How Islam Promotes Environmental Conservation
Caring for the environment is an important teaching of Islam. The Qurʾān describes mankind as being stewards of the earth and therefore Muslims must care for the earth. It is our responsibility to care for the earth and environment. The reality of climate change requires us to rethink our lifestyles and actions and we must reflect on how our actions impact our environment. The Qurʾān highlights this point: Corruption has appeared on land and sea because of that which men’s hands have done (Q. 30: 41).
Preservation of Natural Resources
There are several teachings in Islam, that if followed, will help the environment. Among these is the teaching to abstain from wastefulness and squandering of natural resources. Once a companion of the Prophet, peace be upon him, was performing ablution and using too much water. The Prophet said, “What is this extravagance?” The Companion responded, “Is there extravagance with water in ablution?” The Prophet said, “Yes, even if you were on the banks of a flowing river,” (Ibn Majah). At the time, the Companion was puzzled by the applied benefit of this rule. Today it is evident that conservation is an important part of protecting and preserving the environment.
Animals & Crops
The Qurʾān explains that like humans, animals are also communities, There is no creature on the earth or animal that flies with its wings except that they are communities like you. We have not neglected anything from the Book. Then they will be gathered unto their Lord (Q. 6: 38). There are several chapters in the Qurʾān named after animals, such as the calf, the bee, the spider, and the ant. Islam has gone to great lengths to highlight the rights of animals. It is an unfortunate reality that the rights of animals are infringed by hunting for sport, skins, or purposes other than food. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Do not take any living being as a target” (Sahih Muslim). The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, God will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment.” The listeners asked, “O Messenger of God, what is a just cause?” He replied, “That he will kill it to eat, not simply to chop off its head and then throw it away” (Sunan al-Nasa’i).
Each animal species plays its role in maintaining a balance and equilibrium on earth. When an entire species becomes extinct, this equilibrium is interrupted and has a negative impact on the environment. Islam has also extended this rule to crops, noting that destroying or harming crops for no immediate benefit, such as eating, is not permissible.
The Ozone serves as the protective layer of the earth. God has protected the earth with this layer and people’s actions are tearing through this protective layer. And We made the sky a protected ceiling, but they are, from its signs, turning away (Q. 21: 32). The Qurʾān also states, It is Allah who made the earth a place of settlement and made the sky a ceiling and formed you and perfected your forms, and provided you with good things. That is Allah your Lord, then blessed is Allah Lord of the worlds (Q. 40: 64). Neutralizing toxic gases and radiation is required of us if we wish to protect this protective ceiling.
Reason and logic tell us to protect the earth and environment because it is the source and place of our livelihood. However, when there is no belief in God, ego can become God. The ego and love for immediate materialistic pleasure have no limits. This leads to corruption and destruction of the earth and the environment. The Qurʾān describes such a person as a source of corruption of the earth and environment, And when he turns away, he strives throughout the land to cause corruption therein and destroy crops and animals. And Allah does not like corruption” (Q. 2: 205).
Islam is a religion that commands it followers to obey God, who is the Creator that knows what is best for His creation. Preserving the environment is therefore part of a Muslim’s duty to God.