Posts Tagged ‘Islamic Relief’

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

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© Islamic Relief Worldwide 2009

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

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