Research Paper in Focus

Environmental Crisis in the Islamic World

Paper Title: The Environmental Crisis in the Islamic World – Pertinence of the Teachings of Traditional Islam

Author: Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Publisher: Handbook of Ethics of Islamic Economics and Finance, De Gruyter.

In this paper, the author explains that the origin of current environmental crisis can be traced back to industrial revolution. While industrialization provided many benefits, the greed and avarice in human beings need conditioning through morality and values.

Efforts were made to bring improvements in resources availability through technological advancements. However, there is a limit to supply amidst greed and avarice. Islam provides environmental ethics which checks wastage, conspicuous consumption, self-interested behaviour, greed and avarice. Law can only control some explicit actions. But, what is required is a complete change in lifestyle which requires a different approach to look at environment and life.

Islamic worldview provides responsibility ethics. There is need in Muslim societies to pay heed to the Islamic environmental ethics.

The author also notes that a lot of Muslim majority countries are also having complacency. Many of the cities which are least clean from environmental perspective also include some populous Muslim majority cities.

The author also gives an account of environmental ethics from the extant literature. The two-worldly view of life in Islam encourages socially responsible behaviour as one of the prime determinants of salvage in the life hereafter. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

said: “If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.” (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith No. 12491).

Qur’an informs that other species also praise and thank the Creator for the blessings. Qur’an says: Do you not see that to Allah bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on earth – the sun, the moon, the stars; the hills, the trees, the animals; and a great number among mankind?” (Al-Qur’an, AlHajj:18).

The single source of creation as encapsulated in the concept of Tawheed undermines the tendency to feel “fittest survivors”. It brings humility, congeniality and peaceful co-existence with other life in the environment.

In order to protect land, forests and wildlife, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) created inviolable zones known as himā and haram, in which resources were to be left untouched. Himā applies particularly to wildlife and forestry and usually designates an area of land where grazing and woodcutting are restricted, or where certain animal species are protected.

Almost half of the food goes wasted while on the other hand, one out of every nine people in the world suffers from hunger, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Islamic principles discourage conspicuous consumption on luxuries. The Qur’an says: “But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters.” (Al-Qur’an, Al-Ana’am: 141).

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