Earth Day and Islam - verses from the Quran وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُواْ
Humankind - Guardians of Planet Earth
In the Quran, Humankind is clearly appointed as a khalifa, one who inherits a position, a power, a trust, and who holds it responsibly and in harmony with its bestower - in this case, Allah. He does not violate the trust. The verbal root of khalifa is khalaf, which means “he came after, followed, succeeded” and holds with, despite, be at variance with; and offend against, violate or break a rule, command or promise. This is significant in the light of the angel’s prediction:
Quran 2:30 - - وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُواْ أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاء وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ (2:30)
la rabbuka lilmala
ikati innee ja
AAilun fee alard
i khaleefatan qa
loo atajAAalu feeha
man yufsidu feeha
amdika wanuqaddisu laka qa
la innee aAAlamu ma
And lo! Your Sustainer said to the angels: Behold,
I am about to establish upon earth a khalifa.
They said: Will you place on it such as will spread corruption and shed blood whereas it is we who extol Your limitless glory,
and praise You, and hallow Your name?
Allah answered: Verily,
I know that which you do not know (Qur’an 2:30).
Of the nine times the word khalifa and its plural are found in the Qur’an; seven times it is used in conjunction with the prefixed fil’-al-ardh- on earth, on this planet. In each case it refers to a person, people, or mankind in general, to whom Allah has entrusted part of His power on earth. The term has been variously translated into English as a successor, deputy, viceroy, and trustee. We would like to add yet another translation, that of the role of stewardship. In that, the human race are more than “Friends of the Earth”- we are its guardians. Although we are equal partners with everything else in the natural world, we have added responsibilities. What we are not is it’s lord and master.
Humankind as Trustees
In this context, a concept unique to man is amana or trust. Allah offers amana to the heavens, to the earth, to the mountains - to the rest of creation - but they all refused; only mankind was foolish enough to accept it:
Quran 33:72 - - إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الْأَمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَن يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الْإِنسَانُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُومًا جَهُولًا (33:72)
li faabayna an yah
nu innahu ka
Verily, We did offer the amana to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains; but they refused to bear it Yet man took it - for, verily, he has always been prone to tyranny and foolishness (Qur’an 33:72).
A trust entails one who entrusts and a trustee. Allah offered the trust to man, the trustee, and he accepted the responsibility. Man chose the amana the faculty of choice and relative free will - and gained thereby the capacity to live for good or evil. As khalifa on earth, man must fulfill that trust placed on him by Allah, by acting justly in accordance with Allah’s laws, or be false to that trust and perpetuates tyranny and injustice against Allah’s earth and His creation.
For He it is Who has made you khalifa on earth,
and has raised some of you by degrees above others,
so that He might try you by means of what He has bestowed on you.
And thereupon We made you their khalifa on earth,
so that We might behold how you act (Qur’an 6:165).
This is confirmed by part of a hadith, reported by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri and transmitted by Muslim, that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), said:
The world is sweet and green, and verily Allah has installed you as khalifa in it in order to see how you act.
History of Environmental Impact in the Quran
So the picture we get from the Qur’an is of a khalifa who is a trustee on earth and is responsible and accountable for his conduct towards his fellow human kind, creatures, and the Earth itself. His purpose is to serve and worship Allah, by acting in harmony with Allah’s laws, thereby fulfilling his trust and gaining the pleasure of Allah. If he abuses his God-given power and violate the laws of Allah, he brings about his own destruction, and severe loss in the Hereafter.
The consequence of violating the trust is attested in the Qur’an by the frequent recounting of the histories of the people of Ad and Thamud. Both were powerful tribes in their respective times and lands - Ad were “endowed abundantly with power” and Thamud were “settled firmly on earth” - but they arrogantly abused the power given to them by Allah, and were destroyed by an environmental cataclysm. The relevance of their stories to contemporary man - truly endowed with devastating power and so firmly settled on earth - is alarmingly frightening.
Balanced approach to use the Environment in the Quran
Humankind has intrinsic needs for the sun, water, food, shelter and community, and he, as with other living creatures on earth, may utilise the earth’s resources to secure those basic necessities. Clearly there is a potential conflict of interest between spiritual and material, man and nature, man and man. In this regard, Allah reminded humans of the balance:
The All-Merciful has taught the Qur’an
He created man and He taught him the explanation.
The sun and the moon to a reckoning,
and the stars and trees bow themselves;
and heaven - He raised it up and set the balance.
Transgress not in the balance,
and weight with justice, and skimp not in the balance.
And earth - He set it down for all beings,
therein fruits and palm trees with sheaths,
and grain in the blade, and fragrant herbs.
Of which your Lord’s bounties will you and you deny? (Qur’an 55:1-12).
It is a test of the amana or trust, that humankind pass on to future generations these resources. There is no Qur’anic sanction of the use by one group of people over another, so that no power may usurp the resources of the earth for its own sole use as is perpetrated by contemporary ‘developed’ societies. All peoples, as well as all other creatures on the planet, have an equal right to benefit from these resources. Similarly, all future generations have an equal right to Allah’s bounty. The use of the earth’s resources ought to be in accordance with our material and spiritual needs, the needs of all other creatures, now and in the future, so that we do not jeopardise the planet itself.
And you devour the inheritance (of others) with devouring greed (Qur’an 89: 19).
There is a price to pay for this misdemeanour. According to lbn Majah, Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
If any one deprives an heir of his inheritance, Allah will deprive him of his inheritance in Paradise on the Day of Resurrection.Email this
Posted by Masjids / Mosques in Toronto at 10:47 AM
Labels: Environment, Quran