Every now and then, we would come across news, research, and findings with regard to the state of the Earth, related environmental issues and how the world is affected by humankind’s actions. We will then be compelled to make the right choices and to decide to act upon a matter that will benefit us and those around us.
Although such a 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”.
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:
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 in the long term.
Swamp in Pulau Ubin
The practice of conservation does not only maintain the ecological balance, but it also may lead to the preservation of animal habitats and ecosystems. The practice of the Prophet s.a.w. with regard 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 (wudhu) with one mudd (half a litre) and would perform a ritual bath with one sa’ (about two litres), up to five mudd (two and a half litres).”
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 and use only what is needed and to avoid wastage.
In another hadith, Abdullah ibn Amr reported:
عَبْدِ اللهِ بْنِ عَمْرِو بْنِ الْعَاصِي أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَرَّ بِسَعْدٍ وَهُوَ يَتَوَضَّأُ فَقَالَ مَا هَذَا السَّرَفُ يَا سَعْدُ قَالَ أَفِي الْوُضُوءِ سَرَفٌ قَالَ نَعَمْ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ عَلَى نَهْرٍ جَارٍ
Rasulullah s.a.w. passed by Sa’d while he was performing ablution. The Prophet said, “What is this extravagance?” Sa’d said, “Is there extravagance with water in ablution?” The Prophet sai d, “Yes, even if you were on the banks of a flowing river.”
Wastage affects the environment greatly and could 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 daily food consumption and electricity usage across appliances, amongst others. Such efforts are a key part of climate change strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute greatly to global warming.
Surely, most of us have heard of the 3Rs; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Through this framework, we are reminded to use only what we need, reuse 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 them 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.”
As seen from the hadith, it shows that even the noblest person on earth was mindful of his affairs and those around him. The daily items used had been fixed and mended along the way.
This does not necessarily mean we must 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.
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”.
The mentioned hadith 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.
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 a 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.
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 drastic changes in ecosystems.
Considering 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 Hurairah r.a. reported that the Prophet s.a.w. was asked 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”.
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 for 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.
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 promoting 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 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”.
By way of the hadith, the Prophet s.a.w. emphasises the importance of removing whatever is deemed 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 at the very least, avoid leaving harmful trails along the way.
Despite the increase in 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 awareness efforts, 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.
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 estimated 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 in caring 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”.
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 of 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.