Najma Mohamed explains how and why we should be educating ourselves about environmental responsibility.
The impact of human greed and abuse of natural resources is visible throughout the world as trees are being ripped from the earth, rivers and oceans are poisoned and our climate is changing. The earth and all that is in it, is a trust or Amana from Allah, which we should enjoy within limits. Now more than ever, we need to re-discover the beautiful environmental teachings of Islam and share this wisdom with the children that have been entrusted to us.
Yes, the Qur'an and the Sunnah teach us about caring for the environment! Islam is a comprehensive lifestyle and caring about the environment is the duty of every Muslim. The Qur'an teaches us that human beings are the representatives of Allah on Earth and that we will be accountable for all our actions, big and small. The Prophet (SAW) also said: "The world is sweet and green (alluring) and verily God is going to install you as vicegerent (khalifah) in it in order to see how you act" (Sahih Muslim). If we destroy the environment, are we fulfilling our duty as Allah's representative on Earth?
In the Holy Qur'an, we find many verses that speak about the natural resources of the Earth, including land, water, plants, soil, mountains, rain, animals, sunlight and the oceans. For example, the following verse indicates the astounding diversity of plants, which incorporates trees, flowering plants, ferns, mosses, seaweed and algae - all watered by the same water, but different in color, form, taste, smell and size!
And in the earth are neighboring tracts, and gardens of vines, and green crops (fields), and date palms, growing into two or three from a single stem root, or otherwise (one stem root for every palm), watered with the same water; yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat. Verily! In these things there are signs for the people who understand.
(Surah Ra'd: 3)
While we are to enjoy the riches on Earth, like rain, fruits and forests, we must not waste these resources and should respect all of creation as Allah does not love those who waste:
Eat and drink, but waste not by excess, for Allah does not love the wasters.
(Surah A'raaf: 31)
Not only human beings, but also animals and plants depend on natural resources for their survival. Many times the needs of the rest of creation are not seen as important, but in the Qur'an it is stated that animals are also communities, like human beings. We can use natural resources for our needs such as food, medicine and shelter, but when we wipe out these communities, we are harming ourselves and the creation of Allah.
There is not an animal on the earth, nor a bird that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you.
(Surah An'aam: 38)
Allah and His Messenger (SAW) teach us about living simply, kindness and gratitude. In the life of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), we find the perfect example of kindness to all of creation. The Prophet (SAW) told his companions that they should not pollute water, nor should they waste water when taking wudu (ablution), even if they were at a river. Also, he advised Muslims that we should, at the time of slaughtering animals for food, treat the animal with kindness and that we should never over-burden an animal with a heavy weight that it will struggle to carry.
Let us take a final lesson from Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who is reported to have said that when we plant a tree or sow a seed, and a bird, animal or person eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift from us.
Children start to develop their worldview at a young age and we need to build their knowledge and awareness of the environmental teachings of Islam at this tender age. As with all acts in the life of a Muslim, belief must be accompanied by action and good deeds, we therefore need to move beyond instilling environmental values to encouraging action. Since children learn in different ways, a number of strategies are outlined below to start making positive changes.
Read the Qur'an and the life of the Prophet (SAW) and share these beautiful environmental values with our young ones, and insha Allah we will walk on the path that will lead us to love and kindness towards one another and to all of creation. Let us try to change the way we use natural resources. Plants, animals, water and air, are all a trust, an Amana, which we must use wisely. In our homes, at our schools and in our neighborhoods, there are many ways in which we can care for the Earth. Live simply and do not be wasteful. Remember that as adults, young children look to us as examples and the worst thing we could do is to tell them to do something and then not practice it ourselves, as Allah warns us in the Qur'an: "Oh you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not?" (Surah as-Saaf:2).
Najma Mohamed is an environmental researcher and writer based in Cape Town, South Africa.
This article was published in the Winter issue of SISTERS Magazine.
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