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Islam's Universal Environmental Ethic From The Assisi Declarations On Nature, 1986

In 1986, HRH Prince Philip, then President of the WWF International invited five leaders of five of the major religions of the world - Bud...

islam environment ethic assisi declaration

In 1986, HRH Prince Philip, then President of the WWF International invited five leaders of five of the major religions of the world - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism - to meet to discuss how their faiths could help save the natural world. Afterwards, three more faiths - Baha'i, Jainism and Sikhism - produced similar declarations.

The meeting took place in Assisi in Italy, because it was the birth place of St Francis, the Catholic saint of ecology. From this meeting arose key statements by the five faiths outlining their own distinctive traditions and approach to the care for nature.

In the Assisi Declarations on Nature the Muslim statement was:

'Unity, trusteeship and accountability, that is tawheed, khalifa and akhirah, the three central concepts of Islam, are also the pillars of the environmental ethics of Islam.

They constitute the basic values taught by the Qur'an. It is these values which led Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam to say:

"Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded", and:

"If a Muslim plants a tree or sows a field and men and beasts and birds eat from it, all of it is charity on his part," and again, "The world is green and beautiful and God has appointed you his stewards over it."

Environmental consciousness is born when such values are adopted and become an intrinsic part of of our mental and physical makeup.

Muslims need to return to the nexus of values, this way of understanding themselves and their environment. The notions of unity, trusteeship and accountability should not be reduced to matters of personal piety: they must guide all aspects of life and world.

Shariah (Islamic law) must not be relegated just to issues of crime and punishment, it must also become a vanguard for environmental legislation.

We often say that Islam is a complete way of life, by which it is meant that our ethical systems provide the bearings for all our actions. Yet our actions often undermind the very values we cherish. We must judge our actions by them.

They furnish us with a world view which enables us to ask enviromentally appropriate questions, draw up the right balance sheet of possibility, properly weigh the environmental costs and benefits of what we want, what we can do within the ethical boundaries established by God, without violating the rights of His other creations.

If we use the same values, the same understanding in our work as a scientist and technologist, economist or politician as we do to know ourselves as Muslims - those who subject themselves to the Will of God, then, I believe, we will create a true Islamic alternative, a caring and practical way of being, doing, and knowing, to the environmentally destructive thought and action which dominate the world today.'

- By Dr. Abdullah Omar Nassef
Secretary General, Muslim World League

In Islamic ethics, we are God's trustees and responsible for maintaining the unity of His creation, the integrity of the Earth, its flora and fauna, its wildlife and natural environment. Unity cannot be had by discord, by setting one need against another or letting one end predominate over another; it is maintained by balance and harmony. There Muslims say that Islam is the middle path and we will be answerable for how we have walked this path, how we have maintained balance and harmony in the whole of creation around us. (BBC)

+ Assisi Declaration on Nature, 1986
Image + The Eco Muslim

More on Islam + environment:
Interview: Eco-Muslim Dawud Wharnsby In Pakistan Says "Live With Less"
Muslims make a stand in European Parliament: 'We CAN contribute to Green politics!'
Eco book - Islam and Ecology by Richard C. Foltz

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