12 May 2014

Islam and Environment

The relationship between human beings and the earth is increasingly complicated and urgent. Although human beings are seen as the most intelligent life form on earth, they are responsible for almost all the damage done to the planet. The problem of the environment is one of today’s most serious problems. It is a problem that threatens not only us, but the whole world, and future generations and their right to live in a healthy environment.

Protection of the environment is essential to Islamic beliefs and mankind has the responsibility to ensure safe custody of the environment. The Islamic attitude towards environment and natural resource conservation is not only based on prohibition of over-exploitation but also on sustainable development.

The Qur’an says that Allah (God) is the Creator of the world. Human beings are on the world as trustees or ‘vice-regents’ they are told to look after the world for Allah and for the future: Devote thyself single-mindedly to the Faith, and thus follow the nature designed by Allah. In the Quran, God says: “Then we appointed you viceroys in the earth after them, that we might see how ye behave” (Quran 10:14). "O children of Adam! … eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters." (Surah 7:31)

In the Qur’an, Muslims are instructed to look after the environment and not to damage it because it is all Allah’s creation and it is part of a human’s duty to Allah. “Do no mischief on the earth, after it hath been set in order” (7:56).

The central concept of Islam is Tawhid or the Unity of God. Allah is Unity; and His Unity is also reflected in the unity of mankind, and the unity of man and nature. His trustees are responsible for maintaining the unity of His creation, the integrity of the Earth, its flora and fauna, its wildlife and natural environment., Tawhid, Khalifah and Akhirah,( unity, trusteeship and accountability) the three central concepts of Islam, are also the pillars of the environmental ethics of Islam. They constitute the basic values taught by the Qur’an. It is these values which led Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, to say: ‘Who ever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded.'

There are over 6,000 verses in the Quran, of which more than 500 deal with natural phenomena. Allah repeatedly calls on us to reflect on His signs, which include all aspects of nature such as trees, mountains, seas, animals, birds, stars, the sun and the moon - and our own hearts. The word “earth” (ard) is mentioned 485 times in the Qur’an as a whole and is portrayed as being offered for man’s convenience. “It is He Who has made the earth manageable for you, so traverse through its tracts and enjoy of the sustenance which He furnishes.” 67:15

The earth is also considered by Islam to be a place of purification and worship of God. God’s Messenger (PBUH) said: “The earth was made a place of worship and purification for me [and Muslims].” means when water is not available before worship, earth may be used for canonical ablutions (tayammum) in its place -Bhukhaari .  God’s Messenger (PBUH) was emphasizing this point when he said: “God is beautiful and He loves the beautiful; He is generous and loves generosity; He is clean and loves cleanliness.” In one Hadith, God’s Messenger (PBUH) says: “Cleanliness is half of belief.” –Sahi Muslim. It is clear then that Muslims are obliged to always be clean in every respect, both physical and moral and spiritual. Also, we should never forget this admonition of the Qur’an: God loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean 2:222

After Muslims established themselves in Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) surveyed the natural resources in the region—the wadis (riverbeds); the rich, black volcanic soil; the high rangelands—and decreed that they be preserved and set aside as a hima an Arabic term meaning "protected place". Prophet Muhammad had declared a 30 km area around his city of Madinah a protected grove, prohibiting the cutting down of trees within its borders. He prescribed picking up litter from the streets as an act of faith. He forbade the cutting of cedar trees in the desert that provided shade and shelter to animals. He calls upon us to be what God intended us to be, which is in harmony with nature.
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) encouraged the planting of trees and the cultivation of agriculture which are considered as good acts. "There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him." -Bukhari. The planting of a tree is regarded in the classical Islamic tradition as an act of continuous charity, the most desirable sort of good deeds. The Prophet Muhammad (s) says planting of a tree is an act of charity. The importance of planting trees as a good deed is highlighted in another tradition which says that if one has on hand a sapling ready to be planted and the Day of Judgment arrives one should go ahead and plant it. Prophet Muhammad [S.A.W] said: “No Muslim, who plants a shoot, except that whatever is eaten or stolen from it, or anyone obtains the least thing from it, is considered [like paying] almsgiving on his behalf until the Day of Judgment." - Sahi Muslim

Islam is against the cutting or destruction of plants and trees unnecessarily. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "He who cuts a lote-tree [without justification], Allah will send him to Hellfire." -Abu Dawud.

Fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali ibn Abi-Talib (RA) who said “Partake of it gladly so long as you are the benefactor, not a despoiler; a cultivator, not a destroyer. All human beings as well as animals and wildlife enjoy the right to share Earth’s resources. Man’s abuse of any resource is prohibited as the juristic principle says ‘What leads to the prohibited is itself prohibited”.
In Islam it was observed to preserve the natural environment as an obligation of khalifa or "stewardship". When Abu Musa (RA) was sent to Al-Basrah as the new governor, he addressed the people saying: "I was sent to you by 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RA) in order to teach you the Book of your Lord [i.e. the Qur'an], the Sunnah [of your Prophet], and to clean your streets."

Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be upon Him) forbade that a person relieve himself in a water source or on a path or in a place of shade or in the burrow of a leaving creature.

Wastefulness is a major contributing factor to our present woes, here the Koran cautions us: 
[17:27] “For the wasteful are the brothers of Satan; and Satan is ungrateful to his Lord.”
[7:31] “O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.”

These values highlight Islam’s stress on avoiding pollution of critical resources and importance of cleanliness.

Islamic jurisprudence contains regulations concerning the conservation and allocation of scarce water resources; for the conservation of land with special zones of graded use; for the establishment of rangelands, wetlands, green belts and for wildlife protection and conservation. The earliest known treatises dealing with environmentalism and environmental science, especially pollution, were Arabic medical treatises written by al-KindiQusta ibn Luqaal-RaziIbn Al-Jazzaral-Tamimial-MasihiAvicennaAli ibn RidwanIbn JumayIsaac Israeli ben SolomonAbd-el-latif, Ibn al-Quff, and Ibn al-Nafis. Their works covered a number of subjects related to pollution such as air pollutionwater pollutionsoil contaminationmunicipal solid waste mishandling, and environmental impact assessments of certain localities. CordobaAl-Andalus also had the first waste containers and waste disposal facilities for litter collection.

Environmental awareness and protection of natural resource is an integral part of Islamic beliefs. As viceroys of Allah on this earth, we have to utilize natural resources in a sustainable manner in order to ensure that Allah’s Bounties to continue. The principle of conservation is beautifully illustrated by the rule which says that while making ablutions (wudu) we should be abstemious in the use of water even if we have a river at our disposal. As humans, we are keepers of all creation, including soil, air, water, animals and trees. A major objective of Islamic teachings and Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) traditions is to build and maintain a healthy and clean environment which is devoid of any source of pollution and misuse. 

One should not therefore be surprised at the Islamic view related to the environment, that “everyone should remind each other to conserve and protect the earth.” They should not hang back diffidently while the earth is being spoiled. They should attach the greatest importance to cleanliness and purity, physical and particularly moral and spiritual.

1.  Religious Studies                            : bbc.co.in
2.  Islam and the Environment             : Fazlun M. Khalid
3.  An Islamic Approach to the
     Environment                                   : Ibrahim Ozedmir
4. Environment and Islam                    : Shabir Ally
5. Islam and Environment                    : Sadia Dehlvi
6. Islam and Environment Protection   : Fatima-Al-Banna
7. Islamic Ethics                                  : Wikipedia

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