Incorporating Environmental Education in Islamic Education The Need of the Hour

Dr. M. Aslam Parvaiz Director, Islamic Foundation for Science & Environment New Delhi, India

ABSTRACT
(Islamic theology, as it is taught today, is focused mainly on three principles, namely, belief (aqa’id), prayer (Ibaada) and practices (muam’laat). Though under practices, one's duties towards Allah (huqooq ullah) and towards fellow beings (huqooq ul-ibaad) are dealt, their main focus, by and large, remains socio-economic. This is despite the fact-that Quran speaks a lot about various components of environment and the balance amongst them. A paradigm shift is needed here. Islamic Education System (IES) should incorporate Environmental Education (EE) from an Islamic perspective. The role of man as custodian (khalifa) of earth and its resources, establishment of balance (almizan) among various environmental components, establishment of justice (adl), respect for life and peace (amn), judicious use of resources and prohibition of extravagance (israaf), forbiddance to spread corruption, chaos and pollution (fasaad), conservation of resources (amana) and their equitable distribution (eita), social development (zakaat), land reclamation (ihya’al-mawat), establishment of reserves (al-hima), sanctuaries (alharam) and charitable endowments (auqaaf) should be an integral part of such an education system. It's operational level should be four tiered, one each for primary, secondary, senior secondary and one open, for those who seek lateral entry in this education system or opt for open system of schooling. Two models have been developed by Islamic Foundation for Science & Environment (IFSE). One is for the modern or secular system of education, wherein students are taught about Islamic principles, laws and guidelines related to specific environmental issues and topics as taught in schools. It acts as a supplement to basic knowledge and makes them realize that "environmental consciousness" is their deenee (religious) duty. The second model of curriculum is developed for students of Deenee Madaaris (Theology Schools) through which they are exposed to the interface that exists between Islam and Environment. This curriculum is a part of one year special training program being run for madarsa graduates at Dar-ul-Umoor, Mysore, India since 2001. The results are remarkable and deserve to be shared and discussed.)

The early man believed that he is surrounded by hostile forces bent on destroying him. He was overawed by strong winds, thunder, fire, darkness and other similar natural phenomena. He believed that he would be able to survive only if he placated and

Both nature and human beings have been created by a wise. 2 . Through perceptual knowledge we become aware of. It describes nature as friendly to man. which means that it is true and has a purpose: “Allah created the heavens and the earth with truth. Quran exhorts man to acquire knowledge of nature and utilize it for his development and benefit of entire humanity in the light of Divine Guidance. he needs the tool of knowledge – both perceptual and conceptual2. and deal with.” (38:27) Quran further says that the universe was created bil haqq. the immediate physical environment. it is all as a favour and kindness from Him.” (29:44) Therefore it is the duty of the faithful. and He has made the night and the day. He sought to appease the raging storm. Through conceptual knowledge we go beyond concrete facts and cognize the unity which underlines the multiplicity of the world. And to observe these signs of Allah. both constantly pursuing their courses. The Quran accords full recognition to the role of senses in the process of acquiring knowledge : “And follow not that of which you have not the knowledge. Tormented by a sense of utter helplessness. In fact.appeased these forces and hence he personified and deitified them. Verily. the turbulent river or crashing thunder by methods which had found effective in pacifying an enraged neighbour or a furious enemy Islamic View : The Quran places man in a meaningful relationship with nature. a sign for those who believe. there is surely. he thought he could save himself only by arousing the pity of gods.” (17:36) 3. Quran asserts that the physical world is not a shadow or mirage. The Almighty has made all natural forces subservient to him: “And He has made the sun and the moon. responsive to his intellect and sympathetic to his moral endeavour. Both the kinds of knowledge have their source in our senses. to be of service to you. to be of service to you. benevolent and merciful Allah and consequently there is no conflict between them. in it are signs for a people who think deeply. It is real and with a purpose: “And we created not the heaven and the earth and all that is between them without purpose! That is the consideration of those who disbelieve ----. the believers or Momin to observe the truth spread before his eyes. surely the hearing and the sight and the heart of each of those ones will be questioned.” (45:13) “He it is Who created for you all that is on earth -----” (2:29) There are many such verses which ascertain and elaborate this injunction. Verily.”(14:33)1 “And has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth.

there are indeed signs for man of understanding. they feel it in their bones that it has a meaning and a purpose. sink to the level of animals or even worse: “And surely. ‘man of knowledge and insight’. By insisting that nature provides a path way to Allah.” (7:179) In sharp contrast to such people are those who ponder upon Allah’s creations: “Verily. Contemplation of the outer world of nature (Afaq) and of man himself (Anfus) guides us to the power that manifests itself in both. those! They are the heedless ones. (saying): Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose ----. When Iman is actually expressed through a way of life and when it inspires to 3 . and what He scattered (through the earth)of moving (living) creatures are signs for people who have faith with certainty (Iman). we have created many of the jinn and mankind for hell. (Because) they have hearts wherewith they understand not. And in the alternation of night and day. and in the alternation of night and day. and revives herewith the earth after its death. nay even more astray. It adds. because Quran says: “Verily. evidences. proofs. which we recite to you (O Muhammad) with truth. The Quran speaks of those who study nature and try to discover the laws that govern it as. The Quran says that these are the visible signs (Ayat) of the invisible Being: “These are the Ayat (signs. lessons. sitting. revelations) of Allah. in the heavens and in the earth are signs for the believers. in the creation of the heavens and the earth. and they have eyes wherewith they see not. verses. wherewith they hear not (the truth). It is the confluence of the two streams of influence that produces the Iman of a true believer or Momin. and the provision (rain) that Allah sends down from the sky. and they have ears.” (45:3-5) Faith or believe (Iman) in Allah may not follow from purely logical arguments. are signs for a people who understand. and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth. that Iman induced by the contemplation of nature. Then in which speech (saying) after (that of) Allah and His Ayat will they (non-believers) believe?”(45:6) According to Quran. Those who remember Allah standing. And in your creation. but they have a conviction that if they persist in seeking more knowledge. Iman in Allah has a dual source.Those who do not make proper use of their senses and mental abilities. harmony and beauty in nature. They are like cattle. however. one day they will understand it. it springs from the direct experience of order. should be reinforced by Revelations. With their intellectual honesty. With humility they confess that they do not know. and in the turning about of the winds. the Quran concedes the validity of Islam as a ‘natural way of life’ or Deen.” (3:190-91) When such people approach nature with the attitude of the believers (Mominoon). pointers. and lying down on their sides. they cannot but admit that certain things in it are beyond their comprehension.

the way of life for humanity. it was remembered by heart. Both Iman and Taqwa are essential features of a true believer (“Momin”). Islam expects him to take up the challenge of life boldly in order to harness the bounties of nature for the development of his own self as well as the entire humanity. the collection of moral.follow and protect the Laws of Allah and thus reforms the conduct of a person. even a cursory survey of Muslims in different parts of the world reveals scores of contradictions and differences in their 4 . is not a religion in the conventional sense of the word. Ironically. which is a complete way of life. which was born out of the belief that man’s sojourn on earth was one of bondage. The Natural World Order :Islam. but it is essentially a ‘code of life’. religion is a kind of private relationship between man and his Creator. regulating the conduct of affairs concerning the individual as well as the collective life of human beings. Islam. In contrast to Deen. way of conduct (33:5. It is essentially founded on the idea of salvation. The situation change with Quran. Allah promised to protect it and hence. The Quran uses the word Deen in different contexts and meanings. system. from time to time and place to place. obedience (16:52) and for peace and order (8:39). it does not consider man’s life on earth a period of bondage. also distinguishes itself from the material concept of life which takes no cognizance of the Divine Guidance. Islam as a Deen. Thus. constitution (12:76). spiritual and worldly principles. as it was revealed. The Laws relating to human life and the regulation of its conduct are communicated through Revelations conveyed to mankind through Messengers. communicated to all people of the world. However. On the contrary. It has been used for way. The Rusul (Messengers of Allah) received them through Revelations and delivered them to their people. Islam has also presented a distinct concept of the Creator. but also laid down definite laws to regulate the scope and functions of the various objects comprising it. is neither such a relationship between man and Creator. law. How to extricate himself from that bondage thus becomes the main object of his life. The practice continues till date and millions of people round the world remember every verse of it by heart. hence the idea of salvation (in that particular context) does not arise. it is called Taqwa. having assigned to man a very high position in the universe. The Contradictions of Faith and Practice :The Divine Guidance and Laws have been. scientific experiments and discussions. nor is it characterized by the experience of an individual of a subjective nature. none of the Revelations remained original and free from corruption and tempering. It is a complete guidance for mankind and hence called Deen. the last revealed book. As a result. in every area there have been people of vested interests who refused to follow Divine Guidance and changed it soon after the demise of the Messenger. The distinguishing feature of the Islamic concept lies in the belief that Allah not only created the universe. 40:26). Secondly. Besides. The knowledge of the Divine Laws relating to the external universe is derived from a close observation of nature. on the other hand.

They rejected colonial educational system and hence got cut off from the contemporary disciplines.thus the Deen disappeared and a new ‘religion’ was born retaining the name of Islam. it is this Islam which is practiced by majority of Muslims either by ignorance or by sheer convenience. seemed disastrous to them. There are two main reasons for this factionalism. got buried in the plethora of contradicting literature. Muslims felt threatened and decided to completely shut the doors for anything and everything coming through colonial powers.beliefs and practices. The educational system of Muslims in Indian subcontinent shows a dichotomy which is unique to them and has already been explained earlier. but it does merit a brief mention as it is central to the theme of this chapter. armed with new technology. the colonial forces started spreading their tentacles. Any detailed discussion about the causes of these differences is beyond the scope of this chapter. branded all natural and physical sciences as colonial and rejected them8. justice. The Indian Scenario :India is a secular country. to seek “salvation” and earn the promised paradise. for obvious reasons. By and large. Ultimately the Quranic message. At the time. This drastic and disastrous change in the concept of Islam changed the attitude of Muslims as well. devised different interpretations of Quranic Laws4. The new converts. the urge to discover and explore nature disappeared as it was no more considered a part of Islam. at the one hand and its proclamation that the ultimate owner and ruler is Allah. it imbibed new socio-cultural values. and hence developed an amalgam which was believed to be Islam. the vested interest groups. opportunity to all. They devised their own education system and unfortunately. The modern system of education is the one in which they are most lagging. honour to every human being. It was the most tragic co-incidence. When the Science and Technology was developing in the Muslim world. The reasons are many. The Quranic injunctions about equity. tried to retain their values and customs however un-islamic they may be. the Almighty whose Laws shall prevail. found Quranic teachings lethal to their survival. Knowledge was redefined and bifurcated into “worldly” and “religious” knowledge ---. 5 . People were made to believe that these prayers are enough to “please” Allah. inhabiting second largest Muslim population in the world. it was propagated mainly through the medium of Persian and Arabic languages which were the chief languages spoken and understood by majority of Muslims. The new scientific developments and methodologies were now propagated through English language which was considered ‘colonial’ and hence anything written and communicated through English was virtually forbidden. Muslim world was facing colonial adventurism7. Now there was no pursuit of knowledge. which were mainly capitalist and power seekers. non discrimination. encouraged groupism based on different commentaries and fabricated history. Besides. when scientific movement was taking roots in Europe. Economically also. Secondly. As Islam spread to newer lands. chief being their anti-colonial attitude at the time of its introduction6. Educationally. As a strategy they encouraged sectarianism. judicious use of resources. Muslims are most backward of all the religious groups present in the country. the Deen. they are among the backwards5. equal distribution of resources. by and large. The concept of total submission to Laws of Allah was replaced by certain rituals called prayers.

This practice has continued since then. considered education.and precisely this is what has happened. by and large. deliver religious sermons and issue Fatwas (Religious Decree) about contemporary issues and present day problems. As they do not have contemporary knowledge. like all other groups. They never got a chance to understand the concept of education and the purpose of seeking knowledge as explained in Quran. These are the people who after graduating from the Madrasas lead the Muslims prayers in mosques. 5. This parallel system of education was introduced in all Madrasas which are usually associated with every large mosque in a locality. As they remain totally cut off from sciences as well as other new fields of studies. 6 . Hence Muslim graduates from this system. 6. Unfortunately. As explained in the early part of this chapter. 2. Accidence and syntax grammar. The modern system of education on the other hand. As Muslims did not adopt it. they remain totally unaware of all the modern age issues related to nature. the due emphasis on understanding Quran and interpreting it in today’s context and with present day knowledge is missing in most of these Madrasas. they can hardly use it to understand Quran and its full meaning. It was reduced to a religion for them as well. The people of ‘religious school’ or Madrasas have confined themselves to language skills. to understand Islam as a Deen. Logic Philosophy Mathematics Rhetoric Jurisprudence Principles of Jurisprudence Theology Commentary. logic and philosophy (most of which is outdated now) and to commentaries written centuries ago with the knowledge available at that particular time. they could not blend or integrate it with Islamic teachings and principles. scientific pursuit is essential for understanding Allah’s Laws as they operate in nature. developed either in a nonreligious environment or under the impact of other religions. Hence they also failed. and Hadith. 10. science and technology. 8.This new system was called Dars-e-Nizami (Lessons of Nizam) as it was compiled and prepared by Mulla Nizamuddin Muhammad (1677-1748) in the later half of the 17th century. Any lopsided attitude or shunning any of these two streams reduces the deen to a mere religion ---. 7. 4. as a means to get a good job and thus to improve their life style and social status. 3. 9. It incorporated following disciplines9 : 1. The average duration of course is seven years and the degree of Aalim (Learned Man) is conferred to those who complete it. A blending of scientific and Revealed knowledge is a must if one wishes to practice Islam as a Deen.

A very important initiative in this direction has been the Madrasa training program started in 1991. Muslim theology departments of various universities in India. Unfortunately. It also tries to introduce new understanding and promotes fresh ideas in Madrasas. Jamia Millia Islamia and Jamia Hamdard. including Aligarh Muslim University. religious leaders and graduates from Madrasas neither know anything about environment. Subsequently.Environmental Activism: It must be clear from foregone discussion that the dichotomy in Muslim education system has totally segregated contemporary knowledge from religious education. Though nothing was put on record. Under this program extension lectures by experts from various fields were organized in different Madrasas. Not a single person in these departments is working on the interface of Islam and Science or Environment. These would be mentioned here briefly: Islamic Fiqh (Jurisprudence) Academy10 :It is an independent organization established in 1988 with an aim to provide solutions to present day problem faced by Muslims. if we do not have any leadership among Muslim scholars on environmental issues or any environmental movement. As a consequence. depletion of ozone layer. its components and the need to maintain its balance. It is no surprise therefore. there are a few specks of light in this otherwise dark and dismal scenario. It was dispatched to important theologians of different sects and their opinion was sought. nuclear wastes and green house effect. Same is true for all other contemporary issues. However. The response was overwhelming and very positive. The author was also invited once to deliver a lecture on environment and the need for its preservation in a Madrasa situated in a remote town of Uttar Pradesh. It was feared that if these issues are brought up for screening under Islamic 7 . focus exclusively on ‘religious studies’. Academy has not included any of the environmental issues in its annual sessions. on contemporary issues. nor they consider it a part of their religion. It holds an annual gathering where eminent theologians from different schools of thoughts as well as modern scholars are invited to discuss selected current issues. organizing awareness lectures and training programs. where unfortunately it was not approved. Sometime back. a few enthusiasts initiated the idea and prepared a detailed questionnaire on various environmental issues like pollution. The environmental movement initiated by different NGOs and Government organizations have also bypassed them as either side lacked initiative. Similarly. A few movements have started to introduce modern knowledge to Madrasas and to re-establish the lost linkage between Islam. it was discussed in a core committee of the academy. Its activities include publishing books. it is believed that the proposal was rejected on the ground that it would alienate common masses from the religious leadership. deforestation. Science and Nature. It has discussed issues right from Insurance to birth control and cloning to organ transplant. consumptions of fossil fuels. There is no one to motivate and enlighten Muslim masses.

conservation of resources and environment. The Foundation has established a good rapport with the people of Madrasa system and a meaningful dialogue has been started. it is trying to emphasize the need to interpret Quran in today’s context and in its right perspective. since February 1994. Most probably a compromise formula would be worked out and some benign issues would be selected for religious scrutiny. is in touch with this group. It is the first and only popular science and environment monthly published in the country. Any environmental movement or activism in these people is still a far cry. An attempt has also been made to convince them to include these issues in their Friday sermons delivered every week to large gatherings practically in every mosque. happens to be the most important reason for the lack of any environmental awareness among common Muslim masses. experts from different field. there still is a ray of hope. Occasionally. Israr Ahmed of Physics Department. Islamic Foundation for Science & Environment12 :Islamic Foundation for Science and Environment (IFSE) is a voluntary non-profit organization that was established in 1994 mainly to integrate Muslims with the scientific movement and to explain and clarify the Islamic point of view viz-a-viz science and environment. being a member of its academic committee. the then Vice-Chancellor of the University. was established in 1985 by Mr. Centre for Promotion of Science11:The Centre located within the campus of Aligarh Muslim University. Although it is a good attempt. book exhibitions and other outreach programs are also arranged in different Madrasas. A regular question and answer column appears in the magazine and readers are encouraged to ask any question related to science/environment or their interpretation in Islam. School and Madrasa students are encouraged to write on relevant topics of science/environment and annual awards/cash prizes are given on best three entries from either stream. The main target readership is students and products of Deenee Madrasas. there would be no option but to forbid all sorts of environmental degradation and to issue Fatwas against such activities. Secondly. are invited to interact with the participants. Saiyid Hamid. took charge of the Centre as its Director. Though it may not attack the cancer initially. it is trying to spread scientific and environment related awareness among Muslim masses of this sub continent. However. including environment. The best question is given a cash prize every month and many Madrasa students have got this prize. It conducts refresher courses of seven to ten days duration for students and teachers of Madrasas. The right thinking people in the academy are still active and the author. First. The Centre was established primarily to introduce science to Madrasa people. This totally un-Islamic attitude of the people who claim to be religious leaders. it has failed to bring about any significant or perceptible change in the Madrasa’s style of teaching or course content. (Late) Prof. It has been working with a two pronged strategy. It is publishing a popular science and environment monthly in Urdu called ‘Urdu Science Monthly’. What are its teaching about scientific and learning pursuits. but at least a beginning would be made in the right direction and subsequent strides can be crafted at a later stage.Laws. 8 . During this training program. but being a limited one. who had initiated this idea.

personality development. That indeed. What remains doubtful is cooperation from orthodox clergy. 3. It is most likely that this institution. the candidates are also given an exposure to science and environment. Tipu Sultan Advanced Study and Research Centre13:The Tipu Sultan Advanced Study and Research Centre (TSASRC) is a premier institution established by the “Sheriff Foundation” at Srirangapatna near Mysore to impart Islamic and moral education in thrust areas of science and technology. Besides. covering this syllabus is being prepared by the author. Nature. activism and conservation efforts with Islamic teachings and to make people realize that it is their religious (Deenee) duty to care for the environment as well as resources. The Islamic Studies and Community Service Programs is the major program of the Centre which was started in May 2002. 4. The main thrust of these programs is to co-relate environmental consciousness. A lot of work needs to be done at grass roots level to sensitize Muslims about the significance of environmental issues for our survival. The author is associated with this program as visiting faculty since its inception. The response was overwhelming and the message was very well taken. it is a part of Islam. IT applications. Serving the humanity with acquired knowledge --. He has designed their syllabus for science and environmental studies. orientation lectures for the students of Madrasas were also started from the same year.The foundation is official consultant to Islamic Fiqh (Jurisprudence) Academy on matters of science and environment and has helped the Academy to dwell upon contemporary issues like Cloning. In addition. Nature of Gelatin. It is aimed at providing integrated education to the graduates of Madrasa system by imparting an in-depth understanding of science. In 2000 a short course program was devised and started for modern education system schools. the Deen. community management etc. its resources and their conservation. would be able to bring about a meaningful change in Muslims mindset. 9 . The book “Science of Signs”. This residential program of education and training is of one year duration and the first batch of twenty students has already passed out. The purpose of seeking knowledge ---. The topics taught include Hadith and Fiqh and interpreting Islamic values and approach on current issues.putting other’s interest before self interest --. environment and other frontiers of knowledge. Under this program the students are taught Quranic principles about : 1. This is the most recent and most significant step in the direction of sensitizing Muslim Ulemas about modern subjects including environment.the Quranic model of selfless and serving society. is beyond any doubt.understanding the working of nature and growing in tandem with it. Biotechnology etc. and other similar ones if established in future. Conclusion : The foregone discussion gives more of an insight in to the reasons for the lack of an environmental activism among Indian Muslims. 2. Role of man on this planet.

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France. who has a doctorate in plant physiology from Aligarh Muslim University. Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz. Zakir Nagar. Turkey.S. U. Kuwait. Singapore. He writes books and conduct awareness programs for students and teachers of Deenee Madaaris and schools. Yale and Toronto. besides many other Institutions and Organizations. 99110-54593 11 . is currently Principal of Zakir Husain Delhi College of Delhi University. Through this platform. nonprofit.com Mobile : (0091)-98115-31070. he has contributed chapters to books and encyclopedia published by various western universities and publishers. Besides. Canada. New Delhi – 110 025. India email: maparvaiz@googlemail. Director. Indonesia. He has visited Belgium. Saudi Arabia. notable is his chapter “Scientific Innovation and al-Mizan” in “Islam and Ecology” published by Harvard University Press (2003). a voluntary. He heads the Islamic Foundation for Science and Environment (India).K (2005). and “Man and Nature in Islam” in “Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature” published by Continuum Publishers. Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz. United Kingdom and United States of America. Government in 1995 to participate in the program “Environmental Education in U.S”. Morocco. charitable organization. Spain.Note on Contributor Dr. Nepal. He has been invited to deliver lectures on Islam and Science/Environment by universities like Harvard. India’s first and only popular science monthly magazine published in Urdu. Jordan. Dr. United Arab Emirates. Malaysia. His research and teaching experience is spread over more than twenty five years. He is a science communicator and has five books and more than 350 popular science articles to his credit. Islamic Foundation for Science & Environment 665/12. he spreads scientific and environmental awareness and aptitude to the population in general and to students of Madrasas (Islamic theology schools) in particular. He is founder and editor of Urdu Science. He was awarded an “International Visitor-ship” by the U.