Fireworks and Islam
According to records, fireworks were first used in England at the wedding of King Henry VII in 1486. From those days to today, by improvements in technology, fireworks have become more spectacular visually, also available to everyone. Even after recent elections in my country, I witness heavy celebrations with fireworks, although we live in a fairly small town. That's why I decided to post about this topic. Nowadays fireworks are used everywhere, weddings, birthdays, proposals, not to mention 'special' days like a new year.
A scene from The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the ring.'' Frodo pushes Bilbo to the ground. The dragon swoops low over the hobbits' heads, flies off and bursts into a beautiful finale over the lake...''
On 2000, in Istanbul, Turkey, a municipality organized firework show to celebrate qadr night(laylat al-qadr : the Quran's first appearance to prophet Muhammad) and at that time it was discussed whether this would be acceptable or not from Islam's point of view. Some were against it due to the cost of the event being waste. However, there was not found any legitimate evidence against it and some even showed historical miniature drawings showing usage of fireworks at Ottoman time, the majority find the situation as acceptable. Today's Islam culture(culture not Islam itself, a topic of another post) is conservative even against music, it is considered okay to set off fireworks only being money spent on it as questionable. Islam world has focused more on whether it is ok to celebrate the new year or not, although fireworks are an essential part of the new year celebration, they have not caught the attention as much.
So let me also start digging in with financials. The fireworks market has a potential of 2.4 billion euro worldwide, 1 billion of it belongs to America. 65% of this spent comes from individual usage whereas the remaining 35% is for organized big scale events. It is a quite big amount of capital and to show how much importance we give for it, I will use the following example. According to 2019 data, the EU has an approximate budget of 2 billion euros yearly on Food Crises for more than 113 million people across 53 countries experienced acute hunger requiring urgent food, nutrition, and livelihoods assistance(1). This comparison may sound cliché for the reader but it is true that the money could have been spent for some other cause.
Seeing that fireworks have such an important place in modern life, let's evaluate them from all other aspects. Let's start with high volume sound due to firework explosion; it is known that this sound has negative effects on animals and human. We were really surprised when we spent our first new year eve in the Netherlands in 2013, because all the days for a week until that night we kept hearing explosions, from all around the neighborhood. It took hours of explosions at new year's eve and lasted till almost dawn. Our dog hid behind our legs all night with almost visible high-speed heartbeats. We learn that this happens every year as a tradition, it is legal to buy and set off fireworks individually around the new year in NL, similar to some other countries. At that time, I wondered what it must felt like for the other animals, considering our indoor, emotionally supported dog being terrified that much. I researched and found out that I was not the only one wondering, maybe that's why there has been international research initiated by Dutch scientists to see the effect of fireworks on birds in wildlife in 2008. Radars used for observing weather conditions are used this time for observing birds movement during the new year(2). As a result after explosions, it is shown that birds were flying quite fast and sudden to high altitudes up to 500 meters. This sudden flight ends up in much higher than their regular altitudes, resulting in loss of direction(may not find their nest back), hitting to objects like trees, to power supply wires or even to each other. Another research that is made in zoo animals (which I am totally against it), they made an observation on all other kinds of animals(3). As a result, there were observations for obvious stress, and some injuries due to sudden movement due to being scared, although they also observe adaptation and calming down after some time. Let's say that there is no direct harm to animals, just the fact that animals are very sacred, wouldn't that be enough for considering such entertainment as unacceptable. Shall we think about what kind of morals and sensitivity on the human act does Islam targets? There are clear answers on profit Muhammed's sunnah. One day, while profit Muhammed was guiding the army to Makkah, he saw a dog on the way feeding his puppies. He put changed the path a bit and put a guard close to them to make sure nobody bothers or scares them(4). The value Islam puts on animals and wildlife was also evaluated on my other post about veganism. Besides, even if we put animal welfare on a side, there are people ill trying to have a rest, people or immigrants who are not over their trauma from the war and terrified from this noise, or just some parents who were just managed to put their baby on sleep and praying that they won't wake up.
This spectacular colorful fireworks also have another negative aspect: safety. Every year tens of people lost their lives due to accidents by fireworks, hundreds of them seriously injured. For instance, during the 4th of July celebrations in the US, there are so many accidents every year, American safety commission is using examples of celebrities(like an American football player on the picture: Jason Pierre-Paul Bares) on media to warn people.
Similar story, one of my very conscious and careful friends were participating small celebrations in the neighborhood in NL, unfortunately, she got something in her eye and went to a hospital, she was telling how hospitals were full of people injured much more severely, she even did not dare to wait on the line. People who are setting of fireworks may decide to accept the risk for themselves, but who could take the risk of the possibility of harming others who may be accidentally passing by?
Another aspect of the topic would be the impact on the environment. Fireworks are chemical cocktails as comprising gunpowder, metal salts and oxidizers. After usage, there is residual of smoke on air, leftover plastic packaging on soil, and these residuals of these chemicals mentioned penetrate into the soil and even find their way into water supplies. There are also studies about this situation that is harming wildlife and us as humans(5).
Due to all these negative aspects, in some countries, there are restrictions on purchasing fireworks, and usage is allowed in constrained areas. These rules should help as long as the determined area is away from wildlife, residuals are cleaned immediately and the show is performed by professionals. It is the responsibility of the governments to humans and the environment to take these precautions, including my own country. But for us as individuals, like the first order of the Quran, we hold the responsibility of "reading", be aware, demand better regulations from the people in authority, be activists. If people must celebrate and look for visual aspects, it is a natural necessity of being a fair human to search for less harmful technological ones, such as laser shows or visual simulations, just like in the approach of Islam. Because of all these, a Muslim does not set off a firework, does not participate in a firework show but move against it by increasing conscious of others.
In the Quran it is stated that "...Allah formed you from the earth and flourished it with you(Allah gave you the mission to make earth thriving)..." Therefore, as humans, it is our responsibility to make necessary arrangements and act accordingly(6).