The Environment

As a complete way of life, Islam addresses man’s relationship with the environment and places grave importance on stewardship of the Earth. Man is the khalifah (vicegerent) on Earth.

وَهُوَ ٱلَّذِى جَعَلَڪُمۡ خَلَـٰٓٮِٕفَ ٱلۡأَرۡضِ

“And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth…”
[Quran; 6:165]

The sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) exemplifies a life of social and environmental responsibility.

Consumption is meant to be moderate–taking what is absolutely needed and in a responsible manner. Extravagance and selfishness are looked down upon. Hunting animals is for need rather than for leisure.

وَهُوَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنشَأَ جَنَّـٰتٍ۬ مَّعۡرُوشَـٰتٍ۬ وَغَيۡرَ مَعۡرُوشَـٰتٍ۬ وَٱلنَّخۡلَ وَٱلزَّرۡعَ مُخۡتَلِفًا أُڪُلُهُ ۥ وَٱلزَّيۡتُونَ وَٱلرُّمَّانَ مُتَشَـٰبِہً۬ا وَغَيۡرَ مُتَشَـٰبِهٍ۬‌ۚ ڪُلُواْ مِن ثَمَرِهِۦۤ إِذَآ أَثۡمَرَ وَءَاتُواْ حَقَّهُ ۥ يَوۡمَ حَصَادِهِۦ‌ۖ وَلَا تُسۡرِفُوٓاْ‌ۚ إِنَّهُ ۥ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُسۡرِفِينَ

“And He it is who causes gardens to grow, [both] trellised and untrellised, and palm trees and crops of different [kinds of] food and olives and pomegranates, similar and dissimilar. Eat of [each of] its fruit when it yields and give its due [zakah] on the day of its harvest. And be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess.”
[Quran; 6:141]

 

يَـٰبَنِىٓ ءَادَمَ خُذُواْ زِينَتَكُمۡ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسۡجِدٍ۬ وَڪُلُواْ وَٱشۡرَبُواْ وَلَا تُسۡرِفُوٓاْ‌ۚ إِنَّهُ ۥ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُسۡرِفِينَ

“O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.”
[Quran; 7:31]

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is reported to have said, “The human does not fill any container that is worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat what will support his back. If this is not possible, then a third for food, a third for drink, and third for his breath.” [Tirmidhi]

Even in the case of slaughtering animals for food, Islam prescribes very specifc regulations all the way from choosing an animal to the manner in which the slaughter is carried out–ensuring minimum harassment and pain.

وَعِبَادُ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلَّذِينَ يَمۡشُونَ عَلَى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ هَوۡنً۬ا

“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily…”
[Quran; 25:63]

Resources are to be distributed with fairness and responsibility.

“Three things cannot be denied to anyone: water, pasture and fire.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]

Narrated Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him): The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “(There are) three (types of persons to whom) Allah will neither speak to them on the Day of Resurrections, nor look at them (They are):–(1) a man who takes a false oath that he has been offered for a commodity a price greater than what he has actually been offered; (2) and a man who takes a false oath after the `Asr (prayer) in order to grab the property of a Muslim through it; (3) and a man who forbids others to use the remaining superfluous water. To such a man Allah will say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘Today I withhold My Blessings from you as you withheld the superfluous part of that (water) which your hands did not create.'” [Bukhari]

There is a popular incident narrated in the books of hadith about a prostitute being forgiven on account of the kindness she showed towards a thirsty dog by feeding it water from her shoe. [Sahih Muslim]

A similar hadith is also reported by the same narrator:

“While a man was walking he felt thirsty and went down a well and drank water from it. On coming out of it, he saw a dog panting and eating mud because of excessive thirst. The man said, ‘This (dog) is suffering from the same problem as that of mine. So he (went down the well), filled his shoe with water, caught hold of it with his teeth and climbed up and watered the dog. Allah thanked him for his (good) deed and forgave him.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)! Is there a reward for us in serving (the) animals?” He replied, “Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate.” [Bukhari]

The story of the people of Thamud bears a pertinent reminder:

إِنَّا مُرۡسِلُواْ ٱلنَّاقَةِ فِتۡنَةً۬ لَّهُمۡ فَٱرۡتَقِبۡہُمۡ وَٱصۡطَبِرۡ / وَنَبِّئۡہُمۡ أَنَّ ٱلۡمَآءَ قِسۡمَةُۢ بَيۡنَہُمۡ‌ۖ كُلُّ شِرۡبٍ۬ مُّحۡتَضَرٌ۬ / فَنَادَوۡاْ صَاحِبَهُمۡ فَتَعَاطَىٰ فَعَقَرَ / فَكَيۡفَ كَانَ عَذَابِى وَنُذُرِ

“Indeed, We are sending the she-camel as trial for them, so watch them and be patient.And inform them that the water is shared between them, each [day of] drink attended [by turn]. But they called their companion, and he dared and hamstrung [her]. And how [severe] were My punishment and warning.” [Quran; 54:27-30]

A Muslim is required to be conscious of the choices he makes towards his lifestyle, be it food, clothing, transport, and even leisure. In addition to being halal in terms of content and how they are acquired, a Muslim’s belongings must also be pure in that they have been made without harm to the environment, nor pose a threat in future from poor disposal. Likewise, one has to be conscious of the carbon footprint from one’s choice of activities, such as mode of commute for work or leisure.

These are not peripheral concerns. Rather they are intertwined with observing Islam completely.

Anas reported Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as saying, “Never does a Muslim plant trees or cultivate land and birds or a man or a beast eat out of them but that is a charity on his behalf.” [Muslim]

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it.” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad]

It is also reported from the life of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that he would mend his clothes, indicating that items would not be discarded for minor deficiencies but repaired and reused instead.

Further Information

Khaleafa

The Call to Eco-Jihad

Video: Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Video: Midway Pollution DisasterMidway, a Plastic Island

Documentary: Tapped

Plastic Waste and Marine Life

[Video] How Faith Can Influence Environmental Ethics

How to Manage the (Polluted) Air You Breathe

Air Quality Index

The Plastic Pollution Coalition

EcoMENA (Echoing Sustainability in MENA)