International Day of Forests

What’s the State of Our World’s Forests?

“Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We separated them and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?” (Surat Al Anbiyaa 21:30).

Forests are vital to our water supply. They influence how and where rain falls, and they filter and clean our water. By protecting the world’s forests, we are also protecting the clean water that we depend upon for our survival.

Every year on the International Day of Forests, March 21, we celebrate the ways in which forests and trees sustain and protect us. This year we are raising awareness of how forests are key to the planet’s supply of freshwater, which is essential for life.

Islam prohibits the cutting or destruction of trees and plants, and encourages people to protect and increase plants for great reward is associated with such practice.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has deeply directed Muslims and believers to pay attention and care for plants and Earth’s flora, in one of his hadiths he said: “If any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal eats of it, he will be rewarded as if he had given that much in charity.” (Sahih Bukhari Vol. 8, Book 73, No. 41).

The messenger of Allah has also said: “If the Hour 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.” (Reported by Ahmad and Al-Bukhan on the authority of Anas in Al Adab Al-Mufrad, see also Sahih Al- Jami’ Al-Saghir, No.1424).

Prophet Muhammad was a pioneer of foresting and a leading environmentalist. A prophetic hadith says: “Whoever plants a tree and it matures, Allah plants a tree in paradise for that person.” (Ahmad b.Hanbal, Musnad, IV, 61).

One of his greatest efforts in this context was to afforest an area called “Zuraybu’t Taweel,” where he announced: “Whoever cuts a tree here should plant a new tree instead.”

A lot of religious inscriptions in the Holy Qur’an and Prophetic Sunnah show that the Islamic Shari’ah was celebrating the wellbeing of environment several centuries before the UN.

The speech of Abu Bakr (RA), the first caliph of Islam, made to his soldiers when dispatching them, included the prohibition to destroy trees as an act of vengeance or collective punishment. If this is the status of plants in the Islamic world-view during war, it must be that they “enjoy” a better position during the peaceful times.

The International Day of Forests is a  global celebration of woods that provides a platform to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and of trees outside forests.

Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihood.

Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. They also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent communities.

Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate – 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

This article is from the Science page’s archive; it was firstly published in an earlier date.