Islam teaches that Allah is the creator of the world. Humans have the role of ‘vice-regents’ or ‘trustees’ – they are to look after the world and rule it as Allah wished. However, they do not own it.
So set thou thy face steadily and truly to the Faith: (establish) Allah’s handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made mankind: no change (let there be) in the work (wrought) by Allah: that is the standard Religion: but most among mankind understand not (Surah 30:30).
Allah is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; is firmly established on the throne (of authority); He has subjected the sun and the moon (to his Law)! Each one runs (its course) for a term appointed. He doth regulate all affairs, explaining the signs in detail, that ye may believe with certainty in the meeting with your Lord. And it is He who spread out the earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm and (flowing) rivers: and fruit of every kind He made in pairs, two and two: He draweth the night as a veil o’er the Day. Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who consider! And in the earth are tracts (diverse though) neighbouring, and gardens of vines and fields sown with corn, and palm trees-growing out of single roots or otherwise: watered with the same water, yet some of them We make more excellent than others to eat. Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who understand! (Surah 13:2-4).
Say: “Shall I seek for (my) Cherisher other than Allah, when He is the Cherisher of all things (that exist)? Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear of burdens can bear the burden of another. Your goal in the end is towards Allah: He will tell you the truth of the things wherein ye disputed.” It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth: He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful (Surah 6:164-165).
Many traditional Muslim countries are dry and arid with large areas of desert. It is only to be expected then that Islam should be particularly concerned with plant life and the environment.
Islamic medicine has always concentrated on the use of drugs and herbs from the environment rather than on surgery. Al-Razi (d. 925 CE) was the first scientist to distinguish between smallpox and measles and Ibn Sina (d.1037 CE) described how epidemics spread.
The teachings of the Qur’an stress the responsibility of humanity.
It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth (Surah 6:165).
The Muslim representative at the World Wide Fund for Nature at Assisi in 1986, Dr Abdullah Omar Nasseef, stressed the human responsibility to look after the earth:
‘The central concept of Islam is tawheed or the Unity of God. Allah is Unity; and His Unity is also reflected in the unity of mankind, and the unity of man and nature. His trustees are responsible for maintaining the unity of His creation, the integrity of the Earth, its flora and fauna, its wildlife and natural environment. Unity cannot be had by discord, by setting one need against another or letting one end predominate over another; it is maintained by balance and harmony. There Muslims say that Islam is the middle path and we will be answerable for how we have walked this path, how we have maintained balance and harmony in the whole of creation around us.’
So unity, trusteeship and accountability, that is tawheed, khalifa and akhrah, the three central concepts of Islam, are also the pillars of the environmental ethics of Islam. They constitute the basic values taught by the Qur’an. It is these values which led Muhammad (pbuh) the Prophet of Islam, to say: ‘Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded’.
Islam sees the benefit and well-being of all humanity as being a human responsibility in looking after the world which God has created for us to live in and believes that every effort must be made to be ‘green’ and to slow down and halt destructive trends.
There are Muslim organisations such as the Islamic Foundation for Ecology & Environmental Sciences which work closely with governments and other faith groups.