Islam and Ecology
The Islamic faith lays great stress on improving the condition of the Earth at the hands of humans as humans are described as the viceregents of God on Earth. What is hoped from this improvement is to guarantee bliss in the eternal life after death. This is when we utilise the laws of matter for the benefit of humanity and its happiness with justice and fairness.
All the Islamic teachings agree with logic, and do not clash with science. In fact, Islam calls for and encourages the acquisition of knowledge; as we can see from the first verse that was revealed from the Holy Qur'an "Read in the name of your Lord who created" (Chapter96;verse1), and this of course is a call to reading and acquiring knowledge.
Allah (all praise belongs to Him) also says "Are those who know and those who do not know equal" (ch39;v19).
The Exalted (Allah) also says "Allah will exalt those who believe amongst you and those who have knowledge to high ranks" (Ch58;v11).
He Glorified and Elevated also says "Indeed they fear Allah those of his servants who are learned" (ch35;v28).
Humans and the rest of Creation
The human is the most favoured of Gods creation. Everything in existence was created by Allah for the use of humans. Allah has made subservient to humans all animal life, bird life, plant life, water bodies, inanimate objects, and other creations. The human's duty is to deal with these as a loving and caring friend would deal with another friend, so that he can benefit from it, without stopping others from this benefit, and to put forward the common good ahead of personal benefit.
The outlook of the Islamic faith to Ecology
Islam considers the creation of the universe an open book, a guide inviting observation which increases the faith of the observer, and takes him to the point of unshakeable faith in the Great Creator of this existence.
The Glorified and Elevated says "In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of night and day, and the ships which run upon the sea with that which is of use to people, and the water which Allah sends down from the sky, thereby reviving the earth after its death, and dispersing all kinds of beasts therein, and the ordinance of the winds, are signs for people who have sense" (ch2;v164).
Islam also considers that all the creatures in the universe have their own lives, their own procreation, their own language and mode of communicating, and their own senses, which are particular to each kind of creature. So it all glorifies and worships its Lord in its own special way.
The Glorified and Elevated says "Have you not seen that unto Allah pays adoration whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is in the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the hills, and the trees, and the beasts, and many of mankind ..." (Ch22;v18). Also "The seven heavens and the earth and all therein praise him and there is not a thing but hymns his praise. Lo! He is ever Clement, Forgiving." (ch 17;v 44).
And all creation is established in pairs (that is, male and female, or negative and positive), as Allah says "Have they not seen the earth, how we have planted therein of every fruitful pair" (ch26;v7). "And all things we have created by pairs" (Ch51;v49).
And "Glory be to Him who created all sexual pairs, of that which the earth grows, and of themselves, and of that which they know not." (ch36;v36).
The Exalted also said "There is not an animal in the earth, nor a flying creature flying with two wings, but they are nations like you. We have neglected nothing in the book. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered." (Ch6;v38).
The Exalted also said "Allah has created every animal of water. Of them is that which moves upon its belly and that which walks on two legs and that which walks upon four. Allah creates what He will. Lo! Allah is able to do all things." (ch24;v45).
The Exalted said "Have they not seen the birds obedient in mid air? None holds them save Allah. Lo! herein, verily, are signs for a people who believe." (ch16;v79).
These revelations clarified the Islamic outlook towards the living things which are present in nature. These beings are partners to man in existence, and they deserve their own respect and have their own positions. They have been created for man, and without them, it would not be possible for man to live. How could it not be so, when vegetation are the chief producers of oxygen which humanity relies on for breathing.
It is necessary for man to realise that Islam has placed restrictions and rules for the preservation of the environment, so that it can protect it from the behaviour, and the stupidity of some of the people, who treat it with ignorance and irresponsibility.
The exalted says " ... and We made every living thing of water ... " (ch21;v30).
For water is the secret of life, and Islam forbids the wastage of water, and the usage thereof without benefit.
The Exalted says "Have you observed the water which you drink? Is it you who shed it from the raincloud or are We the shedder." (ch56;vv68&69).
The preservation of water for the drinking of mankind, animal life, birdlife, and vegetation is a form of worship Which gains the pleasure of Allah the Exalted. Islam also forbade urinating in pools of still water, or otherwise contaminating water bodies.
From this the inference can be drawn that Islam also forbids sewerage and factory outpours to go to waterways, or to the ocean as this would pollute the water and threaten marine life.
The Exalted also says "Have you seen that which you cultivate? Is it you who foster it, or are we the fosterer?" (ch56;vv63&64).
The Qur'an has also indicated the good in planting and cultivation in "Let man consider his food: How we pour water in showers Then split the earth in clefts And cause the grain to grow therein And grapes and green fodder And olive trees and palm trees And garden closes of thick foliage And fruits and grasses: Provision for you and your cattle." (ch80;vv24-32).
The Exalted also says "He it is who sends down water from the sky, and therewith we bring forth buds of every kind; we bring forth the green blade from which we bring forth the thick-clustered grain; and from the date-palm, from the pollen thereof, spring pendant bunches; and gardens of grapes, and the olive and the pomegranate, alike and unlike. Look upon the fruit thereof, when they bear fruit, and upon its ripening. Lo! herein verily are signs for a people who believe." (ch6;v99).
Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings upon him) says that any Muslim who plants or cultivates vegetation and eats from it, or another person, animal or bird, eats from it will receive a reward for it from Allah. He (Peace and blessings upon him) also said that anyone who plants a tree under which people seek shade or shelter from the sun will have his reward with Allah.
Therefore the cutting down of trees without strong and legitimate reasons is encroaching on the bounties of Allah, and encroaching on the beauty of the environment which Allah has created.
In today's world, if Muslims could exert influence over the United Nations, we would require, that natural resources be rationed, we would require protection of forests, we would eliminate the use of goods which destroy the atmosphere or in the very least reduce these to the most essential minimum. We would ensure that countries rich in forest resources are given other provisions (possibly financial and other assistance) so that they are not forced to burn down their forests to create grazing lands, as is the case in certain South American Countries. We would also strive our utmost to stop the cutting down of trees unless there are very good reasons to do so.
Thirdly: The Earth.
The earth is our first mother, on it we live, and from the bounties on it we eat, therefore, it has certain rights over us; of these rights is making it come alive with green vegetation and other plant life, and in encouragement to this the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said that one who revives dead land, the land becomes his (that is if some one plants on barren land which was not owned by anybody, and is not being used, he will have legal title to this land), and whatever eats from it causes a reward from God for the cultivator of the land. In another tradition: "Whoever, revives a piece of land not belonging to anybody, becomes most worthy to own it."
Fourthly: The Animal Kingdom.
We must deal with animals with utmost beneficence and compassion, and strive to ensure the preservation of the different species of animal life. We must also not be extravagant in hunting animals in play or sport.
The Prophet (peace and Blessings upon him) said that he who is kind and merciful towards animals, Allah will be kind and merciful towards him.
Even when Killing an animal for food, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings upon him) informed us to sharpen the knife well before cutting the throat of the animal, and to kill it quickly, and in a manner least distressing to the animal. Also that we should never kill an animal for food in front of another animal, so as not to cause distress to the other animal.
Again, it is forbidden in Islam to kill an animal for mere play. Islam has forbidden wastage of animals and plants in peacetime and in war time.
Islam requires kind treatment of birdlife as these praise Allah the Exalted as mentioned above. We must provide for the protection and well being of these as well.
In one of the travels of the prophet (peace and blessings upon him), one of his companions removed baby pigeons from a nest, the mother hovered over his head, seeing this he inquired from his companions if they knew who had taken her chicks, he (peace and blessings upon him) then returned the chicks to their nest in kindness and mercy to the pigeon.
Another tradition of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) is that whoever kills a bird for amusement, that bird will ask Allah to extract justice from the killer on the day of judgment, and will say My Lord, this person has killed me without good cause and for no benefit to anyone, so give me justice.
Sixthly: Air or Atmosphere.
Air is the property of Allah the Exalted. If it was held from us for a few minutes, we would suffocate, it is also the mean for communication as it carries sound between people. Hence, contaminating the air with smoke is an encroachment on nature, and a threat to the life of mankind and all other living things.
True Muslim countries would put forward to the United Nations as a primary consideration - after human rights - the protection of the atmosphere by demanding stronger resolutions against polluting the air in all countries or reducing polluting activities to the barest essentials (e.g. production of medication, essential travel, etc.), and that this be enforced, by assisting these countries to comply, and curbing the activities of maverick individuals who wish to rort the system.
You may ask; with Moslems forming such a large portion of the world's population, why is this not being done at the moment? my answer without delving too much into politics, is that, the majority of Moslems are living in third world conditions, we have had a number of generations that could not read or write, and the so called Moslem countries are being governed by oppressive semi-secular regimes that only practise Islam for a T.V. Camera to fool their population. I am happy to add that as more of our brothers and sisters learn about our faith, we are quickly going back to the progressive society which will (Insha Allah) achieve these objectives.
Answers provided by Imam Tajuddin H. Alhilaly, Mufty for Australia (~1993)
Translated and some comments added with permission by Keysar Trad