BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION: A COLLECTIVE
A paper presented
SALEH AHMAD GASMA
During 10th Annual Celebration Of World Rangers Day
WETLAND SECTION, NATIONAL PARK, DAGONA
31st July 2017
In this paper, the presenter will discuss the concept of Biodiversity conservation, the origin of Biodiversity conservation in our religions, Biodiversity Conservation as a religious duty collective responsibility, and the compatibility of the duties of park rangers to our
religious laws. In the course of his presentation, the presenter will give his observation and some recommendations on the issue of Biodiversity conservation as a responsibility for all.
The term ‘biodiversity’ simply means; A number and variety of species of plant and animal life within a region. While the term ‘conservation’ denotes the act of preserving, guarding, or protecting; the keeping (of a thing) in a safe or entire state; preservation. The
discipline which is concerned with the protection of biodiversity, the environment, and the natural resources. In another word, the word ‘conservation’ means ‘A wise use of natural resources (Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary). Therefore, biodiversity conservation implies the act of preserving, guarding and protecting a number and variety of species of plants and animals within a region. Today, the world has become a global village, where individuals can play an important role in the development of society and environment. Islam and Christianity, being the major religions in our community give attention to the protection of the environment and biodiversity for the well being of humans and urges the Muslim community to show support for the conservation of the environment.
Today our soil is deteriorating, forests are being chopped down, fish stocks are declining and immediate steps are required to protect natural resources so that ecosystems are not affected. Nature conservation should be kept in mind as this is the real virtue Allah
Almighty has asked from us. Disorder in this balanced natural system will result in the destruction of human, animal and plant life on Earth. “I am speaking for E.C.O. I am afraid to breathe the air because I don’t know what chemicals are contained in it. I used to go fishing in Vancouver my home with my Dad. Until just a few years ago we found the fish full of cancers. And now we hear about animals and plants are extinct every day vanishing forever. In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles, and rainforests full of birds and butterflies. But now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see… You don’t know how to fix the holes in our Ozone layer, you don’t know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream. You don’t Know how to bring back an animal now extinct. And you can’t bring back forests that once grew where there is now a desert. If you don’t know how to fix it. Please stop breaking it.” said Severn Suzuki (Severn Suzuki (1992); United Nation Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro).
ORIGIN OF BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION IN OUR RELIGIONS
From the beginning, when the Almighty Allah created Adam and Hauwa’u (Adam and Eve), He commanded them to dwell in Paradise and eat from all its fruits. The Almighty commanded them not to come near a tree for they will become transgressors. The verse reads
as follows; “ And we said: ‘O Adam dwell you and your wife in the Paradise and eat both of you freely with pleasure and delight of things therein, as wherever you will, but come not near this tree or you both be of the zalimeen (wrong doers) (Qur’an Ch2:35). Conservation is obvious in this passage. A similar passage is there in the Bible in Genesis chapter 2:15-17. Therefore, the issue of conservation started since the creation of Adam and Hauwa’u (Adam and Eve). This passage is related to conservation of plants. Another passage which is related to conservation of animals is found in chapter 11:40 of the Glorious Qur’an when the Almighty Allah informed prophet Noah about the destruction of his people, he was commanded to take pairs of all species of animals in his ship.The Almighty says; “… Embark therein, of each kind two (male and female), and your family, except him against whom the word has gone forth, and he who believed…” (Qur’an Ch 11: 41). A similar passage is found in the Holy Bible in relation to animal conservation. Another good passage which is related to water conservation is found in the Qur’an, where the Almighty Allah says;“And tell them that the water shall be shared between them” (Qur’an Ch 54:28). It is obvious that the issue of conservation is not new in our religions. It started since the creation of the father of humankind – Adam A.S. Therefore engaging oneself in biodiversity conservation is engaging in a religious act.
BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION AS A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
Islamic beliefs, traditions, and values provide an effective and comprehensive solution to the current environmental challenges faced by the human race. Islam has a rich tradition of highlighting the importance of environmental protection and conservation of natural resources. According to Islamic law, the basic elements of nature – land, water, fire, forest, and light – belong to all living things, not just human beings. The Holy Qur’an and Sunnah are a guiding light to promote sustainable development in Islamic countries as well as around the world. Allah SWT commands human beings to avoid doing mischief and wasting resources as these acts cause degradation of the environment. The privilege to exploit natural resources was given to the mankind on a guardianship basis, which implies the right to use another person’s property on the promise that it will not be damaged or destroyed. The Holy Qur’an has a number of specific references to ecology and also contains some important principles for environmental conservation. The first principle which guides Islamic teaching on environmental sustainability is the concept of trusteeship. Being a
The first principle which guides Islamic teaching on environmental sustainability is the concept of trusteeship. Being a khalifa (or guardian), a man should take all necessary steps to ensure that the entrusted property is passed on to the next generation as pure as possible. According to Islam each man is the custodian of nature and must live in harmony with other creatures. It is the duty of all Muslims to respect, nurture and care for the environment. Corruption of all kinds, including environmental corruption, which includes industrial pollution, environmental damage, and reckless exploitation and mismanagement of natural resources are disliked by Allah SWT. Allah SWT says in the Holy Qur’an: “And Allah loveth not those who do mischief” (Surat Al Ma’eda, verse 64) “And do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order: that will be best for you, if ye have Faith” (Surat Al A’raf, verse 85) “Eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters.” (Surat Al-A’raf 7: 21). “And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. Allah does not love the corrupters”, (Surat Al Qasas 28:77) “Children of Adam, dress well whenever you are at worship, and eat and drink (as we have permitted) but do not be extravagant: God does not like extravagant people.” (Surat Al-A’raf 7:31) According to the Holy Qur’an, environmental conservation is a religious duty as well as a social obligation, and not an optional matter. The exploitation of a particular natural resource is directly related to accountability and maintenance of the resource. Hadiths or the traditions of Prophet Muhammad PBUH also deal extensively with various aspects of the environment including resource conservation, land reclamation, and environmental hygiene. Prophet Muhammad PBUH discouraged overconsumption, luxury, and lavishness and encouraged moderation in all walks of life. The most popular Hadith on environment states; “The earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it” which reiterates qur’anic teaching that human beings have been given the responsibility of guardianship over the natural environment. The Prophet PBUH clearly forbade destruction of trees and crops even during war times as long as their existence remains advantageous to the enemy. The Prophet PBUH gave a high degree of importance towards the sustainable cultivation of land, humane treatment of animals, preservation of natural resources and protection of wildlife. Some of the sayings of Prophet bless and Muhammad PBUH on environmental sustainability are: “The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, be He exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves.” (Muslim) “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (
According to the Holy Qur’an, environmental conservation is a religious duty as well as a social obligation, and not an optional matter. The exploitation of a particular natural resource is directly related to accountability and maintenance of the resource. Hadiths or the traditions of Prophet Muhammad PBUH also deal extensively with various aspects of the environment including resource conservation, land reclamation, and environmental hygiene. Prophet Muhammad PBUH discouraged overconsumption, luxury, and lavishness and encouraged moderation in all walks of life. The most popular Hadith on environment states; “The earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it” which reiterates qur’anic teaching that human beings have been given the responsibility of guardianship over the natural environment. The Prophet PBUH clearly forbade destruction of trees and crops even during war times as long as their existence remains advantageous to the enemy. The Prophet PBUH gave a high degree of importance towards the sustainable cultivation of land, humane treatment of animals, preservation of natural resources and protection of wildlife. Some of the sayings of Prophet bless and Muhammad PBUH on environmental sustainability are: “The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, be He exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves.” (Muslim) “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (
The Prophet PBUH clearly forbade destruction of trees and crops even during war times as long as their existence remains advantageous to the enemy. The Prophet PBUH gave a high degree of importance towards the sustainable cultivation of land, humane treatment of animals, preservation of natural resources and protection of wildlife. Some of the sayings of Prophet bless and Muhammad PBUH on environmental sustainability are: “The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, be He exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves.” (Muslim) “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him.” (Bukhari) “Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded,” (Musnad)
Islam has always viewed animals as a special part of God’s creation. Mankind is responsible for whatever it has at its disposal, including animals whose rights must be respected. The Holy Qur’an, the Hadith, and the history of Islamic civilization offer many examples of kindness, mercy, and compassion for animals. According to Islamic principles, animals have their own position in the creation hierarchy and humans are responsible for their well-being and food. Islam strongly asks Muslims to treat animals with compassion and not to abuse them. The Holy Qur’an states that all creation praises God, even if this praise is not expressed in human language. Prophet Muhammad PBUH often chastised his Companions who mistreated animals and spoke to them about the need for mercy and kindness. The Holy Quran contains many examples and directives about how Muslims should treat animals. The Quran describes that animals form communities, just as humans do: “There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on wings, but they form communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they all shall be gathered to their Lord in the end”(Quran 6:38). The Quran further describes animals, and all living things, as Muslim – in the sense that they live in the way that Allah created them to live and obey Allah’s laws in the natural world. “Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praise all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise, and Allah knows well all that they do.” (Quran 24:41) “And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures” (Quran 55:10). These verses serve as a reminder to us that wildlife, like humans, are created with a purpose. They have feelings and are part of the spiritual world. They too have a right to life, and protection from pain and suffering.
Prophet Muhammad PBUH exhorted Muslims to show kindness and compassion towards animals and birds and repeatedly forbade cruelty towards animals. “Whoever is merciful even to a sparrow, Allah will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgment.” “A good deed done to an animal is like a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as cruelty to a human being.” The Messenger of Allah (SAW) once passed by a camel that was so emaciated that its back had almost reached its stomach. He said, “Fear Allah in these beasts who cannot speak.” (Abu Dawud) Humans were created by Allah, the Almighty, to be custodians and guardians of the Earth. Killing without need- that is killing for fun. The Companions said, “O Allah’s Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He replied: “There is a reward for serving any living being.” (Bukhari). A group of Companions was once on a journey with the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and he left them for a while. During his absence, they saw a bird with its two young, and they took the young ones from the nest. The mother bird was circling above in the air, beating its wings in grief, when the Prophet came back. He said, “Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its young? Return them to her.” (Muslim) In Islam, hunting for sport is prohibited. Muslims may only hunt as is needed to meet their requirements for food. This was common during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, and he condemned it at every opportunity.
On the other hand, the Bible encourages the Christian fellows to protect their environment against any over exploitation and misuse of our natural resources. Christians are obliged to conserve their forests, waters, and animals. Some of the biblical teachings on the biodiversity conservation are as follow; The Bible says: You shall not pollute the land in which you live…(Numbers 35:33-34). The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15) “If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. (Deuteronomy 22:6). A land that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. (Deuteronomy 11:12) Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel. (Proverbs 12:10) When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you? (Deuteronomy 20:19) A good man takes care of his animal, but wicked men are cruel to theirs. (Proverbs 42:10) Speak up for those who can not speak for themselves, protect the rights of those who are helpless. (Proverbs 13:8.) God made mankind responsible for his animals. (Genesis 1-28) Therefore, when we follow the above-mentioned provisions of our religious Scriptures, we will discover that biodiversity conservation is a religious act and a collective responsibility. We should keep our trust and conserve natural entities.
THE COMPATIBILITY OF THE DUTIES OF PARK RANGERS TO OUR RELIGIOUS TEACHING.
Our Park Rangers are always busy rendering a variety of visitor services and public safety including rules education, park safety patrols, educational programming (natural and cultural history, outdoor recreation), first aid response, and generally help visitors find meaning in the natural and cultural resources. We all know, goodness to visitors and enjoining good deeds are rewarded.
The Prophet PBUH recognized that natural resources should not be overexploited or abused. In order to protect land, forests, and wildlife, the Prophet created inviolable zones, known as Haram and Hima (Sanctuary), in which resources were to be left untouched. Haram areas were drawn up around wells and water sources to protect the groundwater from overpumping. Hima applied to wildlife and forestry and designated an area of land where grazing and woodcutting were restricted, or where certain animal species (such as camels) were protected. Prophet Muhammed PBUH established a hima to the south of Madina and forbade hunting within a four-mile radius and destruction of trees or plants within a twelve-mile radius. The creation of inviolable zones shows the importance placed by Prophet Muhammad PBUH on sustainable use of natural resources and protection of wildlife and agricultural land. All living beings – humans, birds, animals, insects etc – are worthy of consideration and respect.
Our Park Rangers are more than Govt workers, rather they are ambassadors of our religion. They are always encouraging us to do what our religions command us to do. They call us to join them work together in order to have a better environment. Biodiversity conservation is a trust of Allah in our hands, if we keep it, we will be rewarded and if we violate it, we deserve punishment.
It is obvious the host community depends largely on these natural resources. They need the forest we want to preserve for their fire woods, the land for their farming and the water for fishing. This is the reason why some members of the community always try to outsmart our Park Rangers to get what they need. This happens because there are no alternatives to this community and food is a necessity of life. Religious leaders are not included in the mission. The community sees Park Rangers only try to deprive them of their right. They see the land as their inherited fathers land, and they can use it to their wish. It is wrongfully understood that Park Rangers are the only people to shoulder the responsibility of biodiversity conservation. So the duty is left to them to carry it out.
The presenter recommends that the government should provide substitute fuel to host communities to use for their cooking. Nowadays we have modern cooking materials like stoves, electric cookers, solar cookers, gas cookers and coal cookers. Government Agencies should enlighten the communities on the existence of such materials and even distribute them to save our environment. Meanwhile, a new nonpoisonous technique for fishing should be introduced, so as to catch the bigger ones and save the smaller ones. Non-integration, non-assimilation and non incorporation (formally) of religious leaders (Imams/Pastors) into government policies and programs are the major reason for their failures. Sidelining religious leaders is doing more harm than good to the successes of
Sidelining religious leaders is doing more harm than good to the successes of government policies and programs. Conservation needs a holistic approach, especially the inclusion of religious leaders in public enlightenment campaigns and awareness. People are more afraid of God’s penalty than the one enshrined in the act 46 of 1999 Constitution I.e the national park service act. Rangers can’t do anti poaching patrols 24/7 all around the parks, they can’t be in the park at all times all around the park due to human nature, but God is everywhere at all times keeping watch on our deeds. Therefore God is more deserved to be feared not Park Rangers.
A park ranger can not do it all. We must join our hands together and conserve our resources since biodiversity conservation is a duty for all, irrespective of your profession or class.
My regards to our courageous and dutiful Park Rangers. God bless you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Saleh Ahmad Gasma was born at Nguru town of Yobe State, 30 years ago. He belongs to Bade tribe. He has his first degree in Islamic studies from University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) and masters degree in Islamic studies from Bayero University Kano (BUK). He is currently serving with Karasuwa Local Government Authority as Higher Legislative Assistant to the Chairman. GSM: 08061120426, 07011163399. Thank you.