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The Prophet's philosophy is first of all holistic: it assumes a fundamental link and interdependency between all natural elements and bases its teachings on the premise that if man abuses or exhausts one element, the natural world as a whole will suffer direct consequences. This belief is nowhere formulated in one concise phrase; it is rather an underlying principle that forms the foundation of all the Prophet's actions and words, a life philosophy that defined him as a person!
The three most important principles of the Prophet’s philosophy of nature are based on the Quranic teachings and the concepts of tawhid (unity), khalifa (stewardship) and amana (trust).
Tawhid, the oneness of God, is a cornerstone of the Islamic faith. It recognizes the fact that there is one absolute Creator and that man is responsible to Him for all his actions:
- “To God belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth, for God encompasses everything.” (Surah Al Nisa' 4:126)
The Prophet acknowledges that God's knowledge and power covers everything. Therefore abusing one of his creations, whether it is a living being or a natural resource, is a sin. The Prophet considered all of God's creations to be equal before God and he believed animals, but also land, forests and watercourses should have rights.
The concepts of khalifa, stewardship, and amana, trust, emerge from the principle of tawhid. The Quran explains that mankind holds a privileged position among God's creations on earth: he is chosen as khalifa, “vice-regent” and carries the responsibility of caring for God's earthly creations. Each individual is given this task and privilege in the form of God’s trust. But the Quran repeatedly warns believers against arrogance: they are no better than other creatures.
- “No creature is there on earth nor a bird flying with its wings but they are nations like you;” (Surah Al Anam 6:38)
- “Surely the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of man; but most people know not.” (Surah Ghafir 40:57)
The Prophet believed that the universe and the creations in it – animals, plants, water, land – were not created for mankind. Man is allowed to use the resources but he can never own them. Thus while Islam allows land ownership, it has limitations: an owner can, for example, only own land if he uses it; once he ceases to use it, he has to part with his possession.
The Prophet recognized man's responsibility to God but always maintained humility. Thus he said: “When doomsday comes, if someone has a palm shoot in his hand, he should plant it,” suggesting that even when all hope is lost for mankind, one should sustain nature's growth. He believed that nature remains a good in itself, even if man does not benefit from it.
Similarly, the Prophet incited believers to share the earth’s resources. He said: “Muslims share alike in three things – water, herbage and fire,” and he considered it a sin to withhold water from the thirsty.
- “No one can refuse surplus water without sinning against Allah and against man.” (Mishkat al Masabih)