5 Things Prophet ﷺ Taught Us About Protecting the Environment

by Ustazah Nur Hidayah Azman 2020-11-09 • 19 min read
Ustazah Hidayah graduated with Bachelor of Usuluddin (Al-Quran and Al-Hadith) from University of Malaya. She is Chief Creative Officer at BY.HIFA, co-Founder of Sparkreativ, co-Founder of Better Than Yesterday and Senior Editor of AskHadith.Sg.
2020-11-09 • 19 min read

Islam and environmental sustainability and protection

Every now and then, we would come across news, research, and findings with regards to the state of the Earth, related environmental issues and how the world is affected by humankind’s actions and attempts. We will then be compelled to make the right choices and to decide to act upon a matter that will environmentally benefit us and those around us.

Although such calling of good work has surfaced in today’s world, the encouragement for the well-being of our environment has long been mentioned and practised by our beloved Prophet s.a.w. more than 1400 years ago. In his actions and response to the environment, we can deduce that this planet we are living in is, in fact, our responsibility to care for it. As narrated in a hadith, Abu Sa’id al-Khudri r.a. reported that the Prophet s.a.w. said,

إِنَّ الدُّنْيَا حُلْوَةٌ خَضِرَةٌ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ مُسْتَخْلِفُكُمْ فِيهَا فَيَنْظُرُ كَيْفَ تَعْمَلُونَ

“The world is sweet and green, and verily Allah is going to install you as vicegerents in it in order to see how you act”.

(Sahih Muslim)

Based on this hadith, one of the many lessons we can extract is that the Prophet s.a.w. showed much care and concern towards the environment and aimed at caring and protecting it wholeheartedly. Through this hadith too, he reminds us how we are all vicegerents with a great duty to serve Allah s.w.t. With great powers and status, comes great responsibility.

What better way for us to work towards taking care of the environment than through following the footsteps of our best example, our Prophet s.a.w.

Here are 5 things the Prophet s.a.w. taught us about the environment.

1. Conserve our resources as much as possible

Conservation of resources is an important practice to ensure the resources that we still have can be kept available and have much use for them for as long as possible. As the population of the world increases day by day, so does the consumption of the natural resources that we have. It is a natural increase but a necessary attempt to decrease its effects for the long term.

With the practice of conservation, not only does it maintain ecological balance, but it also may lead to the preservation of animal habitat and ecosystems. The practice of the Prophet s.a.w. with regards to conserving our resources can be seen through prophetic narrations. As narrated in a hadith, Anas ibn Malik r.a. reported,

 كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَتَوَضَّأُ بِالْمُدِّ وَيَغْتَسِلُ بِالصَّاعِ إِلَى خَمْسَةِ أَمْدَادٍ

“The Prophet s.a.w. would perform ablution with one mudd (half a kilogram of water) and would perform a ritual bath with one sa’ (two kilograms of water), up to five mudd (two and a half kilograms of water).”

(Muttafaqun ‘Alayh)

In this mentioned hadith, we notice how the Prophet s.a.w. was careful in utilising natural resources - as basic as water. Using a minimal amount of water wherever possible is encouraged and is a positive approach to our resources. Even so, it involves performing rituals for worship such as the ablution (wudhu’) and obligatory bath (ghusl), we are taught by the Prophet s.a.w. to practice moderation, use only what is needed and to avoid wastage.

Wastage affects the environment greatly and could potentially cause huge problems for the world and its inhabitants. As such, conserving what we can will help combat unnecessary wastage. This could also be practised in our food consumption through our daily, electricity usage across our appliances used and carbon emissions from manufacturing materials. In fact, such efforts are a key part of climate change strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contributes a lot to global warming.

2. Practise sustainable consumption whenever possible

Surely most of us have heard of the 3R’s; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Through this framework, we are reminded to use only what we need, re-use things for the same or new purpose and convert waste into useful products. The Prophet s.a.w. himself practised these sustainable approaches during his lifetime.

There are several narrations that the Prophet s.a.w. was seen to repair his shoes instead of discarding it at the first sight of its tear. The Prophet s.a.w. would also sew his clothes and advise his companions to sew their garments neatly. As narrated in a hadith where ‘Aisyah r.a., the wife of the Prophet s.a.w., was asked what the Prophet s.a.w. would do in the house. She replied to the inquirer,

 مَا يَصْنَعُ أَحَدُكُمْ فِي بَيْتِهِ، يَخْصِفُ النَّعْلَ، وَيَرْقَعُ الثَّوْبَ، وَيَخِيطُ

“He did what one of you would do in his house. He mended sandals and patched garments and sewed.”

(Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)

As seen from the hadith, It goes to show that even the noblest person on earth was mindful in his affairs and those around him. The daily items used had been fixed and mended along the way.

This does not necessarily mean that we have to use the same things until they wear out but to look at how we can work towards sustainability. We have to be conscious of the things we use, buy, sell, create, and consume. This is important as consumers, human beings in general, tend to exert extreme stress on the planet and its resources.

It is important for us to look at ways on how we can get our hands-on sustainable products and inventions, ones that prevent wear and tear for over a period. After all, it is a practice of our wise Prophet s.a.w. which dated many years back.

3. Plant trees as a means of good deeds

Trees and plants, in general, are seen in many areas of a country and also across many parts of the world. Trees are known to improve the quality of the air as well as water by absorbing pollutants, releasing oxygen, and reducing ozone levels and depletion. It also helps to reduce the temperature of the atmosphere by transpiring and providing shade for humans and animals alike.

Planting trees is a beneficial act, one that benefits many levels of the ecosystem and helps to preserve and care for the environment. The Prophet s.a.w. encouraged the cultivation of trees. As narrated in a hadith, Anas ibn Malik r.a. reported that the Prophet s.a.w. said,

مَا مِنْ مُسْلِمٍ يَغْرِسُ غَرْسًا، أَوْ يَزْرَعُ زَرْعًا، فَيَأْكُلُ مِنْهُ طَيْرٌ أَوْ إِنْسَانٌ أَوْ بَهِيمَةٌ، إِلاَّ كَانَ لَهُ بِهِ صَدَقَةٌ

“There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift”.

(Sahih al-Bukhari)

Through the mentioned hadith, it demonstrates that every good work and beneficial deed done by any individual will be given a stipulated remuneration and reward. Such are examples of impactful activities. It may only be seen by the naked eye as one act of planting but in return, it brings benefit to many in the long run.

Read: This Muslim Fashion Designer Has Planted Over 100 Trees

It could be as direct as to how the birds, animals and humankind are able to benefit from the plantation such as through its branches, barks, leaves and fruits. On the other hand, the indirect impacts would be caring for the environment, promoting the preservation of the Earth, and putting in conscious effort to ensure the planet that we live in remains to be a home for many. The act of planting trees as mentioned by the Prophet s.a.w. is regarded as a means of charity.

4. Care for the animals and the rest of Allah s.w.t.’s creations

Amongst the important components and residents of the Earth, apart from humankind, are animals. All animals in nature have important roles to play in the ecosystem. They coexist and balance each other out to reduce negative impacts on the environment and unknowingly address issues of pollution, global warming and disturbances that cause a drastic change in ecosystems.

Having in mind that animals fulfil their roles to help care and save the planet, it is only right for us, as vicegerents on Earth, to do our part in caring for the environment. One of the ways that can help us achieve this objective is by caring for the animals and the creations of Allah s.w.t.

This matter has been highlighted by the Prophet s.a.w. As narrated in a hadith, Abu Hurayrah r.a. reported that people asked the Prophet s.a.w. about the rewards of serving animals. The Prophet s.a.w. then replied,

فِي كُلِّ كَبِدٍ رَطْبَةٍ أَجْرٌ

“There is a reward for serving any living being”.

(Sahih al-Bukhari)

The reply of the Prophet s.a.w. through the abovementioned hadith tells us how important it is to serve and care for the living beings on Earth - animals included. This can be justified by the clarification of the Prophet s.a.w. on the reward upon doing such noble deeds.

The Earth is, in fact, a living organism and within it holds a million species of animals, plants, organisms, and the human race. And in our efforts to show our care and concern for the animals and other creations of Allah s.w.t., we are at the same time showing care for the environment and the Earth as a whole.

Taking care of the wellbeing of the creations of Allah s.w.t. affects the state of the environment as it ensures the welfare of the living beings to carry out their crucial responsibilities for the world we live in. Not only do we seek the rewards, but we also seek a peaceful, balanced, and healthy co-existence for the people of our time and for the future generations to come.

5. Keep the environment clean and safe

In the pursuit of preserving the environment and fulfilling our obligations as vicegerents on Earth, keeping the environment clean and safe is part of the duty. Also known as environmental hygiene, it is an essential part of infection prevention and control, maintaining the emotional and mental stability of the inhabitants as well as our overall wellbeing and promotes higher productivity across many levels of the ecosystems.

There are in fact two sides to keeping the environment safe and clean. On one hand, it involves removing and discarding those which are dirty and harmful while on the other hand, it would be to maintain the cleanliness and oversee the safety measures placed. Interestingly, the Prophet s.a.w. has taught us to be part of both. As narrated in a hadith, Abu Hurayrah r.a. reported that the Prophet s.a.w. said,

بَيْنَمَا رَجُلٌ يَمْشِي بِطَرِيقٍ، وَجَدَ غُصْنَ شَوْكٍ فَأَخَذَهُ، فَشَكَرَ اللَّهُ لَهُ، فَغَفَرَ لَهُ

“While a man was walking along a path, he found a thorny branch of a tree on the way and removed it. Allah s.w.t. thanked him for that deed and forgave him”.

(Sahih al-Bukhari)

By way of the hadith, the Prophet s.a.w. emphasises the importance of removing whatever deems to be harmful when embarking on any path. Such importance has been emphasised alongside the rewards of Allah thanking and forgiving the doer of good. 

Any individual may walk on a pathway and find a matter that either affects the cleanliness of the road or could potentially harm the subsequent people walking or commuting thereupon. But not everyone would actually have the will or capacity to remove the harm or in the very least, avoid leaving harmful trails along the way.

In spite of the increase of environmental hazards, litter and debris, creating a clean and safe environment is a must and a responsibility for all. This could be done through small efforts of awareness, showing by example, and making it a priority for everyone. Admittedly, at the end of the day, the place we are keeping clean and safe is for no one else but ourselves.

In conclusion, every conscious effort matters.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. It is a collection of litter that ends up in oceans, seas, and other large bodies of water, and is measured at an estimate of 1.6 million square kilometres. 

Any average person may be micro compared to the marine debris. But know that even such tiny individuals are significant to care for the environment.

Even the tiniest of efforts can make an impact, can create change, and can affect the environment around them. Solely for the purpose that it is our responsibility to care for the wellbeing of the planet we are living in. As narrated in a hadith, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar r.a. reported that the Prophet s.a.w. said,

أَلَا فَكُلُّكُمْ رَاعٍ وَكُلُّكُمْ مَسْئُولٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ

“No doubt, every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock”.

(Muttafaqun ‘Alayh)

It matters not the size of the problem at hand, but what weighs greater are the efforts that we consciously put in and take ownership upon what we are responsible for. And what greater way to facilitate that than by the ways of the Prophet s.a.w, also known as his Sunnah, in which when we practice them, we will be rewarded immensely, loved by Allah s.w.t. greatly and fulfilling our duties as vicegerents on Earth responsibly.

If you believe in making a difference to the community and improving our environment, please contact National Environment Agency (NEA) at 1800 CALL NEA (1800 -225 5632) or register at https://www.cgs.gov.sg/volunteer

Love spending time surrounded by nature? Passionate about greenery?  Join National Parks on this journey towards making Singapore our City in Nature. Find out more on the NParks website

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