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Carbon Footprint and Islamic Minimalism

Global warming is very real and it’s happening. The repercussions of the lifestyle we, human beings, lead are extremely harmful to the environment. Most of us are aware of this, yet we continue with our reckless ways of living, not caring about the environment that is crucial for human survival. Allah ﷻ has blessed us with a beautiful world and environment, a blessing that we must protect and conserve at all costs.

“…do not act corruptly in the land, making mischief.”

[Surah Al- Baqarah, Verse 60]

This verse does not only refer to corruption among human beings. Islam has a very wide perspective and covers all aspects of life; hence, it covers the aspect of environmental protection as well. The words “do not act corruptly in the land” are applicable to all things in the world, including air, plants, birds, animals, nature and the environment as well, not just humans. Instead of protecting the environment, we are destroying it for selfish reasons through deforestation, which destroys trees and the natural habitats of many birds and animals.

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ encouraged us to plant more trees as it is a highly rewarding act in Islam. Instead, we support practices and businesses that are directly or indirectly involved in deforestation. In a hadith narrated by Anas Bin Malik, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said,

“There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it but is regarded as a charitable gift for him.”

[Sahih Al Bukhari 2320]

Protecting the environment and not contributing to environmental degradation starts on an individual level. One small step, taken by each one of us, is a massive step in reducing the individual carbon footprint. While it may seem negligible, it does have a huge impact on the environment. Islam encourages us to protect the environment and lead a simple, minimalistic life that conserves and protects natural resources, much like how the environmentalists today tell us all to live. There are ahadith that talk about conserving water, planting more trees, and being content with what little we have, thereby supporting environmentalism and minimalism.

An important factor that is fast emerging as a crucial element in the conservation of the environment is the reduction of individual carbon footprint, which can be achieved by practising minimalism. Minimalism, a trend that is now gaining momentum, was practised by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ fourteen hundred years ago.  

What Is Carbon Footprint and Minimalism?

Carbon footprint can be defined as the total amount of waste produced, carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases released in the environment by an individual, community or organization. This carbon footprint of an individual has a direct impact on the environment, and it is a major contributing factor towards environmental degradation. For example, every time we drive to a nearby grocery store or run errands, our cars produce gases that are harmful to the environment. Or the plastic straws and mineral water bottles we use in our daily lives add to the plastic dumps that take aeons to decompose in landfills. These small acts of every individual, determining our contribution to the environment, cause or add to our carbon footprint. Environmentalists have been urging nations and individuals to watch their actions and minimize their carbon footprint for quite some time now.

Minimalism is the solution to reducing one’s carbon footprint. It is a concept of leading simple lives with the bare minimum that is essential for human survival. Not buying extra products that stem out of desire rather than need, and buying products that have a longer life and can be used over and over again are the crux of minimalism. It is also a concept that we get to know about from the Quran and ahadith, one that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ practised throughout his life.

Islamic Minimalism

“…eat and drink and be not extravagant. Surely, He does not love the extravagant.”

[Surah Al- Araf, Verse 31]

This verse from the Quran talks about how Allah ﷻ dislikes those who indulge in extravagance. This extravagance is applicable to all things. Avoiding extravagance is the basis of Islamic minimalism, which can greatly help in reducing an individual’s carbon footprint. If we all, as Muslims, practised minimalism and avoided extravagance, we would be able to reduce our waste and carbon footprint considerably. By leading simpler lives and following the Sunnah, we can work towards conserving natural resources that are being destroyed with the constant abuse by human activities.

Fast Fashion and Its Impact

A very common and widespread form of wastage and extravagance almost every individual is a victim of these days is the trend of buying from fast fashion brands. Fast fashion can be loosely defined as clothes and accessories produced in bulk and sold at relatively cheap prices. The production cost for fast fashion is low, as it is produced in bulk. But it consumes a lot of energy, water and generates a great deal of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases; all of which are extremely harmful to the environment.

Fast fashion trends change at a rapid rate; hence, the products that don’t get sold end up in landfills. This is extremely harmful to the environment, as these landfills take centuries to decompose. The resulting wastewater from the production is drained into water-bodies, thereby killing and destroying the marine habitat and posing health threats to those who consume such water.

This wastage of fast fashion is sheer extravagance. People buy more clothes and other accessories than they require only to fit in society and compete with other people, thereby causing a huge strain on the environment. Becoming a victim to such trends, not only poses a threat to the environment but also makes one heedless of their religious commitment by indulging in something that Allah ﷻ dislikes, while also placing them in a financial crisis. 

Amr ibn Awf reported that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said,

“By Allah, it is not poverty that I fear for you, rather what I fear for you is that worldly riches may be given to you, and you will compete for them with one another, and you will be destroyed as they were destroyed.”

[Muslim 2961 a]

Fast fashion is one such example that people don’t take heed of and fall prey to, adding to their own carbon footprint. Having multiple cars and huge houses, wasting food and water, etc. are aspects that can be dealt with minimalism to save the environment and reduce global warming.

As Muslims, we must keep in mind that Allah ﷻ dislikes extravagance of any sort and Prophet Muhammad ﷺ lived a minimalistic life despite being the leader of the Ummah. If we follow our religion as it should be followed, in the way of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ, we can reduce our carbon footprint by a considerable extent and contribute a great deal towards conserving and protecting the environment.

Written by: Iram Atiqulla
Edited by: The Editorial Team
© The Islamic Reflections Blog



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