Islam and the Environment
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Islam and Nature

Environment is defined as the surrounding objects i.e. water, air, land, space and all objects within them as plants, animals, all forms of energy, systems, natural operations and human activities. Environment protection and care are main components in many Islamic sciences as the science of Religion Fundamentals, which sees environment as a creature of God`s creatures; i.e. environment, as humans, are ordered to glorify God. God says in the Holy Qur`an The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; and yet ye understand not how they declare His glory! verily He is Oft-Forbearing, Most Forgiving! (Isra`, 17:44). Also, the science of Islamic Law is connected to environment through many rules and teachings and gives the ruler the right to impose punishments on those who do evils to environment.
Islam has put many fundamentals that govern dealing with environment;

• Planting and cultivating
• Building and capitalization
• Cleanliness
• Conserving resources
• Preserving human health
• Kindness to environment

The Qur`an speaks of nature; God’s creation and deems it an “ayah” or sign of God’s oneness and omnipotence upon which mankind should reflect.
“And it is He (God Almighty) who sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby every kind of plant. And We bring forth from it greenery from which We produce grains arranged in layers. And from palm trees emerge clusters of fruit hanging low and gardens of grapevines and olives and pomegranates, similar yet varied. Look at these fruits when they first appear and when they ripen! Indeed in that are signs for people who believe.” (Al-Anam) 6:99
“And God has sent down rain from the sky and given life thereby to the earth which had previously been lifeless. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who listen.”
“And indeed, for you in grazing livestock lies a lesson. We give you drink from what is in their bellies – between excretion and blood – pure milk is derived, palatable to all drinkers.”
“And from the fruits of palm trees and grapevines you obtain an intoxicant and good means of livelihood. Indeed in that is a sign for people who have sense.
“Then eat from all fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down for you.’ There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is a healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for people who reflect.” (An-Nahl) 16: 65-69

Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of (the meed) that the hands of men have earned. That (Allah) may give them a taste of some of their deeds: in order that they may turn back (from Evil). (Ar-Rum, 30:44)
Although the Qur`an has often mentioned nature as a proof of God’s existence, oneness and sole right to be deified and has ordered man to reflect upon nature in order to obtain certainty of the above, man’s relationship with nature does not stop there.
Man has been commissioned with the duty of “caretaker of the earth” . God has informed man that he has created this world in a balanced way and has made it man’s responsibility to maintain this fragile equilibrium through wise governance and sound personal conduct.
“The Most Merciful. He taught the Qur`an and created mankind. Teaching him eloquence. The sun and the moon move by precise calculation, and the stars and trees prostrate (to their maker). And the heaven He raised and imposed balance. That you exceed not the bounds of this balance.” (Ar-Rahman) 55:1-8
The Prophet PBUH said: “The world is beautiful and green, and God, exalted is He, has, indeed, made you stewards in it, in order to see how you will behave.”
From what has preceded, one can clearly see that although Islam has given man the right and privilege to use the earth’s resources for his benefit this privilege has not been granted without accountability. Man although permitted to use the earth’s resources is prohibited from abusing them; man must make the best use of nature, according to his need, without disrupting its fragile balance thereby adversely affecting and perhaps prohibiting future generations from benefiting from the environment as he has.


How Has Islam Promoted Environmental Protection?
God describes his righteous servants:

“And the servants of the Most Merciful walk upon the earth softly with complete humility.” (Al-Furqan) 25:63
Islam orders all Muslims to recognize the value of nature love in peace and war. Even soldiers at war are not permitted to be negligent or transgress against the environment
Some of the Qur`anic commentators have mentioned: “They are those who do not seek corruption in the land.”
Others have said: “They do not walk for the purpose of vice and the commission of sin.”
One can understand from this that God’s true servants are those who live on God’s earth without corrupting, defiling or damaging it which necessitates protecting and preserving the environment.
God also compels Muslims to respect, revere, and honor the environment realizing that the heavens and the earth are among the greatest of God`s creatures:
“Greater indeed than the creation of man, is the creation of the heavens and earth, but most of the people do not understand.” (Ghafir) 40:57
The Prophet PBUH said: “Whoever killed a child or an elderly person, or burned a palm tree, or cut down a tree bearing fruit, or slaughtered an animal to take its skin would not return in God’s good graces.”
Islam has also encouraged Muslims to plant trees and other plants to help the environment:
The Prophet PBUH said: “If any Muslim plants a plant or cultivates a crop which a person, a bird, or an animal eats from he will be rewarded as if he had given the equivalent in charity.”
Islam has also assigned great importance to cleanliness, especially the purification of water sources; rivers, lakes, ponds, and wells. Islam has strictly prohibited throwing trash and other impurities in water sources leading to their pollution. Urination and defecation in o ear water sources, a practice which leads to the spread of diseases like cholera, typhoid and polio, is also forbidden by Islam.
The Prophet PBUH said: “Let not one of you urinate in standing water…”
Islam has also called upon Muslims to keep their homes, streets and all areas of the city clean. Islam prohibits littering, keeping large amounts of trash in homes or allowing large amounts of trash to mount and fester in the streets without collection and proper disposal. Islam also commands a Muslim, should he find any debris or refuse in the road to remove it.
The Prophet PBUH said: “Removing something harmful from the road is a form of charity.”
Islam also prohibits its followers from defecating, urinating and even spitting in public areas; roads, parks and other places where people gather in.
The Prophet PBUH said: “Beware of committing the two cursed actions: relieving oneself in the people’s path or under a tree which they use for shade.”
The Prophet PBUH said: “Spitting in the mosques is a sin, expiation of this sin is achieved by burying the spittle.”
Studies have shown that spittle on the earth leads to the spread of many diseases the most dangerous being tuberculosis. All of the above clearly demonstrates that Islam is keen on protecting the environment.


Islam and Resources

Both human beings and animals, enjoy the right to share in the resources of the earth. Man’s abuse of any resource, such as water, air, land, and soil as well as other living creatures such as plants and animals is forbidden, and the best use of all resources, both living and lifeless, is prescribed.
God has made water the basis and origin of life. God says:
“We made from water every living thing…” (Al-Anbiya) 21:30
Plants, animals, and man all depend on water for their existence and for the continuation of their lives. God says:
“Verily… in the rain that God sends down from heaven, thereby giving life to the earth after its death…” (Al-Baqarah) 2:164
“It is He Who sends down water from the sky; and thereby We have brought forth the plants of every kind…” (Al-Anam) 6:99
“And you see the earth barren and lifeless, but when We pour down rain upon it, it stirs and swells, and puts forth growth of every resplendent kind.” (Al-Hajj) 22:5
“And We send down pure water from the sky, thereby to bring to life a dead land and slake the thirst of that which We have created; cattle and men in multitudes.” (Al-Furqan) 25:48-49
God has called on man to appreciate the value of this so essential source of life:
“Have you seen the water which you drink? Was it you who sent it down from the rain cloud, or did We send it? Were it Our will, We could have made it bitter; why then do you not give thanks?” (Al-Waqiah) 56:68-70
“Say: Have you considered, if your water were one morning to have seeped away, who then could bring you clear-flowing water?” (Al-Mulk) 67:30
In addition to this vital function, water has another socio-religious function to perform which is the purification of the body and clothing from all dirt, impurities and defilement so that man may face God clean and pure. God says:
“And He caused rain to descend on you from heaven to cleanse you therewith…” (Al-Anfal) 8:11
God has also shown us other functions of lake, sea, and ocean water. He has made it the habitat of many created beings which play vital roles in the perpetuation of life and the development of this world. God says:
“It is He Who has made the sea of service, that you may eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender, and that you may bring forth from it ornaments to wear, and you see the ships therein that plough the waves, that you may seek of His bounty.” (An-Nahl) 16:14
“Lawful to you is the pursuit of water-game and its use for food a provision for you, and for those who travel…” (Al-Maidah) 5:96
There is no doubt that conservation of this vital element is fundamental to the preservation and continuation of life in its various forms, plant, animal, and human. Therefore, in Islam, extravagance in using water is forbidden; this applies to private use as well as public, and whether the water is scarce or abundant. God says:
“…and do not waste. Indeed the wasteful are brothers of the devils…” (Al-Isra) 17:26-27
This element is no less important than water for the perpetuation and preservation of life. Nearly all creatures are utterly dependent on the air they breathe. The air also has other functions which may be less apparent to man but which God has created for definite purposes, as we have been made aware of by the Qur`an -such as the vitally important role of the winds in pollination. God says:
“And We send the fertilizing winds…” (Al-Hijr) 15:22
The winds are also clear evidence of God’s omnipotence and grace, and the perfection of design in His creation. God also says:
“Verily in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of night and day in the change of the winds, and the clouds compelled between heaven and earth surely there are signs for a people who have sense.” (Al-Baqarah) 2:164
“And He it is Who sends the winds as tidings heralding His grace: until when they have raised a heavy-laden cloud, We drive it to a dead land and cause the rain to descend upon it, and thereby bring forth fruits of every kind.” (Al-Araf) 7:57
Since the atmosphere performs all these biological and social functions, its conservation, pure and unpolluted, is an essential aspect of the conservation of life itself which is one of the fundamental objectives of Islamic law.


Land and Soil

Like air and water, the land and soil are essential for the perpetuation of our lives and the lives of other creatures. God says in the Qur’an:
“And the earth He has placed for living creatures.” (Ar-Rahman) 55:10
God has made the land man’s home and the home of all terrestrial beings.
“And God has made you grow, as a plant from the earth; then to it He returns you, and He will bring you forth a new…” (Nuh) 71:17-18
And as our home, the land has value as open space:
“…and God has made the earth a wide expanse, that you may traverse its open ways.” (Nuh) 71:19-20
God has made the land a source of sustenance and livelihood for us and other living creatures: He has made the soil fertile to grow the vegetation upon which we and all animal life depend. He has made the mountains to catch and store the rain and to perform a role in stabilizing the crust of the earth, as He has explained in the Glorious Qur`an:
“Have We not made the earth a vessel to hold the living and the dead? And We have made in it lofty mountains and provided you sweet water to drink.” (Al-Mursalat) 77:25-27
“And the earth, after that He has spread it out; from it He has brought forth its waters and its pastures, and He has made fast the mountains, a provision for you and for your cattle.” (An-Naziat) 79:30-33
“And the earth, We have spread it out, and made in it mountains standing firm, and grown in it every thing in balance. And We have provided in it sustenance for you, and for those whom you do not support.” (Al-Hijr) 15:19-20
“And a sign for them is the lifeless earth: We bring it to life and bring forth from it grain of which they eat. And we have made therein gardens of palms and vines.” (Yasin) 36:33-35
Man is obligated to give thanks to his Creator for bestowing this great bounty upon him. This means that we must maintain the productivity of the soil, and not expose it to erosion by wind and flood; in building, farming, grazing, forestry, and mining, we are required to follow practices which do not bring about its degradation but preserve and enhance its fertility. For to cause the degradation of this gift of God, upon which so many forms of life depend, is to deny His tremendous favors.
Islam is also founded on the principle: “No harm should be done to anyone or anything and no one should do harm.” Since any act that leads to the earth’s destruction or degradation leads necessarily to the destruction and degradation of life on earth, such acts are categorically forbidden.


Plants and Animals

There is no denying the importance of plants and animals as living resources of enormous benefit, without which neither man nor other species could survive. God has not made any of His creatures worthless: every single form of life is the product of a special and intricate development by God, and each warrants special respect. As a living genetic resource, each species and variety is unique and irreplaceable. Once lost, it is lost forever.
By virtue of their unique function of producing food from the energy of the sun, plants constitute the basic source of sustenance for animal and human life on earth. God says:
“Then let man consider his nourishment: that We pour down the rain in showers, and We split the earth in fragments, and therein make the grain to grow, and vines and herbs, and olives and palms, and gardens of dense foliage, and fruits and fodder – provision for you and your cattle.” (Abasa) 80:24-32
In addition to their importance as nourishment, plants enrich the soil and protect it from erosion by wind and water. They conserve the water by detaining its runoff; they moderate the climate and produce the oxygen which we breathe. They are also of immense value as medicines, oils, perfumes, waxes, fibers, timber, and fuel. God says in the Glorious Qur`an,
“Have you seen the fire you kindle? Was it you who grew its timber or did We grow it? We have made it a reminder, and a comfort for the desert dwellers.” (Al-Waqiah) 56:71-73
Animals in turn provide sustenance for plants, for one another, and for man. Their dung and their bodies enrich the soil and the seas. They contribute to the atmosphere by respiration and by their movements and migrations contribute to the distribution of plants. They provide food for one another and provide mankind with leather, hair and wool, medicines and perfumes, and means of conveyance, as well as meat, milk, and honey. And for their highly developed senses and perceptions and their social interrelationships, animals are accorded special regard in Islam.
The Qur`an also mentions other functions which these creatures perform and which man may not perceive, namely the functions of worshipping God, declaring His praise and bowing down to Him as they are advised by their very nature to do. God says:
“Do you not see that to God bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on the earth – the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the animals…” (Al-Hajj) 22:18
“The seven heavens and the earth and all the beings therein proclaim His glory: There is not a thing but celebrates His praise, but you understand not how they declare His glory…” (Al-Isra) 17:44
“To God bow all beings in the heavens and the earth – with good will or in spite of themselves…” (Ar-Rad) 13:15
Islam emphasizes all measures for the survival and perpetuation of these creatures so that they can fully perform the functions assigned to them. The absolute destruction of any species of animals or plant by man cannot be justified; nor should any be harvested at a rate in excess of its natural regeneration. This applies to hunting and fishing, forestry and wood-cutting for timber and fuel, grazing, and all other utilization of resources. It is imperative that the genetic diversity of living beings be preserved – both for their own sake and for the good of mankind and all other creatures.
Islam in Action to Save the Environment Past and Present
What has preceded is not mere rhetoric as demonstrated by the Muslim’s practical commitment to environmental protection throughout history and in modern times.
The early Muslim state provides us with one example of the seriousness with which Muslims have traditionally taken their environmental obligations. Ottoman ministers, advising the sultan on matters of administration and policy regularly encouraged moratoria on matters deemed potentially damaging to future generations.
Innovations in technology, for example, were hotly debated among scholars, all of whom recognized the importance of considering the long-term impact on both society and the environment.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken many measures and procedures to protect environment and the wild life. The Kingdom has many systems that deal with environment in general;
• Forests and pastures
• Environment general system
• Protected areas system
• Agricultural fertilizers trading system
• Strategy and programs of national forests in KSA
• Strategy and programs of anti-desertification in KSA
• Emergency plans
In addition, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has established many organizations to conserve and protect environment. Among them is National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD, the commission was established with the following goals:

• Encouraging and carrying out scientific research in different fields of life science especially in wildlife ecology.
• Urging public interest in ecological aspects of wildlife, and to seek proper solutions to problems through meetings, symposia and conferences attended by concerned specialists.
• Carrying out comprehensive surveys of available data and results of research, concerning wildlife and natural ecology in Saudi Arabia, gained from materials published in both national and international references.
• Developing and implementing plans and projects to preserve and maintain wildlife in thei atural ecology by establishing protected areas and reserves in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in additional to the execution of orders and regulations regarding such areas and projects.
• Co-operating with different ministries, authorities, national and international institutions and individuals and acts to be taken in pursuance to the planned purposes of the Center.
The Saudi Arabia legal system subscribes to the Shari’ah which is both a state and religious law and provides a solid foundation for sustainable development based on the wise use of all natural resources. It stresses the importance of conserving renewal resources, and man’s responsibility in using them to generate the greatest good over time. Although man has the right to use these resources, he is not permitted to abuse them. He is required to pass them on to future generations in an unimpaired condition. In formulating its conservation policies the Commission follows the social, economic and ecological wisdom of this philosophy.
So this is Islam’s position on environmental issues. Many may be surprised to learn that Islam has taken such a firm stance, spoken so extensively and argued so convincingly on these issues some 1400 years ago. These facts although surprising to some are completely true as evidenced by what has preceded of Qur`anic texts, Prophetic traditions and practical examples.

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