Environmental Ethics

Allah has designed this universe in its best moulds and certainly is desirous that human beings have to make it more beautiful and more meaningful. It is obvious that a human being is a creation of Allah and takes birth in its beautiful planet which has already been created by Almighty with its wonderful biosphere. The Quran says: From it (earth) We created you and into it We shall send you back and from it We will raise you a second time” (20:55). Prophet (pbuh) also says: “Preserve the earth because it is your mother”.

One should understand the importance of surrounding environment wherein he lives. This concept needs expansion by all means so that wherever humans live on the surface of globe can take care of it by planting more trees, by making greenery more attractive, more beautiful so that pure oxygen will be inhaled it can help us in the development of mind and body. Islam thoroughly advocated planting of trees and encouraged people to protect them to the extent that planting of trees is considered as an act of worship. Prophet (pbuh) was against those who cut down trees for no good reason or caused harm to the natural environment. He (pbuh) encouraged  people to plant trees and cultivate: “Every Muslim who plants a tree or plants a crop from which birds, people or animals eat shall have a reward for a beneficent act” (Bukhari, Muslim and Tirmdhi). Likewise, Islam has equally stressed the animal rights. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that he who is kind and merciful towards animals, Allah will be kind and merciful towards him. R.A. Nicholson in his book “The Mystic of Islam” mentioned the following story of nineteenth century mystic Bayazid Bistami, who purchased some cardamom seed at Hamadhan, and before departing put into his gabardine a small quantity which was left over. On reaching Bistam and recollecting what he had done, ho took out the seed and found out that it contained a number of ants. Saying, “I have carried the poor creatures away from their home” he immediately set off and journeyed back to Hamadan, distance of several hundred miles.

Islam teaches us to protect environment because it is the only resource of life. Allah has made water the basis and origin of life. Allah says: “We made from water every living thing…” (21:30). Plants, animals, and man all depend on water for their existence and for the continuation of their lives. Further he said: “Verily… in the rain that God sends down from heaven, thereby giving life to the earth after its lifelessness…” (2:164). “It is He Who sends down water from the sky; and thereby We have brought forth the plants of every kind…” (6:99). There is no doubt that preservation of this essential component is fundamental to the preservation and continuation of life in its various forms, plant, animal, and human.  The Quran manifests that it is Allah who sends water from the sky, and therewith brings forth buds of every kind. We bring forth the green blade from which we bring the thick clustered grain, and from the date-palm, from the pollen thereof, spring pendant bunches, and garden of grapes, and the olive and pomegranate”.          Dr. Amina Muhammad Nasir in a seminar while presenting his paper in Alexandria “Islam and protection of environment” says that Islam links faith and belief to cleanliness. Some of the pillars of Islam, such as prayer (Salat) and the pilgrimage (Hajj) can only be performed in a state of purity and washing in pure, clean water, free of any contamination. This article of faith and others teach us to protect sources of water from pollution and to keep them clean. Islam’s concern with science and scientists is the clearest evidence of Islam’s encouragement of progress in scientific research into all environmental resources, including water purification and desalination and the scientific means involved so that water may be fit for man’s consumption – Man, whom Allah made His vicegerent, whom He has honored on land and at sea, to whom He has given everything necessary for life so that his journey may continue until Allah, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, inherits the earth and everyone thereon”. Thus there is a rapport between man and his environment, be it individual, the collective or the state levels. Cleanliness, as in washing and ritual ablution either with clean water or sand, is of major importance and a pre-requisite of Islamic belief and faith without which worship is invalid. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said “cleanliness is half the faith”. In another tradition, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said “Be sure to keep your teeth clean, for cleanliness invites to faith and faith will lead you to paradise” (Muslim and Tirmidhi).

This inculcates a concept of transforming already designed environment into a clean one. It is often being preached to clean your house day in and day out so that others may get a lesson. It is as such within the roots of Islamic teachings to look up for your environment wherein you are living, growing, eating, and cultivating a family structure. Within the dimensions of Qur’anic philosophy humans have been given a clean environment and it is their first and foremost duty not to pollute it by any means. Environment is a broader term, which includes everything not only to keep it free from pollution but to have a holistic view of the space given to him.

To conclude, it can be said that Allah stresses upon human beings to keep their environment neat and clean. Allah has created the minds of human beings and given them power to understand what is good and what is bad. A human being can make use of these senses for the good of the environment. Allah is compassionate to humans while having the knowledge of whole environment. People should take care of environment by all mean.

Dr. Ashaq-ul-Islam teaches at Department of Islamic Studies, GDC Pampore.