The Islamic Declaration on Climate Change

Over the last few months we’ve had the Lambeth Declaration committing the church of England to action on climate change, and then Pope Francis’ encyclical on the subject. This week sees a similar commitment from the Muslim world, in the form of the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change.

It’s been issued by an international symposium on climate change, the first of its kind, and hopefully it will prove significant. The Quran teaches a unity of creation, and man-made climate change breaches very specific commands to respect the balance of nature. The stewardship role of humanity is also a recurring theme.

Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger of ending life as we know it on our planet. This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium (mīzān) may soon be lost. As we humans are woven into the fabric of the natural world, its gifts are for us to savour. But the same fossil fuels that helped us achieve most of the prosperity we see today are the main cause of climate change.

Despite these theological principles, the idea of ‘green Muslims’ is still relatively unusual, and it’s certainly not a common perspective in climate change campaigning. Perhaps that is beginning to shift.

If mosques and Muslim households do begin to address climate change seriously, it could prove a powerful dynamic. The same remains true of the Christian church. Declarations are all well and good, but in many denominations the message hasn’t fed through to the pews just yet. When it does, we will have a force to be reckoned with – communities of people prepared to make lifestyle changes and support each other in them.

For now, it’s great to see Christians and Muslims speaking the same language on climate change. Reading the declaration, it’s striking how much it has in common with the Christian ones, and that unity of purpose is encouraging.

7 Comments on “The Islamic Declaration on Climate Change”

  1. Dichasium August 19, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    Very interesting! Have the ‘religious’ organisations been enlightened or not? Have they concluded that to care for souls they need to care for people on earth which means they need first to support efforts to get the earth back to a healthier state? Are they correct or does this in reality represent a crumbling of their ‘cornerstone’ fundamentals? If you know of any good discussions on this aspect Jeremy, could you impartially post a link please?

  2. Dichasium August 19, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

    I’m sorry, I failed in my previous comment to specify what provokes my thought about the Islamic and other religious declarations on climate change. It is this sentence ‘But the same fossil fuels that helped us achieve most of the prosperity we see today are the main cause of climate change.’

    Fossil fuels are the main INDIRECT cause of climate change but the vital cause is not fossil fuel but man’s failure to seek ‘prosperity’ of the sane sort (that which supports mankind rather than that which ultimately destroys it). That message is the fundamental ‘cornerstone’ of most religious belief and the declaration fails to declare it. It is therefore questionable as to whether it fails to serve its own principle. I believe its value is the same value behind ‘Make Wealth History’, it would indeed become hidden by messages which point away from the true cause – mans own misconception of ‘prosperity’ and ‘wealth’, not fossil fuels or wealth themselves.

    • Jeremy Williams August 20, 2015 at 9:09 am #

      It’s worth reading the whole statement. There’s a bit that says “We recognize the corruption (fasād) that humans have caused on the Earth due to our relentless pursuit of economic growth and consumption.” So that side of things is covered.

      Are religious organisations being ‘enlightened’? Perhaps. How we practice religion is an evolving thing, as world events unfold. The Bible and the Quran don’t talk about climate change, because it didn’t exist at the time. Now that we are challenged by it, people want to go back and work out what principles apply and what their response should be.

      That’s quicker for individuals to do of course. Religion in its institutional forms is always playing catch-up with the realities of the world, and that’s why these formal statements always seem to be so slow in coming.

      • Dichasium August 20, 2015 at 11:14 pm #

        Thanks, that does put a better light on the sentence. On the other point – The religious principles are applicable to life in any age so it’s a pity the organisations are so slow to see how they apply to all things, old and new. They’d be much more impressive if they got there before the rest! I suppose knowing the ‘rules’ and knowing how to apply them is always going to be an issue even for the caretakers!

        • Jeremy Williams August 21, 2015 at 8:23 am #

          It is a shame that they’re so slow, but that’s the nature of institutions. Individuals get their first, and then tow their churches and then their denominations behind them. As for principles being applicable in any age, that’s entirely true, but the principles apply differently in every age. There’s always new work to be done thinking though responses to the challenges of the time.

  3. ibrahim August 20, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    I am a member of draft team of declaration.
    Let me tell you Why?
    I grew up in a small village as a child of a farmer. I enjoyed the beauty of natural environment with all its richness. When I saw my first but unfortunately the last wild wolf in my life, I was almost seven years old. I could still drink the water of creeks as it was crystal-clear then.

    Later, I learnt that, Rachel Carson was writing her seminal and groundbreaking book the Silent Spring in the same years. This humble book sparked and triggered many creative and sensitive minds to look at the problem in a new way.

    Now, I have four children and two grandchildren. I never thought that my descendants might not enjoy the same kind of life that I had. It seems they live in a different world. They never saw a wild animal in nature, unless in documentaries and zoo. I have concerns about their future and the world they are going to live in. Therefore, environmental problems in general and Climate Change in particular is a moral issue for me.

    • Jeremy Williams August 21, 2015 at 8:24 am #

      Great to hear from someone closely involved, thank you for your perspective!

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