Education Lifestyle

David Attenborough

“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.”

David Attenborough

In our pursuit of happiness we forgot life.

Picture credit:

At 93 David Attenborough presents his personal life statement to the world through his acclaimed documentary,  David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, making the point that he has passed on the knowledge to us. There is no better inheritance then receiving it before the demise of a beloved because it comes with no misgivings only with true conviction that it was handed out with great responsibility. As I pen these words, flashes of the documentary plague my mind particularly on the Chernobyl disaster because it is telling sign that mankind ignores warning signs of destruction.

The Chernobyl disaster is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, both in terms of cost and casualties.[19] The initial emergency response, together with later decontamination of the environment, ultimately involved more than 500,000 personnel and cost an estimated 18 billion Soviet rubles—roughly US$68 billion in 2019, adjusted for inflation.[8][20]

I am deeply appreciative of the work of David Attenborough all because he has given me a majestic view of life on earth and made me understand how little we all really know about everything we see. As Muslims we are taught by Muhammadﷺ the following:

Jabir reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever is not grateful for small things will not be grateful for large things. Whoever does not thank people has not thanked Allah Almighty.

Source: al-Firdaws lil-Daylamī 5962

I am thankful to David Attenborough for the astounding, thought provoking, imaginative, innovative and absolutely remarkable documentaries produced over the decades that has alerted, educated, informed, warned and enhanced our knowledge of life on planet earth. In thanking him, it pleases me to know that I am grateful to Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. It is really bewildering to the imagination that David Attenborough, at this age of 93, is still making a sincere effort to live life purposefully. His life statement therefore is our best inheritance from him. This is what I cherish and wish to write about because the COVID-19 pandemic has brought humanity to the edge of despair because all our knowledge and combined efforts have not produced the results we hoped for in the time we had and still have. In fact, the medical fraternity too, are at odds with research and vaccinations so much so that it has become a political fracas. Parallel to this pandemic nature continues to battle the day against our mindless pollution of its oceans, it atmosphere, its earth, it rivers, its animals and everything else to the extent that we now have sand wars because we have become obsessed with high rise buildings, mega structures and building of many a megapolis such that sand is moved from one continent to another thus ravaging the earth with soil erosion. Furthermore, we have filled low laying sea waters with luxury living only to satisfy our whims and fancies to the detriment of ecology and a system that overwhelmingly organised by natural cycles and that too, we have interfered with because we want more and more and more… So voracious is our greed that rain forests and glaciers are diminishing in glory, in might, in wonder, and their purpose and necessity is marginalised. We have come to believe that we are insuperable against the exultancy of nature. We have become thankless for the bounties that Allah, the Fashioner of the universe. HE has given us this whole wide world for free. Did you thank Allah, the Supreme Architect, for this earth and its enchanting, amazing, delightful, useful and awe inspiring treasures?

Give this thought.

When I continued to watch David Attenborough’s documentary I am drawn to the Holy Quran reflecting on the following ayahs/evidence

“It is He Who created for you (the faculties of) hearing, sight, feeling and understanding; little thanks it is ye give!” (31:31)

“[Easy is it for Him to create likeness and variety:] [10] thus, the two great bodies of water [on earth] are not alike [11] the one sweet, thirst-allaying, pleasant to drink, and the other salty and bitter: and yet, from either of them do you eat fresh meat, and [from either] you take gems which you may wear; and on either thou canst see ships ploughing through the waves, so that you might [be able to] go forth in quest of some of His bounty, and thus have cause to be grateful.” (35:12)


It is irrefragable that nature will resurge and claim its space once again because its biodiversity supports life in all its forms. Its unselfish giving is to support the existence of humanity because we have been created in the best of forms.

As the best in design we have variety in everything from food to clothing to housing and transport therefore, making us the most diverse in how we use of the earth for our benefit. In our quest to make our lives more convenient from communication to transport to luxury living we have extracted so much from the earth creating damaged ecosystems, we have burnt so much of fossil fuels that have polluted the atmosphere and killed so much of wild life on land and in the sea resulting in global warming which in turn has reduced the Artic belt by 40 %. Man chose to live apart from nature and not part of it therefore diminishing his standing as a species as the best of creation but, redemption is on the horizon as man begins to realise how his actions can alter the state of affairs by taking proactive steps in addressing climate change, reducing deforestation, over fishing and merciless killing of wild life. This redemption is our hope because man has come to realise that this earth is finite in its resources and capacity to house creation. The earth has to be cared for like how we care for ourselves because if we pollute all the water of the world then from where are we going to get clean water? Definitely not from Mars or Venus. The earth’s resources has to be saved. David Attenborough gives the following startling statistics:

YEARWorld PopulationAtmosphereRemaining Wilderness
19542,7 billion310 parts per million64 %
19603 billion315 parts per million62 %
19784,3 billion335 parts per million55 %
19975,9 billion360 parts per million46 %
20207, 8 billion 415 parts per million35 %
Stats from David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

The statistics are frightening when you realise that we have 35 % of wilderness left within the sickle of man’s greed. This has to be addressed. Again I am grateful for David Attenborough for his phenomenal series, LIFE ON EARTH which was produced in the late 70s. David Attenborough explored 39 countries, studied 650 species and travelled 1,5 million miles to bring the reality before our eyes. This accomplishment is rooted in passion, grit and resilience because he honestly believes in his mission of educating the world on how the world has become sick and it needs serious and immediate proaction. Consider the fast fact according to David that 50 billion trees are cut down each year. This means the earth is losing so much of oxygen because there is just not enough trees to absorb the carbon dioxide resulting in global warming. In effect glaciers will melt faster and there would less ice resulting is less and less rays of the sun been reflected back into the atmosphere. The vivid image in my mind is a wasteland.

Our Earth…Our Life…Our Future.

Omar Bagnied impressed me in manifesting how Islam supports the preservation of life and the earth too. He makes this profound point:


“The Prophet was also a pioneer when it came to land preservation and providing sanctuary for wildlife. He designated special areas where water, wildlife, and forestry use would be restricted (haram) or left alone altogether (hima). These are precedents for what’s currently referred to as a nature reserve or preserve. The Prophet believed that animals, land, and water were not the possessions of mankind, but rather provisions from Allah to use in moderation and wisdom. The Quran says, “…waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters (Quran 7:31).

In line with protecting wildlife, the Prophet has instructed us that hunting is for valid reasons such as obtaining food or when necessary for the safety of humans, but never for sport or pastime. He mentioned: “If anyone wrongfully kills a sparrow or anything greater, God will question him about it” (An-Nasa’i).”

The fact that Islam binds the believer to accountability means that every Muslim must therefore, be a vicegerent of Allah, the High on earth. This very honourable position of mankind means this earth is mankind’s responsibility. It is visceral therefore, that mankind takes care of that which is inextricable to mankind’s existence. When I read Omar Bagnied I am truly proud of Islam because, it reflects the deeper aspects of Islam that is not given space except what mass media wants us to understand. Mass media therefore, has to be more open on what damage corportocracy is actually having on wildlife. We need to really pay attention to how mass media gives skewed attention to issues around climate change and global warming especially when the stakes are high for resource extraction as a case in point. What this means is that there has to be change within people themselves because, we don’t see a sincere incipient global agenda to address the issues of global warming, preservation of wildlife and depletion of fossil fuels. There are very few countries who are making significant strides in stopping deforestation, using less fossil fuels, curbing over fishing and relocating farmland to wildlife preservation. Therefore, it is imperative to consider what Allah, the All Knowing says about human beings as a collective.”

Allah, the All Knowing tells us: “…truly, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…”

Holy Quran (13:110

Mankind has this window of opportunity to change the conditions we are facing because it is within our control but, we see it not. We see it not because, we think that governments must do everything. Today, governments are so involved in the arms race and buying weapons of mass destruction that one imagines the solution to the world’s problems lie in the catastrophe of a massive world war which would be MAD – MUTUAL ASSURED DESTRUCTION. To avoid MAD, David Attenborough offers practical solutions that can be implemented immediately but, it requires a collective engagement. Therefore, we need to begin informing more and more people about climate change and global warming with a passion to do something. When this happens it will cause a chain reaction because people will realise that we cannot escape to Mars and begin a life there. The knowledge we pass to others will make them think. For example, did you know that half of the fertile land is now farmland on earth yet, we have people dying of hunger and we have countries facing starvation and malnutrition. This is so ironical because, with half of fertile land now farmland it stands to reason that there should be an abundance of food. The major question is not, “Why is there starvation?” The major question is, “Where is the food?” Furthermore, did you know that 70 % of birds are domestic birds and they are chickens for our consumption. We have become super consumers of meat and everything else. Therefore, with you and I passing on such bits of thought-provoking information a genuine awareness is created. This awareness is lacking because we are too caught up in the sensate culture that drives us to be mutually assured destructive consumers. We need to become more aware of our lifestyles so that we can begin to change. If we do not change this is how the earth will begin to self destruct because of the action of mankind:

2030The Amazon Rainforest will be cut down. The Artic ice in summer will diminish therefore, less of the sun’s rays will be reflected back. Greenhouse effect intensified.
2040sFrozen soils will thaw. This will release methane gas into the atmosphere. 
2050sOcean heats up. Coral reefs die. Fish population diminishes.
2080sSoil exhaustion because of over farming. Water shortage.
2100s4 degrees Celsius  warmer and will lead to the SIXTH MASSIVE EXTINCTION.
Stats from David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

The hope on the horizon is to change the way we think of the world. We need to see it as a finite resource whose biodiversity must be restored for our survival too. Therefore, we need to become activists in our own way. We will need a lifetime to do what David Attenborough has done and we don’t have another life. What we have is the present. Our activism must be to educate and teach at least one other person about this and that would instil in us conviction for the worthy cause. We need to reflect on what we have been granted and understand the deeper implications. Consider what Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya says:

“When Allah granted Prophet Yoosuf (`alayhis-Salaam) physical beauty it caused him to be locked up in the prison; but when Allah granted him knowledge (when he interpreted the dream of the king) it not only took him out of prison, but elevated his rank in society, clearly showing us the virtue of knowledge and that physical beauty does not mean anything.”

I bring this interpretation to the above on our discussion as follows. Allah, the Generous, gave his best creation this world but, mankind became locked inside it because of greed and it became his prison. For the few who understood the world as a tilth for the hereafter, not only did they look after the earth but invested in it for the harvest in the hereafter. Our knowledge is our power and our leverage out of the prison we have created for ourselves. We need to break free from the bondage of materialism and consumerism. Like Prophet Yusuf (PBUH) we will be elevated in ranks in this world and the next if we choose to live for the hereafter and die empty. Reflect on the words of Allah, the Wise:

مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ حَرْثَ الْآخِرَةِ نَزِدْ لَهُ فِي حَرْثِهِ وَمَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ حَرْثَ الدُّنْيَا نُؤتِهِ مِنْهَا وَمَا لَهُ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِن نَّصِيبٍ

Whoever desires (and strives to gain) the harvest of the Hereafter, We increase him in his harvest; and whoever desires the harvest of the world, We grant him out of that, and he has no portion in the Hereafter. (42:20)

The last two verses explain two important principles in the provision of living beings. One is that God creates all living beings and determines their needs and the way in which they are provided for. The other is that He gives those who aim at the Hereafter more than they deserve, but gives those who aim at the world some amount of worldly provisions, with no portion at all in the Hereafter. This implies that it is not possible for one who is greedy for worldly provisions to obtain everything in the world and feel content with it. So one should not aim for the world, but rather focus on the harvest of the Hereafter, while not neglecting working for one’s livelihood.” (Ali Unal)

The Chernobyl disaster will plague my mind like the COVID-19 pandemic because it shows the destructive nature of man. It will always be there showing how wildlife has now overtaken the cities and flourishing whilst humanity will continue to work to clear its mess which scientists say will continue well into 2050. I leave you with the task of thanking people before they depart from planet earth on the life and works. I have just did that for a remarkable man by the name of David Attenborough. I watched so many of his documentaries and hoped I journeyed with him a thousand miles to learn, to seek, to explore and to share because he has made his passion is life goal which the world is benefiting from. May Allah, the High bless him with Islam.

Abdullah Sujee


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