Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

The Green Profile of the Grand Mufti of Egypt

October 31, 2011


   The Green Profile of the Grand Mufti of Egypt

   by Moshe Terdiman

   October 2011


Sheikh Ali Gomaa is the Grand Mufti of Egypt since September 2003 and one of the highest ranking and respected religious authorities throughout the Sunni world. He holds the second highest religious position in Egypt, after that of Sheikh al-Azhar. As the Grand Mufti, he oversees the premier institution throughout the Muslim world for religious legal direction, Dar al-Iftaa.

Sheikh Ali Gomaa was born on March 3, 1952 in Bani Suwaif in Upper Egypt. After graduating from college, Sheikh Ali Gomaa enrolled in al-Azhar University. In 1988, he obtained a PhD from the al-Azhar’s University’s Department of Shari’ah and Law. During the 1990s, Sheikh Ali Gomaa served as a Professor of Juristic Methodologies in the al-Azhar University. In addition, as from the mid-1990s, he reestablished the tradition of giving informal lessons in the al-Azhar Mosque. In these lessons, Sheikh Ali Gomaa succeeded to convert Muslims who used to hold extremist views into Muslims who hold a more moderate Islamic approach. In 1998, Sheikh Ali began delivering the Friday sermon at Cairo’s Sultan Hasan Mosque.[1]

Sheikh Ali Gomaa has taken a very clear stance against extremist interpretations of Islam and has become one of the most explicitly anti-extremist clerics in mainstream Sunni Islam. According to him, the use of violence to spread Islam is prohibited and the problem of the radical Muslims is that they have not been educated in genuine centers of Islamic learning. As from the 1990s, he used to go to the prisons and work with radical Muslim prisoners, who denounced violence and embraced the Nonviolence Initiative.[2]

In addition, Sheikh Ali Gomaa is in favor of dialogue and understanding with other religions. He is one of the signatories of A Common Word between Us and You, an open letter dated October 13, 2007, which was written by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders, calling for peace and understanding between the followers of both religions.[3] Moreover, Sheikh Ali Gomaa is a signatory of the Amman Message, which gives a broad foundation for defining Muslim orthodoxy, states that nobody has the right to excommunicate a Muslim, and restricts the issuing of fatwas (religious rulings) to those with the scholarly qualifications to do so.[4] Furthermore, he has publicly asserted that the famous anti-Semitic book, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is a forgery.

Sheikh Ali Gomaa also issued some controversial fatwas, whose aim is to strive to show the continued relevance of Islam for people living in the 21st century, such as: the permission to sell pork and alcohol in the West; the equal political rights enjoyed by men and women in Islam, including the right to become president of a modern state; and the prohibition of female circumcision.   

As part of his progressive and modern thinking and his wish to show the continued relevance of Islam for people living in the 21st century, Sheikh Ali Gomaa made Dar al-Iftaa a modern institution with a fatwa council, systems of checks and balances, a website and a call center, through which people may ask for fatwas even if they cannot come in person to the institution.[5]   

Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s progressive and modern thinking is also reflected in his statements and fatwas concerning the environment. In this article, I would like to focus on Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s environmental ideology and activity.

Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s Green Ideology

The question of how to utilize religious teachings to solve current environment-related problems has become a priority in Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s agenda. He believes that the religious traditions can offer us moral ways and principles for dealing with current environmental issues. In his speech in front of the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne on December 10, 2009, which was titled “the Role of Religion in Preserving the Environment”, Sheikh Ali Gomaa said that despite the fact that “in our day we are struggling with a number of issues related to the environment such as climate change, the pollution of the air, oceans, seas, and waterways, and the challenges of feeding a growing global population” and despite the fact that “many of these issues are relatively new so that our forebears did not address them explicitly, our religious traditions do offer us worldviews and principles that aid us in finding solutions to our contemporary problems”.[6]

In order to stress this point, Sheikh Ali Gomaa used to cite in his speeches dealing with environmental issues one Qur’anic phrase and one hadith: “Do not sow corruption in the earth after it has been set in order: this is better for you, if you are believers” [7:85]; and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Those who plant a tree and patiently tend to it until it bears fruit will have the reward of giving charity for everything that it produces”.[7]

Sheikh Ali Gomaa has been outspoken on environmental sustainability. On November 2, 2009, on his speech at the Alliance of Religions and Conservation conference at Windsor Castle, Sheikh Ali Gomaa said that “it is a religious duty to safeguard our environment and advocate the importance of preserving it. Pollution and global warming pose an even greater threat than war and the fight to preserve the environment could be the most positive way of bringing humanity together. Environment-related issues ought to be a significant component of educational curricula. It is the duty of all religious scholars to acquaint themselves with the environmental crisis we are facing”.[8]

According to Sheikh Ali Gomaa, in order to reach environmental sustainability, Muslims should understand that their role from an Islamic point of view is to be God’s vicegerents or deputies on earth. As such, they are responsible to care for and maintain the world while benefiting from what the world has to offer. However, Muslims shouldn’t overexploit, use, and abuse the world and its resources for their own purposes since, as Sheikh Ali Gomaa said, “it is a shared right that God has established for all living beings and we do not have the authority to deprive even animals of their rights”.[9] In another speech, Sheikh Ali Gomaa elaborated more on this point and said that “according to the Islamic paradigm, human beings are the vice regents of God on earth and will be judged in the hereafter for their actions and held accountable for the way they handled the environment. Humankind is not free to consume or pollute carelessly. Preserving nature and preventing corruption in earth is one of the core responsibilities of all believers”.[10] In fact, Sheikh Ali Gomaa said that if the Muslims take good care of the environment, they will be rewarded with goodness, but if they abuse it and leave it to ruin, they will meet a frightful end as stated in the Qur’an: “those who break their covenant with God after it has been confirmed, who sever the bonds that God has commanded to be joined, who spread corruption on the earth – those are the losers” [2:27].[11]

Thus, according to Sheikh Ali Gomaa, “one of the key characteristics of humankind’s role as deputies in the world is balance. We must find a balance between benefiting from the blessings that the world has to offer us, and preserving the order that God has established. We must find a balance between securing our own needs while not depriving others of theirs, whether those others reside in different parts of the world, such as less powerful nations, or in different times, such as our children and grandchildren. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: All of creation are God’s dependents, and the most beloved of God’s servants to Him are those that are the most beneficial to His dependents. If we take seriously our role as God’s deputies on earth, not just by benefiting from the environment, but by preserving it and ensuring that other communities and generations will have the same possibilities to drink clean water, breath fresh air, and live in a world that is in harmony with itself and with ourselves, we may hope to be among those who are beloved to God due to their care for His creation”.[12]

In fulfilling their role, Muslims have to collaborate with followers of other religions, because, basically, all humanity shares the responsibility to preserve the world. In his speech at the Alliance of Religions and Conservation conference at Windsor Castle on November 2, 2009, Sheikh Ali Gomaa stressed this point by saying that “we envision a world that is environmentally safe for our children and the next generations where all nations of all religions live in harmony with nature and enjoy justice and fair share of God’s bounties”.[13]

From Ideology to Practice

Putting theory into practice, Dar al-Iftaa will be the first establishment in Egypt to be declared carbon-free by the end of 2011.[14] Sheikh Ali Gomaa mentioned this already in his speech at the Alliance of Religions and Conservation conference at Windsor Castle on November 2, 2009, where he said that “I am also very pleased to share with you that Egypt’s Dar Al Iftaa, over which I preside, has started taking practical steps to go carbon neutral in 2010.”[15] furthermore, Dar al-Iftaa organized and participated in international forums and conferences which deal with environmental issues, such as the Alexandria Conference on the Sacredness of Water to the Religions, which brought together Muslims and Christians.[16]

Besides, Dar al-Iftaa and Sheikh Ali Gomaa issue environmental fatwas. For example, in 2007, Sheikh Ali Gomaa issued a fatwa in which he prohibited the farmers from the burning of rice and cotton waste after the harvest. The farmers in the Governorates of Sharqiyyah, Gharbiyyah, Qaliubiyyah, Kafr al-Sheikh, Buhayrah, and Daqahliyyah –the six Governorates with the highest level of rice harvesting in Egypt – have been traditionally used to burn their rice and cotton waste in the fall of every year. The smoke which comes out of this burning together with the vehicle exhaust fumes and industrial pollution add to Cairo’s already heavy pollution and as from 1999 result in a dark layer of smog over Cairo which has been known as the “black cloud”, especially in the months of October and November. This smog has affected children the most. They tend to suffer from difficulty in breathing, lung diseases, asthma or eye infections.[17]

In order to fight air pollution over Cairo, Dar al-Iftaa issued a fatwa in which it prohibits the farmers to burn rice and cotton waste. The reason is that the burning of rice waste is considered by Sheikh Ali Gomaa as one of the acts that causes harm to the environment and, therefore, is prohibited in Islam. As a justification for this ban, the fatwa cited Prophet Muhammad, who said that “there should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm”. The fatwa condemns people involved in the practice and regards them as “causing destruction… without any justification and this is a major sin which the Qur’an forbids”. This fatwa concerns also those who wish to burn this waste to exterminate germs or insects in the land, because there are other methods that are less harmful. Dar al-Iftaa also requested government authorities to provide environmentally friendly alternatives to farmers to get rid of rice waste.[18]

As a result of this fatwa, the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs launched in November 2008 an awareness campaign targeting the farmers in the Governorates of Sharqiyyah, Gharbiyyah, Qaliubiyyah, Kafr al-Sheikh, Buhayrah, and Daqahliyyah using SMS and a hotline. Text messages saying that the burning of rice waste is bad for the environment were circulated among the farmers. The Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs also held a number of workshops teaching farmers how to recycle rice waste and safe methods of disposal. It also promoted other usage of rice waste such as animal feed, organic fertilizer and greatly supporting and promoting the industries which rely on the rice waste as a primary source of energy, such as paper production.[19]      

Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s environmental agenda has not been limited to Egypt alone. He took an active part in Muslim gatherings as well as in multi-religious gatherings, such as the Parliament of World Religions which convened in Melbourne on December 10, 2009 or the Alliance of Religions and Conservation conference which was held at Windsor Castle on November 2, 2009 and gave speeches dealing with the need to preserve the environment.

In these gatherings and conferences he has not spoken only on behalf of himself and his green ideology but has also represented all the Sunni Muslims. For example, in his speech at the Alliance of Religions and Conservation conference at Windsor Castle on November 2, 2009, Sheikh Ali Gomaa said on behalf of all Muslims that “we envision a world that is environmentally safe for our children and the next generations where all nations of all religions live in harmony with nature and enjoy justice and fair share of God’s bounties. We are committed to contribute to the ongoing global efforts dealing with climate change based on the Muslim Seven Year action plan that reflects Islamic principles and values. Muslim Association for Climate Change Action (MACCA) has been founded to be responsible for implementing the plan. The response to this action plan that we launched in Istanbul has been remarkable in a lot of ways and practical steps to execute the plan are underway. Major Islamic cities are to declare the Green status soon, such as Sala in Morocco and al-Madinah in Saudi Arabia”. Only at the very end of his speech, Sheikh Ali Gomaa spoke on behalf of himself and said: “I am also very pleased to share with you that Egypt’s Dar Al Iftaa, over which I preside, has started taking practical steps to go carbon neutral in 2010.”[20]

Together with other Sunni and Shi’ite religious scholars, Sheikh Ali Gomaa supported the Muslim Seven Year Action Plan on Climate Change 2010 – 2017, which was declared in Istanbul following an unprecedented gathering of some 200 key Muslim leaders, scholars, civil society members and government ministries from throughout the Muslim world which was convened on July 6-7, 2009.. This action plan proposes establishing institutional enabling framework; developing overall capacity to deal with climate change and environmental conservation; developing and enhancing communication, outreach, and partnerships; activating and reviving implementation of previous initiatives, plans, and declarations; investigating every level of Muslim activity from daily life to annual pilgrimages, from holy cities to the future training of imams; developing the major Muslim cities as green city models for other Islamic urban areas; developing an Islamic label for environmentally friendly goods and services; and creating a best practice environmental guide for Islamic businesses”.[21]

Sheikh Ali Gomaa also wrote a book titled “The Environment and Its Protection from an Islamic Point of View”, in which he put into paper his green ideology.


Sheikh Ali Gomaa has positioned himself at the forefront of the Muslim effort to tackle climate change, which he regards as the most threatening and important challenge facing humanity in the 21st century. He took practical steps so that Dar Al Iftaa, the premier Sunni institution, will be carbon neutral in 2011. He issued a fatwa prohibiting a common custom of Egyptian farmers for the sake of not causing harm to people and the environment. He gave environmental speeches in front of multi-religious gatherings, in which he has spoken in the name of all Muslims. All this makes Sheikh Ali Gomaa a central and leading figure in the Muslim effort to tackle climate change.

There is no doubt that Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s thorough Islamic education and knowledge helped him use Islamic texts in order to deal with current environmental problems. But, what has made him better suited to represent the Sunnites and, sometimes, all Muslims in multi-religious gatherings talking about the environment from an Islamic point of view has been his belief in dialogue, understanding and cooperation with followers of other religions.

From this point of view, Sheikh Ali Gomaa has not been only a Muslim environmental influential leader but also a worldwide influential religious environmental leader, who — through his example, speeches, and ideology —  has inspired many other religious scholars, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to use religious traditions in order to preserve the environment.     

[3] See on-line at: 

[4] See on-line at: 

Educational Materials Concerning Islam and the Environment

August 21, 2011

I have posted many educational materials concerning Islam and the environment in the website of Green Compass Research:

The educational materials include environmental fatwas:

Islamic environmental values:

and, environment as appears in the Qur’an in Arabic:

I will regularly update the educational materials section in the Green Compass Research’s website and all this kind of material will be put there and not in this blog.

All of you who are interested in Islam and the environment is invited to visit the educational materials section.

Islamic Perspective On Environment Viz-a-viz Mindanao Natural Resources

October 25, 2010

(In the name of Allah, The Sustainer, The Merciful)

By: Zulfikhar S. Abdullah, Ernesto T. Santa Cruz- October 2009

Muslim- Chief of Staff of ( RLA-ARMM) Assemblyman Datu Suharto S. Midtimbang Cotabato City –

Christian Catholic- Chairman- Department of Environment and Ecology of the United Bangsamoro Sultanates and Royalties of the Philippines (NGO) Cotabato City –


Several decades ago, many environmentalist groups/institutions and even individuals from different sectors of society emerged and strived hard to advocate awareness on the destruction and devastation of our environment both in the local and global domain. Apparently, such advocacies were not able to reach the target level of participation from our local and international communities. Statistically, this can perhaps be traced to the worsening environmental problems of every well developed and developing countries of the world with the exception of few countries.

During those decades, perhaps some advanced technocrat countries perceived that by preserving and protecting their own environment domains they would be exempted to the upheaval of their environment. What they set aside are the realities that our mother earth is one oblate spheroid chattel where the seas and the oceans are not separated from each other though our lands and soils are polarized geographically through the formation of different continents.

It also has to be noted that most of the religions in the world, being a spiritual source of mankind had less contribution in the advocacy of environment protection and conservation. For some reason, they have depended upon their respective governments and put down their full trust on the matter of environment as the prime responsibility of the government. Every government, therefore, have institutionalized a separate department on environment matters. In some other way, this can be associated to the doctrine of separation of politics and religion or say the division between the moral and legal vernacular or due to the partition of the man made laws and the holy the scriptures.


Fortunately, the emergence of this “Mindanao Interfaith Stewardship Dialogue 2009” through “Interfaith Dialogue on the Integrity of Creation” initiated by Xavier University, SEA for Mindanao and KAFI Foundation, heralds to create a common stance and possibly serve as a nucleus to open up a avenue for our religious sectors to participate and impart their moral and spiritual perception on environmental matters and to be able to achieve a meeting of minds in our midst. And also to intensify multi-sectoral cooperation to advocate a common ground to our roles and responsibilities on the notion of stewardship over the integrity of Mindanao’s God-given natural resources.


We know that the environment is one of today’s most serious problems both in the local and global domain. It is a problem that perils not only us but the whole world, our future generations and their right to live in a healthy environment. It is causing many countries including the Philippines to move toward an era in a state of apprehension and fear. This compels us to understand the environmental problems and to help in solving them in our simple yet concerted best level ways.

Precisely, we have to consider the environment from a broad perspective. Foremost, we should not forget that the Creator and Owner of all environments is at the same time our Creator.

Environment is formed by our house, garden, and car, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the town in which we live, and the people we live with. So too, it is formed by the seas, lakes, rivers, roads, mountains, and forests, which are shared by all the members of society and so to speak the entire universe itself is our environment.

Apparently, when we say “environment,” we have to understand all our surroundings in which we and all living creatures live. While by “environmental pollution,” we mean the dirtying and spoiling of these natural surroundings. The air is polluted, the seas are polluted, the ozone layer is diminishing, different animal species becoming extinct or endangered and the devastation of our forest lands. We can also include the pollution of our social environment, worldwide poverty and famine, deprivation of human rights, homelessness, migration problems, racism, abandoned children, wars, drug abuse, alcohol addiction and violence to mention a few.

On the other hand, since this particular interfaith dialogue focuses on the God-given natural resources of Mindanao, then I should focus my presentation on the Islamic perception on natural resources (environment) and the concept of stewardship being emphasized as gamut of our interfaith dialogue. Luckily, we must be grateful, despite hectic schedules of our spiritual vocations in our respective religions, we were be able to appreciate that religion has an important role to play in overcoming these environmental problems and to be able to develop a comprehensive and integral environmental consciousness. And to strengthen our stance as unified force to preserve, protect and conserve our natural resources (environment).

Basically, as far as my research is concerned, according to Islamic point of view, everything in the universe is created by God. It is God who adorns the skies with the sun, the moon and the stars, and the face of the earth with flowers, trees, gardens, orchards, and the various animal species. It is again God who causes the rivers and streams to flow on the earth, Who upholds the skies , causes the rain to fall, and places the boundary between night and day. The universe together with all its richness and vitality is the work and art of God, that is, of the Creator. It is again God who created all plants and animals in pairs, in this way causing their procreation and preservation. God created man subsequently to all these – to entrust these environment.

Islam believes that men are God’s vicegerents on earth, to steward all the created things both the living and the non-living things. We were given an intellect (reason) before He put the trust to manage all created things accordingly, with its due measures and proportions. Just as we are not the lords of nature and the world, so the world is not our property which we can dispose of as we wish or as we are able. Nature was created by God and it belongs to God. Everything in nature is a sign of God’s existence; that is, a token or missive. The Holy Qur’an expresses this truth as follows:

“Behold, thy lord said to the angels: I will create a vicegerent on earth.” (Holy Qur’an, Surah (chapter) II, Verse 30)… “It is He (Lord) who hath created for you all things that are on earth; Moreover His (lord) design comprehended the heavens, for He (Lord) gave order and perfection to the seven firmaments; and of all things He (lord) hath perfect knowledge.” (Holy Qur’an, Sarah. chapter II, Verse 29).

“Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which God sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds subjugated between the sky and earth — [here] indeed are signs for a people that are wise.” (Holy Qur’an, Surah. chapter II, Verse 164)

The Beloved Prophet of Islam, Mohammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) both in his practices and “Hadiths” (sayings of the Holy Prophet), attached a great importance to planting trees, protecting existent ones, planting forests, as well as to conserving existent ones. His practices and conduct related to conservation of the environment should therefore be considered from the Qur’anic standpoint. For us his actions are sources of inspiration constituting his works and deeds/practices, which the Muslims are obliged to follow. To put it another way, as in all matters, the exemplar of Islamic conduct related to the environment and the person who displayed it in most perfect fashion was God’s Messenger (PBUH). His commands concerning it, are learnt, the Muslims weighty responsibilities become clear.

†On migrating to Medina from Mecca, God’s Messenger (PBUH) organized the planting of trees and of date groves. He made the forests and green spaces conservation areas, where every sort of living creature lived. These were called sanctuaries (hima). For example, a strip of land approximately twelve miles wide around Medina was proclaimed a sanctuary and made a conservation area. We know that He proclaimed other areas, similar to this, sanctuaries. All these show the paramount importance —as a religion— Islam gives to nature conservancy and protection of all nature’s living creatures.


“If you have a sapling, if you have the time, be certain to plant it, even if Doomsday starts to break forth.” (al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, iii, 30)

“Whoever plants trees, God will give him reward to the extent of their fruit.” (Musnad, v, 415)

“Whoever reclaims and cultivates dry, barren land will be rewarded by God for the act. So long as men and animals benefit from it He will record it for him as almsgiving.”(al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, vi, 39; Haythami, Majmau al-Zawaaid, iv, 67-8)

“Whoever plants a tree, reward will be recorded for him so long as it produces fruit.”(Majma’ al-Zawaid, v, 480)

“If a Muslim plants a tree, that part of its produce consumed by men will be as almsgiving for him. Any fruit stolen from the tree will also be as almsgiving for him. That which the birds eat will also be as almsgiving for him. Any of its produce which people may eat thus diminishing it, will be as almsgiving for the Muslims who planted it”.(Bukhari, Tajrid al-Sahih, vii, 122; Muslim, Musaqat, 2 No. 2)

“The reward accruing from seven things continue to reach the person concerned even if he is in his grave: knowledge he has taught, water he has provided for the public benefit, any well he has dug, any tree he has planted, a mosque he has built, recitations of the Qur’an bequeathed to him, and children who pray for him after his death.”(al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, iv, 87)

Following these commands of the Qur’an and the exemplary practices of God’s Messenger (PBUH), throughout history, Muslims have given importance to planting trees and protecting existing one’s. The holy Prophet (PBUH), when sending an expedition for a battle to Muta, gave some instructions and underlines that: “Do not cut down trees and do not kill animals except for food (in the enemy territory).”

Green is the color of Islamic civilization, so too the dome of Prophet’s tomb is green. These are not mere coincidence; they should be seen as reflecting the importance Islam gives to greenery, nature, and trees.

Another important thing related to the environment is the good treatment of the animals, and the protection of them; or more correctly, extending our kindness and compassion to them. However, today many animal species are becoming extinct and endangered. Other animals stray abandoned and hungry in the streets. Taken as a whole, therefore, it cannot be said that we treat animals well and carry out our duties towards them. For Islam regulates not only relations between and among individuals and between individuals and society and the state, it also regulates relations between God, man and nature (environment). A natural consequence of this is that man is answerable to God for his attitude and actions towards nature (environment) and animals. This may be seen in the one Hadith of the Holy Prophet (PBUH):

“If without good reason anyone kills a sparrow, or a creature lesser than that even, the living creature will put his plaint to God on the Day of Judgment, saying: ‘So-and-so killed me for no purpose.”(al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, iv, 87)


These are only few Qur’anic injunctions and Hadiths of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), regarding forest related matters that inspires yours truly through the office of former Speaker Pro-Tempore of the Regional Legislative Assembly, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao ( RLA-ARMM) Assemblyman Datu Suharto S. Midtimbang to craft a bill that would serve as a legacy to our generations, principally to protect and conserve the remaining natural forests and to rehabilitate our denuded forestlands specifically in the area of the Autonomous region, encouraged by Sultan Mohammad H. Adil, the Sultan of Kutawato. Auspiciously, the “Regional Sustainable Forest Management Act, (RSFMA) of 2004” surfaced.

This law was basically crafted in line with the existing laws of the Philippine Republic, the “Adat” (refers to customs and traditions practiced by any of the tribes in the area of the ARMM), the “Taritib ago Igma” (refers to the unwritten customary “Adat” laws of the tribes in the area of the ARMM) and in the framework of the Shari’ah Law (refers to the totality of God’s commandments to man, it is oftentimes translated as Islamic law). Thus, the concept of “Kilafah” (vicegerent or steward of God) and “Amanah”) constructive use and development of the earth is a trust from God) were given extensive emphasis and contemplation.

Since the area of the ARMM is comprised of five (5) component provinces, with its diversified major tribes such as Maguindanawons of Maguindanao, Tausogs of Sulu, Maranaos of Lanao, Yakans of Basilan and Sama of Tawi-Tawi and some other indigenous tribes in Mindanao i.e the Kalagan of Davao Oriental, the Tirurays, with the participation of some non-Muslim religious group, such as, Roman Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists and other sectors currently residing in the area of the Autonomous region, it must also be noted that the said “RSFMA” bill was conceptualized based on the basic principles of popular consultation among the stakeholders of the Autonomous government in harmony and with high regards to the customary traditions between and among the inhabitants of the ARMM.

In addition, this Forest Management Act as a form of “Kilafah” (Stewardship) and “Amanah” (Trust) – the conservation, protection, constructive utilization, management and development of forestlands and their resources shall be considered as a divine trust and the people involved in those duties and obligations shall be considered as stewards or trustees who are not only responsible to the state and the people but are also accountable to the Almighty God.


Islam through its Holy Book the Holy Qur’an and Hadiths (sayings and deeds) of the last Prophet of God, the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) clearly emphasized that environment and its natural resources were created by God for the benefit of the entire mankind, being the source of life and other things that benefits man itself in due proportions and measures, i.e food, shelter, potable water, fruits, vegetation, etc, God also created man to be his vicegerent (kilafah/stewardship) on earth and amanah (trust) based on the reasons He bestowed upon man purposely, to protect, conserve and preserve the natural resources for its sustainability to man’s needs accordingly.

In an attempt to synthesize the problem of forest destruction and denudation in the area of the autonomous region, the Regional Sustainable Forest Management Act of 2004 was thus crafted in harmonization to Islamic perspectives on environment, in line with the existing laws of the Republic of the Philippines and the Adat (customary traditions of different tribes). The RSFMA aims to salvage the destructed and denuded forestlands in the area of ARMM.

The said law also aspires to create an avenue to rehabilitate the forestlands of the autonomous region to pave the way for alternative ways to uplift the living condition of the inhabitants by developing income generating livelihood programs out of the constructive utilization of natural resources of our environment. Such livelihood programs will eventually lead to the betterment of the people’s lives thereby build an atmosphere of peace that serves as the stimulus of development not only in the area of the autonomous region but possibly in the entire Mindanao and its islands.


I seek refuge to “Allah”, the creator and the master of universe, to the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and His guidance, I would like to express gratitude to the people behind this paper who patiently supported and enlightened us. To Johnny Cabreira, for including the Sultanates and ARMM in the list of participants thus enabling them to express their knowledge and wisdom regarding these responsibilities, for keeping us updated and for taking care of our board and lodging; to the secretariat, for patiently updating us; to Bai Dolly Adil, for raising funds for our transportation and other expenses; and lastly, to Sultan Mohammad H Adil , Al Hajj for acknowledging and trusting us to prepare and present this literature representing the Sultanates and its constituents to this worthy forum, “Interfaith Dialogue on the Integrity of Creation”, initiated by Xavier University, SEA for Mindanao and KAFI Foundation. “Alhamduli’lah”

This piece is taken from the website of Kuro-Kuro.

See on-line at:

Islamic Declaration on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, august-september 2002

October 25, 2010
Islamic Declaration on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, august-september 2002


United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development

Islamic Declaration on Sustainable Development

The original draft of the first official Islamic statement was entitled, the “Jeddah Environment Declaration.” This statement was later renamed the “Islamic Declaration on Sustainable Development.” This statement is included in the United Nations (UN) World Summit on Development (Johannesburg, South Africa) paper entitled, “General Framework of Islamic Agenda for Sustainable Development Islamic Declaration on Sustainable Development : Background Paper No.5.”

United Nations
World Summit on Sustainable Development
Johannesburg, South Africa
26 August to 4 September 2002
General Framework of Islamic Agenda for Sustainable Development

Islamic Declaration on Sustainable Development Background Paper No. 5
Submitted by the First Isl amic Conference of Environment Ministers

General Framework of Islamic Agenda for Sustainable Development

Based on the specialized studies examined by the First Islamic Conference of Environment Ministers held in Jeddah, which reviewed the major challenges faced by the Islamic world in the field of sustainable development, materialized mainly in the poverty, illiteracy, accumulation of foreign debts, degradation of economic and social conditions, disequilibrium between population growth and available natural resources, the weakness of technical capabilities, the lack of expertise and skills in environment management, along with the negative impacts left by regional conflicts, foreign occupation of parts of its la nd and despoiling of its resources, one may chart out the general framework of an Islamic agenda liable to help overcome these obstacles and lay down sturdy foundations for cooperation among the Islamic countries to achieve sustainable development, with a view to being submitted to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. The agenda revolves around the following axes which could be translated into field projects and activities, in cooperation with regional and international organizations

I-Economic growth

Achieving a level of economic growth enabling the Islamic countries to bridge the gap between them and developed countries by means of mobilizing the available energies, especially through :

  1. Stimulation of investment in highly profitable sectors.
  2. Capacity-building in the field of research and transfer of technologies in the following fields :
    a) Supporting the capabilities of academic and research centers in the Islamic countries, especially with regard to programme development and promotion of priority research facilities.
    b) Facilitating access to modem information and communication technologies which open new vistas for rationalization of Islamic countries’ resources.
  3. Achieving food security and promoting plant and animal resources in Islamic countries.
  4. Supporting new partnership for economic development of African countries.
  5. Developing control mechanisms to ensure flexible management of short-term capital influx, in compliance with the objectives of sustainable development in developing countries.

II- Poverty eradication

As part of endeavour to eradicate poverty in the Islamic world, the following programmes should be particularly supported, namely :

  1. Creating employment opportunities through encouragement of the establishment of small and medium-sized enterprises.
  2. Initiating programmes for vocational training and technical education to step up efforts of literacy and eradication of poverty.
  3. Promoting Islamic solidarity and mutual support.
  4. Facilitating access to small, preferential loans to fund local development projects and raise the income of poor families, especially in the countryside and the remote areas.
  5. Associating local community, and populations in general, in the identification of the needs and the drafting, implementation and evaluation of action programmes.

III- Population and urban development

Elaborating an integrated population policy striking fair balance between population growth and population characteristics and redressing the imbalances between the towns and the countryside, by means of :

  1. Drawing up and implementing strategies for countryside development focussing on the most disadvantaged areas.
  2. Preparing Agenda 21 Programmes and implementing them at the local level.
  3. Controlling indecent, random housing.
  4. Developing the infrastructure of the periphery, promoting them and adopting suitable approaches for appropriate development of population agglomerations.

IV – Health and environment

  1. Supply of food and adequate potable water.
  2. Treatment of sewage and hard wastes, and securing their safe recycling.
  3. Controlling the potential risks resulting from all types of pollution.
  4. Safe management of toxic, dangerous and radioactive wastes.
  5. Controlling the use of chemicals.
  6. Fighting propagation of epidemics and diseases and ensuring basic health care services

as part of the initiative of health for all.

  1. Generalizing assessment of environmental and health impacts of development projects.

V- Natural resources :

  1. Water
    a) Harnessing available water resources, drawing up programmes for their rationalization and exploring new water potentials, including rainwater and non¬conventional resources.
    b) Developing desalination techniques and generalizing them to reduce production costs.
    c) Enhancing the legal and technical aspects of water consumption rationalization.
    d) publicizing success stories in the fields of sanitation and safe processing and recycling of waste waters.

e) Setting up complementary projects among Muslim countries to he lp meet their needs in few years.
f) Securing fair management of natural and biological resources.

g) Adopting new measures to combat arsenic pollution of ground waters.
h) Adopting a common stand on water shares of lower river countries in international river waters.

  1. Forests and biodiversity
    a) Setting up an Islamic center for exchange of information on biodiversity.
    b) Taking out an inventory of all plant and animal species in the Islamic world.
    c) Managing joint natural reserves shared by the Muslim countries.
    d) Enforcing the laws on natural reserves and adapting them to fit the commitments

of the Islamic countries under relevant international agreements.

e) Initiating local development projects benefitting to populations residing in the vicinity of forests, to encourage them to rationalize forest resources.
f) Supporting Islamic countries to prepare and implement national and sub-regional

strategies and plans to preserve biodiversity and reduce desertification effects.

  1. 3- Combating desertification and alleviating drought effects
    a) Launching pilot projects on local development to reduce the effects of desertification.
    b) Setting up a comprehensive strategy for identification of sites threatened by desertification in the Islamic countries.
    c) Establishing joint geographical data bases and early-warning systems to monitor desertification.
    d) Supporting Islamic countries to prepare and implement national and sub-regional strategies and plans to combat desertification and alleviate drought effects.
  2. Energy and Climate Change :
    a) Developing strategies for the cleanest and most suitable energy production systems fit for energy consumption.
    b) Conducting a comprehensive survey on Islamic countries’ capabilities in terms of harnessing solar, water and wind energy.
    c) Establishing renewable energy projects in the Muslim world.
    d) Conducting a study on impact of green house effect on Muslim countries, especially on the health.
  1. Coasts and sea water ;
    a-Training manpower in emergency intervention in the event of sea pollution with hydrocarbons and chemicals.
    b-Conducting a study on fragile coastal areas in Islamic coastal countries and ensuring their safety.
    e-Developing plans to direct population concentration and economic activities to ward off adverse effects on fragile coastal areas.
    d-Preventing evacuation of untreated sewage and liquid industrial wastes into sea waters.

VI- World Trade and Globalization

  1. Training enterprises in the Muslim world to improve their competitiveness and penetration of world markets and promoting trade exchange among Muslim countries.
  2. Formulating a guide for Islamic countries to environment norms and quality standards to enhance the competitiveness and quality of Islamic countries’ products.
  3. Sustaining international efforts to reform the world financial system and make it more transparent just and comprehensiveness to help Muslim countries take an active part in the global commercial activity and face the challenges posed by globalization.

VII- Legal and Institutional Aspects of Environment

  1. -Conducting a comparative study on Islamic countries’ environmental laws and conferring an Islamic character on their contents.
  2. Making Islamic countries’ environmental laws consistent with their commitments

under related international conventions.

  1. Training human resources in environmental law enforcement.
  2. Strengthening and supporting the legal framework of governmental institutions in charge of environment.
  1. Creating environmental associations network to coordinate their activities and programmes.
  2. Supporting local and regional non-governmental associations operating in the field of environment protection.

VIII- Involvement of civil society

  1. Encouraging involvement of the civil society in the elaboration and imple mentation of strategies and plans destined to sustainable development and environment protection
  2. Encouraging the establishment of civil society organizations and drawing up legislations promoting their participation.

IX- Awareness-raising, education and information programmes

  1. Incorporating the component of environment from an Islamic perspective in general education curricula.
  2. Establishing coordination networks between Islamic countries’ universities and governmental institutions to exchange experience in environment and sustainable development-related training and scientific research.
  3. Exchanging radio and television programmes on environmental awareness in Islamic countries.
  4. Holding training sessions for literacy personnel to incorporate the environmental component in literacy programmes.
  5. Training media specialists in environmental awareness-raising.
  6. Organizing media campaigns to enhance population behaviour and attitude towards environment and health, capitalizing on Islamic teachings in this connection.

X- Achieving peace and security

  1. Developing programmes and plans to promote justice-based peace culture in the Muslim world, contributing thereby to the promotion of global peace.
  2. Formulating programmes to highlight the importance of terminating foreign occupation and establishing peace and security in the sustainable development process.
  3. Sustaining efforts to define terrorism and highlight its difference of resistance fighting of foreign occupation as admitted by international rules, regulations and customs.

Xl- Funding

  1. Developing environmental programmes likely to induce financing provided for in environment-related international conventions.
  2. Benefiting from opportunities offered by Islamic financing institutions and the Islamic Environment Fund to carry out environment-oriented programmes in the Muslim world, including institutional support programmes and capacity-building of environment protection authorities.
  3. Harnessing local financial resources with utmost rationalization and gearing them to specific priority objectives.

Islamic Declaration on Sustainable Development The First Islamic Conference of Environment Ministers held in Jeddah, on 29 Rabia I -1st Rabia II, 1423 A.H. corresponding to 10-12 June 2002 A.D, Recalling Resolution 11/9-E issued by the 9th Islamic Summit Conference on environment from an Islamic perspective, whereby the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization- ISESCO-was mandated in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme and all relevant international and regional organizations- to prepare an action programme representing the Islamic perception of environment and development, to be presented at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, in 2002 ;

Having taken cognizance of the results arrived at by the First World Forum on Environment from an Islamic perspective, held in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on 26-28 Rajab 1421A.I4/ 23-25 October 2000, and the Jeddah Declaration issued by the Forum, the Abu Dhabi Declaration on the Future of Environment Action in the Arab World (2001), the Rabat Declaration on Investment Opportunities for Sustainable Development (2001), as well as the Tehran Declaration on Religions, Civilizations and Environment (July, 2001) and the Resolution of Oman Forum on Environment and Sustainable Development (Muscat, December 2001) ;

Recalling further Resolution 11/28-E on Environment from an Islamic Perspective adopted by the 28th Islamic Conference of Foreign Affairs Ministers (Session of Peace and Development), held in Bamako, on 4-6 Rabia 11 1422 A.H/ 25-27 June 2001, which affirmed the afore-mentioned resolutions and tasked the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to make necessary contacts with OIC Member States and regional and international organizations with a view to holding the First Islamic Conference of Environment Ministers ;

Referring to the Arab Declaration on sustainable development issued by the Arab Environment Ministers (Cairo, October 2001), and the African Ministerial Declaration on Sustainable Development (Nairobi, November 2001) as well as the Joint Ministerial Declaration by the Executive boards of the Arab and African Councils of Environment Ministers ; Committed to the Islamic approach built on promotion of man’s dignity and achievement of his lieutenancy mission on earth through good deeds that conduce to sustainable development, foster social solidarity, raise the care to orphans and the have-nots, induce edification of civilization without any plundering or dilapidation and affirm the organic relationship between man and the earth in terms of existence and development ;

Supportive of the regional and international efforts exerted to promote the standard of the life of all humans through sustainable development of all social, economic, cultural, environmental and health aspects, the ultimate purpose being to achieve a decent human life in a sound environment ; Keeping in line with the general orientations embedded in the comprehensive study prepared by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on environment, health and sustainable development, as part of contribution to the Earth Summit due in Johannesburg, on 26 August – 4 September 2002 ;

Proclaims the following :

Article 1 : Honour bestowed on man

Man is the lieutenant of Allah on earth. He is mandated to build civilization and held responsible for the harnessing and protection of environment. The Muslim, in particular, is duty-bound to take care of the environment, in the general acceptance of the term, and to make every personal and possible effort to achieve sustainable development for the general well-being of each and everybody.

Article 2 : Responsibility of man

Indeed, the most beloved by Allah are the pious and the charitable, and the most hated by Allah are the one who wreck havoc in earth. Charity is every good deed that benefits to people and takes care of the environment in which they live. It may be an act of social solidarity, a contribution to the restoration of peace and security or the eradication of poverty and unemployment, in a bid to achieve justice and equity through collective participation in the development enterprise, motivated by religious, cultural and humanitarian drives.

Article 3 : Environment from an Islamic perspective

The environment is a gift donated to man by Allah. Therefore, individuals and communities are, all, duty-bound to take care of it and promote all its natural resources, including air, climate, water, seas, flora and fauna, and refrain from any act likely to cause pollution or damage the eco-system or disturb the balance thereto.

Article 4 : Human right to environment

The right to education and to a decent life shall be recognized as well as the right to a sound, hygienic environment. The State and the soc iety shall secure these rights to enable the individual to fully enjoy his humanness and contribute to the sustainable development of his community. Women shall also be recognized as full partners in the sustainable development action.

Article 5 : Major constraints of sustainable development

Despite the significant progress made during the period of after the Rio Declaration, in the field of environment and sustainable development in the Islamic countries, there still exist some constraints among many of those countries in adopting sustainable development plans and programmes, chief among these constraints are :

  1. Poverty is responsible for many health and social, as well as psychological and moral problems. The local, national and international communities need to devise development policies and plans for economic reforms in order to address those problems, by offering job opportunities, ensuring natural, human, economic and educational development of the poorest and most underdeveloped regions, and eradicating illiteracy.
  2. Debts : Public debts, natural disasters, including drought, desertification and social backwardness resulting from ignorance, diseases and poverty all constitute the major constraints that stand in the way of successful sustainable develo pment plans and adversely affect poor communities most particularly and the international community at large. Everyone is duty-bound to be supportive, in order to surmount these difficulties and spare humanity these hazards.
  3. Wars, armed conflicts and foreign occupation, which have a harmful effect on environment and environmental safety and necessity to lay down legislation and commitments that forbid and penalize polluting the environment or cutting trees or exterminating animals ; and observing the principle of dignity in dealing with prisoners according to international law, and not maiming the death or destroying houses or civil facilities or water sources.
  4. Overpopulation, particularly in cities of developing countries and the deterioration of living conditions in shanty towns and an increase in the demand for resources, health and social services. e-Deterioration of natural resources basis and their continuous over-utilization to bolster local production and consumption patterns which add to the depletion of natural resources and hampers sustainable development in developing countries.
  5. Absence of modern technologies and technical expertise necessary for the implementation of sustainable development programmes and plans.
  6. Insufficiency of expertise necessary for Islamic countries to allow them to fulfil their commitment towards world environmental issues and to participate with international community in the efforts designed to work out solutions to those issues.

Article 6 : Twenty-first century challenges

  1. Secure funding sources necessary for sustainable development in developing countries and commit industrialized countries to stepping up support to developing nations (to stand at 1,5% of GNP).
  2. Elaboration of developmental, health and educational programmes for the least developed countries for state, local, regional and national communities, as well as relevant organizations share responsibility, albeit in varying degrees, in elaborating . They are also required to help care for childhood and motherhood, build infrastructure and facilities, by financing sustainable development programmes and by designing active political plans in this area. The qualification and competence of all those parties are gaged in the light of services they extend in these vitally important fields, as well as in the light of the consideration they give to developing programmes for developmental action at the governmental, community and institutional levels.
  3. Achieving complementarity and promoting internal and foreign investment by putting in place genuine partnership between advanced countries and developing countries and by offering better and greater opportunities for their products to compete in local and world market places through the World Trade Organization
  4. Finding out novel funding means to boost development efforts of the developing countries.
  5. Transfer of environment-friendly technology, encouraging research workers and scientific action as they constitute some of the prerequisites for enhancing developmental action, including raising greater awareness about scientific thinking and research in the fields of sustainable development, developing working means in this area and consequently helping society move to advanced levels of development and progress with greater speed and less cost.
  6. Preservation of the civilizational heritage given its cardinal role in sustainable development, for it contributes to entrenching the cultural identity, preserves its specificities, protects it from melting, helps shape an independent personality of individuals and groups, provides a powerful impetus to the developmental action to defend the national and religious personality and safeguard the common future, and stresses the spiritual and moral dimensions advocated by the heavenly religions has a positive impact in respect of pushing development towards the good, righteous deeds and social solidarity.
  7. Highlighting the prejudice caused to Islamic countries as a result of the measures taken by the international community to face world environment issues and the international community’s responsibility in providing assistance to affected Islamic countries. h-Securing full and effective participation of the developing countries in decision¬making and shoring up their presence at international economic institutions, rendering thereby the mechanisms of global economy more transparent, equitable and respectful of the rules and regulations in force, to enable the developing countries to take up the challenges posed by globalization.

Article 7 : Islamic perception of sustainable development Administrative and legal management :

  1. Achieve justice advocated by Islam between peoples and between all social categories through a just world system enabling regional and international institutions to discharge their responsibilities and allowing for equitable implementation of international resolutions, termination of foreign occupation and preservation of world peace and security.
  2. Building a world system for administrative and legal management to serve as a basis for countries to set up their national systems that promote active participation of all sectors of society in planning and achieving sustainable development.
  3. Achieving justice among peoples and promoting the role of United Nations agencies, and stimulating a climate suitable for the establishment of a genuine partnership between countries through a just system for world trade to replace the debt system that is depleting the resources of developing nations.
  4. Necessity for the international community to rein in the practices, policies and conducts that affect badly the environment and man, and hamper the development of individuals and groups ; and which include killing people, destroying houses, threatening natural resources, polluting the environment with deadly weapons, depleting water sources, deliberately breaching international laws and universally recognized customs, and utilizing the natural resources basis for the sake of promoting unsound consumption patterns.
  5. Educating righteous youth having a sense of responsibility towards the environment, and the preservation of religious and moral values that hold the family and society together and keep them away from extremism or discrimination on grounds of race, religion or culture.

This piece is taken from the website of Science et Religion in Islam.

See on-line at: 

Muslim Green Team – Islam and the Environment

April 4, 2010

Allah (swt) created humans to be stewards on this Earth. This stewardship entails upholding and spreading the message of Islam – the noblest and heaviest trust (amanah) given to humans. Allah (swt) included in this stewardship another trust – that of the Earth. Allah (swt) tells us that he has subjugated the world for our use:

It is God Who hath created the heavens and the earth and sendeth down rain from the skies, and with it bringeth out fruits wherewith to feed you; it is He Who hath made the ships subject to you, that they may sail through the sea by His command; and the rivers (also) hath He made subject to you. And He hath made subject to you the sun and the moon, both diligently pursuing their courses; and the night and the day hath he (also) made subject to you. And He giveth you of all that ye ask for. But if ye count the favours of God, never will ye be able to number them. Verily, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude. (The Holy Quran 14:32-34)

But in Islam, every right is balanced by a responsibility. Human beings do not own the Earth. It is trust given to them by its Master and Owner. Therefore, we are responsible for taking care of it in a responsible manner.

With increasingly frequent and extreme abnormal natural phenomena, the world’s attention has shifted towards climate change and humans’ role in the rapid destruction of our environment. As Muslims, we have been charged by Allah (swt) with the leadership of humankind. We have a religious and moral duty to be at the forefront of promoting environmentally sustainable practices.

This piece is taken from the website of the Muslim Green Team.

See on-line at:

Muslim Green Team – About

April 4, 2010

Muslim Green Team is a campaign of the Service Corps department of the Muslim American Society (MAS). It began in 2008 in the Bay Area chapter of MAS. MAS believes that living a “greener” lifestyle is not only healthier and socially responsible, but an essential and mandatory component of a Muslim’s life.

To this end, MAS Service Corps established Muslim Green Team. It is a comprehensive, grassroots (pun intended!), environmental campaign, promoting environmentally conscious and sustainable practices in all spheres of human activity.
The primary objectives of Muslim Green Team are:

  • To fulfill our duty to Allah (swt) in adopting environmentally friendly practices.
  • To contribute to the increasingly global effort to reverse the effects of environmentally-irresponsible practices.
  • To raise awareness about environmental issues within the Muslim community.
  • To demonstrate the environmental message of Islam.
  • To contribute the unique, Islamic perspective of the environment to the national and global environmental conversation.

We intend to deliver education, training and materials to address many categories of environmental concern, including:

  • Garbage/waste
  • Water
  • Air
  • Home gardening practices
  • Agricultural practices
  • Energy
  • Transportation
  • Nutrition
  • Animals
  • The Muslim Green Team holds an annual Eco-fair to draw attention to all these matters and educated the community on how they can participate in taking up environmentally responsible practices, and in a fun and informal manner.

    In addition, Muslim Green Team organizes a project every year targeting a particular area of concern. These projects are intended to rally the community behind a specific cause to have a larger environmental impact, and so that the particular positive change can become part of the culture of the community. The entire community supports each other in making permanent, productive changes.

    Finally, we would like to humbly remind ourselves and others that consciousness about the environment is an essential component of the comprehensive Muslim personality. While a Muslim may have special interests in particular aspects of Islam and life, she should be aware of all the components that Islam is comprised and that should be implemented in every Muslim’s life, even if just a little!

    ‘Aisha (radiAllahu anha) narrated, that the Prophet was asked: “What deeds are loved most by Allah?” He said, “The most regular constant deeds even though they may be few.” He added, “Don’t take upon yourselves, except the deeds which are within your ability.” [Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:76:472]

    This piece is taken from the website of the Muslim Green Team.

Islamic Relief Environment Policy

April 4, 2010

“Mischief has appeared on the land and sea because of (the greed) that the hands of

man have earned” (Ar-Rum/ The Romans [30] 41)


Many poor people in developing countries live in ecologically vulnerable environments. This

affects both their livelihoods and their safety. As their farm lands erode, deserts advance and

forests disappear, they are finding it increasingly difficult to ensure a sufficient and sustainable

income. As increasing numbers of people are forced to live in precarious locations such as steep

hills, slums and unstable coastal areas continues to rise, natural hazards such as earthquakes and

hurricanes are increasingly likely to cost lives.

Poverty accelerates environmental destruction, as survival often requires an overexploitation of

natural surroundings. Relatively infertile land is quickly depleted and prone to erosion. The

quest for survival leads to levels of hunting, fishing, grazing, and wood-gathering that surpass

the environment’s carrying capacity. It is difficult to escape from this downward spiral, in which

poverty and environmental destruction reinforce each other.

Climate change is exacerbating this situation. It is likely to annihilate the poverty reduction gains

of the recent past, and may render the Millennium Development Goals unachievable. In sub-

Saharan Africa alone, 182 million people could die of diseases directly attributable to climate

change by the end of the century.

increased suffering and lower life expectancy as a consequence of climate-induced floods,

famine, drought and conflict. The number of weather-related disasters a year – including

droughts, windstorms and floods – has more than doubled since 1996.

1 Throughout the world, many millions more are facing2·

negative, particularly in the poorest communities, which have contributed least to

greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall […] the health effects of a rapidly changing climate are likely to be overwhelmingly3·

annual 2 million premature deaths around the world.

Air pollution causes respiratory infections, heart disease, and lung cancer. This causes an4·

availability, stability, access and utilisation. This is expected to lead to decreased food

security and increased vulnerability of poor rural farmers, especially in the arid and semiarid

tropics and Asian and African mega-deltas.

Changes in water quantity and quality due to climate change are expected to affect food5·

billion in the 1990s. Virtually all victims live in developing countries.

The number of people affected by disasters increased from 740 million in the 1970s to 26·


land, are becoming increasingly frequent.

In the course of the last three decades, land area stricken by serious drought more than7 Wars and civil strife over increasingly scarce resources, such as water and fertile1

WHO guidance on the health impacts of air pollutants,

World Disasters Report 2005, IFRC3

Climate and Health fact sheet, World Health Organisation,


WHO guidance on the health impacts of air pollutants,


Climate Change and Water, IPCC Technical Paper VI, June 2008,

Financial Initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), http://www.unepfi.org7

Atmospheric Research, NCAR, 10 January 2005;

Drought’s Growing Reach: NCAR Study Points to Global Warming as Key Factor, US National Center for February 2009 4


water-related stress due to climate change.

affected by serious water shortages.

By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa will be exposed to an increase in8 By 2025, more than 3 billion people could be9·

environmental refugees by 2050.

The UN expects 50 million environmental refugees by 2010,10 and 150 million11Compromising the environment for the benefit of short term development means a transfer of

poverty and suffering from one generation to all subsequent generations. The reality of climate

change requires adaptation, but adaptation alone will not be sufficient to cope with all the everincreasing

effects of climate change.

12Environment and poverty

Almost a quarter of all illnesses in developing countries are related to the environment.

Environmental damage aggravates poverty as it depletes natural resources on which poor people

in particular depend. Rapid deforestation and the depletion or even extinction of species deprive

people of valuable products such as firewood, food and medicinal substances (often necessitated

to pay off international debts, see IR debt policy). The health of millions of people is affected by

polluted drinking water, sanitation that is insufficiently hygienic because of water shortages, and

air pollution. Although economic growth in developing countries is crucial for poverty

reduction, it can also easily contribute to further damage to the environment, especially under

the current international trade system (see IR trade policy).

Biodiversity benefits people through more than just its contribution to material welfare and

livelihoods. Biodiversity contributes to security, resilience (to climate variability and market

fluctuations as they are less dependent on one or a few products and dependent on selling for

living, they live off what they have in nature), social relations (damage to ecosystems, highly

valued for their aesthetic, recreational, or spiritual values can damage social relations, both by

reducing the bonding value of shared experience as well as by causing resentment toward

groups that profit from their damage), health, and freedom of choices and actions (less

resources, less opportunities)

the past 50 years than at any time in human history. The Millennium Assessment

the dynamics that cause biodiversity loss continue unabated, and may well increase in intensity,

13. The reduction of the world’s biodiversity has been more rapid in14 predicts that8

International Governmental Panel on Climate Change, 6 April 2007,

Chatham House/BOND, 23 February 2006,


Development Beyond Aid, Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development, 5th White Paper Speech,

50m environmental refugees by end of decade, UN warns, 12 October 2005, The Guardian;,,1589898,00.html


auspices of the UN, estimates this, due mainly to the effects of coastal flooding, shoreline erosion and agricultural

disruption. See Living Space for Environmental Refugees,

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which advises the world’s governments under the

International Governmental Panel on Climate Change, 6 April 2007,

translates to a loss in control over the local fish stock and a livelihood they have been pursuing for many generations

and that they value. Another example is high-diversity agricultural systems. These systems normally produce less

cash than monoculture cash crops, but farmers have some control over their entitlements because of spreading risk

through diversity. High diversity of genotypes, populations, species, functional types, and spatial patches decreases

the negative effects of pests and pathogens on crops and keeps open possibilities for agrarian communities to develop

crops suited to future environmental challenges and to increase their resilience to climate variability and market


For example, local fishers depend on mangroves as breeding grounds for local fish populations. Loss of mangroves14

Resources Institute, Washington, DC,

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis. World February 2009 5

meaning the foundation that people live on also continues to erode unabated risking more and

more to poverty.

In the last century, some people have benefited from the conversion of natural ecosystems to

human-dominated ecosystems and from the exploitation of biodiversity. However, these gains

have been achieved at growing costs in the form of losses in biodiversity, degradation of many

ecosystem services, and the exacerbation of poverty for the majority of the world’s population.

The impact of climate change, and of more direct man-made environmental destruction such as

unsustainable logging and unregulated dumping, falls disproportionately upon developing

countries. Within these countries, the poor are affected most severely, as they tend to live in

ecologically vulnerable environments. They are the ones who tend to depend on rain fed

agriculture, and thus the ones most affected by variations in precipitation levels and an

increased frequency of extreme weather conditions. As rain fall drops, farm lands are eroded,

deserts advance and forests disappear, with each new generation finding it harder to ensure a

livelihood. This exacerbates inequities in health status and access to adequate food, clean water

and other resources.

15In turn, their poverty accelerates environmental destruction, as their survival requires an

overexploitation of their natural surroundings. Their relatively infertile land is farmed too

intensively, and soil erosion accelerates as a consequence. In their quest for survival, the poor

are often forced into practices that surpass the environment’s carrying capacity such as

overhunting, overfishing, overgrazing, and wood-gathering. This downward spiral, in which

poverty and environmental destruction reinforce each other, is difficult to escape. Climate

change consolidates the link. It is likely to annihilate the poverty reduction gains of the recent

past, and renders the millennium and other development goals unachievable.

The principle of intergenerational equity (‘neighbours in time’) requires that all members of

each generation of human beings inherit a natural and cultural patrimony from past generations,

both as beneficiaries and as custodians under the duty to pass on this heritage to future

generations. This right is inseparably coupled with the obligation to use this heritage in such a

manner that it can be passed on to future generations in no worse condition than it was received.

Saving people now at the expense of future generations is not solving the problem.

Environment and Islam

There are five major aims (


degradation will end the opportunity to live, to own property, to beget offspring, and to be

religious (how?).

Shariah. This is illustrated by some 750 verses in the Qur’an that exhort believers to reflect on

nature, to study the relationship between living organisms and their environment, to make the

maqasid) of the Shariah16: protection of religion (‘deen’), lifenafs’), mind (‘aql’), offspring (‘nasl’), and property (‘ma’al’). Ultimately, environmental17 Environmental protection is thus necessary in order to achieve the aims of the15

Third Assessment Report (TAR) ‘Climate Change 2001’,

Creator. It is the yearning deep within to seek the Lord and the Master that the Shariah translates into steps, concrete

and specific, on the pathways of life.

Shariah literally means a ‘clear path’. It is the path that man, in Islam, must walk as he toils and strives to reach his17

for grazing purposes) which can be applied for nature conservation within the Islamic law.

Practically, Shariah has clear instructions such as harim (preserved natural environments) and hima (protected landUpdated February 2009 6

best use of reason and to maintain the balance and proportion God has built into the Creation.

18In brief, the Islamic view on the environmental balance is illustrated by the following guiding



Tawheed (Unity of Creation):“Say: He is Allah the One and Only; Allah the Eternal Absolute; He begets not nor is He

begotten; And there is none like unto Him.” (Al-Baqarah/ The Cow [112] 1-4). Tawheed of

Lordship in Arabic means ‘

The Owner, In charge of every affair, Creator. So, Tawheed of Rububiyyah means testification

that Allah is the Creator of all creation, the One Who gives them death and life. Not looking

after the rest of Creation is thus neglecting part of what we ourselves as humans form part of.

The Qur’an has several other verses referring to the oneness of Creation; that we are but a small

part of this creation by God Almighty: “Surely the creation of the heavens and the earth is

greater than the creation of man; but most people know not” (Q [40] 57).

The world is not ours to abuse. Generations after us have as many rights (and duties) as we do.

Tawheed is the fundamental confirmation of the oneness of the Creator; of the unity of all

creation; and of the interdependence of the natural order of which humanity is an intrinsic part.

Rububiyah‘ – it is derived from the root word of ‘Rabb’ which means2) Humanity’s relation to God:

“Allah’s guidance is the [only] guidance and we have been directed to submit ourselves to the

Lord of the worlds. To establish regular prayers and to fear Allah; for it is to Him that we shall

be gathered together. It is He who created the heavens and the earth in true [proportions]: the

day He says “Be” Behold! It is. His Word is the truth. His will be the dominion the day the

trumpet will be blown. He knows the Unseen as well as that which is open. For He is the Wise

well acquainted [with all things]. (Al-Anam/ The Livestock [6] 71-3) On the Day of Judgment

we will be held accountable for how we have absolved ourselves of duties put on us by Allah,

which includes taking care of the environment. Not looking after the environment will affect our

record on Day of Judgment negatively.

3) To Allah belongs the earth and the heavens:

“To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of

affairs.” (An-Nisa/ The Women [4] 171);

“To Him belongs all that dwells or lurks in the night and the day. For He is the One Who hears

and knows all things.” (Al-Anam/ The Livestock [6] 13);

“To Him belongs what is in the heavens and on earth and all between them and all beneath the

soil.” (Ta-Ha/ Ta-Ha [20] 6);

“To Him belong all [creatures] in the heavens and on earth: even those who are in His [very]

Presence are not too proud to serve Him nor are they [ever] weary [of His service)].” (Al-

Anbiya/ The Prophets [21] 19)


Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Based on article by Dr. Hasan Zillur Rahim, Ecology in Islam: Protection of the Web of Life a Duty for Muslims,, October 1991, Page 65; February 2009 7

As is obvious from the above sample verses, Allah makes it clear that what is in the earth (and

the heavens) is not ours. If is not ours, then it is not our right to choose to destroy it. Especially

in ‘developed’ countries we are destroying parts of Creation by living beyond the environmental

capacity (e.g. if everyone lives like the average person in the UK, we would need three planets

to sustain this lifestyle), thus going into ‘ecological debt’, a debt on Allah’s Creation which we

will be asked to pay on Day of Judgment, unless we look after the environment as caretaker, not


4) Humanity and Khalifa (Guardian of Creation):

“It is He who has made you [His] agents inheritors of the earth: He has raised you in ranks some

above others: that He may

punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.” (Al-Anam/ The Livestock [6] 165)

It is impermissible in Islam to abuse one’s rights as

faith” underpins Islamic law. The planet was inherited by all humankind and all its posterity

from generation to generation. No one generation has the right to pollute the planet or consume

its natural resources in a manner that leaves for posterity a planet that is denuded of its resources

or polluted.

try you in the gifts He has given you: for your Lord is quick inkhalifa, because the notion of acting in “good5) Mizaan (Balance):

“[Allah] Most Gracious! It is He Who has taught the Qur’an. He has created man: He has

taught him speech [and Intelligence]. The sun and the moon follow courses [exactly] computed;

And the herbs and the trees – both [alike] bow in adoration. And the firmament has He raised

high and He has set up the balance [of Justice] In order that ye may not transgress [due] balance.

So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance. It is He Who has spread out the

earth for [His] creatures: Therein is fruit and date-palms producing spathes [enclosing dates]:

Also corn with [its] leaves and stalk for fodder and sweet-smelling plants. Then which of the

favours of your Lord will ye deny? (Ar-Rahman/ The Merciful [55] 1-13). When using

resources that Allah has created (e.g. biodiversity) we should bear in mind the ‘carrying

capacity’ of an area, the use that a resource can handle and replenish, bearing in mind that those

after us have just as much right to resources as we do, so we should ensure balanced use

throughout our lives.

6) Justice:

recommends and helps an evil cause shares in its burden: and Allah has power over all things.”

(An-Nisa/ The Women [4] 85). This concept of justice encompasses intergenerational justice.

When faced with challenges (e.g. our beneficiaries are getting poorer due to desertification) it is

important to know the source. Dealing only with the symptoms (such as distributing new seeds

after reserves were lost in a drought), means we will continue dealing with them for a very long

time. But if we get to the bottom, we can deal with the cause and support our beneficiaries in a

more lasting and sustainable way.

Whoever recommends and helps a good cause becomes a partner therein: and whoever7) Use but do not abuse:

“O children of Adam! … eat and drink: but waste not by excess for Allah loves not the wasters.”

(Al-Araf/ The Heights [7] 31)

Updated February 2009 8

The earth’s resources land, water, air, minerals, forests are available for our use, but these gifts

come from God with certain ethical restraints imposed on them. We may use them to meet our

needs, but only in a way that does not upset ecological balance and that does not compromise

the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

8) Fitra (natural state):

“So set your face steadily and truly to the Faith: [Establish] Allah’s handiwork according to the

pattern on which He has made mankind: no change [let there be] in the work [wrought] by

Allah: that is the standard Religion: but most among mankind understand not.” (Ar-Rum/ The

Romans [30] 30). The natural state is to live in harmony with our surroundings, not to

overexploit it as is often the case. At the other, repairing the natural state is not a question about

saving trees, but a question of equity and justice.

9) Amanah (trust)

:“We offered the trust unto the heavens and the earth and the hills, but they shrank from bearing

it and were afraid of it and man assumed it. He is a tyrant and fool.” (Al-Ahzab/ The Clans [33]


Within this contract, the bestower of the trust (Allah SWT) is giving a responsibility to the

trustee (humanity). In other words, the guardian of the trust has a high degree of freedom and

accompanying responsibility in its use (or misuse). If humanity did not have the power to either

use or misuse this trust given to it by God, then the whole idea of offering the trust, in the first

place, would be futile: “there is no trust if the trustee has no power, and the trust implies that the

giver of the trust believes and expects that the trustee would use it according to the wishes of the

creator of the trust, and not otherwise.”

Qur’an by the frequent recounting of the histories of the people of Ad and Thamud.

implications of these stories for contemporary times are grave, and clear.

19 The consequence of violating the trust is attested in the20 TheIslamic Relief’s Environment Policy

Islamic Relief is inspired by the teachings of Islam in all of its work. Islam’s environmental

worldview is a holistic one. It assumes a fundamental link and interdependency between all

natural elements and bases its teachings on the premise that if humanity abuses or exhausts one

element, the natural world as a whole will suffer direct consequences. Ultimately, none of the

five major aims (

property) can be sustained if the world’s environment – God’s Creation – does not allow for


Islamic Relief recognises that poverty and environmental degradation need to be tackled

simultaneously to achieve long-term alleviation of the suffering of the world’s poorest people

and to be true to the Muslim faith. Although Islamic Relief will not by itself be able to solve

global environmental issues, it does have a duty to do what it can, and recognises that, through

its programmes and through its organisational behaviour, much can be achieved.

maqasid) of the Shariah (protection of religion, life, mind, offspring and19

Ali, A.Y. The Holy Qur’an; Text, Translation and Commentary. Maryland; Amana Corporation. 1989. pg. 108020

Thamud were “settled firmly on earth” – but they arrogantly abused the power given to them by Allah, and were

destroyed by an environmental cataclysm.

Both were powerful tribes in their respective times and lands – Ad were “endowed abundantly with power” andUpdated February 2009 9

Islamic Relief is a humanitarian relief and development organisation. The vast majority of its

income is dedicated to helping poor people escape poverty and suffering through relief and

sustainable development programmes. The organisation’s efforts to increase awareness and to

avoid environmental degradation in general and reduce its carbon emissions in particular,

reinforce this core purpose.

Islamic Relief believes that humankind has the responsibility to maintain the balance and

proportion that God has built into the Creation. Islamic Relief also believes that much suffering

is being caused by disruption of that balance and proportion.

Islamic Relief believes that a rich biological heritage, a stable climate and clean water are as

important to communities as their material needs. Furthermore, Islamic Relief believes that

environmental conservation, socio-economic development, and even relief activities go hand in

hand in all but the most extreme of circumstances.

Islamic Relief will not be able to single-handedly change the world’s economic system and

modes of production. However, Islamic Relief

programmes do not place more than a minimum additional burden on the environment. In

addition, Islamic Relief may, in some cases, be able to restore the environmental balance and

proportion. In the past years, a number of the Islamic Relief Field Partners have shown that it is

possible to take into account consciously the longer term sustainability of our interventions, and

have already developed replicable examples of projects that reverse environmental degradation.

This will be made possible by:

will be able to ensure that its own actions and·

environmentally conscious. Starting at the Islamic Relief Worldwide and then expanding to

Partner Organisations and Implementing Partners, Islamic Relief will adopt a range of

feasible and affordable measures which will reduce Islamic Relief’s ecological footprint

Making its staff more environmentally aware and its office operations moreand

switching off equipment, utilising alternatives to air travel); system development (e.g.

separating garbage, recharging cartridges); and environmentally conscious procurement

(including office procurement and procurement for field operations and of relief items).

save Islamic Relief donors’ money. These measures include behavioural changes (e.g.,·

Islamic Relief’s project preparation process and include environmental impact in


Introducing environmental impact assessments as a meaningful and standard component of·

and environmental regeneration.

Islamic Relief aims to be conscious of its ‘ecological footprint’ and to minimise any negative

effects that may arise from its work. As an organisation that is conscious of its duty to Allah’s

Creation, Islamic Relief should be in the position to play a leadership role within the wider

Muslim community by 2010, and more generally a leadership voice by 2015 (deadline for


In the longer term, to contribute to the Islamic Relief’s vision of creating a caring world where

the basic requirements of people in need are fulfilled, Islamic Relief’s organisational aims

evolve to accommodate the rapid changes that today’s world is undergoing. In view of the

Initiating and expanding projects that create sustainable livelihoods through conservationUpdated February 2009 10

poverty and suffering that environmental degradation is causing, and will cause in the future,

Islamic Relief’s mission and organisational aims will be reviewed, to incorporate: 1) the

imperative to minimise negative consequences of Islamic Relief’s work on the environment; 2)

the commitment to reverse, where possible, environmental degradation; and 3) the commitment

to enhance communities’ ability to cope with environmental change.

Updated February 2009 11

Published by Islamic Relief Worldwide

19 Rea Street South


B5 6LB

United Kingdom



© Islamic Relief Worldwide 2009

This article is taken from the website of Islamic Relief Worldwide.

See on-line at:

Islamic Relief Worldwide – IN DEPTH ANALYSIS / Policy and Research: Overview

April 4, 2010


Poverty and environmental degradation are closely linked. The causes of environmental degradation disproportionately affect the poor, while poverty also accelerates environmental destruction.  

Poor communities often rely on agriculture, fisheries and natural resources in order to make a living but the depletion of fertile grazing land, forests and water sources is leaving them with no way to feed or support themselves. This means they are forced into a cycle of ever-deepening poverty.

In addition, global climate change and local environmental degradation have caused more natural disasters such as droughts, floods and storms. Those most vulnerable are the poorest communities who do not have the resources to protect themselves, with the consequence that there are increasing numbers of ‘environmental refugees.’ 

As natural resources are depleted, poor communities are forced through necessity to overexploit the resources that remain, leading to yet further environmental destruction. Land is over-cultivated, eroded and reserves of wood or grass are used up. Unfortunately as natural resources such as water, that are essential for human life, are used up conflicts between individuals, communities and even countries will become more frequent. Many of the conflicts we see today can be traced to disagreements over access to and use of diminishing natural resources. Islamic Relief is a humanitarian relief and development organisation that works with some of the world’s poorest people. If we are to fulfil our commitment to provide support to these communities we must work to ensuring environmental sustainability.
If the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are to be met by 2015 it is integral that there are significant steps towards environmental sustainability. At present around 10 million children die every year before their fifth birthday, most as the result of diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and also malnutrition, such diseases will become more widespread as a result of climate change. If the world wide community is to meet the commitments of the MDGs, then it is essential that we act now on climate change.
Our values
Islamic Relief is an organisation inspired by the teachings of Islam. The Islamic environmental worldview is a holistic one and is based on the five aims of Shariah which aim to protect religion, life, mind, offspring and property. Yet these are all directly or indirectly threatened by environmental degradation.

In Islam, Muslims are encouraged to reflect on the relationship between living organisms and their environment and to maintain the balance created by God. Mankind is the guardian of the earth and as such has a duty to protect it and also to ensure its posterity for future generations in the spirit of inter-generational equity.
Islamic Relief believes that we all have a responsibility to maintain the balance of the earth, especially as disruption of this balance is causing widespread suffering amongst the world’s poorest people. Protection of the environment is therefore crucial to Islamic Relief both as one of the Islamic principles on which we are founded, and also because of its importance for poverty reduction.

Our response
Islamic Relief believes that a stable climate and a rich environmental heritage are as important to communities as their material needs. We also believe that environmental conservation, socioeconomic development and emergency relief are interlinked and these links should be reflected in our activities.

Islamic Relief’s interventions to promote environmental sustainability focus on four areas:

  • integrating the principles of sustainable development into all projects
  • preventing or reversing the loss of environmental resources
  • ensuring Islamic Relief’s own internal policies and practices are environmentally sound 
  • advocating for global change to protect the environment.

Project work
Development projects

  • Islamic Relief conducts meaningful environmental impact assessments as a standard part of every project preparation process.
  • Islamic Relief implements many projects aimed at creating sustainable livelihoods through environmental protection and regeneration and promoting environmentally sound practices.
  • We are expanding our projects to meet challenges posed by climate change including increasing natural disasters.

Emergency relief
There is a strong link between environmental degradation and the frequency of natural and man-made disasters. Despite this, in an emergency situation relief workers are often unable to prioritise environmental issues.

  • To help us respond to environmental needs during an emergency Islamic Relief will incorporate viable elements of Rapid Environmental Impact Assessments into our disaster response operations and our disaster response training programmes.

Internal environmental challenges
Islamic Relief is committed to ensuring that all our offices are environmentally sound. This will reduce the organisation’s collective ‘carbon footprint’, reduce costs and also lend us credibility required to advocate on environmental matters. Measures include:

  • Staff behavioural changes such as ensuring all equipment is switched off when not in use, not undertaking unnecessary printing, etc.
  • System development such as recycling all rubbish.
  • The development of an environmentally conscious procurement policy, including the procurement of office items, items for field offices and emergency relief supplies.
  • Limiting the frequency of international air travel and offsetting our carbon emissions.

Islamic Relief is a member of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition as well as various local environmental networks through our various field offices in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.

This piece is taken from the website of the Islamic Relief Worldwide.

See on-line at:

Islam, Environment and Sustainability: “The Environmental Crisis Is also A Spiritual Crisis” – Interview with Dr. Sigrid Nökel

April 4, 2010

Islam, Environment and Sustainability: “The Environmental Crisis is also a Spiritual Crisis”
Interview with Dr. Sigrid Nökel

by Eren Güvercin

For some years now a global environmental discourse has been underway, one that connects ecological themes with Islamic ethics. But to what extent can Islam really give us guidance on ecological sustainability? Eren Güvercin seeks answers from expert Sigrid Nökel

It’s rather unusual for Islam and environmental protection to be mentioned in the same breath. What sort of environmental concepts does Islam have to offer?

Sigrid Nökel: The type of environmental problems that we are familiar with are the result of industrialisation and capitalism, so they are relatively recent developments. The Islamic sources, on the other hand, are more than a thousand years old and originated in a completely different context. So we can only draw on ideas about the relationship between people and their environment that are of a more general nature.

There are terms that have come down to us, such as fitra – which refers to creation as an original natural order; tawhid – the unity of creation, which tells us that all things in the world are related to one another and because they are all equal signs of God, all are equally important, valuable and worthy of preservation; mizan – balance, is the state of well-ordered creation, which must be maintained or restored.

Finally there is khilafa, referring to the role of mankind as the trustee of creation. It is the duty of mankind to maintain the order of creation. The fruits of the earth are to be enjoyed, but its resources must not be wastefully exploited.

Also, in the words and deeds of the prophet and the early Muslims, which have come down to us, there are examples to be found that tell us we should be sparing and prudent in our use of natural resources and provide well for our animals. They provide an example to be followed by later generations.

Does the Islamic tradition offer any fundamental concepts related to protection of the environment?

Nökel: There are regulations known from the Islamic regions from former times that one could describe as instruments for nature and wildlife conservation and attempts are now being made to try to revive these. Among these are the so-called harim and hima zones, for example. They include the idea of having protective zones around springs and watercourses, where, for example, no settlements are permitted, so as to keep the water from becoming polluted.

There were also meadow or forest areas, where people were allowed to go at certain times only – after the pollen harvest, for example, or when dry periods were threatening. With privatisation of land, intensification of agriculture and increasing building these practices have been forgotten. There have been attempts at their reintroduction going on for a number of years now as part of water, riverbank restoration and species conservation projects.

You’ve written about the eco-theology of Seyyid Hussein Nasr in your work. What is that about?

Nökel: Seyyid Hussein Nasr is a Persian philosopher and theologian who was born in 1939. Like some Christian philosophers, Nasr places the question of ecological balance in a religious context. It is based on a cosmological view of the world, with nature, man, God or heaven and earth forming a natural and well-balanced order.

He believes that man has been denying this order since the time of the European Enlightenment, replacing it instead with an anthropocentric order that places man at the centre and gives him free reign, in the absence of a connection to any higher order, to exploit nature.

Nasr sees man as an incredibly selfish and greedy creature, albeit one constantly striving for transcendence. Rootless in a cosmological sense, however, and unable to find true satisfaction, he seeks consolation in ever increasing consumption and the perfection of technology. He sees the environmental crisis as a spiritual crisis. This also applies to Islam and to Muslims who, he believes, need to find their way back to their original path.

Nasr aims, in the Sufi tradition, at individuals first and foremost, who must recognise the cosmological laws and follow them in their own lives. The focus on spiritual orientation would then replace that on consumption. This is at once both very conservative and very topical, if one considers the ubiquitous demands on us to decrease consumption and change our lifestyle.

Muslims have so far not been terribly conspicuous in the debate on environmental protection. Why is that?

Nökel: Muslims are hardly represented in public debate or organisations, at best only very occasionally in their role as ‘migrants’. The religious attitude is seen as a private matter that one does not comment on publicly in order not to compromise oneself. It is, so to speak, a taboo subject.

Most Muslims are unaware of the relationship between religion and environmental conservation, though they are conscious of it in a more general way. The Munich-based foundation Stiftung Interkultur is currently carrying out a small survey. What this has already made evident is that Muslims who take religion seriously express the view that religion demands “respect for nature” which then prompts them to actions in their everyday lives, such as helping to protect green areas or persuading others to be more economical with water and food or to think more about their consumption.

There are, however, no comprehensive empirical studies on the environmental awareness of Muslims. They have so far not been considered as a relevant group in this context, or they have been seen as beyond the reach of these sorts of issues.

What sort of contribution do you think Muslims could make to this currently very hotly debated topic of “environmental protection”?

Nökel: It seems that Muslims still need to more clearly understand the relationship between religion and environment. For many, they are two completely different things that they have so far not managed to bring together. Possibly an idea such as “eco-Islam” could provide new ideas, enable people to identify with the environmental issues, and to look afresh at their lifestyle and everyday habits in this respect.

Nasr does not want to see Islam exhausting itself in the observance of rites and rituals, but instead taking a personal responsibility for the world, one that goes beyond denominational boundaries. This is something that each person has to work on for him or herself. Environmental and climate protection will become matters of spiritual rather than just fashionable significance.

A large number of people could be reached via mosques and Islamic groups, people who do not normally feel that such issues have anything to do with them. Environmental discourses could take root here. Networking with other environmental groups and organizations would be possible. The environmental movement will then have taken a step forward.

Are there any “eco-Islamic” projects or initiatives in Europe?

Nökel: One of the best-known organizations is the British Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, IFEES for short. It is a UNO registered NGO and a sister organisation of the internationally active Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), with whom they have worked together on coastal protection measures in Africa. This, along with their initiatives in the UK, has been very effective in helping build up an effective media image for an eco-Islam. They present an impressive synthesis of Islamic and environmental discourses in their professionally produced ecoIslam newsletter.

It provides a skilfully produced mix of articles covering the global issues as well as the everyday and practical. IFEES maintains links with regional British organisations that have started up in the last few years. In comparison, Germany is still something of a developing country in this context.

Interview: Eren Güvercin

© 2009

Dr. Sigrid Nökel is a sociologist. Her PhD on The Daughters of Migrant Workers and Islam (in German) was written at the University of Bielefeld. She has also carried out research work on “Euro Islam” at the Kulturwissenschaftlichen Institut Essen (KWI) and at the University of Bremen. She has authored a study on Islam for the Munich-based Stiftung Interkultur as part of a series on migration and sustainability (Stiftung Interkultur – Skripte zu Migration und Nachhaltigkeit (Link to PDF – in German).

This piece is taken from the website of The American Muslim.

See on-line at:

Environmental Ethics in Islam

April 4, 2010

Environmental Ethics in Islam
By Abdur-Razzaq Lubis


Over the past few decades or so, there has been a growing realization that the accelerating deterioration of the environment is not so much an environmental problem as a human one, and has its root in a distorted and unbalanced perception of existence. Many in the West are engaged in articulating a new eco-philosophy” or “deep ecology”, emphasizing the importance of developing an ecological consciousness, and in the process formulating a comprehensive and radical environmental ethic. The Muslim response to this, all over the world, has been virtually absent.

In order to alter the kufr (concealing of the truth) world-view responsible for the state of our environment, it would require a fundamental change in the way we live our lives at the personal and societal level. Islam is the willing submission to the Lord of Creation and a personal taking-on of ad-Din (the life transaction). Allah has guided us to the life transaction, which is nothing but the perfection of human behaviour or character. It is behaviour towards Allah, behaviour towards people, behaviour towards all of Allah’s creatures. It is the pattern of living by example and discernment, and of living in a natural state in accordance to the laws that govern the universe, which we in Islam call fitra. The fitra the natural pattern of creation itself and the Qur’an locates humankind in it:

So set thy face to the religion,
a man of pure faith –
God’s original upon which He originated mankind.
There is no changing God’s creation.
That is the rig ht religion;
But most men know it not (Qur’an 30:30).

God created humans as part of His original creation to function within its primordial pattern. Humanity is then inescapably subject to God’s immutable laws, as is the rest of creation. In this sense, human beings are equal partners with nature. Creation cannot be changed. Where there is an action there is a reaction, according to God’s laws. Global warming can be seen, in this light, as the earth’s endeavour to maintain a balance in response to the human assault against it.

The Oneness of Creation

Tawheed is the fundamental statement of the oneness of the Creator, from which everything else follows. It is the primordial testimony to the unity of all creation and to the interdependence of the natural order of which humanity is an intrinsic part.
Allah says of Himself in the Qur’an:

Say; He is God, One God,
the Everlasting Refuge.
and about creation:

To Him belongs whatever is
in the heavens and the earth
all obey His will
and it is He who originates
creation,,, (Qur’an 30:25).

The whole of creation – being the work of one Originator – works within a defined pattern.
Another verse in the Qur’an refers to the heavens and the Earth as extensions of God’s throne, thus conveying the idea that creation was designed to function as a whole. Each of its complementary parts, including humankind, plays its own self-preserving role, and in so doing supports the rest.
The Order of Things

Allah has created the world and the universe perfect in proportion, measure and balance as a life-supporting system.

Behold, everything have We created in
due measure and proportion (Qur’an 67:3,4).

Allah created the heavens and the earth, and everything between them.

Unto Him belongs all that is in the heaven and
all that is on the earth, and all that is between
them and under the ground (Qur’an 20:6).

The primary function of all created things, including humans, is to obey and glorify its Creator:

The seven heavens extol His limitless glory,
and the earth, and all they contain;
and there is not a single thing but extols His limitless glory and praise;
but you (O men) fail to grasp the manner of their glorifying Him (Qur’an 17:44).

All the elements in the universe are interdependent and connected, and have a value to each other, over and above their value to humans; for humans need the earth in order to subsist, but the earth has no need for humans. Allah has said:

Greater indeed than the creation of man is the creation of the heavens and the earth:
yet most men do not understand (Qur’an 40:57).

Indeed the earth and what it contains is a means of subsistence for all creatures, not only for humans:

And the earth We have spread out wide, and placed on it mountains firm,
and produced therein means of subsistence – for you (0 men) and for those whose sustenance does not depend on you (Qur’an 15:19,20).

Thus each single element plays an essential part in the maintenance, sustenance and preservation of the whole. In other words, the function of all created things is to serve creation itself. In contemporary parlance, all created things have an ecological function.
A further function of creation is to service humans:

And He has made of service to you (as a gift) from Himself,
all that is in the heavens and on the earth;
in this, behold, there are signs indeed for people who think! (Qur’an 45:13)

Allah has passed the whole of creation to humans by virtue of the trust placed on them.
In summary, all creation have a hierarchical function or value:
An inherent value as things-in-themselves
An ecological value as integral parts of the whole
A utilisation value to humans
The Nations of Allah

Humans are not the only creatures that are worthy of protection and recognition in Islam. All that Allah has created are “nations” or “communities” unto themselves:

There is not an animal in the earth nor a flying creature flying on two wings but they are nations like unto you. We have neglected nothing in the Book (of our decrees).
Then unto their Lord they will be gathered (Qur’an 6:38).

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is reported to have said:

All creatures are God’s dependents and the most beloved to God,
among them, is he who does good to God’s dependents (Kashf al-Khafa’)

In Islamic belief, humans have certain obligations towards other living creatures. We will be responsible on the Day of Judgement for how we have treated these creatures. The owner of an animal is obliged to feed it and to treat it if it is ill.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

Allah punished a woman because she imprisoned a cat until it died of hunger.
She neither fed it, nor let it obtain its own food (Riyadh as Salihin).

It is wrong for anyone to over-burden and mistreat an animal and cause it unnecessary pain. A man cannot even milk an animal at a time or in a way that would damage its young, as the milk rightly belongs to the young animal. Before a Muslim milks a cow, he is expected to cut his nails so that he does not unwittingly hurt her. Likewise, when honey is taken from a beehive, enough should be left for the bee’s own use. The protection of animals extends beyond mere physical protection. Cursing an animal is also frowned upon. Ahmad and Muslim have transmitted a hadith, narrated by lmran, in which the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, while traveling, overheard a woman cursing a female camel. He reprimanded her, saying, “leave it alone” (spare it from your curses).
The Guardian of Planet Earth

Adam, the progenitor of the human race, primal man, and prophet was appointed khalifa, and, by extension, every man and woman, has inherited the power and responsibility in relation to the planet and all its life forms.

We have honoured the children of Adam and carried them on land and sea,
and provided them with good things, and preferred them greatly over many of those We created (Qur’an 17:70).

A khalifa is one who inherits a position, a power, a trust, and who holds it responsibly and in harmony with its bestower – in this case, Allah. He does not violate the trust. The verbal root of khalifa is khalaf, which means “he came after, followed, succeeded” and holds with, despite, be at variance with; and offend against, violate or break a rule, command or promise. This is significant in the light of the angel’s prediction:

And lo! Your Sustainer said to the angels: Behold,
I am about to establish upon earth a khalifa.
They said: Will you place on it such as will spread corruption and shed blood whereas it is we who extol Your limitless glory,
and praise You, and hallow Your name?
Allah answered: Verily,
I know that which you do not know (Qur’an 2:30).

Of the nine times the word khalifa and its plural are found in the Qur’an; seven times it is used in conjunction with the prefixed fil’-al-ardh- on earth, on this planet. In each case it refers to a person, people, or mankind in general, to whom Allah has entrusted part of His power on earth. The term has been variously translated into English as a successor, deputy, viceroy, and trustee. We would like to add yet another translation, that of the role of stewardship. In that, the human race are more than “Friends of the Earth”- we are its guardians. Although we are equal partners with everything else in the natural world, we have added responsibilities. What we are not is it’s lord and master.
Humankind as Trustees

In this context, a concept unique to man is amana or trust. Allah offers amana to the heavens, to the earth, to the mountains – to the rest of creation – but they all refused; only mankind was foolish enough to accept it.

Verily, We did offer the amana to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains; but they refused to bear it Yet man took it – for, verily, he has always been prone to tyranny and foolishness (Qur’an 33:72).

A trust entails one who entrusts and a trustee. Allah offered the trust to man, the trustee, and he accepted the responsibility. Man chose the amana the faculty of choice and relative free will – and gained thereby the capacity to live for good or evil. As khalifa on earth, man must fulfill that trust placed on him by Allah, by acting justly in accordance with Allah’s laws, or be false to that trust and perpetuates tyranny and injustice against Allah’s earth and His creation.

For He it is Who has made you khalifa on earth,
and has raised some of you by degrees above others,
so that He might try you by means of what He has bestowed on you.
And thereupon We made you their
khalifa on earth,
so that We might behold how you act (Qur’an 6:165).

This is confirmed by part of a hadith, reported by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri and transmitted by Muslim, that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), said:

The world is sweet and green, and verily Allah has installed you as khalifa in it in order to see how you act.
History of the Environmental Crisis in the Qur’an

So the picture we get from the Qur’an is of a khalifa who is a trustee on earth and is responsible and accountable for his conduct towards his fellow human kind, creatures, and the Earth itself. His purpose is to serve and worship Allah, by acting in harmony with Allah’s laws, thereby fulfilling his trust and gaining the pleasure of Allah. If he abuses his God-given power and violate the laws of Allah, he brings about his own destruction, and severe loss in the Hereafter.

The consequence of violating the trust is attested in the Qur’an by the frequent recounting of the histories of the people of Ad and Thamud. Both were powerful tribes in their respective times and lands – Ad were “endowed abundantly with power” and Thamud were “settled firmly on earth” – but they arrogantly abused the power given to them by Allah, and were destroyed by an environmental cataclysm. The relevance of their stories to contemporary man – truly endowed with devastating power and so firmly settled on earth – is alarmingly frightening.
Resource Use in Islam

As a social creature, man has biological and ecological needs for the sun, water, food, shelter and community, and he, as with other living creatures on earth, may utilise the earth’s resources to secure those basic necessities. Clearly there is a potential conflict of interest between spiritual and material, man and nature, man and man. In this regard, Allah reminded humans of the balance:

The All-Merciful has taught the Qur’an
He created man and He taught him the explanation.
The sun and the moon to a reckoning,
and the stars and trees bow themselves;
and heaven – He raised it up and set the balance.
Transgress not in the balance,
and weight with justice, and skimp not in the balance.
And earth – He set it down for all beings,
therein fruits and palm trees with sheaths,
and grain in the blade, and fragrant herbs.
Of which your Lord’s bounties will you and you deny? (Qur’an 55:1-12).

It is a test of the amana or trust, that humankind pass on to future generations these resources. There is no Qur’anic sanction of the use by one group of people over another, so that no power may usurp the resources of the earth for its own sole use as is perpetrated by contemporary ‘developed’ societies. All peoples, as well as all other creatures on the planet, have an equal right to benefit from these resources. Similarly, all future generations have an equal right to Allah’s bounty. The use of the earth’s resources ought to be in accordance with our material and spiritual needs, the needs of all other creatures, now and in the future, so that we do not jeopardise the planet itself.

And you devour the inheritance (of others) with devouring greed (Qur’an 89: 19).

There is a price to pay for this misdemeanour. According to lbn Majah, Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

If any one deprives an heir of his inheritance, Allah will deprive him of his inheritance in Paradise on the Day of Resurrection.
From Development to Debt

The conventional Western model of industrial growth through maximization of resource use is seen to be the only path to economic development. All economic activity ultimately depends or is dependent on natural resource input that is neither unlimited nor free. Development agencies and banking institutions have been interested only in high-profits, capital-intensive development projects such as large-scale dams and irrigation schemes, mineral extraction, livestock-rearing programmes and monoculture plantations. These projects are chosen for their relatively fast return on investment, and are calculated to generate foreign currency to repay the debt and the interest as well as for the imported technology deemed necessary for national development. From the outset, social and environmental considerations are subordinated to short-term economic gains. The hidden costs of exploiting natural resources do not enter the economists’ equations.

The resulting breakdown in the social fabric of traditional societies only exacerbates the poverty, chronic malnutrition, and recurring threat of famine and starvation in a world of plenty. And with every piece of land given over to export crops, much less land is available for growing subsistence crops for the local people. Nevertheless, the interest on the debt must be paid or the debtor country will not be able to take out further loans. There is absolutely no way of paying the interest except by further plundering the natural resources, which for the “third world”, usually means cutting down their forest and clearing their lands. Trees are felled and the land is cleared and large-scale mechanized monoculture is substituted for traditional husbandry and the natural ecology, resulting in the lost of top-soil which will ultimately impoverish the land. And the vicious cycle continues.

Debtor countries are obliged by the system to incur further debts, and are thus forced to exploit more and more of their already diminished resources and degraded environment. To remain in the game, these nations have to mortgage their God-given capital with absolutely no chance of winning it back. Indeed, the winners are the banks, the transnational corporations, and a small, mostly corrupt, third world elite. If such a wicked debt-slaver operated on a personal level, the perpetrator would be called a tyrant, an oppressor and an exploiter, but at the national and international level, it is called development.

That nature suffers at the hand of the corrupt and tyrannical is borne out by the Prophets saying that the death of a profligate was a relief to the people, the land, the trees and the animals. Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that when the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, heard a man say, “The oppressor harms none but himself”, he replied, “It is not so, I swear by Allah that even the bustard dies in its nest on account of the oppression of the tyrant.”
Usury Driven Development

For a host of reasons not unconnected to the global market economy and fundamental flaws in the development model itself, these grand projects have not paid off. It is astonishing that despite all the evidence, people still firmly believe that development means economic growth, which equals industrialisation, equals modernisation, equals progress, equal success. Given that the conventional Western model of development leads inevitably to environmental destruction, to say nothing of social and economic injustice, it would be no exaggeration to say that this kind of development has no place in Islam.

The environmental tragedy now being played out is the result of kufr development model and economic system fueled by usury (riba) and greed. There is little doubt that through usury, creating illusory wealth by charging interest on loans and other unjust monetary transactions, is directly responsible for the destructive development the world over. Since riba (usury) lies at the very heart of the development issue, and Allah has absolutely forbidden riba any form whatsoever, it is only right that Muslims reject this kind of development.

O believers, fear your God;
and give up riba that is outstanding,
if you are believers.
But if you do not,
then take notice that God (and His Messenger)
shall war with you (Qur’an 2:278, 279).

Those who devour riba shall not rise again except as he rises, whom satan of the touch prostrates (Qur’an 2:275).

The banking and financial institutions have, in Islamic terms, sabotaged the mizan (balance) and fitra (natural state) of creation by not only charging interest, but by doing so on money which they create endlessly out of nothing. This explosion of artificial wealth provides the illusion of economic dynamism: but in reality it is parasitic. Endless credit devours the finite earth’s resources. No other prohibition in the Qur’an contains such forceful language and, unlike the restrictions on food, there are absolutely no concessions in this area. We are now beginning to understand why this is the case.

The issues that relate to credit creation are obfuscated by the arguments over interest that is only a part of a larger issue. Riba has a wide definition and if the charging of interest conveys the notion of unlawful gain when a rent is charged on capital, then gains that arise from profits made from intangible created capital also falls into this category. This fraud assumes greater proportions when the banks demand and get security or collateral for the non-money they give us as loans. What is at stake here is the principle of justice – mizan – equal for equal in a freely and openly entered transaction. The community strives to contain greed but the state and the banks have colluded in institutionalising and legitimising it.
Beyond Growth and Greed

For those over-developed and affluent nations, the Qur’an is full of warning. Pharaoh, the peoples of Ad and Thamud and Madya, Gog and Magog, were all powerful and wealthy but spread tyranny and corruption on the earth, and thus destroyed themselves. They are described again and again as the mufsidin fi’l-Ard, those who spread fasad (corruption, degradation, and ruin) on earth. The mufsidin fi’l-Ard abused the trust of amana and are in clear contrast to the khulafa fi’l-Ard, Allah’s trustees on earth.

In the Qur’an (2:205) fasad is connected to the destruction of tilth and fertility. Indeed the destruction of tilth and fertility is a most apt description of the environmental damage now common throughout the third world. It is the loss of biological productivity and diversity that has occurred as a direct result of inappropriate development. Allah warns:

Allah loveth not al-fasad
Do not spread corruption on earth after it has been so well ordered, (for) Behold what happened in the end to the
mufsidin, the spreaders of ruin (Qur’an 7:85,86).
The Pharaoh, the people of Ad and Thamud are referred to as Mufsidin al-Ard, as those who “transgressed all bounds in the land” (taghawa fi’l-bilad) (Qur’an 89:11, 12).

Tagha is to transgress or exceed the bounds, to overstep the limits of Allah’s laws, to upset the balance and harmony of the creation “after it has been so well ordered”.

Limits are transgressed when pursuing limitless wealth, and living a life of sumptuous affluence (teral) and wasteful extravagance (isral). The pursuit of wealth and the greed that fuels it is none other than ungratefulness, for:

Verily, towards his Sustainer man is most ungrateful. And to this, behold, he (himself) bears witness indeed: for, verily, to the love of wealth is he most ardently devoted (Qur’an 100:6-8).

Even though Allah has given man everything that he could possibly need, man’s greed knows no bounds:

Leave Me alone (to deal) with whom I alone have created, and to whom I have granted vast resources, and children as witness, and to whom I have given so generously; and yet he greedily desires that I give yet more! (Qur’an 74:11-15).

And of the surah at-Takathur (Greed) itself, Allah says:

You are obsessed by greed for more and more until you go down to your graves. Nay, in time you will come to understand! …And on that day you will most surely be called to account for (what you did with) the boon of life (Qur’an 102:1-7).

The blind pursuit of increased material possessions, increased technological progress, increased power over man and nature, inevitably breeds greed for more and more. This unbridled greed leads to transgressing the limits of all that is good, bringing waste and wreaking destruction on the face of the earth. In the words of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him:

By Allah, lam not afraid concerning you that you will commit shirk (associating another with Allah), but I am afraid that you will vie with one another (for the possession of) the treasures of the earth (Muslim).
The Middle Path

In contrast to wanting more and more, the Qur’an guides us to moderation, balance, and preservation. On moderation in all things, Allah says:

“And We have willed you to be a community of the middle path (umatan wasatan)” (Qur’an 2:143).

For Muslims, the path between extremes – the middle path – is enjoined on us:

For, the true servants of the Most Gracious are they who … whenever they spend are neither wasteful nor niggardly, but (remember) that there is always a just mean between these two extremes (Qur’an 25:63).

In a hadith reported by the Prophets wife Aisha, and transmitted by Muslim, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, urges us to actively pursue moderation: “Practice moderation, and if you can’t practice it perfectly, hen strive towards it as far as possible.” Thus all our actions should be guided with the spirit of moderation, from consumption and production, to the use of natural resources. For moderation is balance, and its opposite disturbs the balance:

And the sky has He raised high, and has devised (for all things) a balance, so that you (too, O men) might never transgress the balance: weigh, therefore, (your deeds) with equity,
and do not upset the balance! (Qur’an 55:7-9).

The principles of moderation, balance and conservation, are the core of sustainable living as it provides the framework for discernment, without which there are no limits to wasteful extravagance, affluence and greed.

In order to fulfil the function of khalifa on earth and deliver the trust, Muslim men and women have no exemplary model other than that of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, his wives, and Companions. Muslims should follow his lead in everything, and in this context his impeccable behaviour towards the earth, its creatures, and resources. In the words of his wife, Aisha, “His character is the Qur’an itself” (Muslim).
In conclusion, Islamic environmental ethics may be summarised as follows:

– Allah is the Creator, Sustainer, and Owner of all creation.
– Humankind is the trustee on Planet Earth.
– Each man and woman is, as such, accountable to Allah for his or her actions on the earth and towards its creatures.
– Every created thing has inherent values, an ecological value, and a utilisation value for humankind both as spiritual sustenance and material resource.
– Humankind’s rights over nature are rights of sustainable use – of usufruct – based on moderation, balance, and conservation; future generations have a similar and equal right.
– Nature’s rights (haq) over humankind include the rights to protection from misuse, degradation and destruction. Greed, affluence, extravagance, and waste are considered a tyranny against nature and a transgression of those rights.

The panel on Islamic perspectives discussed the relationship between the beliefs of Islam and the process of maintaining a viable and healthy environment, including the emphasis on protecting natural resources by utilising these resources to satisfy the needs, rather than wants, of society. The panelists also noted the importance of each individual acting in a responsible manner and as a moral leader in society. The embodiment of Islamic principles in the form of Islamic educational institutions is one method to instil and disseminate an ethic of environmental sustainability.

The discipline of the Pesantren and the teachings of Islam are based on fundamental principles of self-reliance, which require the careful use and management of resources. The Pesantren is based on religion, in the context of which other subjects are taught. However, not all Pesantrens encompass the national curriculum as it is sometimes felt that the need to pass through the national system of examinations can distract students from following the fundamental aims and spirit of the Pesantren.

A comment was made on how similar the principles of Islam and Buddhism appear. The idea of individual and community responsibility and leadership are common to both religions, as are the notions of simplicity, self-reliance, and noble character. As in Buddhism, Islamic teachings fit well into the humans-nature-culture matrix framework which has been referred to throughout this seminar. A diversity in religions has to be recognised and celebrated, but it is also clear how much unity there is between the different faiths.

The notion of the Islamic Brotherhood was discussed, with particular reference to the role of women. The panelists described how women are much respected within the Islamic society, and are treated with modesty and regard. Men and women are frequently segregated for these reasons, and women are allowed to devote themselves to the study of the Qu’ran. In rural areas in Indonesia, many women are educated through the study of the Qu’ran as there is limited access to the public schools.
Source: Toward an Environmental Ethic in Southeast Asia, Proceedings of A Regional Seminar, The Budhist Institute, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, 1998

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