ISLAM AND THE CONCEPT OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

ISLAMIC MEASURES TO ATTAINING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Attaining a sustainable level of development is only possible in the Islamic value system when the following paradigms are considered and upheld;

        i.            A firm understanding and belief with action in the Islamic declaration of La’ ilaha, ilallah; Muhammad rasulullah (i.e. No deity worthy of worship except Allah; and Muhammad is His Prophet and Messenger),

      ii.            Developing a sense of responsibility as His vicegerent on the principle of accountability to Him,

    iii.            Upholding the divine rules as the ultimate guide to true, genuine, everlasting and eternal success,

    iv.            Establishing a strong foundation for seeking knowledge and technological advancement with the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet as the background standards,

      v.            Safeguarding the Islamic principles and identities in the social, economic, political and environmental aspects of human lives with moderation, care, spirituality, entrepreneurship and leadership implications.

    vi.            Establishing the Islamic State where the divine law (shariah) is applied so that the Islamic system of economy and other socio-political values can triumph.

The Islamic faith is anchored on the principle of belief and in the practical demonstration of faith by action based on divine guidance. The Qur’an says;

By Al-Asr (the time). Verily, man is in loss. Except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and recommend one another to the truth, and recommend one another to patience (Qur’an, 103: 1-3).

The first and most paramount is to believe in Allah (His Oneness, and not ascribing anything to Him), and His Prophet Muhammad (SAW); the implication of which is compliance with the divine guidance-Qur’an and Hadith. Thus, Allah says;

And if the people of the towns had believed and had Taqwa (piety), certainly, We should have opened for them blessings from the heaven and the earth, but they belied (the Messengers). So We took them (with punishment) for what they used to earn (unbelief and crimes) (Qur’an, 7: 96).

The Islamic view of the environment according to Akhtar (1996) rests on the basis that the creator and sustainer of the universe has placed a measured quantity of environmental resources which matches the total demand of resources in the universe. This portends the existence of environmental balance in the natural ecosystem. Therefore, the question of relative shortage or surplus in the divine plan regulating universal provisions does not arise. Except that the current and impending environmental problems emanate, most of the times from the violation of divine rules, resulting in the distortion of the universal equilibrium in the creation of Allah.

Thus, sustainable development on the basis of Islam is guided by the principle of accountability before God in the life hereafter which is non-existent in the secular world. This belief serves as a monitoring system inside the hearts and minds of Muslims, prompting them to do good deeds and avoiding bad deeds. The result is that, the Islamic society produces environmental-friendly behaviour which is a factor for ensuring environmental balance.

The survival of the mankind takes its place after his belief in the creator of the universe. Though, the institution of zaka’t is prescribed for the Muslim community to alleviate poverty and promote mutual and healthy living, the individual is instructed to strive for his livelihood, seeking the bounties of Allah through hard-work and dedication to duties in order to attain success. He must exert efforts to accomplish his needs with the resources available while maintaining the balance because, he is granted only that which he strives for. Allah says;

And that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad). And that his deeds will be seen. Then he will be recompensed with a full and the best recompense. And that to your Lord (Allah) is the end (return of everything), (Qur’an, 53: 39-42).

The extent of man’s drive in this dimension is somewhat limitless provided he does not transgress the limit or violate the divine guidance. Allah says;

O assembly of jinn and men! If you have power to pass beyond the zones of the heavens and the earth, then pass beyond (them)! But you will never be able to pass them, except with authority (from Allah), (Qur’an, 55: 33).

Behold, man is permitted to traverse the earth, explore and exploit the universe just to the extent that the symbiotic network is not hampered or disturbed as this constitutes part of the incitements of Shaytan (the Devil). Therefore, any course of exploration that attempts to change or manipulate the nature of creation, which ordinarily would not have taken place, belongs to the prohibited, such as stem cell research (cloning), tattooing etc. The Qur’an states;

Allah cursed him (Shaytan). And he (Shaytan) said; “I will take an appointed portion of your slaves. Verily, I will mislead them, and surely, I will arouse in them false desires; and certainly, I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and indeed I will order them to change the nature created by Allah.” And whoever takes Shaytan as a protector or helper instead of Allah has surely, suffered a manifest loss. He Shaytan makes promises to them, and arouses in them false desires; and shaytan’s promises are nothing but deceptions (Qur’an, 4: 119-120).

The nature of the land, sea and atmosphere must be preserved and kept within balance. The entire landscape is at the service of man. Suffice to know that the mountains are pegs to stabilize the earth (Qur’an, 88: 19); and the plain fields of vegetation are for cultivation and recreation (reflection); the aerosphere is for navigation and also to sustain/protect lives beneath from cosmic effects of the sun and other planetary bodies; and the sea (and the aquatic lives within) is for navigation (sailing) and sustenance of lives on earth. All these have been created as signs and with purpose in due proportion and measure. Allah says;

Glorify the name of your Lord the Most High, who has created (everything), and then proportioned it. And who has measured and then guided it. And who brings out the pasturage, (Qur’an, 87: 1-4).

And the earth We have spread out, and have placed therein firm mountains, and caused to grow therein all kinds of things in due proportion. And We have provided therein means of living, for you and for those whom you provide not (animals). And there is not a thing, but with Us are the stores thereof. And We send it not down except in a known measure. And We send the winds fertilizing, then cause the water (rain) to descend from the sky,….And certainly We! It is who give life, and cause death, and We are the Inheritors, (Qur’an, 15: 19-23).

Consequently, the Islamic value system prescribes the conservation of all environmental elements of air, water, animals, crops and vegetation both in quality and quantity. It forbids wanton and un-purposeful destruction of vegetation in the environment which is meant to provide coolness and beauty, re-invigorating life. It prohibits horrid pollution of land, sea and atmosphere. Environmental pollution in any form is dangerous to the health of man and the state of survival of other non-human creatures on earth; and as such prohibited in Islam. The Prophet (SAW) said;

The world is green and beautiful, and Allah has appointed you His stewards over it (Muslim).

Allah is good and loves goodness; He is clean and loves cleanliness; He is kind and loves kindness; He is generous and loves generosity (Al-Tirmidhi).   

Do not urinate in water bodies and in the holes of animals.

Allah curses anyone who changes the signs (state) of the earth (Tahdhibu al-Athar by Atabari).

There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field, and a human, bird or animal eats of it, but it shall be reckoned for him as charity.

The prophet (SAW) is known to have reserved the surrounding of Al-Madinah as a hima (protected zone) for the preservation of vegetation and wildlife; in which case hunting was forbidden within four miles and destruction of woody vegetation within twelve (Draz, 1969).

Concisely, the preservation of human life (both mundane and spiritual) is most paramount. As such, any action, material (food or drink); and any system (social, political or economical) that has been ordained unlawful or prohibited must not be produced or entertained by man for consumption, so that the balance remains maintained. Man should avail the society of visual and sound pollution; and not to be creating obscene and heinous sounds and scenes as these affect the state of the human mind; and consequently impacting on our morality. This is because the prosperity of man is determined by his state of heedfulness. Allah says;

Indeed, whosoever purifies himself (by avoiding polytheism and accepting Islamic monotheism) shall achieve success, (Qur’an, 87: 14).

And then He (Allah) showed him what is wrong and what is right for him. Indeed, he succeeds who purifies his own-self (i.e. obeys and performs all that Allah ordered). And indeed he fails who corrupts his own-self (i.e. disobeys and rejects or by doing every kind of evil wicked deeds), (Qur’an, 91: 8-10).

In addition, physical cleanliness in Islam is a moral standard and a religious duty. The Prophet (SAW) declared it as part/half of faith. This generates a hygienic condition in the living premises of man; protecting him against many diseases and enhancing his physical wellbeing and re-invigorating his productivity.

Thus far, it is imperative to understand that our morality as well as our socio-political order is part of our resources as our lives and properties are. We should therefore not subject them to abuse to the detriment of our course and to the disobedience of the Al-Mighty God. Immorality like fornication, adultery and homosexuality; and other vices like extravagance, greed, unwarranted destruction, usury, injustice and illegal killings such as murder, abortion and unjustified wars bring about diseases, hunger, poverty, death, dehumanization and degradation to humanity. Apparently, it was reported even in war situation that the Prophet (SAW) said;

Don’t disobey your commander, don’t steal from the booty, don’t be cowards, don’t destroy the place of worship (synagogues, churches and temples), don’t destroy date-palms (trees), don’t set ablaze plantations, don’t crucify animals, don’t cut or destroy fruits producing trees, don’t kill old people or children or women, leave those who remain in their places of worship (Kanz al- ummal, 1411/Al-Baihaki, 17929).

Finally, man should abate the society and environment of all unlawful tendencies, but facilitate good things and virtues, providing materials and resources that would benefit the present as well as future generations. It is worth noting that our challenges include the aspect of energy supply which strongly corresponds with all the dimensions of sustainable development. Islam thus, prescribes the use of safe energy (i.e. applying the soft and safe path); and also recommends effectiveness, efficiency and conservation principles in the utilization of all resources (Qur’an; 6: 141, 7: 31, 25: 67). Above all, Islam has instructed man to rely on God and keep hope irrespective of situation. If he’s in a state of trial, he should rely on and keep trust in God. And if he is a state of sinfulness, he should not despair but repent and seek forgiveness. There is hope so long as there is life; but Allah does not change the state of a people until they change themselves. Allah says;

…Verily, Allah will not change the condition of a people as long as they do not change their state… (Qur’an, 13: 11).

Subsequently, Allah subjects mankind to disasters like earthquakes, volcanoes, fire, flooding etc as tests for mankind to reflect and retract. We should therefore not postpone, nor delay in our bid to reform and do the right thing. Our lives are fragile and accountability is awaiting us with respect to our relationship with God, fellow humans, and the entire environment. Thus, procrastination is a disease from Shaytan which should be overcome by all and sundry. Hence, the Prophet (SAW) said;

When the Day of Judgment is about to set in (comes) and you have a seed in your hands, plant the seed (Imam Ahmad).

 

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