Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

December 2005
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Vanishing Trees
By A Staff Writer

A visit to any of the Muslim dominated localities in urban areas is hurting in one aspect- the lack of green cover.

Islam gives utmost importance to the environment, but the Muslim it seems has forgotten the teachings of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) on environment.

Our carelessness with regard to flora and fauna has reached an alarming level. Like others, we Muslims also are not as much bothered about preserving the green wealth gifted by the Creator as it ought to have been, despite the clear Hadith and Quranic verses for preserving the environment.

As a result, even the trees particularly useful to people are fast disappearing. The most appalling case is that of Shisham and Keekar, which belong to a group of multi-purpose trees. Shisham has been a favourite for its timber, but it may not be available in the near future if the tree continues to get the treatment it has been given so far. Already, both Shisham and Keekar can hardly be seen in many regions of the country. This is going to be their fate in the entire Indian sub-continent if no remedial steps are taken soon.

It is not only the disease which is taking its toll. There are other reasons also like water-logging caused by the changes in the land use pattern. When people interfere with the natural drainage system, they must ensure that the trees like Shisham, which cannot survive without excessive water supply, do not die. The scientists associated with the agricultural universities and the extension officials must guide the public properly so that the trees which have their special significance do not become a thing of the past.

Certain traditional trees like imli, jamun and banyan may also meet the fate of Shisham and Keekar. The trees that are about to join the list of extinct species would not only play a major role in environment protection, but also have medicinal value.

Those involved in the tree plantation campaign should see to it that people prefer to grow such trees as are Indian in character and useful from various angles. Symbolic grow-more-tree campaigns are not enough.

The Islamic attitude towards the environment that surrounds humanity is not merely restricted to the presence of Allah, but also to many other dimensions.

By submitting to Allah, Islam establishes the bed-rock of the relationship between finite, mortal human beings and the infinite Divine, the secular and the sacred. This relationship cannot be understood without first realising the meaning of “submission”

Islam, as a way of life, expects human beings to conserve the environment for several reasons which may be summarised as follows:

• The environment is Allah’s creation. The creation of this earth and all its natural resources is a sign of His wisdom, mercy, power and His other attributes and therefore serves to develop human awareness and understanding of this creator. (Ar-Ra‘d, 13: 2-4; 21:79)

• Muslims should seek to protect and preserve the environment because by so doing they protect Allah’s creatures which pray to Him and praise Him. Man may not be able to understand how these creatures praise Allah, but this does not mean that they do not do so. Allah says: (The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: There is not a thing but celebrates His praise, and yet ye understand not how they declare His Glory!) (Al-Isra’ 17: 44)

• Also among the reasons why Islam seeks to protect and preserve the environment is that Islam, as a way of life, is established on the concept of good (khayr).

So, it is expected that Islam will protect the environment once it is understood that such protection is good by itself. The Quran states: (He whoso do good an atom’s weight will see it. And whoso do ill an atom’s weight will see it.) (Az-Zalzalah 99: 7-8).

Islam makes it incumbent on every Muslim to contribute his/her share in improving greenery. Thus, Muslims should be active in growing more trees for the benefit of all people.

In one tradition the Prophet (Pbuh) says: “If the Hour is about to take place while any one of you has a sapling in his hand, which he can cultivate before it takes place, let him cultivate it for he will be rewarded for it.” Every country in the world worries about wasting water. Look how Islam deals with this issue.

A Muslim is recommended to save water in his ceremonial washing for Prayer even if he has a river at his disposal, according to one tradition of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Further, a Muslim is warned against urinating in still water. Islam’s care of the environment is not limited to times of peace. This also applies to behaviour in wars where Muslims are required to avoid cutting trees which are useful to people in general.

The Prophet (Pbuh) once saw a mother bird flying over the heads of a group of Muslims as if seeking for its little one which they had taken. Seeing this, the Prophet ordered them to return the little bird back to its mother.

Islam gives special attention even to insects. It considers them signs and miracles of Allah. That is why insects like flies, spiders and bees and ants are mentioned in the context of being miracles of Allah in the Quran. It was repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an that man should not engage himself in acts that entails spoiling the earth after Almighty Allah has created it suitable and well prepared for the successive human generations. It announced that Allah does not like spoiling or those who spoil the environment by polluting it or being aggressive with it. Also it is forbidden to abuse it in any way that would make it deviate from the purpose Allah created it, for such an act is tantamount to showing ingratitude to Allah, and He gave a warning to those who perpetrated this that severe penalty will almost come upon them as what happened before to the ‘Ad and the Thamud and those who came after them:

(Who did transgress beyond bounds in the land (in the disobedience of Allah) and made therein much mischief. So your Lord poured on them different kinds of severe torment. Surely your Lord is Ever-Watchful.) (Al-Fajr :89: 11-14).