Environmental Ethics and Islam

The industrial revolution followed the discovery of coal which coincided with advancements in agriculture, transport, medicine and technology. This was a turning point in man’s way of life. Today, industrialization has played its part to give rise to economic growth and higher living standards. This is particularly true in the case of the ‘developed world’ where regular access to clean water and electricity supply is well established and has become part of the standard of living. The discovery of oil and its use as a source of energy for transport was one of the key developments in the 20th century.

New developments in technology increase mobility and comfort but may have major negative effects on the environment and risk to human health. Power plants, industries, oil refinery, motor vehicles, ships and aircraft exhausts etc., all of these contribute carbon dioxide to the atmosphere which pollutes the air and has been implicated as a primary cause for global warming. Failures of power plants can not only lead to dramatic environmental catastrophes but also constitute a threat to human health. Most recently, in 2011, Japan witnessed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The disaster occurred when an earthquake damaged the Japanese nuclear facility which led to the release of large amounts of radioactive material. The radiation release had contaminated a “dead zone” of several hundred square kilometres around the plant, and low levels of radioactive material were found as far as North America.1 

Most of the radioactive material was dumped into the Pacific. The extent of the resulting health impacts are still controversial. According to a Stanford University study, the radiation could cause approximately 130 (minimum 15 to a maximum of 1,300) deaths from cancer and 180 (from 24 to 2,500) cancer cases.2 Environmental Ethics deal with the moral relationship of human beings with the environment. It answers questions like, why is it wrong for humans to pollute and destroy the environment? Is it wrong to pollute the environment because it harms the present or the future of human well-being or because nature itself possesses an innate value? The framework of the behavior of Muslims in respect to nature is a very important component in Islamic ethics. Both the Quran and Hadith (Sunna) emphasize protecting and valuing the environment as a central component of faith.

Though Islamic ethics is providing Muslims with very sophisticated and just principles; the majority of Muslims are not taking the forefront in protecting nature and in shaping sustainable policy and practices. The aim in this article is to assess the relationship between nature and Islamic ethics and possible Islamic responses to the environmental crisis. The paper proceeds in three parts. Firstly, the term environmental ethics will be explained. Secondly, this article assesses the Islamic conception of the environment and its treatment. Thirdly, key environmental issues will be highlighted. Ethics in general engage in defining and evaluating concepts of what is morally right and wrong.

Environmental ethics specifically examine the human position and responsibility towards nature. Ethical theoreticians and philosophers deal with the thesis whether nature and non-human content has intrinsic value or if the human is the only being who possesses these values and rights. The Greek philosopher Aristotle perceived nature as made for the sake of man and the environment along with other non-human beings as available for instrumental use. Immanuel Kant argued that we have the obligation to keep the environment clean but not because it possesses intrinsic value; rather, he feared that the reckless contamination of nature might encourage a person to develop a character which would be desensitized to cruelty towards human beings.3 These ideas fall within the anthropocentric view or human-centred perspective.

The human species is viewed as morally superior to non- human elements of nature and as having the right to use nature as mere means. A second version of anthropocentric view is the conservation ethic.4 Followers of this theory believe that humans are able to take precedence over nature’s needs but place emphasis on its discussion for the benefit of human mankind. The ethic to achieve is environmental sustainability which ensures that the present generation meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.5

For instance, the consequences of climate change constitute a substantial threat to fundamental human rights. Every human has the right to have access to water, food and shelter. Hot weather conditions caused by the climate change threaten to damage agricultural land, leading to food crisis’ and damages and disruption of water supplies.6 Countries in the Global South are most affected by threats which are caused by global warming. Thus, the main reason to stop global warming out of this ethical perspective is to protect and observe fundamental human rights and to keep the world safe for future generations. In contrast to the belief that nature is merely for human instrumental use, there are the nature-centred philosophies. In general two main approaches in environmental ethics can be identified7: Biocentrism (life-centered) and Deep Ecology.

The main principle of both is the view that nature has intrinsic value and is independent of its utility. Both theories regard anthropocentrism as responsible for the ecological devastation and argue that humans need to change their relationship towards nature; so for instance people should start to care about a safe environment not because of human rights or living standards are under threat, but rather because mother nature deserves to be treated good as it possess intrinsic values. Biocentrism is ‘the view or belief that the rights and needs of humans are not more important than those of other living things.’8 This means that all living beings have the right to moral consideration. The acceptance of this worldview leads to the avoidance of speciesism.

Peter Singer, a proponent of biocentrism and moral philosopher, is of the opinion that just because someone is a member of our species, does not entitle us to give him moral priority over other species, such as animals and other living organisms. He argues that speciesism is similar to racism and therefore morally unacceptable. The main principle of Singer’s moral philosophy is ’equal consideration of interests’. Hence all interest forms, every living being must be given equal consideration. To understand the main biocentric perspectives in greater depth four main principles have to be mentioned: ‘(1) Humans are thought of as members of the Earth’s community of life, holding that membership on the same terms as applicable to all other non-human members. (2) The Earth’s natural ecosystems as a whole is seen as a complex web of interconnected elements, with the sound biological functioning of each being dependent on the sound biological functioning of others. (3) Each individual organism is conceived of as a teleological center of life, pursuing its own good in its own way. (4) Whether we are concerned with standards of merit or with the concept of inherent worth, the claim that humans by their very nature are superior to other species is a groundless claim and, in the light of elements (1), (2), and (3) above, must be rejected as nothing more than an irrational bias in our own favour.’ 9 The main representatives of the theories of biocentric ethics are Albert Schweizer’s ‘Reverence for Life’, Peter Singer’s ethics of ‘Animal Liberation’ and Paul Taylor’s ethics of ‘biocentric egalitarianism’. Though Deep Ecology and Biocentrism share the same fundamental principles, there have to be differentiated.

Deep Ecology can be divided into a philosophy of ecology – which asks for deep questions concerning our relationship to the environment and demand a radical shift in human consciousness - and a social/political movement which follows a set of guidelines called the Deep Ecology Platform (DEP).10 In 1973 Arne Naess, a philosopher and mountaineer, introduced the term “deep ecology”. In Naess' opinion there are two forms of environmentalism whose views are not compatible with each other. He called one the “long- range deep ecology movement” and the other the “shallow ecology movement” (it is also called ‘social’ or ‘reform’ ecology).11 The latter one can be defined as advocating ‘continuous economic growth and environmental protection by means of technological innovation (such as catalytic converters), “scientific” resource management (such as sustained yield forestry), and mild changes in lifestyle (such as recycling)’.12Shallow ecology doesn’t regard nature with intrinsic values but permits the protection of nature if it benefits human needs.

On the other hand deep ecology aims towards a fundamental ecological transformation of our socio-cultural systems and emphasis on the interdependence of the members of the biotic community. Together with George Sessions, an American philosopher, Naess establish eight principles called the Deep Ecology Platform or DEP. These became later known as the Deep Ecology movement.13 1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value within themselves (synonyms: intrinsic value, inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes. 2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves. 3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital human needs. 4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease. 5. Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening. 6. Policies must therefore be changed. These policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present. 7. 

The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating quality life (dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great. 8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to try to implement the necessary changes. As crystallised above the deep ecology movement aims to radically reform human consciousness and to make use of the DEP platform to shape environmental policies. The next section is concerned with exploring the interrelation between Islamic ethics and the environment. Both the Quran and the Hadith provide Muslims with clear guidelines of how to understand and treat nature. In general, when we talk about Islamic Ethics it is important to bear in mind that Islam preserves everything that is good and forbids what is bad.

The Quran says: ‘Oh you apostles! Partake of the good things and do righteous deeds’ (23:51).14

It is for every Muslim a duty to partake in the good. The Quran advises: ‘So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it’ (99:7-8).15

Islam also regards it as a duty to treat environment good because nature as a whole can be considered as a living being with intrinsic values. The Quran describes that everything in the universe praises and prays to God. Islamic scholars presume that everything, which submits Another Islamic aspect that nature has intrinsic values is the claim that not only human beings that submit to Islam are called ‘Muslim’ (submissive) but also the entire universe. So everything that surrenders to the will of God and behaves in accordance with laws are enacted by God and are to be regarded as Muslims.18The difference between nature and man according to Ibrahim Özdemir, a professor for philosophy, ecology and religion at the University of Ankara, explains ‘while every other creature follow its nature automatically, man ought to follow his nature; this transformation of the is into ought is both the unique privilege and unique risk of man.’19 Nature is bond to follow certain rules that God prescribed to it whereas man was created with a free will and has the ability to choose. As Özdemir pointed rightly out, man’s possession of free will is on one hand a high privilege as it puts him on the top of the great chain. At the same time this capacity is a unique burden for man.

As being on top of the great chain, man has to take the leadership and the responsibility over all other beings and everything in this world. God entrusted part of his power on earth to the human being; in other words God made man the khalifa on earth. The Arabic word khalifa can be translated as vicegerent or trusteeship of God on earth.

For, He it is who has made you inherit the earth, and has raised some of you by degrees above others, so that He might try you by means of what He has bestowed upon you. Verily, thy Sustainer is swift in retribution: yet, behold, He is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace’(6:165). 20

This Quranic verse indicates that man has a special position but it doesn’t mean that he is the owner of all other beings and nature and is entitled to treat them haphazardly and irresponsibly. He has the duty to fulfil the trust place, by acting justly in accordance to God’s laws. 21 If man as a vicegerent is not accomplishing a just stewardship on earth but misuses God’s trust by ruling tyrannically will be held responsible and accountable for his actions. It is clear from this discussion that man’s special position is a privilege but a great responsibility as well.

The Quran tells us: ‘Indeed, we offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it; but man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant’(33:72).22

No other being would have accepted the responsibility of a trustee (amana) on earth. As a khalifa, man not only has the duty to be responsible for the welfare and sustenance of animals and the environment, but also for other members of this world. It is quite logical that while humans pollute and destroy the planet and exploit resources they harm present and future generations. It is one of the main aims of the khalifa to take care of the world, thus, while present generation can meet their needs, forthcoming generations should be able to live in a healthy environment.

The Prophet said: ‘If anyone deprives an heir of his inheritance, Allah will deprive him of his inheritance in Paradise on the Day of Resurrection’.23

The above discussion assessed the moral relationship between man and nature. But there are more Islamic considerations in regards to the value of nature. Man is not only obliged to treat the planet well because Islam presupposes good deeds from every Muslim; man also has to protect and value it as it is God’s creation and the cosmological evidence of His existences. First, God is the creator of everything that exists. His creation is a sign of His wisdom, mercy, power, His generosity and His other attributes. God’s attributes are revealed everywhere in this universe, so wherever man looks he can feel the presence of God.24 

And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah. Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing’ (2:115).25

The Quran emphasises to teach humans the principle that lies beyond nature and for what reason nature exist. In this context the Islamic sources stress on the creation of nature. Nature does not exist by accident and without a meaning.

The Quran says: ‘And We did not create the heaven and the earth and that between them aimlessly. That is the assumption of those who disbelieve’(38:27).26

So God created the world with a purpose and in perfect order. Everything in nature including the human body follows strict order of patterns: the laws of nature. This system of law is determined by nature and possesses a universal character. The perfection and order of the world is the immediate proof of God existence out of an Islamic understanding.

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason’(2:164).27

In addition, many Islamic scholars such as Nursi or Özdemir regard nature as a ‘sacred book’ or a ‘book of the universe’. As the Quran, nature reveals humans universal truth about our existence, how we should perceive the world and the structure of it. But also as it was just shown above, nature is the immediate proof of God’s existence. Özdemir argues in this regard that nature has to be considered as a book in the same sense as the Quran. He makes a very good point in saying: ‘Should those believers who hold the Quran in respect and awe – not touching it unless purified by ablution – not also treat the book of the universe respectfully and lovingly?’28 

The treatment of nature as a sacred book with the same stance as the Quran is a very good comparison and argument. It is quite paradoxical to see that Muslims and countries with Muslim majorities are not paying a major role in the protection and in sustainable treatment of the environment, whereas the Quran and as well as the Hadith are stressing so much on the praise that nature deserves.29 After assessing the main principles of environmental ethics and evaluating the Islamic perspective on the environmental, the main contemporary environmental issues (all in relation to climate change) will be explained in the following section. Global warming is probably the most contemporary, fundamental and far-reaching environmental issue that policy makers, environmentalists and media are concerned with. Just recently was the United Nations climate change conference held in Doha, Qatar on the 18th November 2012. 195 Countries are Parties to the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that was established in 1994.

The aim of the Convention is to reduce greenhouse emission to a level where it is not harming human beings and the environment. Article 2 of the Convention aims to achieve: ‘stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner’.30

The 16th Convention in 2010 made an agreement that all parties should aim to limit global warming to 2°C. The convention also demands that industrialised countries should cut down emission and are expected to provide financial support to developing countries to ensure effective actions on climate change. But what is climate change exactly and what are the consequences of it? Climate change in general can be defined as a lasting change in the climate patterns for an extended period of time. When contemporary politics or media talks about climate change, they refer to the rising global temperature and increased greenhouse gases and its consequences caused by human actions. The temperature has risen by 0.8 °C (1.4°F) over the past century and it is expected to rise from a minimum of 1.1 °C (2 °F) to a maximum of 6.4 °C (11.5 °F) over the next hundred years.31This phenomenon is being called global warming.

The cause for global warming can be traced back to the increased concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs). In general these gases are responsible for regulating the temperature on earth. The green house effect can be explained as following: The sun and the different layers of the earth’s atmosphere are responsible for the life-pleasant conditions of our planet. The earth is receiving energy from the sun but not all solar radiation energy reaches it. Part of the sunlight is hold up by the ionosphere and another part is penetrated through the ozone layers.32 The energy that reaches the earth is being absorbed by the earth’s surface. The absorbed light warms the surface; the heated surface then radiates infrared light into the atmosphere where it is absorbed by greenhouse gases.

The gases then help to regulate the temperature of the earth. Green house gases consist of water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (C02), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (NO2), and ozone (O3). Rest of the unabsorbed sun rays are reflected back to the atmosphere through water and snow–covered surface.33This process is the natural green house effect that makes a comfortable living possible on the earth. Without the special characteristic of our earth surface and the layers of the atmosphere the average temperature would be probably by minus 18 °C.34

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Since the industrial revolution, human activities in agriculture, transport or energy production have produced a huge quantity of carbon dioxide, methane and dinitrogen monoxide. This is due to the burning of large amount of coal, oil and natural gases. As well as from agriculture and deforestation. To this phenomenon, scientists refer to the anthropogenic green house effect. The high concentration of gases causes more sun energy being absorbed by GHG and so the heat remains on the earth surface. Hence the temperature on earth is increasing.35

Warming of only few decreases could cause a number of environmental problems – including the melting of the polar ice cap, rising sea levels (flooding, sea surges, erosion, salination of land and water), extreme weather conditions (high intensity storms, sea surges), temperature increases (change in disease vectors, coral bleaching, impact on fisheries) and changes in precipitation (change in disease vectors, erosion).36 All these environmental impacts have consequences on human health and standard of living. Sea level rise could cause loss of land or/and lack of clean water. Extreme weather event will induce the dislocation of populations or damage to agricultural lands.

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Electricity and heat supply has the largest greenhouse gas emission. Hereby fossil fuels are the main energy provider. It is mainly the contribution of fossil fuels that enabled economic growth and higher standards of living. Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons, primarily coal, oil and gas, formed from the remains of dead animals and plants.37 The resource stocks of fossil fuels are however limited and slowly diminishing. Environmental problems created by the production and consumption of it, are of global dimension.

By the process of burning fossil fuels carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. In addition the use of fossil fuels to generate energy sets free pollutants – such as sulphur dioxide. Sulphur dioxide has impacts on human health. The results are breathing problems; especially affected are adults and children with asthmatic problems. Furthermore, sulphur dioxides are the major precursors of acid rain and of fine particulate soot.38

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To minimize threats to human health and the ecosystem, alternative energy sources should be considered and implemented. Alternative possibilities are for instance: nuclear energy (though it is a controversial energy supply as well) and renewable energy. Nuclear power generates 16 % of the world's electricity and 24% of electricity for the OECD countries (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development – developed countries such as US, Europe, and Japan).39 Currently 437 nuclear power reactors are in operation in 31 countries.40 Russia was the first country in the possession of a nuclear power station in 1954, followed by the US in the same year.41 Nuclear energy is being obtained through the splitting of uranium or plutonium atoms in a process called fission. To generate energy atoms and neutrons are placed together in a reactor vessel. ‘The neutrons start a chain reaction where each atom that splits releases more neutrons that cause other atoms to split. Each time an atom splits, it releases large amounts of energy in the form of heat.

The heat is carried out of the reactor by coolant, which is most commonly just plain water. The coolant heats up and goes off to a turbine to spin a generator or drive shaft’.44 Nuclear energy has the great advantage of helping to mitigate GHG emission. According to IAEA nuclear power is not producing sulphur dioxide, particulates, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or greenhouse gases.45 Hence, no air pollution and smog is caused in contrast to the traditional energy sources. In addition to the advantages of low pollution, the amount of energy released in a nuclear fission reaction is million times greater than the amount released in burning fossil fuels.46 At the turbine the heat is finally being processed to electricity. On the other hand, nuclear energy has enormous negative impacts on human health and on the environment. Extreme weather conditions such as cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons, and flooding pose serious damages to the safety of nuclear power plants.47 Just last year, a major nuclear crisis happened in Japan, known as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Another nuclear and radiation accident, the Chernobyl disaster, happened in the Ukraine 1986.

Approximately between 15 000 to 30 000 people lost their lives and more than 2.5 million Ukrainians are still facing health problems related to nuclear waste.48 The failure of machines in combination with the high-level of radioactivity, constitute one of the most dangerous threats to human life’s, health, ecosystems and at the end to the economy. Nuclear power plants are also negatively affected by global warming. Weather extremes such as heat waves, reduced precipitation levels and droughts can have high negative impacts on the plants.49 Through the heat waves in France 2003 and 2006, 17 reactors had to limit output or shut down.50 In response to the Fukushima accident, Germany decided to stop the production of nuclear energy until 2022. Italy even decided after this recent disaster to stop nuclear power completely.

Another hazard for human health and ecosystems is radioactive waste produced by the production of nuclear energy. Since humans started to use nuclear energy, 300 000 tons of high-level radioactive waste have been produced.51 10 000 tons of waste are presumably expected to grow each coming year. The waste is high-level radioactive and is the result of burning uranium or plutonium fuel. The first problem with this waste is that it is extremely dangerous. A person that is exposed to it only for a minute will be dead in few hours and maximal in few days.

The second problem is that the radioactive waste will remain hazardous in the long term and there are no appropriate solutions yet how to recycle it. Plutonium 239 for instance has a life of approximately 24, 000 years.52 Transportation and disposal constitute a precarious business. Currently, scientist and governments deal with the problem of where and how to dispose this waste. One disposal facility is underwater in spend fuel pools near to the nuclear power plants. Another storing possibility is geologic disposal. The basic concept is to isolate the hazardous material inside a rock to ensure that no quantities will reach the surface. When speaking about nuclear energy and its risks, nuclear weapons have to be mentioned. Nuclear weapons are made out of the same material: uranium and plutonium. A state that produces nuclear energy is also able to build with the material a bomb. Policies and organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguard that no state is illegally producing nuclear weapons.

Just currently Iran is suspected of developing weapons under the guise of producing nuclear energy. There are eight states that are in the possession of nuclear weapons. 5 States are considered as “nuclear-weapon states”: US, Russia, UK, France and China. The other three are India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Nuclear energy has many advantages to fossil fuels such as that it has low air pollution, but the risks of it are great. It is not the optimal solution for producing energy. Renewable Energies are much more promising in regards to human and environmental safety. Increasing the production of energy from renewable technologies can reduce GHG emission and local pollution immensely.

Renewable energies can be considered as sustainable energy. In contrast to fossil fuels and nuclear energy, which are dependent on limited resources; renewable technologies generate energy through natural resources such as sun, water or wind. Hence resources are not being depleted and so the present generation can make use of these resources without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Technologies that support sustainable energy are hydroelectricity, solar energy, wind energy, wave power, geothermal energy, bioenergy, and tidal power. Each technology draws on a resource and all have negative environmental impacts (these are however very small). All emit CO2 but it is relatively low. Hydroelectricity produces the lowest CO2 emission, followed by wind. Governments are keen to expand renewable energy and hence to restructure the energy supply. For example Germany aims to increase the production of renewable energy to 35 percent in the year 2020. In the year 2050 it should be raised up to 80 percent.53 The third largest GHG emission is contributed by animal farming, it has an even higher share than transport. Especially factory farming is responsible for the high pollution of the environment. Industrial farming has a high output on animal waste.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, U.S. farms produce annually 335 million of animal manure. In sustainable animal farms the manure is excreted directly onto the land, used as a fertilizer.54 The quantity of manure of industrial farming is however so high that not all manure can be spread on the land. The problem that factory farms face is the lack of appropriate management and disposal of the animal waste that leads to the contamination of air, water and soil. One possibility to store the manure is to sue outdoor pits known as lagoon or holding tanks; there the manure emits harmful gases such as ammonia, methane and hydrogen sulphide. As the discussion was shown above, methane is one of the most responsible gases that ultimately lead to global warming. The impact of methane on climate change is over 20 times greater than carbon dioxide.55 

Methane gas is not only emitted by manure but also is produced by domestic livestock as part of their digestive process. Factory farming also contributes through the heavy demands on natural resources of land and water in order to feed the livestock to the contamination of the ecosystem and eventually to global warming. Livestock production uses one third of the world’s total arable land to animal feed-crop production.56 That means that once, less land is available to use for human beings; secondly factory farming uses high amounts of fertilizers and pesticides to grow crops that again leads to the contamination of soil and water; and thirdly livestock production is also partly the cause for deforestation.

Deforestation is a major cause of CO2 emission and loss of biodiversity.57 In order to reduce the green house gas emission of factory farming more sustainable alternatives have to be implemented. The organization “Compassion in World Farming” believes that Europe and other high-income developed countries should reduce production and consumption meat and mild to one third below current levels over the next decades to reduce GHG emission in order to stop the fatal consequences of global warming.58

An Islamic conception of environmental ethics would necessarily be multi-leveled: accepting the legitimacy of the instrumental use of natural resources while at the same time allocating the burden of responsibility to conserve nature for future generations. It further recognizes the beauty of all creation within a harmonious system, one that has inherent value.

Reconciling the competing demands or freedoms assumed by each of the above aspects could be considered a key challenge of applied Islamic environmental ethics. It is perhaps unsurprising that the majority of Muslim countries/communities, many of which are located in the Global South, have not been at the forefront of ecologically sound practice and sustainable policy. Nevertheless, it is argued here that the recognition and even development of complex ethical considerations within the primary scriptural sources of Islam highlight the relevance and urgency of expanded work in the field of Islamic environmental ethics, of which this study is a start. It is also quite interesting to look at the relationship between Islamic ethics and the anthropocentric, biocentric and deep ecology ethical theories.

Though the views of anthropocentrism and the other two environmental approaches are in contradiction to each other; Islamic ethics correlates with the basic principles of all three theories: utility, conservation and intrinsic value. To conclude, two major perspectives can be identified that shaped the understanding of the phenomenological structures of nature. The anthropocentric view considers nature as means to human ends, so purely as an instrumental use, without any intrinsic value. On the opposite environmental theories such as biocentrism and deep ecology stress on the innate value of every living thing and hence regard nature rights. Both antithetical ethical theories aim to shape environmental policies.

The leading ethical theory that influences policies of the UN is the sub-anthropocentric perspective ‘conservation ethic’. Admittedly, conservation ethics is not granting nature intrinsic values, but believes that a clean and healthy environment is necessary to insure human's well-being. In comparison to western ethical frameworks, Islamic ethics regards nature as an instrumental tool made for man’s usage. But likewise concede that nature has intrinsic values. It has intrinsic values as it is Muslims who praise and submit to God. Man as the steward on earth, has been given the responsibility form God to take care of this world and to rule it justly. In addition to the moral relationship of man and environment, nature has to be respected and valued as it reflects God’s attributes that are revealed in His creation. Furthermore His creation in its perfection, order and beauty is the immediate proof/testimonies of God existence. Our contemporary environment is especially affected by global warming. It is caused through man-made emission of green house gases. These green house gases are mainly emitted through transport, energy supply, industry, agriculture and forestry. Both, end-consumer and policy makers have to take actions immediately to prevent environmental crisis from happening.


1 Stanford University (2012)

2 ibid

3 Stanford encyclopaedia of philosophy - environmental ethics

4 Holden (2003), p.99

5 United Nations (1987)

6 CIEL (2011), p. 6

7 There are more approaches in environmentalism such as egocentrism. However this essay will not assess all theories.

8 Oxford Dictionary – Biocentrism

9 Taylor (2008), p. 258

10 Deep Ecology

11 Dregnson

12 Dregnson (1995), p.xix

13 De Jonge (2004), p, 2

14 Quran.com 23:51

15 Quran.com 99:7-8

16 Al-Ghazali (2009), p.7

17 Quran.com, 24:41

18 Özdemir (2008), p, 12

19 ibid.

20 Quran (alim) 6:165

21 Lubis (2010)

22 Quran.com 33:72

23 Hadith Ibn Maja

24 Özdemir (2008), p.8

25 Quran.com 2:115

26 Quran.com 38:27

27 Quran.com 2:164

28 Özdemir (2008), p. 16

29 Ouis (1998), p. 1

30 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

31 EPA

32 Öko-fair

33 ibid.

34 Ibid.

35 United States Environmental Protection Agency

36 CIEL, p. 6

37 Science Daily – fossil fuel

38 Mass DEP – Sulfur Dioxide

39 McLeish (2008),p.6

40 PRIS - Overview

41 IAEA – from Obninsk beyond

42 Atomicarchive

43 What is nuclear

44 What is nuclear

45 IAEA – Nuclear Power

46 Energyinformative

47 Urban & Mitchell 2011, p.16

48 Energyinformative

49 Urban & Mitchell 2011, p.16

50 ibid.

51 Focus Online – Radioaktiver Müll

52 Green Peace – Radioactive Waste

53 BMU – Erneuerbare Energien

54 Grace – Waste Management

55 EPA – Methane Emission

56 Compassion in World Farming (2008), p.3

57 ibid.

58 Ibid., p. 6

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Al-Ghazzali, M. 2009.

Brenner, A. 2008.

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Umwelt Ethik: ein Lehr- und Lesebuch. Freiburg,

Schweiz: Academic Press Fribourg.

De Jonge, E. 2004. Drengson, A. R.

Holden, A. 2003. McLeish, E. (2008).

Stanford University. 1990. Taylor, P. 2008 United Nations. 1987.

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Özdemir, I. (2008)

Compassion in World Farming. (2008).

Stanford University. 2012.

Ouis, Soumaya. 1998.

Nuclear Power and Sustainable Development The Center for International Environmental Law ( CIEL)

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Spinoza and deep ecology: challenging traditional approaches to environmentalism. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate. The deep ecology movement: an introductory anthology &Yuichi I. 1995. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books. Environment and Tourism. London: Routledge The pros and cons of nuclear power. New York: Rosen Central. Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Stanford: Metaphysics Research Lab. The Ethics of Respect for Nature in The ethics of the environment. Farnham, England: Ashgate. "Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development." General Assembly Resolution 42/187, 11 December 1987. Retrieved: 2007-04-12 Towards an understanding of environmental ethics from a Quran perspective, New York, University Press Global Warming: Climate Change & Farm Animal Welfare, Surrey, Compassioin in World Farming Global health impacts of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com- /releases/2012/07/12071708490 Islamic Ecotheology based on the Quran, Islamabad, Islamic Research Institute, Islamic University, Islamabad International Atomic Energy Agency Information Series Division of Public Information 02-01574 / FS Series 3/01/E/Rev.1 http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Factsheets/English/sustain.pdf Climate Change & Human Rights: A Primer, Washington Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy – Environmental Ethics: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-environmental/ Oxford Dictionary – Biocentrism

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/biocentrism

Quran.com http://quran.com/ Alim: http://www.alim.org/library/quran/ayah/compare/6/165/declare,-%22my-salah,-my-devotion,-my-life-and- my-death-are-all-for-allah%22 Hadith – Ibn Maja: http://www.soundvision.com/info/life/qandh.asp Deep Ecology: http://www.deepecology.org/deepecology.htm EPA: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basics/ EPA – Methane Emission: http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html Öko-Fair: http://www.oeko-fair.de/ressourcen-bewahren/klimawandel2/was-ist-klimawandel Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg3/en/ch1s1-2.html Science Daily – Fossil Fuel: http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/f/fossil_fuel.htm Mass DEP – Sulfur Dioxide: http://www.mass.gov/dep/air/aq/aq_so2.htm IAEA – Overview: http://www.iaea.org/pris/ IAEA – From Obninsk beyond http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2004/obninsk.html Energyinformative: http://energyinformative.org/nuclear-energy-pros-and-cons/ BMU – Erneuerbare Energien: http://www.bmu.de/themen/klima-energie/erneuerbare-energien/kurzinfo/ What is nuclear: http://www.whatisnuclear.com/articles/nucreactor.html Focus Online – Radioaktiver Müll http://www.focus.de/wissen/mensch/tid-12217/umweltgifte-radioaktiver-muell_aid_342624.html Green Peace – Radioactive Waste http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/nuclear/safety-and-security/radioactive-waste/ Grace – Waste Management: http://www.gracelinks.org/906/waste-management

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