Do Muslims Have a Duty Towards the Environment?

All human beings, including Muslims, are duty-bound to address environmental issues.

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All human beings, including Muslims, are duty-bound to address environmental issues.

Human activities have a significant impact on the environment. Recent scientific studies have highlighted major environmental crises, such as global warming, melting ice caps, air pollution, deforestation, plastic pollution, food waste etc.[1]

Although issues related to the environment – at least to the scale they are at today – are seen as a modern problem, we find that Quran 30:41 also alludes to a similar crisis in the time and place where it was revealed:

“Corruption has spread on land and sea as a result of what people’s hands have done, so that Allah may cause them to taste the consequences of some of their deeds and perhaps they might return to the right path”.

The apparent meaning of the term “corruption” (fasād) that the Quran uses can be interpreted in an unrestricted (muṭlaq) manner to include all types of corruption, including environmental negligence, perversion, and imbalanced use of natural resources that are prevalent in today’s age.[2]

The Quran is thus reminding believers (or for that matter, all human beings) that they would witness the devastating consequences of their actions they are complacent about. Similarly, other verses of the Quran also elucidate that humans have a major responsibility towards the environment.

For instance, in Quran 7:31, God reminds human beings to be mindful of the environment, where it says: “O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes those who do not commit excess.”

In this verse, the Quran not only directly addresses the issue of food wastage, but in its last part it also indirectly indicates that Allah does not like anyone who generally indulges in any kind of excess or wastage. There is no doubt that in recent years, most of the world’s environmental issues are caused by human beings being wasteful and their excessive consumerism.

All human beings, including Muslims, are duty-bound to address environmental issues. This is indicated in 2:30, where the Quran reminds the Prophet:

“And (remember) as your Lord said to the angels, “Surely I am making in the earth a successor.” They said, “Will You make therein one who will corrupt in it and shed blood while we [are the ones who] extol [with] Your praise and call You Holy? He said, “Surely I know what you do not know.”

This verse clearly depicts human beings as God’s successors or stewards (khalīfa) on this earth and therefore endows them with the responsibility of taking its care and preserving it as opposed to overconsuming and overexploiting its resources.

These Quranic verses are also supported by the traditions of the Prophet that emphasise the importance of being aware of and tackling environmental issues. For instance, there are numerous reports in which the Prophet has urged the believers to plant trees.[3] It can be said that these reports clearly encourage the importance of preserving forests and address the current deforestation that prevails the world.

Similarly, there are numerous other reports where the Prophet reminds believers to take care of their cleanliness, be wary of how much food and drink they consume, be wary of the rights of animals etc.[4]

The apparent indication of these reports clearly suggests that it is the duty of all Muslims to be aware of and try to prevent any harm that may befall the environment and positively contribute to its regeneration and growth.

Therefore, the believers are encouraged to refrain from engaging in the following practices:

  1. Deforestation
  2. Pollution including noise, air, and water pollution
  3. Overconsumption of meat
  4. Non-essential usage of plastics and non-renewable materials
  5. Excessiveness or waste including electricity, water, and gas excesses examples of this could be leaving electricity on unnecessarily, leaving tap water on while performing ritual ablutions (ghusl and wudu) or excessive usage of resources that emit high levels of CO2.

This article was originally published by the Centre for Decrees and Doctrines (Dār al-Iftāʾ wal ʿAqāʾid), found here.

[1] For details see https://earth.org/the-biggest-environmental-problems-of-our-lifetime/

[2] See al-Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-qurʾān, v. 8, pp.196-197.

[3] Al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, v. 3, p. 66; Aḥmad b.Ḥanbal, Musnad Aḥmad,v. 3, p. 191 (Even if “Qiyamah” the Last Day has occurred while any one of you holding a plant in his hand he should implant it into the earth).For Shiʿi references see al-Nūrī, Mustadrak al-wasāʾil,v. 13, p. 460 (from Durar al-liʾālī); Warrām b. Abī Firās, Majmūʿ Warrām, v. 2, p. 110.

[4] Nahj al-balāgha, letter no. 25; Ibn Bābawayh, al-Muqnʿi, p. 534; al-Barqī, al-Maḥāsin, v. 2, p. 634; Ibn Bābawayh,al-Faqīh, v. 4, p. 8.



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