As a Muslim you work towards instilling Islamic traits within yourself. Earning halal, protecting yourself from sin, and praying all your salawat are just some of the traits that might come to mind. But has anyone ever said to another, “may Allah reward you brother for separating all your plastics and paper” or “mashaAllah, that sister brushes her teeth and never lets the water run”?
For the majority of people, being environmentally conscious in their daily lives is simply a nuisance and at worst just another rising cost when the energy bill comes. On the contrary, it should be seen as an opportunity. The simple act of flicking off a light switch when leaving the room — with the right mindset — will create people who are God-conscious and fulfilling the mighty role that Allah bestowed upon us as his khalifah (vicegerent).
Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth. They [the angels] said: "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief and shed blood? Whilst we do celebrate Thy praise and glorify Thy holy name?" He said, "I know what ye know not." (Quran: Surah Al-Baqarah, Verse 30)
Another way to look at this dialogue (and to Allah belongs the highest examples) is that a shop owner wants to hire you as a manager for his store, even though someone brings up the fact that you may not be able to fulfill the duties and might just burn the whole place down. Lucky for you, the owner knows better and allows you the position. As the manager of the store — a representative of the owner — you exercise some authority and are responsible for whatever happens within the store, with the expectation that you will keep the store in the perfect condition as you received it.
We are all managers and have been relegated with authority and responsibility over our sphere of influence on this earth. The positive choices we make to conserve energy and the limited resources provided to us, no matter how trivial the attempt, become acts of worship.
Marketing campaigns encourage consumers to change their outdated incandescent light bulbs to high efficiency LED bulbs because it uses at least 75% less energy (energystar.gov), leading to a lower energy bill. Muslims who sees the big picture of their actions buys the LED bulb knowing their electricity is most likely supplied from a coal or gas powered plant (eia.gov), polluting Allah’s earth with toxic chemicals, and buying this efficient bulb is one step towards reducing these harmful emissions.
While wasting something such as electricity, which has a noticeable cost financially and ecologically, is considered detestable by any laymen, what does Islam teach in the case of wasting something that is abundant and harmless?
The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam) passed by Sa'd when he was performing ablution, and said: 'What is this extravagance?' Sa’d replied: 'Can there be any extravagance in ablution?' The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam) said: 'Yes, even if you are on the bank of a flowing river.' (Sunan Ibn Majah: Vol1,Book 1,Hadith460)
Ponder over this hadith. If wasting a utility which is abundant, free, and benign such as water flowing from a stream (or in our case a modern day faucet) is discouraged then what can we make of wasting electricity, gas, plastic, food, old electronics, chemicals, paper, heavy metals and the plethora of modern day conveniences that are tossed and forgotten yet end up causing chaos in nature?
Of the 250 million tons of trash tossed and forgotten in America in 2011 (epa.gov), 134 million tons — the equivalent weight of 20 Hoover Dams (usbr.gov) — ended up in landfills or incinerators! That trash will be a source of pollution for generations to come as it seeps noxious chemicals into our drinking water and soil, releases toxins in the air, and encapsulates or annihilates our finite resources that could have been otherwise recycled and reused. On a smaller scale how many of us or our uninformed children have thrown a plastic bottle to the curb, let a wrapper blow out of our car window or left a non-biodegradable paper plate behind in a park? This trash inevitably, through storm drains and local streams, ends up in our oceans. Today a vast section of the Pacific Ocean, reported by Independent News to be twice the size of the United States, is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (noaa.gov) because it is a cesspool of deteriorating plastics that originated from litterbugs all throughout the world. These bite size pieces of plastics are destroying marine life which misidentifies it as food.
Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]. (Quran: Surah Ar-Rum, Verse 41)
All praise is to Allah who has given every animate and inanimate object a value, and that value is not simply based on its going market rate, but because every creation of Allah is conscious and is in His remembrance.
Do you not see that Allah is exalted by whomever is within the heavens and the earth and [by] the birds with wings spread [in flight]? Each one knows its own [mode of] prayer and praise. And Allah knows well all that they do. (Quran: Surah An-Nur ,Verse 41)
It was our Prophet (Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam) that exemplified for us how our relationship should be with not only human beings but with animals, plants, and the environment as they too are cognizant beings worshiping Allah. From looking at his (Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam) sunnah we see actions of mercy, concern and an idea of stewardship.
The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam) entered an orchid belonging to an Ansari and saw there a camel. When it saw him, it began to groan and its eyes shed tears. The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam) approached it and patted it on the hump and the base of its head until it quieted down. Then he asked, "Who is the owner of this camel? To whom does it belong?" An Ansari youth stepped forward and said: "It is mine O Messenger of Allah!" He said, "Do you not fear Allah in respect of this beast which Allah has placed in your possession? This camel is complaining to me that you starve it and put it to toil." (Riyad as-Salihin: Book 8,Hadith 967)
When talking about the Mountain of Uhud, the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam) said “This is a mountain that loves us and is loved by us”.
(Sahih al-Bukhari: Book 64, Hadith 127)
Our modern day amenities of getting water from the tap; food cut, packaged and displayed at supermarkets; electricity wired to power our homes; and trash vanishing on pickup days have made it seem like everything is a cold, priceable commodity and we are shielded from our environment such that our actions do not have repercussions. This is a great disillusion.
Let us Muslims be the frontrunners of environmental preservation by seeking guidance from Allah and then amending any harm done by our hands. Make it a point to recycle and pick up trash, beginning with the trash we see around our masajid. Become moderate in using any resource that Allah has provided. Let us instill the Islamic trait of being environmentally conscious within ourselves; let us benefit the earth though our stewardship.
Anas reported Allah's Messenger (Sallallahu 'alyhi wa sallam) as saying, “Never does a Muslim plant trees or cultivate land and that birds or a man or a beast eat out of them but that it is a charity on his behalf”.(Sahih Muslim: Book 22,Hadith 12)
U.S. Energy Information Administration. Monthly Energy Review December 2013. 2013. Retrieved from <http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec7_5.pdf>.
"Why Choose ENERGY STAR Qualified LED Lighting?."http://www.energystar.gov/. U.S. Department of Energy, 28 12 2013. Web. 28 Dec 2013. <http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=ssl.pr_why_es_com>.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2011. 2011. Retrieved from <http://epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/MSWcharacterization_508_053113_fs.pdf>.
"The Colorado River and Hoover Dam Facts and Figures."Reclamation: Lower Colorado Region. U.S Department of the Interior, 28 12 2013. Web. 28 Dec 2013. <http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/pao/brochures/faq.html#weight>.
"Great Pacific Garbage Patch." OR&R's Marine Debris Program. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration, 28 12 2013. Web. 28 Dec 2013. <http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/patch.html>.
Marks, Kathy, and Daniel Howden. "The world's rubbish dump: a tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan."Independent 05 02 2008, n. pag. Web. 28 Dec. 2013. <http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/the-worlds-rubbish-dump-a-tip-that-stretches-from-hawaii-to-japan-778016.html>.
Sunan Ibn Majah Vol1,Book 1,Hadith460 http://sunnah.com/urn/1254240
Sahih Muslim: Book 22,Hadith 12 http://sunnah.com/muslim/22/12
Sahih al-Bukhari: Book 64, Hadith 127 http://sunnah.com/bukhari/64/127
Riyad as-Salihin: Book 8,Hadith 967 http://sunnah.com/riyadussaliheen/8