It is not at all surprising that Islam has stressed tremendous emphasis on environmental care, and most importantly commissioned human beings as responsible vicegerents (khalifa/khulafa, pl.) on earth. Thus, human beings shoulder the great responsibility of maintaining a healthy living environment and caring for the nature. Besides, the planet earth has been chosen by Allah as the most suitable abode for human beings to live. This is sufficient for us humans to acknowledge the invaluable bounty of Allah bestowed on us, and as a means of gratitude one cannot deny his part in caring for the environment.
The holy Qur’an has emphasised and reiterated the significance of maintaining the natural balance (mizan) of the environment in multiple verses. There are more than five hundred (500) verses in the Qur’an which urges for environmental care. Besides the first revelation being at the cave of Hira – a natural setting with a pure and rejuvenating air away from the busy city-dwellings – is itself a significant indication of the interconnectedness of human beings with nature as well as the holy Qur’an. There are many chapters in the Qur’an which are named after different elements of the environment and nature; such as ‘Dawn (al-Fajr),’ ‘Morning (al-Duha),’ ‘Sun (al-Shams),’ Moon (al-Qamar),’ ‘Ant (al-Naml),’ ‘Bee (al-Nahl),’ ‘Cattle (al-An’am),’ ‘Elephant (al-Fil),’ ‘Iron (al-Hadeed),’ ‘the City (al-Balad),’ ‘the Lightening (al-Ra’d),’ among many others. The Prophet (pbuh) himself was a strong advocate of environmental care and a pioneer of Islamic ecological science, if we may address him as such.
Some of the major principles Qur’an and the holy Prophet (pbuh) laid down for environmental care and Islamic ecology could be the following (although not limited to):
1. Unicity of the nature: that the nature is a divine gift, a blessed creation of the Almighty God. And all the elements of the environment and the nature itself turn towards the One God, willingly or unwillingly! They all praise Him (tahmid), glorify Him (tasbih) and worship Him in manners we don’t know.
2. Stewardship of human beings (khilafah): human beings are entrusted with the responsibility (amanah) of environmental care. Each and everyone of us are responsible for taking care of the environment, thus inflicting harm or abusing it is a major breach of trust.
3. Natural balance and equilibrium (mizan): the nature has been created with a natural balance, the proportion of air and wind are just perfect for us to live in, likewise the other proportions among all other elements of the nature are placed in the most suitable and perfect equilibrium. Besides, animal kingdom is dependent on the other kingdoms for its sustenance and livelihood, likewise plant kingdom is dependent on other kingdoms, and equilibrium is perfectly set naturally.
4. No-Waste policy: Islam abhors waste and promotes moderation in all affairs. Once the Prophet pbuh rebuked his companion Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas for wasting water in his ablution. He asked if there is waste in rituals. The Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘Yes. Even if one is to live by a flowing river, he should not waste.’ Islam teaches proper waste management tools as well. The Prophet (pbuh) taught his companions how to discharge refuse, and where to and where not to, and how should the waste be managed. He himself practised ‘reuse’ policy, while he used to mend his shoes and patch his clothes without any complains.
5. Civilisational construct (i’mar al-ard): Islam urges the Muslims not only to maintain the balance, but rather to construct a healthy and ‘livable’ environment. Islamic teachings urges on forestation, plantation, creating greenery, managing proper water cycle, and what we know today as ‘sustainable development!’ Due rights were not only given to the human beings, but also to animals, environment and other stakeholders. Developing barren lands (ihya al-mawat) are encouraged in the Islamic teachings.
These are simple brief points on Islamic principles of ecology. For a deeper understanding of the subject matter, I am uploading few articles and books which could help you further.
Riayat-al Bi’ah-fi Shariatil-Islam (رعاية البيئة في شريعة الإسلام) by Yusuf al-Qaradawi
Ecology Sustainability and Future Generations, by Fazlun Khalid
Green Economy Document, by ISESCO (Conference of the Minister’s of Environment)