Kamis, 17 November 2011

Preservation of Plants and the Integrity of Land

Preservation of Plants and the Integrity of Land
taken from www.jamiat.org.za

Islam prohibits the cutting or destruction of trees and plants, and encourages people to protect and increase plants for great reward is associated with such practice. The speech of Abu Bakr (RA), the first caliph of Islam, made to his soldiers when dispatching them, included the prohibition to destroy trees as an act of vengeance or collective punishment. If this is the status of plants in the Islamic world-view during war, it must be that they "enjoy" a better position during the peaceful times.
Millions of trees are cut around the world each year to celebrate Christmas and New Year. Jesus Christ would not have condoned such acts were he alive. Considering the environment, Alden Hinkely said that Christianity has the worst record. (Applied Ecology, Macmillan: New York, 1976), pp. 317-318)
For the sake of comparison, the following hadith (statement) of the Prophet Muhammad [SAW] should prove to be useful: "He who cuts a lote-tree [without justification], Allah will send him to Hellfire." (Al-Tirmidhi, # 5239) The lote-tree grows in the desert and it is very much needed in an area which has scarce vegetation. Against this background, where the life of one tree is appreciated, one can see what is the Islamic position towards destroying millions of trees as a result of humans directly acting upon nature (eg deforestation) or indirectly (eg acid rain).

All plants and vegetation in all their variety of colours, sizes, and shades, adore Allah. Trees have been mentioned as prostrating to Allah, and the Qur'an mentions the aesthetic and decorative functions of vegetation, in addition to their use in sustaining and embellishing human life: "Then which of the favours of your Lord will you reject?" (55:11)
"It is He who produceth gardens with trellises and without and dates and tilth with produce of all kinds and olives and pomegranates similar (in kind) and different (in variety): eat of their fruit in their season but render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters." (6:141)
Different kinds of plants and trees are all fed by the same water, yet they yield different harvests. The fruit, vegetables, or leaves vary in size, shape, colour, and flavour, but in it there is sustenance for not only man, but for animals and the entire eco-system. This nourishment should then be used for purposes of devotion and worship to Allah.

Islam encourages people to plant trees and all useful plants. Indeed, similar to all acts performed in line with the Islamic world-view, and when done intentionally for the sake of Allah, they are considered and rewarded as acts of worshipping. Jabir (RA) reported that Prophet Muhammad [SAW] said: "No Muslim, who plants a shoot, except that whatever is eaten or stolen from it, or anyone obtains the least thing from it, is considered [like paying] almsgiving on his behalf until the Day of Judgement." (Muslim)
Prophet Muhammad [SAW] encouraged people to work hard under all circumstances; he encouraged planting a palm-tree seedling, even if one realised that the Day of Judgement was only a yard away. It is for this reason that it is prohibited to allow land to stay idle for a long time without working it. Reviving "dead" land leads to creating a legal Islamic right to use it indefinitely, as long as one continues to cultivate it.

Protecting the land from pollution is indicated in the many hadiths that encourage people to keep it clean. One hadith states, among other things, that Allah likes goodness, cleanliness, and generosity. The hadith ends with a request by the Prophet [SAW] asking Muslims to clean their courtyards. (Al-Tirmidhi, # 2799)
The message that this hadith sends is that cleanliness is something desirable, good and reflects an act of generosity towards the environment. Indeed, if cleanliness is something good, then it should be reflected everywhere.

Islam has created a bond between faith and cleanliness, rendering the latter as a part of creed. Prophet Muhammad [SAW] said: "Faith has some seventy branches, the highest of which is "There is no Deity but Allah, and the least is removing obstacles from the path of people, and that shyness is a branch of faith." (Al-Tirmidhi, # 2799)
It is obvious that clearing the path means, in this context, the removal of material obstacles or solid waste which constitute a kind of pollution. Abu Hurayrah (RA) reported that the Prophet [SAW] said: "Beware of the two [acts that bring] curses: relieving oneself in the path of people, or in the shade [ie where people usually rest]." (Ahmad)
The same concept is reiterated in another hadith which, in addition to the above two prohibitions, mentions the prohibition of relieving oneself in water sources eg ponds, rivers, dams etc.
The prohibition in these two hadiths is intended to prevent pollution. The direct human polluting activity at the time is extended to indirect sources of pollution, such as through sewers. The natural pollutants of the time are extended to include the chemical pollutants.
Chemicals such as pesticides, insecticides, herbicides…etc., are detrimental to the health of humans, and much of these chemicals reach the aquifers. By analogy, this is prohibited. Scientists should come up with environment-friendly solutions instead.

The shari'ah (Islamic law-code) aims at protecting the environment, and while the individual is asked to help in this respect, the ultimate responsibility is in the hands of the state. When Abu Musa (RA) was sent to Al-Basrah as the new governor, he addressed the people saying: "I was sent to you by 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab in order to teach you the Book of your Lord [ie the Qur'an], the Sunnah [of your Prophet], and to clean your streets." (Al-Darimi, # 560)
The function of the governor who represents the authority, in the narration about Abu Musa (RA), includes keeping the environment clean. This position should be highlighted, because it challenges the authority to deliver sound policies regarding the environment and to implement them.

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