as we in the U.S. typically think of it began in the nineteenth century, when
nature lovers began to draw attention to the loss of wild land and to call for
conservation. Later, secular, scientifically grounded voices, from Rachel
Carson to Bill McKibben, sought to reverse the destructive results of
exuberantly deployed modern technology.
push a fishing boat to shore in Zanzibar via Wikimedia Commons
environmental sociologist Md Saidul Islam writes, that’s just one historical
track that environmental impulses have run along. He argues that there is also
a different kind of “old” environmentalism that predates industrialization. In
particular, he points to what he terms the Islamic Ecological Paradigm. This
view is rooted in the words of the Koran, which guarantees equal rights to
non-human creatures and makes kindness to animals an “article of faith” for
not an animal in the earth, nor a creature flying on two wings, but they are
nations like you,” as one Quranic verse puts it.
twentieth century, Moroccan-born cleric Mufty Imam Tajuddin H. Alhilaly applied
the words of the Koran to argue against factory pollution of oceans and air,
which encroach on nature and harm living things.
is our first mother,” Alhilaly wrote. “Therefore it has certain rights over
centuries, Muslim scholars enshrined the idea of Hima—a protected zone. Islamic
law addresses the use of water resources and land use. It also forbids the
cutting of useful trees.
Muslim countries now set aside certain wild areas that cannot be developed or
cultivated,” Islam writes. “These have become modern wildlife reserves.”
not all Muslims or Muslim-majority nations prioritize ecological goals, but
Islam points to a growing movement that elevates these concerns. One
intellectual leader in this area is Islamic philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr,
who argues that the European Enlightenment displaced an earlier cosmology of
natural balance with a human-centered worldview.
the environmental crisis as a spiritual crisis,” Islam writes. “He does not
want to see Islam exhausting itself in the observance of rites and rituals, but
instead taking a personal responsibility for the world.”
efforts to do just that are growing U.S.-based local groups like DC Green
Muslims, as well as environmental movements in countries with large Muslim
populations. In Zanzibar, for example, an Islamic-based conservation guide
created in 2008 promotes sustainable fishing practices. Meanwhile, the African
Muslim Environment Network has used zakat charitable payments to fund
environmental education and sustainable development projects. More than 400
mosques in the Malaysian state of Terengganu have also joined together to
support turtle conservation and fight poaching.
projects often draw on the scientific and organizational support of secular
environmental groups, Islam writes, they reflect a different, rich history and
Headline: An Islamic Approach to Environmentalism
Source: The Daily JSTOR