What does Islam teach about ecology?
Khalifa – Trusteeship
Islam teaches that Allah created humans to be guardians of His creation. In other words, nature does not belong to us to do with as we wish, but is entrusted by Allah to our safe-keeping.
"The world is green and beautiful, and Allah has appointed you his guardian over it", taught the prophet Muhammad.
Tawheed – Unity
The central concept of Islam is tawheed, or unity. Allah is unity, and His unity is reflected in the unity of humanity and nature. We must therefore maintain the integrity of the Earth, its flora and fauna, its wildlife and environment. Our responsibility is to keep balance and harmony in Allah’s creation.
Akrah – Accountability
Islam teaches that we will one day be judged by Allah for how we have discharged our responsibilities following the guidance of Islam. Have we been good trustees, and have we kept nature in harmony? So there will be a day of reckoning.
It is said in the Qur’an that Allah invites us to enjoy the fruits of the earth, but to avoid excess leading to waste, ‘for Allah does not love wasters.’
All these principals have been translated into practical directions for how to live, embodied in the Shariah, the laws of Islam. For example, Shariah law protects animals from cruelty, conserves forests, and limits the growth of cities.
Sacredness of Food in Islam
[From Heather Fagan, Islamic Sciences & Research Academy Australia (ISRA)]
God is the Owner and Creator of everything in the universe. The Quran makes it very clear that human beings have been entrusted with the role to protect, take care of and maintain God’s creation, describing the human being as a calipha (God’s steward, deputy, guardian).
The Qur’an prohibits wasting food: “Eat and drink, but waste not by excess” (7:31). Islam also teaches moderation in all aspects of life, including food consumption. Prophet Muhammadpbuh ate meat about once every forty days and said: “Food for one is enough for two and food for two is enough for three and food for three is enough for four.”
Muslims are reminded each year during the lunar month of Ramadan to consume less food and be grateful for each mouthful of food consumed. For the whole month Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, being reminded that two meals per day suffices and the importance of giving thanks for every bite of food.
In relation to the consumption of meat, the Qur’an teaches that animals are not mere resources but are communities like human beings: “There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but forms part of communities like you” (Quran, 6:38). Communities deserve respect and fair treatment, with Prophet Muhammadpbuh saying, “Fear God in your treatment of animals”.
This element of respect for animals pervades the requirements of not only the life than an animal leads, but also on how that life is ended. The Islamically lawful (halal) food industry is required to treat animals with respect at all times. Islam warns that if animals are subjected to cruelties in their breeding, transport, slaughter, or in their general welfare, meat from them is considered impure and unlawful to eat (haram). The slaughtering of an animal for human consumption must preserve the dignity of the animal and mitigate any pain or distress the animal may suffer.
The Prophet Muhammadpbuh (peace be upon him) said, “The world is beautiful and verdant and God has appointed you as His stewards over it. He sees how you acquit yourselves” (Muslim in Bagader et al, 2011). We will be accountable for every use or misuse of all food resources so let’s be conscious of our responsibility!