July 22, 2012 By A. K. ABDUL MAJEED

Nature and Environment in The Light of Quran

quran1The emergence of humans on earth could not be viewed as sheer accidental as we look at things from the Quranic perspective.  According to the Quran the creation of man is, as a matter of fact, the culmination of a well-defined divine scheme. Going further the Quran says that the entire Universe has been created to accommodate humans with a special purpose.  In Quran’s own style: “It is he who hath created for you all things that are on earth; moreover his design comprehended the heavens, for he gave order and perfection to the seven firmaments; and of all things he hath perfect knowledge, Behold thy Lord said to the angles: “I will create a vicegerent on earth”. They said: “wilt thou place therein one who will make Mischief therein and shed blood? -Whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify thy holy (name)?” He said: “I know what ye know not” (2: 29, 30). Among many other things these verses clearly say that the earth and everything in it are created for the benefit of humans. Further, Man is the “vicegerent” (Khaleefa :) of God on earth. It is he who represents God on earth. In other words, it is the responsibility of human to translate the divine will into black and white.

Since earth is the divinely gifted abode for man and man it’s the divinely appointed custodian; it is his divinely assigned duty to protect, guard and nurture the planet which is his and his fellow creatures’ sole habitat.  Birds, animals, fish, plants, insects and all other living organisms form part of human habitation. The Holy Quran, in a striking verse, says that the communities of various creatures on earth are similar to that of men. “There is no animal on the earth, nor a bird that flies with its two wings, but they are communities like your own”. (6: 38)

These species have their own worth, decency and rights as the creatures of God. Men are bound to give due respect to these quintessential elements of nature. At least he has to stay away from atrocities that may cause danger to nature. Man should view the universe and the natural phenomena as signs of God and interact with them with reverence and responsibility. It is his duty never to try to disgrace them. Both the Quran and the sayings of the holy prophet emphasize this in vivid terms. Study a few verses which describe the universe and the natural phenomena as divine signs:

  • We made the heaven like canopy and provided it with strong support: yet form its sings they turn away. (21: 32)
  • Say:  ‘Behold what the heavens and the earth contain!’ But neither signs nor warnings will avail the unbelievers. ( 10: 101)
  • Do they not reflect on the camels, how they were created? The heaven, how it was raised up? The mountains how they were set down? The earth how it was leveled flat? ( 88: 17-20)
  • It was Allah who raised the heavens without visible pillars. He then ascended His throne and forced the sun and the moon into His service. Each pursuing an appointed course. (13: 1)
  • It He who shows you the lightening, inspiring you with fear and hope, and who brings up the heavy clouds. The thunder sounds His praises, and the angels too for awe of him. He hurls His thunderbolts at whom he pleases. Yet the unbelievers wrangle about Allah. Stern is His might. (13: 12)

The verses quoted above and hundreds of similar verses define the true relationship between man and nature. Just like men, nature is the creation of God.  And it has been created for the convenience of men. From nature man can learn the real nature of his own existence.  Obviously, nature caters to the spiritual as well as physical needs of humans. Men are permitted to make use of the nature for their material needs but not without conditions. Nobody has the right to exploit the resources of nature at his will and pleasure never minding the consequences of their action. According to the Quran man is accountable to god almighty for his actions. The Quran and Hadith contain guidelines of men’s interaction with nature. Man has no absolute freedom on nature. He is not the God.  He is only a trustee of God endowed with certain faculties to discharge the divinely assigned responsibilities. Nevertheless God has given the free choice to men to regard or disregard the rules and regulations set by Him. Those who abide by the divine law will enjoy its sweet fruits here and hereafter; and those who stand against it will have to face the bitter experiences in both the worlds. Proverbially, we harvest what we farm. As   we destroy the ozone layer so we are burnt by harmful rays. Isn’t this what is known as divine justice? Quran says: “Evil appears on land and sea as a result of the (evil) which human hands have done. (Allah has ordained it thus for men) so that they may taste the fruit of their own work and mend their ways” (30:41). To live in harmony with nature is the way out for men to survive on earth.

Islam stands for peace and justice

The very word Islam signifies peace. Whatever goes against peace is un- Islamic. To do justice to everyone and everything is the maxim Islam proposes. These two concepts play key role in deciding the attitude of Muslim folk to nature.  Peace and justice are not restricted to social aspects of human life as we generally understand. Not only men but animals have the right to lead peaceful life on earth. Man should not deny this right to the animals and birds. The Quranic paradigm of justice demands fair deal with all living beings. Every activity of human being is to be weighed on the scale of justice. It is justice to water a drying plant or giving water to a thirsty dog. The prophet said that a wicked woman in the Israeli community entered paradise as she gave water to a wandering dog. He taught believers to be kind to all living creatures. Once he told his disciples about how a lady was sent to hell by God as she imprisoned a cat without giving it food nor letting it go hunting.

As the Quran says, the Messengers of Allah were sent with the scale of justice.  “We have sent our apostles with clear signs and brought down with them scriptures and the scale of justice.” (57: 25). Quran also warns that injustice would lead to spread of evil and mischief on earth. “The Messenger of God Shu’ayb warned his people: “Oh My people! Give just weight and measure in all fairness. Do not defraud others of their possessions and do not corrupt the land with evil.” (11:85).

Quran enjoins men not to stroll arrogantly on earth. It is arrogance what makes man unleash assault against other beings. The polite and pious people will never resort to violent activities.  Let’s see what the Quran says: “My son, be steadfast in prayer, enjoin justice, and forbid evil. Endure with fortitude whatever befalls you. That is duty incumbent on all. Do not turn away from with scorn. Nor walk proudly on earth. Allah does not love the arrogant and the vain –glorious. Rather let your gait be moderate and your voice low.” (31:  17-19)

The earth is sacred

In  the Islamic perspective earth is as sacred as a place of worship. Earth is not a ‘condemned’ place where the ‘sinner’ is dumped as some people take it. The prophet taught that Muslims can perform their prayer anywhere on earth. Either water or, in its absence, soil can be used for ablution for prayer.

Humans are created from earth and they are destined to return to earth. Quran says: “From the earth we have created you, and to the earth we shall restore you; and from it we will bring you back (to life)” [20: 55] It is God who made this earth most convenient for human habitation. Allah asks: “Did we not spread the earth like a bed and raise the mountain like pegs?” (78: 6, 7). In another verse Quran reminds us: “It is He who subdued the earth to you. Walk about its regions and eat of His provisions. To Him shall all return (at the resurrection).  (67: 15)

The holy Quran is full of live and beautiful images of nature with dazzling references about plants, birds, animals, rivers, mountains, desert, cultivation, fruits, ocean and oasis. Let’s see one verse among them: “It was he who spread out the earth and placed upon it firm mountains and rivers. And of all fruits he had put in it couple (male and female) and drew the veil of night over the day. Surely in these there are signs for thinking men       and in the land there are adjoining plot: gardens of vines and corn and palm gardens of vines and corn and palm trees, the single and the clustered. They are watered with the same water. Ye we make some excel others in taste. Surely in this there are signs for men of understanding.” (13: 3, 4).

A true believer will, therefore, treat the sacred earth with due respect and concern and at his best will try to tune himself to the rhythm of nature.

Make it Greener

The prophet encouraged cultivation and plantation. He said: “When a Muslim plant a tree or cultivate a crop; and birds and animals eat from them, he will be rewarded for charity. Even if the crops are stolen he will be rewarded”. In another tradition of the messenger of God we read: “Don’t abandon a sweet plant if you get it. It is after all light to carry and fragrant”.

The prophet persuaded the farmers to grow vegetation and adopt their own time tested methods of cultivation to yield better crops. While chatting with date growers he suggested a certain way of pollination. But the growers said that it was not the best method. Then the prophet said: “You know better about the matters of your world”.

The prophet spoke of a variety of medicinal plants such as black cumin, costus, senna, chicory aloes, fenugreek, cedar, tamarisk, rush, sumac, water-cress, mustard, celery, purslane, caper etc. About back cumin he says: “Black cumin is cure for all ailments except death”. There are hundreds of sayings similar to this reported from the prophet.

He outlawed cutting certain trees even in war times. His close associate Hazrath Abu backer Siddique had given special instructions to his generals not to uproot fruit trees while on military mission. The law of Islam ensures the protection of orchards, gardens and plantation during war season.

Caution against Pollution

Cleanliness is viewed as one of the most important aspects of the religion of Islam. According to the prophet, cleanliness is half the faith. The prophet strictly prohibited polluting water resources, public places, roads and shades of trees.

Abu Huraira reports from the prophet: “Guard against two invokers of curse”. They said: “Allah’s messenger, what are these causes of curse?” Whereupon he said: “Relieving one’s self in the paths of the people or where they enjoy shade”. (Muslim). In another hadith the prophet warns: Guard against three things which may induce curse. They are: Relieving oneself in water sources and on public pathways and under the shades.

The prophet forbade urinating in the holes and dens where reptiles and insects live. Abdullah Ibnu Saraj reports from the prophet: “None of you should pass urine in a hole.”

Quran warns against sound pollution in vivid terms. “Lower your voice” says Quran in a verse. (31: 19). According to Quran one should not raise his voice beyond a certain limit even in prayers. “Pray neither with loud voice nor with a low one; but seek between these extremes a middle course.” (17: 111)

Again in another verse:“And do thou bring thy Lord to remembrance in thy (very) soul, with humility and in reverence, without loudness in words, in the morning and evenings; and be not thou of those who are unheedful.” (7: 205)

The prophet asked his followers to shorten their speech and lengthen their prayers.

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