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How Islam cares about the environment

April 21, 2011 - 11:30:19 pm

Islam, the true religion of Allah, cares about all aspects of life. No wonder, Islam deals with the minor details of life. Whoever reads the Glorious Quran and the Prophet’s Sunnah thoroughly will undoubtedly admit this fact. Here, we recall the Quranic verse:

There is not an animal in the earth, nor a flying creature flying on two wings, but they are peoples like unto you. We have neglected nothing in the Book of Our decrees. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered. (6: 38)

It is quite striking to the fair researchers how the Quran and Sunnah cared about the environment. For example, the Quran says:

Do they not look at the camels how they are created. (88: 17)

Here, the Quran mentions camels rather than other animals. The reason behind that is to attract the attention to this remarkable animal and calling people to contemplate about its structure, properties and benefits, as it is the closest of the grazing livestock to the Bedouins who are addressed directly by the Quran.

The Quran speaks repeatedly of grazing livestock (camels, sheep, cattle) rather than other animals that might exist in other areas. The reason is that it wants to attract the attention of the addressed people to the animals present in the surrounding environment in order to make use of them; be grateful to the Bounties of Allah, to eat its meat and drink its milk; Allah says:

Pure milk palatable to drinkers. (16: 66)

Also, to enjoy their sight when you are leading them in the morning and bringing them back in the evening: And wherein is beauty for you, when you bring them from home in the evening and as you lead them forth to pasture in the morning. (16: 6)

The same is mentioned in the Quran about the bees; their homes, various kinds, nutritive and medical values in a Surah called An-Nahl (the bees).

Likewise, the Quran talks about the date-palm, grapes, crops of diverse flavour, the olive and the pomegranate similar and different. Here, the Quran stresses on two important aspects:

1. Enjoying its beauty:

Look at their fruits thereof when they bear fruit and upon its ripening.) (Al-Ma’idah 5: 99)

2. Making use of its substance, but paying the due Zakah prescribed by Allah: Eat of their fruit when they bring fruit, but pay the due thereof its Zakah according to Allah’s Order on the day of its harvest. But be not extravagant. (5: 141)

It was repeatedly mentioned in the Quran that man should not engage himself in acts that entails spoiling the earth after Almighty Allah has created it suitable and well prepared for the successive human generations. It announced that Allah does not like spoiling or those who spoil in life; this includes spoiling environment, polluting it or being aggressive with it. Also it is forbidden to abuse it in any way that would make it deviate from the purpose Allah created it for.

Such act is tantamount to showing ingratitude to Allah, and He gave a warning to those who perpetrated this that severe penalty will almost come upon them as what happened before to the Aad and the Thamud and those who came after them: Who did transgress beyond bounds in the land in the disobedience of Allah and made therein much mischief. So your Lord poured on them different kinds of severe torment. Surely your Lord is Ever-Watchful. ( 89: 11-14)

This is like the punishment that came upon the Sheba (Saba’) who did not appreciate the bounties that Allah gave them; the fertile land, the fresh pure water, the sweet-smelling gardens, and they showed reluctance, neglected the land and wasted their source of bounty. Allah (Exalted and Almighty) says: There was indeed a sign for Sheba in their dwelling-place: Two gardens on the right hand and the left (as who should say): Eat of the provision of your Lord and render thanks to Him. A fair land and an indulgent Lord! But they were froward, so We sent on them the flood of ‘Iram, and in exchange for their two gardens gave them two gardens bearing bitter fruit, the tamarisk and here and there a lote-tree. This We awarded them because of their ingratitude. Punish We ever any save the ingrates? ( 34: 15-17)

Many people express their concern these days about the preservation of the environment, so much so that this has become a trend worldwide. It is interesting to indicate here that an increasing number of people in the West ask about the position of Islam towards the environment. Here are a few thoughts on the subject:

First of all, Islam makes it incumbent on every Muslim to contribute his/her share in improving greenery. Muslims should be active in growing more trees for the benefit of all people. In one tradition the Prophet says: “If the Hour is about to take place while any one of you has a sapling in his hand, which he can cultivate before it takes place, let him cultivate it for he will be rewarded for it.”

Every country in the world worries about wasting water. This applies even to Canada, one of the richest states in water resources. Look how Islam deals with this issue. A Muslim is recommended to save water in his ceremonial washing for Prayer even if he has a river at his disposal, according to one tradition of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Furthermore, a Muslim is warned against urinating in still water. Islam’s care of the environment is not limited to times of peace. This also applies to behaviour in wars where Muslims are required to avoid cutting trees which are useful to people in general.

Islam’s mercy is not restricted to human beings but is extended to animals and birds. Game hunting of birds or animals just for the pleasure of the sport and not for a real need is forbidden in Islam.

Even when a Muslim slaughters an animal or a bird for eating, he has to sharpen his knife and to treat the animal gently and never cut its meat until it becomes completely senseless and lifeless.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) once saw a mother bird flying over the heads of a group of Muslims as if seeking for its little one which they had taken. Seeing this, the Prophet ordered them to return the little bird back to its mother.

Islam gives a special attention to even insects; it considers them signs and miracles of Allah. That is why insects like flies, spiders and bees, ants, etc. are mentioned in the context of being miracles of Allah in the Quran.

Once the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “One woman is qualified to enter Hell fire just because of her behaviour towards a cat. She imprisoned it, and neither did she feed it nor did she release it to seek for its food from the open land.”

The Prophet warned us against cursing animals which we ride, and which carry our burdens. He, on the contrary, commands Muslims to treat them gently and with kindness. All games and sports harmful to animals and birds are forbidden in Islam because of their cruelty.

In no other religion, philosophy or ideology except Islam do we find a unique attitude towards nature i.e. the universe. Time and again we find Allah swearing in the Quran by various elements of nature, His creation. Several chapters in the Quran begin with an oath like: By the Heavens, by the moon, the sun, the stars, the night, the day, the trees, animals, vegetation, etc.... This is to indicate, among other things, the great value of these elements.

Islam considers all creatures to be Almighty Allah’s slaves. They surrender to His laws, and every creature has his form and method of worship. They all glorify Allah, each in his own way. Thus, Islam establishes a relationship of true love and harmony between man and all creation.

Again, Islam has in fact introduced a more comprehensive meaning of environment or nature. It considers man the major factor in this universe and defined for him a course of action and behaviour that makes him an ideal model. In this context, Islam enjoins the protection of human nature. Human life is sacred in the sight of Islam. No one is permitted to take the life of another person except as life for life. Suicide is a crime in Islam.

As for personal hygiene, Islam recommends a weekly bath at least every Friday for Muslims especially those who attend Friday congregational Prayer, which is an obligation on all Muslim men, and an option for Muslim women. Thus, cleanliness can prevail among people.

Islam is not only keen on outward cleanliness but has its own guidelines in inward cleanliness. The Prophet said: “Five things are in harmony with nature: cutting one’s mustache, removing hair of the armpit, shaving the pubic region, trimming one’s nails and circumcision.” It enjoins avoiding eating onions or garlic before attending public meetings to prevent bad odor.

It is the duty of Muslims to remove dirt and obstacles from roads and streets. This is an act of worship in Islam. Cleanliness of front and back yards is encouraged also. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says: “Allah is beautiful and He loves the beautiful.”

Islam commands Muslims to avoid all bad habits that are harmful to their bodies and to other people, like smoking, drug addiction, alcoholic drinks, etc...



1. Islamic Concept of Education & Economy as Seen in the Sunnah by Dr Yusuf Al Qaradawi, Al-Falah Foundation for Translation, Publication & Distribution, Cairo, 1418 AH.

2. www.al-muslim.org




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