Image Credit: Illustration: Nino Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

Islam puts an emphasis on the environment like no other religion. It is not a foreign concept, a tree hugging fad or something to be done after we have acquired all other knowledge about Islam; it is an integral part of our deen. The branches of knowledge are all branches of a single tree whose roots are grounded in the belief in One God. From this we get our sense of unity and balance.  A Muslim has responsibility to this earth, to its environment.  As an ummah, Muslims have ignored this part of their deen.  Our emphasis in schools, khutbahs, lectures, Islamic courses is primarily on rituals, on spiritual growth at the expense of this very practical aspect of Islam.

If we believe that everything belongs to Allah and that we are just transiting then we have to treat the earth as His amanah – a trust of which we are the guardians, the khalifahs.  Abu SaEid Khudri reported that Allah's Messenger said: “The world is sweet and green and verily Allah is going to install you as vicegerent in it in order to see how you act.” (Muslim) Does this make you think? We have been placed on earth for the purpose of taking care of it.

According to Najma Mohamed, a lecturer and environmental journalist,  “Muslim environmental scholars interpret this to mean that men and women are custodians of creation and are provided with bounties to be enjoyed with limits. The interpretation of a khalifah as a vicegerent not master, trustee not tyrant is central to the environmental teachings of Islam. If a Muslim understands by trusteeship that he or she can exploit and abuse natural resources, then they fail to understand the concept khilafah. Humankind needs to carry out this role with compassion, kindness and sincerity – with justice and goodness. Our relationship with all of creation should reflect these qualities.”

Let's reflect on this eloquent ayah from Surah Rahman:

The All-Merciful has taught the Qur'an.
He created man and He taught him the explanation.
The sun and the moon to a reckoning, and the stars and trees bow themselves;
and heaven – He raised it up and set the balance. Transgress not in the balance,
and weigh with justice, and skimp not in the balance. And earth – He set it down for all beings,
therein fruits and palm trees with sheaths, and grain in the blade, and fragrant herbs.

Which of your Lord's favors will you then deny? (55: 1-12)

Frequently this verse is just used to deter us from cheating in business but look at the context here. Trangress not in the balance is an order from Allah the Almighty. So many ayahs of the Qur'an are devoted to reflecting on nature. If we cannot take care of the gardens of earth, how can we aspire to live in the garden of jannah?

“And it is He Who has made you successive (generations) in the earth. And He has raised you in ranks, some above others, so that He may try you in that which He has bestowed on you. Surely your Lord is Swift in retribution, and certainly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”  (6:165)  This ayah is the crux of our relationship with this planet and all of creation in it.  It  is another test for us.

Nothing is more destructive than a khalifah who has stopped being an abd (slave) of Allah, disobedient to his commands. Why did the angels ask Allah (ta'ala), why He is sending humans as khalifahs?  Look at our state today? We have become so caught up in the consumerism, in gratuitous consumption, that we do forget that we will be held accountable in front of Allah for all our deeds.  We look for convenience over doing what is right.  This has caused disequilibrium in the balance that Allah has created and we see the consequence is the excess in the developed world and the deprivation and hunger in other parts of Allah's world.

But somewhere inside us we have that ability to live up to the lofty maqam of a khalifah.  Allah knows us better than we know ourselves, we just need to find that in us and live up to the personal responsibility that every one of us has.  Look at the example of Prophet Muhammad, he slept on the ground close to the earth on a bed made of palm leaves, wrapped in his shawl. He sat on the floor to eat simple, wholesome food. He repaired his shoes and urged us to wear out our clothes until they had patches on them.  According to a hadith narrated by Tirmidhi, “The worldly comforts are not for me. I am like a traveler, who takes a rest under a tree in the shade and then goes on his way.” So lets use the symbolic tree for shade, to nourish our self, but let's also follow the sunnah and leave the symbolic tree intact so that the next traveler can use it.

Some American scholars are cognizant of our state and speak of this issue. Imam Zaid Shakir reminds us that “as Muslims we are called on to be a community of conscience, and as such we should be leading the cries urging a cessation of this madness. The Qur'an is a book of nature that alerts us to the importance of our lives being integrated into the natural world given us by God to nurture and sustain us.” imam Ammonette says “faith has 73 branches, you live your faith, it's your life and the lowest part of faith is removing pollutants or harmful substances, whatever will cause harm to human beings, from the path… when you clean up whatever is dangerous or unhealthy, that is faith.”

These voices are few. Responding to environmental issues in the Islamic world and teaching its rulings is the imperative of our present ulema (scholars), especially now as we can see the ubiquitous results of the destruction caused by our prevailing way of life.  All the injunctions are in the classic books of fiqh distributed across the different babs (chapters), they need be gathered and taught to the layman.

“All the produce of the earth is duly proportioned (bi-qadarin mawzun-15:19), not just in what is evident but as to their internal composition of nutrients, water, minerals, salts, etc. God blessed the earth and made it safe such that you shall not see imperfection in the creation of the Most Merciful (67:13).”   “When man acts, instead of a trusted custodian and architect of the earth, as its most dangerous destroyer, driven by greed rather than need,” then the result is havoc. We are obliged not to do injustice to the rest of creation.  These will be witnesses for or against us on the Day of Judgment.

Dr. Soumaya Pernilla Ouis, a senior lecturer at Lund University, Sweden, coined the phrase Islamic ecocosmology.  The idea is that nature in itself is Muslim; that we look around us and recognize every organism as our Muslim fellow being. That really changes the relationship, doesn't it?  We know that everything from thunder to ants hymn the glory of Allah, 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. (17:44)

Allah asks us, do you not see that to Allah bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on earth – the sun, the moon, the stars; the hills, the trees, the animals; and a great number of mankind? (22:18) It is harder to ignore and cause destruction.

Many of the already established Islamic legal principles can be applied within the environmental field, and it is actually argued by some ecotheologicans that the environmental perspective has traditionally always been a part of Shariah. Institutions within Shariah such as harim (preserved natural environments) and hima (protected land for grazing purposes) are used for natural conservation. The five principles of protection in shariah are religion, reason, life, property and descendants, which may not include the 20th century term environment but all lead to its protection.

An addition to Islamic law includes a specific category of contemporary jurisprudence called fiqh al-bi'ah, or jurisprudence of the environment. “Law-makers take a number of the foundational concepts of Islam such as rahmah (mercy), tawazun (harmony) and shukr (gratitude) and apply them to this ethico-juridical discipline which links ecological health to the psychological health of man. Environmental degradation is seen as a sickness of the human ego because man is unable to give up short-term gratification in favor of long-term prosperity.”

If we look back at our heritage, the principles of reuse, recycle, clean energy are NOT new – “Muslim potters heated their kilns by burning fruit husks, fruit stones, pine-cones and vegetable waste. Millers ground their corn in mills turned by the wind. Both windmills and animals were used to lift water into irrigation channels.”  The industrial uses of tidemills and watermills in the Islamic world date back to the 7th century.

This may be because “traditional Islamic society, no matter how rich in spiritual and aesthetic content, was slower, and simpler in its technology. The production of the artifacts and adornments did not wreak havoc on nature or strew debris over land and sea. Means were simpler, materials natural and even crude. Exquisite ceramics emerged from raw clay and textiles of unrivaled beauty were born from hand-looms and the hand of the embroiderer. Travel, although surprisingly extensive – consider the journeys of Ibn Battuta – was on foot, on beasts of burden or by sailing boat.”

As Muslim nations are going through industrial renaissance and calls for industrialization increase, let us not make the same mistakes, importing inappropriate technology, setting up industry without studying the environmental ramifications.  We have the opportunity to inculcate Islamic injunctions into eco-concsiouness, and to be leaders protecting our  planet.

Make your deen green is a series which will include small ways that our readers can make a difference in their daily lives to make it more earth-friendly as well as global environmental issues that affect the Muslim world. Surely changing a light bulb will not change the world, but what we need is a change in attitude to our eco-lives.  If we do these acts as forms of ibadah, of obeying Allah insha'Allah we can live up to the status that He has bestowed upon us.

'Aisha (radiAllahu anha) narrated, that the Prophet was asked: “What deeds are loved most by Allah?” He said, “The most regular constant deeds even though they may be few.” He added, “Don't take upon yourselves, except the deeds which are within your ability.” [Sahih Bukhari, 8:76:472]

PRINCIPLES INTO PRACTICE: Islamic Traditions – Ismail Peter Hobson

Environmental Care in Islam: A Qur'anic Perspective – Muhammad Hashim Kamali

Global Environmental Relations: Islamic Perspective – Dr. Soumaya Pernilla Ouis

22 Responses

  1. Leila

    Nice, I’m glad to see more emphasis on the spiritual dimensions of environmentalism and green living. The culture of conspicuous consumption and disposability must end or else we will leave this earth a wasteland for our children and their children.

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  2. iMuslim

    Nice article, masha’Allah. I really like the ‘sweet and green’ hadith. First time reading it.

    I am grateful that we have a recycling service in our borough, so the bin men collect recyclable refuse, as well as regular trash. However, not everything can be recycled, and I am often worried about the amount of non-recyclable packaging that comes in my house through every day essential groceries, which quickly pile up in the bin.

    I am also becoming more aware about the amount of electrical energy I consume, being a techno freak… and the means by which the materials used to make my i-loves, such as my MacBook and iPod, harm the environment, even though they aren’t regular purchases.

    Then there is the whole halal meat issue, which might be zabiha with respect to the animal’s slaughter, but not islamic with respect to how the animal was raised. :(

    I admit, I am still at the stage of ‘awareness’ and haven’t yet progressed to make permanent changes. Alhamdulillah, I am making small efforts, as are my parents (they like to fix broken things, rather than buy new ones!) – but I pray they become more significant over time.

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    • Hena Zuberi

      It is the little changes we do everyday that will inshaallah add up to make a difference- follow the series hopingto address the meat issue too!

      My biggest concern these days is making on the spot decisions ie using the dishwasher to wash dishes vs washing by hand which has a lesser impact? Making what seem like eco-friendly choices only to find out that it wasn’t the right choice!

      Good idea! one of the post for this series needs to address our electricity usage- using hibernate and sleep modes -6 watts vs 45 on a laptop- desktops use 65-250 watts!

      We do dismiss our parent’s generation as being cheap or FOB-by but their practices are earth-friendly and closer to the sunnah.

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  3. Umoja Abdul-Ahad

    As-Salaamu-Alaikum:

    Please share our web site with your list serve. http://www.IRecycleCampaign.org

    Our organization, PROJECT 2000, INC. is active in sharing with other citizens THE VALUE OF RECYCLING.

    We organized 85% of the public housing residents in Knoxville, Tennessee to become URBAN ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDS by recycling. We then transfered our technology to Durham, N.C. & Washington, D.C. getting 75% of the public housing citizens in those cities to practice GREAT ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP.

    The State of Tennessee approved our ” I RECYCLE” specialty license plate and we must pre-sell 1000 in order for them to be manufacture. PASS THE WORD-BUY A PLATE!!!(insha’Allah)

    JazakhuimAllahkarum

    Umoja Abdul-Ahad, Executive Director
    PROJECT 2000, INC.
    (865)384-8054

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  4. nazar

    “Islam puts an emphasis on the environment like no other religion.“- not true . other religions already saying about this- especially Hinduism… Dr David frawley says “ ‘No religion, perhaps, lays as much emphasis on environmental ethics as does Hinduism. It believes in ecological responsibility and says like Native Americans that the Earth is our mother. It champions protection of animals, which it considers also have souls, and promotes vegetarianism. It has a strong tradition of non-violence or ahimsa. It believes that God is present in all nature, in all creatures, and in every human being regardless of their faith or lack of it.’ Dr. David Frawley. http://www.hindu-blog.com/2008/04/hinduism-and-nature-today-is-earth-day.html

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    • Hena Zuberi

      I did not say other religions do not have an emphasis on environment- I am saying Islam puts an EMPHASIS like no other religion. ie Farah bakes cake like no other- doesn’t mean others don’t bake cake.

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    • Umar

      Interesting you say this “nazar” …BUT, BUT… you might have noticed Hindus have gone way overboard in their love for the environment.

      Perhaps it is due to their belief that they are resurrected as an ant or a microbe and therefore they may be harming their “brother” the MRSA virus!..but Hindus literally worship the environment. As your blog post states: “Plants are mothers and Goddesses” and “Lord Ganesha, Holy Cow, Worship of Mountains, Worship of Nagas (Snakes), Tulsi and the numerous other plants and animals that form part of Hindu worship…”

      It is therefore no surprise to see Hindus drinking the urine of cows!!! That is not “environmental ethics.” That is environmental abuse. It is abuse to the dignity of humans.
      In Islam, if you have a drop of urine on your clothes, you cannot pray, and therefore it becomes an obligation to clean those clothes…
      You guys worship snakes! You worship something which is looking at you with it’s heat sensitive eyes waiting to inject you with venom the moment it gets hungry? Yet you believe it is God and you are God. Doesn’t that mean God is at war with himself? – or two separate Gods combined as one?.. yet this time the powerful one is killing the weaker one – chuck in the cow, and you have yourself a trinity – sound familiar?

      Also, if you believe everything is God, then why take care of it? Is not God self sufficient? God is not in need of being taken care of. God does not show weakness. God does not age. God does not sleep. God does not get sprayed with dog excretion as “sacred grass.” (mentioned in the link you posted)

      Astaghfirrillah.

      You know, to even think of those thing were quite disgusting to me, and I feel sorry for the Hindus who have to live with and try to make sense of something which doesn’t.

      Times like these I marvel at the perfection of the Islamic creed of monotheism, where we don’t have to do mental gymnastics to understand something as fundamental as the creator.

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  5. nazar

    India,s traditional Ayuvedic medicine which now spreading in western countries using cow urine for medical purpose- not just cow urine, even these medical text accepts liquor too as medicine….Cow urine contains copper, which is converted into gold inside the human body. It removes all toxicity. The cow is a mobile medical dispensary. It is the treasure of medicines. Cow urine therapy is capable of curing many curable and incurable diseases. The holy texts, like Atharva Veda, Charaka Samhita, Rajni Ghuntu, Vridhabhagabhatt, Amritasagar, Bhavaprakash, Sushruta Samhita, etc., contain beautiful description about the medicinal benefits of cow urine. Cow Urine Treatment and Research Center, Indore has conducted a lot of research over the past few years and reached the conclusion that it is capable of curing diabetes, blood pressure, asthma, psoriasis, eczema, heart attack, blockage in arteries, fits, cancer, AIDS, piles, prostrate, arthritis, migraine, thyroid, ulcer, acidity, constipation, gynecological problems, ear and nose problems and several other diseases.

    The analysis of cow urine has shown that it contains nitrogen, sulphur, phosphate, sodium, manganese, carbolic acid, iron, silicon, chlorine, magnesium, melci, citric, titric, succinic, calcium salts, Vitamin A, B, C, D, E, minerals, lactose, enzymes, creatinine, hormones and gold. A person falls ill when there is deficiency or excess of these substances inside the body. Cow urine contains all of these substances, which are naturally present in the human body. Therefore consumption of cow urine maintains the balance of these substances and this helps cure incurable diseases. -Chemical composition of distilled cow urine: here below…

    Nitrogen (N2, NH2): Removes blood abnormalities and toxins, Natural stimulant of urinary track, activates kidneys and it is diuretic.
    Sulphur (S): Supports motion in large intestines. Cleanses blood.
    Ammonia (NH3): Stabilise bile, mucous and air of body. Stabilises blood formation.
    Copper (Cu): Controls built up of unwanted fats.
    Iron (Fe): Maintains balance and helps in production of red blood cells & haemoglobin. Stabilises working power.
    Urea CO(NH2)2: Affects urine formation and removal. Germicidal.
    Uric Acid (C5H4N4O3): Removes heart swelling or inflammation. It is diuretic therefore destroys toxins.
    Phosphate (P): Helps in removing stones from urinary track.
    Sodium (Na): Purifies blood. Antacid.
    Potassium (K): Cures hereditary rheumatism. Increases appetite. Removes muscular weakness and laziness.
    Manganese (Mn): Germicidal, stops growth of germs, protects against decay due to gangrene.
    Carbolic acid (HCOOH): Germicidal, stops growth of germs and decay due to gangrene.
    Calcium (Ca): Blood purifier, bone strengthener, germicidal.
    Salt (NaCl): Decreases acidic contents of blood, germicidal.
    Vitamins A, B, C, D, E: Vitamin B is active ingredient for energetic life and saves from nervousness and thirst, strengthens bones and reproductive ingredient for energetic life and saves from nervousness and thirst, strengthens bones and reproductive power.
    Other Minerals: Increase immunity.
    Lactose (C6H12O6): Gives satisfaction., strengths heart, removes thirst and nervousness.
    Enzymes: Make healthy digestive juices, increase immunity.
    Water (H2O): It is a life giver. Maintains fluidity of blood, maintains body temperature.
    Hipuric acid (CgNgNox): Removes toxins through urine.
    Creatinin (C4HgN2O2): Germicide.
    Aurum Hydroxide (AuOH): It is germicidal and increases immunity power. AuOH is highly antibiotic and anti-toxic. ( source yogasandhesh- articles on Ayurveda)

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  6. nazar

    God is every where- not just inside….outside,right,left,bottom,top…..entire universe just an atom in the divine consciousness- when ego leaving from us then we will experience divinity- all our actions from our ego invite results b,cause all we are one in god …..

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    • nazar

      there are lot philosophical meanings which hide in hindu text- ( last chapter in bible book of revelation also contain this type of things- ) like Mahatma ghandi one should take only the principles and messages from text….

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  7. nasar

    Anas b. Malik reported that some people belonging (to the tribe) of ‘Uraina came to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) at Medina, but they found its climate uncongenial. So Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said to them: If you so like, you may go to the camels of Sadaqa and drink their milk and urine. They did so and were all right.
    Sahih Muslim 16:4130 http://wikiislam.net/wiki/Camel_Urine_and_Islam

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  8. Nayma

    Assalamu alaikum. Jazak Allahu Khairan for initiating this Green Deen series. I was there at the NYU Islamic Conference last week and heard Ibrahim Abdul-Matin encouraging the students and the audience to live greener lives. Specifically, he challenged us to make it a project to make the upcoming Ramadan Green. It is usually in Ramadan that we see piles of garbages outside due to our consumption of plastics.

    He encouraged us to find alternatives, ie everyone bring their own cup and plate.
    A few brothers in DE did recycle last Ramadan and it was very much appreciated by everyone.

    May Allah help us be more conscious of taking care of the Earth He has provided us with.

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    • Hena Zuberi

      So so true Nayma- we need to start working in our masajid from now as Ramadan is only a few months away. Even just marking a single use cup with our name and reusing the same cup the whole evening would make such as difference. Our masjid treasurer told me they bought 60,000 cups last year and we are a tiny masjid!

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  9. Fuad

    Assalamoulaykum,

    Thankyou for this article. Im wondering how best to overcome our modern apathy in human-nature relations without retreating to preachiness, and miming to a script written for some other agenda like envir-ornamentalism.

    Consumerism is key to this I think, and last ramadan some of us ran a Fasting not Feasting initiative, with mA some success http://fastingnotfeasting.weebly.com/

    Look forward to more deen green material.

    Duas

    F

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    • Hena Zuberi

      Waalikumasalam Brother Fuad,
      It a pleasure visiting your site and looking at your initiative. MashaAllah! As Ramadan comes closer I would love to feature your initiative here on MM.
      If you ever find my tone getting preachy do let me know-
      I agree with your point – when those around us start making their ‘eco-ness’ into a god, we, as Muslims, have to remain true to our purpose, the obedience of the One and only Creator and every step we take to towards living a environmentally-friendly life should be also towards Allah not away from him.

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