During a recent trip to Canada, it took me a while to remember to sort out all of my garbage and make sure to recycle all items that could be recycled. When I returned to the Middle East a week later, I soon realized that I had to go back to throwing everything in the garbage. This also led me to reflect on how many Muslim-majority countries lack initiatives and systems that safeguard the environment, completely overlooking the importance of protecting our planet as ordained in the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
There are hundreds of verses in the Quran that describe nature, as well as the relationship between nature and mankind. In countless verses, Allah, exalted is He, describes how He created everything on earth in perfect balance. In one verse, Allah says, “And the earth - We have spread it and cast therein firmly set mountains and caused to grow therein [something] of every well-balanced thing” [Al-Hijr 15:19].
The relationship between nature and humans is regulated through the concept of guardianship or being a “khalifa.” Allah says in the second chapter of the Quran, “And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, "Indeed, I will make upon the earth a khalifa (successive authority)” [Al-Baqarah 2:30].
As guardians on earth, mankind is allowed to enjoy the bountiful blessings Allah has blessed us with, but we are also commanded to uses these resources wisely and commit no excess. Allah says in the sixth chapter of the Quran, “And it is He who causes gardens to grow, [both] trellised and untrellised, and palm trees and crops of different [kinds of] food and olives and pomegranates, similar and dissimilar. Eat of [each of] its fruit when it yields and give its due [zakah] on the day of its harvest. And be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess” [Al-An’am 6:141]. We are also forbidden from inflicting any form of corruption on earth that may disturb its perfect balance. Allah says in another verse, “And do not do mischief on the earth, after it has been set in order, and invoke Him with fear and hope; Surely, Allah's Mercy is (ever) near unto the good-doers” [Al-A’raf 7:56].
The teachings of Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, also encourage Muslims to take good care of our planet. In one hadith, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, provides a great incentive by saying, “If anyone brings barren land into cultivation, then he owns it.” In another hadith, he, peace be upon him, promises a great reward in the hereafter for those who take care of the earth for the benefit of others by saying, “If a Muslim plants a tree or sow seeds, and a bird, a person or an animal eats from it, then it will be considered as charity (sadaqah) for him.”
Halal living is all about striking a balance in everything that we do. Maintaining a balance between enjoying everything Allah has blessed us with while protecting our planet and preserving its resources is a key Islamic teaching. From the above verses and hadiths, we can see how we are required as Muslims to support sustainability in order to protect our planet and preserve its resources. I realized that while I couldn’t recycle where I lived in the Middle East, I could do other things to decrease my impact on the environment. I started by buying a glass water bottle at the airport on my way home and have been using it instead of plastic bottles ever since. I have become more conscious of my actions and I have made several lifestyle changes to protect the planet.
Here is a list of 20 things you could do to decrease your impact on the environment. It includes simple things that can be done by anyone as well as things that may not be available or feasible for everyone. Just do what you can!
- Avoid printing anything unless it necessary.
- Turn off lights when you are not in the room and unplug appliances when not in use.
- Use energy-saving light bulbs.
- Turn down or off the heat or air conditioner when you are not using the space.
- Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth.
- Make wudu (ablution) with as little water as possible.
- Limit your shower to 3-5 minutes.
- Use a refillable water bottle instead of disposable plastic bottles.
- Carry a travel mug and use it to drink tea/coffee instead of using paper cups.
- Use reusable bags when you go grocery shopping.
- Recycle everything you can.
- Compost whenever possible.
- Choose energy-efficient appliances.
- Buy products made from recyclable materials.
- Take public transport whenever possible.
- Carpool to work or school with a friend.
- Drive a smaller car to minimize fuel consumption.
- Consider a hybrid car for your next vehicle.
- Invest in solar panels for your home.
- Buy an electric car.