The environment has been the hot topic of the last few decades, yet green concerns were nothing new in seventh century Arabia, particularly not to a man dubbed an environmentalist of his time. 

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Muhammad emphasised the Quranic decree of treating the earth as a trust, and humankind its guardians. Likening our planet to a sacred place of prayer, "All of the earth has been made to me as a mosque," Muhammad promoted respect and responsibility towards the environment amongst his companions. He encouraged water conservation, instructing them not to be wasteful even if they were next to a flowing river, and stipulated the importance of keeping public places tidy: "One of the branches of faith is to remove litter from the street," he said.

Today, we are encouraged to recycle, conserve, and care for the world around us. If Muhammad was here today, he would echo the same ecological concerns that he did over 1,430 years ago. Current ‘plant a tree’ campaigns sit well with Muhammad’s credentials. He organised the planting of trees and date groves, and turned forests into conservation areas called  ‘hima’ or sanctuaries for thriving ecosystems. 

His example pioneered acts of environmentalism throughout history: Ottoman ministers advised sultans on both societal and environmental matters. An innovative engineer and architect living in the Ottoman Empire, Sinan, created a sixteenth century recycling method: the smoke choking out from a multitude of candles and oil lamps in the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul was channelled into a separate chamber and the soot used as writing ink. In Islamic Spain, water conservation was routine, where rainwater would be collected from ceramic-tiled roofs and would pass though a system of pipes to underground cisterns for storage.

Muslims continue to follow Muhammad’s example in protecting the environment through projects like eco-mosques and organic farming and by supporting the development of climate policy, sustainable working and a greener Hajj.

Kristiane Backer

“The environment is everyone’s concern. According to Islam, life is sacred, as is everything in the natural world. Many verses in the Quran are concerned with nature, the earth and its resources. The earth is a trust from God and we are its ‘stewards’, a role we need to fulfil with responsibility and respect towards all creation.

I have always cared for the environment. In Germany, where I grew up before I moved to the UK, green conscience is part of the national psyche since the Green movement was founded there in the 1970s. Similarly, green living and the preservation of our resources are essential principles of Islam. “Don’t be wasteful, for God does not like the wasters,” the Quran tells us. Prophet Muhammad reminded his companions to respect nature and use its resources moderately, not to waste water even when next to a flowing river.

Having done courses in Sustainable Environment at a London university, I know there are many small things each of us can do to care for the environment. They will have an immense impact in the end, it is the ripple effect. If every household replaced just three 60-watt incandescent bulbs with efficient bulbs, the pollution savings would be like taking 3.5 million cars off the road!

I do what I can. I recycle, switch off the lights when not at home and ride my bicycle around the neighbourhood. I eat organic halal meat, feed the birds with leftover bread and boil the kettle half full and I try to use green, organic products whenever I can from fruits and vegetables, and skincare to cleaning materials.

Today we can all draw inspiration from Muhammad and try a little harder to live green, to recycle and to conserve energy. And to re-establish harmony between us and the world around us.”

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