Islam, Man and the Environment

Self Making
The Man of Islam is constructive. He builds himself and his environment. His success in building his environ­ment depends on his success in self‑making and vice versa. In other words his success in improving the environment of his life paves the way for his self‑improvement.
In view of this strong reciprocal relationship between man and the environment of his life he must pay his utmost attention to an all‑round improvement of himself on a wide scale commensurate to a Muslim's broad outlook on the world and man.
In this respect Islam has extensive teachings which are related to all the aspects of human life and cover all human needs, whether material or spiritual, individual or social, cultural or economic and so on. The sum total of these teachings constitutes the programme of Islamic training. It includes important provisions regarding cleanliness, sound nutrition, hygiene, physical and mental health, etc.

Islam has given so much importance to cleanliness that it has been considered to be an objective of the faith. The Qur'an recommending purity and cleanliness says:
“Allah does not intend to inconvenience you, but He intends to purify you and perfect His favor to you, so that you may give thanks". (Surah al‑Maidah, S: 6).
"Truly Allah loves those who ask for forgiveness and strive to keep themselves clean". (Surahal‑Baqarah, 2:222).
The holy Prophet of Islam is reported to have said that cleanliness is a part of faith.
Islam has in more than one ways exhorted the people to the cleanliness of utensils, clothing, body, hair, teeth, drinking water, water used for ablution and bathing, dwelling places, streets, public places, food and every other thing in human use. A number of the sayings of the Prophet and the imams ascribe to the devil everything which is loathsome or causes a disease (e.g. microbes), and describe all such things as a cause of poverty and misery. We reproduce below some such sayings from the book entitled Wasail al‑Shiah:
The holy Prophet has said:
"Everybody who chooses a dress, must keep it clean".
"Had it not been inconvenient I would have enjoined upon the Muslims to brush their teeth before every prayer".
"Keep the compound and the front part of your house well‑swept and clean".
"He who sweeps a masjid is rewarded by Allah as if he manumitted a slave".
"The dossier of the man who abstains from spitting and blowing his nose in the masjid, will be in his right hand on the Day of judgment".
"Either take proper care of the long hair of your head or clip them".
"Do not grow long moustaches, for the devil finds a shelter in them".
Imam Ali (P) has said:
"It was the practice of the Holy Prophet to rinse his mouth, throat and nose with water. It makes one's mouth and nose clean".
"Remove cobwebs from your house, for they cause poverty. "
"The removal of the hair of the arm‑pits is a part of cleanliness. Doing so destroys bad odour of that part of the body".
Imam al Baqir (P) has said: "Cleaning of the house banishes misery".
Imam al Sadiq (P) has said:
"Brushing the teeth is a tradition of the prophets". "To trim the finger‑nails was a practice of the holy Prophet".
Some one said to Imam al Sadiq (P) that his friends had told him that the moustaches and the finger‑nails should be trimmed on Friday. The Imam said: "Trim them whenever they grow". The holy Prophet has forbidden cutting the nails with the teeth.
"If possible, your bath‑water should be so clean that you may even drink it".
Imam al Kazim (P) has said:
"To take bath every second day makes a man healthy and strong".
Other traditions forbid urination and excretion on the banks of a river, in front of a masjid, on the streets and roads, where the travellers stay, in the graveyard, under the fruit trees, in a standing position, with face or back towards the qiblah (direction of Ka'bah), on hard ground, in the dens of animals, within public view, in front of a house or a thoroughfare etc. (The topic of cleanliness and purity has been discussed at length in the book ISLAM ‑ A Code of Social Life. ISP, 1980).
On the whole, there are many Islamic injuctions in connec­tion with health, hygiene and nutrition and about the cleanliness of air and environment. We give below a few examples:
Wash fruit before eating it.
Do not eat food while it is too hot.
Observe regularity in regard to food.
Do not gulp water in one single draught. Drink it slowly.
Do not puff up water or hot food.
Take small morsels of food and chew them well.
Wash your hands and mouth before and after every meal.
Do not take food without having appetite and stop eating a little before the stomach is full.
Keep food and water covered.
Massage your body regularly.
Use perfume and rub oil over your body and the hair of your head.
Comb and dress the hair of your head.
Wash your head and face after a hair‑cut and wash your hands after clipping your finger nails.
Do not take injurious food or drink.
Take bath or perform ablution, as the case may be, for offering prayers and observe all the rules concern­ing them.
Offer prayers with clean body and pure clothes.
Go to bed early and rise early.
Keep your head out of the covering while sleeping.
Have a walk in the morning.
Choose an open environment and a vast compound for living.
Special religious instructions exist as to which things are legally clean and which are unclean. We reproduce below some of these instructions from the book entitled `Articles of Islamic Acts'.

Some unclean things are as follows:
The urine and the excrement of man and all the animals, the meat of which is legally inedible, and which have gushing blood (that is their blood gushes forth when they are slaughtered or a vein of theirs is opened). The semen, the dead body and the blood of man and every animal having gushing blood, irrespective of the fact whether its meat is or is not legally edible. (Only human corpse becomes clean after having been washed ceremonially).
The dog and the pig which live on land. Their hair and all the fluids secreted by them are also unclean.
Wine and all other intoxicants which flow automatically.
If a clean thing comes in contact with an unclean thing while one or both of them are wet and the dampness of either percolates through the other, the clean thing also becomes unclean. The unclean food cannot become clean by heating or boiling.
It is forbidden to eat or drink an unclean thing. It is also forbidden to feed it to someone else, even to a child.
It is forbidden to make unclean a sheet of paper on which the name of Allah or a verse of the Qur'an is written. If it gets unclean, it should be purified with water immediately.
It is forbidden to make unclean the floor, the ceiling, the roof and the walls of a masjid. If any part of a masjid is found to be unclean, the filth should be removed forthwith.
The dress of a person offering prayers must be:
(a) clean, (b) lawful, (c) not containing any part of a dead body in its texture, (d) not containing any part of an animal legally inedible, (e) not made of pure silk, and (f) not containing gold filaments. (The last two conditions apply to males only who must not adorn themselves with ornaments made of gold).
A man having a wound, festering boil or ulcer can offer his prayers with his body or dress stained with blood, till such time that the wound, boil or ulcer heals up, if it is trouble­some for most of the people in such circumstances to wash the wound or to change the dress.
Cleaning agents if body or clothes become unclean, they may be rendered clean in several ways. The best way is to clean them with water.
"Allah sends down water from the heaven upon you, that thereby He may purify you ". (Surah al‑Anfal, 8:11).
Here are some important points connected with cleaning agents:
One Kur of water is approximately equal to 384 litres.
One Kur or more of water does not get unclean by coming into contact with anything unclean unless its colour, smell or taste changes. Moreover, anything unclean may be rendered clean in this water.
A utensil or any other unclean object should be washed thrice with under‑kur water to render it clean (in this manner that water should be poured on the unclean object from the container etc.) and it is sufficient to wash it once with kur water or running water. Of course, it is necessary that these washings should be performed after the original impurity has already been removed. But if a dog has licked a utensil or eaten or drunk out of it, it should, in the first instance be rubbed with clean clay and then washed with kur water; running water or under­kur water.
If it rains on an unclean object which does not contain any original impurity, it is rendered clean.
If as the result of walking on unclean ground the sole of the foot or the shoe gets unclean, it may be rendered clean by walking on clean and dry ground till the original impurity is removed and it is not necessary to wash it.
If the ground, a building, a door, a window or any other fixed object gets unclean, it becomes clean again after the original impurity is wiped and the unclean place, if moist, is dried by the direct rays of the sun.
If an unclean thing is transformed into a clean thing; for example an unclean piece of wood is turned into ash after being burned or an alcoholic beverage is turned into vinegar automatically it becomes clean.
If the body of an animal is soiled with some original impurity like blood or with something which has become unclean, for example unclean water, it becomes clean again as soon as the substance is eliminated from it. The same is the case with the inner parts of human body such as the mouth and the apertures of the nose. They get clean with the removal of original impurity.

It is obligatory to perform ablution (wuzu) before prayers. As such every Muslim has to wash and cleanse the outer parts of his body several times a day and to keep his face, hands, head and feet clean.
The following is the brief description of wuzu. While performing wuzu it is obligatory to wash the face, the right hand and the left hand in succession and to wipe the front portion of the head, the right foot and the left foot with wet hand.
The face is to be washed from the usual line of hair above the forehead to the end of the chin. Breadth wise the portion of the face washed must at least be equal to what can be held between the middle finger and the thumb.
After the face, the right hand and then the left hand should be washed from the elbow to the finger tips. Then the front portion of the head should be wiped with the right hand moist with wuzu‑water. It is not essential that the moisture reaches the skin of the head. To pass a moist hand on the hair growing in the front part of the head is enough. Then the hands moist with wuzu‑water should be passed over the feet from the tops of the toes to the ankles.
Performing wuzu with the water acquired illegally or the water about which it is not definitely known whether its owner is or is not agreeable to its being used, is invalid and unlawful.

Consequent on the state of major ceremonial impurity caused by sexual intercourse or the ejaculation of semen it is obligatory to take bath before offering prayers or performing any other act of devotion requiring ceremonial purity. In this case the whole body including the portions covered by hair should be fully washed.
Before taking bath every kind of dirt and filth and any­thing which may prevent water reaching the skin should be removed. The bathing water should be clean and as far as possible clear. In fact a perfect ceremonial bath cleanses the whole body. The prescribed process of bathing is as under:
There are two kinds of bathing:
(1) Tartibi (Sequential) and (2) Irtimasi (by Immersion).
In the case of the first, a person should wash his head and neck with the intention of taking a ceremonial bath. Then he should wash the right half of his body and after that the left half. To ensure that all the three portions are washed fully, he should, with each portion, wash the other portions also partly.
In the case of bath by immersion, he should plunge his whole body into water. If his feet are rested on the ground, he should lift them up.
During her menstrual periods a woman is not allowed to offer prayers, or to observe fast. In the case of prayers, she is not required, even after her periods are over, to complete what has lapsed. But in the case of fasting she has to make up for the omission.
After the menstrual period of a woman is over, it is obliga­tory for her to take a ceremonial bath in order to offer prayers and to perform other acts of worship for which purification is a pre‑requisite.
The rules which apply to a woman during her menstrual period also apply to her during a few days after delivery.
A person in the state of major ceremonial impurity and a woman with her periods on, are forbidden to do the following:
(1) To touch the text of the Qur'an or the name of Allah or of the prophets or Imams with any part of his/her body.
(2) To stay in a masjid or the sanctuary of the prophet or of the Imams or to enter them to put something there. Anyhow there is no objection to passing through a masjid other than the Masjid al‑Haram at Mecca and the Masjid al‑Nabi at Madina. Similarly one is allowed to enter a masjid other than the above two to take out something from there.
(3) To recite anyone of the Qur'anic Surahs in which obligatory sajdah occurs (Surahs 32, 41, 53 and 94).
One must perform bathing if one touches a dead human body after its cooling and before it has been washed ceremonially. The same rule applies to the touching of any section of the body having a bone, which is separated from a living person.
With a view to maintain human dignity and in keeping with hygienic considerations, Islam gives certain instruc­tions in regard to the dead human body.
It is the duty of every Muslim, obligated to observe the religious precepts, to wash, shroud and bury a Muslim after offering prescribed prayers for him. If some people discharge this duty, others are absolved from their responsibility.
A dead body should be washed thrice, first with the water mixed with berry (Sidr) tree‑leaves, then with the water mixed with camphor and finally with pure water.

if pure and lawful water is not available, or washing with water is feared to be injurious, or the time is so short that the prayers are likely to be missed wholly or partly if wuzu or bath as the case may be, is performed, tayammum may be performed instead.
Tayammum should be performed on the clean earth. As far as possible earth should be used for this purpose. Failing that sand, lump of earth and stone may be used in the same order.
To perform tayammum one should have the intention of performing it. Then he should strike both his hands on earth and then pass them on his forehead from the hair line to the brows and the upper part of the nose. Then he should pass his left palm on the entire back of his right hand and his right palm on the entire back of his left hand. For the purpose of tayammum substituting `bathing' one should place his hands twice on earth. Once for passing on the forehead then for passing on the back of his right and left hands.

Man requires food for the continuity of his life and the growth of his body. For this purpose many kinds of vegetables, fruits, other varieties of agricultural produce and meats have been put at his disposal.
"We have established you on the earth and there have provided you with a livelihood". (Surah al‑A'raf, 7:10).
"He produced you from the earth and settled you there". (Surah Hud, 11:61).
"He it is who has made the earth subservient to you, so walk in the paths thereof and eat o f His providence". (Surah al‑Mulk, 67:15).
Many significant points are related to the question of food such as the right of the common people to make use of the Divine gifts, the role of human labour in making the raw material usable, various aspects of material needs of human life and how to ensure the supply of the essential commo­dities and their equitable distribution. Anyhow at present we are concerned only with the question as to what food is lawful and what is unlawful.
Islam does in no way forbid the partaking of tasty food and the drinking of healthy and pleasant beverages. In fact the holy Qur'an has encouraged the utilization of the Divine gifts.
"Muhammad say: Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has brought forth for His servants, and to use the good things of His providing? Say: These on the Day of Resurrection will be only for those who were faithful in the life of this world". (Surah al‑A'raf, 7:32).
Hence it should not be construed that a pious and faithful person should abstain from sumptuous food and drink. All good things have been created for man, and hence should naturally be used by the faithful.
"O you messengers! Eat of the good things and do what is right". (Surah al‑Mu'minun, 23:51).
At another place the Qur'an says: "O you who believe! Eat of the good things with which We have provided you, and give thanks to Allah . . . . . ". (Surahal‑Baqarah, 2:172).
The Qur'an reproaches those persons who deprive them­selves of good things without just cause and make unlawful for themselves the lawful foods and blessings:
"O you who believe! Do not forbid the good things which Allah has made lawful for you". (Surah al‑Maidah, 5:87).
The general criterion for the foods and beverages being lawful is their being `good' i.e. wholesome, delicious, clean and pure.
"They ask you what is lawful for them, Say: All good things are lawful for you": (Surah al‑Maidah, 5:4).
Of course certain things have been prohibited, but that has been done just to save the Muslims from their evil effects and not to deprive them of any good thing. Only foul things have been prohibited, foul in the sense that they are obnoxious, harmful and impure.
The Qur'an summarizing the teachings of the Prophet of Islam in this respect says: "He declares the good things to be lawful and bad ‑things to be unlawful" . (Surahal‑A'raf, 7:157).
Islam prohibits the eating and drinking of the following: All the foul things as mentioned above, such as the carrion, blood etc. and every food and beverage polluted by such things.
All dirty and obnoxious things such as clay, mud, polluted­ water and putrid and rotten food.
Dog, pig and other predatory animals like lion, wolf, bear, jackal etc.
Invertebrate animals like snake, scorpion, wasp and worms.
Birds which possess hooked beak and talons and are treated to be predatory birds, like eagle etc.
The birds that usually soar in the air without flapping their wings and flap the same much lesser.
The fish that have no scales.
Some other animals such as elephant, rat, monkey, frog and tortoise.
All alcoholic beverages. As a general rule everything intoxicant or narcotic which is definitely injurious for human health comes under this category.
Experience and medical research have proved that alcoholic beverages and narcotic drugs are injurious to health and undermine physical and mental fitness. From moral and social point of view also they are the source of many evils. A drunken man loses the control of his senses and is liable to foolish action and undignified behavior. Such a person may even commit crimes. These poisonous stuffs have ruined many a family. People get addicted to them just to seek momentary exhilaration and false satisfaction. These things not only do not resolve the worries of their life, but also make them further complicated. Instead of making life happy they cause infatuation and frustration.

Slaughtering of animals
The animals, the meat of which is allowed to be eaten, such as sheep, goat, cow, camel, deer, domestic fowl etc. have to be slaughtered in the prescribed manner. Otherwise if they die their natural death or are killed by beating, wounding or in any way other than the prescribed one their flesh is not lawful.
We here reproduce the legal method of slaughtering from Articles of Islamic Acts (ISP, 1982).
An act of slaughter to be legal must satisfy the following five conditions:
(1) The person who slaughters must be a Muslim.
(2) The animal while being slaughtered should be facing the Qiblah.
(3) He must utter the name of Allah when slaughtering.
(4) He must cut the throat of the animal with a sharp implement made of iron in a way that the jugular artery, jugular vein, oesophagus canal and trachea are cut.
(5) It must move after having been slaughtered.
In the case of a camel the only prescribed method of its slaughter is Nabr, which means thrusting a knife or any other sharp implement into the cavity between its neck and chest. Other conditions are the same in this case also. As for the fish the rule is as under:
If the fish having scales is caught alive and dies after having been taken out of water, it is lawful. But if it dies inside the water it is unlawful. The fish having no scales is unlawful, even if it is caught alive and dies out of water.
The meat of the lawful wild animals and birds killed with hunting weapons is legally edible provided the following five conditions are observed.
(1) The weapon must be incisive or sharp, and must not be of the nature of a net, a stick or a stone.
(2) The hunter must be a Muslim.
(3) He should normally utter the name of Allah at the time of using his weapon. Anyhow, if he forgets to utter it there is no harm.
(4) The weapon must be used with the intention of killing the game. If it is killed accidentally, its flesh is not lawful.
(5) When the hunter reaches the game, it should be already dead. If it is caught alive and there is sufficient time to slaughter it must be slaughtered in the prescribed manner stated above.
An eatable or drinkable stuff is lawful only if it is not ill‑gotten, i.e. the stuff itself or the money by which it has been purchased must not have been acquired by unfair, dishonest or fraudulent means, such as theft, bribery, usury, swindle, embezzlement etc. Anything ill‑gotten, even if proper and lawful in itself, is not lawful and the person concerned is accountable for it, as its use involves encroachment on the rights of others. The Qur'an says: "Believers, do not devour each other's property among yourselves unlawfully, but rather trade with it by your mutual consent, and do not kill each other". (Surah al‑Nisa, 4:29).
The question of lawful and unlawful property forms an important subject of the economics of Islam. But due to its being outside the scope of our present discourse, we skip over it.

Wastage of food
Even the food‑stuff which is come by through fair means is not to be wasted or over‑consumed. Its over‑consumption is not only against the principles of economic justice, but is injurious to the health of the consumers themselves. It is very unfair that a few well‑to‑do persons may waste and over‑consume food‑stuffs while many others starve. The Qur'an says: "Eat and drink but be not prodigal". (Surah al‑A'raf, 7:32).

Spiritual Health
To maintain his physical health and satisfactory growth of his body, man requires, among other things, sound nutrition, necessary health care, healthy climate and safety from pollution and other disease‑generating factors.
In the same way the human soul also needs sound nutrition and proper health care for its healthy development. Otherwise it degenerates and inclines towards corruption. Of course the food of the soul is different from that of the body. Similarly the spiritual diseases are also of a different character.
Knowledge and faith are the food of the soul. They nourish, develop and invigorate it in the same way as good and healthy food nourishes the human body.
Similarly ignorance and dishonesty are the scourge of the soul and culminate in many moral ailments.
This is the main subject of the Islamic ethics which points out what habits and qualities are necessary for the sound­ness and safety of the soul and what habits and qualities deprave it. It also suggests both preventive and curative measures in respect of each spiritual disease.

1 2 3 4 next