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Unity within Diversity

Islam and Sustainable Development

Posted on November 21, 2014

By Dr Abbas Barzegar


Islam and sustainable development are both vital for life regardless of their perceived global threats to humanity. But is it possible for the two notions to work together?

The 2011 Arab Spring was considered a Middle Eastern wake-up-call for good governance, a heightened consciousness for transformation, intact social capital, and a fight against corruption, but strangely enough, these concepts also constitute to the DNA for Islamic sustainability. Whilst Islam and sustainable development may be considered unusual partners, little focus is placed on how they are both "vital for life".

The notion of sustainable development can be considered a social norm, something expected of all humanity and one which is built into every society. A number of prominent chapters and verses in the Qur’an are named after different forms of nature, indirectly suggesting that the Qur’an and nature are both expressions of divine creativity -"a cosmic creativity" as such. The Quran suggests that the earth belongs to God alone, with humans being the "stewards", or in the Arabic, "muluk" of the earth. The earth has therefore been created for the "benefit of human beings", and as a type of "trustee" we are to make sure all resources are used in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.

It can therefore be considered that the root cause of global warming and ecological crisis can be attributed to the lack of human stewardship and the departure from the earth's natural state/order or "fitra". This absence is labelled as "fasad" or human mischief and is considered in likeness to a form of self – interest. It is suggested that the natural environment should be considered sacred, to which every believer must give the "utmost respect towards nature".

"It is about living lightly on earth (Zuhd)" though five prominent principles need to be considered from an Islamic point of view: natural state, ecosystems, respect, global community and symphony of life. These five core principles reveal that the "spiritual dimension" of sustainability is all interlinked to pre-set norms.

Islam explains that there is a purpose for all creation and that humans will be held accountable for their actions, including those to their surroundings. The Islamic view is that the entire world has been created by God for the benefit of all human beings, therefore providing the need for everyone to consult and cooperate with one another while pursuing economic policies which might adversely affect others.

So next time you throw a piece of litter on the floor or don’t recycle, THINK!

Quote extracts are taken from the book "Islam and Sustainable Development" by Odeh Rashed Al-Jayyousi of Jordan.