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Intra-Muslim Debates on Ecology: Is Shari’a Still Relevant?

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image of Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

A survey of the proliferating literature by Muslims on ecology indicates that the majority favors some role for traditional Islamic law in order to solve the current environmental crisis. And so what is the meaning of the word “Shari’a” that appears so often? A close look at this discourse reveals an inherent fuzziness in its use of Shari’a. All of the scholar/activists surveyed in this paper, though on the conservative end of the spectrum, chiefly refer to “Shari’a” as a source of ethical values. The first to address these issues was Iranian-American philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr whose pluralist theology is hospitable to the spiritual input of all faiths; yet the most influential environmentalists today are the British scholars Mawil Izzi Dien and Fazlun Khalid, whose writings and campaigns have impacted millions of Muslims worldwide. Their appeal to past norms of eco-friendly Shari’a norms and their desire to update them in the present context fits nicely with the Earth’s Charter call for “a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.”

Affiliations: 1: Visiting Scholar, University of Pennsylvania, 847 Williams Hall, 255 South 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA, ;, Email:, URL:


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