Islam embraces every single issue human beings face on earth. Environment protection is an important facet of Islam. Being custodians of the earth, it is the responsibility of the Ummah (Islamic Community) to care for the environment in a proactive manner. There is an explicit purpose behind the creation of different species, be it plants or animals; Muslims are encouraged to reflect on the connection between living organisms and their environment, and to hold on to the ecological equilibrium fashioned by Allah. Protection of the environment is indispensable to Islamic beliefs and mankind has the responsibility to ensure safe protection of the environment. The Islamic approach towards environment and natural resource conservation is not only based on prohibition of over-exploitation but also on sustainable development. The Quran says:
“It is He who has made you successors upon the earth … that He may try you in what He has given you.” (Chapter 6:165) and “O children of Adam! … Eat and drink: but waste not by excess. Indeed, Allah loves not the wasters.” (Chapter 7:31)
The Prophet of Islam encouraged the planting of trees and the cultivation of agriculture, which are regarded as righteous deeds. He is recorded to have 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” (Bukhari). According to the Islamic conception of environment, the basic elements of nature, i.e., land, water, air, forest, etc, belong to all living things. God has commanded human beings to avoid wasting resources as it causes degradation of the environment. The licence to exploit natural resources was given to mankind on a guardianship basis, which implies that it will not be damaged or destroyed.
In the Qur’an, Chapter 14:32-33 says, “Allah is He who created the heavens and the earth and sends down rain from the sky. Then he produced therewith fruits as food for you; He has lowered the ships that they may sail through the sea by His will. And He has made subservient for you rivers. And He has made subservient to you the sun and the moon, constant in their courses (in its orbit); and subject to you night and day.” Everything God has created is for the service of mankind, and Islam encourages its followers to cultivate, conserve and exploit everything so that it will be beneficial to mankind.
“Then we split the earth…and caused to grow grain on the earth, grapes and vegetables, olive and palm trees, gardens of dense shrubbery and fruits and grass as pleasure for you and your grazing livestock” (Chapter 80: 26-32). The mission of man as God’s vicegerent on earth is based on nurturing environment with a vision that people should attain nearness to God. Islam regards the environmental bounties as signs of God. Therefore, Islam has a vital relationship with the preservation and conservation of nature.
—The writer is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Islamic Studies, BGSB University, Rajouri.