Written by Abu Naim Mohammad
Environment, a very common, the most heard and one of the most neglected terms of the modern world. Especially when it comes to the matter of security and war, the environment becomes nothing but a disdained matter. The nations of this developed world are constantly threatening the environment with military weapons tests, military exercises and various other interests. But the environment suffers most when two or more countries engage in military conflict or war. For more than half a century, the two cities of Japan named Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been shining examples of its horror. So, what can we do to avoid this mass environmental damage in wartime? This article will shortly discuss Islamic views and policies to protect the environment during warfare. Muslims claim Islam as a religion which is not limited to just practicing and performing some bounded worship but it focuses on every aspect of the world which is directly or indirectly related with human life. From the very beginning of human civilization, War and environment, these two words are very much interrelated with human life. So, we will try to explore these two terms via Islamic interpretations and will discuss Islamic wartime policies and actions that help not to injure the environment during warfare.
Islamic Principles and Actions for Environmental Protection
We have discussed what is the environment and what are the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to protect the environment in our previous article. We had a broad discussion on what environment is and what are the aspects that the term environment comprises. We have discussed about the core elements of environment like Air, Water and soil and how Islam teaches us to protect these elements and What is the Quranic teachings to protect the environment from air pollution by burying dead bodies (1), Prophetic teachings to keep the air free from fatal air-born diseases like covid-19 by covering mouth while sneezing or coughing (2), to keep the water pollution free as it is narrated from Abu Huraira (RA) that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) forbade urinating in water (3). He (PBUH) also forbade people from evacuating any kind of waste to water as well as in all the public places that can harm the environment. He (PBUH) said, “Avoid littering in three accursed places: 1-Places where people take shade or rest, 2- Public roads, 3- Watercourses (4)” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught his followers about what they should do to save the fertility of soil and why they have to plant trees or cultivate lands (5).
Basic Islamic Wartime Principles; Protecting Environment During warfare
From the very beginning of Islam, Islamic history is filled out with the struggle, war and fights with non-believers. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself had to face them on the battlefield more than 25 times. But if we deeply notice their fighting system during warfare, they had some rules and regulations on the battlefield which were not developed in the then Arabic Bohemians’ war strategy or fighting system as they had no rules and bounded system of operating war. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) bound some rules and principles for Muslim warriors during war. He (PBUH) said, “In War, you shall not resort to deceit or trickery, you shall not break treaties, you shall not mutilate or dishonor any dead body of any person or animal, you shall not kill any child, you shall not kill any woman, you shall not kill any ecclesiastic, monk or priest, do not kill any sick person, do not destroy any house, do not kill any animal except for the need of food, do not cut down any tree except for the need of war. You should be kind and benevolent. Definitely Allah loves the person who is kind and benevolent (6).” This Hadith gives us a clear message about Islamic war policies. Thus, this hadith also narrates that Islam is against using all the weapon of mass destruction and against all forms of genocide, ethnic cleansing, killing non-military persons, and against mass deforestation. Moreover, Islam prohibits its followers from burning or causing any kind of harm to the enemy’s agricultural farms and lands. It is narrated that someone from Shaam (Syria) came to the Second Caliph of Islam Umar and claimed that, Muslim warriors have burned his Farms while crossing the area after a successful finish of a battle. Caliph Umar (RA) instantly paid 10,000 Dirham to him as a compensation and forbade Muslim warriors not to harm any kind of agricultural farms or corps (7).
Figure1: Jihad & Martyrdom, War & Peace (The Humble, 2017)
During the reign of Umar, He (RA) channeled rivers throughout the conquered territories, built dams, dug ponds, constructed reservoirs for water supply purposes, took out branches from rivers and established separate departments to carry out such works, according to Allama Makarizi only in Egypt, 120 thousand of workers were engaged in this work for several years. All their expenses were borne from Baitul Maal (State Treasury). In Khuzistan and Ahwaz also, Jazar ibn Mu’awiya, with the permission of Umar (RA), dug many canals and cultivated large tracts of fallow lands (8). Besides these canals and rivers of Egypt, Nahr-e Abu Musa and Nahr-e Ma-qal (Channeled from Tigris) in Basra, Nahr-e Aad and Nahr-e Amirul Muminin in Kufa are worth mentioning. Thus, Islam not only protected the environment of conquered territories but also enhanced the ecological development and quality of life of those territories’ population.
Another system of Islam that attracts modern environmentalists is the System of Hima and Harim (9). In the system of Hima, which lands are not legally owned by any person, the state will own this and plant trees or make pasture for domestic animals, like camels, cows and horses as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did on the way of returning from the Battle of Al Muraysi, He (PBUH) saw an open place in ‘Annaki’ and he ordered his companions to dig a canal beside it and to plant trees and gave the responsibility of the Place to Bilal Ibn Haris Al Muzani to look after these plants and grasses (10). Furthermore, the Harim is a different term which means the Sacred Territory which contains natural resources like waterfalls, rivers, forests, and biodiversity are considered as Harim. Harim in a word refers to sacred places that are traditionally forbidden to desecrate or destroy. These Harim and Hima territories systems are still practiced via some Arab Muslim countries.
Considering above discussions, we can say, Islam is not only against deforestation and harming environment, but Islam restricts all forms of ecological damage during wartime and against the use of all kinds of weapon of mass destruction which is harming our environment, biodiversity and causing huge damage on our atmosphere. Nowadays, modern states are testing Missiles, atomic weapons, and other modern weapons of mass destruction on seas and on air which endangers the lives of underwater living beings and releases huge amounts of toxic gasses which are making this planet inappropriate for living. So, they should follow religions and the sacred messages of religions in every possible term to make the world more harmonious and worth living for every living being.
- Al Quran, Sura Al Maidah, V-31.
- Hafiz Abu Shaikh Ispahani, Akhlakun Nabi (PBUH), Published by Islamic Foundation Bangladesh, Page-331.
- Abdullah Ibn Abdir Rahman Ibn Salih Al Bassam, Taiseerul Allam Sharhe Umdatil Ahkam, Volume-1, Page-19.
- As Sunan Abu Daud, Published by Darul Kutubul Ilmiyyah Publications, Beirut, Lebanon, Volume-1, Page 28-29.
- See more-Environment and Islam: A Religious Perspective on the protection of Environment, article by Abu Naim MD. Hosain, Published by Ecological Policy Nexus.
- As Sunan Al Qubra, Volume-9, page 90.
- Editorial Panel, Chashi (Farmers) Guide, Bangladesh Chashi Kalyan Samittee, 4th edition, 1994, page-14.
- Allamah Shibli Numani, Book: Al Farooq.
- See more- Mawil Y Izzi Dien’s Book ‘This Sacred Earth’ Chaptr ‘Islamic Environmental Ethics, Law and Society’ Published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Publications).
- Al Waqidi, Kitab Ul Magazi, page-425-426.