Most Muslims are aware of the role of humans as vicegerents of Allah on Earth.
This notion of ‘khalifatullah’ means that human beings have been entrusted with care of creation by the Creator.
It involves the understanding that each human being has embedded within itself a natural moral compass, or “fitrah.”
Islam was delivered to hone this moral compass so that we seek right action, and heighten our moral awareness.
“Believers, uphold justice and bear witness to Allah, even if that witness is against yourself, your parents or your close relatives. Whether a person is rich or poor, Allah can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desires, so that you do not act unjustly. If you distort the truth, Allah is fully aware of what you do.” (Quran 4:135)
As Asam Redwan writes in “When the Earth Speaks Against Us: Environmental Ethics in Islam:”“Good character extends to not only our interactions with other humans but also to our interactions with the world around us.” (20 September 2018 Yaqeen Institute).
In his 2018 small online survey to investigate the awareness of environmental ethics amongst English-speaking UK Muslim, Redwan found that 60% of respondents claimed that humans were having a negative impact on the planet.
When asked whether they considered general concerns about our impact upon the environment were being conveyed to the Muslim public, 85% said “no” and 75% saw it as the duty of Muslim leaders to inform them about environmental ethics.
88% wanted more information on the subject of environmental ethics, suggesting a genuine dearth of attention being given within the Muslim community to this issue.
Much Islamic scholarship addresses the issue.
Reflecting on the notion of the “book of the universe,” a term used by scholars like Said Nursi and Taha Al Awani, all created things have an intrinsic value due to their connection to the Creator.
“Understanding that the creation contains both a spiritual and physical aspect, necessitates that we recognize our relationship with the non-human world.” (Redwan)
The Quran warns against devouring the inheritance of others (89:19) and against committing corruption upon the Earth ‘after it has been set in order.’(7:56)
Surah 55: 5-6 Ar-Rahman places emphasis upon ‘keeping the balance’ of what the Creator has set up, not disrupting it.
“So do not transgress in the balance. But maintain the weights with justice, and do not violate the balance.”
The earth’s natural resources, its water, its animals and plants are all part of the balanced system which the khalifullah, human beings as vicegerents of the Creator, must protect.
We are told in hadith that there is a reward in doing good to every living thing and we are told “If any Muslim plants a tree or sows a field and a human, bird or animal eats from it, it shall be reckoned a charity from him.”
In his conclusion Redwan writes: “Allah has decreed for the creation to be a manifestation of His signs and we too are included within that. How troubling would it be if we were knowingly accelerate and remove these signs that Allah has bestowed upon us?”
“When we enter the court of The Almighty and are called to trial, witnesses will be brought forth, I wonder whether the earth will act as a witness for us or against us?”