Amal Al-Sibai

Going green not new in Islam


By: Amal Al-Sibai

The green movement is now sweeping nations that have finally opened their eyes to the detrimental effects of human behavior on the planet and the erratic climatic changes that have occurred as a result of human activities. This trendy movement calls for green buildings, green schools, water conservation, and using public transportation to reduce the number of cars on the road and thus reduce the harmful vehicle emissions that contribute to air pollution.

Environmental preservation, respecting the Earth and its resources, and going green is not new in Islam but Muslims have lost their connection with Islamic traditions and have forgotten their bond to the Earth.

Before the name environmentalist was even coined, Islam taught us that mankind is connected to the Earth and must live in balance with what he/she takes from it.

This verse from the Holy Qur’an elevates the status of the Earth and shows its importance in human existence as it was part of human creation and will be the resting place after death: “Thereof (the earth) We created you, and into it We shall return you.”- Surah 20:55

The tree, the prime symbol of environmental protection, is likewise highly valued in Islam. Planting a tree was encouraged by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and was considered an act that would reap the planter great rewards from Allah.

The Prophet said, “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charity (sadaqah) for him.”

Planting a tree and spreading the benefits that the community would enjoy from the tree was considered so important that the Prophet said, “If the Day of Judgment erupts while you are planting a new tree, carry on and plant it.”

Modern day science confirms the wisdom behind the Islamic emphasis on planting and nurturing trees. Trees in the environment act as an air filter, keeping our air cleaner by absorbing harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is one of the major contributing elements to the greenhouse effect and global warming. Trees trap carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and make carbohydrates that are used for plant growth. They give us oxygen in return. A fully-grown tree can absorb roughly 22 kgs of carbon dioxide a year. The tree in turn releases enough oxygen to sustain two human beings. Trees also help to reduce ozone levels in large cities.

Did you know that trees could help save energy and reduce the cost of your electricity bill? Planting trees around your home can help cool your home in the summer. Researchers claim that the overall effect of the shade provided by a healthy tree is equivalent to an air-conditioner running for 20 hours a day! Trees shade buildings, streets, and homes. If enough trees are planted in cities, the overall microclimate improves and total energy use for cooling is reduced.

The recent outbreak of water shortages in Jeddah is a sharp reminder that our vital natural resources are finite. Islam has instructed Muslims against wasting and exploiting the treasures of the Earth. It is part of our Islamic tradition to use water wisely and we should teach it to our children.

In Islam, it is recommended that water be used sparingly, even while performing the religious duty of ablution — wudoo. The Prophet criticized excessive use of water and he was known to use only half a liter of water during ablution.

He said, “Do not waste water, even if you perform your ablution on the banks of an abundantly-flowing river.”

Cleanliness of the body and surroundings is imperative in Islam. It is truly tragic and confusing to witness the extent of waste and garbage thrown by the seaside, in parks, on the streets, and in neighborhoods in almost every city of the Kingdom. Littering is clearly admonished in our religion yet most members of the society take it lightly to throw garbage out the car window for example.

If the following Hadith was taught and applied in our daily lives, the present scenes of our streets and natural attractions would be much different, “Removing harmful things from the road is an act of charity (sadaqah).”

Balance and harmony is to be sought after in Islam, and any disruption in the equilibrium of the planet will have profound negative effects on human health. Muslims have a responsibility to protect the environment, as stewards of the Earth.

Islam teaches that all things were created in perfect balance and measurement. There is a purpose behind all living and non-living things; and each has an important role to play in the balance. Allah gave human beings certain knowledge, which allows us to use the natural world to meet our needs, but we are not given free license to exploit it at whim. We are not masters who rule over the earth, but servants of Allah with a responsibility to maintain the balance, which He has created.

Allah has said in the Holy Qur’an, “O children of Adam! Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” - Surah 7:31

Originally published online on April 15 2012 in the Saudi Gazette newspaper, Muslim Link (