There are many issues today that have given rise to environmentalism, which is active participation in attempts to solve environmental pollution and resource problems. This concept is not new, however; the Quran orders the wise treatment of the earth and its resources and Prophet Muhammad’s dictates and conduct, known as the sunnah, demonstrate a “green” character with deep concern for the environment and its plant and animal life.
God tells us in the Quran that He has created the earth for our benefit, and has subjected it to our use. However, we are instructed not to be wasteful: “Eat and drink, but waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters.” (7:31) Even when resources seem unlimited, they should not be wasted, as ordered by Muhammad when he said, “Do not waste water, even if you live near a river.” Regarding carelessness with the environment, the Quran says, “Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea because of what the hands of people have earned, so that He may let them taste part of (the consequences) of what they have done so that perhaps they will reform.” (30:41)
Regarding the protection of animals, Prophet Muhammad ordered his companions when traveling to let their camels graze. His said: “When you are journeying through a fertile land, go slowly so that your camels graze. And when you pass through a barren and dry land, go quickly so that your animals don’t get hungry and weak.” (Muslim) He forbade his followers to kill animals except for food and that when they are brought to slaughter the knife should be sharp: “do it in a way that does not inflict much pain on the animal…” (Muslim) He praised the kind treatment of animals among his people and warned that the mistreatment of animals will lead to punishment in the next life.
Prophet Muhammad forbade his followers from destroying crops and trees, even in wartime, and encouraged the planting of trees, with the promise that whatever birds or animals ate from them would be considered charity. He also said, “If the Judgment comes and in your hand is a seedling, then continue to plant it.”
Most recently, environmentalists are recommending “green burials.” This is nothing new for Muslims who bury their dead directly in the earth wrapped only in a cotton cloth. This ensures a return to the earth without the harmful chemical preservatives typically used in embalming. It also saves land since there are no large caskets and tombstones.
Prophet Muhammad encouraged his followers to keep a pollution-free environment, saying, “To remove something harmful from the roads is charity.” It is easy to see how Islam is a “green” way of life and how Muhammad was an early environmentalist with a deep respect for the earth and all its creatures.