This piece was written by Ahmed El Gharib, Assistant Researcher at Qur’anic Botanic Garden, to mark this year’s celebration of World Environment Day and to highlight QBG’s contribution to environmental preservation and conservation.
To mark the opening of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, the United Nations (UN) officially established World Environment Day.
It has since then developed into a global platform celebrated in over 100 countries – including in Qatar – and encourages worldwide awareness and action for environmental conservation. It has become one of the main vehicles through which the UN promotes positive actions to safeguard our planet.
This year’s World Environment Day is hosted by Columbia, in collaboration with Germany, under the theme of biodiversity, a crucial topic, considering that one million plant and animal species are currently facing extinction due to deforestation and other harmful actions towards the environment.
As a major oil and gas producer and a signee of several international environmental treaties, including the Paris Agreement, the State of Qatar has placed massive importance on environmental development, one of the four main pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030. This has manifested itself in various environmental awareness initiatives, animal protection projects, air quality monitoring programmes, as well as afforestation and agricultural work.
On World Environment Day, it is paramount that we – as individuals – also take a moment and reflect on the majestic ecosystems that we have been blessed with and think about the ways that we can protect them. The Holy Qur’an contains over 500 verses concerned with the environment and sustainability, highlighting our sacred duty to take care of the planet. Since our actions today will have consequences on future generations, we have a responsibility to make conscious choices and decisions that contribute to the well-being of the planet.
How does this responsibility translate into our everyday lives? Firstly, it involves our actions as individuals regarding, for example, the consumption of food, hygiene practices, water usage, and waste disposal. Secondly, it should have a bearing on our relationships with others, so that we as individuals respect the sanctity of human life and promote the fair and ethical distribution of resources. Finally, we must uphold the sacred principles of environmental preservation and sustainability through our direct actions towards the environment, whether it be in the protection of animals, of plants and their natural habitats, or in safeguarding and recycling resources.
Islam is rich in references about the responsibility of Muslims to serve as custodians of the environment. Many verses in the Qur’an describe the lush gardens, trees and rivers found in Paradise that await believers in the afterlife. This signifies the importance and value of greenery not only on the planet during our earthly existence, but also in the hereafter. In fact, based on a Hadith narrated by Anas bin Malik (RA), the Prophet (SWT), planting trees is considered an act of charity (sadaqa) through which the planet receives blessings from anyone who benefits from it: ‘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’.
This Hadith and the Prophet’s (SWT) appreciation for the environment, serve as a compass for QBG activities. The QBG garden’s inauguration during Ramadan in 2008 brought to life Qatar Foundation’s commitment to promoting greater public understanding of the plants, botanic terms, and conservation principles mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, Hadith and Sunnah – sayings and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, marked the opening of Qatar Foundation by planting the garden’s very first tree – the Sidra tree – the symbol of QF. The garden remains the first in the world to exhibit all 60 plant species mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, and in the Hadith and Sunnah.
Since 2011, as part of the QBG Ghars Campaign, the organisation planted close to 1,900 trees, edging towards its goal of planting 2,022 in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. The campaign is also dedicated to promoting sustainable development and raising awareness of the importance of environmental responsibility, thereby contributing to the realisation of the Qatar National Vision 2030.
The QBG garden inspires an appreciation of nature and encourages respect and a sense of responsibility towards the environment. It is home to over 60 botanical species drawn from three geographical regions – desert, Mediterranean, and tropical. QBG’s Botanic Museum displays more than 120 botanical items, such as plant parts, traditional medicinal plants, as well as farming, food, and drinking tools. The garden is also home to a Herbarium and a Seed Bank Unit, where all plant species in the garden, along with their relevant data, are documented.
QBG continuously strives to emphasise Islam’s rich tradition of preserving the environment, and, to this end, regularly organise campaigns, events, fairs, and exhibitions, as well as horticultural and educational programmes for the general public, that encourage gardening, sustainability, and natural resource preservation. Just last month, QBG held a series of Ramadan activities, including webinars on food security and how medicinal plants assist in boosting the immune system, as well as informative Instagram sessions and daily competitions.
QBG is a member of Qatar Foundation.
More details on QBG’s upcoming events and activities can be found on their social media channels. You can also visit qbg.org.qa for more information.