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Reviving an Islamic Approach for Environmental Conservation in Indonesia

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In this paper, the authors argue that while state-sponsored efforts to preserve Indonesia’s natural resources have been needed, their effectiveness has been limited due to the paucity of available arable land and the frequent conflicts conservation policies have generated among local populations. Rather than a top-down structural approach, they argue, what is needed is an innovative approach that includes education at the grassroots, which in Indonesia will combine Islamic principles of environmental protection with traditional methods of conservation. After a section presenting an Islamic theology of creation care and then highlighting some projects in the Muslim world, the spotlight is turned on Indonesia, where a number of initiatives involve the cooperation of religious leaders, eco-friendly pesantren (religious boarding schools), international NGOs, and government policy at the national and regional levels.

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37. fn1 1) Author Mangunjaya holds positions in the Faculty of Biology, Universitas Nasional (Indonesia) and the Religion and Conservation Initiative, Conservation International, Jakarta; McKay is a Research Associate at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent UK, and Project Manager of the Darwin Initiative Programme funded by the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), entitled, “Integrating religion within conservation: Islamic beliefs and Sumatran forest management.” Much of this article was translated from Bahasa Indonesia into English, with some revision, by Anna M. Gade.
38. fn2 2) Bruthland Report’s of World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) defines “sustainable development” to be development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (WCED. 1987. Our Common Future. Available online at:[accessed February 10, 2012]).
39. fn3 3) A recent case was reported in the village of Mesuji, Lampung, Sumatra, in which conflict arose when the landowner, in accordance with a government permit, attempted to widen his field for the cultivation of palm oil and the local community considered the land was theirs according to customary rights, and the palm oil company claimed that it was their right since they had obtained a due license from the government. See Handadari, Transtoto, “Siapa Merambah Lahan?” KOMPAS, December 20, 2011, 6.
40. fn4 4) See Imam Syafii. 2004. The chapter, “Perincian Makanan yang Halal dan Haram,” Kitab al Umm, in Ringkasan Kitab Al Umm(translation of: Mukhtasyar kitab al Umm fil al Umm fi al fiqhi. Imam Syafii Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Idris). Jakarta: Pustaka Azzam, 773.
41. fn5 5) See Mangunjaya. 2005. Konservasi Alam Dalam Islam(Yayasan Obor Indonesia: Jakarta).
42. fn6 6) See Mudofir. 2009. Argumen Konservasi Lingkungan Sebagai Tujuan Tertinggi Syariah. Doctoral dissertation, Sekolah Pasca Sarjana Universitas Islam Negeri (UIN). Jakarta: Syarif Hidayatullah.
43. fn7 7) In S. Keller and E.O Wilson (1993), a hypothesis is formulated for this argument called, “biophilia: the human bond to nature.” Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), in a similar fashion, stated that humanity needs nature, since the entire world in reality is alive. Also see L. Clarke. 2003. The Universe Alive: Nature in the Masnawi of Jalal al Din Rumi, 36.
44. fn8 8) Fazlun Khalid. 1999. Qur’an Creation and Conservation. IFEES. Birmingham.
45. fn9 9) All quotes from Fazlun Khalid and Ali al-Tsani are taken from Teacher Guide Book for Islamic Environmental Education. (2008) IFEES: Birmingham.
46. fn10 10) O’Brien, J. and Palmer, M. 2007. The Atlas of Religion: Mapping Contemporary Challenges and Beliefs. (2007) London: Earthscan.
47. fn11 11) See: Biodiversity Hotspot: Hotspot Defined. Available online at:
48. fn12 12) See Gore, Albert. 2009. Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. New York: Rodale Books.
49. fn13 13) See “Indonesia’s Ambitious Forest Moratorium Moves Forward.” Available online,[accessed January 10, 2012].
50. fn14 14) These figures are from 2006, from the forest statistics of the Badan Planologi Kehutanan Baplan. See the website,, also available in Pdf at:[accessed January 10, 2012].
51. fn15 15) See Diamond, Jared. 2011. Collapse: How Societies to Choose to Fail or to Survive. New York: Penguin Books.
52. fn16 16) Section 40, point 2 (UU 32/2009) regarding permits.
53. fn17 17) Section 45 points l and 2 (UU 32/2009) regarding “ Anggaran berbasis lingkungan hidup.”
54. fn18 18) See ARC & UNDP 2009. Many Heaven One Planet: Faith Commitments to Protect the Living Planet. ARC: Bath, 175. Lihat juga available online: www.Arcworld.orgor
55. fn19 19) The complete M7YAP documents are available at:
56. fn20 20) “Report on First Muslim Conference on Climate Change Action. Bogor Indonesia.” April 9-10, 2010. Bogor, near the city of Jakarta on Java, was also declared to be a “Green City” at this time.
57. fn21 21)  Pondok pesantrenare Islamic religious boarding schools ormadrasahs, found in Indonesia and elsewhere in Muslim Southeast Asia. This type of school is widespread, with about 21,000 schools and 3.9 million students in the country of Indonesia. The pesantrenis well known for instruction in religious knowledge led by the “Kiyai” of the pesantren, who acts like its Chairman under the authority of its founder. Such schools train Islamic leaders from the local to national level.
58. fn22 22) See Mangunjaya, F.M., Wijayanto, I., Supriatna, J., Haleem, H., and Khalid, F. 2010. “Muslim Projects to Halt Climate Change in Indonesia,” Journal of Islamic Perspective3, April 2010. Available online:
59. fn23 23) Ibid. This article describes the Muslim actions for planting trees as well as combating climate change in actions in Indonesia in Indonesian pesantren and madrasahs.
60. fn24 24) In 2008, the Ministry of Environment announced a “National program on Eco-Pesantren,” in order to endorse pesantrens activities for the environmental movement. See Kompas,
61. fn25 25) See Manggagas Fiqh Lingkungan, by Muhammad et al., 2004. Also, the writing of Mangunjaya, 2011. Developing Environmental Awareness.
62. fn26 26) In the award testimony, the committee of the Magsaysay award stated, “The project has successfully reforested a once-barren thirty-one hectare tract through a scheme in which families, motivated by a grant of livestock for short-term needs, are allotted a hectare each for them to plant, nurture, and eventually harvest trees according to a clear business plan.” See: See also: Radio Netherland, January 6, 2011. Pemimpin Pesantren Peduli Lingkungan.
63. fn27 27) See the book, Mangunjaya, F. et al., 2011. Islam Peduli Lingkungan. Maarif Instute, Jakarta.,indonesian/
64. fn28 28) British Council Indonesia. Climate for the Classroom. Available at:[accessed, January 15, 2012].
65. fn29 29) Hala, Kilani, Assaad, Serhal, Othman, Llewlyn, “Al-Hima: A way of life,” IUCN West Asia regional Office, Amman Jordan—SPNL Beirut, Lebanon, 2007. See also, “Al Hima the Way of Life,” IUCN. Available at:
66. fn30 30) Higgins-Zoghib. 2005. “Misali Island Marine Conservationa Area (MIMCA), Zanzibar,” in Beyond Belief: Linking Faiths and Protected Areas to Support Biodiversity Conservation. Switzerland: WWF International and ARC, 78-81.
67. fn31 31) See: “Introducing the Islamic Hima and Harim System as a New Approach to Nature Conservation in Indonesia Phase II.” Available at:
68. fn32 32) See BBC London “The Climate Connection: Lost in Translation.” Available at:
69. fn33 33) Quoted from: KLH (Ministry of the Environment), 2011. Fatwa MUI tentang Pertambangan Ramah Lingkungan. KLH: Jakarta.
70. fn34 34) “Ministry employs 5,000 preachers to preserve forests,” The Jakarta Post. July 17, 2011.

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