By Dr. Mohammad Aneesul Mehmood, Dr. Gowhar Hamid Dar, Dr. Rouf A. Bhat & Dr. Basharat Mushtaq
God has created everything in this universe in due proportion and measure, both quantitatively and qualitatively. A verse in the Quran attests to this:
“Verily, all things have We created by measure” (Quran 54:49)
“And We have produced therein everything in balance.” (Quran 55:7)
In the universe, there is enormous diversity and variety of form and function. The universe and its various elements fulfill human welfare and are evidence of the Creator’s greatness; It is He Who determines and ordains all things, and there is not a thing He has created but celebrates and declares His praise:
“Have you not seen that God is glorified by all in the heavens and on the earth – such as the birds with wings outspread? Each knows its worship and glorification, and God is aware of what they do.” (Quran 24:41)
Everything God has created is astounding, full of meaning; pointing beyond itself to the glory and greatness of its Creator, His wisdom and His purposes for it.
“He Who has spread out the earth for you and threaded roads for you therein and has sent down water from the sky: With it have We brought forth diverse kinds of vegetation. Eat and pasture your cattle; verily, in this are signs for men endued with understanding.” (Quran 20:53-54)
Thus, the Islamic vision revealed in the Quran is of a universe imbued with value. All things in the universe are created to serve the One Lord Who sustains them all by means, and Who controls the miraculous cycles of life and death:
“God it is that splits the seed and the date stone brings the living from the dead and the dead from the living: That is your God – how are you turned away?” (Quran 6:95)
Man is part of this universe, the elements of which are complementary to one another in an integrated whole. The whole equation is a distinct part of the universe and has a special position among its other parts. The relation between man and the universe, as defined in the Glorious Quran and the Prophetic teachings, is a very sacred relationship of meditation, consideration, and contemplation of the universe and what it contains. It is a relationship of sustainable utilization, development, and employment for man’s benefit and for the fulfillment of his interests. A relationship of care and nurture for man’s good works are not limited to the benefit of the human species, but rather extend to the benefit of all created beings; and “there is a reward in doing good to every living thing.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
In Islam, the utilization of these resources is the right and privilege of all people and all species. Hence, man should take every precaution to ensure the interests and rights of all others since they are equal partners on this planet. Similarly, he should not regard such as restricted to one generation at the expense of other generations. It is rather a joint responsibility in which each generation uses and makes the best use of nature, according to its need, without adversely affecting the interests and needs of future generations. Therefore, man should not abuse, misuse, or distort the natural resources as each generation is entitled to benefit from them but is not entitled to “own” them in an absolute sense. While, the attitude of Islam to the environment, the sources of life, and the resources of nature is based in part on prohibition of abuse, it is also based on construction and sustainable development. This integration of the development and conservation of natural resources is clear in the idea of bringing life to the land and causing it to flourish through agriculture, cultivation, and construction. God says:
“…It is He Who has produced you from the earth and settled you therein…” (Quran 11:61)
The Prophet(SAW) declared:“If any Muslim plants a tree or sows a field, and a human, bird or animal eats from it, it shall be reckoned as charity from him.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim)
In the Divine scheme by which all creatures are made to be of service to one another, God’s wisdom has made all things of service to mankind. But, nowhere has God indicated that they are created only to serve human beings. The primary function of all created beings as signs of their Creator constitutes the soundest legal basis for conservation of the environment. It is not possible to base the protection of our environment on our need for its services alone, since these services are only of supporting value and reason. Now, here is an attempt to find out the teachings of Islam about conservation of various natural resources.
God has made water the basis and origin of life. He says:
“We made from water every living thing…” (Quran 21:30)
Plants, animals, and man all depend on water for their existence and for the continuation of their lives. In this respect, God has said:
“Verily… in the rain that God sends down from heaven, thereby giving life to the earth after its death…” (Quran 2:164)
There is no doubt that conservation of this vital resource (water) is fundamental to the preservation and continuation of life in its various forms, plant, animal, and human. It is also obligatory, for, in Islamic law, whatever is indispensable to fulfill the imperative obligation of preserving life is therefore itself obligatory. Any action that obstructs or impairs the biological and social functions of this element, either by destroying it or by polluting it with any substance that would make it an unsuitable environment for living things or otherwise impair its function as the basis of life; any such action necessarily leads to the impairment or ruin of life itself and the juristic principle is, “What leads to the prohibited is itself prohibited.”Like water, the land and soil are essential for the perpetuation of our lives and the lives of other creatures.
God has declared in the Quran:
“And the earth He has established for living creatures.” (Quran 55:10)
From the minerals of the earth are made the solid constituents of our bodies, as well as those of all the living animals and plants:
“And among His signs is that He has created you from dust; then behold, you are humans scattered widely.” (Quran 30:20)
God has made 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 demonstrated us in the Glorious Quran:
“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.” (Quran 77:25-27)
If we would truly give thanks to the Creator, we are required to 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.
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 and design by God, and each warrants special respect. As a living genetic resource, each species and variety is unique and irreplaceable. Once lost, it is gone 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:
“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.” (Quran 80:24-32)
Animals in turn provide sustenance for plants, for one another, and for man. They provide vital ingredients for sustaining the life on earth. And for their highly developed senses and perceptions and their social interrelationships, animals are accorded special regard in Islam. For God considers them living societies exactly like mankind. As God has declared in the Glorious Quran:
“There is not an animal on the earth, nor any being that wings its flight, but is a people like unto you…” (Quran 6:38)
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. 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.
The conservation of natural environment is an imperative command by God, the sustainer of all beings. It is a matter of utmost importance to man to protect the natural environment with all its biological components. However, the problem of environmental degradation has been magnified enormously within this century, mainly due to anthropogenic means with tremendous speed, which depicts his unjustified role on earth. The teachings of Islam promote all endeavors, whether local, regional, or international in scope, and call for the joining of concerted efforts in all fields to conserve, protect and rehabilitate our natural environment. The challenge that is faces by us is unprecedented in its magnitude, and to meet it requires an enormous mobilization of resources, sound strategies, and resolute action, so that we may, God willing, and maintain and perpetuate a good and prosperous life for the present and future generations of mankind and all created beings.
—The Authors teach Environmental Science at Government SP College (Cluster University Srinagar), Department of Higher Education, Govt. of J&K. The views expressed are personal. They can be reached at: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]&[email protected]