3.2 The creature

3.2.1 Introduction

The problem is that many young people are experiencing an enormous frustration towards what we call “the rich polluting business people”. A small group of young people demonstrate in the driveways of wealthy people.

The Quran refers to the creature as khalq. The term khalq is related to nature and the universe and can be found in 261 Quranic verses. As for example in Surat Al-Baqara verse 29: It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth. Then He directed Himself to the heaven, [His being above all creation], and made them seven heavens, and He is Knowing of all things..”1 (Al-Baqara:29)

Islam addresses all parts of creation, including ecology. Out of the totality of Quranic verses, 1/8 of it deals with ecology, environment and nature. After all, all human beings has been given the task of maintaining the balance of Allah’s creation. In Sura Arrahman it says: “..“And the heaven He raised and imposed the balance. That you not transgress within the balance. And establish weight in justice and do not make deficient the balance.”2 (Arrahmane: 7,8 en 9)

Islam’s view on the relationship between mankind and ecology is talked about in both the Qur’an and the Hadiths.3 Everyone is repeatedly encouraged to treat nature and the earth in a sustainable way. Moreover because the entire universe was created by Allah as a unity. It is therefore up to mankind to preserve and respect that unity of nature and man.

3.2.2 Man as khalifa on Earth

There is a correlation between all the elements of the creature. Allah also added structure in here. That is why we speak of a well balanced creature or mizan as explained in the Quran: “The sun and the moon follow a fixed path. The stars and the trees worship their Lord. He has lifted up the heavens and brought balance. Don’t disturb it (this balance), keep the right size and don’t lose it.”4 (Ar-rahmane: 5,6,7,8 en 9)

Besides ecology in general, the Quran also draws attention to the environment. Here too, the central message is that it is the task of man to maintain and respect the balance in nature. We speak of ‘laws of nature’ to indicate that Allah created the unity of nature in all perfection with the correct calculations. Thus it says in Sura Al Mulk: “You see no imbalance in the creation of the Most Merciful.”5 (Al-Mulk:3).

The interpretation of the Quran makes us realize that man should not be a controller, but rather a guardian of nature. That is why man is considered a steward or khalifa: “And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels, I will appoint a khalifa upon the earth.”6 (Al-Baqara:30) The original meaning of a khalifa is the one responsible for protecting the earth and its capabilities.
The nature gives us signals or ayats when things are not going well in nature. It is then up to us, human beings, to give the right reaction and to protect nature more and in a better way. As already explained, man is part of the entire universe along with all other creations. Yet man differs from all other creations because he has the ratio and free will. People have the capacity to think about their actions and choose whether to protect something or not. So unlike animals who just follow their instincts, humans have the intelligence to understand and carry out the imposed task of protecting nature.7

In concrete terms, khalifa or being responsible means that you as a person take on the following responsibilities:

1. Protect yourself (spiritually, biological, ...)

2. Protecting society (society in general, relationships, your own community and that of others, ...)

3. Protect the earth and its resources (nature, animals, energy sources...)


Exercise 1: Fill out Exercise
Complete the scheme with the correct answer.

Exercise 2
Read the statements below and put a mark in the right column.

1. 1/8 of the Quran is about ecology, environment and nature.

2. Animals have a free will and a ratio. That’s the reason why they have the task of taking care of nature.

3. A khalifa is responsible for protecting himsel/herself, the society and the earth.

4. The creation of Allah is unbalanced or not a mizan.

Did people continue to discuss throughout history about the precise interpretation of sharia?

3.3 Islamic environmental ethics

3.3.1 Human and environmentally responsible behavior

In the section on human beings as khalifa’s we’ve already discussed the fact that the Quran draws a lot of attention to the environment in general. It’s not enough to just follow the rules stipulated in the Five Pillars of Islam to be a good Muslim. There are other (un)written ethical principles such as respecting and protecting the environment. As humans, we should be careful and frugal with the resources, we should pollute nature as little as possible and carry out a sustainable and ecological behavior. These principles of responsible behavior are not less important than the well-known Five Pillars of the Islam.

The hadith tells us more about the lifestyle of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. It also confirms that the Prophet considered environmentally responsible behavior as part of the authentic Islamic way of life. Fun fact is that most of the prophets were shepherds, which meant they were constantly in touch with nature and animals. The Prophet also asked Muslims to be careful with nature in every situation, even during difficult times like war.

This is emphasized by Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, a close companion and successor of the Prophet Muhammad. He said to one of his military commanders: “I advise you the following ten things (regarding the rules of warfare). Do not kill women or children, the elderly or the sick. Do not cut down or burn trees, especially if they are fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy uninhabited places. Do not kill animals except for providing food. Do not burn or separate bees. Do not steal any of the items that were confiscated during the battle. And don’t act cowardly.”8 (Al-Muwatta, Volume 21, Hadith 10)

The Quran constantly reminds us of the beauty of nature. Surah Al Ghashiyah in verses 16-18 explicitly invites to be aware of the beauty of nature by regularly observing and enjoying it: “Don’t they look at how the camels were created? And how the mountains stand firmly? Don’t they look at how spread out the earth is?”9 (Al-Ghashiyah: 17,18,19,20) If we take the time to look at nature in a more conscious way, we will be able to realize the greatness and the beauty it has in it.

Exercise 1
Fill out the missing words.

the environment – resources – respecting and protecting – khalifa – ecological behavior - Five Pillars of Islam

In the section on human beings as we’ve already discussed the fact that the Quran draws a lot of attention to in general. It’s not enough to just follow the rules stipulated in the to be a good Muslim. There are other (un)written ethical principles such as the environment. As humans, we should be careful and frugal with the we should pollute nature as little as possible and carry out a sustainable and These principles of responsible behavior are not less important than the well-known Five Pillars of the Islam.

3.4 Environment and social justice

3.4.1 Responsible use of natural resources

In a society with social justice, every person has the same right and access to the basic needs. Ecology and nature can be linked to this topic of social justice. A good example is a society in which everyone is entitled to water as a basic need.

The Quran emphasizes the crucial role of water. Water is considered a source of life and one of the most precious resources.10 The word water or ma’a occurs more than seventy times in the Quran.11 Some examples are:

“And Allah has sent water from heaven, and He revives the earth with it after its death. Verily in this is a sign for those who listen.”12 (An-Nahl:65)

“ And have you seen the water that you drink? Is it you who brought it down from the clouds, or is it We who bring it down? If We willed, We could make it bitter, so why are you not grateful?!”13 (Al-Waqi’ah: 68,69,70)

Water is an essential source for the creation and development of life. For example, it is necessary for the livelihood of humans, of animals and it is necessary for plant growth. Humans and animals need drinking water. Finally, we can barely imagine a life without the possibility to take a shower or a bath; water provides us good hygiene.

It is clear that water will always play a vital role in the universe. But it is also becoming clear that we are dealing with the problems of water scarcity, dryness,…. Water is not inexhaustible and might, at some moment, run out. It is therefore our responsibility to prevent water shortages by creating sustainable solutions.

As a khalifa, we must be aware of the scarceness of energy sources and carry out a sustainable and ecological behavior.

3.4.2 Using natural resources fairly

It is common knowledge that humans consume a lot. We often consume much more than we as actually need to survive. Think of the food scraps after every meal that end up with the garbage. It is important to find a balance in that consumption. Even if there would be an abundance of certain natural resources, it wouldn’t have been just to unnecessarily exhaust these resources. Ending overconsumption by consuming in a balanced way, would help to achieve the goal of unity and conservation of nature.14 A real khalifa always keeps these goals in mind.

The Quran explicitly states not to waste nor to overconsume. Surah Al A’raf points out that consuming is obviously not forbidden, but that it must be done in a balanced way: “O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.15 (Al-A’raf: 31)

Balanced consumption makes it easier to equally distribute natural resources in order to achieve a society with social justice. Yet we see that this has become more and more difficult over the years. If everyone only thinks about himself when consuming, he will not be able to remind himself that the supply of natural resources must also provide other people, animals and plants for a living. This creates an unequal and unjust distribution of natural resources. This is the negative effect the Quran tries to warn for.

Exercise 1
Answer the following questions.

1) What characterizes a society with social justice? Give an example:

2) How many times does the term ma’a or water occur in the Quran?

3) How can we achieve the goal of unity and conservation of nature?


All that is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad of words, deeds, implicit approvals, appearance and personality.

An trustee on Earth or protector of nature.

Reason, the human mind able of thinking and understanding.

Verses from the Quran.


O. AMOS, Beste Fanatici, Drie essays, Amsterdam, De Bezige Bij, 2017. Y. ALQARDAWI, Fiqh Aljihad, Dirasat Muqaranatu Li-Ahkamihi wa Falsafatihi fi Daw al-Quran wa As-Sounna, Caïro, Dar Al-Koutboub Al’lmiya, 2009.
MALIK, al-Muwatta, Beiroet, Dar Iyha Attourat Alarabiya. (access 02.08.2020) (access 02.08.2020) (access 02.08.2020) (access 02.08.2020) (access 02.08.2020) (access 02.08.2020) (access 02.08.2020) (access 02.08.2020) (access 02.08.2020).