“As Muslims Islam teaches us to serve humanity irrespective of faith, colour, race or no faith. Serving our own local community is at the forefront of our minds. This is what true Islam is about.”
These lovely words were uttered by a charity representative who helped during the flood relief efforts in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria. Young British Muslims from various charities recently came out in throngs to help with food and care packages for flood victims, in some cases, offering shelter.
But what the floods have also pointed to is the elephant in the room: climate change. Being eco-ambassadors and looking after the environment is part of faith, and serves to prevent the damaging effects of global warming.
So what does Islam actually say about looking after the environment? Quite a lot actually!
Wastefulness is mentioned in strong terms in the holy Qur’an, and the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) offered ecological advice many centuries before climate change became the centre of a big debate.
You are responsible for your environment
The holy book states: “And it is He (God) who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees that He may try you through what He has given you…” (6:165)
This verse immediately places human beings in a position of responsibility. What’s more, it shows that each person will be judged according to what they have – whether rich or poor – and each of us have a chance to make a difference.
You are part of an eco-system
The Qur’an also says: “There is not an animal on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you.” (6:38)
God shows us our place in the vast universe and that we should treat any living creature as part of an important community, like ours.
Maintain balance on the earth
The Qur’an says: “Therefore, maintain just measure and do not transgress against the Balance.” (55:9)
“Balance” comes with a capital “B” in this translation because there is only one ultimate balance on this planet, and we need to work hard to maintain it. The issue of climate change is a sign that the balance is being transgressed.
Use the earth for your essential needs
The Qur’an says: “Eat and drink from the provision of God, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” (2:60)
Muslims are instructed to use food and water as provision from God, but without abusing the earth and exploiting it.
Looking after the environment is a way of life
According to narrations, Prophet Mohammed said: “If the Hour (Judgement Day) is about to be established and one of you is holding a palm shoot, take advantage and plant it, even if it’s one second before the Hour is established.”
Helping the environment thrive is a way of life, and not just about the results you get in the end.
Planting trees is a multiplying act of kindness
The prophet 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 sadaqah (charitable gift) for him.”
The ongoing effects of our efforts will be added to our record of deeds.
Save water when washing daily
It is narrated that the prophet saw one of his companions performing wudhu (ablution) before prayer and told him not to waste water “even if you are by the side of a flowing river”.
Being sensitive and gentle towards your environment is important, both for your own personal growth and for the world around you.
The prophet said: “Removing harmful things from the road is sadaqah.”
In our society, we can have the most impact by keeping our environment clean, even if that means picking up someone else’s stuff.
Eating too much is not pretty
The prophet said: “It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should one-third for his food, one-third for his liquids and one-third for his breath.”
The prophet encouraged us to share meals, eat less meat and stop eating as soon as the hunger pangs stop. This approach to food is more sustainable for the environment and more socially just.
Recycle and repair
The prophet’s wife Aisha reported that the prophet used to repair his own shoes, sew his own clothes and carry out all such household chores done without question.
Recycling and repairing is not a sign of poverty, but a solution to sustainable living. The fact that a man with such an important status used to practice this in his daily life is exemplary.
So these verses and narrations point to the importance of being eco-leaders in our daily lives and strive to maintain balance on earth.