Islam and Environment
The Islam and environment. Islam teaches us and aims to instill within us a deep consciousness of environment and respect towards all fellow creatures. When we look at the Prophet’s life, we see that he is constantly trying to instill that deep sense of environmental consciousness in the hearts and minds of his followers.
For example look at his lifestyle. His refrainment from luxury and lavishness. Now that well lifestyle is actually quite telling. Because the people were talking about environmental problems today. They usually link that problem to our very bad consumption habits. Yes we consume natural resources faster than nature can reproduce them. So the solution lies in somewhere developing more careful and sensitive consumption habits.
And that well lifestyle that the Prophet lived is teaching us how to live, how to live in accordance with nature, our reality. We’re not living in an infinitely rich resource environment. That’s not the case at all. We have limited sources and we have to share it with many people. So the solution lies in highly sensitive consumption habits or I can say sustainable consumption. And this is what the Prophet teaches.
He lived in a huts made of mud. His dietary habits were quite strict. He ate little. Ha fasted a lot. So that’s very lifestyle that I’m talking about here is an embodiment of sensitive consumption. So that’s the first thing that I want to say.
From another perspective, look at how he treated animals, you know, how he taught us to treat animals. For example he forbade killing animals just for fun or recreational hunting as they say it, or having animals fight with each other for entertainment, or branding them on their face, overburdening domestic animals. You know he kept pets. He had a cat. He named his pets, the cat Muezza or the camel Adbaa. They had names. So he named every species as an ummah (a whole community).
This allowed in coming, following centuries, Muslim theologists, philosophers and jurisprudents to develop highly evolved animal rights ethics and codes of behavior. To maintain them by offering some legal qualifications of this issue. So that is very well protected. Why? Because of the Prophetic example. And we have actually many sayings of the Prophet.
So he also forbid scaring animals, or burdening them or you know making them target for shooting. They were actually entrenched habits in that society. He uprooted them because of his treatment of animals with some respect. That gave his followers a perfect example of how we should be treating animals, how we should be protecting them and respecting them.
And here is a saying “Allah will judge those who kill a sparrow unfairly”. We know also how he condemned some of his companions because of ill-treatment of animals. So that’s also another aspect of his environmental ethics, you know that we can use to develop profound environmental ethics today. This is for animals.
How about plants? We know that he proclaims some areas in and around Madinah as heema. Heema means sanctuary. In a sanctuary, you are not allowed to kill animals, to cut trees. So we can actually consider him as the first human being in history who is proclaiming an area as natural park. He is actually initiating that idea. This is a natural park and you are not allowed to kill animals or cut trees in that natural park. And we also know the existence of other heemas, other sanctuaries in and around Makkah and Madinah.
Also we know that upon his arrival to Madinah, he launched a tree plantation campaign to beautify Madinah and date grows. He initiated that campaign as well. So the forestation and preserving already existing green spaces was one of his main concerns. You know this is also quite telling in terms of how to construct cities which are in peace with nature, not developed or not constructed at the expense of destroying nature but constructed permeating into nature without destroying it. And this is quite profound lesson we should also learn from the Prophet.
Here is a saying again supporting that idea here, “If any one of you” he says, peace be upon him, “have a date sapling on the doomsday, he should plant it if possible”. So you see how profound is this. You know that date of sapling, you know this, future is not that important here. The important is the act of planting that date, that tree. Because that act itself, in itself has a great value. And that is about plants, and forestation and trees.
From another perspective also we see him as someone who is really concerned about conserving water. So one of the big issues today is, that is also related to environmental problems, the preservation of water. Water scarcity, water waste is a big problem. That is also we find in his life. He says things like, peace be upon him, “If you are next to a river and you have to take wudu, don’t waste water even in that situation”.
So we see that very profound attitude towards preserving the natural resources. Even the natural resource might look in abundance but that’s not the real issue here. The issue is to treat them with respect and to preserve them as much as possible not to waste. “Arabic” the Quran says, “Eat and drink but do not waste”. His whole life is an embodiment of the teaching of this verse.
One last thing. You know, when you look at everything here and when you look at how the Quran talks about nature and how the Prophet treats natural entities and our fellow creatures, we see this teaching being manifested. Everything in the world is sacred because they are signifiers. They signify God. Things are more than they appear. This is quite important to understand, to develop an authentic sense of concern and respect towards natural phenomena. Things are more than they appear. One has to respect them because they have this relationship to the Divine.
And that is to say whole nature is sacred. Not one place, not one time but all nature is and all times are sacred. And this is actually a manifestation of the central teachings of Islam which is “la ilahe ilallah”. If God is one and if God has created and is creating these beings, everything has this relationship to the Divine, and because of that relationship, everything must be respected, protected, preserved and well-treated. Thank you.