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Islam promotes conservation

April 30, 2010

UNUSUALLY prolonged bouts of loadshedding in our country, be it of electricity and/or gas along with water shortages, have not only created a need for increased generation but also an awareness to conserve available resources.

Global awareness campaigns have strongly discouraged practices like environmental degradation as well as waste and abuse of natural resources, besides air and water pollution.

It can be argued that conservation of resources is more recent to the western, developed world but it was rooted in Islam at the very advent of the faith. The Holy Quran as well as the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH), both primary sources of Islamic law, have reiterated time and again the need to conserve natural resources. Islam states that God has created all things which are to be utilised by individuals on Earth, also His creation.

It states that God has sent down all things in right measure and proportion “Verily, We have created all things....” (5449); “And We have provided therein means of living for you and for those whom you provide not [moving (living) creatures, cattle, beasts and other animals]” (1520); “...everything with Him is in (due) proportion”(13 08; see also 1519 and 1521).

God has alluded to natural resources and elements without which survival is impossible. These include air, water, soil, along with minerals as well as energy-rich resources like oil, gas and coal, plants and animals. Air is not only a source of oxygen, but cool winds also bring relief to all on hot days. Further, winds bring with them clouds of rain; they carry out successful pollination of plants. Also, wind energy generation by use of windmills has been made possible; “ the veering of the winds and clouds which are held between the sky and the Earth, are indeed signs for people of understanding” (2164; see also 2548; 757 and 1522).

Manmade air pollution, caused by emission of toxic fumes by industries and automobiles today is spoiling the indispensable natural element that is air. Water, too, is indispensable to human survival; Thus, the Quran says “...And We send the winds fertilising (to fill heavily the clouds with water), then cause the water (rain) to descend from the sky, and we give it to you to drink, and it is not you who are the owners of its stores (i.e. to give water to whom you like or to withhold it from whom you like)” (15 22).

The point to note is that according to Islam, not only is man prohibited from depriving anyone of water but is also forbidden from polluting it, alongside other natural surroundings that humankind needs and cherishes. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said; “Guard against three practices which invite people's curses evacuating one's bowels near water sources, by the roadside and in the shade.”

Land is not only a place of habitation, but soil also brings forth vegetation and grain which humankind consumes; “Who has made Earth for you like a bed (spread out); and has opened roads (ways and paths) for you therein, and has sent down water (rain) from the sky. And we have brought forth with it various kinds of vegetation” (2053; see also 5510, 11,12 and 4110).

Hazrat Ali once gave the following instructions to a man who had reclaimed abandoned land, “Partake of it gladly, so long as you are a benefactor, not a despoiler, a cultivator, not a destroyer.” These instructions clearly highlight the responsibilities of individuals who derive benefit from land and soil, be it in the form of produce, minerals which lie in it or energy resources that lie beneath it.

Likewise, plants and animals are a source of food, medicine and clothing, and have many other uses besides. Mankind is enjoined by God to look after all living beings on Earth (see 21107). Forest denudation, hunting for sport and greed to make profits have with time upset the natural apportionment of the planet's resources, whose protection Islam advocates unequivocally. Thus, conservation, the need of the hour today, was stressed on by Islam long before industrialisation and ruthless capitalism threatened to adversely affect the planet's ecological balance.