Islam, Wastefulness and the Environment by Rayhan al-Safawi
Islam is incompatible with wastefulness (iṣrāf). As Muslims, it is our duty to respect the environment. We must therefore be good stewards of God’s creation.
An important part of being Allah’s vicegerent on earth (khalīfah) is that we care for the earth. This requires us to strive towards sustainability because our existence depends on the natural environment. Coexisting with the environment requires that a balance be maintained instead of unwittingly pushing for destruction.
Early Muslims maintained their own bee hives. The Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as) grew their food without pesticides and ate eggs from free range hens. The Prophet (s) scolded people who wasted water and made sure to limit his usage of it as much as he could and limiting himself to essentials only.
In following his footsteps, we must also be mindful of the energy we use and minimize our carbon footprint as much as possible. We not only need to limit our use of water as he did, but also turn off our heating/cooling systems as well as our lights when they don’t need to be on. For example, how many of us leave our bathroom lights on when we’re in the living room watching TV? How many of us let the hot water run while we’re doing wudu? As Muslims, our duty is to take care of Allah’s beautiful creation and not squander it aimlessly.
Such an attitude is not only better for the environment, but more importantly, it is a form of gratefulness (shukr) towards God. We must use natural resources with shukr for all that we have are gifts from God. The environment is not ours to do whatever we want with it, but it is a trust (amānah) that has been given to us by Allah to take care of. The environment is His and not ours to waste and destroy.
Allah says in chapter 17, verse 27 of the Holy Qur’an:
Indeed, the wasteful are the ilk of Satan, and Satan was ever ungrateful to his Sustainer.
We can draw the following lessons from the above verse. Wastefulness is a form of ungratefulness (kufr) to God and is one of the main attributes of Satan. If one is grateful to God, then one cannot be wasteful. As such, being conscious of the natural environment and striving towards sustainability is a critical component of God-consciousness (taqwā) and gratefulness.