1. What is the Environment?
2. The Islamic View of the Environment.
3. The Importance of Cleanliness.
4. The Cleanliness of the Social Environment
5. The Preservation of Trees, Woodland, and Green Areas
5.1. Trees in
5.2. Trees and
Woodlands in Hadiths of the Prophet (PBUH)
6. The Protection of Animals
Animals in the Qur’an
Animals in Hadiths of the Prophet (PBUH).
7. Some Examples From Islamic History
8. Not Wasting the Earth’s Resources
Bibliography and Further Readings
international conference was held in Chicago from 11th to 13th November
1997 to which representatives of all the major religions had been invited,
and in which I myself also took part. In the course of it we were asked to
note down what we considered to be the three most important problems
facing the world. When the results were compiled, the following emerged as
the most important problems:
2- Environmental problems.
decision was taken by the members of all the different religions
participating in the conference to co-operate in solving these problems.
For it has been stated by social scientists that moral and religious
values will dominate the 21st century. In the present booklet, which I
have prepared in this spirit, I have attempted to put forward the Islamic
principles concerning the environment. My aim has been to set out clearly
how Muslims consider the environment, or how they should consider it.
this small work assists in the growth of environmental consciousness, all
humanity will profit from it. For the environment belongs to all of us. Or
more correctly, it has been given to all of us in trust by God. Our
greatest responsibility should therefore be to treat this trust in the
best way, and not to pollute it or destroy it. Furthermore, those things
that have to be done, have to be done here and now; we must put nothing
off until tomorrow.
is from God alone.
What is the Environment?
know that the problem of the environment is one of today’s most serious
problems. It is a problem that threatens not only ourselves, but the whole
world, and future generations and their right to live in a healthy
environment. It is therefore causing humanity to approach the 21st century
in a state of anxiety. This compels us to understand the environmental
problems and to help in solving them. We should therefore first of all
ask: what do we understand by ‘the environment’? That is, what is the
scientist answered this question by saying “we have 4095
environments.” By this he wanted to emphasize that when saying
“environment,” it is insufficient to understand only the natural
environment. As a Muslim, I understand the phrase “Sustainer of All the
Worlds” as meaning this. The Sustainer of all the worlds, that is, all
environments; our Sustainer, Who embraces and encompasses all
environments. The Qur’an expresses this truth as follows:
To God belong the East
and the West; whithersoever you turn, there is God’s countenance. For
God is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.
noteworthy point of the Qur’an’s related to the environment is this:
In the Name of God, the
Merciful, the Compassionate.
All praise be to God, the Sustainer of all the worlds.
induces us to consider the environment from a broad perspective. We should
not forget that the Creator and Owner of all environments is at the same
time our Creator.
our environment is formed by our house, garden, and car, the air we
breathe, the water we drink, the town in which we live, and the people we
live with. So too, it is formed by the seas, lakes, rivers, roads,
mountains, and forests, which are shared by all the members of society.
when we say “environment,” we understand all these natural
surroundings in which we and all living creatures live. While by
“environmental pollution,” we mean the dirtying and spoiling of these
natural surroundings. The air is polluted, the seas are polluted, the
ozone layer is diminishing, animal species are becoming extinct. Pollution
of the social environment should be added to these: poverty, deprivation,
homelessness, migration problems, racism, abandoned children, drug abuse,
alcohol addiction, and other problems.
contemporary thinkers and scientists have stated that religion has an
important role to play in overcoming these problems and in the development
of comprehensive and integral environmental consciousness. We shall
therefore discuss the importance the religion of Islam attaches to the
The Islamic View of the Environment
I should say that according to Islam, everything in the universe is
created by God. It is God Who adorns the skies with the sun, the moon and
the stars, and the face of the earth with flowers, trees, gardens,
orchards, and the various animal species. It is again God Who causes the
rivers and streams to flow on the earth, Who upholds the skies (without
support), causes the rain to fall, and places the boundary between night
and day. The universe together with all its richness and vitality is the
work and art of God, that is, of the Creator. It is again God Who creates
all plants and animals as pairs, in this way causing their procreation.
God created man subsequently to all these.
are God’s vicegerents on the earth; it has been given us in trust. Just
as we are not the lords of nature and the world, so the world is not our
property which we can dispose of as we wish or as we are able. Nature was
created by God and it belongs to God. Everything in nature is a sign of
God’s existence; that is, a token or missive. The Qur’an expresses
this truth as follows:
We shall show them our
signs in the [furthest] regions [of the earth], and in their own souls.
In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the
night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the
profit of mankind; in the rain which God sends down from the skies, and
the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts
of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the
winds, and the clouds subjugated between the sky and earth — [here]
indeed are signs for a people who thinks.
above verse illustrates why Muslim scholars look on nature as a book, even
calling it “the book of the universe,” in this way pointing out that
just like the Qur’an, the universe makes known to us our Sustainer and
Creator. And the book of the universe has been entrusted to us to preserve
and protect. Should those who hold the Qur’an in respect and awe, not
touching it unless purified by ablutions, not also treat the book of the
universe respectfully and lovingly? Our duty, therefore, as God’s
vicegerents and trustees, is to show respect for the trust, and to
preserve it carefully, in no way wasting its natural resources when using
or consuming them.
And you certainly know
already the first form of creation: why then do you not celebrate His
See you the seed that you sow in the ground?
Is it you that cause it to grow, or are We the cause?
Were it our will, We could crumble it to dry powder, and you would be left
[Saying], “We are indeed left with debts [for nothing];
“Indeed are we shut out [of the fruits of our labour].”
See you the water which you drink?
Do you bring it down [in rain] from the cloud or do We?
Were it our will, We could make it salt [and unpalatable]; then why do you
not give thanks?
See you the fire which you kindle?
Is it you who grow the tree which feeds the fire, or do We grow it?
It is We Who make it a means to remind [you of Us], and an article of
comfort and convenience for the denizens of deserts.
Then celebrate with praises the name of your Sustainer, the Supreme!
the final Divine message, Islam insistently draws our attention to this
sacred and spiritual dimension of nature. It teaches us too that we are
created by God and that we shall return to Him in order to give account
for our actions. This means that we are answerable for all that we do,
both the good, and the evil. As God’s vicegerent on earth, at the Last
Judgement man will be called to account for how he acted towards the
trust, and how he treated it.
So glory to Him in Whose
hands is the dominion of all things: Ant to Him will you be all brought
to Yusuf Ali the message conveyed in this verse is the core of Revelation;
it explains the Hereafter: All things were created by God; are maintained
by Him; and will go back to Him. But the point of special interest to man
is that man will also be brought back to God and is answerable to Him, and
to Him alone.
concept of Divine unity is the basis and essence of Islam. Divine unity is
apparent in the unity of humanity and of nature. God’s vicegerents on
the earth, the holders of His trust, are therefore primarily responsible
for preserving the unity of creatures, the integral wholeness of the
world, the flora and fauna, and wildlife and natural environment.
‘unity’, ‘trust’, and ‘responsibility’ are the three basic
concepts of Islam. These principles are at the same time the chief pillars
of the Islamic environmental ethic. They form also the fundamental values
taught by the Qur’an.
we read the Qur’an’s verses about the earth, we find that they suggest
strongly that it is for man a peaceful place which he should take heed of.
Thus, the Qur’an draws our attention to nature and to the events that
occur in it:
The seven heavens and
the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory; there is not a thing
but celebrates His praise; and yet you understand not how they declare His
glory! Verily He is Oft-Forbearing, Most Forgiving!
See you not that to God
bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on earth —
the sun, the moon, the stars; the hills, the trees, the animals; and a
great number of mankind?
do We not send down from the clouds water in abundance,
That We may produce therewith corn and vegetables,
And gardens of luxurious growth?
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.
you people! Worship your Sustainer....
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 God when you know [the truth].
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 bodies of flowing water?
[Can there be another] god besides God? Nay, most of them know not.
earth is also important in regard to the concept of mutual relations.
Human beings are created from
two of its elements: earth and water. Thus, if man becomes alienated from
the earth, he becomes alienated from his very nature. He is not the lord
and ruler of the earth; he is a humble member of it. The superior
qualities and faculties he possesses require not that he irresponsibly
consumes and destroys its beauties and resources, but that he acts in
awareness of his great responsibility towards them.
And God has produced you
from the earth, growing [gradually],
And in the end He will return you into the [earth], and raise you forth
[again at the resurrection]?
And God has made the earth for you a carpet [spread out],
That you may go about therein, in spacious roads.
word “earth” (ard) is mentioned twice in these short verses. A clear
indication of its importance is the fact that it is mentioned 485 times in
the Qur’an as a whole and is portrayed as being offered for man’s
It is He Who has made
the earth manageable for you, so traverse through its tracts and enjoy of
the sustenance which He furnishes.
will be] among Lote-trees without thorns,
Among Talh trees with flowers [or fruits] piled one above another —
In shade long-extended,
By water flowing constantly,
And fruit in abundance,
Whose season is not limited, nor [supply] forbidden.
verses and those similar to them have been sources of inspiration for
Muslims and they have looked on nature in their light. They have regarded
the universe and nature from this Qur’anic point of view. One can see
the finest examples of this in the works of Muslim thinkers, and
particularly the great Sufi masters. We shall suffice here with only two
examples. The first is Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi, a thinker of the 13th
“How does this
lifeless cloud know when it has to pour down rain? And you see the earth,
which holds this flower and produces ten in its place. Someone is doing
these things. It is He that you have to see.”
lifeless, even the earth knows everything God has bestowed on it. How
could it otherwise have accepted the rain, suckled all the plants and
“The world is being
re-created and renewed at every breath, but we are unaware of this, for we
see it as static.”
second example is from Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, a contemporary scholar. The
same verses are reflected as follows in his heart:
“Glory be to the One
who made the garden of the earth an exhibition of His art, a gathering of
His creatures, a place of manifestation of His power, the means of His
wisdom, the flower-bed of His mercy, the tillage of Paradise, a place of
passage of creatures, for the flood of beings, a funnel for His artefacts.
The adorned animals,
decorative birds, fruit-bearing trees, and flowering plants are miracles
of His knowledge, wonders of His art, gifts of His munificence, propitious
signs of His grace. The blossoms smiling at the embellished fruits, the
birds twittering in the breezes of the early morn, the pattering of the
rain on the petals of the flowers, the tender affection of mothers for
their infants and young all show to jinn and men, and spirits and living
creatures, and angels and spirit beings a Loving One making Himself known,
a Merciful One making Himself loved, a Tenderly Kind One bestowing His
mercy, a Gracious Bestower manifesting His kindness.”
earth is also considered by Islam to be a place of purification and
worship of God. God’s Messenger (PBUH) said: “The earth was made a
place of worship and purification for me [and Muslims].” The meaning of
this is that when water is not available before worship, earth may used
for canonical ablutions (tayammum) in its place. God’s Messenger (PBUH)
was emphasising this point when he said:
“God is beautiful and
He loves the beautiful; He is generous and loves generosity; He is clean
and loves cleanliness.”
should not therefore be surprised at the Islamic view related to the
environment, that “everyone should remind each other to conserve and
protect the earth.” They should not hang back diffidently while the
earth is being spoiled. They should attach the greatest importance to
cleanliness and purity, physical and particularly moral and spiritual.
The Importance of Cleanliness
considers cleanliness to be one of the fundamentals of belief. It thus
makes a direct connection between belief and cleanliness. It is because of
this that throughout the ages cleanliness has been one of the Muslims’
most striking characteristics. In one Hadith, God’s Messenger (PBUH)
says: “Cleanliness is half of belief.” Some of the earliest
verses revealed to him by God were:
you wrapped up [in a mantle]!
Arise and deliver your warning!
And your Sustainer magnify!
And your garments keep free from stain!
And all abomination shun!
may be noted here that by requiring the cleanliness of clothes, on the one
hand physical cleanliness is being emphasized, and by demanding that
“abomination” is shunned, on the other moral and spiritual purity are
being underlined. Thus, in Islam, physical and moral and spiritual
cleanliness form an indivisible whole. Muslims should neglect neither the
cleanliness of their surroundings, houses, the roads they use, and parks
and gardens, nor any sort of moral and spiritual cleanliness.
clearest example of this approach in Islamic life may be seen in the Six
Books of Prophetic Hadiths, the chief and most reliable source of Islamic
civilization. On looking at these books, it is seen that the sections on
cleanliness come at the beginning. This shows clearly the priority the
religion and civilization give to cleanliness. The Qur’an says:
O you who believe! When
you prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands [and arms] to the
elbows; rub your heads [with water]; and [wash] your feet to the ankles.
If you are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body...
is seen, the first condition of the obligatory prayers —which are the
foundation of Islam, the support of religion, and ‘Ascension’ of the
believers— is cleanliness. The Qur’an therefore commands that at least
five times a day we wash those parts of the body that may become dirtied
like the hands, face, nose, ears, mouth, neck, head, and feet, and that we
keep them clean. The place the prayers are to be performed also has to be
clean, as well as the clothes worn.
dimension of the Islamic approach to cleanliness is apparent in the Divine
Name of Most Holy (Quddűs), one of God’s Most Beautiful Names (al-Asma
al-Husna). In his explanations of this Divine Name, Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
points out the cleanness of the universe, and states that the face of the
earth and such beings as the clouds, rain, flies, crows, maggots,
earthworms, ants, various insects, and the red and white corpuscles in the
human body all manifest the Name of Most Holy in their functions, and
carry out duties as “cleansing officials.”
his life the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) paid the greatest attention to
cleanliness of every sort. For instance, he was always careful when going
to the mosque or to visit someone or when being in the company of others
to wear clean and presentable clothes, to rub fragrant scents on himself,
and not to eat things like onion and garlic which would be unpleasant to
is clear then that Muslims are obliged to always be clean in every
respect, both physical and moral and spiritual. A Muslim who pays
attention to physical cleanliness, that is, who keeps his body, house, and
surroundings clean, will not neglect the purity of his heart and spirit
and his moral purity —it is not possible that he neglects these. We all
know that the most important condition for protecting ourselves against
illness is being clean and living in a clean environment. What
preventative medicine tells us is nothing different to this. Also, we
should never forget this admonition of the Qur’an:
God loves those who turn
to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.
The Cleanliness of the Social Environment
of the most important topics that come to mind when one says
“environmental health” is the cleanliness of the common environment.
These are places such as roads, places of worship, schools, parks,
children’s playgrounds, stadiums, excursion spots and picnic places,
public lavatories, public beaches, and other such places.
has to be done to maintain the cleanliness of the social environment is to
think not of ourselves but of others. We should not forget that God’s
Messenger (PBUH) forbade the dirtying of the roads and paths people used,
and the places they sat and rested, like shady places and under trees and
walls. He said that to remove a branch or a thorn that would cause hurt to
people as they passed was a part of belief. He said too that God does not
love those who cause hurt and pain to believers.
should scrupulously avoid doing anything to upset or disturb others in any
circumstances or in any place. To pollute or dirty the city in which one
lives, or the town or village and their surrounding countryside, waters,
air, or views, and to scatter rubbish and refuse is both a sin and
extremely discourteous. It is lack of thought both for oneself and for
others. For thoughtful people know that others will be disturbed by any
place they have dirtied, and the beauties of nature spoilt. They are aware
that it is an attribute of the believer and a sign of maturity not to
leave scattered nutshells, bottles, cans, wrappers, and bits of paper and
other refuse in the streets and picnic areas, or to do anything that will
disturb other people, or even the animals.
The Preservation of Trees, Woodland, and Green Areas.
Trees in the Qur’an
one of the most important aspects of protecting the environment and
ecology is the conservation of the trees, forests, woodland, countryside,
and all the living creatures whose habitats are such areas. We see that
the religion of Islam puts forward important principles for these too.
These noteworthy principles related to the conservation of such areas may
be classed as moral and legal.
we look at the Qur’an, we see that the word “tree” is mentioned with
various meanings. Despite containing no direct command to plant trees, it
speaks of trees and gardens and orchards so frequently and descriptively
that it is not possible for any attentive reader of the Qur’an not to
grow in awareness of them. For when creating this world, God adorned it
with trees and gardens and offered them for man’s use. The word
“tree” is mentioned 26 times in the Qur’an, and the word
“paradise” in the sense of garden around 146 times.
It is He Who sends down
rain from the skies; with it We produce green [crops], out of which we
produce grain, heaped up [at harvest]; out of the date-palm and its
sheaths [or spathes] [come] clusters of dates hanging low and near; and
[then there are] gardens of grapes, and olives, and pomegranates, each
similar [in kind] yet different [in variety]; when they begin to bear
fruit, feast your eyes with the fruit and the ripeness thereof. Behold! in
these things there are signs for people who believe.
It is He Who produces
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]; eat of their fruit in their season, but render the dues that
are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. But waste not by
excess; for God loves not the wasters.
It is He Who sends down
rain from the sky. From it you drink, and out of it [grows] the vegetation
on which you feed cattle. * With it He produces for you corn, olives,
date-palms, grapes, and every kind of fruit. Verily in this is a sign for
those who give thought.
verses thus mention the rain, trees, earth, gardens, vineyards and date
groves, and clouds; they point out the Divine balance between all the
elements making up nature, and want us to take lessons from them. To put
it another way, we are being required to raise our heads in our personal
and daily lives and to look at the world about us in a different way. For
through their order and systems and ecological balances, all creatures
point to their Creator.
another place, the Qur’an draws our attention to the balance of nature,
then indicates that we should be careful to observe the balances and
rights in the life of society. That is to say, rights and balances are
universal rules that we have to observe.
The sun and the moon
follow courses [exactly] computed; * And the herbs and the trees — both
[alike] bow in adoration. * And the firmament He has raised high, and He
has set up the balance [of justice], * In order that you may not
transgress [due] balance. * So establish weight with justice and fall not
short in the balance.
is clear that the Islamic world view could not endorse any view of man’s
vicegerency of the earth which destroys and spoils the ecological balances
and the order and systems of nature, which it teaches that God has created
and put as signs of His own existence. For vicegerent (khalifa) means
‘deputy’. And this in turn means that man is the sole being whom God
holds responsible for the earth, to whom He has entrusted its
preservation. Such a deputy would not betray the trust of the One who
created the world with a particular order, balance, and harmony. If he was
to spoil the order and harmony and destroy them, he would be known as an
unreliable and perfidious deputy.
Trees and Woodlands in Hadiths of the Prophet (PBUH)
in his practices and in various of his Hadiths, the Prophet Muhammad
(PBUH) attached great importance to planting trees, protecting existent
ones, planting forests, as well as to conserving existent ones. A’isha,
one of his wives, said: “His character was the Qur’an.”
His practices and conduct related to conservation of the environment
should therefore be considered from the Qur’anic standpoint. For us his
actions are sources of inspiration constituting his Sunna or practices,
which we are obliged to follow. To put it another way, as in all matters,
the exemplar of Islamic conduct related to the environment and the person
who displayed it in most perfect fashion was God’s Messenger (PBUH). As
this, and his commands concerning it, are learnt, our weighty
responsibilities become clear.
Hadiths of the Prophet connected with planting trees and protecting them:
“If you have a
sapling, if you have the time, be certain to plant it, even if Doomsday
starts to break forth.”
“Whoever plants trees,
God will give him reward to the extent of their fruit.”
“Whoever 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
“Whoever plants a
tree, reward will be recorded for him so long as it produces fruit.”
If a Muslim plants a
tree, that part of its produce consumed by men will be as almsgiving for
him. Any fruit stolen from the tree will also be as almsgiving for him.
That which the birds eat will also be as almsgiving for him. Any of its
produce which people may eat thus diminishing it, will be as almsgiving
for the Muslims who planted it.
The reward accruing from
seven things continue to reach the person concerned even if he is in his
grave: knowledge he has taught, water he has provided for the public
benefit, any well he has dug, any tree he has planted, a mosque he has
built, recitations of the Qur’an bequeathed to him, and children who
pray for him after his death.
migrating to Medina, God’s Messenger (PBUH) organized the planting of
trees and of date groves. He made the forests and green spaces
conservation areas, where every sort of living creature lived. These were
called sanctuaries (hima). For example, a strip of land approximately
twelve miles wide around Medina was proclaimed a sanctuary and made a
conservation area. We know that he proclaimed other areas, similar to
this, sanctuaries. All these show the paramount importance —as a
religion— Islam gives to nature conservancy and protection of all
nature’s living creatures.
these commands of the Qur’an and the exemplary practices of God’s
Messenger (PBUH), throughout history Muslims have given importance to
planting trees and protecting existing one’s. Abu Bakr, the first
Caliph, for example, when sending an expedition for a battle to Muta, gave
some instructions and underlines that: "Do not
cut down trees and do not kill animals except food (in the enemy
is the colour of Islamic civilization, so too the dome of Prophet’s tomb
is green. These are not mere coincidence; they should be seen as
reflecting the importance Islam gives to greenery, nature, and trees.
The Protection of Animals
important question related to the environment is the good treatment of the
animals in our lives, and the protection of them; or more correctly,
extending our kindness and compassion to them. However, today many animal
species are becoming extinct. Other animals stray abandoned and hungry in
the streets. Taken as a whole, therefore, it cannot be said that we treat
animals well and carry out our duties towards them. In my view, one of the
most important reasons for this is our indifference towards Islamic
values. For Islam regulates not only relations between individuals and
between individuals and society and the state, it also regulates relations
between man and nature and man and the environment. A natural consequence
of this is that man is answerable to God for his attitude and actions
towards nature and animals. This may be seen in the following Hadith of
the Prophet (PBUH):
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 Judgement, saying:
‘So-and-so killed me for no purpose.
is thus stressed that the purposeless and arbitrary killing of the living
creatures of nature, whether large or small, is prohibited, and that those
who do so will be called to account by God on the Last Day.
Animals in the Qur’an
looking at the Qur’an, the prominent place given animals, the key
members of the eco system, is immediately apparent. A number of its Suras
bear animals’ names: al-Baqara (The Cow); al-Nahl (The Bee), al-Anqabut
(The Spider), al-Naml (The Ant).
of the striking expressions the Qur’an uses about animals is that they
are a “community” (umma). It is especially noteworthy that this
concept, which is a significant concept in Islamic tradition and
literature, should also be used for animals:
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.
Qur’an also portrays animals as works of art displaying the Maker’s
skill and perfection:
And verily in cattle
[too] will you find an instructive sign. For what is within their bodies,
between excretions and blood, we produce, for your drink, milk, pure and
agreeable to those who drink it.
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
And at the Earth how it is spread out?
verses invite man to contemplate four things, which they can see in
every-day life, and which are full of meaning, high design, and the
goodness of God to man. As we know camel is a domesticated animal, which
for Arab countries is par excellence the Camel. What a wonderful structure
pas this Ship of the Desert? He can store water in his stomach for days.
He can live on dry and thorny desert shrubs. His limb are adapted to his
life. And withal, he is so gentle! Who can sign his praises enough?
Animals in Hadiths of the Prophet (PBUH)
with the important place given to animals by the Qur’an, the Prophet
Muhammad (PBUH) also insisted on the protection of animals and the kind
treatment of them. His concern that they should be well treated,
protected, and not abused or degraded is truly noteworthy. While at the
present time torture and oppression of every sort are meted out to man,
whom God created as the noblest of creatures, the Prophet prohibited
torture and abuse of animals even.
God’s Messenger (PBUH) taught that Muslims should act kindly not only
towards human beings but to all living beings:
Merciful One is merciful towards those who are merciful. Act kindly to
those on the earth so that those in the heavens [the angels] will be
merciful to you.
as given above: “Anyone who kills a sparrow without good reason will be
called to account by God at the Last Judgement.”
God’s Messenger (PBUH) also commanded that birds’ nests should not be
disturbed, or the eggs or chicks stolen.
On one occasion he ordered someone who had filled his bag with fledglings
stolen from nests and brought them to the town to return them to their
nests immediately. The young birds were thus able to grow to maturity in
natural surroundings in their mothers’ nests.
learn of another example which reflects clearly the essence of Islamic
civilization and how it regards animals from ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud, one
of the Prophet’s close Companions:
“We were on a journey
with God’s Messenger when we came across a bird the size of a sparrow
with two chicks. We seized the chicks, whereupon the hen started beating
its wings and screeching. God’s Messenger turned and when he saw what we
had done, asked: ‘Who separated those chicks from their mother? Return
them at once!’ So we left them free.”
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) thus enjoined the protection of animals and birds,
that they should not be ill-treated, but should be well looked after and
kept clean, and employed in work suitable to their natures, and should not
be loaded with burdens greater than they can bear. He put a ban on
hunting, forbidding the arbitrary hunting of animals for pleasure.
one day related the following story to those sitting by him:
traveller felt a great thirst as he went on his way, so stopped at well
and drank of its water. As he came up from the well he saw a dog licking
the damp soil with its thirsty, lolling tongue. Saying to himself: ‘This
animal is thirsty like I was,’ he went back down to the well and filled
his shoe with water. Then holding it firm returned and held it for the dog
to drink. God praised that servant of His for his act and forgave all his
Companions then asked him: “So
are we rewarded for watering animals?” God’s
Messenger replied: “There is a reward for giving any living creature to
Messenger (PBUH) prohibited the ill-treatment of animals, and warned us
concerning this question when he said:
A woman was sent to Hell
because she tied up her cat and neither gave it food nor allowed it free
to hunt the cockroaches.
Messenger stated that like men, animals employed in various tasks had the
right to rest, and when stopping to rest on journeys, in particular
insisted that the animals’ needs should be met and that they should be
rested. Anas ibn Malik, one of the Companions, related:
“Whenever we arrived
at a stopping-place, we would never start the prayers until we had removed
the loads from the pack-animals [and left them free to rest].”
Reynold A. Nicholson, for example, is very
impressed by Muslims treatment of animals. In his book The
Mystic of Islam we find the following story:
century Muslim mystic] purchased some cardamom seed at Hamadhan, and
before departing put into his gabardine a small quantity which was left
over. On reaching Bistam and recollecting what he had done, ho took out
the seed and found out that it contained a number of ants. Saying, "I
have carried the poor creatures away from their home" he immediately
set off and journeyed back to Hamadhan-a distance of several hundred
see then that the religion of Islam permits that no living creature is
tormented or abused. Whether man or beast, all living creatures have
rights. Those who violate their rights or disregard them will be punished
in the hereafter by God if it not possible for them to be punished by the
authorities here. God’s Messenger (PBUH) expressed this in the following
“It is a
fact that in the next life you will render their rights to those to whom
they are due. The hornless sheep even will receive its right by way of
retaliation from a horned sheep that butted it.”
stance of the Prophet, and his admonitions, have had a powerful effect on
Muslims down the ages. Being imbued with the Prophet's attitude, Muslims
have always looked kindly and tolerantly on people. They have never
tortured their enemies even. Members of other religions and faiths have
lived in security amongst them. Animals too have received their share of
this loving, compassionate, and tolerant civilization.
‘Izz ad-Din ibn ‘Abd as-Salam
, the thirteenth century Muslim legal scholar, formulated the following
principles of animal rights which appears to be based on the very teaching
of the Qur’an
and the Sunna of the Prophet
- that he spend on them
the provision that their
kinds require, even if they have aged
or sickened such that no benefit comes from them;
he not burden them beyond
what they can bear;
- that he not put them
together with anything by
which they would be injured, whether
of their own kind or other species, whether by breaking their bones
or butting or wounding;
he slaughter them with
- that when he
slaughters them he neither flay their skins nor break
their bones until their bodies have become
cold and their lives he passed away;
he not slaughter their young within their sight
but that he isolate them;
- that he make
comfortable their resting places and watering places;
- that he put their
males and females together during their mating seasons;
he not discard those
which he takes as game;
and neither shoot them with anything that breaks their bones nor bring
about their destruction by any means that renders
their meat unlawful to eat.
saw, moreover, from the Prophet’s Hadiths that treating animals well
is a means of a person entering Paradise, while ill-treatment of them
may be the cause of a person going to Hell.
Some Examples From Islamic History
one studies the histories of the Muslim peoples, one sees that they lived
in harmony with nature and its creatures. The most reliable witnesses to
this were Western travellers who visited the Muslim lands.
famous French writer Montaigne touched on this subject when he said:
“The Muslim Turks found hospitals and pious foundations for animals
French lawyer Guer, who travelled in the Ottoman Empire in the 17th
century, mentioned a hospital in Damascus where sick cats and dogs were
treated. While Prof. M. Sibai gives the following details about the pious
foundations for animals.
In the old tradition of
pious foundations, areas were allotted for the grazing and treatment of
sick animals. The ‘Green Mar‘a’ (the area now covered by Damascus
sports stadium) was a place that at one time had been made over to the
grazing of helpless animals, which were no longer fed by their owners
since they had lost the power to work. Such animals grazed here till their
deaths. Among the pious foundations of Damascus there were also places
where cats could eat and sleep and wander about. There were hundreds of
cats here which, having no difficulties in finding their daily provender,
were like the permanents fixtures of the place.
have always had a special place in Muslims’ lives. They have felt
particular affection not only for songbirds like nightingale, but for
others such as chiefly the pigeon, and storks, doves, and swallows. This
affection has been manifested in various ways: the defence of birds’
rights, establishing pious foundations for the feeding of birds, founding
hospitals to tend to sick birds, the taming of some species and keeping
them in cages, as well as the opposite of this, setting them free from
captivity. Just as many people have released them from their cages out of
love for them, so many others have kept them in cages.
famous French poet Lamartine recorded the following observations:
good relations with all creatures, animate and inanimate: trees, birds,
dogs, in short, they respect all the things God has created. They extend
their compassion and kindness to all the species of wretched animals which
in our countries are abandoned or ill-treated. In all the streets at
specific intervals they leave bowls of water for the dogs of the district.
Some Muslims found pious foundations at their deaths for the pigeons they
have fed throughout their lives, thus ensuring that grain will be
scattered for [the birds] after they have departed.
Thus, the religion of Islam attaches the
greatest importance to the conservation of the environment as a whole. For
the environment and all the living beings within it are created by God. As
human beings, we have been entrusted with conserving and developing it.
The conservation of the environment is therefore not only a human
obligation but also a religious obligation. Indeed, believers should
undertake this responsibility more than anyone. It is understandable if
someone who does not believe in God and the Last Judgement is unconcerned
with it, but for a believer to be unconcerned is both incomprehensible and
unforgivable. How profound are Yunus Emre’s, the Turkish poet of 13th
“We love creatures for the sake of their Creator”!
concerned and believing Muslim individual will forget that he is
answerable for how he treats not only men but all creatures, or that one
day he will be called to account for how he acted. With the following
verse, the Qur’an warns all Muslims:
an atom’s weight of good shall see it,
And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil, shall see it.
Not Wasting the Earth’s Resources
further important Islamic principle related to the environment is the
Islamic prohibition concerning thoughtless consumption; that is,
wastefulness and extravagance. Wastefulness is not only the thoughtless
consumption of natural resources; it is at the same time disrespectful
towards God, the Creator and Owner of all the bounties. For this reason,
in Islam, eating and drinking of licit food is lawful, but wastefulness is
forbidden. At this time we know better than at any other that the
world’s resources are limited. Extravagance and over-consumption will
affect not only ourselves, but forthcoming generations. We are therefore
compelled to be aware and sensitive concerning this matter. In the Holy
Qur’an, God says:
have created all things in proportion and measure.
we keep this in mind, we see that carefully preserving the balance and
measure is a human obligation. The science of ecology shows us that the
universe contains extremely sensitive eco systems and balances, and that
man has therefore to maintain these ecological systems.
man only came to realize the environmental problems with the help of
ecology when the problems became apparent, whereas the Qur’an draws our
attention to this balance in particular, which now everyone is trying to
maintain. The obligation of maintaining this balance, which is God’s
work, is man’s, whom God created on “the best of patterns,” and who
is His vicegerent or deputy on earth. No Muslim therefore will spoil the
universe’s balance, nor will any Muslim look on indifferently while
other’s spoil it. For the natural balance is at the same time a mirror
reflecting Almighty God’s Most Beautiful Names.
permits utilization of the environment, but this should not be arbitrary.
Wastefulness and extravagance are prohibited by God:
O children of Adam! Wear
your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer; eat and drink,
but waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters.
eating and drinking in this verse refer to utilizing the resources
necessary for the continuation of our lives. This should not be
uncontrolled. The elements that support life should be conserved so that
they can be utilized continuously. More than this, such conservation
should be unselfish. That is, it should not only have human interests in
while utilizing the world’s bounties, the Muslim should not do so with
an unconstrained and irresponsible approach to consumption. On the
contrary, he is obliged to base all such actions and the measure of his
consumption on Islamic economic principles. Every passing day it is
becoming better understood that the world’s resources are limited. The
following commands of the Qur’an are striking at a time feasible
development and economic models are being widely discussed:
render to the kindred their due rights, as [also] to those in want, and to
the wayfarer; but squander not [your wealth] in the manner of a
spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones and the Evil One is to his Lord
Those who, when they
spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just [balance]
between those extremes.
Qur’an commands us to eat and drink, but waste not by excess, for God
loves not the wasters so that we become
accustomed to avoiding wastefulness and extravagance in our daily
consumption of food and drink. It frequently points out that frugality and
consuming what one has without being over-lavish is the measure of what
some verses, Almighty God states that He “created every animal from
water,” showing in a most interesting and meaningful way that water is
the basis of life and living.
Messenger (PBUH) also attached great importance to water, and forbade the
excessive use of it even when taking the ablutions, saying that to do so
was ‘detestable’ (makruh). He thus prevented people using too much
water even for something like ablutions, when they are preparing to enter
the Divine presence and court. A Hadith about this is the following:
Messenger (PBUH) appeared while Sa‘d was taking the ablutions. When he
saw that Sa‘d was using a lot of water, he intervened saying: ‘What is
this? You are wasting water.” Sa‘d
replied asking: “Can there be wastefulness while taking the
ablutions?” To which God’s Messenger replied: “Yes,
even if you take them on the bank of a rushing river.”
interpreting this Hadith, scholars have pointed out that it does not refer
only to using less water while taking the ablutions, but to a basic
principle of Islam. They have emphasized the following points in
connection with it:
God’s Messenger is stating an important prohibition.
The prohibition concerns something for which no effort was exerted in
obtaining it, nor money spent, but is free: the water of a flowing river.
Moreover, the excessive use of water causes no deficiency to nature, nor
does it cause pollution, nor spoil the ecological balance.
It causes no harm to living beings.
Furthermore, the matter in question, that is, taking the ablutions, is not
some trivial matter; it is a necessary condition for the obligatory
then, despite all the above, it is ‘detestable’ to use excessive water
from a river while taking the ablutions and it was prohibited by the
Prophet, how much stronger is the proscription on being wasteful and
extravagant in some matter in which the above statements are not
applicable? That is, if wastefulness
is in something that required the expending of effort, expense, or at
if it caused deficiency to or pollution of nature, thus spoiling the
if it harmed living beings;
if it violated the rights of forthcoming generations to live in a healthy
if it was arbitrary and meaningless, and merely for enjoyment;
if it was contrary to the basic aim; then what would the situation be?
Qur’an and Sunna stipulating that water is the basis of life lays a
number of obligations and responsibilities on Muslims: the conserving of
existent water supplies in the best possible way; the prevention of any
activity that might lead to the pollution of water sources or spoil the
purity and characteristics of the water; never adopting an extravagant and
irresponsible attitude in the consumption of water; rational and regular
utilization of water and water sources.
are very good reasons for Islam prohibiting wastefulness and prodigality
so forcefully. We may put it this way: there are between five and six
thousand million people living in the world today. Just think of each
individual person cutting down a tree or killing an animal just for the
fun of it. Six thousand million trees or six thousand million animals
would perish. Or think of the water they would waste, or the bread or
other foodstuffs they would throw away. The serious consequences of those
apparently insignificant actions are clear. Moreover, for the greater part
it is not possible to reclaim the resources we have polluted, destroyed,
or annihilated. It is in this light that we may understand how meaningful
was the point God’s Messenger (PBUH) was emphasizing when he said:
“Even if you take the ablutions in a flowing river, do not waste the
water,” and how important it is for the preservation of the ecological
world belongs to all of us. We are all obliged to conserve and protect. We
must co-operate and work together for a better world, a better future, and
a better environment. We must love and preserve our environment and all
the living creatures within it in the name of our Sustainer, Who created
them and entrusted them to us. In this way, the 21st century
will be the century of peace, happiness, tolerance, and brotherhood. Not
only for men, but for all creatures, animate and inanimate.
conclude this work with the following prayer which Muslims say many times
during five daily prayers:
Our Lord! Give us the
best of this world
as well as the best
in the Hereafter.
and Further Readings
The Holy Qur’an. Trans. Yusuf Ali Maryland:
Amana Corp., 1983). and
also A.A. Razwy' edition, (New York: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an Inc.,
Kütüb-ü Sitte (Turkish trans.), (Istanbul:
Atik, M. Kemal, Kur’an
ve Çevre, (Kayseri: E.Ü.
Bayraktar, Mehmet, İslâm
ve Ekoloji, (Ankara: TDV Yayınları, 1992).
Canân, Prof. Dr. İbrahim, Âyet
ve Hadislerle Çevre Ahlakı, (Istanbul: Yeni Asya Yayınları,
W. “God Surrounds All Things: An Islam
ic Perspective on the Environment”, The
World and I, vol.I, no.6, June,1986.
Danişmend, İsmail Hami, Garb
Menbalarına Göre Eski Türk Seciye ve Ahlakı, (Istanbul:
Hatib, Abdülaziz, Risale-i
Nur’dan Dualar, (Istanbul: Gençlik Yayınları, 1993).
W. A. Islam
ic Environmental Systems Engineering,
Sir Mohammad. The Reconstruction of
Religious Thought in Islam
, (Lahore: The Ashraf Press, 1958).
Deen, Mawil Y. (Samarrai), “Islam
ic Environmental Ethics, Law, and Society”, in Ed. J. Ronald Engel ve
Joan Gibb Engel. Ethics of Environment and Development. Global Challenge, International
Response. (London: Belhaver Press, 1990).
Fazlun and O’Brien, Joanne. (ed.),
Ecology, (New York: Cassell Publishers Limited, 1992).
S. Parvez. “Environment and Values: the Islam
ic Perspective”, in The Touch of
Midas: Science, values and environment in Islam and the West, ed.,
Ziauddin Sardar, (Manchester: Manchester University Press,1984).
Mesnevi [Turkish trans. Veled İzbudak], (Istanbul: MEB Yayınları,
Mafih [Turkish trans. Meliha Ambarcıoğlu], (Istanbul: MEB
Abdullah Omar. “The Muslim Declaration of Nature”, Environmental Policy and Law, 17/1 (1987).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, Man
and Nature, (Chicago: Kazi Publications, 1997).
and the Environmental
Crisis”, in Spirit of Nature,
(edts) Steven C. Rockefeller and John C. Elder, (Boston: Beacon Prass,
Mystics of Islam, (London: Routledge
and Kegan Paul, 1975)
Nursî, Bediüzzaman Said, Risale-i Nur Külliyatı,
(Istanbul: Yeni Asya Yayınları, 1996).
-------------------, The Words, trans: Sükran Vahide (Istanbul: Sözler Publication,
Özdemir, Dr. İbrahim, Çevre
ve Din, (Ankara: Çevre Bakanlığı Yayınları,
Ethical Dimension of Human Attitude Towards Nature, (Ankara: Ministry
of Environment, 1997).
Çevre ve Din
(Environment and Religion), (Ankara: Ministry of Environment, 1997).
(Environment and Ethics). Felsefe Dünyası,
Kış sayı: 14, 1994.
"Science and Environment: Is Science Responsible for the
Environmental Crisis?" The
Journal of the Environment and Social Sciences, vol.1, no. 1-2, 1996.
“Çevre Korumada Çevre Ahlakı’nın Önemi”, (The
Importance of Environmental Ethics for Environmental Protection), 3rd
Convention of Environment, Ministry of Environment, Dec. 4 - 6
Çevre Sorunlari ve İslam,
(Environmental Problems and Islam), (Ankara: DIB Yay, 1995).
Sükran. Bediüzzaman Said Nursi
(The Author of Risale-i Nur), (Istanbul: Sözler Publications, 1995).
Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an,
(Maryland: Amana Corp., 1983) p. 1188, ff.4029.
Qur’an, 17:44. See also, 57:1; 62:1.
Mevlana, Fihi Mafih [Turkish
trans. Meliha Ambarcıoğlu], Istanbul, MEB Yayınları
Abdülaziz Hatip. Risale-i
Nur’dan Dualar, (Istanbul: Gençlik Yayınları, 1993),
Muslim, Musafirun, 139; Musnad, vi, 91, 111, 163, 188, 216.
al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, iii, 30.
al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, vi, 39; Haythami, Majmau al-Zawaaid, iv,
Majma' al-Zawaid, v, 480.
Bukhari, Tajrid al-Sahih, vii, 122; Muslim, Musaqat, 2 No> 2.
al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, iv, 87.
Bukhari, al-Adab al-Mufrad, 139.
Abu Dau'd, Jihad, 122, No: 2675; iii, 125-6.
Bukhari, Tajrid al-Sahih, vii, 223, No: 1066.
Bukhari, Adhan, 90; Musaqat, 9; Muslim, Birr, 133; Musnad, iv, 351.
Abu Dau'd, Jihaad, 48.
Muslim, Birr, 60.
‘Izz ad-Din ibn ‘Abd as-Salam, Qavaid
al-Ahmak fi Masalih al-Anam, (Beirut: Daru'l- Ceyl, 1980), vol.1,
p. 167; Fazlun Khalid and Joanne
O’Brien. (ed.), Islam
Ecology, (New York: Cassell Publishers Limited, 1992).
See, Qur’an, 24:45; 25:54.
Musnad, ii, 22; Ibn Maja, Tahara, 48, No: 425; i, 147.
All rights reserved. No parts of this book may be reproduced or
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About the Author:
Ibrahim Ozedmir or
* Ibrahim Ozdemir is a professor at
the Divinity School of Ankara University, Turkey. He received his Ph.D.
degree from the Middle East Technical University, Graduate School of
Presently, He is
a Visiting Luce Professor of Abrahamic Religions at University of Hartford
& Hartford Seminary.
interests are Islamic Ethics, environmental philosophy and environmental
ethics. He is an interfaith and environmental activist. He contributes
regularly to a host of Western and Islamic scholarly journals. Some of his
Ethical Dimension of Human Attitude Towards Nature,
(Ankara: Ministry of Environment, 1997).
ve Din (Environment and Religion), (Ankara: Ministry of
Gezegen, (Lonely Planet: Essays on Environmental Ethics and Philosophy)
(Istanbul: Kaynak, 2001).
Dusunceler (Potmodern Thoughts: Essays On philosophy, philosophy of
Science, and Postmodernity), (Istanbul:
Kaynak Yayinlari, 2002).