About 1,400 years ago in a dry, arid desert in what is now Saudi Arabia, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh -peace be upon him), introduced a fundamental green-guide, divinely gifted, in the form of the Qur’an in hopes to save humanity and Earth, by teaching the middle path of balance. Today the world is plagued with ecological catastrophes such as pollution, desertification, deforestation, flooding, mass consumption, starvation, and obesity, and a promising and substantial solution has yet to be found in our current world leaders. As Muslims we have an obligation to face these issues just as much as world leaders do. We are all custodians of this earth, and we must collectively start treating the Earth as such not only for its preservation, but for our own salvation. Allah (swt- Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala- Glory to Him, the Exalted) says our catastrophes are self-inflicted: “corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by what the hands of people have earned.” (Qur’an 30:41) From this verse in the Qur’an people are told there is hope in eliminating social and environmental disorders by belief in Allah and respect for nature.The second half of the verse reads “… let them taste part of (the consequences of) what they have done that perhaps they will return (to righteousness).” (Qur’an 30:41) Also, ending corruption is a recurring message in the Qur’an “…And do not desire corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters.” (Qur’an 28:77) “…And do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” (Qur’an, 2:60)
Some Muslims may look at these issues with a blind eye, citing a particular hadith (prophetic saying) that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) makes mention of the Earth as a place of short rest. “I am in this world like a rider who halts in the shade of a tree for a short time, and after taking some rest, resumes his journey leaving the tree behind.” [Ahmad, Tirmidhi] They may argue that the world is temporary and bound for destruction, so efforts in saving it are fruitless. This article aims to remove such a misguided derivation of such a profound statement of the Prophet (pbuh) by making mention of the verses of the Qur’an that glorify nature and wildlife as an earthly heaven and policies that should be implemented to preserve the heavenly mirror.
A few verses that explore Allah (swt) creative design, and that help us understand the creation and the importance of creation, include but are not limited to: “Do you not see that Allah sends down rain from the sky and makes it flow as springs [and rivers] in the earth; then He produces thereby crops of varying colours; then they dry and you see them turned yellow; then He makes them [scattered] debris. Indeed in that is a reminder for those of understanding.” (Qur’an, 39:21), “And He has cast into the earth firmly set mountains, lest it shift with you, and [made] rivers and roads, that you may be guided.” (Qur’an, 16:15), “And it is He who sends the winds as good tidings before His mercy until, when they have carried heavy rainclouds, We drive them to a dead land and We send down rain therein and bring forth thereby [some] of all the fruits. Thus will we bring forth the dead; perhaps you may be reminded.” (7:57) From these verses it is evident that nature plays a dominant role in our existence on this planet. It is imperative to nurture our nature to reap those benefits that are bestowed upon us.
The Prophet (pbuh) has said, “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.” (Bukhari) and he is also reported to have said, “Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded,” (Musnad). This is a direct call to action emphasizing that the benefits and reward we gain from planting trees are plentiful and can be everlasting. Planting a tree supplies the most basic necessity of life- oxygen; it also prevents potential erosion and promotes soil fertility. Trees reduce floods and droughts by entrenching the rain, and refilling underground aquifers. Trees are one of the many expressions of the mercy and generosity of Allah (swt) upon mankind.
There are also plenty of verses that encourage us to conserve and protect water, another essential for living. Allah (swt) makes mention of how everything is created from water and that he sustains us by providing water through streams, rivers, rain, and the ocean. “And Allah has sent down rain from the sky and given life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who listen.” (Qur’an, 16:65) Here, water is used as a metaphor for death and life to emphasize the importance of water. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that there will come a time that people will fight for rivers of gold; the gold he was referring to is fresh water. We see this fight for fresh water around the world within countries susceptible to drought, dependent on aid from other countries for clean water.
The Earth’s surface is covered with over 70% water. Of that 97.5% is salt water, leaving only 2.5% as fresh water. Nearly 70% of that fresh water is not accessible for human use because it is either frozen in the ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland or in underground aquifers. That leaves only 1% of the all the world’s water for direct human use. As Muslims we need to know the significance of water and use it more mindfully.
All the mentioned verses show that environmental welfare is essential to being a good Muslim. We need to take efforts in saving our planet more seriously, and start asking ourselves questions like, “What would Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) do if he were in our situation?” We need to start thinking twice when leaving an empty room with the lights still on. Although the Qur’an does not directly tell us to turn off the light, there are beautiful statements commanding us to end corruption, be environmental stewards, and to help the community.
Muslim Green Team (MGT) is a student-initiated organization that was formed originally by Muslim students on campus who wanted to educate Muslim community members about our duty to the environment and to help adopt a more sustainable lifestyle at both the individual and organizational levels.
In the past, this work has been accomplished through: hosting events about particular issues, such as plastic waste; creating a scholarship for Muslim high school students for College Day; consulting MSA and other Muslim student organizations to “green” their events, such as College Day; making changes around the MSA office such as bringing in recycling bins, putting up signs to reduce power usage and water waste.
Also, another historical fun fact: organizers at MSA West heard about us in the first year of our formation and reached out to us to consult them about how to make the conference more green. That was the first year MSA West conference went “green”, thanks to MGT! Speakers like Nouman Ali Khan were also impressed.
Here are some action plans put together by Muslim Green Team:
- Plant a tree, even if it’s in a small pot
- Sponsor a Sapling in Palestine: http://zatoun.com/treesforlife.htm
- Try adopting the Sahabas’ wudu practices, by using only a jug of water for wudu rather than running water
- Go on a hike, and take time to appreciate nature
- Also, please start taking Khidar Peng Ngyuen’s advice more seriously 🙂
Article inspired by theecomuslim.com