Maqasid al-Shariah, SDGs and Environment

In this blog I seek to demonstrate the convergence of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in general, and the goal of climate management in particular with the objectives (Maqasid) of Shariah (MaS). Since the MaS should determine the trajectory of Islamic finance, the latter should be geared towards achievement of the SDGs in general and climate management goals in particular.

Shariah on Protecting the Planet

Any action with a view to protecting the planet and environment is also a step towards achieving the objective (maqasid) of Shariah. Below we briefly highlight some key Islamic norms of human behavior that underscore the above.

According to Shariah, human beings, as vicegerents of God, have the mission of faithfully observing the values given by their Creator. During their short life in this world they may utilize the scarce resources of the planet as trustees. They must interact with each other in accordance with rules. This would not only ensure the well-being of all humans but also, protect the environment, including animals, birds and insects.[1]

Corruption doth appear on land and sea because of (the evil) which men’s hands have done, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return. (Quran 30:41)

In the above verse, the Quran calls on human beings to recognize their own contribution to the crisis. A reversal in the deterioration of the planet would require some hard choices and change in practices.

But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters. (Quran 6:141)

“Eat and drink, but waste not by excess; Verily He loves not the excessive” (Qur’an:7:31)

The above verses highlights the importance of conservation and avoiding wastefulness. The same principle is underlined when a believer is required to be frugal in the use of water for ablution, an act of worship, even if s/he has a river at disposal. Water and other natural resources are thus to be seen as divine provisions.

The planting of trees is highlighted as a significant pious deed in Islam. According to a widely known tradition, the planting of a tree is regarded as an act of continuous charity. There is another tradition, which says, if one has with him/her a sapling ready to be planted and the Day of Judgment arrives one should go ahead and plant it.

Islamic forbids willful destruction of the planet as all creations of Allah, including animals and trees, glorify God in their own way and serve a certain purpose in His larger scheme of the world.

Seest thou not that to Allah bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on earth,- the sun, the moon, the stars; the hills, the trees, the animals; and a great number among mankind? (Quran 22:18)

This Islamic notion reinforces the scientific concept of ‘chain of life,’ and interdependence among species, maintaining the balance of life on earth.

There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. (Quran 6:38)

God reminds humans in the Quran not to tamper with His divine balance (here referred to as ‘measure’) by reminding them:

And the sky He hath uplifted; and He hath set the measure, that ye exceed not the measure, but observe the measure strictly, nor fall short thereof. (55:7-9)

There are numerous verses of the holy Quran and the traditions of the Prophet, which establish the inviolable rule to preserve and protect the environment and conserve resources. Maintaining the balance of life on the planet is a supreme duty of humans and therefore, forms part of the divine objectives of the Shariah.

Islamic finance aims to promote an economic concept that extends beyond being the component of a financial system, but as part of a total value-based social system. The Shariah, which governs the Islamic financial system has ample injunctions which emphasize the need to care for the environment and forms of life on earth while ensuring the proper usage of natural resources.


[1] Chapra, M.U (2008), p30

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