The earth is in
danger and the lives of our coming generations are under serious
threat. And it is all due to the misadventures of human beings.
"Evil has become
rife on the land and at sea because of men's deeds." (Surah Ar-Room,
This is the
summary of the most serious crisis of our time. This is so serious
that the very existence of human race is at stake. Look at the
following facts and figures.
The six hottest
years in recorded history have all occurred in the last decade. WHO
estimated that in 2000 over 1.5 lakh people died due to the direct
impact of climate change. This figure is increasing rapidly.
In 50 years the
earth will be 3 -5 degrees hotter than it is today, leading to the
melting of a large portion of polar ice caps, and a rise of up to 14
feet in global sea levels leading some islands to disappear.
It is estimated
that between 150 and 200 species become extinct every day. Once a
species is lost it is gone forever and within the next 10 years we
may lose 20% of all the remaining species on earth.
The hole in the
ozone layer is approximately l0 million square miles. With a thinned
ozone layer, the world becomes a more dangerous place, with reduced
agricultural productivity, higher risk of skin cancer, and reduced
immunity. 150 million cases of skin cancer and three million deaths
are projected during the course of the 21st century.
WHO, air pollution is causing around 2 million premature deaths
An area of a
rainforest the size of a football field is being destroyed each
More than seven
children die each minute as a result of water pollution.
Every year 25
million people die from diseases caused from polluted water and
The situation in
our country is not much different.
By 2050, many
cities will witness 4°c raise in maximum temperature.
central regions of the country will see a 15-day reduction in the
monsoon season, while rainy days will increase by 5-10 days in the
North and North-East.
By 2050, most
states may offer climatic opportunities for year-round malaria
Glaciers in the
Himalayan range are retreating at a rate of 18m per year. The
melting snow will increase the incidents of flooding and mudslides.
Air pollution in
India causes 527,700 deaths a year. Only china has more number of
premature pollution-related deaths than India.
In India 1.03
crore people die annually, of which nearly 7.5%, 78 lakh deaths, are
related to water. The water availability per person will decline to
760 cm in 2050. It was 3,450 cm in 1951.
The 6500 km
Indian coastline is vulnerable to rising sea levels. A meter sea
level rise will inundate 1700 - square - kilometer agricultural land
affecting 7.1 million people.
It is the
responsibility of all of us to stand up and do something to save the
planet. Islam stipulates that being the vicegerent, we are
responsible for protecting and using the natural resources in a
moderate and sustainable manner. The major reason for these crises
is the policy failures and misdirected industrialisation. That has
created havoc. The mad race for luxuries and prosperity in the
developed world coupled with the exploitative and hypocrite policies
of their governments is the root of the whole disaster. But apart
from government and policymakers, individual human beings are also
responsible for these crises. And even today, every one of us can do
a lot to save the planet.
Islam has given
a very perfect system of Environmental Ethics. It is high time we
practiced this system of ethics and presented it to the humanity.
ethical behaviors and life style related practices that can be
promoted for a healthy environment can be mainly divided in three
and regulating the Consumption,
2. Reducing and
managing the Wastage, and
CONTROLLING THE CONSUMPTION
is among the leading reasons of the environmental crises. The
capitalist society has purpose fully promoted lavish and luxurious
lifestyles by glorifying the products and making extravagance the
status symbol. This has resulted in tremendous pressure on water,
energy and other resources. It has also resulted in the huge
production of waste that is also a cause of environmental crises.
5% of the
world's population use up to 25% of the entire planet's energy
resources and the wealthier 16% (mostly the US, Europe and Japan)
use up to 80% of the world's goods.
lived in the world like the average American, we would need five
In the United
States, there are more cars than the licensed drivers. It means
people are possessing more than one cars.
A person in the
U.S. causes 100 times more damage to the global environment than a
person in a poor country....
Islam teaches us
to be moderate in consumption. While it has not stopped us from
using Allah's bounties for our pleasure and comfort, it has
definitely discouraged indulgence in extravagance and lavishness.
The Qur’an has
squarely condemned extravagance at no less than 23 places.
The Holy Qur’an
says, "Children of Adam! Take your adornment at every time of
Prayer; and eat and drink -without going to excesses. For Allah does
not like those who go to excess." (Suarh A'araf, 7:31)
that while utilising the natural resources, we need to be watchful-
Our approach to consumption should be characterized by restraint and
moderation. By our consumption pattern we should not cause harm to
the long term interest of the humanity and our coming generations.
The Holy Qur’an
spells out how our extra resources should be utilised.
obligations towards your relatives and the wayfarer. Do not be a
spendthrift because the spendthrifts are the brethren of Satan and
Satan has been ungrateful to his Lord."
(Surah Bani Israil, 26-27)
It means our
consumption should not be selfish. It should give due consideration
to the needs of the fellow human beings and the impacts that the
consumption is going to make on others.
Here are a few
basic guidelines that Islam provides about consumption.
1. We must try
to reduce our dependence on materials and goods. Islam taught us to
live a simple life. Allah says, "Know welt that the life of this
world is merely sport and diversion and adornment and an object of
your boasting with one another, and a rivalry in the multiplication
of riches and children. Its likeness is that of rain; when it
produces vegetation it delights the tillers. But then it withers and
you see it turn yellow, and then it crumbles away. In the Hereafter
there is (either) grievous chastisement (or) forgiveness from Allah
and (His) good pleasure. The life of this –world is nothing but
delusion." (Surah Al-Hadeed, 57:20)
Muhammad (S.A.W.) said. "'The worldly comforts are not for me. I am
like a traveler, who takes a rest under a tree in the shade and then
goes on his way." (Tirmizi)
The House of the
Holy Prophet was not more than a humble hut with clay walls and
roofs of palm leaves and camel skin. His house contained a rope cot,
a pillow filled with palm, the animal - skin flooring, a water bag
and some weapons (Bukhari, and Muslim). The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.)
instructed us not to compete in worldly riches and life status
rather to compete in virtues. "When you see a person who has been
given more than you in money and beauty, look to those, who have
been given less." (Muslim) The Holy Prophet warned that
over-possession may create troubles for us on the Day-of Judgment.
"It is difficult for a man laden with riches to climb the steep path
that leads to bliss," (Muslim)
The Holy Prophet
(S.A.W.) did not talk to a person who had built a magnificent
building until he demolished it and said, every building would
become a liability for its owner (on-the Judgment Day) except one
which was unavoidable." (Abu Dawood) ,
2. We should use
extra money for the welfare of poor and needy. This will
automatically curtail the extravagant consumption. The Holy Quran
stipulates that ideally, we should spend in the way of Allah
whatever is more than our needs. "And they ask, what ought we to
spend (in the way of Allah)? Say, Spend -whatever is beyond your
needs." (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:219)
Zakat is not the
only Charity that is expected from a Muslim. He is expected to be
generous in helping the poor and needy. "And they feed, for the
love of Allah, the poor, the orphan, and the captive.” (Surah
Companions were known for their immense generosity. Ali Bin Talib
and his wife, daughter of the Holy Prophet, Fatima fasted for three
days and each day they gave all the food they had in charity. Ka'ab
Bin Malik and Saa'd Bin Abi Waqas would have given all their wealth
in charity, but the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) commanded them to keep a
portion for themselves and families. (Bukhari & Muslim)
3. One big
reason of lavishness and consumerism is the wrong notion that the
status and respect of human being is associated with his /her
possessions and lifestyle. Islam has discouraged rather deplored
this thinking and has given an altogether different benchmark for
status and dignity. According to the Holy Quran Taq-wa or fear of
Allah is the criterion of supremacy for human beings.
The Holy Quran
beings, We created you all from a male and a female, and made you
into nations and tribes So that you may know one another. Verily the
noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-fearing of you.
Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-aware.”
(Surah Al Hujarat, 49:13).
Hasan Ali Nadvi, in his acclaimed book Maza Khasart - aalam bi
fnhetatil Muslimeen maintains that in early Islamic history and
even in the late medieval period, the status and nobility was
attached with philanthropy and patronage of academic activities. The
nobility and status was judged by as to how many people ate in one's
dining hall and how many rare books his library had.
Islamic regulation that controls consumption is the uncompromising
and stringent prohibition of Interest. Availability of easy consumer
credit is among the major factors that have accelerated the crazy
race of consumption in our age. Islam has strictly prohibited
interest and the Qur’an has declared that those who indulge in
interest are at war with Allah.
Fear Allah and give up that interest which is still due to you, if
you are true believers. But if you do not do so, then you are warned
of the declaration of war against you by Allah and His Messenger."
(Surah Al Baqarah, 2,278-279)
Islam has not
only prohibited the interest, it has discouraged debt (even without
interest) for consumption. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) used to say in
his prayer: "O Allah! I seek refuge with You from sin and heavy
debt." Someone said to him: "How often you seek refuge from
heavy debt"! He said: "When a man gets into debt, he speaks and
tells lies, and makes a promise and breaks it." (Bukhari and Muslim)
Musnad Ahmad has narrated that the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) refrained
from offering the funeral prayer for one who had died owing two
dinars, until Abu Qatadah (R.A.) promised to pay it off for him. So
the debt in Islam is interest free and confined to addressing dire
necessities only. It is not for maintaining a lavish and luxurious
4. We should
insist on environment friendly products and should avoid products
and companies that are spoiling the environment and ecological
balance. Masalahah or public good has been considered on important
principle of Islamic Jurisprudence. The Holy Quran has said that
good in this world is also something that is to be desired. "Then
there are others who say, "Our Lord, give us what is good, in this
world and also what is good in the Hereafter and save us from the
torment of Fire." (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:511). The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.)
said: "Seek what brings benefit to you and depend on Allah." The
Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) has also categorically emphasized, "No harm
shall be inflicted or tolerated in Islam" (Ibne-Majah). Based on
this, Islamic Jurists have taken Maslehah as an important principle
of jurisprudence, (Usul-ul-Fiqah). It means anything that may cause
harm to public will not be allowed. So we should try to shun all
those things that directly or indirectly, cause damage to
environment and thereby long-term well-being of the humanity. We
should discourage unhealthy, interventions in nature and should
avoid GM food, non-organic food etc.
CONTROLLING THE WASTAGE
Wastage is a
major cause of environmental crises. Overuse of the resources is the
natural result of a consumerist lifestyle.
States and some other developed States throw away nearly a third of
their food each year.
each year in the U. S. would fill a convoy of 10 - ten garbage
trucks 145,000 miles long (over halfway to the moon).
(cans, bottles, cartons, etc.) alone, the U.S. uses approximately
50% of its paper, 75% of its glasses, 40% of its aluminum and 30% of
Every year some
45,000 tons of plastic wastage are dumped into world's oceans. One
million sea-birds and one hundred thousand marine mammals are killed
each year by plastic trash.
A study of food
waste by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that in 1997 some
27 percent of the 356 billion pounds of edible food in the U.S. was
never eaten. Fresh produce, milk, grain products and sweeteners made
up more than 60 per cent of the waste.
The Holy Prophet
(S.A.W.) attached great importance to water, and prohibited the
excessive use of it even when taking the ablutions, "When he saw
that Saa'd was using a lot of water, he said: "What is this? You are
wasting water." Saa'd replied asking: "Can there be wastefulness
while taking the ablution?” To which he replied: "yes, even if you
take them on the bank of a rushing river." So we should use water
As Muslims, we
are prohibited from polluting water. He said, "None of you should
pass his urine or bathe in a water source." (Bukhari)
prohibited from wasting the food. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said:
"The Shaytaan is
present with everyone of you in everything he does, he is even
present when he eats food, so if anyone of you drops a mouthful, he
should remove away anything filthy on it and eat it and not leave it
for the devil: and when he finishes, he should lick his fingers for
he does not know in what portion of his food the blessing lies." (Sahih
The Holy Prophet
(S.A.W.) said: "If one eats from the dish and licks it, the dish
will pray that Allah may free him from Hell as he frees it from the
Over eating is
also a kind of wastage. We are ordered to take food moderately.
Moderation in eating, apart from its evident health benefits, has
great environmental benefits also. The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said,
"A believer eats in one intestine, "whereas a non-believer eats in
seven intestines." (Sahih Muslim)
The Holy Prophet
(S.A.W.) said, "It is also extravagance that whatever tempts is
compulsorily eaten." (Ibn Majah)
WASTAGE OF ENERGY AND OTHER
prohibited keeping the lands barren and unused. Right to property of
a land is restricted. And if somebody is not using the land under
his possessions productivity, he may loose his right.
The Holy Prophet
(S.A.W.) said, "One who makes a barren land productive, it becomes
his property and there is no right for oppressor.” (Abu Dawood)
have given a principle that if someone takes possession of a land
and does not make it productive in three years (some jurists say the
exact period will be decided by the Stale) he should lose the
It means the
value of important natural resources should be recognised. And their
potential should not be wasted.
The Holy Prophet
(S.A.W.) prohibited wasting any kind of assets. "Allah dislikes
three things; arguing unnecessarily, casting the assets, and begging
frequently." (Sahih Bukhari)
Energy is an
important asset of our time. The impact of its misuse is universal.
So this Hadeeth implies that we should do our best to avoid its
wastage. And use Electricity, oil and other energy resources
PROTECTING THE ECOSYSTEM
Caliph Abu Bakr's letter to a commander of armed forces, Yazeed Bin
Abi Safiyan, expounds the emphasis Islam has given to the ecosystem
protection. These instructions were related to wars and it shows how
Muslims are expected to safeguard the ecosystem even amid the
extreme emergencies like wars.
"I give you ten
instructions. Do not kill a woman, a child or an old man. Do not cut
a tree with fruits, do not ruin the lands, do not slaughter any
animal except for food, do not bum the honeybees, and not even make
them disintegrate, do not indulge in malpractice regarding the
spoils of war, and do not show cowardice." (Mu'atta Imam Malik)
Half of these
instructions (five out of ten) are related to ecosystem protection.
1. We have been
categorically prohibited from unnecessarily cutting trees and
running cultivation. The Holy Quran has termed this a Fasad
(Mischief) just like killing the human race is a Fasad.
When he gets
power he directs all his efforts towards spreading mischief in the
land, destroying harvests and killing the human race whereas Allah
does not like mischief. (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:205)
instructed to plant and grow trees and thereby help in maintaining
the ecological balance.
The Holy Prophet
(S.A.W.) said, "A Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field, from
which man, birds and animals can eat, is committing an act of
The Holy Prophet
(S.A.W.) asked us to plant the trees even if the doomsday is
knocking. "If you have a plantlet, be certain to plant it, even if
doomsday starts to break forth."
reclaims and cultivates dry, barren land, will be rewarded by God
for the act. So long as men and animals benefit from it He will
record it for him as almsgiving."
needed we should maintain the protected areas and sanctuaries and
should respect their protection. After migrating to Medina the Holy
Prophet (S.A.W.) planted trees and date groves. In order to protect
land, forests and wildlife, he created conservation areas; where
hunting or cutting any tree or plant was strictly prohibited. These
sanctuaries were called Hima. A strip of land approximately twelve
miles wide around Medina was declared a Hima. Imam Bukhari has given
some details about this Hima. According to Bukhari, "It is called
Hima al-Naqi." Extending this policy, Caliph Omar declared
another two areas Ash-sharaf and Ar-Rabadha as Hima." (Bukhari,
Narration Saab Bin Jaththama).
3. We should not
kill animals unnecessarily and should behave with them mercifully.
The Holy Prophet
(S.A.W.) said, "If without good reason anyone kills a sparrow, or a
creature lesser than that even, the living creature will put his
plaint to God on the Day of Judgment, saying; "So-and-so killed me
for no purpose.”
Abdullah Bin Omar: Allah's Apostle said: "A woman was tortured and
was put in Hell because of a cat which she had kept locked till it
died of hunger.'' Allah's Apostle further said, (Allah knows better)
Allah said (to the woman), "you neither fed it nor watered when you
locked it up, nor did you set it free to eat the insects of the
The Holy Prophet
(S.A.W, sent curse to the person, who targets a living being just
for exercise." (Bukhari and Muslim)
have emphatically prescribed using animal fights as entertainment
shows, using them as targets for shooting games and their exercises
and hunting for just fun. Use of animals should be restricted to
genuine needs like food, transportation and agriculture.
an environment friendly lifestyle. The consumerist lavish,
luxurious, ostentatious and unsustainable habits are alien to
Islamic cultural set-up. This is the product of materialistic and
hedonistic western life pattern and its influence. With the
environmental crises becoming grimmer, it is the responsibility of
Muslims to come forward and play an effective and proactive role in
protecting the environment. Being the vicegerent of Allah and the
custodian of His trust, it is part of their religious duties. For
that we should develop and promote the environment friendly habits
and lifestyle as preached by Islam.
(The writer is
Asstt. Professor in a Hyderabad Engineering College)