A Muslim Reflections… From Within the Haze

The Haze

This morning (24/6/2013), on my way to and from the mosque, for Fajr (Subh) prayers, I realized one the greatest bestowals of God upon us. That’s the preciousness of fresh air. I could appreciate the sweetness of breathing it, in and out effortlessly, just like one appreciates plain water, when taken on extreme thirst.

Just three days ago, schools were ordered to put all school activities on suspension, for the rest of the month of June. Members of the public were also advised to stay in closed doors, avoid going out unnecessarily, and ensure using masks, when they really need to go out. The stress was such, for the good of children, elderly, asthmatic, the pregnant and the disable. Thus, outdoors activities were cancelled.

The period between 17 and 23 June 2013 was a hazy week, indeed. In Singapore, the 3-Hour pollutant standards index (PSI) read between 50 and 401. With PSI reading up to 401, Singapore has experienced its worst haze, so far.

The situation, in which the PSI figures have been up and down, became alarming to everybody here, especially that, the National Environment Agency (NEA) of Singapore, has declared that it’s “unhealthy” when it reads between 101-200, “very unhealthy” when it’s between 201-300, and any figure above 300 is “hazardous”.

Inhaling the smoke of the haze has serious health implications, especially with children, elderly, disabled and asthmatic among us. Seeing such people suffocating, due to the haze was something worrying, indeed. As a result, every individual reacted, his or her own way.

This article is a reflection, on how some Muslims reacted to the haze, and how we are supposed to have reacted.

The first time I experienced haze in Singapore was in 2006. That was the second worst haze until this years’. I learnt that people here (in Singapore) started experiencing the haze since 1980s. They’ve been affected, since then, every other year, in a way or the other.

According to Today Online, “The highest 3-hour average PSI reading recorded was in September 1997 when it hit 226. In October 7, 2006, the 3-hour PSI hit 150.”

Haze is resulted by burning of forests. In the case of Singapore and Malaysia, such burnings of forests take place in Riau, in Sumatra, Indonesia.

Yesterday, Muar, a town in Johor Bahru, in Malaysia was declared a state of emergency. This is because the PSI has read up to 746, in the morning. If the weather condition can be such bad in remote areas, away from Sumatra, where the burnings take place, what will be the situation of Sumatra itself, and the condition of the innocent people, residing there?

Burning of forests, in the said areas of Sumatra is an annual undesired occurrence. We therefore, experience the haze every other year. Why then, is it such bad, this time around? In other words, why did the winds, fail to blow it moderately to us, as it used to do, in the past? I guess, if those who burn the forests, could control the smoke plumes, they would have directed it to somewhere, where no human lives.

It was surprising, how some of our Muslim brothers (and sisters) reacted to the haze, offline and online. I believe, that the remarks they made, towards Indonesians, could have been more responsible, to reflect the bonding between Singapore and Indonesia at individual levels. After all, we are all “Muslims”. No doubts, such remarks have been made, because the haze was an act of some of them. But they were equally chocked as we were. Here, I’m not referring to any political statement, which might have been made by political leaders.

Such remarks made me ask questions like:

What were our remarks, and who did we blame, when more that 10,000 cases of dengue were reported (this year), and the figures continue to increase?

May Allah forbidden, what kind of remarks shall we make, should any tsunami hit our shores?

As far as Muslims are concerned, it’s not about showing concern. Everyone shows concern, especially when we suffer together. It’s rather about how ethical our concern should be conveyed.

A Muslim’s reaction is very important, in all their encounters. Our reactions must be righteous, and should allow us to develop better relationship with God. That way, we attain God’s pleasure, at the time that we strengthen our good relationship with our fellow human beings.

Are there any doubts, that He knew what has happened; that he wanted it to happen, and that He’s the One who blew (took) it away, on Saturday?

A Muslim pious man once said, “When I disobey God, I see the effect of that (committed sin) on [my interactions with] my spouse and [response of] my camel (or donkey).”

It’s strange that, we fail to see the effect of our disobedience in the rights of God, not only on our interactions with our households, but also its effects on the environment, in which we live.

When the Anger of God descends, it doesn’t only affect the culprits, especially when ‘call for doing righteousness and warnings against immorality’ (al-amru bilma’rouf wal-nahyu ‘anil-munkar) are silenced. It encompasses everybody, including “the most pious” among us.

Some Lessons I learnt from the Haze

  • Effective thinking and sense of reflections are needed: It’s unfortunate, that most of us do not realize, that although the haze was due to human greedy actions, it was directed to us, by God, so we can appreciate the fresh air we’ve taken for granted, all this while. Such appreciations will help us to appreciate the blessings of God, which we’ve failed to appreciate.
  • Man can plan and do, but God is in control: He has given man some knowledge, but He didn’t give him control over everything. Man can set fire, but he can’t determine whether it will burn or not. Thus, he can’t control the smoke that comes out of it. He can’t even control the extent to which the effects of the burning will go.
  • Human calculations don’t determine what God decides: Based on human calculations, this year’s haze may continue until September. In fact, the forecast was that, the PSI reading yesterday (Sunday, 23/6/2013), could be in the “unhealthy range”. But God decided to clear the air, here. As we couldn’t depend on the haze situation for long, we shouldn’t take the fresh air, we have today, for granted, as well.
  • It was just haze. It could be anything else: It’s important that we don’t allow the level of our maturity and good manners to incline, in times of challenges and crisis, especially when we are “highly educated.” It was haze, it could be dengue, Swine flu (H1N1), bird flu, SARS, earthquake, tsunami and other serious calamities, may God forbid, and protect us.
  • We have to widen our scope of concern for others, in times of crisis: It’s good that we show much concern, for each other when we are in problem. But once it moves on to someone else, it no longer becomes an issue to us, even if that person happens to be our next-door neighbour. Islam teachings are contrary to this.
  • Religious leaders have to be vibrant and relevant: In times of crisis, politicians do everything possible, to be politically sound and relevant. Religious leaders (men of God) are supposed to let alone politics, and focus on their essential responsibilities. And do the right things at the right times.

Have you made any observations during the current haze? What are your thoughts regarding the haze? Any reflections from your side? Comments are welcome.

Allah knows best.

Allahu Hafiz 🙂