Islamic thought can help the region attain a green future 

Islamic thought can help the region attain a green future 

Islamic thought can help the region attain a green future 
Saudi scholars advocated for the ecological preservation based on Qur’anic principles as far back as 1983. (SPA photo)
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US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s recent visit to China underscored the urgency of addressing climate change. While she expressed concerns about the adequacy of China’s efforts in combating this existential threat, Chinese officials asserted their commitment to their own vision of sustainability encapsulated in the concept of “Ecological Civilization.” 

This vision seeks to harmonize economic prosperity with ecological preservation over a century-long period. While the Joe Biden administration’s Western approach draws inspiration from seminal works including “Small is Beautiful” by E.F. Schumacher and “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, China’s perspective is deeply entrenched in indigenous philosophies such as Taoism and Confucianism. These two views on sustainability are not irreconcilable, but they are distinct. 

Over the past half-century, less established environmental perspectives have often been met with wariness rather than recognized as valuable indigenous wisdom deserving documentation, amplification, and integration into a comprehensive global framework rooted in bulletproof science, and which should be embraced by communities worldwide, all of whom should feel directly impacted by climate change issues and recognize their role as part of the solution.  

Take, for instance, Islamic thinking, which carries a long tradition of sustainability and environmental stewardship. While we in Europe and North America were shaping many new environmental concepts, a set of Saudi Arabian scholars pioneered the “Islamic Principles for the Conservation of the Natural Environment” in 1983. 

This 25-page Islamic study, which proved influential in shaping policies across various Muslim states, asserted that the “protection, conservation and development of the environment and natural resources is a mandatory religious duty to which every Muslim should be committed.” It was published with support from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and the Saudi Arabia government. 

Using language that we were not used to in the West, the document boldly called upon Muslim “rulers, administrative and municipal agencies and organizations” to protect the environment as a “common social duty.” Anticipating the concept of “sustainable development” later outlined in the seminal UN-sponsored 1987 Brundtland report, the “Islamic Principles” advocated for “a balanced and planned international system for the protection and conservation” of humans and their environment and “for the maintenance and perpetuation of a suitable, prosperous life for the present and future generations.” 

It was also one of the forerunners of the modern concept of “leakage” typically used in carbon markets and of “do no significant harm” used in sustainable finance. It stated that “developmental actions and projects undertaken in one country should not lead to or result in any kind of damage, harm or degradation in the natural environment of another country.”

If Saudi Arabia is currently undertaking plans to plant 10 billion trees, it is worth noting that as far back as 1983, those Saudi scholars advocated for the “revival, restoration, or recovery of lands” based on Qur’anic principles. And as encapsulated in a saying of Prophet Muhammad: “On Doomsday, if anyone has a palm shoot in hand, he should plant it.”

While we in Europe and North America were shaping many new environmental concepts, a set of Saudi Arabian scholars pioneered the Islamic Principles for the Conservation of the Natural Environment in 1983.

Rodrigo Tavares 

The world’s 1.8 billion Muslims may interpret the religious knowledge system differently, and likewise, they may not have a uniform interpretation of climate change. However, several Qur’anic verses and principles, such as Tawhid (unity of creation, including humans and nature), Mizan (maintaining the balance and proportion God has built into his creation), Khalifah (humans as stewards of God’s creation), and Maslahah (care for future generations), have been applied to address environmental concerns. 

Indeed, Muslims hold the belief that humanity bears the responsibility of stewardship, or khalifah, over the planet, understanding that divine accountability awaits them. The Qur’an contains around 200 verses addressing environmental matters. 

One of the pioneers of Islamic environmentalism was the Iranian philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr, who, in the 1960s, highlighted the links between environmental degradation and the spiritual crisis of the modern world. More recent contributions include the ones by Iraqi Islamic eco-theologian Mawil Izzi Dien, Saudi Arabia’s environmental planner Othman Llewellyn, Kurdish Islamic environmentalist Ibrahim Ozdemir and the Sri Lankan eco-theologian Fazlun Khalid. Building on scientific insights, many Islamic scholars point to human activities, including heavy industrial production, waste incineration, reliance on fossil fuel-based mobility, and deforestation, as the primary drivers of ongoing climate change.

But what efforts are Muslim-majority countries and communities making to steward the environment and address the climate emergency? Undoubtedly, there is still a considerable journey ahead. It is noteworthy that many of these countries rank low on the Yale Environmental Performance Index, despite being particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Ideals hum a sweet melody, but reality has its own offbeat rhythm. However, taking a long-term perspective, numerous oil-producing nations in the Gulf region have embraced decarbonization plans and strategic visions focused on environmental sustainability. For instance, Saudi Vision 2030 serves as a widely recognized national masterplan among the country’s citizens, signaling a commitment to environmental stewardship.

From the bottom-up, various Muslim organizations have embarked on reforestation, recycling, and energy efficiency initiatives. They have built low-carbon mosques and disseminated guidelines on conducting the Hajj and the Umrah in an environmentally-conscious manner. There are also non-profit organizations, such as the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, whose goal is to encourage Muslims to live up to their responsibilities as stewards and work toward leaving a livable earth for future generations. Survey data further demonstrate that the majority of Muslims recognize climate change as a significant societal challenge.

The success of the global environmental agenda hinges on its diversification. This entails more than just formally inviting different people to participate; it is about having a sincere interest in the value they could add. 

Rodrigo Tavares is an invited full professor of sustainable finance at NOVA School of Business and Economics, founder and CEO of the Granito Group, former head of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the Sao Paulo state government, nominated Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and the author of four books. 


Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

Some life-saving food assistance entered South Darfur, UN says, but aid groups say more is needed

Some life-saving food assistance entered South Darfur, UN says, but aid groups say more is needed
Updated 12 min 13 sec ago

Some life-saving food assistance entered South Darfur, UN says, but aid groups say more is needed

Some life-saving food assistance entered South Darfur, UN says, but aid groups say more is needed
  • Violence in Sudan quickly extended to the Darfur region in the country’s west, which has seen some of the most brutal attacks since the conflict began

CAIRO: South Darfur saw a slight increase in critical aid when the UN’s World Food Program delivered life-saving food and nutrition to some families across the violence-riddled western Sudanese state, the organization said. But more assistance is needed, humanitarian organizations say.
The WFP mission in Sudan said Tuesday that more than 50,000 people in hunger hotspots across South Darfur are receiving much-needed food assistance in collaboration with relief agency World Vision.
WFP didn’t give a time frame for when the aid was distributed or say how WFP delivered the supplies. Several spokespersons for the organization did not immediately respond to requests for additional information.
Famine looms in parts of Sudan, which has been engulfed by violence since April of last year, when tensions between the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces erupted into intense fighting across the country.
“The number of people in South Darfur that suffer from hunger is vast and on top of that, there is a significant shortage of funds,” Yonas Mesele, deputy country director for Sudan with the French humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Mesele said that of the estimated $581.2 million needed to meet humanitarian needs in Sudan, only 26 percent was secured, citing an announcement at a meeting for the Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster Coordination on June 13.
The fighting in Sudan has displaced over 4.6 million people, according to the UN migration agency, including more than 3.6 million who were internally displaced and over 1 million others who fled to neighboring countries.
Violence in Sudan quickly extended to the Darfur region in the country’s west, which has seen some of the most brutal attacks since the conflict began. The population in the state of South Darfur is at risk of soon dying from hunger, a recent report by a Dutch think-tank warned.
The Clingendael Institute report said last month that around 2.5 million people in Sudan could die from hunger by the end of September 2024, with about 15 percent of the population in the regions of Darfur and Kordofan being likely the worst affected.
“Time is running out to avoid a rapid deterioration of the conflict-induced food insecurity crisis,” Samy Guessabi, country director for Sudan with Action Against Hunger, told the AP. “The international community and the parties to the conflict must take immediate action to alleviate hunger and prevent a catastrophic malnutrition emergency.”
In May, the WFP said in a report that at least 1.7 million people are already experiencing emergency levels of hunger in Darfur, including in Al Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state that is besieged by RSF.
Despite the “devastating levels of hunger” that civilians are facing in the greater Darfur region, deliveries of food assistance have been “intermittent due to fighting and endless bureaucratic hurdles,” WFP said.
In April, the UN said it started distributing food in Darfur for the first time in months.

Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?

Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?
Updated 34 min 45 sec ago

Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?

Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?
  • International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor is ‘concerned by the ethnically motivated nature’ of the conflict
  • Fourteen months into the conflict, legal experts have criticized the court’s belated appeal for evidence of atrocities

LONDON: The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan has appealed for evidence of atrocities in Sudan, saying his ongoing investigation “seems to disclose an organized, systematic and a profound attack on human dignity.”

However, legal experts who spoke to Arab News have accused the ICC of dragging its feet on the deteriorating situation in Sudan and of focusing too narrowly on the Darfur region while neglecting the wider conflict.

Khan last week said he had become “particularly concerned by the ethnically motivated nature” of the conflict in Sudan after combatants reportedly attacked the main hospital in Al-Fasher, North Darfur, in what likely constituted a war crime.

Doctors from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres confirmed to Arab News that the attack on the South Hospital on June 8 had forced MSF and its partners in the Sudanese Ministry of Health to suspend all activities and withdraw staff from the facility.

A spokesperson said authorities had already reduced services at the hospital, with many patients having been transferred before the attack owing to the uptick in fighting around the city — the last in Darfur still under the control of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).

Fighters affiliated with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a breakaway military faction that has seized control of swathes of the country since the conflict began on April 15, 2023, were accused of mounting the attack.

“It’s outrageous that the RSF opened fire inside the hospital,” Michel Lacharite, head of emergencies at MSF, told Arab News. “It is not an isolated incident. Staff and patients have endured attacks on the facility for weeks from all sides, but opening fire inside a hospital crosses a line.

“Warring parties must stop attacking hospitals. One by one, hospitals are damaged and closed. Remaining facilities in Al-Fasher aren’t prepared for mass casualties, we are trying to find solutions, but the responsibility lies with warring parties to spare medical facilities.”


• 14,000 Estimated number of people killed in Sudan since the conflict began on April 15, 2023.

• 10 million People displaced, including over 2 million who have crossed into neighboring countries.

The RSF, commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, has previously denied claims that its forces attack civilian infrastructure.

While details about the hospital attack remain sketchy, the MSF spokesperson said “most patients” and “all MSF staff” were able to escape.

As the main referral hospital for treating Al-Fasher’s war-wounded, the only one equipped to manage mass casualty events and one of just two with surgical capacity, the loss of services will have a major impact. In less than a month, the facility had treated some 1,300 people.

The UN Security Council adopted a UK-drafted resolution on June 14 demanding an end to the siege of Al-Fasher.

The measure expressed “grave concern” over the spreading violence and reports that the RSF was carrying out “ethnically motivated violence.”

During the meeting, Mohamed Abushahab, the UAE’s ambassador to the UN, said: “We believe that the Sudanese people deserve justice and peace. They need a ceasefire, a credible political process and unhindered flow of humanitarian aid.”

Rebutting accusations made by the representative of Sudan’s SAF-backed government, he said: “Excuses and finger pointing only prolongs the suffering of civilians.”

Independent ivestigations using videos suggest recent SAF victories were enabled by the deployment of such Iranian-made combat drones as Mohajer-6 and Zajil-3.

According to Wim Zwijnenburg, a drone expert and head of the Humanitarian Disarmament Project at Dutch peace organisation PAX, the videos are “an indication of active Iranian support” for SAF.

“If these drones are equipped with guided munitions, it means they were supplied by Iran because those munitions are not produced in Sudan,” Zwijnenburg told BBC.

Sudan’s SAF-dominated governing council has denied acquiring weapons from Iran.

Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow for the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that although the Al-Fasher hospital assault has been a wake-up call for the ICC, attacks of this kind were “nothing new.”

“The fact of the matter is that this is not the first hospital to be looted or destroyed in this conflict, Hudson told Arab News.

“It is a conflict that has been raging for 14 months and has been fought in much the same way with this attack well within the nature of the conflict.

“What is new is that Sudan’s civilian population’s ability to withstand the shocks of this war has depleted. But while it may feel like a game-changing moment, it is not.”

Referring to the July 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys during the Bosnian War, Hudson said: “Maybe if there was a Srebrenica moment, a move to extermination, that would be game-changing.”

Khan’s comments indicate the ICC has been paying attention to the situation in Sudan. However, Hudson voiced disappointment at the court’s slow response to the conflict.

Contrasting the “alacrity” with which the ICC acted against Russia for its war in Ukraine and Israel for its assault on Gaza — issuing arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin within 12 months and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within eight — he said it was telling of Sudan’s ranking in international priorities that the court was “only now” investigating.

“Khan’s comments strike me as an admission that the court has not moved at pace and should have been doing more,” said Hudson. “I am not sure what restraints he is operating under but he’s not prioritized Sudan, and, in Darfur, these cases build themselves.

“It is not just the court, this conflict has been neglected more broadly, there need to be moves to build a diplomatic process and to get humanitarian aid because only eight percent of a global appeal has been met, which is shockingly low.

“I would like to see an increase in the cost on this war’s actors as part of a move to bring it to an end, including the use of sanctions, which have not been deployed efficiently, and could have a part to play in bringing actors to the negotiating table.”

Although efforts at brokering a ceasefire between the two sides have so far failed, Saudi aid agency KSrelief has been rolling out health projects intended to support Sudan’s civilian population, with three projects put into action in the last week alone.

With thousands of civilians reportedly killed and thousands more displaced by the fighting across Darfur, the ICC’s machinery has swung into action. Even so, Sudanese international lawyers have expressed skepticism.

One who spoke to Arab News on the condition of anonymity said they were particularly concerned by Khan’s focus on the violence in Darfur when in reality, the violence has spread far beyond the troubled western region.

“The ICC was mandated to investigate crimes in Darfur in 2005, and we have not yet seen any results from that mandate, and now this conflict is happening in other areas,” the lawyer said. “This violence is not all in — nor is it originating from — Darfur.

“What is happening outside Darfur is not lesser than the violence happening within it and yet the ICC, partly as a consequence of Sudan not being a party to the court’s jurisdiction, is drawing attention away from this and making it all about Darfur.”

Despite lacking jurisdiction as a consequence of the Sudanese government failing to ratify the ICC treaty, otherwise known as the Rome Statute, the court had gained jurisdiction for a limited investigation into earlier crimes in Darfur through a UN Security Council referral.

That referral resulted in the ICC’s 2009 decision to issue an arrest warrant for the since-ousted Sudanese President Omar Bashir for multiple charges, including for a genocide that took place in Darfur between 2003 and 2008.

Born out of Arab militias commonly known as Janjaweed, the RSF was mobilized by Bashir against non-Arab tribes in Darfur. At the time, they were accused of mass killings, rapes and other atrocities, and Darfur became synonymous with genocide.

Welcoming Khan’s push for evidence, another Sudan-based legal expert, who spoke to Arab News anonymously, challenged those questioning the focus on Darfur, stressing it made sense given the region’s history.

“Does it make sense to keep looking at cases within the Darfur geographic region? Yes, because all that is happening in Sudan from 2003 up to now can be connected back to Darfur, as that is where this conflict’s root causes lie,” they said.

“There are questions to be asked though in relation to how the ICC is addressing the Darfur case and the role that this, and the coverage of it, will have around the protection of civilians as what is needed is to reduce that risk.”

The war in Sudan has cost the lives of more than 14,000 people and left thousands more wounded while pushing the population to the brink of famine.

The UN warned the warring parties last month that there is a serious risk of widespread starvation in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan if they do not allow humanitarian aid into the region.

The war has also created the world’s largest displacement crisis as more than 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes, including over 2 million people who have crossed into neighboring countries.

Saudi Arabia has played a central role in facilitating talks between the two warring factions, urging them to meet their obligations to protect civilians under both the Jeddah Declaration and the requirements of international humanitarian law.


Israel army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated

Israel army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated
Updated 54 min 55 sec ago

Israel army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated

Israel army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated
  • “Hamas is an ideology, we cannot eliminate an ideology,” said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari
  • PM Netanyahu's office quickly rebuffed the spokesman's statement, saying Hamas has to be defeated

JERUSALEM: Israel’s top army spokesman said Wednesday that Hamas cannot be eliminated, prompting a knee-jerk reaction from the government which quickly reiterated it remains committed to the Palestinian militant group’s destruction.
More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have failed to oust the Islamist militants from Gaza but have brought widespread devastation.
“To say that we are going to make Hamas disappear is to throw sand in people’s eyes. If we don’t provide an alternative, in the end, we will have Hamas,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told Israel’s Channel 13 broadcaster.
“Hamas is an ideology, we cannot eliminate an ideology.”
His comments were quickly rebuffed by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose cabinet has stated its Gaza offensive will not end until Hamas is defeated.
“The political and security cabinet headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu defined as one of the goals of the war the destruction of Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities,” his office said in a statement.
“The IDF is of course committed to this.”
In a separate statement on its Telegram channel, the military clarified that Hagari had addressed Hamas “as an ideology... and his statements were clear and explicit.”
“Any other claim is taking the statement out of context.”
The October 7 attack that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas has killed at least 37,396 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

UK PM Sunak’s Conservatives set for heavy election defeat, polls forecast

UK PM Sunak’s Conservatives set for heavy election defeat, polls forecast
Updated 19 June 2024

UK PM Sunak’s Conservatives set for heavy election defeat, polls forecast

UK PM Sunak’s Conservatives set for heavy election defeat, polls forecast
  • Polling by YouGov showed Keir Starmer’s Labour was on track to win 425 parliamentary seats in Britain’s 650-strong House of Commons
  • Savanta poll, published by the Telegraph newspaper, said Sunak could even lose his own parliamentary seat in northern England

LONDON: Three opinion polls on Wednesday predicted a record defeat for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives at a July 4 election, forecasting the Labour Party would comfortably win a large majority after 14 years in opposition.
Polling by YouGov showed Keir Starmer’s Labour was on track to win 425 parliamentary seats in Britain’s 650-strong House of Commons, the most in its history. Savanta predicted 516 seats for Labour and More in Common gave it 406.
YouGov had the Conservatives on 108 and the Liberal Democrats on 67, while Savanta predicted the Conservatives would take 53 parliamentary seats and the Liberal Democrats 50. More in Common forecast 155 and 49 seats respectively.
Chris Hopkins, Political Research Director at Savanta, said its projection put Labour on course “for a historic majority.”
The three polls were so-called multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) surveys, an approach that uses voters’ age, gender, education and other variables to predict results in every British voting district. Pollsters used the method to successfully predict the 2017 British election result.
They are largely in line with previous surveys predicting a Labour victory, but show the scale of the Conservatives’ defeat could be even worse than previously thought.
YouGov’s forecast of 108 seats for the Conservatives was around 32 lower than its previous poll two weeks earlier.
Both Savanta and YouGov predicted that the party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher could be left with the lowest number of seats in its near 200-year history contesting elections.
Sunak, who in a final throw of the dice last week pledged to cut 17 billion pounds of taxes for working people if re-elected,
has failed to turn the polls around so far in a campaign littered with missteps.
His task has been made harder by the surprise mid-campaign return to frontline politics by prominent Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, a right-wing populist, whose Reform UK party threatens to split the right-of-center vote.
Britain has a first-past-the-post electoral system, meaning Reform could pick up millions of votes across the country without winning any individual seats.
YouGov predicted Reform would win five seats and Savanta none. More in Common did not give a figure for Reform.
The Savanta poll, published by the Telegraph newspaper, said Sunak could even lose his own parliamentary seat in northern England, once considered a safe Conservative constituency, with the contest currently too close to call.
Sunak has acknowledged that people are frustrated with him and his party after more than a decade in power, dominated at times by political turmoil and scandal.
All three surveys projected several senior government ministers, including finance minister Jeremy Hunt, were on course to lose their seats.
Most opinion polls currently place Keir Starmer’s Labour about 20 percentage points ahead of the governing Conservatives in the national vote share.
Other polls in recent days have also presented a grim picture for Sunak, with one pollster predicting “electoral extinction” for the Conservatives.

Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 
Updated 19 June 2024

Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

RIYADH: Saudi Railways on Wednesday hailed the success of the Mashaer Train operation at this year’s Hajj season, saying the metro service had transported more than 2.2 million passengers between the nine stations in Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, operating 2,206 trips.

More than 29,000 worshippers were transported on the first day of the pilgrimage, while more than 292,000 pilgrims were carried from Mina to Arafat, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Mashaer Train then transported over 305,000 people during the pilgrimage from Arafat to Muzdalifah, and more than 383,000 worshippers from Muzdalifah to Mina.

During the days of Tashreeq, the train carried more than 1.2 million pilgrims from stations Mina 1, Mina 2, and Muzdalifah 3 to Mina 3 station (Jamarat), which offered easy access to the Jamarat Bridge.

Bashar Al-Malik, CEO of SAR, said that the success of the operating plan was built on unlimited support for the railway sector from the Saudi leadership.