In the last couple of years, the decades old ‘environment’ debate has continued apace, in spite of the credit crunch, with political parties in the UK vying to have the ‘greenest’ manifestos and countries repeatedly gathering on global platforms to discuss legally enforceable ways of curbing emissions.
It is easy to view this state of affairs cynically, given many developed countries continue to perpetuate injustices through unfair trade policies, and many transnational corporations continue to plunder the world’s natural resources through unsustainable production methods.
What are Muslim’s to make of all of this? In our interconnected world, each one of us must take stock of the far reaching impact our lifestyle can have on others. It is well known that the poorer you are, the greater the amount of your budget is spent on basic living necessities such as food, clothing and shelter. The poor, therefore, cannot begin to save, and have no non-essential spending to cut back on. They are therefore hardest hit by droughts, land desertification, flooding and other such calamities. Hence, being green is not just about saving the trees or recycling (noble causes in themselves), but it’s also about valuing human life. Our own selfishness can damage and harm our fellow human beings. The Qur’an reminds us: ‘Corruption has flourished on land and sea as a result of people’s actions and He will make them taste the consequences of some of their own actions so that they may turn back’ (30:41).
Although humans have been granted a special status, they are not the sole creation of Allah. Animals, plants and all of nature incessantly sing the praises of our Creator, and are held in great prestige precisely because they are ‘signs’ (ayaat) which should remind us of His mercy, power and majesty. Muhammad Asad reminds us that ‘it is difficult to imagine a more profound basis of community or a more profound sense of identification and value’ than this common worship of the Creator by His creatures. Thus, they are signs which we should not only reflect on, but also actively sustain and preserve through shunning extravagance and embracing sustainable living habits, for the Quran tells us to ‘…eat and drink, but do not be extravagant.’ (7:31).
Living green is not just a geeky trend confined to ‘tree huggers’ but is rather recognition of our responsibilities to the poor, to animals and to nature. Our own actions, insignificant as they may appear, do have consequences for others. It is therefore important that we consume resources carefully and responsibly. Some of the ways we can do this is by being careful to not let the tap run needlessly when making ablution, taking care to purchase goods from sustainable and fair trade production processes, walking or cycling instead of driving whenever it’s possible, drinking tap water, and taking shorter showers: all these factors can make a difference. Similarly, we should switch off the computer and other electronic equipment when not in use, sign up for green energy if possible and purchase low energy bulbs in order to reduce energy consumption. We should also educate ourselves and be aware of our carbon footprints due to flying and other means of travel.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) once said:
“This world is green and pleasant. Allah has left you in charge of it so be careful of how you conduct yourselves.” (Muslim)