THE verse, “Corruption has spread in the land and the sea because of what they had committed” (3041), seems to refer to the trespasses that human beings have committed against nature, leading the earth at a dizzying speed to an impending ecological disaster.

Muslims need to look at the Islamic scriptures to determine their spiritual and ethical framework regarding responsibility towards preserving the environment. In Surah Ibrahim it is said “God is He who created the heavens and the earth, and sent down water from the sky, then brought forth fruits with it for you to eat. He gave the ship under your control, so that it may sail on the waters by His command, as well as gave the rivers in your power.

“He made the sun and the moon to serve you, both obeying the same law, and made the night and the day useful to you. And (besides) gave you everything that you asked for. If you try to count the favours of God, you will not be able to. Indeed, human beings are unjust and ungrateful.” (1432-34).

Being ungrateful also means not using a gift in the manner, and for the purpose, intended by the Giver. In Surah Al-Baqarah it is also said that everything on the earth has been created for 'you' (229). The 'you' here refers to all human beings including all future generations. We should take care of these blessings, and should realise our moral accountability to God as well as to the future generations, in order to fulfil the rights of Allah and the fellow human beings on us.

The Quran states that life was created from water (117; 2130). The importance of water and its equitable distribution among the people and animals is stressed “...We send down water from the sky, pure water, so as to bring to life with it a dead land and to quench the thirst of Our creatures, both animals and humans, in large numbers. We keep distributing it among them, so that they would reflect.” (2548-50). According to the Quran, Prophet Saleh's nation, the Thamud, was destroyed because they refused to share the food and water with the she-camel (1164). Prophet Noah was warned of the imminent flood. He was taught, through revelation, to build a huge boat and to put on it a pair of every species of animals as well as his followers. This is a lesson in preserving the species, which had turned into endangered species and would have otherwise been wiped out by the flood. The command to save the animals came before the command to save the Believers (1140).

That life is sacred is borne out by the fact that the Kaaba and its precincts, covering about 50,000 sq km, are a sanctuary (796; 2857; 953), where the killing of the smallest of creatures and damaging the smallest of plants is strictly forbidden, when in a state of ihram (596). The meat of an animal becomes lawful only after asking for permission by pronouncing God's name over it, at the time of slaughter. Indiscriminate killing of animals is a grave sin and disturbs the balance of nature resulting in disorder.

We are told, “God does not like disorder” (2 205). Even hunting is permitted only in order to consume the meat and not for the pleasure of enjoying a sharp-shooting spree. The Prophet (PBUH) exhorted his followers to be kind to animals. He forbade giving them pain or killing them unnecessarily.

The Prophet taught “God does not like those who waste” (731). Even as the head of his people he led a simple life, in which the resources of the earth were not wasted, requiring their just distribution. He taught people not to waste food; he wore simple clothes and slept and ate on the floor. He is reported to have emphasised the importance of planting trees, especially from which human beings and animals could eat, as a way of protecting the environment. He said that one should complete the process of planting a tree and not run away, even if the Day of Judgment suddenly approached.

Islam as a code of life assigns duties as well as responsibilities. In the light of the Quran and the Sunnah, we must realise that we are accountable and, therefore, strive to change and adapt our lifestyle and social structures in order to leave the world in a habitable state for future generations.

nilofar.ahmed58@gmail.com

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