Categories: Books

Green Ramadan – A Call to Action in Islamic Environmentalism

Concern for the environment is a crucial part of Muslim life, and Muslims should be taking a much higher role in environmental issues. Calls for a Green Ramadan provide Muslims with an opportunity to focus on Islamic environmental teachings.

Having been working in the sector voluntarily for over 40 years, Fazlun Khalid has become a key spokesperson on the subject and has been described by Nova Science as ‘the single most Islamic environmentalist alive today.’

Born in Sri Lanka, Fazlun served in the RAF, worked in factories and attended University before being joining the Commission for Racial Equality. His interest in environmentalism developed during the late 1980’s when it became clear that Muslims lacked awareness of Islamic teaching on the environment, which had much to offer to the world. As a result, he set out to study for a master’s degree in Islamic Studies at the University of Birmingham in 1990.  During his studies he discovered that Islam was ‘inherently environmental in scope and it was a belief and value system deeply embedded in the natural order.  It was a puzzle that Muslims have allowed this knowledge to lapse;

Speaking to British Muslim, he said “I launched the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences in the 1980’s while I was working in the Civil Service.  Since 1992, I have been involved purely in the international organisation, working across faiths as part of the inter-faith network. I do it voluntarily, it is a vocation.’

He points out that in Surah 40, verse 57, the Quran states ‘the creation of the heavens and the earth is far greater than the creation of humankind,’ and adds ‘We have to live up to our responsibilities.’

In 1992, Fazlun edited a book on Faith and Ecology for the World Wide Fund for Nature, which resulted in participation in international workshops and the creation of the Ohito Declaration for Religion Land and Conservation (ODLRC).

Further recognition of his increasingly important role as an international NGO came when he was invited to conduct the first Islamic environmental ethics workshop in Zanzibar in a bid to safeguard coral reefs. Between 1998 and 1999, Fazlun worked closely with fishermen in the area. 

The problem was that in order to improve their fishing, the fishermen were dynamiting coral reefs. This practice had been underway for many years and the World Wildlife Fund had been trying to intervene, but with no success.  Fazlun explains what happened next.

“I worked with the fishermen, community imams and local political leaders. We held workshops based entirely on the Quran showing how Islam is rooted in a respect for all life forms and the interconnectedness of humankind and the natural world.  Using religious texts, I explained how fishermen were destroying an entity that nurtured them. They were destroying Allah’s creation and destroying their protector.  Within days, the fishermen had stopped dynamiting the reef.”

“The leader said to me, ‘We can break the government’s laws, but we cannot break Allah’s laws.’  Conserving the environment became an extension of being a good Muslim.”

Another major success was the release of an Islamic Declaration on Climate Change in 2015 during a symposium in Istanbul. The declaration was drafted by Fazlun and called on Muslims throughout the world to play an active role in combatting climate change.  Incorporating Qur’ranic verses and examples from the Prophet’s own words, it shows just how Muslims worldwide could, ‘wherever they may be, to tackle the root causes of climate change, environmental degradation, and the loss of biodiversity.’ 

Over the years, the Islamic Foundation and Ecology and Environmental Sciences has produced lots of resource material based on the Qur’an and from an Islamic perspective which can be downloaded and used free of charge by mosques and teachers to promote green and environmental issues. 

Fazlun’s book, ‘Signs on the Earth: Islam, Modernity, and the Climate Crisis’ explores the problems of modern society and how it has corrupted natural eco-systems. He writes ‘Money is the universal God of our times. It conjures up for us the possibility of heaven on earth, it seeps into every corner of our lives and its virus-like nature is devouring its way through the natural world thus leaving behind a degraded earth for future generations.’

He concludes that such progress achieved through industrialisation, economic growth and unsustainable consumerism has to be redesigned, calling on people of all faiths and none to work together to deal with climate change.  Fazlun highlights the key ways in which Islam and care for the environment link closely together, referring to the Qur’an, hadiths and Islamic jurisprudence.  He writes “the ethos of Islam is that it integrates belief with a code of conduct which pays heed to the natural world.  Islam proves a holistic approach to existence. It does not differentiate between the sacred and the secular, and neither does it place a distinction between the world of humankind and the world of nature.’

Fazlun adds, ‘I was hardly able to find a page in the Quran that did not mention the cosmos, or the Earth, or the sentient beings that thrived in it, and numerous other aspects of the natural world.’

There is much that the Foundation could and would willingly do, but as Fazlun points out, “our biggest problem has been lack of support and finance. We would welcome people wanting to help. We need awareness to grow among UK mosques and teachers as to what can be done.”

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British Muslim Magazine

The adventurous spirit behind the pages of British Muslim magazine. As the Editor-in-Chief, Natasha leads with a passion for exploration and a pen dipped in wanderlust. With a keen eye for halal travel experiences and an insatiable curiosity for new experiences, she brings readers along on captivating journeys to far-flung destinations. Through her vibrant storytelling, Natasha invites readers on enriching adventures, where every experience is a window into the muslim world.

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