Is Islam Pro- or Anti-Environmental? Interpretations and Implications

Peyman Hekmatpour, Thomas J. Burns, Tom W Boyd


Religion has, throughout the centuries, been a powerful institution on the macro level, yet also stands as a force having significant influence in people’s personal lives. This does, however, lead to questions of how a traditional institution such as religion may or may not be adequate to address problems of the Late Industrial Era, most notably the environmental crisis. In this paper, we inquire how various dimensions of Islamic literature and thought can contribute to preserving the natural environment. We find that concepts such as “dominion of men over the earth” and “specialness of humankind” can lead to anti-environmental interpretations of Islam. Nevertheless, other interpretations of Islamic teachings emerge that are compatible with environmental stewardship. However, a number of Islamic governments have shown a decided bias against environmental stewardship, particularly in cases where there is an authoritarian government and one placing an emphasis on economic “development”. In counterpoint, Islamic Mysticism, or Sufism, can provide a spiritual context for environmentally conscious action.

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