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.
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.
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;
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.”
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”?
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
Join Matthew Fox for a thought-provoking 7-week course: Answer the Call for an Uncommon Life Through the Mystical Teachings of St. Hildegard, Tuesdays, 6/15 to 7/27. While the course has begun, registration remains open, with recordings of past classes available. Learn more HERE.
Join us for a Virtual Teach-in with Isa Gucciardi and Matthew Fox, hosted by Rev. Cameron Trimble.
August 13-14, 2021 (Fri-Sat)
Shamanism in Buddhism and Christianity
Session 1: Friday, August 13 at 4pm-6pm PT
Session 2: Saturday, August 14 at 9am-12pm PT
Session 3: Saturday, August 14 at 12:30pm-2:30pm PT