Care for Environment: Islam

Kaaba at MeccaAccording to Islamic law, the basic elements of nature – land, water, fire, forest, and light – belong to all living things, not just human beings. Allah commands human beings to avoid doing mischief and wasting resources as these acts cause degradation of the environment. Here we bring you excerpts from the Qur’an and Hadith on care for the Environment, the Statement on fossil fuel divestment by the Fiqh Council of North America and the Green Ramadan movement.


ISLAM

Unity, trusteeship, and accountability, that is tawheed, khalifa, and akhrah, 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, “Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded,” and “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows a field and men and beasts and birds eat from it, all of it is charity on his part,” and again, “The world is green and beautiful and God has appointed you stewards over it.” Environmental consciousness is born when such values are adopted and become an intrinsic part of our mental and physical makeup.

The notions of unity, trusteeship, and accountability should not be reduced to matters of personal piety; they must guide all aspects of life and work… They furnish us with a worldview which enables us to ask… what we can do within the ethical boundaries established by God, without violating the rights of His other creations. If we use the same values, the same understanding in our work as a scientist and technologist, economist or politician as we do to know ourselves as Muslims – those who subject themselves to the Will of God – then, I believe, we will create a true Islamic alternative, a caring and practical way of being, doing, and knowing, to the environmentally destructive thoughts and actions which dominate the world today. — The Muslim Declaration on Nature: Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef, Secretary General, Muslim World League, Assisi 1986.

 

The Sultanahmet Mosque, Istanbul,
The Sultanahmet Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Fatih Yürür.

The Qur’an is the primary revelation in Islam, held to be the direct Word of God given to the Prophet Muhammad. The Qur’an affirms that God is the one Creator and Sovereign of the universe, has willed its right order and balance, and that all beings (not only humans) praise and glorify God. God has entrusted the care and guardianship of Earth, Khulafa, to human beings to be good stewards caring for God’s creation, which we must not damage or waste.

Words of the Qur’an

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.

55.1. The Compassionate.
55.2. Has taught the Qur’an.
55.3. He created man.
55.4. And taught him clear expression.
55.5. The sun and the moon move according to plan.
55.6. And the stars and the trees prostrate themselves.
55.7. And the sky, He raised; and He set up the balance.
55.9. But maintain the weights with justice, and do not violate
55.10. And the Earth; He set up for the creatures.
55.11. In it are fruits, and palms in clusters.
55.12. And grains in the blades, and fragrant plants.
55.13. So which of your Lord’s marvels will you deny?
2.116. …His is everything in the heavens and the Earth; all are obedient to Him.
2.117. Originator of the heavens and the Earth. Whenever He decrees a thing, He says to it, “Be,” and it becomes.
14.32. God is He Who created the heavens and the Earth, and sends down water from the sky, and with it produces fruits for your sustenance. And He committed the ships to your service, sailing through the sea by His command, and He committed the rivers to your service.
14.33. And He committed the sun and the moon to your service, both continuously pursuing their courses, and He committed the night and the day to your service.
6.38. There is no animal on land, nor a bird flying with its wings, but are communities like you.
22.18. Do you not realize that to God prostrates everyone in the heavens and everyone on Earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and the animals, and many of the people.
24.41. Do you not realize that God is glorified by whatever is in the heavens and the Earth, and even by the birds in formation? Each knows its prayer and its manner of praise. God knows well what they do.
24.42. To God belongs the dominion of the heavens and the Earth, and to God is the ultimate return.
24.43. Have you not seen how God propels the clouds, then brings them together, then piles them into a heap, and you
see rain drops emerging from its midst? How He brings down loads of hail from the sky, striking with it whomever He wills, and diverting it from whomever He wills? The flash of its lightning almost snatches the sight away.
24.44. God alternates the night and the day. In that is a lesson for those who have insight.
24.45. God created every living creature from water. Some of them crawl on their bellies, and some walk on two feet, and others walk on four. God creates whatever He wills. God is Capable of everything.
6.165. It is He who made you guardians on the Earth, and raised some of you in ranks over others, in order to test you through what He has given you. Your Lord is Quick in retribution, and He is Forgiving and Merciful.
33.72. We offered the Trust to the heavens, and the Earth, and the mountains; but they refused to bear it, and were apprehensive of it; but the human being accepted it.
30.41. Corruption has appeared on land and sea, because of what people’s hands have earned, in order to make them taste some of what they have done, so that they might return.
7.31. O Children of Adam! … eat and drink, but do not be excessive. He does not love the excessive.
25.63. The servants of the Merciful are those who walk the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace.”
— All selections from Qur’an in English, translated by Talal Itani, available in multiple formats.

 

Muslims at prayer, Dubai,
Muslims at prayer, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo by Levi Clancy

From the Hadith

The Messenger of Allah said: … “The whole earth has been made a mosque for us…” —Sahih Muslim 522a; Book 5, Hadith 5, USC-MSA web (English reference, Book 4, Hadith, deprecated numbering scheme).

Allah’s Messenger 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.” — Sahih al-Bukhari 2320; Book 41, Hadith 1; USC-MSA web (English reference, Vol. 3, Book 39, Hadith 513, deprecated numbering scheme).

Allah’s Messenger 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 Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving animals?” He replied, “Yes, there is a reward for serving any animal.” — Sahih al-Bukhari 2363; Book 42, Hadith 11; USC-MSA web (English reference, Vol. 3, Book 40, Hadith 551, deprecated numbering scheme). Collections of Hadith are available at https://sunnah.com.

 

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Photo by Mostafa Meraji.

Knowledge of Creation

The Qur’an lays down the foundations for the conduct of our affairs in creation. At one level it is about conserving the body and soul and the marking out of our relationships with the natural order; at another level it is about the communities of beings that fly and crawl and lope and swim; and at yet another level it is about the cosmos, the elements, forests, mountains, and rivers. The body of teaching in the Qur’an that deals with these matters may be described as Ilm ul Khalq (Knowledge of Creation), which predates the science of ecology by fourteen centuries. — Fazlun Khalid, Qur’an: Creation and Conservation, Introduction.

The Qu’ran addresses the Whole of the Cosmos

The Islamic view of nature and the environment, as everything else that is Islamic, has its roots in the Qur’an, the very Word of God, which is the central theophany of Islam… the Qur’an addresses not only men and women, but the whole of the cosmos. In a sense, nature participates in the Qur’anic revelation. Certain verses of the Qur’an address natural forms as well as human beings, while God takes nonhuman members of His creation, such as plants and animals, the sun and stars, to witness in certain other verses. The Qur’an does not draw a clear line of demarcation between the natural and the supernatural, nor between the world of man and that of nature. The soul, which is nourished and sustained by the Qur’an, does not regard the world of nature as its natural enemy to be conquered and subdued, but as an integral part of its religious universe sharing in its earthly life and in a sense even its ultimate destiny. — Seyyed Hossein Nasr in Spirit and Nature: Why the Environment Is a Religious Issue, p. 88.

 

 Wind turbines near Rothenburg, Germany.
Wind turbines near Rothenburg, Germany. Photo by Dimitry Anikin.

Statement on fossil fuel divestment by the Fiqh Council of North America

The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) is a body of recognized and qualified Islamic scholars from the United States and Canada. The mission of FCNA is to provide guidance to the Muslims of North America in all matters related to Islamic law. This statement was adopted by members of FCNA on September 10, 2019, during the annual gathering of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in Houston, Texas, and subsequently presented at Financing the Future: The Global Climate Divest-Invest Summit, September 10-11, 2019, in Cape Town, South Africa. The entire statement is available at: https://financingthefuture.global/statement-of-fiqh-council-ofnorth-america-on-fossil-fuel-divestment.

We acknowledge that there is an urgent existential threat to the health, wellbeing, and continuity of life on Earth… The time to effectively respond with individual and collective actions to environmental challenges is extremely limited. Therefore, we call on all human beings; individuals, families, communities, scholars, religious and other institutions, and governments, to urgently respond in a wise and unified and coordinated manner to the challenge of changing our individual behaviours and life style choices to ones which seek to conserve, not waste, the divine gifts of life sustaining resources; to use, not abuse, these divine gifts…

At a fundamental level, this means that we must reduce our energy consumption in three primary areas that can make the greatest impact:
1) dramatically reduce emissions from our home energy use,
2) adopt a more plant-based diet and reduce food waste, and
3) minimize automobile and air travel.

While these life style changes are necessary, they may not be enough to stop and reverse the effects of global warming and climate change.

We affirm that it is the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists that this clear and present danger is caused by the continued burning of fossil fuels. To go beyond the 1.5-degree limit will endanger all human civilization and planetary life…Clear, consistent, coordinated, and effective action is essential. We therefore call upon all fellow humans to urgently invest, as much as possible, in renewable and clean energy sources and solutions [the green economy].

From an Islamic perspective, the supreme objectives [Maqaasid] of Islamic Shari’ah are: to protect faith, freedom of belief and worship for all [2:256; 18:29; 22:40], sanctity of human life [5:32; 17:33], reason, progeny, and private property. Failure to deal with the environmental dangers undermines those key objectives including life itself…

We affirm that means exist to transform the entire energy systems in the U. S. and in Canada into fully renewable energy systems. Functioning examples already exist. We call on all to effectively contribute to the development, establishment, and support of these systems. We acknowledge the need to contribute to the re-sequestration of carbon through the urgent development of tree planting projects through civic initiatives in the U. S., Canada, and beyond. We also encourage Muslims to participate in as many tree planting projects as possible with other persons of faith and civic organizations.

We call for a shift to clean renewable energy-based electric transport systems in Canada and the U. S. and beyond. We call upon Islamic investment houses and other investment fund administrators and managers to immediately develop fossil free investment vehicles and portfolios that include investments in renewable and clean energy companies. We stand ready to assist and advise in this process. In the end, Allah knows best. The Global Climate Divest-Invest Summit 10-11 September 2019

Green Ramadan

Green RamadanMany Muslims around the world have joined the “Green Ramadan” campaign. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during the hours of daylight. Overall it is a time of intensified prayer and spirituality. The practices of “Green Ramadan” include conserving food at Iftar, the evening meal of fast-breaking, adopting a Prophetic diet, more of a plant-based diet, and giving excess food to people in need; using biodegradable paper products for Iftar and not foam cups and plates; encouraging the use of reusable water bottles; recycling all materials, especially plastic water bottles; replacing all light bulbs with energy-saver bulbs and thus conserving electricity, and giving a khutbah/bayyan – a sermon or address – on the Islamic imperative to conserve and protect our environment. For more information, see http://greenramadan.com and http://isna.net/greenramadan/

 

Green Ramadan Guide

 


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