I was inspired to write this article, when my 5 year old son informed me about celebrating the Earth Day at school. It is common perception that scientists, researchers, climatologists, environmentalists, and economists must resolve the problems plaguing our planet. We are most content and stay aloof, thinking it to be someone else’s job, or worst, someone else’s challenge to fix everything that has gone wrong.
I was surprised to learn that the Quran has addressed ways to handle ecological issues in about 500 verses. And why not? If the Creator can give us laws for our spiritual guidance, won’t He equip us with the knowledge of physical well-being of humanity.
Some concerned green activists have been harping that it is the responsibility of the inhabitants of the Earth to protect and preserve its resources. Most of their laments have fallen upon deaf ears, and the Earth continues to ail. Islam goes a step further. Yes, Muslims out there, please, read this carefully. We are not just responsible but accountable for the resources we are expending in this world.
Allah (swt) states: “The sun and the moon run on their fixed courses (exactly) calculated with measured out stages for each (reckoning). And the herbs (or stars) and the trees both prostrate themselves (to Allah). And the heaven: He has raised it high, and He has set up the balance. In order that you may not transgress (due) balance. And observe the weight with equity and do not make the balance deficient.” (Ar-Rahman 55:5-9).
“And do not do mischief on the Earth after it has been set in order; that will be better for you, if you are believers.” (Al-Araf 7:85)
Al Hafiz B. A. Masri, an environmentalist, author, and the first Sunni Muslim to be appointed Imam of the Shah Jehan Mosque Woking, Surrey, states: “Mankind’s freedom of choice, based on knowledge and intelligence, places on it the added responsibility of caring for the rest of God’s creation and for those very resources of nature, which help all kinds of life to stay alive.”
Another reason, why Allah (swt) has enabled the humans to serve the Earth, is because of the special and superior qualities bestowed upon them, of which concept of ethics reigns supreme. Allah (swt) states: “By Nafs (Adam or a person or a soul) and Him, Who perfected him in proportion; then He showed him what is wrong for him and what is right for him” (Ash-Shams 91:7-8)
The laws of nature have been laid down and enforced by Allah (swt), as this universe was His scheme. So, naturally He knows, what is required to run it most efficiently. Allah (swt) thus provided resources with due measure. Unfortunately, until a few centuries ago, it was believed that the space on the Earth was limitless and that its resources were endless. This led to wasteful usage of scarce and some non-renewable resources, ending up either in severe corruption or absolute exhaustion.
The lives of early Muslims bear evidence that the right to the use of natural resources is only in the sense of usufruct, which means being given the right to use another person’s property on the understanding that he will not damage, destroy or waste what is in his trust. The Quran states: “… and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly, He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifun (those, who waste by extravagance).” (Al-Araf 7:31)
Prophet (sa) said: “The merit of utilization lies in the benefit it yields, in proportion to its harm.” (Tirmidhi)
There is an Islamic legislation on the preservation of trees, plants, and the wildlife laid down some fourteen hundred years ago. According to these laws, certain areas, called Harim or Hima, are set aside, where development and cultivation is prohibited. The code of ecological legislation was based on numerous verses of the Quran and Ahadeeth, such as: “The world is green and beautiful, and God has appointed you as His stewards over it. He sees, how you acquit yourselves.” (Muslim)
Similarly, to preserve the habitats of animals, Allah (swt) clearly states: “There is not a moving (living) creature on Earth, nor a bird that flies with its two wings, but are communities like you…” (Al-Anam 6:38)
Allah’s Apostle (sa) says: “A good deed done to a beast is as good as doing good to a human being; while an act of cruelty to a beast is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being.” (Mishkat)
Allah (swt) repeatedly draws our attention to the fact that plants and animals, just like human beings, need to be protected, in order for them to reproduce themselves and preserve their species. But it is a common knowledge that numerous species of animals are on the verge of extinction or have already been eliminated, due to nefarious designs of humans.
Forests are supposed to cover a third of the planet to regulate the world climate, keep the air clean of lethal gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, and provide us with medicines for chronic diseases. But human driven deforestation has tipped the balance of world climate, resulting in global warming and related miseries.
Islam really seems like an extremist’s way of life, when one reads the Hadeeth concerning mount Uhud close to Makkah: “It is a mountain that loves us and we love it” (Bukhari), or when on the occasion of an earthquake, Allah’s Apostle (sa) addressed it: “Be calm, Uhud!” (Bukhari) Such was the character of our role model, who respected, loved, and cared for anything created by Allah (swt), even if it were rocks and stones.
I sincerely pray to Allah (swt) that my child extends his duties as a responsible and accountable Muslim by taking care of his environment beyond his classroom in all the capacity he can. Let him live by our beloved Prophet’s (sa) example, who advised: “A true believer is one, who does not hurt others with his thoughts, words, or actions.” (Bukhari)
Allah’s (swt) Prophecy Comes True!
“Corruption has appeared over land and water on account of what man’s hands have earned.” (Ar-Rum 30:41)
Some leading cosmologists state that the Earth is 4,600 million years old. It has an estimated land area of 329 million hectares, out of which only 226 million hectares are available for use. The remaining 103 million are either barren, or inaccessible, or unsuitable for agriculture.
Similarly, three quarters of the Earth are covered by water, 98% of which is sea water, and 1% of which is in the form of ice. Thus 99% of the Earth’s water cannot be used directly for human consumption. It is only 1% of the total water supply that living beings depend upon.
Regretfully, the existing 226 million hectares of land and 1% of water are diminishing fast, because of our wasteful and unwise usage. There are vast hectares of land that are turning into deserts or being flooded. Pakistan is already witnessing this disaster.
Source: “Islam and Ecology” by Fazlun Khalid and Joanne O Brien