Nowadays, we hear every day that our earth is becoming more and more polluted and that a day will come that our life on this planet will be no longer possible. This is undoubtedly the result of our negligence toward the blessing that God had granted us, the blessing of nature and a clean environment: “It is He who created for you all that is in the earth…” (2:29). We are responsible for whatever is going on in our surroundings and at the same time dependent upon it to be able to live.
It is important to note that at the time of the emergence of Islam, people did not face such complex environmental issues and thus this matter has not been dealt with in depth in Islam. Nevertheless, Islam has emphasized the significance of preserving the environment and provided us with guidelines that help us find solutions for such complexities through the narrations and actions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) as well as the twelve infallible leaders (AS). This article is an attempt to summarize these matters for you briefly.
The answer is quite simple, and it reveals the direct correlation between human beings and their surroundings. Preserving the environment equals our own physical and mental wellbeing. Our immediate surrounding is where we are always in touch with, and its quality will inevitably affect our mind and soul. Moreover, we are the ones who make use of the environment to fulfill our needs, and the way we use it will ultimately determine our condition of life.
On the other hand, Allah has made this world in perfect equilibrium and human’s excessive exploitation of natural resources will result in damaging this balance: “And We spread out the earth and cast in it firm mountains, and We grew in it every kind of balanced thing” (15:19). When the balance is disturbed, the result will be the many environmental crises that we are faced with nowadays. These include pollution, global warming, natural resource depletion, waste disposal, climate change, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, ocean acidification, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, water pollution, etc. .
The problems mentioned above are the result of our irresponsibility toward the blessing of the environment, and this is we that should compensate for it. What follows are some Islamic guidelines for us to observe in our treatment of the environment:
When you make excessive use of natural resources such as water or what is produced by water such as electricity, the paper that is made through cutting trees, fossil fuels, etc., you put the environment in danger and threaten its durability. Quran also emphasizes the necessity to be moderate in using God’s blessings in this world: “… Eat and drink, but do not waste; indeed, He does not like the wasteful” (7:31).
Moreover, our environment is not restricted to our use only but is a public possession from which every human being has the right to benefit. Therefore, we should be careful not to violate other people’s rights in having a share in the environment through our extravagant exploitation of its resources.
There is a general rule in Islam that bids Muslims not to “cause harm or return harm” , meaning that they should act in a way that neither brings inconvenience for others nor undermines their situation. Through wastefulness we bring injustice to both ourselves and other human beings; we consume their share in the environment and damage God’s blessing that was given to us to sustain our livelihood. So, respect yourself as well as your fellow human beings through respecting your surroundings.
Think about the environment as your home and keep it clean as you like your home to be neat and tidy. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says in a narration that: “Allah is pure and likes purity and cleanliness… therefore, keep where you live in clean” . As it was mentioned above, pollution is one of the most pervasive environmental issues in today’s world; this includes air pollution, water pollution, as well as the excessive amount of waste produced on a daily basis.
Those who have faith in Allah and consider His satisfaction in every instance of their lives must be much more cautious regarding their own or their environment’s cleanliness since as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) puts: “Cleanliness roots in one’s faith” .
Air, water, and soil are the three elements that are the source of life on the earth, which has been mentioned in the Quran as well as narrations [i]&[ii]. It is all the matter of your choice. Keep the air you breathe in clean by choosing to take a walk or public transportation instead of using your car. Preserve the water fresh and pure by avoiding throwing waste in the water, urinating in it, and producing waste water excessively; Imam Ali (AS) emphasizes that water has some inhabitants, so we should not harm them through polluting it .
Even at the time of war, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) forbade his soldiers to pollute or poison their adversary’s city . So, let the soil from which your food is provided remain unpolluted by not throwing waste, especially those that do not dissolve in the environment such as plastic waste, etc.
Plant a tree or bring awareness to people about the environment and the natural crisis that is threatening the earth and its inhabitants. There are many narrations from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) that highlight the necessity of planting trees. For instance, he says: “If a Muslim plants a tree and a bird, human or another creature eats its fruit, it will be considered as an act of charity from him [by Allah]” .
Also, Imam Sadiq (AS) considers planting trees and agriculture as the occupations which bring lawful (Halal) earning for the person performing them . When your surrounding is green, your life will become lively and energetic [iii], and you will become more efficient in your performance.
Finally, it all depends on you and how you want your future to be like. A green and lively environment is the result of our endeavors to preserve it and to give our posterity the opportunity to enjoy the blessing of God. The message of Islam in this matter is again that of moderation and responsibility which guides human beings to live in perfect equilibrium with the environment.
[i] (25:54), (23:12), (24:45), (30:24), (21:30)
[ii] Imam Sadeq (AS) said: “life in a land where is devoid of these three essential factors is highly difficult and challenging: clean air, fresh and plentiful water, as well as fertile ground” .
[iii] Imam Ali (AS) said: “looking at the green nature causes freshness, liveliness and vitality” .
- Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili , Wasail Al-shia , vol. 18, p.32
- Muhammad ibn Hassan Sheibani, Al-Jame Al-Saghir, vol.1, p.267
- Muhammad Baqir Majlisi ,Bihar al-Anvar, vol.59, p. 291
- Ibn Shu'ba al-Harrani, Tuhaf al-Ughul, p.320
- Muhammad ibn Ali Al-Ehsaei, Avali al-Leali, vol.2, p. 187.
- Mirza Hussain Tabarsi , Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 13, p.26.
- Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni al-Razi , Usul al-Kafi, vol.5, p.260
- Shaykh as-Saduq,Uyun Akhbar ar-Reza (AS), vol.2, p. 40
Generosity is such an important virtue in the religion of Islam that the holy Quran says with regard to it: “You will never attain piety until you spend out of what you hold dear, and whatever you may spend of anything, Allah indeed knows it” (3:92).
As perfect exemplars of this great ethical virtue, the holy prophet (PBUH&HP) and infallible Imams (AS) always recommended their followers to be unconditionally kind and bountiful with people. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) stated: “A generous person is closer to Allah, to the people and heaven” 
Allah says in the Holy Quran:
“As for him who gives and is Godwary, and confirms the best promise, We will surely ease him toward facility” (92:5-7)
Generosity is one of the qualities of the soul which Allah bestows upon His beloved ones, who are not concerned about material wealth and willingly give to others to make the world a better place and reach God’s satisfaction.
In return, The Bountiful Allah has promised to provide the generous with ease and facility both in this world and the hereafter. Under God’s promise to generous people in the verse above, scientific studies also confirm the ease and happiness generosity would bring about. “A huge review of 40 studies on the effect of volunteering on general health and happiness was published in the journal BMC Public Health. The results? Volunteering not only improves well-being and life satisfaction, but it is also linked with decreased depression and a lower risk of dying early” .
One of the most eminent characteristics of the holy infallible Imams was their generosity. It has been narrated that Imam Hassan (AS) granted his whole wealth twice in his lifetime to win Allah’s satisfaction and improve the life of his fellow human beings. He also divided his property with the poor three times, granting half his wealth to the poor altogether, including his own shoes . Money was only a means for him to help the needy. “Once, he was asked: ‘We do not see you disappoint a beggar. Why?’
He replied: ‘I am asking Allah for His favors, and I love to be near Him. I am ashamed, as I am myself in need of Allah, to repulse a beggar. Allah got me used to a habit; to shower me with His bounties, and I get Him used to me showering His bounties on the people. I fear that should I stop my habit, He may stop His habit.’” 
This implies the verse of the holy Quran that says:
“Be good [to others] just as Allah has been good to you” (28:77)
It is noteworthy, however, that the infallible Imams never sought excessive asceticism. Neither did they ordain absolute abstinence from worldly delights [i]. Although they were sometimes rich, they willingly wanted to lead the life of the poorest people in the society. So that they could sympathize with them, and show the nothingness of the perishable earthly wealth compared with other eternal values.
But does it mean that Muslims have to give all their wealth away generously like their leaders? In fact, this kind of behavior mostly suits the leaders of a community. What Islam expects from the rest of the people is moderation in generosity.
Along with the social and individual benefits of the generosity in Islam for the giver proven by the researchers, ranging from a better outlook on life to having a lower risk of early death, the Quranic verses also name some more spiritual effects of this act of benevolence:
Generosity and charity make us receive the unlimited, immeasurable blessings and mercy of God:
“Those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah and then do not follow up what they have spent with reproaches and affronts, they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve” (2:262)
God has guaranteed multiplied reward as the replacement of donation and generosity in this world and the hereafter:
“… and He will repay whatever you may spend, and He is the best of providers’” (34:39)
“The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is that of a grain which grows seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. Allah enhances several fold whomever He wishes, and Allah is all-bounteous, all-knowing” (2:261)
God showers his endless blessings upon generous people. He makes it easy for them to follow the path of obedience and charity until they are granted a life free from any fears or difficulties:
“Those who give their wealth by night and day, secretly and openly, they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve” (2:274)
“Indeed, those who recite the Book of Allah and maintain the prayer, and spend secretly and openly out of what We have provided them, expect a commerce that will never go bankrupt” (35:29)
“Those who are patient for the sake of their Lord’s pleasure, maintain the prayer, and spend secretly and openly out of what We have provided them, and repel evil [conduct] with good. For such will be the reward of the [ultimate] abode” (13:22)
In the next part of this article, we will introduce 6 Etiquettes of Generosity and Almsgiving.
[i] Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says: “there is no monasticism in Islam” .
“He turned away from them and said, ‘Alas for Joseph!’ His eyes had turned white with grief, and he choked with suppressed agony.” (12: 84)
Reading the above verse of the Quran, many people may not perceive why prophet Jacob (PBUH) wept so hard on the loss of his son, Josef (AS) until he became blind. And he continued grieving on the loss of Josef so much that his sons told him “By Allah! You will go on remembering Joseph until you wreck your health or perish”. (12: 85) Was his grief merely because of the loss of Josef or the oppression that his brothers had towards him? Or was it because of his disappointment with his other sons who committed such a cruel act toward Josef?
When we read the story of prophets in the Quran, each of them say to their people that I want no reward from you, as “my reward lies only with him who originated me” (11” 51), while among all the prophets of God, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) made an exception as God ordered him to tell people “Say, ‘I do not ask you any reward for it except the love of [my] relatives.” (42:23)
And therefore, it is for this straightforward order of God in the Quran that Muslims love the household of Prophet so dearly. It is narrated from the prophet who said: “Surely, there exists in the hearts of the believers, with respect to the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, a heat that never subsides.” 
Therefore, if you visit Muslims who are weeping and mourning on the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS), many of them may not be able to explain why they are doing so. They may only tell you that there are a pain and grief that I feel within my heart, and they may speak of their love for the prophet’s household. However, apart from those feelings and emotions, let’s see what the logical reasons behind mourning for Imam Hussain (AS), his family and companions are?
The mourning for Imam Hussain (AS) that is increasingly spreading all over the world after about 1400 years is one of the miraculous aspects of Imam Hussain’s (AS) uprising. However, aside from strong feelings that Muslims have for the household of the Prophet, there are so many narrations from the progeny of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that encourages people to weep on the sorrow of Imam Hussain (AS) and his family. For example the narration from Imam Reza that says: “If you weep over the afflictions of Hussain (AS) such that tears flow from your eyes and fall upon your cheeks, Allah will forgive all your sins whether big or small and less or large in number.” 
But why would great Muslim leaders emphasize so hard on spending time and energy on weeping and mourning, while people could spend the same amount of time and energy for doing scientific research or inventing something that helps humanity?
This question is raised by many people, and here I wish to mention a few reasons why reviving the tragedy of Karbala is so important.
“We will recount to you the best of narratives in what We have revealed to you of this Quran, and indeed prior to it you were among those who are unaware [of it].” (12:3)
When you read the Holy Quran, you see it full of stories of the past generations through which God portrays the most important human values in life.
The event of Karbala is full of lessons that are worth being reviewed every day and night, to help the growth of human society; lessons of heroism, standing against cruelty, defending human dignity, and complete obedience of God.
Holding mourning gatherings is a great reason where people of the society, from all different social classes and different ages, sit together and revise the most important humanitarian issues and values which awaken the spirit of chivalry in them and give them the courage to stand against the oppressors of their time.
After the event of Karbala occurred, there were no specific media to convey the message of Karbala and the aim of Imam Hussain (AS) from going to the land of Karbala. From then on, it was only the mourning gatherings that were a place to recite the tragedy of Karbala to others and through it, illuminate the right from wrong. This great event at the time of Imam Hussain (AS) where the rulers of society were trying to hide the way of righteousness was a magnificent move to help the religion of God: “O you who have faith! Be Allah’s helpers, just as Jesus son of Mary said to his disciples, ‘Who will be my helpers for Allah’s sake?’” (61: 14)
In today’s psychology, many believe that if you have a goal to reach, having an image of that goal in mind will help you reach it. In mourning ceremonies for Imam Hussain (AS) we keep repeating the great morals and values of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions and household. We keep revising their kindness, wisdom, courage, their humbleness toward God and good people and chivalry toward the oppressors, etc.
Naming the above characteristics in such ceremonies and trying to be like those great courageous men and women, is more beneficial than any life-coaching sessions that try to help us revive ourselves and our lives, and it is at everyone’s access for free.
If we hate oppression and wish to stand against it, we need a guide to know how to behave in different situations; when to negotiate, when to disagree, when to yell our beliefs, when to make our movement revolutionary and call others to assist us, when to make peace, and finally when is the time to fight against the oppressor?
It is hard to find a true answer to all the above questions when we face the oppressors. But revising the history of Karbala and studying Imam Hussain’s (AS) behavior in a different situation can help us find the choice when we face similar conditions, as he has gone through the same path. Mourning ceremonies are the situation where this history is revised every time, and we can perceive through reading the history that Imam Hussain (AS) did not tend to start a fight from the beginning. At some point he even migrated from his hometown to avoid the war, When he was forced to give allegiance to the corrupt caliph, Yazid, instead of making riots, he left the city, while he had received so many invitation letters from people of Kufah to become their leader. But since the Kufies broke their oath, he had to faith towards Karbala.
However, even in Karbala, he did not tend to fight. But he sent letters and made negotiations. He gave speeches to illustrate the truth for people. He wrote letters to different classes of the society and advised people and invited them to follow the true path. Although his enemies never accepted to change their minds and follow the true path, he still did not start the fight, until he was attacked by the enemy. And he defended himself and his household only when he had no other choice. Therefore, Hussain (AS) and his behavior in different conditions can be a great role model for us, in life.
Hussain (AS) does not belong to Muslims only. His behavior and lifestyle represent a way of life for all humans who wish to live a prosperous life. It is in the nature of all human beings who hate oppression and cruelty and would like to stand against it. Hussain (AS) teaches us to have courage and chivalry in life. That is why he faced the army of the enemy on the tenth day of Muharram and said: “If you do not believe in any religion and do not fear the resurrection day, at least be free men in this world.” This saying clearly shows that Hussain’s teachings are not limited to Muslims only, but his way of life can be a role model for all of those who wish to live a humane life.
- Mustadrak al-wasail, vol. 10, p. 31
- Shaykh Abbas Qummi: Nafasul Mahmum, tradition. 9
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 45, p. 51