Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More on Green Islam

There is definite traction in this idea. In the past I have posted about Eco-Islam in Tanzania, a conference on environmental Islam, and about plans for a green city near Abu Dhabi. There is now a new book out titled,  Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet by Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, where the topic of Islam and environmentalism is dealt more directly. Hers is an excerpt from an interview with the author:

What does Green Deen mean?
Green has become the catch-all word for being environmentally friendly. Deen in Arabic means religion but can also be translated to path or way. So a green deen is literally an environmentally friendly religion.
I use green deen to also mean finding inspiration in one’s faith to become more conscious about humanity’s effects on the planet. Islam is a green deen in many ways. First and foremost, Islam recognizes that while God is all-powerful, humans can and do impact the Earth.

Therefore, Islam provides guidance by way of the Quran and the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) on how to make that impact positive. This is basically what my book is about - what Islam teaches about protecting the planet.
How does your book contribute to changing perceptions of American Muslims?
 This is a core mission of my book. Look, everyone wants to know where the moderate Muslims are. They’re everywhere. They go to work, they go to school. Frankly, they’re boring - which is why the media doesn’t do any stories about them.  Why would CNN do a story on Ali the doctor who spends his evenings watching ESPN?
So I’m creating the story by writing this book. I’m highlighting Sarah the Muslim who believes in recycling. As more and more Muslims come forward, describing the positive ways they are contributing to society - and they are, they’re just not advertising it - I believe people will stop focusing on the tiny percentage of Muslims who are extremists.
I hope my book will re-label Muslims from terrorist to activist or, even better, environmentalists. I want Muslims to be known as the people who save water.
Read the full interview here.


Dr. M. Akbar Hussain said...

Nice topic. I hope the concept of Green Deen does not give us an excuse not to pursue the technology to its highest level. We already have a few wasted centuries to settle, and settle it fast, or else we will fall for ever. I hope this concept is not meant to be a distraction.

Benjamin Geer said...

This is clearly a well-intentioned idea, but I'd like to see a discussion of the Quranic verses and hadith that it's based on. A while back I looked briefly at some attempts to find environmentalism in the Quran, and I got the impression that they were based mainly on the dubious assertion that the phrase الفساد في الأرض ("corruption in the land"), e.g. in Q 28:77, refers to environmental pollution. According to classical exegesis (e.g. al-Tabari), that phrase simply refers to wrongdoing in general.

Salman Hameed said...


I think some of it is also based on the Hadith. But, I think you have raised a good point. I'm not familiar with this (green-Islam) literature - but may be this book addresses some of the verses from the Quran. I don't think it should be hard to justify a broad-based environmental-friendly theology - just like some of the evangelicals have also done here in the US. What do you think?

Benjamin Geer said...

I'm sceptical, but I'm certainly not an expert on Quranic exegesis, and maybe there's more in the hadith than in the Quran.

Sura 55 says nice things about the wonders of this world, and 38:27 says: "It was not without purpose that We created the heavens and the earth and everything in between." However, in context, I think it's pretty clear that the point of these verses is simply to inspire wonder at God's blessings and hence reverence for God, rather than to urge people to take action to protect the environment.

We might ask ourselves: if God is an environmentalist, why didn't he tell people to avoid using fossil fuels, to limit carbon emissions, or to focus on renewable energy?

Of course, if you start with a view of Islamic ethics that that values the well-being of all humans, you can certainly base environmentalism on that. You don't necessarily need to find anything specifically environmentalist in the Quran or the hadith.

In any case, I think there's not much point in doing this unless it's based on solid textual scholarship. Amateur exegetes can generally find whatever they want in a sacred text, but it won't necessarily convince experts.

Benjamin Geer said...

I guess I'd be concerned that this would turn out to be another Bucaille-type affair (of people "finding" modern scientific knowledge in the Quran). I'd favour the AbdolKarim Soroush apporach instead: let the scientists get on with their work, based on scientific principles rather than religious ones.