Islam. Sustainability. Two buzzwords that have circulated mainstream media and grabbed headlines over the last decade or so. The dichotomy is an interesting one. Both involve commitment to a way of life. Both have people on either side of the spectrum of love and hate. So, how do the two words complement each other? Where is the overlap between the two seemingly unrelated?
Let’s begin with sustainability and a very brief history lesson. Sustainability as a concept is a relatively new idea. It blends and integrates ideas of economy, conservation, politics and even psychology! So what is it exactly? It is essentially acting in a way that meets current needs, without sacrificing the needs of future generations. Another way of looking at is the assurance that environmental (planet) and social (people) needs are not sacrificed for economic benefits (profit). This is often referred to as the triple-bottom-line.
So, how does this play out in the real world? Say I want to build a new sports centre. How would I do this, taking sustainability into account? First, I will inevitably want it to serve my needs and expectations. That means making it state of the art, good transport links etc etc. Now, what if the site I want to build on is a field with hundreds of different animals living and relying on the stretch of field. I may have to sacrifice good transport links or the size of sports centre to make sure that I can actually manifest the sports centre I had envisioned, whilst ensuring I don’t sacrifice the needs of future generations that might require that field. Be they people or animals. It’s important to take that triple bottom line into account.
Okay, but what about Islam. Where does that come in. In Islam, we sometimes have to sacrifice our current wants/needs to ensure that our future needs i.e. heaven isn’t sacrificed. That might mean giving money as charity so that our future (afterlife) is not put in danger. Islam also explicitly promotes being sustainable. Earth is mentioned 61 times in Quran. God says in Qur’an:
“Eat and drink, but waste not by excess; “He” loves not the excessive”, (Al-A’raf 7:31).
“And do not follow the bidding of the excessive, who cause corruption in the earth and do not work good”, (Ash-Shu’ara 26: 151-152).
“And do not cause corruption in the earth, when it has been set in order”, (Al-A’râf 7:56).
See Ecomena for more on this but the point is that Islam promotes sustainable living and forbids waste and corruption of the Earths natural resources.
Islam is a useful way of implementing more sustainable practices in our everyday lives and as Muslims, we have a duty to ensure we are protecting the planet to the best of our ability and we can always improve on this aspect. We can give more, save more and ultimately… do more.