Islamic Perspective on the Environment and Ecology
Publications Annadi AL JIRARI
- 51 -
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
This study was published in three languages in the publication of the Islamic organization for éducation sciences and culture (Islamic to day)(*).
The objective behind its republication in this booklet is to give it a wider circulation among readers concerned with this topic.
May God guide us towards the right path
Rabat le 26 Safar 1432 AH
Corresponding To Janvier 31the 2011.
Islamic Perspective on the Environment
Introduction : The Concept of Environment and Ecology.
In Arabic, the word “bay’a” (environment) literally means the place where people dwell. Other words with the same root (bay’a) such as (ba’a) and (Mouba’a) bear the same meaning, that is to occupy a place or a standing.
The word (bay’a) as it occurs in the Holy Qur’an bears the following meanings:
“Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): 'Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate them-selves (therein in prayer).'”(1)
“And remember how He made you inheritors after the 'Ad people and gave you habitations in the land: ye build for yourselves palaces and castles in (open) plains, and carve out homes in the mountains; so bring to remembrance the benefits (ye have received) from Allah, and refrain from evil and mischief on the earth.”(2)
“They will say: 'Praise be to Allah, Who has truly fulfilled His Promise to us, and has given us (this) land in heritage: We can dwell in the Garden as we will: how excellent a reward for those who work (righteousness)!'”(3)
The same word of (bay’a) is also common place in many Sayings by the Prophet (PBUH). In one instance, the Prophet (PBUH) says: “If a man lays in bed, puts his right hand under his head and says: Oh God, I have surrendered myself to you, delegated my matter to you, put my back to you and directed my face towards you, for fear of you and longing for you; there is no refuge but to you; I believe in the Book You revealed and the Prophet You sent, and then dies on this, a house will be built for him in Paradise or a house is put in a high position for him in Paradise"(4). He also added: "When a man visits a sick person, an angel calls out from the sky: 'may you and your walking be blessed and may you enjoy a high position in Paradise."(5)
The word (bay’a) is also common in ancient Arabic poetry, and has several meanings(6).
Today, the term “Environment” commonly means a number of different complementary, interactive, harmonious and balanced phenomena and manifes-tations taking place in the universe, whether in the city or the countryside.
It can also mean “milieu”, which also means the place where people live.
Scientists from different fields have taken interest in the environment, according to its different phenomena: astronomists, geologists, physicians, chemists, economists, sociologists, philosophers and religious scholars. This can be explained by the fact that the environment represents different and various phenomena, including climate, air and water, as well as anything relating to them, such as the wind and the rain. Human beings are the ones who are at the head of these phenomena that Allah has put at their service. They should master and control them, and are required to deal with them with reason and equanimity, benefiting from and enjoying them. They should also like them, care for them and abstain from destroying them.
I - Scope of attention attached by Islamic and Western thought to the environment
Westerners have been so interested in the environment that they established a science called “Ecology”. It is the science that studies the relationship between living creatures and their natural surroundings, so as to protect this latter and care for the creatures, most importantly humans and the animals that cohabitate with them. This science emerged at the time of the industrial renaissance, especially during the 19th century.
As part of this interest, and following the dire results reached by the studies under this science, a number of movements against abusing the environment were established. Hence, many European and American countries launched initiatives such as that of the “Green” movement in Germany, and the actions taken by French ecologists as part of regional specificities. In the United States, on the contrary, attention has turned towards consumption.
In addition, given the importance of the environment from a global per-spective, a conference on the environment and development, described as “Earth Summit”, was held early in June 1992. Since then, the world, including Arab and Islamic countries, has been celebrating the World Environment Day on 5 June.
Along with this interest in the environment, calls for rights started to be heard, especially the right to life and to benefit from the advantages of the environment. Since we are talking about rights, we should reflect on them from an Islamic perspective, starting with the meaning of the word “right” ('Haq' in arabic), which is repeated 174 times in the Koran, besides the words derived from it that can be found in 76 verses.
From this perspective, the meaning of the term “Haq” (right) in Arabic can be summed up in anything apparent and that can be proven correctly, confor-mingly and clearly. It thus signifies truthfulness, justice, knowledge and wisdom; God, and His books and Legislation; and everything that is contrary to falseness and wrongfulness. It also denotes the existing unchangeable reality and anything through which this reality can be expressed, besides everything that people should enjoy, benefit from and do in the framework of human beings' nature, religious parameters, positive laws or customs and traditions.
Human rights in Islam are based on honouring human beings. Almighty Allah says: “We have honoured the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favours, above a great part of our creation.”(7). In Islam, these rights do not only concern human beings, but animals too. There are many examples of this in the Qur’an. Almighty Allay says: “One of the ants said: "O ye ants, get into your habitations, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you (under foot) without knowing it.”(8) Allah also says: “The parable of those who take protectors other than Allah is that of the spider, who builds (to itself) a house; but truly the flimsiest of houses is the spider's house.”(9) Other examples can also be found in such Surats as Al-Baqara, Al-Anaam, An-Nahl, Al-Adiat and Al-Fil.
Saïd Ibn Jubayr is reported to say that “I went out with Ibn Omar from his house and we saw a group of youngsters from the tribe of Quraysh targeting a bird with their arrows. They had agreed with the owner of the bird to give him every missing arrow. When they saw Ibn Omar they all split. He asked 'who did that?' and added that 'Allah damns those who do such a thing' and that the Prophet of Allah (PBUH) damned those who aim at a living creature.”(10). The Prophet also said that “A woman was tortured and was put in Hell because of a cat she had kept locked in till it died of hunger. She neither fed it nor watered it, nor did she set it free to eat from earth.”(11).
We shall now turn to the fact that rights are associated with duties, if we do not say that they turn into duties. This makes them all -rights and duties - subject to what guarantees their protection, as part of the organisation of life that is based on balanced relationships, in order to protect interests against any breach or abuse.
Hence, if we reflect on the rights we are enjoying, we will find that they are all associated with duties: freedom against security, education against work, and the right to enjoy God's bounties - that is the environment -, against the duty to protect them, avoid their overexploitation and be keen on keeping them clean.
To prove the association of rights and duties in Islam, or how a right turns into a duty, suffice it to mention the verse: “And say: 'Work (righteousness): Soon will Allah observe your work, and His Messenger, and the Believers.'”(12) The Holy Prophet (PBUH) also said, making seeking knowledge compulsory: “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.”(13). And the same thing can be said about the right to freedom - without which there is no responsibility-, security and food, which Allah has associated with worship: “Let them adore the Lord of this House, Who provides them with food against hunger, and with security against fear (of danger).”(14)
The association of rights and duties in the protection of the environment springs from the fact that a sound environment is a major manifestation of civili-sation and culture within society. It is approached by Islam as a complementary and harmonious system, from its creation by Allah, Glory to Him, to human beings' responsibility to protect, maintain and develop it, in addition to striving not to destroy or spoil it. It hence put in place a number of parameters and standards in the form of its tolerant teachings that associate a sound environment with a good society.
In fact, the issue of environment is as old as man, as it was among the priorities of God's Messengers. Allah Almighty created earth since time imme-morial and created everything on it, including human beings, whom He has appointed to construct it, and who return to it before resurrection in the afterlife. Allah Almighty says: “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: 'I am about to create man from clay. When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him.'”(15); “From the (earth) did We create you, and into it shall We return you, and from it shall We bring you out once again”(16); “It is He Who hath produced you from the earth and settled you therein”(17); “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: 'I will create a vicegerent on earth.' They said: 'Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?' He said: 'I know what ye know not.'”(18).
2 - In Islamic thought:
In Islam, the environment is perceived in a different way, as Muslims believe that Allah is the only owner of the skies, earth and everything between them: “and to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between,”(19); “They have no power,- not the weight of an atom,- in the heavens or on earth,”(20).
Allah created earth, the skies and then created Man immediately after that: “It is He Who hath created for you all things that are on earth; Moreover His design comprehended the heavens, for He gave order and perfection to the seven firmaments; and of all things He hath perfect knowledge. Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth.”(21).
Since the environment is the milieu where people live with all its land, air and sea phenomena and manifestations, the Koran talks about land, that is earth, in many verses: “It is He Who produceth gardens, with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds, and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in variety),”(22); “A Sign for them is the earth that is dead: We do give it life, and produce grain therefrom, of which ye do eat. And We produce therein orchard with date-palms and vines, and We cause springs to gush forth therein: That they may enjoy the fruits of this (artistry): It was not their hands that made this,”(23).
As for land, it talks about minerals: “and We sent down Iron, in which is (material for) mighty war, as well as many benefits for mankind,”(24). It also talks about the sea in the singular, dual and plural: “And if all the trees on earth were pens and the ocean (were ink), with seven oceans behind it to add to its (supply), yet would not the words of Allah be exhausted (in the writing),”(25). However, we should not forget space, with all its orbits. Almighty Allah says: “They ask thee concerning the New Moons. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in (the affairs of) men, and for Pilgrimage”(26); “makes the night for rest and tranquillity, and the sun and moon for the reckoning (of time)”(27); “The sun and the moon follow courses (exactly) computed”(28) and “It is We Who have set out the zodiacal signs in the heavens, and made them fair-seeming to (all) beholders”(29).
With regard to the air, the Koran approached the wind phenomenon in the singular when it brings severe torture: “they were destroyed by a furious Wind, exceedingly violent,”(30) and “A wind wherein is a Grievous Penalty”(31); and in the plural when it brings good clouds: “It is Allah Who sends the Winds, and they raise the Clouds”(32) and “And We send the fecundating winds, then cause the rain to descend from the sky, therewith providing you with water (in abundance), though ye are not the guardians of its stores.”(33). And to show the importance of water, suffice it to mention the verse 30: “We made from water every living thing”(34), and the verse which talks about underground water: “Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky, and leads it through springs in the earth? Then He causes to grow, therewith, produce of various colours.”(35)
II - The reasons for environment decay
Allah has put all the creatures at the service of human beings: “Do ye not see that Allah has subjected to your (use) all things in the heavens and on earth, and has made his bounties flow to you in exceeding measure, (both) seen and unseen?”(36), and asked them to build earth: “It is He Who hath produced you from the earth and settled you therein”(37), which is the reason why He made them His vicegerents on earth: “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth”(38); “It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth”(39); “spend (in charity) out of the (substance) whereof He has made you heirs”(40).
This Earth's inheritance means being in charge of investing it and using it, both to benefit from and enjoying it: “It is We Who have placed you with autho-rity on earth, and provided you therein with means for the fulfilment of your life”(41); and “He … gave you habitations in the land: ye build for yourselves palaces and castles in (open) plains, and carve out homes in the mountains”(42). Nevertheless, this investment remains temporary, “On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood - for a time”(43), because Allah is the One Who will perma-nently inherit the earth and everything on it: “It is We Who will inherit the earth, and all beings thereon: to Us will they all be returned”(44).
Indeed, Allah has spread out land and fertilized its soil, so as to bear plants and fruit, and made everything in it beneficial, in specific quantities and measures, so that it can be easy to live in for both human beings and God's other creatures, for whose feeding humans were not made responsible. Allah says in His Holy Book: “And the earth We have spread out (like a carpet); set thereon mountains firm and immovable; and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance; And We have provided therein means of subsistence,- for you and for those for whose sustenance ye are not responsible; And there is not a thing but its (sources and) treasures (inexhaustible) are with Us; but We only send down thereof in due and ascertainable measures”(45).
Although all Allah's creatures, living beings, things and phenomena are under His control and at His beck and call, He sends them in specific and measured quantities according to people's needs and as much as they would benefit from. Imagine how floods would inundate the world if Almighty Allah sent on us larger quantities of water, more than we can bear. Imagine what would happen to humans and the other creatures if Allah made it easy for earth to explode with the petrol, gases and substances that are within it.
The universe is based on equilibrium and regularity. Allah says: “it is He who created all things, and ordered them in due proportions”(46); and “Verily, all things have We created in proportion and measure”(47), that is in specific previously know quantities and according to standards known and decided by Allah alone, that should not or cannot be transgressed. Deluded is he who thinks that he could go against God's will or transgress it, in a way or in another, disobeying the Creator and His will. He says: “Or, Who has made the earth firm to live in; made rivers in its midst; set thereon mountains immovable; and made a separating bar between the two bodies of flowing water? (can there be another) god besides Allah. Nay, most of them know not”(48); and “Who has made the earth your couch, and the heavens your canopy; and sent down rain from the heavens; and brought forth therewith Fruits for your sustenance; then set not up rivals unto Allah when ye know (the truth)”(49).
Almighty Allah justly acts in the universe and treats His creatures according to His will. His justness is absolute. Hence the evil that happens is attributed to two considerations:
First: an evil over which humans have no control, do not create and cannot repel, such as death, natural disasters and the like. This is part of Glorified Allah's foresight which we cannot comprehend, and which makes these hated disasters, considered evil, have their good and beneficial sides for human beings and life as a whole.
Second: an evil that is created by human beings: injustice and mischief. Glorified Allah is far above this: “Allah is never unjust in the least degree.”(50); and “Verily Allah will not deal unjustly with man in aught: It is man that wrongs his own soul”(51). This evil that emanates from human beings can be called behavioural and moral evil. It is narrated to intentional or unintentional bad acts. Allah has warned us from doing that: “Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of (the meed) that the hands of men have earned, that (Allah) may give them a taste of some of their deeds: in order that they may turn back (from Evil)”(52).
What is meant by mischief here is the damage that besets bounties from which humans benefit in their lives, as a punishment for their bad deeds and behaviour. This is why Glorified Allah says “Mischief has appeared”, which means that it was not there at the beginning, but was created by people. This meaning is further emphasised by the rest of the verse “because of (the meed) that the hands of men have earned.” Mischief has taken place despite the fact that He has prepared a framework for people to live in and enjoy the fruits He has made available for them, warning them not to disobey Him, in any way whatsoever, as we said above.
Human beings, with their reason, knowledge and experience, are able to innovate and upgrade life, and achieve development and progress. But at the same time, they are able to destroy and annihilate, given the wars they wage and the aggressions they launch on others, themselves and the surrounding universe.
The most dangerous and ugliest manifestation of these aggressions is polluting the environment in which they are living, that is spoiling it and God's other bounties, harming nature and squandering wealth, thereby disrupting the balance of the universe. This shows the meaning of pollution, which signifies spoiling, staining and desecrating. It is the most difficult problem threatening mankind's life today, both in industrialised and developing countries, in addition to social and moral pollution, whether perceptible or not, such as the spread of ignorance, illiteracy, prostitution, drug abuse, as well as any other similar kinds of moral pollution.
Pollution today tops our era's issues. It is the major problem threatening life, for many reasons, including:
First: Technological development and its effect on all the aspects of nature without exception.
Second: The destruction of the green spaces surrounding cities or within them, the establishment of factories and high buildings in their place, and the exploitation of forests through burning, cutting and eradicating trees, most of the time to build arbitrary houses.
Third: Polluting cities and their districts through several factors, resulting mostly in the proliferation of microbes that cause unprecedented diseases. Such factors are:
1. Chemically, through fuels, factory waste, vehicles' smoke, and so on.
2. Organically, through household garbage, and human and animal waste, as well as the use of pesticides and the difficulty of getting rid of them or reusing them in the appropriate areas, just as sewages should be dealt with.
3. Physically, through noise, crowding and buildings pressure.
Fourth: Ships' and oil tankers' waste, chemical waste, radioactive waste resulting from the use of nuclear fuel and the operating of nuclear generating stations.
This does not only adversely affect our environment, but also harms all environments around it. Some of these have a limited impact that shows up immediately, but there are others whose delayed radioactive impact remains for hundreds or even thousands years. Burying this waste under the ground or in the deep sea is currently under consideration, but in the meanwhile they are stored after being freezed in special places. The Atlantic Ocean is the official cemetery for this kind of waste, particularly that with low radiation.
Fifth: The oil pollution of the sea. As in recent years, oil spill pollution has become more common, which requires considerable attention to face it and find out its causes.
Sixth: Tankers' accidents resulting from damages, collisions, fissures, explosions, combustions, disappearance, or running aground due to a navi-gational error, or any other intentional and unintentional causes.
Seventh: The large number of carriers, which has reached about ten thousand ships, half of which are used for transporting oil.
Eighth: old tankers and lack of maintenance; many of them are not even good for use, as up to forty of them are lost or drowned, that is a tenth of the ships drowned every year. Since the oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 1997, environmental pollution increased threefold, as that disaster was the largest the world has ever witnessed, given the quantities of oil that poured into the sea (five hundred thousand tons).
Ninth: Creeping sand, desertification, floods, seasonal drought and locust attacks, as well as the destruction and annihilation perpetrated by humans during wars.
Tenth: The spread of germs as a result of these factors, their effects and those of the marketing of out-of-date consumer products, such as the emergence of unprecedented diseases, as already indicated.
Eleventh: Melting ice layers in the Arctic and Antarctic, including their icebergs, resulting in the rise of sea levels, which might drown a number of islands and lowland coastal cities, as well as natural and urban life in these areas, along with their civilizations and cultures.
Twelfth: Volcano eruptions, such as
the black ash cloud that spread during April and May
Many of these phenomena can be attributed to technological and industrial development, with its disadvantages, as well as to the liberal concept of this development. This latter is concerned with redoubling production in order to meet consumers' needs and desires, with little regard to the human aspect which has become a victim of policies based on this concept. These policies are still implemented despite the suffering they have caused to all the peoples of the world, especially the "backward", mitigated with the term “developing” ones, which continue to serve the interests of the developed world, through consuming some of its products despite suffering from its policies at various levels.
III - Environment protection from an Islamic perspective
Islam fights pollution in all its different forms and levels, ranging from the harm that afflicts the universe, to such phenomena as dirt and decay associated with people's bodies, clothing, homes and all the aspects of their lives. We desperately need to be aware of these phenomena relating to us because Islam is a religion of purity and cleanliness, both in its physical and moral sense. No religion or doctrine, whatsoever, matches it in its call for them.
Concerning material cleanliness, suffice it to know that the primary substance used to reach it - water - is repeated sixty-three times in the Koran. Furthermore, numerous are the stances showing its importance. It is even considered an incomparable bounty, as it is fundamental for life: “We made from water every living thing”(53); and in the context whereby water is narrated to pureness: “We send down pure water from the sky”(54). Allah also says: “He caused rain to descend on you from heaven, to clean you therewith, to remove from you the stain of Satan, to strengthen your hearts, and to plant your feet firmly therewith”(55).
As for the urge for material cleanliness, Allah says: “And thy garments keep free from stain”(56); “In it are men who love to be purified; and Allah loveth those who make themselves pure”(57); and “This is indeed a Koran Most Honourable, in Book well-guarded, which none shall touch but those who are clean”(58).
It is known that Muslims perform their five daily prayers only after doing ablution. If they are in a state of major ritual impurity, they should perform the major ritual ablution. The same applies to lying-in and menstruation, as well as in Friday and Eid prayers, and Hajj rituals such as Ihram and Tawaf.
The prophet (PBUH) modestly cared a lot about the cleanliness of his body and clothing. He used to put oil in his hair, and brush his teeth with Siwak, even while fasting. He also used to put perfume, which is one of the things he liked the most, as known.
It is also well known that Islam encourages wearing beautiful clothes, as Allah says in His Holy Book: “wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer”(59). The Prophet (PBUH) also said that “Allah likes to see the effect of His bounties on His Servants”(60), adding that “he whose heart contains the weight of an atom of arrogance will not enter Paradise”. He said: “A man said: 'The man likes to have good clothes and good shoes.'” He answered that “Allah is Beautiful and loves beauty, arrogance means rejecting the truth and looking down on people”(61). In the same vein, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “You are meeting your brothers, embellish your mounts and clothes, and be a mark of beauty amongst people. God does not like obscenity and obscene actions”(62).
One of the examples of cleanliness in Islam is the fact that in the planning of Islamic cities there are places for doing ablution in every district, giving the bath a central position, not only for bathing, but also for ablution with hot water in winter, mainly for people who cannot afford it at home. We also should not forget the reference of the Prophet to houses and the cleanliness of courtyards. He said: “Clean up your courtyards and do not behave like Jews. Allah is good and loves goodness, clean and loves cleanliness, and generous and loves gene-rosity, so clean up your courtyards and do not behave like Jews”(63). And to further emphasise the importance of cleanliness in Islam, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Purity is half the faith”(64), i.e. purifying oneself from the physical and moral impurity is half of faith or a significant share of it.
This leads us to the second aspect of cleanliness, which is related to spiritual, intellectual and behavioural purity. Although there are many different inner aspects to this purification, it is sufficient to point out only the following:
First: Staying away from immorality and sins, and everything Haram, whatever its kind and origin. Almighty Allah says: “come not nigh to shameful deeds, whether open or secret”(65) and “…nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils)”.(66). He also says: “Eat of the things which Allah hath provided for you”(67). In this context, Allah has forbidden to eat all that is spiteful, as He says: “Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than Allah. that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows”(68). He has also forbidden alcohol, saying in His Holy Book: “O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedi-cation of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan's handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper”(69). For his part, the Prophet said that “every intoxicant is wine and every intoxicant is Haram”(70) and “whatever intoxicates in large quantities, a small quantity of it is Haram”(71). All this is meant to protect life. Almighty Allah says: “and make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction”(72) and “Nor kill (or destroy) yourselves”(73).
Second: Abstaining from excess and extravagance in eating, drinking, dressing, as well as in other things, as has been said earlier.
Third: The adoption of moral values and good conduct, whether in dealing with God, oneself or society; Believers are required to keep their senses and tongue and thinking away from all that is bad, such as backbiting, gossip, perjury and false oaths, as well as idle talk, immoral songs and shameless serials, etc., which distracts from worshiping Allah and prevent from doing good deeds. Allah says: “But there are, among men, those who purchase idle tales, without knowledge”(74).
Through this physical and moral purity, Muslims get away from everything bad and ugly, and closer to everything good and beautiful.
It should also be noted that the preservation and protection of the environment are not limited to combating physical and moral pollution, but goes beyond that to encouraging the development of this environment through planting trees, as well as acts of kindness and goodness. The Prophet of Allah (PBUH) says: “Whoever plants a tree, Allah rewards him for every fruit that comes out of that tree”(75); and “there are seven things that God's servants benefit from even after they die: teaching a science, establishing a river, digging a well, planting a tree, building a mosque, bequeathing the Koran, or leaving a child who would ask forgiveness for them”(76). And to emphasise the importance of planting, the Prophet said that “if a Muslim plants a tree or sows a seed and humans, beasts and birds eat from it, it will be counted as a charity for him”(77).
This Hadith leads us to considering the right of the other creatures to live side by side with human beings in the environment as one of the manifestations of preserving this environment. Almighty Allah says: “There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end”(78); and also says that “there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; And yet ye understand not how they declare His glory!”(79).
Under this type of environment preservation falls removing whatever may harm people on the road, which is considered part of faith. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said: “Faith has sixty-odd, or seventy-odd branches, the highest and best of which is to declare that there is no God but Allah, and the lowest of which is to remove something harmful from a road; shyness, too, is a branch of faith”(80). He also said that “I was shown the deeds of my Ummah, both the good and bad ones, and I found that the best deeds are removing harmful things from the road”(81). He added that “removing a stone, a thorn or a bone from people's way is charity”(82); and that “while a man is walking on a road and finds a branch with thorns on the road and removes it, Allah thanks him and forgives him”(83). He also said “a man entered Paradise because he cut a tree that harmed Muslims”(84). Abu Barzeh asked the Prophet (PBUH) saying: “Teach me something I can benefit from.” The Prophet answered: “remove harmful things from Muslims' way”(85).
And to further stress this point, the Prophet said: “avoid the three cursed things: excrement in resources, roadsides and shade”(86); he also said: “avoid the things that cause curse;” he was asked what these things were; he answered: “relieving on the thoroughfares or under the shades where people take shelter and rest”(87). In the Koran there is a concise verse about this phenomenon: “And those who annoy believing men and women undeservedly, bear (on themselves) a calumny and a glaring sin”(88).
This blessed Quranic and prophetic guidance is due to the importance of earth and its cleanliness, since it is used as a means of Tayammum and a place for prayer. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “Earth was made a mosque and a pure place for me”(89), adding that “all the earth is a mosque, except the cemetery and the bathroom”(90). For the Prophet, this importance even reached a relationship of love. He said, talking about the mountain of Uhud: “This is Uhud, a mountain that loves us and we love it”(91). Ibnu Rachiq Al Qayrawani enumerated some of the aspects of this attachment in the following poetic verses:
Earth was asked why she was a place for prayer
And why for us pure and good
She answered without a word:
Because I hold for every human a loved one
It has thus become clear that Islam considers the obligation of protecting, preserving and developing the environment an act of worship that is imposed on each individual and every community, as it - this worship - is the purpose behind creating all the living beings. Glorified Allah says: “I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me”(92); and also says: “there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; And yet ye understand not how they declare His glory!”(93).
When Allah bestowed his bounties on creatures, He asked them only to worship Him - as noted above -, including thanking Him for these bounties, following and letting themselves be guided by His instructions. He says: “Are you thankful”(94); and “If ye are grateful, I will add more (favours) unto you; But if ye show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed.”(95). Neglecting this worship means being ungrateful to Allah and results in punishment. He says: “Allah sets forth a Parable: a city enjoying security and quiet, abundantly supplied with sustenance from every place: Yet was it ungrateful for the favours of Allah. so Allah made it taste of hunger and terror (in extremes) (closing in on it) like a garment (from every side), because of the (evil) which (its people) wrought.”(96). No wonder, the urge on this act of worship is due to the benefits of conserving the environment, that is ensuring the continuation of life vitals.
Humans are called upon to reflect on the universe and existence, that is reflecting on the environment around them in order to confirm and strengthened their faith, as highlighted in these verses: “Do they see nothing in the government of the heavens and the earth and all that Allah hath created?”(97); “Say: "Behold all that is in the heavens and on earth”(98); “Do they not look at the sky above them?- How We have made it and adorned it, and there are no flaws in it?”(99); “Then let man look at his food, (and how We provide it): For that We pour forth water in abundance, And We split the earth in fragments, And produce therein corn, And Grapes and nutritious plants, And Olives and Dates, And enclosed Gardens, dense with lofty trees, And fruits and fodder, For use and convenience to you and your cattle.”(100); and “Do they not look at the Camels, how they are made?- And at the Sky, how it is raised high?- And at the Mountains, how they are fixed firm?- And at the Earth, how it is spread out?”(101). Allah has also stressed that He would make humans reflect about the world: “Soon will We show them our Signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that thy Lord doth witness all things?”(102).
We may aslo add that what further proves Islam's great care about preserving the environment are the books of Fiqh, Hisbah, and Al Ahkam As-Sultania - for example - which are full of provisions and guidelines urging on this preservation, even in time of war. Yahya Ibn Said was reported to say that Abu Bakr had sent armies to Greater Syria (Sham), then went out walking with Yazid Ibn Sufyan, who was the emirs of one of those regions. Abu Bakr said: “I'd advise you about ten things: do not kill a woman, a child or an old person, do not cut fruit trees, do not destroy anything built, do not slaughter a sheep or a camel except for food, do not cut or burn palm trees, do not chain up or betray”(103).
the International attitude towards the environmental problem and the need for an ethical charter
As part of the efforts to preserve
the environment and fight against its pollution and destruction, and in
relation with what is being discussed about it nowadays, we note the summit
held in Dec.
To prove this, suffice it to point out that what was agreed upon only serves the interests of industrialised countries, as they agreed to limit the rise of earth's temperature, without any indication to the maximum that should not be exceeded, nor to the way to reconcile between such an agreement and those countries' economic development aspirations. This is what was raised by the “Africa Group”, as well as a number of supporting countries.
Since the beginning, this conference faced demonstrations, some countries' condemnation and concerns expressed by many heads of delegations, which made the difficulty of reaching an agreement about global warming much clearer. The United States as well as many developed countries strived to sell this agreement and its objective of keeping earth's temperature below 2°, compared to earlier. It is no secret that these countries are the ones that are responsible for most gas emissions that exacerbate global warming phenomena, as well as their dangers and dire consequences. Moreover, the Kyoto agreement, which will be over in 2012, has not achieved the implementation of what was decided to limit this global warming, nor did it help determine the financial aid estimation to help poor countries face its consequences.
Therefore, there is a need for a global ethical charter that goes hand in hand with the development witnessed in the world at different levels, in order to achieve an individual and collective behaviour in line with the necessities of this development, to benefit from its advantages and avoid its drawbacks.
This requires a revision of the way natural, human and any other basic resources are invested, that is using them more moderately and according to needs, so as to limit the dangers of over-exploitation. And there is only one way to achieve this revision: paying more attention to human beings and their development. Environmental education based on the values that provide for these objectives and that are able to achieve them can play a major role which needs to be exploited through relevant programs.
When we take a look at environmental issues in the Arab world and in the Islamic world in general, we notice that this latter is made of an area or diffe-rently formed areas - mountains, planes, coasts, etc. - that are surrounded by seas from the east and the west. It is bordered by Europe from the north, Sub-Saharan Africa from the south and Asia from the east, which makes the environment of the Arab world very diverse, but this also makes its climate subject to instability, disasters and pollution factors coming from the industrially and economically developed world.
All These factors require the world to pay more attention to the environmental problem with all its aspects, striking the right balance between these aspects and political, economic and social needs. The cultural sides should also be given priority, which entails attending to the safety of humans, their environment and their general life, so as to instil the environmental culture in every member of society.
These individuals need to be aware of these issues and make every effort, physically and morally, to take up its challenges and constraints, each in his surroundings, even just at home or in the neighbourhood. If people become aware of these issues, they will know the value of the environment and its preservation. They will also know the advantages of moderateness, avoid over-consuming some vital substances, most importantly water, and be ready to face the natural disasters that may take them by a surprise.
There is no doubt that this awareness needs to be accompanied by understanding the different environmental affairs, and reinforced by observatories and laboratories, in order to monitor this environment in its different aspects, collect data, follow up its changes, prepare the mechanisms for its preservation and coordinate cooperation between it and all development components and needs. This will also help find solutions to its problems and encourage scientific research in this respect. However, this should not be done at the expense of cultural heritage with its landmarks and civilisational monuments.
(*) N° 27. year 1432-2011.
(1) Al–Haj, verse 26.
(2) Al-Aaraf, verse 74.
(3) Al-Zumar, verse 74.
(4) Narrated by Ibnu Majjah on the authority of Abi-Hurayra.
(5) Narrated by Ibnu Majjah on the authority of Abi-Hurayra.
(6) See “Lissanu-al-Arab”, by Ibnu Mandhour.
(7) Al-Israa, verse 70.
(8) Al-Naml, verse 18.
(9) Al-Ankabout, verse 41.
(10) Narrated by Ibnu Hanbal..
(11) Narrated by Muslim on the authority of Nafii.
(12) Al-Tawbah, verse 106.
(13) Narrated by Ibnu Majjah on the authority of Anass Ibnu Malik.
(14) Quraysh, verses 3 and 4.
(15) Sad, verses 71 and 72.
(16) Taha, verse 54.
(17) Hud, verse 60.
(18) Al-Baqara, verse 10.
(19) Al-Maeda, verse 19.
(20) Sabaa, verse 22.
(21) Al-Baqara, verses 28 and 29.
(22) Al-Anaam, verse 142.
(23) Yassine, verses 32 through 34.
(24) Al-Hadid, verse 24.
(25) Loqman, verse 26.
(26) Al-Baqara, verse 188.
(27) Al-Anaam, verse 96.
(28) Arrahmane, verse 3.
(29) Al-Hijr, verse 16,
(30) Al-Haqqa, verse 5.
(31) Al-Ahqaf, verse 23.
(32) Arrom, verse 47.
(33) Al-Hijr, verse 22.
(34) Al-Anbiya, verse 30.
(35) Al-Zumur, verse 20.
(36) Loqman, verse 19.
(37) Houd, verse 60.
(38) Al-Baqara, verse 29.
(39) Al-Anaam, verse 167.
(40) Al-Hadid, verse 7
(41) Al-Araaf, verse 9
(42) Al-Araaf, verse 42
(43) Al-Baqara, verse 35.
(44) Maryam, verse 39.
(45) Al-Hijr, verses 19 through 21.
(46) Al-Furqan, verse 2..
(47) Al-Qamar, verse 49.
(48) Annaml, verse 63.
(49) Al-Baqara, verse 21.
(50) Annisaa, verse 40.
(51) Yunus, verse 44.
(52) Arrom, verse 40.
(53) Al-Anbiyaa, verse 30
(54) Al-Furqan, verse 48
(55) Al-Anfal, verse 11.
(56) Al-Muddathir, verse.
(57) Attawba, verse 109.
(58) Al-Waqia, verse 80-82.
(59) Al-Aaraf, verse 29
(60) Narrated by Tirmidi, on the authority of Amru Ibn Shuayb, on the authority of his father, on the authority of his grandfather
(61) Narrated by Muslim, on the authority of Abdullah Ibn Masood.
(62) Narrated by Ahmed and Abu Daoud, on the authority of Sahl Ibn Al Handalia.
(63) Narrated by Tirmidi, on the authority of Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas.
(64) It was said that this hadith was reported by Malik Al Ashaari, Muslim and Nasai and Tirmidi.
(65) Al-Anaam, verse: 151.
(66) Al-Israa, verse: 32.
(67) Al-Maida, verse: 90.
(68) Al-Maida, verse: 4.
(69) Al-Maida, verse 92.
(70) Narrated by Muslim and Ahmed, on the authority of Ibn Omar.
(71) Narrated by Ahmed Abu Daoud and Tirmidi, on the authority of Jabir.
(72) Al-Baqara, verse: 194.
(73) Annissaa, verse 29.
(74) Loqman, verse: 5.
(75) Narrated by Attabarani in Al Awsat.
(76) Narrated by Al Bazar in his Musnad, on the authority of Anas.
(77) Narrated by Al Bukhari in his book Al Harth, on the authority of Anas.
(78) Al-Anaam, verse: 39.
(79) Al-Israa, verse: 44.
(80) Narrated by Muslim, on the authority of Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her.
(81) Narrated by Muslim and Ibn Maja, on the authority of Abi Dar.
(82) As was reported by Al Bayhaqi.
(83) Narrated by Muslim, on the authority of Abu Hurayra.
(84) Narrated by Muslim.
(85) Narrated by Muslim, on the authority of Abi Al Wazii.
(86) Narrated by Ibn Maja and Abu Daoud, on the authority of Muad.
(87) Narrated by Muslim, on the authority of Abu Hurayra.
(88) Al-Ahzab, verse 58.
(89) Narrated by Ahmed, on the authority of Anas Ibnu Malik, of Ibnu Daoud and of Abu Dar Al Ghifari.
(90) Narrated by Abu Daoud, on the authority of Abu Said Al Khudri.
(91) Narrated by Ahmed, on the authority of Anas Ibnu Malik.
(92) Adhariat, verse 56.
(93) Al-Israa, verse: 44.
(94) Al-Anbiyaa, verse: 79.
(95) Ibrahim, verse: 9.
(96) Annahl, verse: 112.
(97) Al-Aaraf, verse: 185.
(98) Yunus, verse 101.
(99) Qaf, verse: 6.
(100) Abassa, verses 24 through 31.
(101) Al-Ghashia, 17 through 20.
(102) Fussilat, verse 52.
(103) Reported by Malik in Al Muwattaa, and Ashukani in Nil Al Awtar, J 7, S: 263