Muslims told: Work to save the planet. The Quran tells us so

Image credit: Al-Mizan project

By Angela Youngman

Prominent Muslim organisations have come together to create a covenant reminding Muslims of the imperative to save the planet, supporting a decade of environmental action to tackle climate change.

Al-Mizan, a Covenant for the Earth will be launched at the United Nations Environmental Assembly in Kenya on Tuesday 27 February.

The covenant, endorsed by the Muslim Council of Elders and reviewed by more than 300 Islamic and international organisations, points to key teachings in the Quran that Muslims must respect the Earth and not abuse it.

It says the faith is rooted in the recognition that all things in the heavens and the earth support one another to the glory of the Lord of all, and humans are responsible to protect it, rather than “wreak devastation” upon it.

The covenant says materialism is at the heart of the environmental challenge, adding: “We have entered a dangerous and uncertain phase of the human story. It is evident that the civilisation in which we now live, seen as bringing unparalleled material benefits, is itself the root of this crisis.”

There are an estimated 1.8 billion Muslims in the world and the covenant’s authors say that as Muslims now comprise around a quarter of the population on earth, they should be contributing towards resolving global crises.

Fazlun Khalid, founder of the UK-based Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences and a member of the core team that put the Al-Mizan Covenant together, says it identifies what Islam can do to ensure future generations inherit a healthy, sustainable planet. 

He has been working in the environmental sector voluntarily since the late 1980s and has been described by a leading scientific publication as the single most Islamic environmentalist alive today.

In 1998-99 he scored a huge success when working with fishermen in Zanzibar who had been dynamiting coral reefs to improve fishing. After holding workshops with them, their leader declared “We cannot break Allah’s laws”, and instantly stopped the practice.

The Al-Mizan Covenant indicates that a cause of the crisis is the attitude towards the natural world, which has been regarded as something to be exploited. Another is the focus on economic growth that eats into the fabric of the natural world.

It regards the involvement of faith communities as crucial in tackling attitude.  The recent alliance of faith groups, traditional societies and indigenous peoples, representing more than 80 per cent of the population, includes leaders at the roots of society who have the potential to bring about rapid change.

Faith communities, it says, embody an ethos evolved over centuries about how ecosystems interact with diverse communities of life.  Muslims can tackle the global focus on economic growth by highlighting how Islamic teachings link care for the environment with lifestyle, economy, sources of life, trade, finance and governance.

Several initiatives are being taken immediately, including a decade of action in cities, universities and schools, alongside a global award for achievements on environmental action, which aims to set up a civil society organisation to implement principles. 

Attention will also focus on the need for mosques to show how Islamic scriptures highlight the environment. Above all, Al-Mizan calls for Muslims to respect the Earth and its communities, to conserve and protect, and to revive traditional methods such as the charitable endowments that have established conservation practices in the past. It urges policy-makers in Islamic countries and elsewhere to endorse a vision that harmonises with the balance created by God.


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