Islam maintains that Muslims should remain ‘a people justly balanced’ in all matters, including concerns of a global nature, environment being one of them. Islam guides us to adopt the middle way: man is neither to worship nature, nor to destroy it indiscriminately.
Say: Unto Allah belong the East and the West. He guides whom He will unto a straight path. Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that you may witness over mankind, and the messenger may be a witness over you. (The Holy Quran, 2:142-143)
Although the elements in nature are pressed into service through natural laws and man has a limited capacity to harness them to sustain life and to maintain progress, he is not given a license to mar or deform his environment out of sheer greed, arrogance or extravagance.
Allah is He Who created the heavens and the earth and cause water to come down the clouds, and brought forth therewith fruits for your sustenance; and He has subjected to you the ships that they may sail through the sea by His command, and the rivers too He has subjected to you. And He has also subjected to you the sun and the moon, both performing their work constantly. And He has subjected to you the night as well as the day. And He gave you all that you wanted of Him; and you try to count the favors of Allah, you will not be able to number them. Verily, man is very unjust and ungrateful. (Ch. 14; v. 32-34)
Affinity between Man and the Environment
Man and the environment have a binding affinity in their origins. Man is to maintain a friendly relationship with the earth. There is an urgent need for change from man’s chauvinistic attitude to a sympathetic one towards his environment. The Holy Prophet of Islam (may the peace and blessings of Allah be on him) has said: The world is green and beautiful, and Allah has appointed you as His stewards over it. He sees how you acquit yourself of your duty.
The Holy Quran guides us on how to maintain the right attitude. According to the Quran, man is not the ‘owner ‘of the universe. All that is in the heavens and the earth belongs to Allah who is the Creator, the Owner, and the Master of everything that exists:
And to Allah belong the treasures of the heavens and the earth. (Ch.63:v.7)
All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the heavens and the Lord of the earth, the Lord of all worlds. And His is the Majesty in the heavens and the earth; and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Ch.45: v.37-38)
Man’s Restricted Domain
Man’s position on earth is not as an absolute monarch; he is to remain in complete subordination to the Will and Commandments of Allah. Man’s domain over nature is not wholly unrestricted. He stands accountable to Allah for his actions on and towards the earth.
And walk not in the earth haughtily. (Ch.17;v.37)
For those who do good deeds, there shall be the best reward and yet more blessings. (Ch.10: v.26)
And those that do evil deeds, the punishment of an evil shall be the like thereof, an ignominy shall cover them. (Ch.10: v27)
Man and Enviroment are ‘Co-religionists’
Man is created with a specific purpose, and so is the rest of the universe. The purpose of man’s creation and that the rest of the universe converge to the same essence –ABADAT- to glorify and to serve and worship Allah.
And I have not created the Jin and the men but that they may worship me. (Ch.51:V.56)
Whatever is in the heaven and the earth glorifies Allah; and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Ch57:v.1)
The seven heavens and the earth and those that are therein extol His glory; and there is not a thing but glorifies Him with His praise; but you understand not their glorification. (Ch.17:v.45)
Thus in the shared reason for creation (submission and glorification to Allah) man and nature are ‘co-religionist’. Therefore, the enviroment deserves man’s sympathetic coexistence instead of an exploiting attitude.
Signs of Allah in Enviroment to be Respected
Nature is replete with Signs of Allah (AYAT) that invite perceptive, sympathetic and comprehensive study towards understanding the Unity of Allah; therefore, man should treat these Signs with reverence and respect.
Verily, in the creations of heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day, and in the ships which sail in the sea with that which profits men, and in the water which Allah sends down from the sky and quicken therewith the earth after its death and scatters therein all kind of beast, and in the change of the winds, and the clouds press into service between the heaven and the earth- are indeed Sings of a people who understand. (Ch.2:v.164)
Verily, it is Allah Who causes the grain and date-stones to sprout. He brings forth the living from the dead, and He brings forth the dead from the living. That is Allah; wherefore, then, are you turned back? (Ch.6:v.96)
And He it is Who spread out the earth and made therein mountains and rivers. And Fruit of every kind. He made therein pairs (male and female), two and two. He causes the night to cover the day. Therein , verily, are Signs for people who reflect. And in the earth there are tracts, adjoining one another, and gardens of vine, and corn-fields, and date palms, growing together from one root and others not so growing; they are watered with the same water, yet we make some of them excel others in fruit. Therein are Signs for the people who understand. (Ch.13:v. 4,5)
And He it is Who sends the winds as glad tidings before his mercy, and We send down pure water from the sky, that We may thereby give life to Our creation- the cattle and men in great numbers. And We have explained it to them in diverse ways that they may take heed, but most men would reject everything but disbelief. (Ch.25:v. 48-50)
Preservation and Moderation
Natural resources are limited. Everything shall cease to exist in the end. All shall return to Allah the Everlasting.
Every soul shall taste of death. (Ch.3:v.185)
All that is on it (the earth) will pass away. (Ch.55:v.185)
Therefore man must adopt the principle of moderation and preservation and should not profligate.
[The servants of Gracious God are those] who are neither extravagant nor miserly when they spend, but moderate between the two. (Ch.25:v. 67)
…And exceed not the bounds. Surely Allah loves not those who exceed the bounds. (Ch.6:v.141)
Verily. The extravagant are brothers of satans, and Satan is ungrateful to his Lord. (Ch.17:v.27)
And We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in vain. (Ch.38:v.27)
He created the heavens and the earth in accordance with the requirements of wisdom. (Ch.39:v5)
Al – Mizan (the balance)
Allah has invested the principle of equilibrium (Al – Mizan: The Balance Of Justice) in the universe, including the earth, enviroment, and all dimensions of life. Man is required to maintain this natural balance and not to disturb it. He must not only maintain equity and justice in his social interactions, but also ‘ecojustice’ in his dealings with enviroment:
And the heaven He has raised high and set up the Balance that you may not transgress the measure. So weigh all things in justice and fall not short of the measure. And He has set the earth for His creatures…… (Ch.55:v.5-13)
Eat and drink of what Allah has provided, and commit not inequity in the earth, creating disorder. (Ch.2:v.60)
And the earth have We spread out, and set therein firm mountains and caused everything to grow therein in proper proportion. And We have made for you therein means of livelihood and also for all those for whom you do not provide. (Ch.15:v.20-21)
Allah requires of man an attitude of humbleness and humility and not arrogance and destructiveness. The virtue of humbleness needs to be extended towards enviroment as well.
And turn not your face away from man with pride, nor walk in the earth haughtily; surely Allah loves not any arrogant boaster. (Ch.31:v.18)
Cleanliness and Beautification
In Islam, to keep the enviroment clean and unpolluted is a spiritual and moral obligation.
The internal cleansing of the heart and mind requires the external cleaning of the body, dress surroundings, the mosque, and the enviroment.
Allah loves those who turn to Him and loves those who keep themselves clean. (Ch.2:v.222)
Allah desires not that He should place you in difficulty, but He desires to purify you and to complete His favour upon you, so that you may be grateful. (Ch.5:v.6)
All Muslims are aware of the importance of cleanliness in religious terms. The Holy Prophet Muhammed (may peace and blessing of Allah be on him) has said: Purity and neatness are half of the faith. Keeping the Mosque is a religious obligation. Therefore, when we read the hadith, ‘The whole earth has been made a mosque and pure for me’, it can be deduced that every Muslim must keep the earth and its enviroment unpolluted and wholesome.
In addition to keeping the enviroment clean and healthy, Islam also encourages its beautification. Allah has created the universe in harmony and beauty, without any deforminity:
No incongruity shall you see in the creation of the Gracious; then look again; do you find any flaw? (Ch.63:v.3)
Concerns for the Future Generations
Fear of poverty should not be propelling tendency towards environmental suicide. Economical concerns should not make the coming generations victims of unwise environmental policies. The rich and developed nations ought to maintain a benevolent attitude towards the poor and developing countries that are locked into a vicious cycle of destroying the very resources upon which their survival depends. In trying to remove poverty, we must not leave the air, land and water so polluted that our children find the environment of the earth hazardous for their lives.