In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Corruption has appeared on earth and at sea because of what the
hands of men have wrought; in order that God may make them
taste the consequences of their actions; so that they might return.
THE HOLY QUR’AN AND THE ENVIRONMENT
By Ghazi bin Muhammad, Reza Shah-Kazemi and Aftab Ahmed
- the royal aal al-bayt institute for islamic thought- Jordan
This paper introduces the subject of Islam and the Environment through four areas:
First, it discusses the Islamic view of the environment:
the Holy Qur’an speaks of how God created the environment with Truth, and how everything in the environment is His sign and praises Him. The Holy Qur’an thus shows the inherent value of creatures and of life, and how each creature in nature must be respected and cherished by human beings as their fellow beings.
Second, this paper asks what the relationship between man and the environment is. How is man to act towards the environment? God created man as His vicegerent (khalīfa) on earth, making the earth a dwelling place for man, and ensured that man’s needs could be provided by the earth. Man has the right to use the earth, the animals, and the minerals to help him in his stay on earth. However, with this right comes the responsibility of manifesting the qualities of the Creator, which have been placed in man’s primordial nature (fitra), the primary ones being Mercy and Justice.
Third, this paper discusses human corruption and how it is linked to environmental pollution. The Holy Qur’an sets out complete spiritual and moral guidelines for man. He is told to walk humbly (Luqmān, 31:19); not to be wasteful or extravagant; not to disrupt the balance that exists in nature and not to change the creation of God. In our time all of these commandments are ignored,
and in fact their opposites are looked upon favourably.
To live in such a manner throws creation out of balance, and this can only have serious repercussions
for the world in which we live.
Fourth and last, this paper shows how human purification can help address the environmental crisis. For to deal effectively with the environmental crisis, its root causes must be addressed. These root causes are not merely the dominance of materialistic attitudes, which are directly responsible for the crisis, but human moral corruption in general, which has, through corruption of the earth’s spiritual ambiance, corrupted the earth’s blessings and therefore its physical environment as well.
God says in the Holy Qur’an:
Corruption has appeared on earth and at
sea because of what the hands of men have
wrought; in order that God may make them
taste the consequences of their actions; so
that they might return [that is: so that they
might return to God] (Al-Rum, 30:41)
From Chapter 3:
The Relationship between the Environment and Man
The Macro-Micro Mirror-play
God says in the Holy Qur’an:
We shall show them Our signs on the horizons and in their own souls until it becomes clear to them that He is the Truth … (Fussilat, 41:53)
And: And in the earth are signs for those whose faith is sure / And [also] in yourselves. Can ye then not see? (Al-Dhariyat, 51:20-21)
In these verses, God links His signs in the environment with His signs within ourselves. This means that the Divine Metacosm is reflected in both the microcosm which is man and the macrocosm which is the universe.
In other words, man is like a small world, and the universe is like a large man, and by recognising the signs in either of these worlds we can come to know the Truth of God, for His signs are both within us and within the world.
Moreover, the inherent beauty of the natural order is matched by the beauty of the creation of man:
… Thou canst see no fault in the Beneficent One’s creation (Al-Mulk, 67:3)
Surely We created man of the best stature (Al-Tin, 95:4)
But whereas the natural world cannot change itself, man can. Because man has freedom of choice he can choose to disregard God’s commandments. When man does this he becomes the lowest of the low (Al-Tin, 95:5).
This microcosmic corruption is then bound by the inherent mirror-play between the microcosm and the macrocosm to corrupt the world, both literally through man’s actions and spiritually. Thus in the Holy Qur’an, even the Jinn note the changes in the celestial ‘climate’:
And we made for the heaven, but we found it filled with mighty guards and meteors. /
And we used to sit in [certain] places therein to listen in; but anyone listening now will
find a meteor lying in wait for him. (Al-Jinn, 72:8-9)
Thus mankind’s inward corruption is not only reflected in the world’s outward corruption, it is its actual cause, both directly and physically (through man’s pollution of the world and his upsetting the natural balance), and spiritually and existentially (as man’s inner corruption changes the subtle existential conditions of the physical world, by ‘solidifying’ it and cutting it off from the graces of heaven).
This is the real reason why no amount of scientific environmental action can fully work without spiritual renewal within mankind, and why conversely, spiritual renewal needs also environmental action to be successful. This particular insight is what is perhaps most lacking in all the environment saving efforts of our day: environmentalists think they know the world and can save it without knowing and saving themselves first.