Islam requires its followers to care for the environment through their behaviour and attitudes. Unsustainable consumption goes against Islamic values. Extravagance is bad, especially during Ramadan.
Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) was recognised as an overarching theme to link environmental and development challenges in Rio, 1992, at the UN Conference on Environment and Development.
In Rio+20 held last June there was great emphasis on the subject. The Earth Summit gave the green light to establish Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They will be universal and replace the UN’s Millennium Development Goals from 2015.
SCP inherits much from the ideas of SDGs.
The definition proposed in the 1994 Oslo Symposium on Sustainable Consumption defines SCP as ‘the use of services and related products which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimising the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as emissions of waste and pollutants over the lifecycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardise the needs of future generations’.
In fact, sustainable consumption has become a necessity now that the world is facing various environmental crises related to water, climate change, food and energy. A shift in the way goods and services are produced and consumed in a sustainable way will guarantee a better quality of life, a minimum of waste and pollution, avoidance of a disturbing ecological balance, intergenerational and intragenerational equity and sustainable development.
In fact, many of the above concepts are rooted in Islamic teaching; Islam talks not only of the relationship between Allah and man, and between peoples, but also provides guidelines on how to deal with our environment and natural resources in a better way. Man’s mission is to improve things or, in a worst-case scenario, to maintain things as they are. From an environmental perspective, this is the idea of quality of life.
Allah made man a custodian of the earth. So man has a responsibility to ensure that the earth develops and prospers, or in other terms, achieves sustainable development. This cannot happen through extravagance and unsustainable production, consumption and pollution.
It is required that man should work towards the conservation of the earth, ensuring sustainability of natural resources for future generations. He must not be extravagant in consumption, whether of food, cloth or natural resources. As cited in the Quran: Eat and drink of that which Allah has provided and do not act corruptly, making mischief on the earth — Al Baqarah, 60.
In short, to be a Muslim is to pray (worship) and to be a custodian (to develop earth). This is very clear in literature on the fundamentals of Islam.
Fasting is an essential component of the faith for any Muslim and the third pillar of Islam. The Quran states that Allah does not like those who waste by extravagance, O Children of Adam! Take your adornment (by wearing your clean clothes), while praying and going round (the Tawâf of) the Kabah, and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al Musrifûn (those who waste by extravagance) — AlAraf, 31.
On the contrary, Ramadan in many ways is becoming a month of over-sonsumption, especially of food products! Thus, it is important not to waste food during iftar. Adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle during the month is not only a social and environmental responsibility, but a religious duty.
Besides, it is important to conserve water and electricity and change shopping habits by buying products which are eco-friendly. Reduce your carbon footprint and use a car pool if possible, reuse products, recycle, and reduce the use of plastic bags and products.
By following an environmentally-conscious lifestyle, we will be able to ensure that the ecological balance created by Allah — And the heaven: He has raised it high, and He has set up the balance — Al Rahman: 7 — is not disturbed and thus we guarantee our mankind sustainability. He has created everything, and has measured it exactly according to its due measurements — Al Furkan: 2.
It is worth mentioning that, the idea of Alzohd or ‘enough’ in Islam seeks that man should live lightly on earth, consume in a responsible way and conserve precious natural resources. This concept was coined recently as ‘degrowth’ which is one of the schools of green economy.
Attitudes must shift towards responsible consumption besides respecting, obeying and applying Islamic teaching. It means achieving financial benefits as well as responsible consumption saves money and extravagance wastes it.
Dr Mohammad Abdel Raouf is an independent environmental researcher.