“Verily in the heavens and the earth, are Signs for those who believe. And in the creation of yourselves and the fact that animals are scattered (through the earth), are Signs for those of assured Faith. And in the alternation of Night and Day, and the fact that Allah sends down Sustenance from the sky, and revives therewith the earth after its death, and in the change of the winds,- are Signs for those that are wise. “ (Qur′an 45: 3-5)
Nowadays, a great emphasis is put on preserving the environment. We can hear ecologists, teachers and parents telling us to take care of it. But why should we do this? Just because some people say so? Or maybe we should do this because we are Muslims? Someone may ask: “What is the connection between Islam and the environment?“ This article will help us understand, inshallah, why it is so significant to care about the environment especially when one is a Muslim.
First of all, let′s check what environment really is. There are various types of environment and the one discussed in this article is the natural environment. According to Dr. C. Michael Hoga
“the natural environment is the set of living and non-living things on Earth which occur in a state substantially not influenced by humans. The term is most often applied to an ecological complex, which includes all of the plants; animals; micro-organisms; abiotic factors such as minerals; rocks and magma; water bodies; and atmosphere layers.“ Now as we know what the environment consists of, let′s see what Allah tells us about it:
“It is Allah Who has created the heavens and the earth,
and all between them, in six Days (...)“
(Qur′an 32: 4).
Allah is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. Among His creations are animals, various plants, water, rocks, mountains, air, and of course human beings. No one would be able to number the things that Allah has made. Allah has been so Gracious towards people that He has created for us animals so that we can benefit from them. We eat their meat, use them to carry the load and the skin of some animals give us warmth.
“And cattle He has created for you (men): from them ye derive warmth, and numerous benefits, and of their (meat) ye eat. And ye have a sense of pride and beauty in them as ye drive them home in the evening, and as ye lead them forth to pasture in the morning.“ (Qur′an 16: 5-6).
Allah has shown us His mercy also by creating various plants; some of them are eaten by cattle and some become the food for people:
“It is He Who sends down rain from the sky: from it ye drink, and out of it (grows) the vegetation on which ye feed your cattle. With it He produces for you corn, olives, date-palms, grapes and every kind of fruit: verily in this is a sign for those who give thought.“
(Qur′an 16: 10-11).
Our Lord tells us about the abundance and variety of vegetation. These verses inform us also about the value of water. Water quenches our thirst, animals drink it, but we have to bear in mind that water is vital for every animate creature, even plants. Without it plants would not be able to grow and produce fruit (that all of us eat). Therefore, Allah reminds us that water is one of the basic substances needed for life:
“(...) We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?“
(Qur′an 21: 30)
In many Qur′anic verses our Lord invites us to ponder over the things that He has created and their beauty. We read in the Holy Qur′an:
“And the things on this earth which He has multiplied in varying colors (and qualities):
verily in this is a sign for men who are mindful.“
(Qur′an 16: 13).
When we reflect on this verse we will realize how magnificent the world is. We can find various kinds of animals, plants and none is the same. Some are big, some small, some have legs, others crawl. They possess different qualities, they have different colours. Even people are not alike. This diversity makes the world even more beautiful and fascinating.
These are only a few verses of the Noble Qur′an which tell us about the beauty of the world. Allah is the Creator, One and the best. There is no doubt concerning it. He has created everything in harmony, with purpose and wisdom.
“Verily, all things have We created in proportion and measure.“
(Qur′an, 54: 49).
The Master of the world informs us in the Qur′an about the things that He has created. He describes them, names them, tells us about their attributes. We can see how beautifully Allah depicts the natural environment which He has made. The very fact that the natural environment comes from Allah should be enough for us to care about it and protect it. However, let′s proceed and check what the Qur′an and Sunnah say about preserving the environment.
Allah tells us about the people who make mischief on the earth:
“There is the type of man whose speech about this world′s life may dazzle thee,
and (on the sight of the people) he calls Allah to witness about what is in his heart;
yet is he the most contentious of enemies.
When he turns his back, his aim everywhere is to spread mischief through the earth
and destroy crops and progeny. But Allah loveth not mischief.“
(Qur′an, 2: 204-205).
These verses may refer to various aspects of life and one of them can be one′s relation towards nature. Allah warns us that He does not love anyone who spreads mischief on the earth and destroys crops. People destroy the vegetation in many different ways. Some deliberately cause damage to the fields, gardens, orchards that belong to other people. Others destroy the fruit, vegetables, plants unconsciously by for example polluting the air or dropping the litter. However, both are the examples of a blameworthy behaviour that Muslims should avoid. Allah does not love those who make mischief on the earth and all bad deeds are considered as sins. Some of us are not even aware that they are polluting the environment! Every time you walk down the street and drop the litter, every time you smoke, drive your car, burn plastics or other harmful material you are damaging the natural environment that Allah has created for us. It is our duty to care about the nature. So now, let′s think what we can do to preserve it from destruction. First, remember about selecting the rubbish. There are special places where you can throw them. In this way you get rid of the litter and what is more, you do not burn them at home so that you stop polluting the air. Secondly, stop dropping the litter. People are not even aware of how long it takes for a piece of litter to decay. To give you an example, a chewing gum can decay even for 5 years! So think now about the cans, glass bottles, cigarettes that people drop while walking down the street. Now, what about driving a car? Every one knows how damaging exhaust fumes are. Should we stop driving our cars? In each aspect of life we should be realist and moderate (as Islam is not about extremism but middle way). We live in the 21st century. It would be very hard, and sometimes impossible, to cope without a car. However, we should use it in cases when we really need it. How many times do you drive your car to nearby places instead of walking or getting there by bike? Let′s not be lazy and use our bodies. Walking, jogging, cycling to places which are not far can be enjoyable and moreover sport is good for our health. The benefits are obvious and numerous. These are only a few examples of how to preserve the environment. Let′s stop for a while and think about what else we can do, for it is a duty incumbent upon every Muslim to take care of the things that Allah has created.
Allah, the Merciful, has given us all kinds of fruit and vegetables:
“It is He Who produceth gardens, with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds, and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in variety): eat of their fruit in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters.“
(Qur′an, 6: 141).
Our Lord provides us with everything we need but also gives us a commandment to use it properly. We should not waste the food (and this verse points out especially fruit and vegetables) and not eat to excess. It is not a proper behaviour to waste food while others are starving. Allah has created the earth and the harvest for all of us and we must share it, especially with those in need. However, this is only one aspect of wasting food. Every one knows that pollution causes damage to vegetation. So, when we pollute the environment we also waste fruits, vegetables and crops and Allah “loveth not the wasters“. We should also control the water supply that we use and drink. There are places where people do not have clean water to quench their thirst. We must think of those brothers and sisters and stop wasting water. Once, Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) told his companions a story about a man who shared water with a dog:
“Allah′s Apostle said, ′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 Apostle! Is there a reward for us in serving (the) animals?“ He replied, “Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate.′ “ (Saheeh Al - Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 40, Number 551).
This story shows the importance of giving water to and generally helping animals (in this case a dog). So we can imagine how significant it is to help people. We should share water and other natural supplies, such as: fruits, vegetables and crops with living beings, just like that man who shared water with the dog.
Qur′an tells us about Allah:
“It is He Who has made the sea subject, that ye may eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender, and that ye may extract therefrom ornaments to wear; and thou seest the ships therein that plough the waves, that ye may seek (thus) of the bounty of Allah and that ye may be grateful.“ (Qur′an 16: 14).
Our Lord has created the sea for people to benefit from it. We sail it, use its pearls as jewellery and eat the seafood. We do not only possess the right over the seas but we are also obliged to take care of it. A number of animals live in the sea; when we pollute the water we destroy their natural environment. It is our duty to keep it clean. If we stop dropping the litter into the sea not only will we find the sea and its beaches more beautiful but also we will save the sea animals.
We read in the Qur′an: “And He has set up on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you; and rivers and roads; that ye may guide yourselves;“ (Qur′an, 16: 15).
Allah, the Most Gracious, has made roads and rivers so that we can travel them. When we walk, drive, go by bus, bike, train etc. we use roads and special tracks. They lead us to particular places. A number of people uses the same paths that we do. Therefore, we must use the tracks appropriately. It is important to keep them clean, not to drop the litter (which has already been discussed) and to make sure that the roads are safe. Let′s see what Allah′s Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) tells us about this issue:
A person while walking along the path saw the branches of a tree lying there. He said: By Allah, I shall remove these from this so that these may not do harm to the Muslims, and he was admitted to Paradise.“ (Saheeh Muslim, Book 032, Number 6340).
This hadith teaches us how significant it is to remove harmful objects from the roads. It refers to things such as branches, rocks, litter and so on and so forth. Not only did that man make the path clean but also he made it safe for the people who would travel after him. The man was rewarded by Allah for his deed. As we can see the benefits of keeping the roads clean and safe are numerous.
Preserving the natural environment is not only about keeping it clean, safe, removing objects that may damage it and hurt people but it is also about cultivating the environment.
“Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah′s Apostle said, “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.“ (Saheeh Al - Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 39, Number 513).
Planting trees and vegetation brings food for people and animals. When we cultivate the earth the supply of food increases and we are able to share it with people and other living creatures. What is more, trees act as a natural “filter“ against air pollution. They absorb some amount of the pollution and thus they cleanse the air that we breath in. Trees, and generally vegetation, play a vital role in our lives and filtering the air from harmful substances is only one aspect of it.
We read in the Qur′an:
"There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings,
but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have We omitted from the Book,
and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end."
Our Lord informs us that animals form communities just as we do. This is another reason why we should live in peace with them, save them from pollution and let them live in a clean and safe environment. Allah gives us an insight even to the life of insects:
“And thy Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men′s) habitations;
Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and follow the ways of thy Lord made smooth:
there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for men:
verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought.“
(Qur′an, 16: 68-69)
The Creator tells us that the bees live in the hills and on the trees as well as near people. They form part of the environment. What is more, they are very helpful to human beings. Bees produce honey whose healing attributes every one has heard about. To produce honey bees use pollen from trees and/or flowers. Thus, its colour may vary depending on a tree or a flower from which it was made. This is another reason why we should care about the vegetation. Allah gives us a beautiful example of how people in the past used to live in peace and harmony with animals:
“And before Solomon were marshaled his hosts,- of Jinns and men and birds, and they were all kept in order and ranks. At length, when they came to a valley of ants, one of the ants said:
“O ye ants, get into your habitations, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you (under foot) without knowing it. So he smiled, amused at her speech; and he said: “O my Lord! So order me that I may be grateful for Thy favors, which Thou hast bestowed on me and on my parents,
and that I may work the righteousness that will please Thee: and admit me,
by Thy Grace, to the ranks of Thy Righteous Servants.“
(Qur′an, 27: 17-19).
Our Lord mentions in His Holy Book even such small creatures like a bee or ants - by doing so He gives us a lesson that every living creature, big or small are valuable in the sight of Allah. How does it happen that we, calling ourselves Muslims, so often tend to forget about it and behave arrogantly thinking that we, human beings, are most important and the earth belongs only to us? Do we live with animals in such harmony as Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) did? Or at least do we try? Are we grateful to Allah for what He has bestowed upon us? How do we thank Him for all the favours that He grants us every day; for life, sustenance, animals, vegetation, water, soil, mountains...? What do we do to try to preserve the natural environment?
Let′s stop for a while and ponder over these issues and stated questions - these are not rhetorical questions but rather ones that need to be answered. Let′s go for a walk to nearby forest, lake, park etc. and see the beauty and wonder of this world. Every single thing that is a part of what we call natural environment is a visible miracle sent by Allah. We have no right to destroy it, actually, the question is “
how can one destroy something that Allah has created?!”
Our Merciful and Gracious Lord, Creator says in the Qur′an:
“(...)It was not their hands that made this: will they not then give thanks?“
(Qur′an, 36: 35).