Eco-Islam Development

River in Bangladesh via Flickr (Creative Commons)

River in Bangladesh via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Eco-Islam describes green, environmentally friendly development projects led by local Muslim communities. Topics within this broad category focus on how to apply Islamic principles to local culture to protect the environment and encourage steady spiritual development.

Islamic green farming, for example, borrows concepts from organic farming and from sustainable development practices. These farms contribute innovative ways to implement and promote these farming practices because they take a holistic approach to producing food. The production of quality products is backed up by ethical principles that protect the supply of future environmental resources. It also creates a greater variation in ethically produced goods for Muslim consumers to enjoy.

An Organic Iftar

European eco-Islam projects use Muslim traditions, like the Ramadan fast, and practices, in this case a fast-breaking celebration, to build cultural bridges and a sense of community. The Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences created an Organic Iftar, or organic fast-breaking dinner. Hundreds of Muslims and non-Muslims in England came together to eat and support local development, industry, and diversity.

The founder of IFEES, Hajj Fazlun Khalid, delivered this message to those who attended the event:

Not very long ago these things happened naturally. The fast of the Ramadan has many aspects to it that is both spiritual and physical and one of these is a basic expression of conservation. In this sense voluntarily denying ourselves sustenance that is our right is a supreme act of conservation.

Fazlun relates spiritual development to the environmental goals of secular society and natural sciences. Eco-Islam’s success in Europe is encouraging because it tells us that green development techniques and Islam’s ethical standards can work together for mutual benefit.

Eco-Islam, implemented for shared economic and environmental ends, expands the impact of both Muslim and non-Muslim efforts to clean up, protect, and conserve the world’s limited resources. Could it be also be mutually beneficial in growing into a stable, flourishing model for pluralistic projects that build environmental and economic stability?

Altmuslim sums up the importance of starting with the act local strategy and presents a comprehensive look at why environmental tactics must also maintain economic stability. Blogger M. Aurangzeb Ahmad asks, “Is a Greener Islam Possible?” Below are examples of projects around the world that may provide some answers.

Before looking for answers, here’s quote from the UK Guardian article “Green Islam.” Author Derek Wall lays out the big issues of spiritual ecology underlying the eco-Islam question by saying:

Ecological commitment needs no specifically religious impulse, there are of course, many secular greens, yet eco-Islam, like other spiritual ecologies, both diversifies the movement and makes us think deeply about the big issues. Ecology ought to be about more than screwing in some energy saving lightbulbs and recycling paper napkins, for it surely prompts profound questions about humanity and the rest of “creation.”

Eco-Islam Projects Around the World

Eco-Islam hits Zanzibar fishermen” By Daniel Dickinson (BBC News)
A development organization in Tanzania is using the Quran to help conserve an island marine park.

Fatwa for the Environment” (Islam dan Ekologi)
Fatwa (Edict) by the Ulama’ in Kalimantan may halt the haze of the burning forest, illegal logging, and mining in Indonesia.

World’s First Zero Carbon, Zero Waste City in Abu Dhabi” by Foster and Parents
Development using traditional planning of a walled city, together with existing technologies, achieves a zero carbon and zero waste community.

DC’s Growing Green Muslims” by Zainab Cheema (The Muslim Link)
A group has organized around our environmental responsibilities as world citizens: the DC Green Muslims.

The Forum on Religion and Ecology

For more resources, the Forum on Religion and Ecology offers “the largest international multireligious project of its kind. With its conferences, publications, and website it is engaged in exploring religious worldviews, texts, and ethics in order to broaden understanding of the complex nature of current environmental concerns.”

UPDATE (thanks to Aurangzeb for the tip): Syyed Hussain is one of the early thinkers in environmental ethics and Islam. He work on the environmental and spiritual crisis of modern times is fascinating. Simon Watson from The Green Majority interviewed him in 2007. Listen to “Encounters with Islam” and Nature to hear it, the interview with Syyed Hussain begins 11 minutes into the show.

Updated on December 16, 2008.

5 thoughts on “Eco-Islam Development

  1. Just to add one more point, Syed Hussain Nasr was one of the first people to talk about environmental issues back in the early 60s. Thus the pedigree of (modern) Muslim environmentalists goes back to almost half a century.

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