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Climate Change in the Quran

Climate Change is a hot topic and has taken the forefront in terms of research related to it as well as funding bodies pumping money into work directly and indirectly impacting the phenomenon.

Evidence suggests that the ancient Egyptian civilization dates back to 4000 B. C, with major changes in the society, possibly owing to climatic change, occurring around 3000 BC. The onset of climatic change within the aforementioned kingdom appears in the stories of Yusuf (A.S) as well as Musa (A.S), these are both in the quran. The society of the time could also be regarded as the forefathers of monotheism. Thus we see that religion played an important role in the lives of the people of ancient Egypt.

The story of Nooh relays the flood which occurred subsequent to receiving divine guidance to build an ark. This story occurs in two sections of the Quran. The first place is in Surah 11, as shown below. The second is in Surah 71, which is entirely devoted to the religious aspects and does not cover the flood in detail as the former Surah. The flood is clearly described :

“ And ye shall know to whom a punishment that will confound him cometh, and upon whom a lasting doom will fall. (Thus it was) till, when Our commandment came to pass and the oven gushed forth water, We said : Load therein two of every kind, a pair (the male and the female), and thy household, save him who against whom the word hath gone forth already, and those who believe. And but a few were they who believed with him” (Quran 11: 39-40).

The story of Yusuf is the only one in the entire Quran which occurs in one section of the Quran in its in chronological order from start to finish This can be seen in Surah 12 of the Quran. The verses pertaining to the climate variability could be seen as :

And the king said : Lo! I saw in a dream seven fat kine which seven lean were eating and seven green ears of corn other (seven) dry. O notables ! Expound for me my vision, if he can interpret dreams. They answered: Jumbled dreams ! And we are not knowing in the interpretation of dreams. And of the two who was released and (now) at length remembered, said : I am going to announce unto you the interpretation, therefore send me forth. (And when he came to Joseph in the prison, he exclaimed) : Joseph ! O thou truthful one! Expound for us the seven fat kine which seven lean were eating and the seven green ears of corn and other (seven) dry, that I may return unto the people so that they may know. He said : Ye shall sow seven years as usual, but that which ye reap, leave it in the ear, all save a little which ye eat. Then after that will come seven hard years which will devour all that ye have prepared for them, save a little of that which ye have stored. Then ,after that, will come a year when the people will have plenteous crops and when they will press (wine and oil) "(12: 43-49)

This set of events depicting the cows and ears of grain were tow separate dreams occurring in one night. The analysis of the dreams occurs in the latter verse with a further analysis stating that the seven hard years should be used as a time in order to store grain for the seven tough years. Furthermore, after the seven years of drought a good year will occur with plentiful water and in turn good crops of olives and grapes for people to process oil and wine .

The story of Musa is told in more than 30 places in the Quran, but expanded versions are given in ten of those with six of the ten Surahs having a more detailed account. The verses which are of interest to issues surrounding climate change are :

“And we straitened Pharoah’s folk with famine and the dearth of fruits, that peradventure they might heed. But whenever good befall them, they said : This is ours ; and whenever evil smote them they ascribed it to the evil auspices of Moses and those with him. Surely their evil auspice was only with Allah. But most of them knew not. And they said : Whatever portent thou bringest wherewith to bewitch us, we shall not put faith in thee. So we sent them the flood and the locust and the vermin and the frogs and the blood – a succession of clear signs. But they were arrogant and became guilty "(7: 131-133)

Chronologically speaking the event of climatic change which affected Nooh occurred prior to that affecting Yusuf and Musa(A.S)(A.S). Furthermore it seems as if the duration and intensity of the events are quite different. If one examines the Quran and analyses the text, we find that Yusuf(A.S) was hit by seven years of good weather, contributing to an above average grain yield, and seven years of drought, which adversely affected people all over the ancient Egyptian kingdom. In comparison the climatic event affecting Musa(A.S) was only a few years (Quran 7:130), yet the drought had devastating effects in this short period of time, sending the kingdom into a state of famine. The floods which followed were also of an extreme nature, wiping out the minimal crops and this was followed in quick succession by numerous plagues. Therefore comparitavely speaking we find that the Yusuf(A.S) had time to prepare for the “bad” years and store his grain. Also the prolonged event, felt by Yusuf(A.S) and his people, did not have as many after effects, when compared to Musa(A.S). This is no surprise as climatic change still has the experts in the field puzzled, with regards to the behaviour and impacts of the event on its cyclical return. It should be noted that the event of Yusuf bears similarity to Elnino. 

It can be clearly seen that the Quran has shown us, by means of a case study, what the effects of climate change are as well as how to mitigate the impacts thereof. The stories of Yusuf(A.S) and Musa(A.S) have numerous other lessons and teach us various skills. We could also deduce valuable lessons from our environment. The most important would be the fact that nature knows no waste. This should be our outlook and simple principles of reduce re-use and recycling this waste on a grassroots level could create a global change.

It also seems as if two distinct patterns could be deduced. The former was a slow persistant change in climate, like the event affecting Yusuf(A.S). And the latter which was a quick climatic change with numerous after effects, in the case of Musa(A.S). This was also the case with the flood of Nooh. A similar event, to the latter, occurred in 1997 in East Africa with extensive flooding and an outbreak of Rift valley fever . It also seems as if the current data favours more intensive climatic changes, but it could also be said that the effects are likely to be erratic and mostly unpredictable. It should however be noted that the decisions made by human beings in certain instances without proper planning and consultation could have these types of disastrous impacts. This can be seen in instances whereby construction has occurred alongside rivers, knowingly that the river spills its banks on a regular basis.

Other prophetic practices, such as utilising minimal amounts of water for bathing, could also minimize our impact on the planet and maximize resource utilization. Sustainable development is not sum far fetched principle. It is truly a practical way of life when implemented. If every individual did their part then we could live in peace and harmony with our environment. The principles of shura (consultation) and waqf(charitable endowments) are all conducive towards our development. Instilling these into our lives would not only lead to a cleaner healthier society in the physical sense, but also in the social and psychological interpretation of the word.

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