Islam And The Environment

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Our planet’s ecology and life has been compromised on several occasions throughout its history, because of a variety of natural disasters that could have destroyed the globe. The Earth however, has survived every challenge faced so far.

Today we have an ecological crisis that is slowly demolishing natural life and various forms of life on our planet, making it one of the biggest crisis in the history of existence. Nonetheless, this ecological crisis is not caused by natural factors, rather by the hands of us humans. This ecological crisis began back in the 19th century, with the invention of factories and railroads when the economy started booming and industrialization was growing exponentially. These introductions had an incredible effect on the economy, allowing us to develop new technologies and commodities that help us live more comfortably and raised our wellbeing by improving medicine, allowing humans to live longer than ever, in developed countries. However, everything comes with a cost, and while we greatly benefit from all this development, the environment is suffering. Although our average life is longer than ever, due to improved standards of living, medicine, and knowledge, all the pollution and climate change will ultimately end up hurting us as much as it is damaging our planet.

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The purpose of this research is to analyze whether Islamic religion, texts, perspectives and rituals are perpetuating or working towards alleviating the biodiversity crisis of our planet. My belief is that Islam, and it’s sacred text the Quran suggest respect and the preservation of nature, since it is an islamic belief that all of God’s creating serve a purpose in the Universe and shall be preserved. Before looking into further detail into the Islamic religion, it is important to understand what biodiversity is and how it is impacted by human actions.

Biodiversity refers to the diversity of forms of life on our planet, including animals, plants and ecosystems. Every single species and form of life serves a purpose to the biome and work together to make life on Earth possible. Disrupting the existence of even only one group of plants, animals or even insects, can work to the detriment and degradation of our planet. What this means is that every organism pertaining to this planet belongs to a repetitive cycle that allows species and biodiversity to keep existing, and when one element of this cycle is taken away, the whole world is hurt by it. The only element that could be taken away without hurting the globe is humanity.

Actually it is quite the opposite, the more humans there are in the world, the more the ecosystems and nature will be compromised. An example of this is how higher human population growth is leading to a higher demand for resources, which leads to higher industrialization, therefore more pollution, climate change, deforestation and ultimately the further extinction of animals and plants which leads to a serious loss of biodiversity. According to several researchers for every 1 percent of population growth, there is an increase in deforestation of 2.7 percent. The loss of green and forests in the world severely leads to loss of various habitats, which is one of the main factors that aggravates even further our biodiversity crisis. The main causes of this crisis are habitat change, climate change, overexploitation of resources, invasive species, pollution and overpopulation. As we can see the biodiversity crisis is caused for the main part because of human actions, since no serious natural disasters have happened lately, leading to the death and extinction of several forms of life. Of course we know about several mass extinctions in the past that have put an end to the existence of several forms of life (for example the dinosaurs), however they were all naturally induced, while the mass extinctions happening today are preventable since they are caused by human action. The situation is so serious that the decline of biodiversity happening today is comparable to mass extinctions that happened over 65 million years ago. There are over three hundred endangered species that have no laws in action to protect them, which leads to the staggering statistic that every year we lose .1 percent of all species on Earth. Scientists from the ONUMexico estimate that every day we lose between 150 to 200 species. According to NASA carbon dioxide (CO2) is at a level so high that it is “unprecedented” and it hasn’t been at this level for 800,000 years. What’s concerning about this is that besides the incredible amount of harm that carbon dioxide emissions have on the ozone layer and the environment, about thirty percent of industrial emissions are very difficult to stop because there are several laws that protect the industries responsible for this damage. To put that into perspective almost every single task performed in order to maintain our lifestyles causes CO2 emissions; the main sources are energy supply, deforestation, agriculture, industries and factories, residential and commercial buildings, and transportation. The main countries contributing to carbon dioxide emissions are China (with 30 percent), and the United States (with 15 percent). The European Union is only responsible for 9 percent of emissions, a small percentage considering there are 28 countries belonging to it. These emissions are directly responsible for the loss of several habitats and make the environment much more toxic and polluted.

Another concerning factor is that the sea level is projected to keep rising at a rate much higher than it has been seen in the past decades. This is caused by the melting of several glaciers due to the effects of climate change. The living planet index , which shows the state of global biological diversity, indicates that the abundance of species on our planet has declined by 60 percent in a fairly short amount of time. In this same short period the terrestrial biosphere degradation has more than tripled between 1950 and 2000. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization this degradation is leading to a fast decrease of wild food species in the majority of the world; in Europe and Central Asia however, we can see there is a moderate amount of species that at the moment, are pretty stable. Research conducted by the PBL, project based learning, demonstrates that in Western Europe there is the biggest loss of biodiversity, without accounting for climate change. It is then followed by Latin America, Asia, North America, Central Europe, Africa and the Russian region. In every single region observed but the Russian zone, agricultural products were the main cause for the exploitation of the land and animals, leading to the loss of several species. The second leading cause in the majority of cases was wood and paper, leading to deforestation and habitat loss, and the final cause was the exploitation of soil for biofuels. The WWF, World Wide Fund for Nature, suggests this condition needs to be addressed more drastically because several studies prove that since the early 2000s the exploitation of fish has been the main cause for the extinction of several species, as well as the degradation of several bodies of water due to the excessive pollution that inhabits them. For mammals, reptiles, and birds, Habitat degradation is becoming the main cause for extinction followed by exploitation, invasive species and diseases, pollution and climate change. All these factors are causing the amount of freshwater, the living planet index, and marine and terrestrial life to decline exponentially, eventually ending life on earth if no drastic measures are adopted.

Now that we understand what biodiversity is, how important it is for life on Earth and all of the horrible environmental problems that are slowly dismantling it; we can try to understand whether Islamic texts, rituals and views put an emphasis on the respect and protection for the environment or if they work to the detriment of it.

It has been reported that in the Qur’an, the Islamic Holy book, there are over one-hundred verses that emphasize nature and animals ought to be respected since they are all creations of Allah (God). Also as we observed earlier overexploitation of resources is one of the main contributors to climate change, deforestation and pollution, and ultimately the loss of biodiversity, and in the Islamic sacred text it is stated that wasteful consumption is a major sin. Therefore that shows how people that follows the Qur’an’s word carefully will develop a perspective of major respect for nature.

A verse of the Holy book states, “…And do not desire corruption in the land. Indeed, God does not like corruptors.” (Qur’an 28:77). In order to understand the message of this quote it is key to analyze the meaning of corruption in the land. Generally when people think of corruption, thoughts of crime, politics, and illegal activities come to mind, nevertheless, polluting the environment, deforestation, CO2 emissions and all types of activities of this sort, are also corruption to the land. Therefore this statement in the Qur’an is urging people to respect the Earth, by emphasizing that God expects us to do so. Another verse of the Qur’an states, “And We made the sky a protected ceiling (canopy), but they, from its signs, are turning away.” (Qur’an, 21:32). By mentioning the atmosphere with a loving tone, this statement suggests that Muslims should preserve the environment in order to protect our atmosphere, which would benefit our ongoing issues regarding the Ozone layer that is in the process of disappearing. Such a thing would be catastrophic for life on Earth, since this layer protects the planet from the UV rays that would be deadly for us. In several Islamic scriptures water is stated to be the main source of life, as well as our planet is introduced as the mother of us humans and at the origin for creation of life. Muslims view planting trees and preserving them as a way of worship and respect for God’s creation, also animals have several rights and should only be killed under Allah’s approval. Various texts also affirm that creatures and nature should be respected and loved as vicegerent of God, we have to transmit his will on Earth. On August 2015 several islamic institutions came about to discuss all the challenges and issues that have emerged because of climate change, as well as the threats that it poses for the future. Their goal was to interpret several verses in the Qur’an in order to send a positive message, suggesting protection of the environment and biodiversity. Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, firmly believes that our ecological crisis is firmly affected by the way we view ourselves in respect to nature, and he makes an argument saying that Islamic texts suggest respect and love towards all forms of life on Earth. As many as twenty Islamic countries delegates came together to write a Declaration on climate change, then submitted on August 2015 to the UN. In this declaration the Islamic countries involved stated their views on the issue of climate climate change, as well as briefly touching on other ecological problems, and proposed several points on what steps can be taken to make a change supporting their arguments by bringing up several beliefs founded in sacred texts such as the Qur’an.

These efforts are very admirable and demonstrate that islamic perspectives and texts are clearly inclined towards justice for our planet. Odeh Al-Jayyousi, professor at the Arabian Gulf University and a member of the UN for Environmental outlook 6, believes that the Islamic religion provides a unique model for the preservation and co-existence of humans with nature. He claims that in Islam a good life is defined by caring for both other humans and all the creatures that live on Earth. By analyzing sayings and verses of the Holy book, he defines the role of humans as “khalifah” or trustees, which means that we have a direct responsibility of caring for all the creations of God, and rather than harm them, we should strive to preserve each and every single one of them. Professor Al-Jayyousi also believes that every single major and current ecological concern, is caused by human greed and ignorance; “human responsibility is to learn from past mistakes, and apply those concepts to improve the present and future”. However, it doesn’t seem as if we are applying that knowledge because even though there are a lot of people trying to make an impact and change for the better, still a vast majority of the population shows indifference towards these issues.

Many people might believe that since several predominantly Islamic countries are owners of huge oil companies and several multimillionaire factories that severely pollute the environment and contribute to the climate change crisis, deforestation, and ultimately the biodiversity crisis, then Islamic views and beliefs are working to the detriment of our nature. However, I believe that making generalizations about all the people pertaining to a religion based on the actions of a select few is wrong. After all the owners of these businesses are only about 1% of the islamic population, if not even less, and by analyzing what is written in the actual holy texts we are able to see the true message of this religion. Based on this statement is that I firmly believe that the Islamic religion, texts, and perspectives, work to the preservation and love towards our nature and biodiversity. I also think that everyone should incorporate some of those values into their personal lives and no matter what religion one pertains to, having eco-friendly and beliefs and action will only end up benefiting the biodiversity of our planet, and ultimately the Earth as a whole.

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Islam And The Environment. (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/islam-and-the-environment/
“Islam And The Environment.” Edubirdie, 24 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/islam-and-the-environment/
Islam And The Environment. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/islam-and-the-environment/> [Accessed 23 Jul. 2024].
Islam And The Environment [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 24 [cited 2024 Jul 23]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/islam-and-the-environment/
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