“It is He who made the sun a shining radiance and the moon a light . . . God did not create all these without a true purpose; (…) His signs to those who understand. In the succession of night and day, and in what God created in the heavens and earth, there truly are signs for those who are aware of him.” (10:5–6)10”
The answer is No, Allah did not give us ownership of Earth and nature, He made us caretakers on His behalf, as He is the only owner and one in control. And Earth caretaking is an act of worship towards Allah, We are Khalifas, “The World is Green and beautiful and Allah appointed you (Khalifa) guardian over it”. This implies that we are accountable for the planet’s wellbeing and we’ll be judged should we fail this divine mandate and avoid excess, waste, pollution and corruption of nature in observance of Sharia law. Because we are united, the Tawheed concept of unity between us humans and Allah and all that He created, which brings along the responsibility of keeping balance in the creation by looking after the creation.
Above is a summary of how Islam and ecology can be connected, and Islamic scholars and believers just as scholars and believers of other faiths are undergoing a debate of deeper faith discovery identifying the harmony between principles of the faith and that of ecology.
Islam believes that divinity is something that exists in the natural and material world and rises above it to higher plains transcending the material into the spiritual, where matter is a projection and manifestation of Allah’s almightyness and love. This can be found across all branches of Islam and its teachings that the encounters between Soul and Dinivity occur through religious experience and experience is something that happens in the here and now, in our world of matter in the present which leads a believer to understand that Allah is present in everything living, which led branches like the Sufi to embody the principle that prayer, faith and belief may well happen when contemplating the natural world, a key to understand divinity.
The discussion on connecting the environment and faith is gaining grounds in Islamic communities in identifying within the tradition a spiritual reawakening in view of the current environmental crisis. In this debate much stress is being put on the Quran passages which mention the Ayah as a definition of the non-human world, as Ayah means sign, therefore the biosphere is a sign from Allah. That could well well mean that body, mind, soul presence in nature is indeed a way to experience the Quran. Before going any further, let’s clarify something, Allah is not everything that surrounds us, that would be quite contrary to the principles of Islam, rather we and all that surround us are projections and emanations of the divine, and the divine spark is given by Allah.
Having clarified that, we should explore a bit deeper the concept above of Tawheed, the unity of everything that was created as projection and manifestation of divinity with the purpose of worshipping Allah and abiding by His rules. This can bring us to a reasoning that life in its unity has one source of creation and life is filled with Ayahs (signs) that allow humans to worship and meet the Creator through the non-human, a natural world that Allah may use as His messenger to punish or reward humanity. Can that be understood that the gradual collapse of the biosphere and climate crisis are divine punishments? “Corruption flourished on land and sea as a result of people’s actions, and He will make them taste the consequences of their actions for them to turn back”. an Ayah, a Sign from Allah to turn back.
Muslim believers are expected to worship Allah, and that implies the duty to both respect and glorify His creation as projections of His divinity and power. Disrespecting nature equals going against the Quran, a Holy text which clearly warns humans not to allow species to go extinct as that would result in loss of Ayahs, so loving the non-human world shows love and respect towards Allah, as it is expected from the believers.
We are Khalifas entrusted since the creation of life to safekeep Earth on His behalf and worship Him, and those actions are not mutually exclusive, as according to the Quran our temporary guardianship of the Earth and its resources is a gift made onto us by the divinity who trusted us with this responsibility and duty to pass it down the coming generations, as accountable and responsible stewards of our wellbeing and that of the biosphere, tasked with preventing its corruption.
Let’s stress the words “temporary guardianship” not heritage, not ownership at best some sort of limited in time overlordship of the planet, while ownership and dominion is reserved to Allah who, in His mercy, entrusted us to look after it and ourselves. In exchange for that, Earth’s resources are at the disposal of the Khalifas as long as in obedience to His laws. Both and honour and a burden.
Talking of rules, even Sharia Law, which is a legal code on implementing Allah’s will on earth, has many unknown articles concerning ecological management of the Earth, to state an example land is divided in two categories, the Amir which is the land that is farmed and made productive by human use and the Mawat the underdeveloped pastures, fields and forests. Sharia laws foresaw the possibility of transforming part of the Mawat into a Harim, a protected area that can’t be exploited, trees can’t be touched and animals are not to be hunted, basically natural protected areas. Eco-Islam also sees in the Sharia’s Hadiths on cleanliness and preventing the corruption of body, society and earth an ecological mandate, implying that pollution is in itself a sinful act.
Therefore, following this short and definitely incomplete analysis its possible to state that there is no contradiction between Islam and ecology, actually quite the contrary.
If you want to know more follow the writings of Seyyid Hossein Nasr