Biodiversity and Islam

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Biological diversity, or the shorter term "biodiversity," means the variety of life forms like human beings, animals of all sorts and plants of different categories in a region or on the globe.

Protecting this diversity on Earth is the prime duty of all Muslims. This ecological ethics is one of the moral principles of Islam, based on Qur'anic Injunctions (Verses) and Prophetic Sayings (Hadith). 

In this context two very important verses of Qur'an may be cited, namely "He it is Who hath made you regents (Inheritor, Khalifa) in the earth; so he who disbelieveth, his disbelief be on his own head. (Surah Fatir, 35:39). And "There is not an animal on the earth, nor a flying creature flying on two wings, but they are people like unto you." (Qur’an Surah ‘An’aam, 6:38). 

Notion of Khalifah (vicegerent) for man on earth shows his obligation towards environment and all creatures as defined and emphasized in the other verse of Sura An’aam. Allah gives all the rights and privileges to man for using the wealth provided on the earth in a just manner. However, the Khalifa (the man and the woman) who occupy the highest place among all creatures has to treat all life forms with compassion and not to abuse them. Wastage of even water is a sin in the light of Qur'anic injunction which reads as follows: "Eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters" (Surah Al-A’raf 7: 21). 

There are numerous passages in the Holy Qur’an which sheds light on the animal and plant life in various contexts. Mention of some of the animals, their uses and benefits for mankind have been made in Qur'an. Wonderful diversity, beauty and charm are the subject matter of several verses of the Qur'an. 

Human beings cannot harm the biodiversity of the earth and in case he fails to conform to the conditions that limit his right of man on Earth, Allah warns that "then We reduce him (to the status of) the lowest of the low." (Qur’an Surah Teen, 95:4,5)". 

In Surah Al Rum ( Verse 41), Allah says that "Corruption (destruction) doth appear on land and sea because of (the evil) which men’s hands have done, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return." 

This verse is a clear warning to those who wish to alter the biodiversity maintained by Allah. In Surah Baqarah (204-205), Allah warns the man in these words "And when he turneth away (from thee) his effort in the land is to make mischief therein and to destroy the crops and the cattle; and Allah loveth not mischief.’ 

Thus for Allah, any alteration or destruction of animal or plants (crops) is the mischief (Qur'an: Fasad fil Arz) by Man for which he would be punished. Qur'an has a warning for such people in these words: "They are those whom Allah has rejected and whom He has condemned because they served evil" (Qur’an: Surah Maidah, 5:63). 

We clearly learn from the injunctions of the Qur'an, Allah does not like those who create disturbance/mischief (Ecological or otherwise) on Earth (Arabic: Fasad Fil Arz). 

In view of the fact that the Qur’an strongly enjoins Muslims to treat animals with mercy and compassion, Prophet of Allah issued several advices to Muslims to follow the injunctions of Allah with regard to Animal Life. Some of such sayings (Ahadith) are listed below:

"The world is sweet and green (alluring) and verily God is going to install you as vicegerent in it in order to see how you act" (Book Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Riqaq, Chapter 36). 

"There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him." (Book Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Chapter 39: Agriculture). 

At another place Prophet (PBUH) says: "All creatures are like a family (Ayal) of God: and he loves the most those who are the most beneficent to His family." (Narrated by Anas, Book Mishkat al-Masabih, 3:1392; quoted from Book Bukhari). 

Allah, the Creator of Earth, requires mercy to all living creations by Human Beings. Cruelty to them, animals or birds, is a sufficient reason for a person to be thrown into the Fire. Causing pain and suffering to the defenseless and innocent creatures of God is a sin in Islam. As a matter of fact Allah’s Apostle is reported to have said that "A good deed done to a beast is as good as doing good to a human being; while an act of cruelty to a beast is as bad as an act of cruelty to human beings," (Book Bukhari). 

Some other important Hadiths (Prophetic Sayings) related to animal lives are listed below: 

"If someone kills a sparrow for sport, the sparrow will cry out on the Day of Judgment, "O Lord! That person killed me in vain! He did not kill me for any useful purpose." (Book Nisai).

"Whoever is kind to the creatures of God, is kind to himself." 

"If any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal eats of it, he will be rewarded as if he had given that much in charity."– (Narrated By Anas bin Malik, Book Bukhari). 

"Fear God in your treatment of animals." (Book Bukhari) 

"Fear Allah in your treatment of animals." (Book Abu Dawud) 

"Verily, there is heavenly reward for every act of kindness done to a living animal.(Book Bukhari)" 

Well known historian Montgomery Watt states that "Muhammad’s kindness to animals was remarkable". He cites an instance when Prophet posted sentries to ensure that a female dog with newborn puppies was not disturbed by his army traveling to Mecca in the year 630.

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