What Did Muhammad Say About Conservation?
EdenKeeper has previously explored the connection between Islam and the environment. Similar to Christians and Jews, Muslims believe that humans are stewards of God’s creation. But unlike Moses and Jesus, the Prophet Muhammad actively advocated environmental conservation.
I was able to learn more about the Prophet Muhammad and his views when I visited the Islamic Salam Center in Sacramento earlier this week. Located across a tree-lined street from the American River College, the Salam Center is the most diverse Islamic Center in the city. It’s part school, part mosque, and part administrative center. And it also serves as the set for a popular, new talk show called “Heart of the Matter” hosted by the Center’s Imam Mohammed Abdul Azeez. The show highlights a progressive Islamic perspective on topics such as gender issues and justice.
They also just did an episode on Islam and the environment called “Project Conservation.” Unfortunately, I missed the actual taping by two weeks and the full episode won’t be available until August. But Arwa Houry, one of the Center volunteers who was in charge of putting together the episode, showed me some clips. And from what I could gather during our short meeting, the Islamic connection to the environment is much more defined than it is under Christianity or Judaism.
“For a Muslim, conservation is mandatory,” said Azeez at the start of the episode. “It is a religious obligation, just like prayer, just like fasting, just like saying the truth.”
The obligation is really articulated by the Prophet Muhammad. So what did Muhammad say about conservation? According to Azeez, he was a proponent of the sustainable use of land because he believed that every inch of this land could be used to purify, so that every inch of this earth is sacred. If a Muslim doesn’t have a prayer rug, they can use the Earth to pray. If a Muslim doesn’t have water to wash, they can use the Earth. This idea extended to water use and the proper treatment of animals.
“[The Prophet] believed in that element of interdependence between all the species,” said Azeez. “He believed that we are not necessarily the owners of this Earth. Rather we are using it alongside other species.”
Both the research in advance of the episode, as well as the actual taping, forced the Salam Center to take a hard look at many of their practices. Houry and her husband calculated the Center’s utility statistics and found that they were wasting a lot of water and emitting a lot of CO2. “We’re doing bad,” she told me. And during the show, they noticed that they were distributing plastic water bottles to the guests in the audience.
This all encouraged Anne Kjemtrup, the chair of the Board of Salam, to start the process of developing a Salam Center green committee. The committee has yet to be established, but the Center has already started bringing reusable utensils to events.
It was incredibly interesting talking to Houry and watching the episode — I had no idea that Muhammad was such an environmentalist! Stay tuned to hear about how the Salam Center incorporates what it learned from the episode into its regular routine.
And check out the trailer for “Project Conservation” below.
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