The role of Islam in advocating for planting of trees

Nadya Rashid

It is a charitable donation when a Muslim plants a tree or grows crops and a bird, human beings or cattle eat from it'.

Prophet Muhammad Pbuh[1]

What happens when the lungs of a human being fail to perform their function causing the inhalation and exhalation process to stop? Many people will say the chances of mortality are high and that the particular individual has a slim possibility of surviving. In such a case, the doctors will play close attention to the patient. It is a paradox that despite the lack of adequate lungs in our environment, we are all relaxed as if it is not an emergency that requires our attention. Trees are our lungs.[2] They breath in carbon dioxide and breath out oxygen.[3] But how comes the need to address the inadequacy of tree cover is hardly in our agenda? Are we neglecting our responsibilities or is this a result of our ignorance?

The deep green natural forests, fragrant flowers along our streets, soft luscious grass in our surrounding magnify the eye appealing ambiance of our environment.[4] With cries of inexorable climate effects all over the world, the primary mitigating component is right up our sleeves,[5] trees. Trees facilitate the cooling down process on earth by merging the evaporation and transpiration process reducing the ambient temperatures[6] and providing cooler and cleaner air.[7] Furthermore, the shade provided by trees is a great aesthetic appeal to those in need of a tranquil environment.[8] In addition to being a relish to those who use it for food,[9] trees produce oils[10] that we use and provide food for our animals too.[11]

Faith and religions, being fundamental shapers of the world views and moral attitudes to their followers,[12] introduce a vital green guide in form of scriptures.[13] Additionally, some religious organisations employ their organisational and financial capacities to mobilise and advance a society that is environmentally sustainable. Furthermore, religions are becoming more environmentally conscious and ecologically aware[14] thanks to the stewardship obligations[15] placed on humans as vicegerents charged with protecting Allah's creation.[16] Man has been given a guardianship role[17] by God to care for His creation as God's representative and substitute.[18] This article seeks to look into the role played by Islam in advocating for planting trees, as a Caliphate,[19] and further to answer the question, how is man instructed to preserve the environment?

Allah created man with two major roles; become a Caliphate[20] and God's servant on earth.[21] In addition to that, a servant will be questioned on the day of Judgement about the several gifts accorded to him on earth and how they used them.[22] This establishes the critical essential role that an must play in caring for and advocating for the environment. A role that can be fulfilled by lobbying people to adhere to the religious environmental ethics, lowering personal carbon emissions, planting trees, caring for natural and indigenous trees and even through research and writing. These activities will result in a greener, cleaner and more sustainable environment.

The Qur'an and Sunnah, the two major primary sources of Islamic law,[23] are major advocators and champions for environmental conservation.[24] As a book of signs, the Qur'an guides man on how to lead their life,[25] several verses in it expounding and urging on the need of environmental conservation. Furthermore, this green religion[26] encourages its adherents to utilise every resource bestowed upon them by the Almighty in a non-wasteful manner.[27] Muslims are encouraged to use only what they require and save the rest of God's gifts for others.[28] This is to further the message in the old adage, 'Cut one tree, plant ten more'.

Any Muslim who plants a tree is guaranteed paradise,[29] not mentioning the reward they get when any living thing benefits from the tree.[30] The Qur'an goes ahead and draws a fundamental lesson, a lesson on how man's activities on land and at sea have far-reaching consequences in their life.The Holy Quran does so by first pointing a finger to man for the vast environmental destructions that result from his corrupt acts.[31] These behaviours include deforestation, degradation of the environment, the cutting and destruction of trees during combat, throwing plastic wraps near trees and many more.

Furthermore, several Quranic verses emphasise the auspicious aspects of the lovely gardens and trees in heaven categorically analysing the significance of trees in our lives.[32] Protecting the environment during armed conflict is also not a new phenomenon to us, it traces back to the era of Prophet Muhammad pbuh, when he forbade his army from cutting any tree except those that would block people when engaging in fights.[33] And now applied to contemporary national and international law, this rule helps motivate efforts to combat deforestation. These are some of the few Islamic teachings that draw a bigger picture on the importance of trees to human beings.

The Prophet pbuh reiterated the importance of tree planting in an authentic hadith recorded by Anas Bin Malik, May Allah grant him mercy. That Allah's Prophet said, 'Even if the resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, let him plant it.' This demonstrates the need of working harder and planting as many trees as possible.

Trees are our lungs, our backbone; are we not doomed to hard times without them? Isn't it time for all religious institutions and all humans to not only advocate for and care for huge numbers of trees but also to plant them? It is indeed time for our planet to reclaim its beautiful green hue, and for our oceans to replenish with healthy species. It is never too late to start! And this can only be achieved by normalising the advocated messages in our scriptures on environmental conservation. With a global Muslim population that continues to grow, envision the incredible impact that could be made if every Muslim were to embrace and practice teachings of the Qur'an and Sunna by simply planting a single tree. Such a collective effort has the potential to put an end to the daily suffering caused by environmental degradation. In conclusion, the power to heal is within our reach waiting for us to grasp it and make a difference, one tree at a time.

[1] Narrated by Hadrat Anas bin Malik Alayhi salaam, in Al Bukhari, Sahih Bukhari, 2:817, Hadith no. 2195, Muslim, Sahih Muslim, 3:1189, Hadith no. 1553.

[2] Antonio Guterres, Tree planting ceremony of the occasion of the International Day of Forests (21 March 2018), United Nations,on 22 March 2018, 3:50 to 3:59 < https://youtu.be/Qt5qY53_Wz4 > on 13 July 2023.

[3] Robert Krulwich, 'The Earth has lungs. Watch them breathe', National Geographic, 9 March 2016, < https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/the-earth-has-lungs-watch-them-breathe > on 12 July 2023.

[4] A P Dunball, 'Importance of trees in the environment', Chartered Institute of Horticulture, vol 25 (1974) 17.

[5] Rama Thoopal, Depti Talpade, Lubaina Rungwala, 'The science of planting and nurturing trees', Down to earth, on 15 September 2022 <https://www.downtoearth.org.in/environment >on 13 July 2023.

[6] Rama Thoopal, Depti Talpade, Lubaina Rungwala, 'The science of planting and nurturing trees', Down to earth on 15 September 2022.

[7] Qamar Islam Khan, 'Planting a tree in Islam', Qamar Islam Khan, on 10 November 2018, < https://qamarislamkhan.com/planting-a-tree-in-islam/ > on 13 July 2023.

[8] Rama Thoopal, Depti Talpade, Lubaina Rungwala, 'The science of planting and nurturing trees', on 15 September 2022.

[9] Holy Qur'an, Suratul Mu'minun, Chapter 23 verse 20. "And a tree that comes out (Literally: goes out) from At Tur of Sinai (Mount Sinai) that grows fats (that is, oil) and seasoning for (the) eaters, translation found on < https://quran.com/23/20?translations=17,18,19,21,22,85,95,20,84,101 > on 13 July 2023.

[10] Holy Qur'an, Suratul Mu'minun, Chapter 23 verse 20.

[11] Muaz Nasir, 'The value of trees in Islam', Khalaefa, on 2 September 2014, < https://www.khaleafa.com/khaleafacom/value-of-trees-in-islam > on 13 July 2023.

[12] Willis Jenkins, 'After Lynn White: Religious ethics and environmental problems', 37(2), Journal of Religious Ethics (2009) 286.

[13] Qamar Islam Khan, 'Planting a tree in Islam', on 10 November 2018.

[14] Jonathan Chaplin, 'The global greening of religion', Palgrave Communications, published 12 July 2016, refers it as the greening process of religion.

[15] Holy Qur'an, Chapter 2 verse 30, " Remember when the Lord said to the angels, 'I am going to place a successive human authority on earth.' They asked Allah, 'Will you place in it someone who will spread corruption there and shed blood while we glorify Your praises and proclaim Your holiness?' Allah responded, ' I know what you do not know.', translation found on, < https://quran.com/en/al-baqarah/30 > on 13 July 2023.

[16] Holy Qur'an 2:30, Allah put on earth a Khaleefa, God's vicegerents, Muslim environmentalists interpret this as stewards of God's creation as Jens Koerrsen explains in his piece, Muslim and climate change: How Islam, Muslim organisations and religious leaders influence climate change perceptions and mitigation activities, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews on Climate Change, 12(3) 24 February 2021, 4.

[17] Ibrahim Ozmedir, 'What does Islam say about climate change and climate action?' Aljazeera Opinion, 12 August 2020, < https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2020/8/12/what-does-islam-say-about-climate-change-and-climate-action#:~:text=Islam%20teaches%20its%20followers%20to,by%20God%20for%20their%20actions. > on 13 July 2023.

[18] Ida Glaser, Roles and relationships: Reflections on the khalifa and image of God, Sage Publications, 15(1) (1998) 18.

[19] Holy Qur'an, Surat Baqarah, Chapter 2, verse 30.

[20] Holy Qur'an, Suratul Baqarah, Chapter 2, verse 30.

[21] AAM Any, NN Ahmat, A Robani, FS Fen, SA Abas and M Saad, 'Understanding the role of khalifa for foundation of wizard khalifa tourism' 3(2) International Journal of Human and Technology Interaction, (2019) 95.

[22] Holy Qur'an, Suratu takaathur, Chapter 102, verse 8. " Then, on the Day you will surely be questioned about the joy (you indulged in), translation on, < https://www.al-islam.org/enlightening-commentary-light-holy-quran-vol-20/surah-takathur-chapter-102 > on 13 July 2023.

[23] Salih Kesgin, 'Hadith and Islamic law: The role of preunderstandings in hadith interpretations' Ondokuz Mayis Üniversitesi Ilahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi (2012) 8.

[24] Gregory E Hitzhusen, 'Religion and environmental education: Building on common ground' Canadian Journal of University Education (2006) 2.

[25] The Holy Qur'an is not a book of Science but it is a book of signs- Dr. Zakir Naik, Dr. Zakir Naik, 1 July 2019, < https://youtu.be/9cyXjQ6LUjE > 4:50 to 5:15 on 13 July 2023.

[26] 'Islam is green! Save the earth', Mufti Menk, 19 October 2020, < https://youtu.be/fRmrPTi4xOw > 3:07 to 3:12, 13 July 2023.

[27] Holy Qur'an, Chapter 17 (The Night Journey), Verse 27, 'Indeed, the wasteful are brothers of the devils, and ever has Satan been to his Lord ungrateful'.

[28] 'Islam is green! Save the earth,' Mufti Menk, 19 October 2020, 1:39-1:54.

[29] 'What happens when you plant a tree,' Mufti Menk, 31 January 2022 < https://youtu.be/B0xlACtTfsY > 13 July 2023. 0.13- 0.19.

[30] Narrated by Hadrat Anas bin Malik Alayhi salaam, in Al Bukhari, Sahih Bukhari, 2:817, Hadith no. 2195, Muslim, Sahih Muslim, 3:1189, Hadith no. 1553, That the Prophet pbuh said, 'It is a charitable donation when a muslim plants a tree or grows crops and a bird, human beings or cattle eat from it'.

[31] Holy Qur'an, Suratul Rum, Cahpter 30, verse 41.

[32] Muaz Nasir, 'The value of trees in Islam', on 2 September 2014.

[33] Hadith no. 18155 and 18156 in Ahmad ibn Al Husayn ibn Ali ibn Musa Al- Bayhaqi.

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