Islam and the Environment
And it is He who established gardens, trellised and un-trellised, and palm trees, and crops with different tastes, and olives, and pomegranate – fruits that are similar, yet dissimilar. Eat from their fruits, and give the due alms on the day of harvest, and do not waste anything. He does not like those who waste by extravagance. (Quran 6.141.)
Like most religions, environmentalism is one of the core principles of Islam. There are numerous examples of Muslims working to protect the environment and reverse trends towards ecological destruction. Groups like Green Muslims, the Eco Muslim, and the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences are only three such examples.
But where do Islamic environmental principles come from? As it turns out, they are remarkably similar in origin to Judeo-Christian environmental principles.
He is Allah the One and Only; Allah the Eternal Absolute; He begetteth not nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him. (Quar’an 112.1-4.)
Tawhid is the fundamental, monotheistic principle of Islam. It is the recognition that there is nothing other than Allah. Within this principle is the idea that all things were created by Allah and all things belong to Allah.
To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. (Quran 4.171.)
The idea of Tawhid is similar to Judeo-Christian belief of Creationism. One God created the heavens, the Earth, and all creatures on the Earth, including humans. Christian and Jewish religions appreciate nature because it represents God’s pure creation. Nature is sacred.
Allah has promised to those among you who believe and act righteously, that He will surely make them Successors in the earth, as He made Successors from among those who were before them; and that He will surely establish for them their religion, which He has chosen for them; and that He will surely grant them security and peace in place of their fear. (Qur’an 24:56.)
The Arabic word khalifa means successor. The appointment of people as khalifa is the sacred duty God has bestowed upon the human race. The khalifa is answerable for their actions and for the way in which they use or abuse the trust of Allah.
The principle of khilafa is similar to the Judeo-Christian idea of stewardship. If the creation belongs to God, then humans cannot rule over creation. Humans were given the task merely to maintain and keep creation as God’s stewards.
Indeed, we offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it; but man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant. (Sura 33, verse 72.)
In Arabic, amana means trust or responsibility and is very closely linked with the doctrine of khalifa. Allah didn’t just bestow the responsibility of stewardship on humans, humans willingly accepted the responsibility. As this quote describes, the responsibility of caring for Allah’s creation wasn’t something the heavens, earth, or mountains wanted to be entrusted with because they were worried they wouldn’t fulfill their obligations. But humans took on the responsibility believing that they could be trusted with the obligation.
This notion is like notions in Judaism and Christianity. In Judaism, Tikkun Ha-Olam is a notion that humanity has a responsibility to restore and redeem a broken world. Similarly, Christians are called on to deliver creation from sin by resurrecting and improving it.
An examination of Islamic environmental principles proves – yet again – that our tie to nature has always been spiritual.
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