Islamic Health Series: Why Religious Practices Encourage Social Interaction and Environmentalism

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Image courtesy of Michelle Henderson

A more relaxed form of charity, sadaqah, represents how any act of kindness can be charitable. It allows anyone, rich or poor — even if they can only put on a happy face (al-Tirmidhi, 1970) — to be considered an act of charity.

Another example is how Islam promotes the protection of our environment. Current environmental damage, including waste generation, water pollution and genetically modified crops, has led to global climate change. This increase in temperature has impacted all natural aspects of the earth, such as agriculture, climate, ecosystems and increased natural disasters. Without change, the Earth’s temperature will continue to rise.

As Muslims, caring for our planet is considered amana (trust). We must treat it with respect and care so that it comes back to God in the best possible way. It was reported during the Battle of Hunayn that the people of at-Taif were hiding from the Muslims in their fortified fortress with their crops outside. A Muslim suggested that they burn the crops, but the Prophet (s) forbade it. Burning the crops not only impacted the people inside, but also future generations, the soil and animal life.

When we disregard this responsibility, by destroying and polluting the Earth with filth and harmful agents, we will be held responsible, as the Quran says: “And when he goes away, he strives throughout the country to cause fasad (corruption) there and to destroy the crops. and animals. And Allah does not love corruption” (Quran 2:205).

The Islamic principles of maintaining a lifestyle that avoids harming our natural environment aligns with the well-known motto “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” in the following ways:

REDUCE: We are encouraged to reduce our water intake (Abu Dawud), even during the spiritual act of purification, and to reduce our waste: “Eat and drink but do not waste…” (Quran 7:31).

REUSE: We are encouraged to reuse old items. Muslim potters are reported to have heated their kilns by burning fruit shells, fruit pits, pine cones and vegetable waste; the millers ground their wheat in mills turned by the wind; and windmills and animals were used to raise water in irrigation canals. Additionally, we are encouraged to use items until they can no longer be used. Prophets are said to have repaired shoes and urged Muslims to wear clothes until they had patches on them.


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