The Enviromental Impact of Hajj
"Corruption has appeared on land and sea because of that which men’s hands have done." (30:41)
Caring for the environment is an important teaching of Islam. As guardians of the earth, the responsibility to care for the earth lies with every person. The reality of harming the environment requires us to rethink our lifestyles and actions and we must reflect on the impact of our actions.
The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is an annual pilgrimage to Makkah. It is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims which must be carried out at least once in a lifetime by every adult Muslim who is physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey.
Nearly three million Muslims from many Muslim countries perform Hajj each year, which means that the Hajj has an enormous environmental footprint.
During Hajj, huge quantities of waste are generated, including plastic bottles, packaging and food. Other impacts are of water use and water wastage, and transporting vehicles causing air pollution.
The direct result of all this pollution damages the health of the pilgrims and causes litter which chokes public infrastructures and are an eyesore.
The Hajj can be sustainable if the government and the pilgrims behave in an environmental friendly manner and avoid different types of pollution.
Below are a series of topics which are related to the Environmental Impact of Hajj.
The Qur'an is the ultimate green-guide
Environment protection is such an important aspect of Islam, that there are many verses in the Qur'an that deal with the environment and green issues.
The Qur'an reminds us that “corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by what the hands of people have earned” (30:41) LIttering, deforestation, toxic waste and pesticides are destroying our planet, to name a few.
Being stewards of the Earth, it is the responsibility of every individual, not just Muslims, to care for the environment. “And it is He (God) who has made you successors (khala’ifa) upon the earth" (6:165). The word Khalifa can mean deputy, guardian and ‘friend of the Earth.’
“And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. Allah does not love those who corrupt.” (28:77)
In terms of wasting resources, the Qur'an states, “O children of Adam! … waste not by excess, for Allah loves not those who waste.” (7:31)
The Green Prophet (pbuh)
Today, with the increasing awareness of the dangers facing our planet and the great interest in green ideas, a reflection on the guidance of the Prophet (pbuh) in this area proves helpful and relevant.
There are numerous hadith, sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which deal with environmental issues, such as reducing waste, conservation, sustainability, looking after resources, and recycling.
For example, when asked about how the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) used to live in his house, the Prophet’s wife, Aishah (r), said that he used to repair his own shoes, sew his clothes and carry out all such household chores done without complaint or want for more. (Authenticated by Al-Albani).
Reusing, repairing and recycling things instead of always buying new is a sign of prophetic character.
Water is the most valuable resource in the the world. God creates and sustains life through water.
“And Allah has sent down rain from the sky and given life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who listen.” (Qur’an, 16:65)
In the Qur’an, God uses the analogy of life and death for Muslims to recognise the value of water.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught us not to waste water. When he passed by a companion who was wasting water whilst performing wudhu, he asked "What is this extravagance?" When the companion asked in reply, “Is there extravagance with water in ablution?” The Prophet said, “Yes, even if you were on the banks of a flowing river.”
Therefore, wasting water is clearly not allowed in Islam. When performing Hajj or Umrah, it becomes even more unacceptable.
The Qur'an reminds us, “So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will be judged on it, and whoever does an atom’s weight of bad will be judged on it.” (99:7-8) In other words, acts which may seem insignificant to us in this world, may prove to be very significant in the next.
If you want to save our world for future generations, try to avoid all plastic use. Stay far away from disposable commodities like plastic water bottles, plastic food wrap, disposable cups, straws, plastic of any type.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Cleanliness is half of faith." He also said, “Removing harmful things from the road is an act of charity."
Therefore, by keeping your environment clean, not using plastics and avoiding litter, we are fulfilling a religious obligation.
Allah swt has placed human beings on the earth as His representatives to look after the earth, not to destroy it.
The Qur'an and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) prohibit wasting food.
The Qur'an states, “….and waste not by extravagance. Verily, He (Allah) likes not those who waste.” Qur'an 6:141
For Muslims, it is not permissible to throw the food in the bin. Doing so is considered as disregard for the blessings of Allah and a failure to comply with His orders.
The Prophet Mohammad’s (pbuh) said, “No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for his breathing.” In other words, over-eating is simply not allowed.
Muslims should show gratefulness and appreciation to Allah swt by sharing and distributing any excess food to the hungry.
In fact, Islam encouraged the giving of excess food to others, as in the hadith, “He is not a believer who sleeps whilst his neighbour is hungry.”
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) encouraged the planting of trees and the cultivation of agriculture which are considered as good acts.
The Messenger (pbuh) 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 charity for him.” (Bukhari).
He also said, "If the Day of Resurrection is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it.”
Islam is against the cutting or destruction of plants and trees unnecessarily, the Prophet (pbuh) said: “He who cuts a lote-tree [without justification], Allah will send him to Hellfire.” (Abu Dawud). This hadith can be linked to the devastation caused by deforestation in many countries which causes soil erosion and kills the biodiversity of the earth.