This is how environmentalism is intrinsic to Islam

My mom is a staunch environmentalist and has taught me that green values are intrinsic to our religion, that humans don’t have the right to alter Allah’s creation, and that the agrochemical multinational Monsanto equals the devil. I suppose some would call my mom a ‘radical’. She grows and makes almost everything herself; vegetables, bread, vinegar, soap, even deodorant, and believes that everyone who has the means for it should do the same. Her fierce opposition against the new trade agreement TTIP, has taken the form of a holy war.

As radical as my mom may seem, she is right about our faith’s commitment to ‘green thought’. Environmentalism is indeed very fundamental in Islam.  

According to political scientist Andrew Dobson, ecologism as an ideology, considers each aspect of the non-human world to have value, regardless of it being of benefit to humans. Thus, from the ecologist perspective, humans are not central to the world. For some believers, this idea may seem outrageous. It is however, not so different from the Islamic worldview. The Quran states :

“Assuredly, the creation of the heavens and the earth is a greater (matter) than the creation of men, yet most men understand not” (40:57).

In his commentary on this verse, Abdullah Yusuf Ali says : “The heavens and the earth include mankind and all other creatures and millions of stars. Man is but a tiny part of creation. Why should he be so egocentric? The whole is greater than a part of it.”

Though Islam teaches that humans are elevated above other animals – because of our ability to choose between right and wrong – does not mean that we may claim everything on this planet for ourselves, it rather puts the added responsibility of caring for the rest of Allah’s creations on us. The Quran warns the believer against arrogance and greed. Is it not our greed and arrogance that has led to the current situation? Climate change is the biggest threat we face. As European leaders are quarreling about the resettlement of some hundred thousand refugees, both policymakers and the public fail to fully realize that this refugee crisis is nothing compared to what will come. Soon entire nations will be fleeing drought and immense heat. It is time for a radical change.

Healthy, organic and ethical goods are not cheap, but there are things we can all do that don’t need much effort or money. We don’t have to eat meat every day. In big cities, your bicycle gets you faster to your destination than your car. Your hair can be washed with baking soda and vinegar. It may sound weird, but it works. I am convinced that these little changes are not only better for our health and the environment, but that it also saves money in the long run. To push radical reform however, we have to put pressure on our politicians and governments. It is unacceptable that they adjust environmental and health policies to the wishes of the corporate lobby. Let’s raise awareness.

All of our lives depend on our earth’s wellbeing. Living by green values is not naive or ‘radical’. Our current lifestyle is ruining our planet, several species are on the verge of extinction, farmers are being driven off their land. Surely, that is more radical than making your own soap or riding your bicycle to work.

Selfmade soap Humeyra's mom
Selfmade soap Humeyra’s mom

Written by Humeyra Cetinel

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Humeyra Cetinel is a 25 year old student of Assyriology and part-time teacher, currently writing her thesis. Her main interests include politics, literature and theology.