The global sense of duty towards the planet is a vital principle shared in Islam.
The Quran says that humans are guardians of the earth, which is both a gift and a great responsibility. Prophet Muhammad echoed the Quranic message saying: “The earth is green and beautiful, and God has appointed you His stewards over it”.
Prophet Muhammad was an environmentalist of his time. He urged Muslims to be green even if the world was about to end, saying: “If you have a plant sapling in your hand, plant it even if it is the Last Hour”. He also encouraged water conservation, advising the Muslims not to be wasteful when they performed ablutions for prayer even if they were next to a flowing river.
He emphasised the importance of keeping public places tidy as an act of faith: “One of the branches of faith is to remove an obstacle from the street”.
Amid today’s challenges of consumerism and waste, the Islamic principle of respect towards the earth holds particular resonance for Muslims who join the collective efforts of protecting the planet.
Initiatives like ‘plant a tree’ campaigns would sit well with Prophet Muhammad’s eco-ethics, given he organised the planting of trees and date groves, and turned forests into conservation areas to support ecosystems. He said: “Whoever plants a tree and carefully looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded”.
Green concerns can be seen throughout history, particularly in Ottoman times when ministers advised sultans on environmental matters.
An innovative engineer and architect called Sinan, who lived under the Ottoman Empire, created a sixteenth century recycling method in which the smoke produced from hundreds of candles and oil lamps in the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul was channelled into a separate chamber and the soot was used as writing ink.
In Islamic Spain, water conservation was routine, where rainwater would be collected from ceramic-tiled roofs and then passed through a system of pipes to underground cisterns for storage.
Today, Muslims continue with the universal campaign for climate change action, organic farming, sustainable living, as well as calling for a greener Hajj.