Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan
Question: Global warming is so disturbing…I feel that by consuming energy in everyday life, I am contributing to the problem, such as when I turn the light on, drive my car, use electricity, etc. What does the Sharia say about everyday energy consumption?
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.
Your concerns are valid and praiseworthy. Global warming does indeed pose a serious threat to humanity and all creatures, and must be dealt with by those societies whose consumption contributes most to the problem.
Having said that, there is nothing wrong with using electricity or driving a car, as long as you use these blessings for fulfilling needs and duties and are not wasteful or extravagant in your usage.
Also, while the sunna is to take the means to deal with any threat or catastrophe, we must bear in mind that everything is in Allah’s control. We should not allow our concern for the planet to cause us to become so stressed out and anxious such that we cannot function normally. Rather, we strive our best to minimize the harm, and then consign the matter over to Allah and His infinite wisdom.
As individuals seeking to implement the sunna of the prophets and messengers (peace and blessings be upon them all) in our lives, we have a great responsibility on our shoulders to increase awareness of global warming and encourage our societies to take the means to stop it.
Its harms are several and severe, such as: flooding and other natural disasters, due to rising sea levels; higher temperatures causing lack of irrigation and general shortage of water; increased risk of disease due to higher temperatures; famine due to the severe effects on agriculture and food production, and so forth, all of which could result in major economic collapse, poverty, and even wars for limited resources.
The criteria laid out by the Sacred Law in dealing with such a problem is that of avoiding wastefulness, a major vice that is a spiritual epidemic of modern consumerist society.
Wastefulness (israf) means to consume wealth, to squander it, and to spend it on that which entails no real benefit, neither religious nor worldly (of that which is permissible).
It is unlawful, a disease of the heart, and a vile trait. Sufficient for you is Allah’s statement, Glorious and Exalted:
“And do not be extravagant; verily, the extravagant are the brethren of devils” (17:26–7), as well as
“Eat and drink, but do not be wasteful. Verily, Allah loves not the wasters” (7:31).
Scholars mention that wastefulness can be plain and obvious, such as leaving the tap water on without using it or allowing food to get spoiled without eating it; or it can be more subtle, such as eating past satiation. Our Beloved Messenger would even lick his blessed fingers after eating, so as not to waste even the bits of food on the hand after a meal. (Peace and blessings be upon him.)
As for eating delicacy foods or wearing nice clothes, it is not considered wastefulness if it is from the lawful and if one does not intend thereby arrogance and pride.
Finally, anything that is spent on acts of disobedience and sin is a form of wastefulness.
Scholars mention that the causes of wastefulness are primarily the following:
(a) Stupidity, which is usually the case.
This causes extravagance especially when coupled with bad company, or when a person has much wealth without having expended much effort in acquiring it, which is often the case with children of wealthy parents.
(b) Ignorance regarding the meaning of wastefulness, such that a person simply does not know what it means to be wasteful;
(c) Ostentation and showing off, since one might be extravagant so as to be praised by people;
(d) Laziness and idleness, whereby the person is not vigilant in using his wealth for good;
(e) Weakness of self, that is, to be wasteful out of shyness in front of others;
(f) Weakness of faith, such that one is wasteful yet simply does not care, despite knowing its unlawfulness.
It is indeed very difficult to cure, as few people of extravagance are even receptive to treatment.
Treatment occurs primarily by rooting out these causes, and replacing bad company with company of the righteous and the intelligent.
The Blessing of Wealth
The central reason for wastefulness being so blameworthy is the fact that wealth is a tremendous blessing from Allah Most High, as well as a means to plant seeds for the afterlife.
By wealth, one is nourished, clothed and housed; and protected from the disgrace of begging. By wealth, one can attain unto the ranks of those who give in charity; and by wealth, the needs and debts of the indigent are fulfilled.
By wealth, one can perform the pilgrimage and maintain kinship ties.
Wealth is the means of benefiting people, by building mosques, schools, hospitals and the like. And the best of people is he who benefits people.
Once it is established that wealth is a tremendous blessing, it follows that wastefulness entails belittling Allah’s blessing, demeaning it, rejecting it, and showing ingratitude towards it. This results in anger, hatred, blame and punishment from its Bestower, as well as His taking back the blessing due to the person’s lack of realizing its value and fulfilling its due.
On the other hand, showing gratitude for it and safeguarding it from the aforementioned results in its remaining with the person as well as its increase. As Allah Most High states, “Verily, if you show gratitude, I will surely give you more” (14:7).
[Taken from Nahlawi, Al-Durar al-Mubaha fil Hazar wal Ibaha; Khadimi/Birgivi, Bariqa Mahmudiyya Sharh Tariqa Muhammadiyya]
Global warming, then, could very well be a punishment from Allah for our lack of gratitude for the earth’s precious resources and our grossly extravagant consumption of them. For both individuals and societies at large, the solution is to return to lifestyles of balance, and to make concerted efforts to share and distribute resources with those in need, in the spirit of sincere gratitude for those resources and this blessed planet.
And Allah knows best.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani