Environment protection is an important aspect of Islam. Being stewards of the Earth, it is the responsibility of Muslims to care for the environment in a proactive manner. There is a definite purpose behind the creation of different species, be it plants or animals. Muslims are encouraged to reflect on the relationship between living organisms and their environment and to maintain the ecological balance created by Allah. Protection of the environment is essential to Islamic beliefs and mankind has the responsibility to ensure safe custody of the environment.
The Islamic perspective on environment protection reflects a positive image about Islam and how it embraces every single matter the humans face on earth. The Islamic attitude towards environment and natural resource conservation is not only based on prohibition of over-exploitation but also on sustainable development. The Holy Quran says:
“It is He who has appointed you viceroys in the earth … that He may try you in what He has given you.” (Surah 6:165) and “O children of Adam! … eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” (Surah 7:31)
Prophet Muhammad encouraged the planting of trees and the cultivation of agriculture which are considered as good acts. This is illustrated in the following traditions: Narrated by Anas bin Malik that Allah’s Messenger 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.”
Islam is against the cutting or destruction of plants and trees unnecessarily as is evident in the following Hadith: Abdullah ibn Habashi reported that Prophet Muhammad) said: “He who cuts a lote-tree [without justification], Allah will send him to Hellfire.”. The lote-tree grows in the desert and is very much needed in an area which has scarce vegetation. The devastation caused by deforestation in many countries causes soil erosion and kills many of the biodiversity of the earth.
The approach of Islam towards the use of natural resources was brilliantly put forward by the Fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali ibn Abi-Talib who said “Partake of it gladly so long as you are the benefactor, not a despoiler; a cultivator, not a destroyer. All human beings as well as animals and wildlife enjoy the right to share Earth’s resources. Man’s abuse of any resource is prohibited as the juristic principle says ‘What leads to the prohibited is itself prohibited”.
When Abu Musa was sent to Al-Basrah as the new governor, he addressed the people saying: “I was sent to you by ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab in order to teach you the Book of your Lord [i.e. the Qur’an], the Sunnah [of your Prophet], and to clean your streets.” Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah forbade that a person relieve himself in a water source or on a path or in a place of shade or in the burrow of a leaving creature. These values highlight Islam’s stress on avoiding pollution of critical resources and importance of cleanliness.
Environmental awareness and protection of natural resources is an integral part of Islamic beliefs. As viceroys of Allah on this earth, we have to utilize natural resources in a sustainable manner in order to ensure that Allah’s Bounties to continue. The principle of conservation is beautifully illustrated by the rule which says that while making ablutions (wudu) we should be abstemious in the use of water even if we have a river at our disposal. As humans, we are keepers of all creation, including soil, air, water, animals and trees. A major objective of Islamic teachings and Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) traditions is to build and maintain a healthy and clean environment which is devoid of any source of pollution and misuse.