1 – EDUCATION
The spreading of environmental awareness is aimed at portraying the potential dangers to the health and lives of humans caused by pollution, and guiding people to be cautious in their actions. In addition to the various means of education and teachings, learning such topics in religious teachings from books, and from mosques where religious education is given in the most detailed manner is also essential. There is no denying the positive effects on the human soul when presenting the problems, and the means of solving these problems in the religious terms.
There are huge advantages to guiding human behavior amidst an atmosphere of worship, for example; the main reason for people not cutting down trees in graveyards is due to an understanding of requirement laid down by one’s faith.
Acknowledging that every blessing is the most valuable entrustment bestowed on us by Allah, and treating the environment with respect and kindness is a form of worship that leads humans to be more sensitive towards the environment.
2 – CLEANLINESS
One of the principle aims of Islam is to guide humans towards both physical and spiritual purity. When a human is pure in his thoughts, words and actions, and clean in what he wears, eats and drinks, in both his home and environment, he reaches excellence, and is sure to enter Paradise, the Abode of the Pure. “When they finally arrive there, its doors will be opened, and its keepers will welcome them saying: Peace be upon you! Well you have faired and are purified, so enter it (Paradise) to abide!” (1)
Those who come into this world in a state of purity and free of sin, and then pollute the universe will not be accepted by Allah. The Prophet said “Allah is pure, and He loves those who are pure.” (2)
In the first revelations sent to the Prophet was the command: “And keep your clothing clean!”(3) The acceptance of worship depends on; the cleanliness of the body and place of prayer, from both evident and unseen impurities.
The Prophet (pbuh) said: “The entire earth has been made for me a purified place of worship.” (4)
The environment should be kept clean, and cared for just like places of worship.
The Prophet (pbuh) continuously warned and advised the people regarding environmental cleanliness, here are some of the Prophets words of advice:
“Keep your yards and surrounding areas clean.” (5)
When Abu Barga went to the Prophet and asked, “O messenger of God! Tell me something that will be of benefit” the Prophet replied: “Remove anything from the road that may cause harm to the Muslims.” (6)
“Whoever removes something harmful from the paths where Muslims pass, will be rewarded. And Allah will grant Paradise to those He rewards.” (7)
When the Prophet told the companions, “Beware of those acts which cause others to curse” They asked, “What are those acts?” He said, “Relieving yourselves in the people’s walkways or in their shade.” (8)
The Prophet (pbuh) prohibited the disposal of waste in public places. When the Prophet cut his nails after Friday prayers, he asked Anas to bring a piece of hard soil to bury the nails in, and then ordered him not to throw it on the road, but to place the soil in a crevice in the wall. (9)
The Prophet (pbuh) was very particular regarding the cleanliness of water, as water is the main means of purity. Water must be clean and unused1 for the acceptance of ablutions, there must be no change in the basic quality, for example the taste, colour, or odor of the water.
The Prophet ordered: “None of you should urinate in still water,” (10) and ordered that the animal compounds should be at least forty yards away from the wells, and that a twenty five yard vicinity around wells should remain empty. (11)
Principally, according to Islam flowing streams and pastures are the communal property of all who seek a need from it. No one can take advantage of these places as he pleases. Regarding the subject, the Prophet said: “A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim, the waters and pastures are the joint property of all Muslims.” (12)
Every human must be more particular regarding property that belongs to the community. Unfortunately, the most polluted areas at present are the water sources. Every year, there are millions of tons of petrol leaking into the sea, and industrial waste, acid, sulfur and drainage systems are destroying rivers, lakes and oceans.
“And He it is Who has made the sea to be of service so that you eat from it fresh meat, and draw out from it ornaments that you wear. And you see the ships plowing their course through it so that you may go forth in quest of His bounty and give thanks”. (13)
PROTECTING PLANTATION AND GREENERY
The role of trees and greenery in purifying the air, of rain protecting the earth, and transforming the earth into a paradise with the colourful flowers and leaves, various fruits, refreshing shade and outstanding views is obvious.
The word ‘Paradise’ means orchards, gardens, and shade. Allah the Almighty transformed the earth into a virtual Paradise and tells us in the Qur’ân: “And so We enable grain to grow therein, and grapes, and edible plants, and olive trees and date palms, and gardens dense with foliage, and fruits and herbage as means of livelihood for you and your livestock.” (14)
In the Qur’ân, the Creator mentions the names of hundreds of trees, plants, orchards, gardens in various forms, and even takes an oath on olives and figs, therefore emphasizing the importance of plantation.
The Prophet (pbuh) encouraged the planting of trees, and personally planted five hundred palm trees. (15) At this point I would like to mention some of the Prophets recommendations on the subject.
“When a Muslim plants a tree, whatever is eaten from it is charity from him and whatever is stolen is charity and whatever is subtracted from it is charity. If a Muslim plants a tree, or sows a field and men and beasts and birds eat from it, all of it is charity from him.” (16)
“Whoever plants a tree, and cares for the tree until it matures and produces fruit will be rewarded by Allah.” (17)
There is no greater expression possible than these words of the Prophet, to stress the importance of planting trees. “If any of you have a date sapling in your hands when the Day of Judgment shall commence he should plant it if possible.” (18)
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) not only advised those around him regarding the subject, he actually took measures regarding the protection of woodland. For example, in the region of Al Ghâba (forestry area) a distance away from Medina, the Prophet gave conditional permission for cutting down trees, those who wished to cut down a tree could do so on the condition that he planted another in its place. (19) In addition, the Prophet declared the twelve mile area surrounding Medina, a conservation area and forbade the cutting of trees.
The Prophet (pbuh) assigned Bilal b. Haris as warden of the conservation area, and he continued this duty during the period of Muawiyya, until the time of his death. (20) The Prophet strongly opposed cutting trees, and said: “Whoever cuts down a tree in the desert that travelers and animals use for shade, will be thrown into the flames of Hell by Allah.” (21)
Umar bin Abdulaziz expressed his abhorrence of the cutting down of trees within the sacred boundaries with the words: “If a man came loaded with wine, it would be better than him bringing anything cut within the sacred boundaries.” (22)
Even during the periods of war, destroying crops, unnecessarily cutting down trees or sacrificing more animals than they required for food was not permitted. (23)
MONITORING AND PUNISHMENT
Every offence committed against the environment, is an offence against the whole of mankind, for the environment is the joint heritage of humanity. Harming communal property for the sake of personal benefits is not permitted. According to Islam, the communal advantages are more important than personal benefits. (24)
A special ‘Environmental protection society’ or ‘Environmental Policing Team’ should be established to define the crime, the punishment for damaging the environment, and to pursue those who cause harm to nature. Every kind of nuclear, chemical and biologic weapons should be prohibited in the world in general.
In the treaty the Prophet (pbuh) made with the people of Taif, he added the conditions of protecting the surrounding trees, prohibited the hunting of game in the area, and deemed those who disobeyed the rules punishable by law. (25) Environmental scientists should not underestimate the sensitivity the Prophet portrayed regarding the environment 1400 years ago.
PLANNED URBANIZATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
When Ibn Khaldûn, the Muslim sociologist defined matters to be considered while establishing a city, he stressed that places easy to maintain, with clean air, plenty of water, close to fields and agricultural areas should be chosen, and that places where there is less oxygen and no wind will cause illnesses. (26)
There are inspiring examples of modern and healthy urbanization throughout Islamic history. The plans and site of Basra city was personally determined by ‘Umar, and a ten mile waterway was dug from the Tigris River leading to the city. (27)
‘Umar gave clear instructions regarding the plans and construction of Kufah city, according to these orders, the main roads were constructed 40 yards wide, the second roads 30, third roads 20 and the side roads 7 yards wide. Vast areas were left empty around the mosque where forty thousand Muslims could pray. (28)
In Islamic history, there are interesting examples regarding the exceptional cleanliness and maintenance of the cities. Qurtuba, now known as Cordoba was one of Europe’s largest, most modern cities, with 300 Turkish baths and 50 hospitals. As the cities of Europe wallowed in filth and gloom, the streets of Qurtuba were washed frequently with oxcarts, and the streets lit up with lamps mounted on the house walls.
The wind towers used to cool the houses, and the cool basements constructed to escape the summer heat, and the underground cisterns prepared for the cold and for supplies is all evidence of these modern structures. (29) Utilizing the natural sources of energy that has no waste, for example wind and sun energy, is one of the many measures that greatly reduces pollution.
THE CAMPAIGN FOR FAITH AND LOVE
According to the Qur’ân everything on earth, animate or inanimate, glorifies Allah.
“Do you not see that all that is in the heavens and the earth, and the birds flying in patterned ranks with wings spread out glorify Allah. Each knows the way of its prayer and glorification.” (30) The Prophet said: “Creation is the family of Allah, and the most beloved of all creation to Allah is he who is good to His family.” (31)
In a world, where the numbers of many species of animals decrease, and eventually become extinct; employment will be scarce, and the earth will be unappealing and unfruitful. Allah the Almighty told Noah: “Embark in it (ark) a pair of each kind (living creatures)” (32) The Qur’ân mentions the names, and the habitations of various animals and insects, for example bees and ants.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Fear Allah in these dumb animals, ride them when they are fit to be ridden, and sacrifice animals without causing them pain.” (33)
Ibn Masud reported an incident: “We were with the Prophet on a journey. He went to relieve himself. We saw a bird with her two young ones and we captured her young ones. The bird came and began to spread its wings flying around above us. The Prophet returned and said: Who cause this bird distress for its young ones? Return the young ones to it immediately.” (34)
As a result, the decline in the ecologic balance is evidence of the decay in the human mind and soul. The most effective, and permanent means of preventing the pollution and destruction of the environment is; educating both individuals, and societies to respect the Creator, and His entire creation.
(1) Surah Zumar: 73
(2) Ajlunî, Kashfu’1-Hafa, 1/224 Beirut 1351
(3) Surah Muddessir: 4
(4) Buhari, Tajrid-i Sarih, Hadis no: 223
(5) Ajlunî, 1/224.
(6) Munziri, Et-Targhib, 3/613
(7) Munziri, Et-Targhib
(8) M. A. Nasıf, et-Taj 1/93 Beirut 1961
(9) Sha’rani, Kashfu’l-Ghumma 1/180 Egypt 1964.
(10) Abu Dawud
(11) Ibn Majah,
(12) Ebu Ubeyd Kitabu’l-emval
(13) Surah Nahl: 14
(14) Surah Abese: 27-32
(15) Al-Hindi kenzu’l Ummal 3/309
(16) Tajrid-i sarih 7/122
(17) Sharani a.g.e. 2/16
(18) Tajrid-i Sarih 7/124
(19) Balazuri Futuhu’l-Buldan 1/17
(20) Yakut el-Hamevi, Mucemu’l-Buldan 5/87. Beirut 1957
(21) Ebu Davud 2/650-51
(22) Yakut el-Hamevi
(23) M. Hamidullah
(25) M. Hamidullah el-vesaik. 236-238-240 Beirut 169
(26) Ibn Haldun Mukaddime sh:
(27) Shibli Numani,
(29) Dr. Sigrid Hunke
(30) S. Huseyin Nasr, Islam and Science
(31) Surah Nur: 41, Isra: 44
(32) Hafız el-Munziri 40 Hadis
(33) Surah Hud: 40, Tefsir-i Ibn Kesir, 4/254
(34) Sharani, Kashfu’l Ghumma 2/155
1 i.e The water must not have already been used for purification purposes, thereby being “unused”.