page 2 - Ten Sufi thoughts on climate change by Firos Holterman ten Hove

4. There is one religion, the unswerving progress in the right direction toward the ideal, which fulfils the life’s purpose of every soul.


In no period of human evolution has the concept of religion become more real than in the now starting Anthropocene. The old understanding of religion was the following of a cult that would bring us to heaven after death. The award for refraining from certain actions and things would be waiting for us in the hereafter.


After dropping religion altogether, mankind developed pseudo religions like communism and capitalism, telling us that hardships and injustice are necessary for us humans to reach a glorious future with happiness for everybody. The suffering of the non-human nature kingdoms was not even being considered, as these did not complain anyway.


Today nature has started „complaining“. This phenomenon is termed climate change. From a background that could be taken for granted (loving mother earth), she became our counterpart, giving us a hard time.


If we don´t want to divorce (leaving the planet) or continue to misuse (growing anger of our counterpart as a result) we will have to learn how to live with her together in partnership.


In the world becoming our beloved we will have to find out how to be in harmony with her. This is the new religion. The processes between man and world are to be permeated with love.


Etymologically religion means „to bind fast“. More than ever before, we humans will need a lot of endurance to be married with this world. Sufis in all ages have been training themselves in this type of relationship. They called it the dynamics of Love, Lover and Beloved. Hazrat Inayat Khan mostly used the similar term of „Love, Harmony and Beauty“. Harmony is meant to be a state wherein lover and beloved are in tune. For sure being in tune with nature will, in the chaotic transition we are living through on our planet, will mostly not look like a peaceful affair. We will have to drop our concepts of harmony.


Religion in the new era will be coined by a lot of freedom, because love cannot flourish if bounded by external commandments. Which form love will take, we don´t know, because we don´t know our beloved world. We just took her for granted till now.


At the same time religion in the Anthropocene will need more loyalty than ever before, because the behaviour of the beloved will be full of unexpected moods. Floods, earthquakes, and droughts are quite scary!


The reward, according to the the words of Hazrat Inayat Khan, will be „worldly as well as heavenly“. We don´t have to wait. Oneness is within reach.


The 4th response of our Order to climate change is a life in partnership with all nature kingdoms

5. There is one law, the law of reciprocity, which can be observed by a selfless conscience, together with a sense of awakened justice.


Religions through the ages taught man how to act in harmony with his fellow men. All kind of rules were given, all circling around one general spiritual truth quoted by Hazrat Inayat Khan from the Bible: “do unto others as thou wouldst they should do unto thee.”


In contradiction to this age-old truth the motor behind the global economic development is the pursuit of self interest. Nothing seemed able to stop this power. Yes, it was mitigated in the western world by unions defending the pledge of the workers. Yes, considerations about the environment also had some influence. But in the center of the pursuit of profitability stands till today self-interest. Propelled by this motor mankind will, according to the predominant world-wide capitalist ideology, in the end live in happiness.


But, Hazrat Inayat Khan told us that in pursuit of self interest man loses touch with his own real interest. Because, so he continues, “It is the law of reciprocity which saves man from being exposed to the higher powers, as a considerate man has less chance of being brought before the court.”


And now it is too late: the “higher powers” have awoken. Geologists would call these the deeper powers of the earth. Suddenly we discover that the earth systems have become deregulated and that we are exposed to her reactions. The Earth “hits back”. It seems that another old rule “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” is still valid. Mankind will have to face the fact, that the living conditions for all beings on our planet have deteriorated beyond repair. We will have to acknowledge that the danger of extinction of the human race is no longer unthinkable.


Existence finally gave us the proof of the law of reciprocity. Until now it was a matter of belief, today it is a matter of fact: We don´t act in our real interest if we freely use our freedom and technical possibilities. In the end it is in our interest to develop a sense of real justice. And for this we will have to drop a lot of prejudices about our so called rights. It is a matter of unlearning, more than learning. Each human being, so says the Sufi-Master, is borne with a sense of justice within. It is just a matter of removing the covers to reach this natural ability to judge.


The 5th response of the Inayati Order to climate change is to discover and show the workings of the law of reciprocity and to help ourselves and others to discover our inborn sense of justice.

6. There is one family, the human family, which unites the children of earth indiscriminately in the parenthood of God.


What did Hazrat Inayat Khan mean when he talked about „children of earth“?


Different explanations apply:

  • taking the expression literally, it means that we are all made of earth or according to another Sufi saying made of clay. The etymology of the name Adam is „man of clay“. The word human is related to the word humus.
  • Secondly, Murshid may have pointed to the fact that we humans are all children of the same Planet Earth.
  • And possibly with „earth“ is meant Mother Earth as the counterpart of Father Heaven. Earth representing variety, Heaven representing unity.

Climate change causes in man the perception that the soil under his feet is crumbling. In this there is no division between north, south, east or west. It is a global perception.


The panic and distress connected with climate change varies. Those who pretend not to be affected by the climatic catastrophes try to defend their piece of earth against those who had to experience that their soil is no longer there or no longer able to sustain them.


The first group falls back into defending their national state. „We don´t belong to the same world as you. Your world may be threatened or lost, ours not.“!


The second group has nothing to lose and bangs on the doors of the rich, often risking their lives.


How to develop a common life for mankind under such circumstances? The only way out is to find out together, which territory is habitable and with whom we want to share it. Millions of strangers will have to be guided in their search of a safe piece of Earth. We will have to build a collective life for mankind. So nothing is more innovative and less nostalgic than finding agreements about how and where migrants could land on some ground.


This search transcends any bonds of family, nation, religion. Every child of earth will have to ask him/herself, with whom to share this Earth.


Hazrat Inayat Khan states that man can only evolve by uniting himself with another.


In the Anthropocene this unity is no longer a goal for the few but we are on the way of finding out that all living beings together are necessary for the survival of the whole. All is interconnected and only if we recognise this fact, we will be able to live on Earth.


The 6th response of the Inayati Order to climate change is to know and to show how rewarding it is to share our piece of earth with others.