Muslims believe the world is God’s gift to mankind and that there is proof of His existence in every natural object. The finest grain of sand, with its patterned arrangements of atoms, displays the minute detail of His reckoning. From the smallest of viruses to the largest of plants and animals, every living creature presents signs of God’s creational capacity. The universe serves as a reminder that the extent of His creation is still unknown to man, and in this wondrous Universe, man’s place is that of the ultimate creation.

Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the word of God (Allah) as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It serves as the source of the Muslim worldview – together with the Hadith and Sunnah – and contains all the information needed to lead a good, true Muslim life, from the basic tenets of Islam to laws governing Muslim societies.

The Qur’an describes the special status of humans in creation, and is another piece of evidence of Allah’s existence. The natural world, like the Qur’an, is considered irrefutable proof of Allah’s existence, and Nature is usually referred to as “the second book” of Allah.

Nature And Origin
Muslims believe that when Allah created the universe in accordance with His Will, He made everything with great care and measure and then left it to its own devices, governed by the laws He gave:

(He is the) Cleaver of the daybreak. He has appointed the night for resting, and the sun and moon for reckoning. Such is the measuring of All-Mighty, the All-Knowing. (Al-An`am 6:96)

Everything was created in balance, and left for mankind to look after. The earth was made rich in bounty and gifts that humanity was invited to discover and use to its benefit. Because of negligence and irresponsibility, however, the delicate balance of nature has been disturbed with negative consequences.

Originating From Water
According to some Muslim scholars, the natural world can be divided into three main components: the first being water, the source of all life; second, the atmosphere; and finally, the plant and animal kingdoms (Ba Kader et al., 1983; see also Khalid and O’Brien, 1992). The teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) contain guidelines on how to interact with these components of the natural world.

Water is the source of all living things in more ways than one – “… We have made from water every living thing . . . (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:30) – and is essential for their survival. Because of the importance and necessity of water, under Islamic law all living beings are granted equal privileges and equal access to water as a right. In this case, no distinction is made between humans and any other creature.

Air, Plants, Animals
The atmosphere – in this case including oxygen required for breathing as well as air movements – is also a creation of Allah that is in our best interests to protect. Emissions and toxic waste released into the atmosphere taint Allah’s creation, causing global warming and exposing all living creatures to toxins. Islam teaches responsibility for ensuring that our actions do not negatively affect others, yet the effects of air pollution are global.

In Islam, greenery is loved and gardens are considered to hold properties similar to Paradise. Planting trees is a virtuous act, earning favor from Allah.

The Qur’an reminds humanity that animals and plants also have their purpose in life and fulfill roles assigned to them by Allah.

Mankind’s Responsibility
Humanity has a duty to protect and take responsibility for the well-being of Allah’s creation. The world and everything in it provides for needs of mankind.

However, the utilization of this creation should be done in a respectful and responsible manner, all the while recognizing the generosity of Allah. Muslims believe in accountability, and cruelty to Allah’s creation and lack of respect of the natural world will be one of the bases for judgment.

The religious duties of Muslims that are relevant to dealings with the environment are as follows:

No extravagance, excessive use or over-utilization;

No illegitimate or unlawful attempt at destroying the natural resources;

No damage, abuse or distortion of the natural environment in any way;

Construction and development of the earth, its resources, elements and phenomena through the improvement and betterment of natural resources, the protection and conservation of all existing forms of life, the cultivating of land and the reclamation and cleansing of the soil, earth and water (Ba Kader et al., 1983).

In Shari’ah, there are regulations and guidelines on how we are supposed to treat the natural world. This ranges from the prohibition of cruelty to animals, which includes overworking them or causing them undue stress, to the allocation of water resources, as well as the process behind land designation.

It is forbidden in Islam to kill animals without necessity. The slaughtering of animals for consumption provides food and clothing, while hunting for sport is considered unnecessary cruelty.

It is also prohibited to cut down trees without just cause. Damage to the natural environment and all living things is a criminal offence and laws do exist for protection, assigning punishments to those who oppose the law.

The punishment of crimes against nature, as well as the duty to protect and conserve Allah’s creation, makes Islam very much in tune with the needs of the environment.

Let There Be Light
Knowledge is light, and one of Islam’s strongest themes is the pursuit of knowledge. Only with knowledge can humans discover the extent of Allah’s creation, and be left with no other recourse than to submit to His worship.

Islamic law needs to be applied in environmental cases. For everything ranging from animal rights violations, to large-scale pollution, Shari’ah provides a detailed and comprehensive method to approaching the environment and its resources.