Islam And The Protection Of The Environment

Introduction

The Holy Qur’an states that Man is the noblest of created beings: Man is God’s vicegerent on His earth; it was to Man that God made the Angels prostrate themselves; God breathed some of His Spirit into Man; God questioned Man in the time before Creation until Man testified that God was his Lord and Master and his sole true object of worship.

treeMoreover, God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, is Man’s Maker and Creator and He has made everything in the Heavens and the Earth subject to him. God has sent Man the Messengers and Prophets and revealed the Holy Books which bring good tidings and warnings to people so that they may act in a righteous and just manner and live or perish accordingly, for, with the presence of Messengers and Prophets, Man has no further excuses. God has ennobled Man by bestowing upon him, alone of all His created beings, the power to reason so that he may conceive of and evaluate the world around him.

Man, with his innate disposition, temperament, energies and capacities was ennobled by God when He spoke of him in Heaven. And God has honoured him on the land and the seas. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

We have honoured the sons
Of Adam; provided them
With transport on land and sea;
Given them for sustenance things
Good and pure; and conferred
On them special favours, Above a great part
Of Our Creation. (The Children of Israel: 70)

In this regard, Ibn Kathir relates: “God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says that He bestowed His favours on the Sons of Adam by speaking highly of Man in Heaven before He created him”. Such is the great favour shown to Man by God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty. Many sayings (hadith) of the Prophet support this, including the Hadith on Intercession and the Hadith of Musa, Peace and Blessings be upon Him: “When he met with Adam he said: You are Adam whom God created with His Hand and breathed into him some of His Spirit and to whom He made the Angels prostrate themselves”.

The Concept of Environment

The concept of environment is broad and is used in many different ways. The environment is the medium in which Man lives; the mother’s womb is a man’s first environment; home is an environment; school is an environment; the place where we live is an environment; the earth is an environment and the whole universe is an environment.

Environmentalists arrived at a precise definition of the environment when they met in Stockholm in 1972 under the auspices of the United Nations: “The environment is the sum of the material and social resources available at a given time and place to satisfy the needs and aspirations of Man”.

According to this definition, the environment includes natural resources such as water, air and soil, energy resources, minerals, plants and animals. Moreover any pollution of these resources will have an effect beyond the borders of the country in which the pollution occurred. Perhaps it was the Chernobyl disaster in Russia – a nuclear reactor explosion which alarmed the countries of Europe and other neighbouring countries affected by the fallout – or perhaps it was the oil spills and leakages in the waters of the Gulf threatening all the countries of the region with pollution which gave impetus to international cooperation through the United Nations and various scientific bodies in countering the problem of pollution. We live on a single planet and Mankind has a shared future, particularly at the present stage in which the interests of the inhabitants of this Earth are becoming evermore interlinked with advances in communications to the extent that the world has become like a global village. Perhaps further impetus has been given by what we are currently hearing about with regard to a hole in the ozone layer as a result of the use of certain industrial gases – a problem which has become international and has led to climate changes throughout the world, thus threatening both Mankind and all other living beings. The environment, with its interacting elements forms the universe which is the environment of Man – the universe with its galaxies, nebulae, constellations, stars, planets, moons, comets, meteors and shooting stars, etc. All of these constitute an interlinked and integrated system – a dynamic system governed by specific and precise relations and forces. If one part of the system is affected, then the whole is disturbed. A constellation breaking free of the forces guiding its movement would be loosed into space with its constituent parts colliding or merging with one another. Life anywhere in such a system would be endangered.

God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

He withholds the sky (rain)
From falling on the earth
Except by His leave;
For God is Most Kind
And Most Merciful to man. (The Pilgrimage: 65)

It is God Who sustains
The heavens and the earth,
Lest they cease (to function):
And if they should fail,
There is none – not one –
Can sustain them thereafter:
Verily He is Most Forbearing,
Oft-Forgiving. (The Originator of Creation: 41)

An important scientific fact is that in our solar system the slightest variation in the amount of solar energy reaching the earth’s surface would be sufficient to make the earth too hot or too cold to sustain life. Praise be to God Who created everything in perfect balance.

The Doctrine of Vicegerency and its Relationship to the Protection of the Environment

The Holy Qur’an says that Man is the noblest of created beings and is God’s vicegerent on His Earth. It is no wonder that God has honoured Man on this earth with the capacities and bounties He has bestowed on him. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

Do they not look
At the sky above them?
How We have made it
And adorned it,
And there are no
Flaws in it?
And the earth –
We have spread it out,
And set thereon mountains
Standing firm, and produced
Therein every kind of
Beautiful growth (in pairs) – (Qâf: 6-7)

If Man is a vicegerent on this earth, he should call to mind the True Owner of this earth and of those who are upon it:

And spend (in charity)
Out of the (substance)
Whereof He has made you
Heirs. (Iron: 7)

God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

It is He Who hath made
You (His) agents, inheritors
Of the earth: He hath raised
You in ranks, some above
Others: that He may try you
In the gifts He hath given you. (Cattle: 165)

Part of vicegerency, beside reign and wealth, is to worship God only:

The Command
Is for none but God: He
Hath commanded that ye worship
None but Him: that is
The right religion, but
Most men understand not… (Joseph: 40)

God made Man His vicegerent on the earth while being aware of Man’s capacities, his psychological, mental and practical abilities which He created. But the Angels could not distinguish Man’s true essence and they asked their Lord:

They said:

“Wilt Thou place therein one who will make
Mischief therein and shed blood?
Whilst we do celebrate Thy praises
And glorify Thy holy (name)?”
He said: “I know what ye know not.” (The Heifer: 30)

Thus Man is the most exalted and precious of created beings in this universe as God, the Creator made him His vicegerent. Regrettably, however, Man rarely acts in the light of this truth or in an appropriate way, whether with regard to himself or the people or environment around him. Man was created by the Creator and the Creator perfected His creation with the environment which surrounds him on the surface of the earth. The greatest example of precision in the creation of Man and his exact compatibility with his environment is the perfect relationship between Man’s form and the earth’s gravity. What happened to the astronauts demonstrated the inompatibility of the lunar environment, where gravity is one sixth that of the earth, with man’s gravity. This precise and perfect compatability between Man and his environment means that, as an article of faith and ethics, Man has a responsibility towards this environment to protect it for his own interest and for future generations so that it remains suitable for the sons of Adam to live in in the way God intended. Man must never forget that any destruction of the environment whether of the soil, the atmosphere, the vegetation, or the water means the destruction of Mankind. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

Say: Travel through the earth
And see how God did
Originate creation. (The Spider: 20)

Behold! In the creation
Of the heavens and the earth;
In the alternation
Of the Night and the Day;
In the sailing of the ships
Through the Ocean
For the profit of mankind;
In the rain which God sends down from the skies,
And the life Which He gives therewith
To an earth that is dead;
In the beasts of all kinds
That He scatters
Through the earth;
In the change of the winds,
And the clouds which they
Trail like their slaves
Between the sky and the earth;-
(Here) indeed are Signs
For a people that are wise. (The Heifer: 164)

And contemplate
The (wonders of ) creation
In the heavens and the earth,
(With the thought):
“Our Lord! not for naught
Hast Thou created (all) this! (The Family of ‘Imran: 191)

The developed countries have taken a position to defend the environment: conferences have been held and theories and research have advanced in every field to halt the damage to it, calling upon people to stop acting with regard to the environment as if Man were its absolute lord and master. In the past the earth was able to absorb irresponsible behaviour which harmed the environment because the number of people was small. But with an increasing number of inhabitants, the earth is no longer able to bear or compensate for, without permanent effects or sufficiently rapidly, the accumulated consequences of activities which are harmful to the environment.

We can derive from the above some important facts about the relationship between man and universe, in the light of the Shari’a, which are necessary for the life of Man as vicegerent on this earth:

1. The relationship between the Muslim and the environment is a religious and moral relationship of which tens of verses (ayat) from the Holy Qur’an and sayings (hadith) of the Prophet speak, examples of which will be presented herewith. They determine the basis for dealing with the environment surrounding us.

2. Islam’s care for the environment stands on the basis of faith, the most important evidence of which is that any violation or corruption on earth – any kind of corruption whatsoever – whether in the natural or social environment is considered a violation of God’s law and shall be punished by God, the True Owner and Master of Creation.

3. The moral dimension in dealing with the environment is necessary for life to be righteous and for the correct progress of the order of existence. Man must fully understand that the True Owner of this universe is God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, and that He made us His vicegerents on the earth. Man must observe the laws particular to the preservation of this universe – laws which were made by its True Owner. If Man realized this fact which Islam has established in the relationship of Man with his environment, many of the immoral disasters which have afflicted the environment would have been avoided, such as the use of atomic and chemical weapons in various wars. History bears witness to a large number of such wars which have caused immoral disasters for Man and his environment.

4. The linkage of reward and punishment in Islam’s concern for the environment and the infliction of punishment on those who spread corruption in the earth. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

Then, is it
To be expected of you,
If you were put in authority,
That ye will do mischief
In the land, and break
Your ties of kith and kin? (Muhammad: 22)

5. Islam stresses and affirms the high position of the man of knowledge who, through his knowledge, arrives at an understanding of God’s signs in the universe and the earth, astronomy and medicine, etc and uses this knowledge to appreciate the value of the blessings which God has bestowed on Man. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

Say: Travel through the earth
And see how God did
Originate creation. (The Spider: 20)

Now let man but think
From what he is created!(The Night-Visitant: 5)

Then let man look
At his food
(And how We provide it). (He Frowned: 24)

Do they not travel
Through the land, so that
Their hearts (and minds)
May thus learn wisdom
And their ears may
Thus learn to hear? (The Pilgrimage: 46)

Do they not look
At the sky above them?
How We have made it
And adorned it,
And there are no flaws in it? (Qâf: 6)

Do they not look
At the earth, – how many
Noble things of all kinds
We have produced therein? (The Poets: 7)

6. In the light of this belief, it is necessary to truly understand the environment – its elements, constituents and reciprocal relations, together with the need to make a serious collective effort to protect this environment and to guarantee its continuation as an acceptable habitat for life in the present and the future.

Equilibrium in God’s Creation of the Universe

Our earth is a planet in the solar system. It constitutes an environment made up of basic elements: air, water, the earth’s crust and what is inside it and plants, animals, man and solar energy. To these we can add the earth’s movement round the sun and its relationship with the moon. These elements and their sub-elements interact in a complex and interconnected yet precise manner. The result of these interactions is an environment suitable for life and, more important, its continuation.

It is scientifically known that the environment is made up of smaller and smaller environments. Each small environment as a whole is a large environment made up of the same elements. Even though an environment may appear limited in scale, clearly defined and almost semi-autonomous, it is in fact not independent. This is because it is affected by and continuously interacts with the surrounding, larger environments of which it constitutes a continuously interacting part. One of the most important distinctive features of any environment, whether large or small, is that it is in a state of flexible equilibrium despite the multitude of internal and external factors and elements acting upon it. Let us give an example. If for some reason the tall plants were cut down or died in a given environment, the prevailing balance in that environment would change: when bright light shone on places where there was once shade, the small plants growing there would be affected and die and other kinds of light-loving plants would grow in their place. Animals which had lived there seeking shelter in the shade would flee or die and other animals which were not troubled by the light, or preferred it, would move into that environment. Many a time environmental disasters have destroyed the balance in the constituents of an environment. The balance in any environment is governed by factors which define the environment and prevent one element in it predominating over the others. Here the English proverb is appropriate: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

The changes in the environment are periodic, and at times disorderly. However, most of the time these changes do not bring about a disturbance in the dynamic equilibrium of the environment. Radical change takes place only in disasters and, depending on the scale of the disaster, it is not long before the environment has repaired the damage and returned to its original equilibrium.

God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

Verily, all things
Have We created
In proportion and measure. (The Moon:49)

It is not permitted
To the Sun to catch up
The Moon, nor can
The Night outstrip the Day:
Each (just) swims along
In (its own) orbit
(According to Law). (Ya Sin 40)

We created not
The heavens, the earth,
And all between them,
Merely in (idle) sport. (Smoke 38)

We created them not
Except for just ends;
But most of them
Do not understand. (Smoke 39)

He created the heavens
And the earth
In true (proportions):
He makes the Night
Overlap the Day, and the Day
Overlap the Night
He has subjected the sun and the moon
(To His law):
Each one follows a course
For a time appointed.
Is not He the Exalted
In power – He who forgives
Again and again? (The Crowds: 5)

It is He Who created
The Night and the Day
And the sun and the moon:
All (the celestial bodies)
Swim along, each in its own
Rounded course. (The Prophets: 33)

This is the environment which God has created! – an environment in which everything has been created in perfect balance and proportion. This fact is confirmed by modern science: the greatest scientists have seen in the perfection of creation and the fact that life would disappear if the forces regulating creation were at variance with one another proof of a single creator of this magnificent system. As the Holy Qur’an says:

If there were, in the heavens
And the earth, other gods
Besides God, there would
Have been confusion in both!
But glory to God
The Lord of the Throne:
(High is He) above
What they attribute to Him. (The Prophets: 22)

Dr. Chris Morrisson, former president of the New York Academy of Science and a member of the British Royal Society in his book Man does not stand Alone says:

The sun, which is the source of life, has a surface temperature of 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Our earth is just far enough away from the sun for this tremendous heat to be felt as warm – just warm enough. no more no less. And this distance has changed slightly over millions of years to enable life as we know it to continue. If the temperature on the earth increased by twenty degrees in one year, every plant would die and so would man, whether burnt alive or frozen to death.

He goes on to say:

The earth orbits the sun at a speed of eighteen miles per second. If, for example, the speed of its orbit were 16 miles per second our distance from, or proximity to, the sun would be such as to make life impossible. If the sun were to give out only one half of its current radiation, we would freeze to death, and if it increased it by one half, we would have become ashes a long time ago. The Great Creator, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, created everything in perfect measure:

Verily, all things
Have We created
in Proportion and measure. (The Moon: 49)

He said: “Our Lord is
He Who gave to each
(Created) thing its form
And nature, and further,
Gave (it) guidance.” (Tâ Ha: 50)

Dr. Morrisson also says:

The moon is 2,400,000 miles away from us. The diurnal tide reminds us of the presence of the moon – the tide which can make the sea level rise by sixty feet in some places. Even the earth’s crust bulges twice a day by a few inches because of the gravitational pull of the moon. To us everything appears normal to the extent that we are not aware of the tremendous power which raises the level of the oceans by several feet, or which makes the earth’s crust, which to us appears solid in the extreme, bulge. If the moon were only 50,000 miles away instead of its actual distance, the tide would be so powerful that all land below sea-level would be flooded twice a day by a flow of water powerful enough to wash away even mountains. The earth would be destroyed by this disturbance, and the tide in the air would have caused hurricanes.

Praise be to the Great Creator, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, Who created everything and made it subject to Man as His Vicegerent on the Earth:

…the sun,
The moon, and the stars,
(All) governed by laws
Under His Command. (The Heights 54)

Or, who has made the earth
Firm to live in; made
Rivers in its midst; set
Thereon mountains immovable;
And made a separating bar
Between the two bodies
Of flowing water?
(Can there be another) god
Besides God? Nay, most
Of them know not. (The Ants: 61)

And the earth We have spread out
(Like a carpet); set thereon
Mountains firm and immovable;
And produced therein all kinds
Of things in due balance. (The Rocky Tract: 19)

It is not permitted
To the Sun to catch up
The Moon, nor can
The Night outstrip the Day:
Each (just) swims along
In (its own) orbit
(According to Law). (Ya Sin 40)

And He has subjected
To you, as from Him,
All that is in the heavens
And on earth: behold
In that are signs indeed
For those who reflect. (Bowing the Knee: 13)

Dr. Morrisson continues his discussion of God’s creation of the universe in this amazing fashion which the Holy Qur’an has referred to since its revelation: If the earth were not tilting to the extent it does, the two poles would be in permanent darkness and water vapour off the oceans would move north and south causing the accumulation, as it did so, of continents of ice. At the same time, volcanoes of blazing salt would be formed, the equator would be flattened, sea-levels would fall and rainfall would be reduced all over the world.

Similarly, if the earth’s crust were just a few feet thicker, carbon dioxide and oxygen would be absorbed and there would be no plant, animal or human life. The truth is that if we wanted to follow up what has been written about the precision of the Creator’s work in this universe, both in the heavens and on earth, we would need volumes. However, I have given these fragments of what scientists have written in order to clarify an important fact of which the Muslim must be aware in his interaction with the environment created for him by the Creator in order for him to safeguard and protect it not in order for him to cause man-made disasters as is happening now. Therefore, the Shari’a links protection of the environment with faith because the constituents of the environment are but signs of God on His Earth for God to show us His Majesty and Power therein.

Thus, protecting the environment from disasters, whether resulting from man’s vanity or his not respecting the principles of interaction with it, is the responsibility of man through science and research into conserving natural resources or using them in a way which is not harmful to man. For example, the minerals extracted from the earth are limited and man must extract them with caution. Man must, therefore, improve his exploitation and use of them; otherwise he will harm his own direct interest. Man must realize that this environment and its resources are for him and his descendents and so preserve the balance of this wealth from extinction.

Similarly it is incumbent upon man to continuously search for new resources not simply on the earth’s surface, but under the seas and oceans and in the depths of the earth.

In addition, man must continuously think about recycling and reusing mineral industrial products.

Islam’s Environmental Laws: Protection of the Environment and the Distribution of its Resources

Islam cares for the environment in every sense of the word and in all its aspects whether in relation to the earth and the laws dealing with it or with man’s relation to it as its owner, custodian and protector from the harmful consequences of his vanity. As a consequence, Islam has encouraged scientific environmental research. In addition, the jurists of Islam have devoted much research and efforts to the laws of collective and individual ownership to arrive at the best use of the environment and sustained interaction therewith. The jurists have been concerned to define ownership and how one may legally benefit and profit therefrom. In the case of land, they stress that both the land owner and the land itself are covered by legal provisions.

God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

It is He Who hath created for you
All things that are on earth; (The Heifer: 29)

Do ye not see
That God has subjected
To your (use) all things
In the heavens and on earth,
And has made His bounties
Flow to you in exceeding
Measure, (both) seen and unseen? (Luqman: 20)

The jurists stress that Islam has established rights, including the right of ownership which is limited by the orders of the legislator, in order to curb individualism and that these rights should not be taken as a means to harm individuals, the land or the environment. Therefore, in the Shari’a, ownership is a social responsibility, a fact which confirms the relationship between community and land, and the extent of Islam’s interest in regulating it.

Every individual should realize his true responsibility on this earth and the truth of vicegerency. Man should abandon frivolity, oppression and lack of concern for the environment. Man should care for the environment in the same way that it was given to us as a trust by its Creator and True Owner. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

For to God belongeth
The dominion of the heavens
And the earth, and all
That is between. (The Table: 20)

The Shari’a goes on to qualify the right of ownership as not being an absolute right which allows the owner to monopolize it for his own personal interests in an absolute fashion. Rather, this right is portrayed as a kind of vicegerency from the True Owner – God. Thus, man should respect, in the use of this right, the purpose and wisdom for which God made him a vicegerent of His Property. Jurists consider an individual’s possession of property as a form of vicegerency from the True Owner of everything which is on earth, and what the hand of man has made of it. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

And spend (in charity)
Out of the (substance)
Whereof He has made you
Heirs. (Iron: 7)

It is He Who hath made
You (His) agents, inheritors
Of the earth: He hath raised
You in ranks, some above
Others: that He may try you
In the gifts He hath given you… (Cattle: 165)

Imam Al-Shatibi and other jurists confirm that Man’s general sovereignty over this property is delegated from the Owner of the Heavens and the Earth and all that lies therein, that anything that man might own should be seen within this context and that ownership as a vicegerency entails being considered a social responsibility.

In addition, the Shari’a permits those in positions of responsibility to intervene when people mismanage their property as in the hoarding of money or leaving land fallow or neglecting it. It also permits them to give guidance on the development, production, commerce, industry and agriculture appropriate for the public good. There is the case when a land owner might be inclined to plant a more profitable crop but which would be harmful to society or the land. Rightly guiding production and investment in accordance with the needs and interests of society is one of the important questions which have concerned the jurists in their researches.(1)

Abuse of the right of ownership leading to damage to the environment or man’s social and economic situation is one of the major concerns of the Shari’a which includes many restrictions preventing a property owner from arbitrarily using that property in such a way as to harm his neighbours. The same idea is behind French legislation and the provisions of Article 807 of Egypt’s new civil legislation. Jurists of the Shari’a have given many applications of this idea and go as far as saying that a property owner may not turn his house into a public bath which would produce fumes annoying to the neighbours. Similarly, if a man builds a horse powered mill and the neighbours are disturbed by the smell of the horses or the noise resulting from the running of the mill, then according to the Shari’a the mill must be removed in order to stem the harm.(2)

Similarly, if a man plants a tree on his property, and the roots and branches extend into his neighbour’s property he is obliged to remove the cause of the resulting harm. Similarly, if a man erects a building which blocks the window of his neighbour’s house such that he has insufficient light to read, he must remove the building.

Islam respects man’s social situation, his obligations towards his fellow men, and enjoins that a man should not cause harm to his neighbour, whether to his land or property nor should he infringe upon his right to live without disturbances or annoyances. There is a relevant hadith from The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, saying: “No one is a true believer unless his neighbours live in peace”. Similarly Jibril, Peace be upon Him, commended The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, to treat his neighbour as his heir.

Thus, we reach a number of the principles laid down by the Shari’a in regulating the protection of man’s social and economic environment:

– Islam forbids the amassing of basic commodities and resources which lead to the accumulation of capital. Islam forbids cheating people and monopolizing basic resources to control their prices or to monopolize commercial or industrial goods if this monopoly causes harm to Muslims. In addition, Islam forbids the charging of interest, bribery and the misuse of influence. Islam permits the seizure of property amassed illegally. It is clear that all these provisions are to achieve balance and equality and to eradicate major differences between individuals. Some jurists go as far as saying that the Shari’a permits forcing a property owner to sell goods at prices fixed by the Shari’a; his failure to do so would be considered a crime punishable by chastisement. The reasoning here is that to do otherwise would be of great detriment to the public interest and could lead to speculation in the people’s food in times of crisis.

Similarly, under the Shari’a, merchants who stop selling goods or store commodities for later monopoly and enrichment have to be ordered to sell and be punished.(1)

The system of inheritance in Islam, as regulated by the Shari’a, is a just system which ensures the just distribution of wealth and prevents the accumulation and concentration of wealth in the hands of the few. Indeed Islam facilitates the distribution of capital and its division into small equal shares for everyone.

This system ensures good care for the land and gives the chance to many heirs to acquire land for their living. As a consequence, the land is better tended and protected, thus ensuring care and protection for the environment from being left in the hands of one owner to tyrannize the people.

An example of Islam’s concern for the social environment is the tax system. There are taxes on various activities and sources of income. These include: the land tax (kharaj), the poll tax on non-Muslim subjects (jizya), customs duties and agricultural and commercial taxes. These taxes guarantee social justice for everyone, the intent being for the good and growth of our environment in all its aspects.

Islam makes it the duty of the wealthy to give money to their weaker relatives. It also makes it the duty of the inhabitants of a given district or quarter to be responsible for one another and help one another to the extent that some Muslim jurists say that if someone dies of hunger then the people living round about have to pay the blood money as if they were all responsible for his death.(2)

– Islam makes it the responsibility of the Treasury to care for and give money to the elderly, those unable to earn an income and others. In this, Islam makes no distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Islam has other ways to prevent individuals from amassing great wealth: alms giving at the end of the fast of the Blessed Month of Ramadan (zakat) (this can involve considerable sums), giving sacrificial lambs to the poor, particularly with regard to the pilgrimage (Hajj).

In addition, Islam demands financial expiation for: breaking an oath, failing to observe fasting rituals, uttering the pre-Islamic divorce formula, (i.e. “Be thou as my mother’s back”) and violation of certain prescriptions relating to the Hajj. The sums are in the form of money, produce or alms given to the poor.

It is clear from the above that the relationship between Islam and the environment with regard to ownership is religious in nature as the real rights of ownership belong to God, the One Creator. Vicegerency takes place through sound laws by which the Creator ensures exactness and justice amoung people in order to achieve sound development of resources and enrichment. The Shari’a has established the limits (hudud) to the right of ownership including property and wealth and has established regulations to minimize the differences between the social classes. In addition, there is the legal right to confiscate the property of the wealthy which has been illegally acquired from the making of excessive profits, from a forbidden source or from an activity harmful to the members of society. The expropriation goes to the state and thus for the benefit of the poor and the needy.

Shaykh Al-Khafif tells us with regard to this legal principle that the Shari’a permits the Imam to distribute public property in a way which achieves an economic equilibrium among the classes even by favouring one group over another in order to restore social equilibrium. The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, applied this principle when he gave the wealth confiscated from the Banu Nadir to the Muhajirun and two poor members of the Ansar in order to reduce the disparity in wealth between these two groups which made up Muslim society at the time.(3)

It is important to mention Islam’s concern for the system of desirable alms giving which seeks the development of human resources and their protection from destitution and perhaps from vagrancy and crime. Such alms cure the needy soul of envy for the rich. They save the poor from destitute and give them the opportunity to gain a livelihood and stand on their own two feet.

Islam encourages the wealthy to give to the poor whom God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, calls: “The poor in My Charge”. The hoarding of wealth and the failure to spend it in the Way of God is one of the greatest of sins. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

And there are those
Who bury gold and silver
And spend it not in the Way
Of God: announce unto them
A most grievous penalty –
On the day when heat
Will be produced out of
That (wealth) in the fire
Of Hell, and with it will be
Branded their foreheads,
Their flanks, and their backs.
– “This is the (treasure) which ye
Buried for yourselves: taste ye,
Then, the (treasures) ye buried!” (Repentance: 34-35)

Islam forbids hoarding the wealth of the earth and concealing it from the benefit of man whether by failing to give to the poor or by failing to invest the wealth for the good and prosperity of society, thus reflecting on man’s care for the development and prosperity of the environment.

On the other hand, Islam teaches man to distance himself from selfishness, miserliness and greed. These are humanity’s psychological diseases which, if cured, would make man generous and moderate in his interaction with his human environment and the natural resources with which God has provisioned him – the resources of the land and the sea -, immense resources which could make Mankind happy if they were wisely used and interacted with in accordance with the divine laws which forbid profligacy in all aspects of life.

The Position of Islam vis-à-vis the Pollution of the Land

Land constitutes less than one third of the surface area of the earth and of that, the part suitable for human habitation is relatively small. This becomes even more significant when we take into account the increase in population which we see around us. As the earth is the source of our food, water and clothing, it is imperative that Man fully appreciates the true nature and value of the earth and protects it from all harm.

Man should meditate upon what God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

Then let man look
At his Food,
(And how We provide it):
For that We pour forth
Water in abundance,
And We split the earth
In fragments,
And produce therein Corn,
And Grapes and nutritious Plants
And Olives and Dates,
And enclosed Gardens
Dense with lofty trees
And Fruits and Fodder, –
For use and convenience
To you and your cattle. (He Frowned: 24-32)

Then the Creator, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, explains, by asking questions, how He created these blessings for Man:

Do they not look
At the Camels,
How they are made? –
And at the Sky,
How it is raised high? –
And at the Mountains,
How they are fixed firm? –
And at the Earth
How it is spread out? (The Overwhelming Event: 17-20)

Then He draws man’s attention to the importance of the signs of divine creation and creativity both with regard to man and earth. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

In the earth
Are Signs for those
Of assured Faith,
As also in your own
Selves: will ye not
Then see? (The Winds That Scatter: 20-21)

Do they see nothing
In the government of the heavens
And the earth and all
That God hath created? (The Heights: 185)

Do they not look
At the sky above them?
How We have made it
And adorned it,
And there are no
Flaws in it?
And the earth –
We have spread it out,
And set thereon mountains
Standing firm, and produced
Therein every kind of
Beautiful growth (in pairs) –
To be observed
And commemorated
By every devotee
Turning (to God). (Qaf: 6-8)

It is He Who has
Made the earth manageable
For you, so traverse
Ye through its tracts
And enjoy of the Sustenance
Which He furnishes: but
Unto Him is the Resurrection. (Dominion: 15)

And He has subjected
To you, as from Him,
All that is in the heavens
And on earth: behold
In that are signs indeed
For those who reflect. (Bowing the Knee: 13)

Thus God created His Heaven and His Earth for man to use them in the best way and live therein using the useful knowledge bestowed upon him by God. In Islam scientists are esteemed and even called the “heirs to the Prophets”. It is, therefore, the scientists who have been given the trust to protect and remedy the environment from man’s misuse of it. Man must, therefore, correctly and scientifically deal with what God gave him according to the laws and principles which rule them. This necessitates man’s scientifically based knowledge of these rules

God’s warning, in the previous Verses, is of great significance which does not stop at calling man’s attention, but goes to show us the extent of the close link between man and environment, and the manners and ethics which man should possess in dealing with it.

However, what is truly regrettable is that man does not respect the rights of his environment. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

Woe to man!
What hath made him
Reject God? (He Frowned: 17)

Man’s conduct in practice is the opposite of what the Creator willed when He made man a vicegerent in this world with the concomitant duty to worship God. A chain of individual and collective acts have led to the corruption of the earth and have made it less able to embrace human life. Man’s violation of the laws regulating interaction with the environment has led to a disturbance in the equilibrium of the environment.

Man has begun to take away vast swathes of the natural environment and agricultural land in order to expand cities, build roads, construct airports, build factories, excavate mines and construct other installations which border green areas which constitute the source of our sustenance and a grant from the Creator to the created. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

Then let man look
At his Food,
(And how We provide it):
For that We pour forth
Water in abundance,
And We split the earth
In fragments,
And produce therein Corn,
And Grapes and nutritious Plants
And Olives and Dates,
And enclosed Gardens
Dense with lofty trees
And Fruits and Fodder, –
For use and convenience
To you and your cattle. (He Frowned: 24-32)

And the earth –
We have spread it out,
And set thereon mountains
Standing firm, and produced
Therein every kind of
Beautiful growth (in pairs) –
To be observed
And commemorated
By every devotee
Turning (to God).
And We send down
From the sky Rain
Charged with blessing,
And We produce therewith
Gardens and Grain for harvests;
And tall (and stately)
Palm-trees, with shoots
Of fruit-stalks, piled
One over another; –
As sustenance for
(God’s) servants; –
And We give (new) life
Therewith to land that is
Dead: thus will be
The Resurrection. (Qaf: 7-11)

A Sign for them
Is the earth that is dead:
We do give it life,
And produce grain therefrom,
Of which ye do eat. (Ya Sin: 33)

The Creator of the Earth, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, warns Man not to be arrogant in his interaction with the earth:

Nor can ye frustrate (aught)
(Fleeing) through the earth;
Nor have ye, besides God,
Any one to protect
Or to help. (Consultation: 31)

The Holy Qur’an confirms the status of the earth and its value as one of the signs (ayat) of God:

And among His signs
In this: thou seest
the earth barren and desolate;
But when We send down
Rain to it, it is stirred
To life and yields increase.
Truly, He Who gives life
to the (dead) earth
Can surely give life
To (men) who are dead.
For He has power
Over all things. (Fussilat: 39)

He knows all that goes
Into the earth, and all that
comes out thereof; all that
comes down from the sky
And all that ascends thereto.
And He is the Most Merciful,
The Oft-Forgiving. (The City of Saba: 2)

God reminds man that He is the only provider:

O Men! call to mind
The grace of God unto you!
Is there a Creator, other
Than God, to give you
Sustenance from heaven
Or earth? There is
No god but He: how
Then are ye deluded
Away from the Truth? (The Originator of Creation: 3)

The Holy Qur’an is full of verses which clarify the status of the earth and its contents. Man must care for and protect the blessings of the Creator who created the earth with conscience and care, for him and his progeny.

However, the increase in population and technological development has repercussions on the environment. Man’s selfishness and desire for instant gains are apparent in the growth of huge projects at the expense of the green earth. The many negative side effects of these projects in corrupting the environment and their inappropriateness for giving Man the agreeable life which the Creator wanted for him have become clear. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

And We have provided therein
Means of sustenance, – for you
And for those for whose sustenance
Ye are not responsible. (The Rocky Tract: 20)

And the earth, We have spread out
(Like a carpet); set thereon
Mountains firm and immovable
And produced therein all kinds
of things in due balance. (The Rocky Tract: 19)

But man has disturbed the balance which God created in the environment.

Pollution of the land by constantly accumulating mineral, chemical and radioactive waste has begun to affect the perfectly balanced chemical composition of the soil. Botanical research has shown that some plants are storing poisonous chemicals in their cells and tissues which they have absorbed from polluted soil. These are then transferred to animals and man where they collect and cause a series of diseases which are transmitted to man through the consumption of meats from animals and birds.

It is God’s mercy that mankind is not totally infected, as God gave man’s immune system the ability to counter the poisons caused by his negligence of his environment, health, food and drink, unaware that he is destroying himself and the coming generations.

We created not
The heavens, the earth,
And all between them,
Merely in (idle) sport
We created them not
Except for just ends;
But most of them
Do not understand. (Smoke 38-39)

Man’s ignorance and his failure to interact with the environment on a religious basis and his self-image as the sole lord and master who cannot be questioned about what he is doing with what God has blessed him on this earth make him behave towards the earth in an arrogant manner without observing the religious and moral values in his relationship with the earth over which he was made vicegerent.

O Men! call to mind
The grace of God unto you!
Is there a Creator, other
Than God, to give you
Sustenance from heaven
Or earth? There is
No god but He: how
Then are ye deluded
Away from the Truth? (The Originator of Creation: 3)

Miracles of Muhammad

The Sunna of The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon him, urge Man to keep the environment clean and to avoid all acts of pollution. In a hadith on the authority of Abu Hurayra: “The Messenger of God, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, said: ‘Avoid two things which are abominable’. They asked: ‘What are these two abominable things, O Messenger of God?’ He replied:

‘Relieving oneself on the public highway or in a shady place.'”

The Prophet’s warning, Peace and Blessings be upon him, to the people despite their simple bedouin lifestyle which lacked any civilizational basics in this field, was to show that such acts would deprive other people from benefits.

The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon him, also warned against relieving oneself in sources of water such as the Nile, waterways and canals. In a hadith on the authority of Abu Hurayra: “The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:

‘Let not one of you relieve himself in stagnant water and then wash himself with that water.'”

The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon him, was equally vehement against those who cut down trees for no good reason or caused harm to the natural environment. In a tradition on the authority of Abdallah b. Halehi: “The Messenger of God, Peace and Blessings be upon him, said:

‘Whosoever cuts down a Lotus tree will have his head put into the Fires of Hell by God.'”

Abu Dawud was asked about the meaning of this hadith. He said:

“If there is a tree in an open space which provides shade for wayfarers and animals, and someone cuts it down, then God will put that person’s head in the Fires of Hell”. (Abu Dawud: Vol. IV; p361.)

In addition, there is a hadith on the authority of Anas b. Malik, May God be Pleased with him, which says that The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon him, said encouraging 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” (In the collections of Al-Bukhari, Muslim and Al-Tirmidhi.)

There is another hadith in which The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon him, says:

“If the Final Hour is come, and one of you has a palm seedling in his hand and it is within his power to plant it, then let him do so”.

In the same vein, removing harm from people’s way, even by simply removing a stone from the road, has its reward with God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty.

Another sound hadith says:

“Every step taken on the way to prayer is a beneficent act just as removing harm from the people’s way is a beneficient act”. (Al-Bukhari)

Desertification

One of the most serious environmental problems is that of desertification. According to some scientists, the area of partially or totally arid land makes up thirty-six percent of the total land surface area of the earth. This proportion is already high and desertification continues to increase. It is considered one of the greatest causes of the famine affecting the people in Africa and other parts of the world.Old Woman Desert Old Age Bedouin Dry Old People

Desertification was the subject of a UN conference which was held in Nairobi in September 1977. Scientific reports presented at the conference show that in the last fifty years the Sahara desert has swallowed up 650,000 km.sq. of the land and pasture land at its southern borders.

Similarly, satellite photographs show that the desert is spreading towards the fertile Nile Delta at a rate of 13 kilometres per annum. Bearing in mind that the total agricultural land is only 4% of the total area of Egypt, the extent of the disaster threatening us is clear, particularly when we add the serious increase in population.

In the Sudan, once seen as the potential bread-basket of the Arab countries, there is a shortage of food. And in Algeria the agricultural land is threatened by desertification.

In the Indian province of Rajastan, the desert has grown by 8% in eighteen years.

In Chile, formerly good grazing land has been turned to desert in which all that grows are cacti and a few plants which are only good for feeding goats. These are but a few examples of many of the greatest problems threatening to kill and destroy the environment. Countries must combat this problem by stopping desertification by all scientific means.

This shows Islam’s concern for the earth and its cultivation. Says the Prophet in a hadith:

“If the Final Hour comes, and one of you has a palm seedling in his hand and it is within his power to plant it, then let him do so”.

It affirms Islam’s care for the earth to be green and full of produce until the end of man’s life on earth.

The Pollution of Water despite its Scarcity

The problem of water is one of the most complex issues about which states are currently in dispute. Water is extremely limited as most of it is saline and unfit for use by man, for drinking, industry or irrigation.pollution

It is, therefore, imperative, that individual countries return to the basic principles for the proper use of this resource on which all living things depend.

Islam’s approach to interaction with all kinds of life condemns profligacy and waste. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, likens those who are wasteful to the brothers of devils.

In a hadith collected by Al-Darami on the authority of Safina: “The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, was doing his ritual ablutions and washing himself with only the least amount of water necessary”. Many ayats in the Holy Qur’an talk of the creation of water, its importance in the life of the earth and in bringing forth vegetation and how all living things were created from it. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

We made from water
Every living thing. (The Prophets: 30)

It is He Who sends down
Rain from the sky:
From it ye drink,
And out of it (grows)
The vegetation on which
Ye feed your cattle. (The Bee: 10)

And do We not send down
From the clouds water
In abundance,
That We may produce
Therewith corn and vegetables. (The (Great) News: 14-15)

Seest thou not that God
Makes the clouds move
Gently, then joins them
Together, then makes them
Into a heap? – then wilt thou
See rain issue forth
From their midst. And He
sends down from the sky
Mountain masses (of clouds)
Wherein is hail: He strikes
Therewith whom He pleases
And He turns it away
From whom He pleases.
The vivid flash of His lightning
Well-nigh blinds the sight. (Light: 43)

And We send down water
From the sky according to
(Due) measure, and We cause it
to soak in the soil;
And We are certainly are able
To drain it off (with ease). (The Believers: 18)

Seest thou not that God
Sends down rain from the sky,
And forthwith the earth
Becomes clothed with green?
For God is He Who understands
The finest mysteries, and
Is well acquainted (with them). (The Pilgrimage: 63)

It is God Who hath created
The heavens and the earth
And sendeth down rain
From the skies, and with it
Bringeth out fruits wherewith
To feed you; it is He
Who hath made the ships subject
To you, that they may sail
Through the sea by His Command;
And the rivers (also)
Hath He made subject to you. (Abraham: 32)

And We send the fecundating winds,
Then cause the rain to descened
From the sky, therewith providing
You with water (in abundance),
Though ye are not the guardians
Of its stores. (The Rocky Tract: 22)

The Link between Belief (Iman) and Cleanliness in Islam and its Effect on the Environment

Islam links faith and belief (iman) 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 God made His vicegerent, whom He has honoured on land and at sea, to whom He has given everything necessary for life so that his journey may continue until God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, inherits the earth and everyone thereon.

Thus there is a great bond between man and his environment, whether at the the individual, the collective or the state levels. Cleanliness, as in washing and ritual ablution either with clean water or sand, is of vital importance and a requisite of Islamic belief and faith without which worship is invalid. Islam enjoins washing for the Friday Prayer, washing for the Prayers of the Two Holy Festivals and cleanliness of body and attire. Everything which could cause offense to other people and the Angels is to be shunned.

Muslim and Al-Tirmidhi relate a hadith of the Prophet on the authority of Abu Malik al-Ash’ari: “The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, said:

‘Cleanliness is half of faith, saying ‘Praise be to God’ fills the balance (of good deeds), saying ‘May God be Glorified’ and ‘May God be Praised’ fills what is between the heavens and the earth, prayer is illumination, giving alms is proof (of your good intent), patience is a light and the Qur’an serves as an argument for you and against you (on the Day of Judgement)'”.

In another hadith reported by Al-Tabarani, on the importance of washing and faith, The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, said:

“Be sure to keep your teeth clean, for cleanliness invites to faith (iman) and faith will lead you to Paradise”.

With regard to foods which have strong odours or foods whose remains are repulsive, such as meat and fish, etc, Man must be vigilant to ensure they are clean. In addition, washing after eating them is necessary to maintain personal dignity and public decorum.

Abu Hurayra, in a hadith selected by Al-Tirmidhi, relates that “The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, said:

‘The Devil loves filth and dirt. Whosoever passes the night with the stench of meat on his hands, and something untoward transpires, then he only has himself to blame'”. There is another hadith which states: “Be sure to keep your mouths clean, for it is your mouths which give voice to the Qur’an”.

By cleanliness is not only meant material cleanliness from dirt; spiritual uncleanliness arises from the uttering of obscenities, malicious gossip and slander and eating forbidden foods.

There are other Traditions of The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, that stress that germs find a fertile breeding ground on hands and in mouths which are unclean and warn against the dangers thereof.

An example of Islam’s respect for the individual and society is the prohibition of eating garlic or onion by someone attending public assemblies so that the stench from his mouth will not offend those around him and make them turn away. Islam waives the prescription to attend the Friday Prayer at the mosque for those who have eaten such foods. A hadith on the authority of Jabir says: “The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, said:

‘May he who has eaten garlic or onion stay away from us and our mosque and stay at home'”.

In addition, the prescription to attend the Friday Prayer is waived for those who are afflicted by a disease which makes the odour of their mouths or bodies odious to others. This is for the protection of the sick and the healthy alike.

Islam further recommends that those performing prayer should make sure that they and their attire are clean. God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

O Children of Adam!
Wear your beautiful apparel
At every time and place
Of prayer. (The Heights: 30)

It is a concern of Islam that mosques and houses should be kept clean and appropriately decorated. Islam further stresses that houses should be kept free of waste materials and refuse lest they lead to an infestation of insects and a cause of disease. The Jews were neglectful of this and the Muslims were warned not to be like them.

Al-Tirmidhi relates: “The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, said:

‘God the Most High is Good and loves what is good, is Pure and loves what is pure, is Noble and loves what is noble, is Generous and loves generosity; so keep your court-yards clean and don’t be like the Jews'”.

Al-Tabarani has a hadith in his Al-Awsat from Abu Hurayra related by reliable sources saying: “I heard The Messenger of God, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, say:

‘Whosever relieves himself on a public way shall be cursed by God, the Angels and the people'”.

In his Al-Kabir, Al-Tabarani relates a sound hadith on the authority of Al-Hafiz Al-Mundhiri, on the authority of Hudhayfa b. Usayd: “The Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon Him, said:

‘Whosoever impedes the Muslims when they are going about their business shall be cursed by them'”.

Thus removing what his harmful from the people’s way, economy in the use of water and the severe prohibition against the one who lets himself be seduced into harming the environment through action or utterance are the requirements of Islam. Islam also warns against wantonness and enjoins that all sources of water be properly looked after and should not be used in a wasteful manner. For water, from which God made every living thing, is extremely rare and Islam is severe against those who misuse it. Man, regrettably however, despite such legal prescriptions and despite the scarcity of drinking water has turned numerous lakes and rivers into lifeless sewers whose water is unfit for drinking, industrial use or bathing. Man persists in abusing the environment and disturbing its equilibrium. This affected the organisms which used to live in these rivers and lakes and which were a vital source of food. They are killed and replaced by bacteria and other harmful organisms. Pollution moved to the banks of these sources, affecting all kinds of organisms therein. Centres of human habitation located in such areas are threatened by this severe disturbance in the environmental equilibrium. In some countries, water treatment plants have been built. These are very expensive, but apparently the only way to reduce pollution levels in the water.

What, however, is laudable, is that there is a growing awareness of environmental problems and legislation is being enacted to curb man’s wantonness. Such legislation includes forcing industrial installations to treat the water they have used before returning it to its source. Pollution of water resources is not confined to drinking water but includes pollution of the seas and oceans. Although their salt water cannot be used directly by man, they are the source of water in the air which comes to the earth in the form rain or snow, thus feeding rivers and springs. This scientific fact is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an:

Seest thou not that God
Makes the clouds move
Gently, then joins them
Together, then makes them
Into a heap? – then wilt thou
See rain issue forth
From their midst. And He
Sends down from the sky
Mountain masses (of clouds)
Wherein is hail: He strikes
Therewith whom He pleases
And He turns it away
From whom He pleases.
The vivid flash of His lightning
Well-nigh blinds the sight. (Light: 43)

It is He who sendeth
The Winds like heralds
Of glad tidings, going before
His Mercy: when they have
Carried the heavy-laden
Clouds, We drive them
To a land that is dead,
Make rain to descend thereon,
And produce every kind
Of harvest there with: thus
Shall We raise up the dead:
Perchance ye may remember. (The Heights: 57)

It is God Who sends
The Winds, and they raise
The Clouds: then does He
Spread them in the sky
As He wills, and break them
Into fragments, until thou seest
Rain-drops issue from the midst
Thereof: then when He has
Made them reach such
Of His servants as He wills,
Behold, they do rejoice! (The Roman Empire: 48)

Examples of Environmental Pollution

Recently there have appeared environmental pollutants resulting from wars and conflicts breaking out in the Middle East as in the Gulf War and there have been oil leaks from super-tankers or as a result of tanker disasters. Being less dense than water, oil stays on the surface of the sea and is fatal to living organisms such as plankton which float on the surface. Plankton is the main source of food for fish and other marine life. It also plays a vital role in extracting carbon dioxide from the air – an important factor in maintaining the proportion of gases in the atmosphere. In the event that a large number of plankton were killed by pollution this proportion would be disturbed, and could lead to a grave disaster for all life.environment

We should also not forget the dangers of chemical weapons, radioactive materials and waste which are spreading at present to an extent which threatens the environment, mankind and animal and marine wealth. Scientists have begun to raise their voices demanding that man call a halt to his wanton activities. They want research to be restricted to what is beneficial to man and to concentrate on the seas and oceans as important sources of vast wealth which have not yet been properly exploited. As God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

We sent down the (Quran)
In Truth, and in Truth
Has it descended. (The Children of Israel: 105)

And with regard to the resources of the sea, God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, says:

It is He Who has made
The sea subject, that ye
May eat thereof flesh
That is fresh and tender,
And that ye may extract
Therefrom ornaments to wear;
And thou seest the ships
Therein that plough the waves,
That ye may seek (thus)
Of the bounty of God
And that ye may be grateful. (The Bee: 14)

After taking note of the components of the environment and Islam’s care thereof, thus linking care to faith, man has to be aware of his mission in this world where God made him His vicegerent. He should reach the highest level of knowledge and understanding of the universe and its laws. He should deal with it according to the rules and ethics of the vicegerent of God who deserves to be entrusted with vicegerency and honoured with knowledge. In dealing with the environment, man has to be aware that the whole universe is under God’s sovereignty, that God put it for the benefit of man. This man must use the powers of reasoning, with which God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, has blessed him in order to deepen his knowledge and understanding of the laws and principles underlying Creation. Man, before whom God made the Angels prostrate themselves, must fully understand the implications of the fact that the whole of Creation is subject to the Authority of God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty. Thus, correctly interacting with and understanding the environment are sacred duties of the Shari’a.

Finally, protection of the environment does not have its rationale in still-born conference resolutions or in the strident voices of scientists, which may or may not be heard. Rather, it is the Divine Law which demands that Man protect the environment and God, to Whom be ascribed all Perfection and Majesty, will punish all who neglect its provisions. For, above all, the environment, with all its various signs of God was made by the Creator Who created all things in Perfect Measure.

By Dr Amina Muhammad Nasir, Professor of Divinity and Philosophy, Dean of the Arabic and Islamic Studies College for Girls, Alexandria


1. Ibn Al-Qaim Al-Jawziyyah, At-Turuq Al-Hukmiah fil Siasah Ash-Shar’iah.

1. Mohamed Yusuf Musa, The Social Scope of the Islamic Sharia.

1. Sheikh Ali Al-Khalif, Ownership in Islamic Shariah as Compared with Positive Laws, pp. 29-30.

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