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Ecology in Islamic Culture: A Selected Critical Bibliography

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Ecology in Islamic Culture: A Selected Critical Bibliography

The studies on the Islamic view of environment protection and the links between Islamic classical culture and ecology knew recently a notable progress, testified by numerous valuable publications in various languages. The following is a critical bibliography, organised alphabetically, that we conceived of as a guide for the interested reader. It includes references to works published recently in different languages, including Arabic. The publications in Arabic are particularly valuable, as they are hardly known by Western scholars, although some of them deserve to be known.

FSTC Research Team

Table of contents

1. Introduction
2. Articles on www.MuslimHeritage.com
3. Institutions and Initiatives
4. General references

* * *

1. Introduction

Figure 1: Front cover of Islam and Ecology by Fazlun Khalid and Joanne O'Brien, published by Continuum International in 1992 ((World Religions & Ecology, Paperback).

Notable progress occurred in the last decades in the studies on the Islamic view of environment protection and the links between Islamic classical culture and the wide field of ecology. In this context, several dozens of stimulating publications appeared, as results of ongoing research in various languages.

To introduce the reader to these works, we prepared a rich critical bibliography. This bibliography, organised alphabetically, was conceived of as a guide for the interested reader. It includes references to works published recently in different languages, including Arabic. The publications in Arabic are particularly valuable, as they are hardly known by Western scholars, although some of them deserve to be known.

The idea of this bibliography was suggested by the stimulating commented bibliography published online by Richard C. Foltz, Islam and Ecology: Bibliography (PDF version); Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School, 2003, © 1999-2004 Center for the Study of World Religions and The Forum on Religion and Ecology. We augmented and updated this rich bibliography by other entries and comments.

The Bibliography

2. Articles on www.MuslimHeritage.com


– See also related articles on Nature, Agriculture and Town & City.

Figure 2: Diagram showing the interaction between ecology, society and economy. (Source).

3. Institutions and Initiatives

Figure 3: Artistic view of an ideal environment. (Source).

4. General references

  • Abdel Haleem, Harfiyah (editor), Islam and the Environment. London: Ta-Ha Publishers, 1998.
  • Abu-Sway, Mustafa, Toward an Islamic Jurisprudence of the Environment (Fiqh al-Bi'ah f'il-Islam). Lecture presented at Belfast mosque, February 1998; updated 20 June 1999.
  • Abu-Sway, Mustafa, Islam: The Environment and Health. Qualbert, South Africa: Islamic Medical Association of South Africa, 1999.
  • Aftab, Tahera, "Text and Practice: Women and Nature in Islam." In Custodians of the Earth? Women, Spirituality and the Environment, edited by Alaine Low and Soraya Tremayne. Oxford, UK: Berghahn Books, 2001.
    This essay links the ethical framework of the Qur'an and the misinterpretation of that framework by males in positions of authority. Though, as the author makes clear, the Qur'an is clear in setting out an ethic of equity and justice for all which has been perverted. The author suggests that Muslim women must regain access to the land and to nature in order to enjoy and attain true freedom.
  • Agwan, A. R., The Environmental Concern of Islam. New Delhi: Institute of Objective Studies, 1992.
  • Agwan, A.R. (editor), Islam and the Environment. New Delhi: Institute of Objective Studies, 1997.
  • Ahmad, Ali, "Islamic Water Law as an Antidote for Maintaining Water Quality." University of Denver Water Law Review 2, no. 2 (Spring 1999): 170-88.
  • Ahmad, Ali, A Cosmopolitan Orientation of International Environmental Law: An Islamic Law Genre. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2001.
    The process of regulation in the field of international environmental law belies the complexity of environmental issues that need to be addressed in managing global environmental resources. Although the regulatory process has succeeded in elevating the acknowledgement of a new set of ideas and concepts toward sustainable development, it has not had success in elevating those concepts into a set of determinative norms or rules. In this book, Ali Ahmad, an international lawyer, stresses the futility of a state-centric approach to a planet-wide phenomenon that the environmental issue presents.
  • Ahmad, Akhtaruddin. Islam and the Environmental Crisis. London: Ta-Ha Publishers, 1998.
  • Ajmal, Mohammed. "Islam and Ecological Problems." In Quest for New Science, eds. Rais Ahmed and S. Naseem Ahmed, 215–20. Aligarh: Centre for Studies on Science, 1984.
  • Al-Amin, Hi'at Muhammad. Al-fiqhah al-b'at. Beirut: Mu'assasat al-wa ‘i al-islami, 1420 (2000).
  • Al-Hassani, Salim, Chief Editor, 1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World, Manchester, FSTC, 2006.
  • Alhilaly, Tajuddin H. "Islam and Ecology", trans. Keysar Trad, 1993. updated n.d.
    Answers provided by Imam Tajuddin H. Alhilaly, Mufty for Australia (~1993).
    Translated and some comments added with permission by Keysar Trad.
  • Ammar, Nawal H. "Islam and Deep Ecology." In Deep Ecology and World Religions: New Essays on Sacred Ground, eds. David Landis Barnhill and Roger S. Gottlieb, 193–211. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2001.
  • _______. "An Islamic Response to the Manifest Ecological Crisis: Issues of Justice." In Visions of a New Earth: Religious Perspectives on Population, Consumption, and Ecology, eds. Harold Coward and Daniel C. Maguire, 131– 46. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2000.
    Utilizing a revelationary methodology, Ammar proposes the concept of hay'a (shyness with reverence and respect) as a guiding principle for Muslim environmental action. She focuses on issues such as Muslim economic and political livelihood, distributive justice, rights of the community over the individual, just leadership, attitudes toward women, and women's relationship to population control.
  • _______. "Islam and the Environment: A Legalistic and Textual View." In Population, Consumption, and the Environment: Religious and Secular Responses, eds. Harold Coward and Daniel C. Maguire, 67. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1995.
    With no intention to present the Islamic view, Ammar introduces an Islamic ethical paradigm supported by the Qur'an, Hadiths, Sunnah, and Sharia'h. She explains that the meaning of "ethics" can be understood in Islamic terms as hay'a, the state of respect and/or practice of good deeds. Ammar provides clear ethical guidelines regarding natural resources (conservation, sharing, treating with kindness), and protected and preserved land designations. She concludes with the suggestion that any discussion on the environmental crisis should remain sensitive to cultural issues.
  • Asmal, Abdul Cader, and Mohammed Asmal. "As Islamic Perspective." In Consumption, Population, and Sustainability: Perspectives from Science and Religion, eds. Audrey Chapman, Rodney Peterson, and Barbara Smith-Moran, 157–65. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2000.
  • Ayduz, Davud. "The Approach to the Environment Question of the Qur'an and its Contemporary Commentary, the Risale-i Nur." Paper presented at the Fourth International Symposium on Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: A Contemporary Approach Toward Understanding the Qur'an: The Example of Risale-i Nur, Istanbul, Turkey, 20–22 September 1998.
  • Ba Kader, Abou Bakr Ahmed. Environmental Protection in Islam. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1995.
    Originally prepared for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in English, French, and Arabic, this document was later considered to have international appeal. Beginning with a description of an Islamic attitude toward the universe and human/nature relations, the document broadens its scope to include topics on conservation of natural resources, protection from harmful impacts of products and processes generated by humans, and viable legislative principles, policies, and institutions.
    Bagader, Abou Bakr Ahmed, Abdul Latif Tawfik El Shirazy Al Sabagh, Mohamed Al Sayyed Al Glenid, and Mawil Izzi Dien, Islamic Principles for the Conservation of the Natural Environment. 2d ed. Gland, Switzerland: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 1983.

Figure 4: View of a forest. (Source).


Religion and environmentalism

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General overview

Crisis of values

This subfield is founded on the understanding that, in the words of Iranian-American philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr, "the environmental crisis is fundamentally a crisis of values," and that religions, being a primary source of values in any culture, are thus implicated in the decisions humans make regarding the environment.

Burden of guilt

Historian Lynn White, Jr. first made the argument in a 1966 lecture before the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, subsequently published in the journal Science, that Western Christianity, having de-sacralized and instrumentalized nature to human ends, bears a substantial "burden of guilt" for the contemporary environmental crisis. White's essay stimulated a flurry of responses, ranging from defenses of Christianity to qualified admissions to complete agreement with his analysis.

Eastern religions and indigenous peoples

Some proposed that Eastern religions, as well as those of indigenous peoples, neo-pagans, and others, offered more eco-friendly worldviews than Christianity. A third, more obscure camp, argued that while White's theory was indeed correct, this was actually a benefit to society, and that thinning the populations of weaker plant and animal species via environmental destruction would lead to the evolution of stronger, more productive creatures. See Kaitiaki in Māori religion.

Religions and Conservation

In September 1986 the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) celebrated its 25th anniversary by bringing together authorities from five major world religions to declare how the teachings of their faith leads each of them to care for nature. The event was instigated by WWF International President HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and took place over two days in the Italian town of Assisi, chosen for its association with St Francis of Assisi the Catholic saint of ecology. What resulted from this unprecedented project were the Assisi Declarations: separate calls from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic leaders to their own faithful concerning their spiritual relationship with nature and sacred duty to care for it.[1]

After the Assisi event WWF continued to work with religious advisors to support the faiths in developing a wide variety of conservation projects through what was known as the Network of Religions and Conservation. By 1995 four more faiths - Baha'i, Daoism, Jainism and Sikhism- had produced declarations to accompany the original five and, with representatives of all nine religions, Prince Philip launched the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, an independent NGO based in the UK and committed to linking the faith worlds of the major religions with the more secular worlds of conservation and ecology in the cause of conservation and sustainability.

Given the global reach of religions and their social, cultural and political influence in many parts of the world the message that conservation of the natural world was a fundamental element of faith was seen to have a tremendous potential significance for the future of the environment. In 2011 the ARC network celebrated 25 years since the original Declarations with another conference in Assisi celebrating the thousands of faith-based projects and long-term plans for sustainability that the network has supported over the years. The event also launched the Green Pilgrimage Network, in recognition of the environmental impact caused by the estimated 150 million spiritual journeys undertaken by faith followers every year.[2] Starting with 12 sites representing different faith traditions in Asia, Africa and Europe the commitment is to develop attitudes, resources and practices to minimise negative environmental impact and even, if possible, harness the efforts of pilgrims to generate a positive impact instead.

Religion and ecology

By the 1990s, many scholars of religion had entered the debate and begun to generate a substantial body of literature discussing and analyzing how nature is valued in the world's various religious systems. A landmark event was a series of ten conferences on Religion and Ecology organized by Yale University professors Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim and held at the Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions from 1996 to 1998. More than 800 international scholars, religious leaders, and environmentalists participated in the conference series. The conferences concluded at the United Nations and at the American Museum of Natural History with more than 1,000 people in attendance. Papers from the conferences were published in a series of ten books (The Religions of the World and Ecology Book Series), one for each of the world's major religious traditions.


What do Baha’is teach about ecology?

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What do Baha’is teach about ecology? 

Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world’
Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p 142

One World

‘The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.’ These words of Baha’u’llah summarise the Baha’i sense of world citizenship and commitment to stewardship of the earth. The oneness of humanity is, for Baha’is, the fundamental spiritual and social truth of this age. It implies a major restructuring of the world’s educational, social, agricultural, industrial, economic, legal and political systems. Baha’is believe this restructuring will enable the emergence of a sustainable, just and prosperous world civilisation that will exist on this planet for half a million years.

Nature reflects God

The world reflects the qualities and attributes of God, and should therefore be greatly respected and cherished. Baha’i Scriptures describe nature as an emanation of God’s will.


The Third Ecology Protection Forum of China Daoist Temples and Pagodas

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The Mao Shan Declaration

茅 山 宣 言


The Third Ecology Protection Forum of China Daoist Temples and Pagodas

Beiyue Temple - Chinese Daoist Temple公元两千零八,四川汶川地震,北京举办奥运。大悲大喜之秋,中国道教名山宫观、省市道教协会代表69人,聚首东南福地茅山,与国际环保组织对话,应对全球生态危机,共同致力建设美好家园。

In 2008, an earthquake hit Wen Chuan in Sichuan Province and the Olympics were held in Beijing. In this bittersweet autumn, sixty-nine representatives from Chinese Taoist temples and associations have gathered together in Mao Shan - a blissful place in Southeast China - to discuss ways to counter the global ecological crisis with international environmental organizations in order to build a better homeland.


The Daoist philosophy and Daoist religion both emphasize the values of life and nature. They see everything as equal, and the world as a whole, so that when one thing gets hurt, others will be harmed, and when one thing is protected, others will share the benefit. In today’s world, climate change, natural disasters and environment pollution have become our real concerns. But we are also in a good era, a time when the whole country is united, science has been greatly developed and harmony has become a shared goal. The Daoist faiths therefore recognize that it is necessary to inherit our old tradition, while also advancing with time, and to innovate and make progress.


Ecology, Peace and Spiritualities of Nature in Indigenous and New Japanese Religions

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Engaged Shinto? Ecology, Peace and Spiritualities of Nature in 

Indigenous and New Japanese Religions 

by John Clammer*


Shinto and Ecology

The Japanese scholar of religion Sonoda Minoru has described Shinto as “the ritual means by which early Japanese transformed their natural surroundings into a cultural landscape infused with religious and historical meaning” (Sonoda 2000:32).


Nilüfer çiçeğiThis self-conscious positioning of Shinto as an ecologically sensitive religion does indeed have its basis in the characteristics of the religion. Japanese society in general has a relational view of the self – as being not a unique and individualistic essence, but as being the outcome of many forces, relationships and circumstances that shape any particular identity which is in itself dynamic and impermanent. This idea, which arises largely from Buddhism, is shared by Shinto which has as a central notion the permeability of identity. Thus the boundary between human and “nature” is not fixed – animals can be transformed into humans or humans into animals and humans certainly have the potentiality to become kami or gods/spirits. Kami themselves need not be “animate” in the usual Western sense, as in Shinto there are no “inanimate” entities – thunder can be a kami (naru kami or “sounding kami”), as can foxes, or trees, especially large and conspicuous ones, waterfalls and certainly mountains, of which Mount Fuji is only the largest and best known example. Fertility cults are also common as evidenced by the phallic symbols and festivals that occur at a number of well-known shrines.


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