For Muslims the Qur’an is the ultimate green-guide. Believed to be a sublime revelation with remarkable ideas, this divine scripture is scrupulously read by Muslims for spirituality. But it is not limited to only that. In the Islamic faith, faith in the environment is on par to good faith towards humanity and indeed God, since Muslims believe He created all. The Qur’an therefore, doesn’t just link belief in One God (Tawheed) to being nice to plants and keeping a pet. The Qur’an glorifies nature and wildlife as an earthly heaven, a mirror to the lush forests of Paradise above.
1. Anti-Corruption Police
Living a balanced, moderate life is easy to say, harder to follow through. Even Muslims-the wealthier, western Muslims-have a difficult time living purely ‘off the land’. Yet this doesn’t detract from the verses:
“…And do not desire corruption in the land. Indeed, God does not like corruptors. ” Qur’an 28:77
“…And do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” Qur’an, 2:60
“…So… let them taste part of (the consequences of) what they have done that perhaps they will return (to righteousness).” (Qur’an 30:41)
2. Call Yourself A Human?
“Indeed, We (God) offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it; but man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant. (Qur’an 33:72)
In Arabic the word for earthling is Khalifa (خلِيفةً) pronounced kha-leaf-ah. This is a magnificent word with multiple meanings like deputy, guardian, ‘friend of Earth’ and viceroy, although it all boils down to Stewardship. Human beings are the most intelligent beings on earth so it makes sense that we have the responsibility to care for our planet, to give it a hug and a health check now and again .
“And it is He (God) who has made you successors (khala’ifa) upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Qur’an 6:165).
Interestingly, this idea of humans being ‘successors’ or stewards resonates in the Bible, particularly in Exodus and Corinthians. In the well-known Genesis verses the earliest humans alive are taught to sow and reap from the fields, in order to understand the functionality of earth and be in awe of its beauty. The Torah too instructs its followers with a job description similar to a noble janitor.
Muslims are supposed to hold this responsibility deeply. We are not the masters but we have been given a short-term trust. Anyone who creates corruption and pollution abuses their power and has violated this trust. Such a person fails as a Human and needs to earn the title back.
3. Ending Poverty
“And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor.” (Qur’an, 89:18)
There are so many modern ways to end poverty. I really believe there is enough man-power, resources and the all-important funding (you know, moolah) to end poverty the world over. But for personal and political reasons, we might donate £5/$5, give our Islamic “tax” (zakat) to a charity once a year, and think that’s enough. It is good, but it is not enough.
I hear so many apologies from Muslims like ‘you can only give to Islamic charities’ and ‘donate to the masjid first’ but that’s phoney etiquette. In the order of priorities under the Islamic social system, human life comes first, then preserving faith and then community. These principles overlap so that you cannot have one complete without the other.
Many orphans around the world are waiting for a kind person to sponsor them.
“No! But you do not honour the orphan.” (Qur’an, 89:17)
Honouring orphans? An orphan is without a father to financially support him/her. By giving a monthly amount you improve the lifestyle of a young person, you give a life. You also raise their status because you’re sponsoring their education, their food, their home. Without your provision another child potentially dies. God is saying that most people do not really care. Remember those priorities: Life.
An educated child has more opportunities so God exclaims, honour them! And remember the saying (Hadith) of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that anyone who supports an orphan will live in close proximity to him, in heaven.
Another point in poverty, inheritance. Endless troubles are created because people who don’t understand the Islamic inheritance laws fight over who gets what. This is ‘unIslamic’, leading to more social inequity. God tells believers to discard the love of wealth and to be fair in giving people their due,
“[But] you consume inheritance, devouring [it] altogether,” (Qur’an 89:17).
Action plan – Some of the ways to end poverty
- You could set up a standing order to your local charity
- Ask your masjid to give one month’s donations to the poorest in your neighbourhood
- Sponsor an orphan – if you want to know how please comment
- Start a ‘buddy’ system where you ‘babysit’ an impoverished teen for a month
- Petition your local council repeatedly to support and house the homeless-they are not a burden; you can do this anonymously
In Islam charity is prioritised to the most needy and the closest. If there is a single mum on your street who can’t pay for her weekly shop, that is where you donation should be headed. If a child you know lives below the standard, can’t afford school supplies or can’t even pay for school dinners, that is your obligation too. So you see, ending poverty globally is a challenge that can be done, but keep looking to your own neighbourhoods first.
4. Preservation of Water
Another way of ending poverty is to provide clean water where it’s needed. This doesn’t have to be a burdensome task. Ask your friends/family to chip in £5 for a community well abroad, your home country perhaps. Tell people to reuse their plastic bottles and donate the cost (£1) to your well-fundraising. Save water in your own homes by fixing leaky taps and request that the masjid caps water usage to limit wastage.
Water is a huge life-providing theme in the Qur’an. God talks about how He creates life through water then sustains it by streams, the rains, rivers and oceans that are homes for so many creatures.
“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)
In the Qur’an, God uses the analogy of life and death for Muslims to recognise the value of water. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said that one day people will wage war over rivers of gold. He was talking about water. We have taps that fill our basins with gold, but we cannot afford overflows while people wait for the rains. Third-world countries in desert climates are counting on us to give the cost of our water to them.
By starting something simple like a well-fundraiser you kickstart a chain reaction that will motivate others to do the same. People will call your mosque a Green Mosque for following the prophetic Eco-Wudhu and preserving water. Whomever receives your well/water-pump will be able to plant crops, fruits and trees for generations.
“And We have sent down blessed rain from the sky and made grow thereby gardens and grain from the harvest.” (Qur’an, 50:9)
As water is another natural creation, Muslims believe it belongs to God and nobody can monopolise it. Water is for sharing and there is enough water for all.
5. Gardens of Paradise
The Qur’an contains lots of horticultural information which science has reaffirmed by more than 90%. Like previous revelations in the Gospels and Torah, Quranic plants are mentioned in detail with the medicinal properties of herbs being highlighted. God speaks about His creative design and the nutrition available from natural produce as an encouragement to eat healthily:
“And it is He who sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby the growth of all things. We produce from it greenery from which We produce grains arranged in layers. And from the palm trees – of its emerging fruit are clusters hanging low. And [We produce] gardens of grapevines and olives and pomegranates, similar yet varied. Look at [each of] its fruit when it yields and [at] its ripening. Indeed in that are signs for a people who believe.” (Qur’an, 6:99)
Among the plants mentioned in the Qur’an there is garlic, grapes, pomegranate, herbs, dates, ginger, olives, lentils, onion, cucumber, figs, mustard, a variety of trees including the cedar and the acacia flower.
What do we learn from this? Plants are already part of our diet so there’s not much impetus to start talking to trees but we could always take it a step further.
The Eco Muslim
- I am pro-gardening and will always encourage readers to grow something. Anything. At the least, your pot of ‘wildlife’ will encourage pollination and eco-systems.
- Cut a tree, plant a tree. For every bouquet of flowers you give, plant flower seeds; at least once a year, sponsor a sapling in Palestine; grow fruit trees with your kids. Grow stuff man!
- Build an eco-system by filling hanging baskets with luscious compost or peat.
- Needless to say, increase your intake of heavenly greens and fruits.
- Finally, take time out to appreciate the beauty of meadows and foliage around you. These moments of reflection count as worship for Muslims, they are moments of connection to the Creator. But you can take it however you want. Gratitude is the key.
6. Treating Animals With Dignity
“And there is no creature on [or within] the earth or bird that flies with its wings except [that they are] communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.” (Qur’an, 6:38) http://quran.com/6/38
God uses the word ‘community’ (umma) to describe the similarity between people and animals. We have our social groups, animals have theirs. There is a beauty and majesty in the innate construct of swimmings shoals of fish or flocks of birds dancing in the skies. Muslims reflect, where do penguins learn parenting skills? How do baby turtles know to head to water? For Muslims, this answer is divinely inspired.
It’s a sad reality that animal rights are grossly violated throughout the Muslim world. Violence like hunting for skins or tusks means that several animal species are extinct. Imagine those animals were ethnicity groups, could you really accept all of Europe or south-east Asia being wiped out? I don’t think so.
In many countries animals are needlessly killed or eaten without health considerations. For true Muslims, both actions are illegal. This is why pork is unlawful (haram); it’s very unhealthy. A few animals cannot be consumed under Islamic law and all animals have to be raised with dignity, with the exception of an attack (think poisonous snakes!)
The city shepherd
I know that Muslims know their faith is about being kind to animals. But what about a chicken’s lifestyle prior to being slaughtered? What about treating cats with love so they are not scared? What about giving back what is taken from them – ? Like what, you ask. Lemme tell you:
The Bee and the honey it makes: A whole chapter in the Qur’an is dedicated to bees (An-Nahl, 16:68-69), elevating the magic involved for turning nectar into honey. People are not supposed to disrupt honeycombs or knock down ‘live’ hives. In this instance, giving back would involve planting yellow coloured flowers to help bees collect nectar or supporting a bee farm.
Zabiha animals: In Islamic law animals like cattle and poultry are lawful to eat because they are healthy and they have been made by God to be consumed (see Mai’dah, 5:4). For an Islamic slaughtered the animals needs healthy grazing without hormones, given tenderness with freedom to roam and then prepared for slaughtering (zabiha).
The Zabiha method involves covering the animal’s eyes and reading God’s name (takbir) to help the animal submit. Without good health, the animal may be Zabiha but it will not be lawful (halal) to eat.
Muslims do not have to eat meat. Vegetarianism is an option in Islamic law and eating less meat is the best diet.
Doing more: Request your masjid to sponsor an endangered animal which students can get updates on (how cool would that be?). If you know a cosmetic company tests on animals, don’t use it. It might not save hundreds of animals or shut the company down but at least you’re not contributing to a monster process. You are the one with the ethics.
“Eat and drink from the provision of Allaah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” (Qur’an, 2:60)
Islamic etiquette tells Muslims to follow a formula concerning food: We say God’s name when eating (bismillah), we always eat with our right hand, we eat slowly, chew slowly, eat smaller portions, sip water 3x, sit for eating and drinking, we share our food and cover all uneaten food.
How to eat
- Go vegetarian for a month every year to improve your diet
- Your body is not a bin so stop filling it with junk food
- Recognise Zabiha vs. Halal: Zabiha is Islamic and Halal is organic. You need both
- Keep to your ethics by checking food labels-support poorer countries and buy more local
- Don’t bother with fancy diets. Make a food chart of what you should be eating and follow that 52 weeks of the year
8. Patching The Ozone
The ozone “hole” over the Antarctica is a phenomenon whereby the stratosphere is thinned out (it’s not really a hole). It’s caused by refrigerants: CFC’s, halons and freons. These have been banned since the 1970s but we still lose a few percentile of ozone each year, and the increased thinning means the earth is losing its protective layer.
Islam’s 14-thousand-year-old book mentions the atmosphere in embracing language:
“And We made the sky a protected ceiling (canopy), but they, from its signs, are turning away.” (Qur’an, 21:32)
“It is Allah who made for you the earth a place of settlement and the sky a ceiling and formed you and perfected your forms and provided you with good things. That is Allah, your Lord; then blessed is Allah , Lord of the worlds.” (Qur’an, 40:64)
Finding a band-aid
God has wrapped the earth with atmosphere and people have burned it away. Restoring it requires global diligence and commitment to neutralising toxic gases/radiation. It is asking a lot from billions of people yet I believe it is the only way to go about it.
Fight existing organisations that pollute the most and get politically involved to shake up government awareness. Environmental action is always on the agenda but not many have the courage to follow-through. Nuclear plants and factories have protected legal rights to emit certain amounts of pollution and waste, we cannot always defeat those. But doing our individual part can collectively heal the “hole” in the sky over the years.
9. Understanding The Creation
After reading such a variety of information from the Qu’ran, it’s time to look at #EcoIslam ideas as a whole. The Qur’an is a book for thinkers and is open to anyone not afraid to read. This is what the Qur’an also says…
The Art in Design (and the Design in Art)
“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)
Tectonic plates and mountain ‘pegs’
“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)
Travelling on sea
“He released the two seas, meeting [side by side]; Between them is a barrier [so] neither of them transgresses.” (55:19-20)
“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)
“It is Allah who sends the winds, and they stir the clouds and spread them in the sky however He wills, and He makes them fragments so you see the rain emerge from within them. And when He causes it to fall upon whom He wills of His servants, immediately they rejoice.” (30:48)
“It is He who shows you lightening, [causing] fear and aspiration, and generates the heavy clouds.” (13:12)
All these verses are amazing starting points for activism. Environmental welfare is described as something sacrilegious, beneficial for us, and so naturally Muslims are going to act on them, right? I mean, to say that being The Eco Muslim is a spiritual act is laughable for many but I see it as a real integral part of my faith.
By reading these verses it should at the very least make you aware of Islam’s harmonious core. Living as socially responsible and exemplary human beings is one of the Islamic commands of God.
10. Respecting The Creator
So Who is God? “Call upon Allah or call upon the Most Merciful. Whichever [name] you call – to Him belong the best names.” (17:110)
A world without God
No belief at all is like saying there’s no morality or no social code: the system cracks. In Islam, Quranic warnings describe a world where there is no authority and the ego becomes the ultimate religion. Such a world inevitably destroys itself and becomes destroyed. These final days are described in various Quranic verses.
If a person has no belief, one has to question where the morality comes from. Logic tells us to respect nature because it’s the source of our food, health, livelihood. It’s our planet. All things come from the ground and The Eco Muslim policy is to walk on this ground without damaging it.
Appreciating the universal system, from quarks to quasars, the Qur’an says be a thinker, reflect, meditate. It’s good for your own health. Respect others, pass the good vibes on.
Finally, regardless of your faith, ask yourself: have I improved my life and the lives of those around me?
Peace + eco-jihad.
Zaufishan, The Eco Muslim
Photos from members of FiTree