as Eckhart, Rabbi Heschel and others.

* See Ana Matt, Islam (Berkeley, CA: n.d.), 115, 105f., 115.

Also see Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, GreenDeen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2012), pp. 1, 7.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, pp. 197f.

Banner Image: Date palms on the quad at Universiti Islam Madinah. Photo by Neo Saed on Flickr.

Do you see the earth as a Mosque?  Or Temple?  Or Cathedral?  What follows from that?  Do you “fine-tune your attention to every aspect of creation as being a divine message”?

Recommended Reading

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time

While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward


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Join us for a Virtual Teach-in with Isa Gucciardi and Matthew Fox, hosted by Rev. Cameron Trimble.
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3 thoughts on “Sacred Creation in the Muslim Tradition”

  1. Avatar

    Understanding the Truth of Divine LOVE in the Islamic (and Sufi) tradition. You may be surprised? }:- a.m.

    “ I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through…..listen to this music.” ~Hafiz~

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    In today’s DM, the words… fine-tune your attention to every aspect of creation as being a divine message… resonates, as an invitation to be present with the sacredness of the all and the everything of creation. To be present is to really see and accept the diverse aspects of another, to listen attentively to another, to sense the touch of another, to behold the beauty of another, to discover our connections to one another. Being present with and to one another is a universal language in which messages are communicated in an intuitive kind of way. This gift of intuition, fine-tunes us… enabling us to enter into the sacredness of solidarity with… the encountering of a living relationship with the Divine essence within another… where a mutual giving of one to another unfolds through attentive solitude. There is a sound… the sound of universal wisdom truths to be heard in this silence… which can only be intuited… through the mystery of becoming and being oned with another… as apart of oneself… all apart of something much larger… a wholeness that binds us together in the holiness of our true belovedness. In the sacredness of these moments we truly do experience the inherent goodness within the all and the everything of creation and the Creators fine-tuned intentions… of being loved to love.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, Thank you for your comment today. You write, “To be present is to really see and accept the diverse aspects of another…” this is so true, and as you have pointed out, being present takes form in so may different ways–in seeing the other, sensing the other, feeling connected to the other and being present intuitively. All of these forms help us to be in closer relationship with the other…

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