Some translations refer to Allah making mankind a custodian over his Creation while others use the word steward. In relation to the natural environment, both a custodian who protects and a steward who manages responsibly implies a relationship between mankind and the World based on care for Creation and of Earth Keeping.
Being a conscientious Muslim however is more than careful use of resources and environmental justice. It is about living in reverence and harmony with Nature and recognising that Nature is an indispensable guide to manifesting much of what Muslims need to know about God and the place of mankind in the Universe. To this end, many verses in the Qur’an exhort Muslims to tafakkur i.e. to observe and contemplate the signs (ayat) of God in the Universe.
In his treatise Restoring the Balance: A Theoretical Response to Climate Change, Imam Dr. A Rashied Omar explains that from an Islamic perspective, the environmental crisis we are facing today is a symptom of a deep spiritual malaise. Mankind has become an extravagant consumerist resulting in a growing disconnection from the Universe which as a consequence has tipped the sacred balance between humans and Nature. God warns humans in many verses of the Qur’an not to transgress this balance (mizan) through negligent or uncaring behaviour. In Surah al-Rahmam, chapter 55, vs 7-9 Allah, the Sublime, proclaims:
And He (Allah) has raised the cosmos,
And set up (for all things) the balance.
So do not transgress the balance.
(your deeds) with justice.
Maintaining the balance and harmony of the whole of creation is an essential part of tawhid a central concept of Islam which means the Oneness of God. Allah is Oneness and his Oneness is reflected in the oneness of man and creation. Muslims are answerable for how they walk the middle path and keep the balance between their needs and those of Nature. Together the central values of Oneness (tawhid), trusteeship (khalifa) and accountability (akhirah) form the pillars of the environmental ethics of Islam.
The Prophet Muhammad who grew up in the desert and became a shepherd at a young age enjoyed an intimate relationship with Nature. This is expressed in many of his teachings that encourage compassion for all living things and the conservation of resources. His lesson about the conservation of water is especially insightful: Prophet Muhammad happened to pass by a companion, Sa’ad, as he was performing ablution (wudhu) next to a river. The Prophet said, “Sa’ad what is this squandering?” Sa’ad replied: “Can there a concept of squandering (israf) in ablution?” The Prophet said: “Yes, even if you are by the side of a flowing river.” – Ibn Majah.
When asked about how the Prophet used to live in his house, the Prophet’s wife, `A’ishah, said that he used to repair his own shoes, sew his clothes and carry out all such household chores done without complaint or want for more. (Authenticated by Al-Albani). In this way Prophet Muhammad shows Muslims that menial tasks (mehna) are not degrading and that reusing and repairing things instead of always buying new is not a sign of poverty, but a sign that we can build foundations on less ‘stuff’, and be in control of what we consume and we don’t need more.
The instruction not to waste nor to be extravagant is clear in Allah’s proclamation: O children of Adam! Eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, for Allah loves not the wasters. (Surah Al-Araf, chp. 7 vs 31)
“If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him.” – Imam Bukhari.
5) Keeping the environment sanitary maintains the community
“Beware of the three acts that cause you to be cursed:  relieving yourselves in shaded places (that people utilise), in a walkway or in a watering place.” – Narrated by Mu`adh, hasan, by Al-Albani
Hygiene and cleanliness (tahara) is so integral to Islam that it is actually a major sub-branch of Muslim belief. Without physical hygiene, prayers are broken. Without clean facilities pollution ruins cities, and without any effort to improve one’s own purity, it becomes more difficult to prevent external corruptions like littering.
10) Animals should be cared for:
“A man felt very thirsty while he was on the way, there he came across a well. He went down the well, quenched his thirst and came out. Meanwhile he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. He said to himself, “This dog is suffering from thirst as I did.” So, he went down the well again, filled his shoe with water, held it with his mouth and watered the dog. Allah appreciated him for that deed and forgave him.” The Companions said, “O Allah’s Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He replied: “There is a reward for serving any living being.”
– Imam Bukhari.
The Prophet provided for animals, as did Abu Huraira who narrated this hadith. Abu Hurayra’s name translates as the ‘father of kittens’, named so because he was known to carry kittens in the draped sleeves of his robe.
Animals have a huge role in the ecological welfare system. The tenets of the Shariah law towards animals rights make it obligatory for any individual to take care of crippled animals, to rescue strays and to guard a bird’s nest of eggs.
Hopefully this will inspire everyone reading to follow through on the Eco-Sunnah. Adopt an animal, reuse your wudhu water, eat much less. Be a leader.
Peace + eco-jihad. Zaufishan, The Eco Muslim
Mosques Caring for Creation
http://www.theecomuslim.com/ The Eco muslim – Walking upon the Earth in humility. (Qur an 25:63 ) EcoIslam news, environment tips and Green Muslim lifestyle from British Muslim Zaufishan Iqbal. “As-salam`alaykum, greetings of peace, respect and eco-jihad.”
The Eco Muslim ©
The Eco Muslim is part of Zaufishan Iqbal’s “eco jihad”, a greener effort to make our community on Earth that tiny bit purer to live in. Or at least, a wee bit sparklier for the day after tomorrow.
Zaufishan encourages everyone to live on less by following the 4Rs: Reuse! (e.g. leftover water) Reduce! (how much food you waste) Recycle! (your unwanted clothes) Reject! (poverty, homelessness and exploitation) Insha-Allah (God willing).
“Human beings according to Islam are considered the best of creation. Created from organic materials, Earth, water and infused with the ‘fitra’ – a divine inclination – humans are from the Earth. The Earth is a part of ourselves. And it is our responsibility to protect it.” ~ The Eco Muslim
A general understanding of Jihad (جهاد) is a Muslim’s struggle of self-improvement. Muslims struggle to wake up for fajr (morning) prayer, remove injustice and keep our mosques tayyab (clean and pure). And an eco-jihad is only one branch of a Muslim’s Jihad.
An eco-jihad is the effort to preserve what’s natural around us, to value resources from wherever they are sourced and to improve the quality of life for others – people, animals and plants. It could mean organising a street clean-up, planting a tree or eating organic. That is an eco-jihad.
*From Conversations On World Religions and Ecology (The Forum of Religion and Ecology at Yale)
Here are a few statements and resources from the Muslim faith:
Browse through our online library for more Muslim resources.