Environmental Degradation as Fasaad

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The Quran condemns every form of fasaad. Hence, environmental degradation and destruction are obviously something that Muslims must seek to oppose and overcome

By Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz
The word fasaad and related terms are used several times in the Quran. In Arabic, the word fasaad has a wider connotation than in Urdu. In everyday Urdu, fasaad is often equated with generally as violence, particularly rioting. But in Arabic, the word has a much broader meaning. It includes strife, depravity, rottenness, disorder and corruption and also connotes damaging something, not letting it remain in its original or proper condition or disturbing its balance. Understood in this way, the widespread destruction of the environment at a global level today is a very obvious form of fasaad. It entails overturning the fine balance that God established in the environment, this process being driven principally by human greed.
The Quran condemns every form of fasaad. Hence, environmental degradation and destruction are obviously something that Muslims must seek to oppose and overcome. Given the grave implications they have for the very survival of life on Earth, they are a very serious form of fasaad. Despite this, however, few Muslims consider the environmental crisis as a form of fasaad. Many of us aren’t even aware of the existence of such a crisis! In fact, through the reckless pursuit of a consumerist lifestyle, based on mindless exploitation of the bounties of Nature, many of us are actually deeply complicit in this fasaad.
The Quran clearly condemns those who are engaged in fasaad. This means that those who are responsible for the fasaad of environmental degradation are engaged in sin. The opposite of fasaad is islah, which denotes maintaining a thing in its right condition and proper balance. Those who engage in islah are known as musleheen. They are the opposite of the mufsideen, those who engage in fasaad.
Muslims are supposed to be musleheen. They should be those who engage in actions of islah which are geared to oppose and overcome fasaad. Working for the restoration of ecological balance and opposing efforts to destroy the environment are acts of islah. And so, as musleheen, Muslims should be actively engaged in meaningful and constructive efforts to help improve the environment and overcome the environmental crisis. That is something that is part of their faith, a part of their role as musleheen. Despite this being so, relatively few Muslims are engaged in such meaningful efforts today.
Having been created by God, every single thing in the earth and in the skies and in between them is a sign or ayat of God. That means that all the components of our environment, be they on land, water or the air, are signs of God. Like the ayats or verses of the Quran, they point to God’s existence. This being the case, protecting the environment and respecting it is as binding on us as is respecting and honouring the ayats of the Quran.
The Quran (3:110) says this about the Muslim ummah:
You are indeed the best community that has ever been brought forth for [the good of] mankind. You enjoin what is good, and forbid what is evil, and you believe in God.
Members of this ummah are expected to engage in virtuous actions that draw people closer to God or aamaal-e saleha. And so, they must also engage in the virtuous action of working to oppose the fasaad of environmental degradation and of helping promote and preserve environmental balance. We must broaden our conventional understanding of amaal-e saleha to include such actions as well.
Planting trees and looking after them can be a form of amal-e saleha, as can joining movements for the protection of greenery and natural resources. So too can promoting solar energy to replace the use of diesel or petrol, engaging in clean-up drives in residential localities, saying ‘No!’ to plastic where possible, avoiding foods painted with chemical colours,exhorting people to give up the habit of spitting in public spaces, and so on.
One could considerably lengthen this list of eco-friendly aamaal-e saleha which we can do in our own individual capacity. Some of these may appear to be ‘small’ or ‘ordinary’ steps. But even if they are, that’s alright! On the Day of Judgment, when we appear before God, even our smallest misdeed will be presented before us, just as will our smallest good deed.