The Relation between Islam and the Environment

Question and answer details
Concerning Islam and its relation to the environment, I need you to tell me what verses state and quote this relation and whether this awareness to this relation is old or new.
Nabil Haroun
Salam Aysha,

Thank you for your question.

The thesis of Islam is to guide humanity to the proper knowledge of Allah, His attributes, bounties, and to follow His guidance, for both the welfare in this world and for the sake of His rewards in the Hereafter. Man is entrusted to develop and to maintain these bounties of Allah on this planet Earth, i.e., to develop, utilize, and preserve the environment. Man is so entrusted with this mission as to be described in the Qur’an as a “viceroy of Allah” on this earth. The Qur’an reads what means:

*{And [remember] as your Lord said to the Angels: “Surely I am making in the earth a successor.” They said: “Will You make therein one who will corrupt in it and shed blood while we [are the ones who] extol [with] Your praise and call You Holy?” He said: “Surely I know whatever you do not know.” And He taught Adam all the names; thereafter He set them before the Angels; so He said: “Inform me of the names of these, in case you are sincere.”}* (Al-Baqarah 2:30-31)

We are then reminded repeatedly of the full range of bounties of the Creator, i.e., the natural resources:
  • Land - the Qur’an reads what means:

*{And the earth – We have made extended it and cast on it anchorages [mountains], and We have caused to grow therein of everything [evenly] weighed.}* (Al-Hijr 15:19)

*{And the earth, after that He flattened it [for life].}* (An-Nazi`at 79:30)

  • Water - the Qur’an reads what means:

*{And We send the winds impregnating, [and] so We send down from the heaven water, then We give it to you to drink, and in no way can you even be its treasurers.}* (Al-Hijr 15:22)

*{Have you not seen that Allah has sent down from the heaven water, then He dispatched it as fountains in the earth; thereafter He brings out therewith plantations of different colors.}* (Az-Zumar 39:21)

*{And We made therein lofty anchorages, and We made you to drink water grateful [to taste].}* (Al-Mursalat 77:27)

*{And He is [the One] Who extended the earth and made therein anchorages and rivers; and of all products He made therein two pairs, enveloping the daytime with the night.}* (Ar-Ra`d 13:3)

  • Biota - the Qur’an reads what means:

*{And He is [the One] Who has brought into being gardens trellised and not trellised, and the palm-trees, and plantation of different crops, and the olives, and the pomegranates, cosimilar and not cosimilar.}* (Al-An`am 6:141)

*{And the cattle – created them is warmth and [various] uses and of them you eat.}* (Al-Ma’idah 5:16)

These resources are created and made available in such a manner as to be:
  • Sustainable due to the continuous “life cycles” (e.g., carbon, nitrogen, energy). This is expressed by “bringing the live out of the dead.” The Qur’an reads what means:

*{You bring the dead out of the living, and You provide to whomever You decide without reckoning.}* (Aal `Imran 3:27)

*{Surely Allah is the Splitter of grains and nuclei. He brings out the living from the dead, and He is the Bringer of the dead from the living.}* (Al-An`am 6:95)

  • Controlled as expressed by the verses which mean:

*{And He created everything, so He has determined it an [exact] determination.}* (Al-Furqan 25:2)

*{And Who has been sending down from the heaven water with determined estimate.}* (Az-Zukhruf 43:11)

  • Fit for human life and transportation. The Qur’an reads what means:

*{He is [the One] Who made the earth tractable to you; so walk in its territories and eat of His provision; and to Him is the rising up.}* (Al-Mulk 67:15)

  • Always available, as exemplified in reference to the water cycle. The Qur’an reads what means:

*{Allah is He Who sends the winds. So they stir up clouds, then He outspreads them in the heaven how He decides and makes them into lumps. Then you see rain-drops coming out of the midst of them.}* (Ar-Rum 30:48)

  • Pure. The Qur’an reads what means:

*{And We have sent down from the heaven water most pure.}* (Al-Furqan 25:48)

  • Well-preserved. The sky is repeatedly referred to as well preserved layers, which returns or keeps from escaping away oxygen and other gases, water vapor, thermal energy, etc. The Qur’an reads what means:

*{Who created seven heavens as strata. In no way can you see in the creation of the All-Merciful any disparity.}* (Al-Mulk 67:3)

*{And We have made the heaven as a roof well-preserved, and [yet still] from its signs they are veering away.}* (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:32)

*{By the heaven comprising the returning [rain, etc.]}* (At-Tariq 86:11)

So, environmental awareness is built in the Muslim as a part of his belief and knowledge of Allah.

Man is then invited to properly exploit and benefit from all the natural resources.

As viceroys of Allah on this earth, we have to utilize them properly, in order for the bounties to continue. Also, we should always be grateful and thankful to Allah. The Qur’an reads what means:

*{And He subjected to you the sun and the moon, both in a steadfast manner, and He subjected to you the night and the daytime. And He has given you of all you asked Him; and in case you number the favor(s) of Allah, you [cannot] enumerate them. Surely man is indeed constantly unjust, most disbelieving.}* (Ibrahim 14: 33-34)

*{So eat of what Allah has provided you, lawfully good, and thank [Him] for the favor of Allah, in case it be Him only that you do worship.}* (An-Nahl 16:114)

Muslims have been warned repeatedly of spoiling this earth through our mischief. The Qur’an reads what means:

*{And do not corrupt in the earth after being tilled, and invoke Him in fear and longing. Surely the mercy of Allah is near to the fair-doers.}* (Al-A`raf 7:56)

*{And when he turns away, he [diligently] endeavors about the earth to corrupt in it and cause the tillage and stock to perish; and Allah does not love corruption.}* (Al-Baqarah 2:205)

*{Corruption has appeared in the land and the sea for what mankind’s hands have earned, that He may make them taste some [part] of that which they have done, that possibly they would return.}* (Ar-Rum 30:41)

To keep a clean safe environment is also a prophetic guidance. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said:

“And to remove a harmful thing from the way is also sadaqah (a charity).” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

He also said:

“While a man was passing along a road, he saw a thorny branch. He removed it. Allah appreciated his action and forgave him.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Hence, it can be concluded that a Muslim, through a proper understanding and appreciation of the notions and guidance of the Qur’an and Sunnah, would be a natural “friend of the environment.”

I hope my answer is satisfactory. Thank you again for your question and please keep in touch.


Useful Links:

Environmental Ethics

The Quran and the Environment

Raising the Green Banner of Islam