islam

International Polar Bear Day

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International Polar Bear Day is an annual event aimed to raise awareness about the impact of global warming and reduced sea ice on polar bear populations. Organized by Polar Bear International (PBI), the event encourages people to reduce their carbon footprint through making small changes in their daily lives such as driving less or lowering their thermostat. The mission of the organization is to inspire people to care for the Arctic, the threats to its future, and the connection between this remote region and our global climate.

The Polar Bear Connection

Polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt seals, which is their primary sources of food that sustain them throughout the year. However, the sea-ice in the Arctic has been melting earlier each year on average, limiting the time polar bears can effectively hunt and build up critical fat reserves. The snowball effect over several years reduces the polar bear population and range, making them vulnerable to extinction in the future.   

Changes in the Arctic are a litmus test of the effects of climate change, as the impacts are felt greater at higher latitudes. Scientists predict that as the Arctic continues to warm, two-thirds of the world's polar bears could disappear within this century. The latest IUCN report estimates there are approximately 26,000 remaining in the wild. Reducing our carbon emissions goes a long way towards limiting the negative impacts to polar bears and other Arctic species.

Islamic Perspective on Extinction

“And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures” – Quran 55:10

There are numerous references in Quran and Prophetic Tradition (Hadith) that speak to our role as stewards over the environment and the animals that inhabit it. We are obligated to take care and protect all animals as a sign our gratitude and for the blessings provided to us by Allah.

“The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Show mercy to those on earth, and He Who is in heaven will show mercy unto you.” (At-Tirmidhi, 1924)

When it comes to polar bears, we all have a collective responsibility to ensure that we prevent not only their habitat degradation but their extinction as well. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by lowering our thermostat or not idling our cars are simple steps we can take on an individual level. Educating others and engaging your community are other great ways to raise the awareness about polar bears and harmful impacts climate change to animals.

For more information on International Polar Bear Day, please visit: https://polarbearsinternational.org/

Preserving Nature, Carrying Out Obligations to God

By: Nur Arinta

Islam is one of the religions in the world which has a large number of followers, and Indonesia is known as a country with the highest number of Muslims in the world. As a religion that is the guideline of human life, Islam also regulates matters concerning human to nature relations. Preserving nature not only protects the animals, but also helps protect ecological processes so that natural systems can run uninterrupted. A modern environmentalist named Mawli Y. Izzi Deen said that preserving the environment as part of ecology is an obligation within Islam. An assistant professor of King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia also said in his essay entitled “Islamic Environmental Ethics, Law and Society,” that conservation of the environment must be done because the environment and all creatures are created by Allah SWT which is entrusted to humans on earth.
 
Furthermore Islam also teaches people to do good things for the environment. Prophet Muhammad once said, anyone who treats nature well with a sincere heart will get a reward from Allah SWT in the form of pahala. Even during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam has introduced the concept of "hima", namely the establishment of certain zones for nature conservation and protecting plants and wildlife, wherein it is not permitted to make buildings, neither make fields, create land, nor hunt.
 
Quoted from republika.co.id, there are five types of hima that apply at the time of the Prophet Muhammad. The first type of hima is an area where people should not use it to herd livestock, but they are still allowed to cut trees in this area as long as the trees cut are old and have already produced flowers and fruit. The second type is an area where people are allowed to herd cattle and cut trees that have flowered and produce fruit, to help the seeding process naturally in the following season.
 
The third type is an area permitted to be a grazing area throughout the year, but is limited to the type of livestock and a quota system is applied. In this region, people may also cut grass. The fourth type is an area used as a bee sanctuary, where people can only herd cattle after the flower season is over. The fifth type functions as a forest conservation area. In this area trees may be cut only during emergencies. The last type is a forest conservation area to prevent desertification.
 
As the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, the approach through religious wisdom could be one method used in making efforts to raise awareness concerning the environmental conservation and wildlife. This can be done through community leaders, such as religious leaders or village leaders who are respected at the grassroots level.
 
The Chairperson of the Foreign Relations and International Cooperation Division of the MUI, KH. Muhyiddin Junaidi MA, stated "The Indonesian Ulema Council has formed an Environmental Breeding Institute, which has line of duty to issue fatwas or religious opinions about the needs to preserve wildlife and ecosystems in order to protect Indonesia's environment."
 
Based on this, the Indonesian Ulema Council as a leading religious institution in Indonesia stipulates Fatwa Number 4 of 2014 concerning Conservation of Endangered Animals for the Balance of Ecosystems. This fatwa orders to protect and preserve endangered species, both protected and unprotected, living in the wild or in captivity, having a small population and declining population in nature, and requiring conservation efforts to prevent extinction. Fatwa No. 4 of 2014 is to prevent species extinction caused by various threats experienced by animals which could cause extinction, which will disrupt the balance of the ecosystem, whereas it is supposed to be maintained.
 
This fatwa is comprise of recommendations aimed at the government, legislative bodies, regional governments, business people, religious leaders, and the wider community. The recommendation advice us to take steps to protect and preserve endangered species against extinction, one of which is law enforcement efforts to stop the hunting and trading of wild animals, especially protected species.
 
The Indonesian Ulema Council also has an environmental Da’i, namely the Da'i which specifically mentions the importance of protecting and preserving the environment. "MUI forms environmental Da’i because the environment is an aspect that cannot be separated from human. lt is not only fardhu kifayah (obligatory for some people), but also it is fardhu 'ain (must be done) for all humanity to protect the environment and maintain the balance of the ecosystem.
 
Religion is the approach that can be chosen as a method of socialization and education, to influence the community to preserve animals and to prevent species extinction. As the teachings in every religion says that humans not only should have good relations with God, but also to other humans living harmoniously alongside nature. Therefore, if all parties can carry out their respective functions and roles, it is not impossible for us to fulfill the dream of the preservation of animals and ecosystems.

This article originally appeared on WWF -Indonesia on January 3, 2019.

Wetlands: Our Collective Responsibility

By: Muaz Nasir

Saturday, February 2nd 2019 marks World Wetlands Day, where government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community, take this opportunity to learn, share and take action aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits. This day also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2nd 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea (1).

World Wetlands Day was established in 1997 to raise awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet. The theme for this year is Wetland and Climate Change, and draws attention to the crucial role wetlands play as a natural solution in building resilience to climate change.

What are wetlands?

Often an overlooked component of the ecological system, wetlands provide us with clean water, protect us from floods and droughts, offer food and livelihoods to millions of people and store more carbon than any other ecosystem. They also support a rich diversity of plants and animals, as well as migratory populations of birds and fish. Yet, the value of wetlands remains largely unrecognized by policy and decision makers (1).

“Wetlands play an important role in the health of our country and our communities. They remove sediments, excess nutrients and even bacteria from our drinking water. They are very effective at storing carbon. And much like a giant paper towel, they absorb and hold water to buffer our cities and farms from floods and droughts – both of which are growing more common and extreme in recent years.” Hillary Page, Director of Science and Stewardship, Nature Conservancy of Canada

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Why are they important?

Since 1900, over 64% of the world's wetlands have been lost, with nearly 50% of this loss happening since 1970. Canada is home to nearly 25% of the world’s wetlands but 70% have either been destroyed or degraded. In the worst cases, such as some areas on the prairies, as much as 90% of our wetlands have disappeared (2).

There contributing causes for the disappearance or degradation of these valuable ecosystems include farming, urban development and resource extraction; which result in wetlands being drained and converted for other purposes (3). The negative impacts are cumulative and can have significant impacts to the surrounding environment. Every time a wetland is lost the entire watershed loses value to humans, animals and plants (4).

The loss or destruction of wetlands can result in:

  • Loss or degradation of wetland habitat and a loss of plant and animal biological diversity

  • Deterioration of wetland water quality

  • Reduction in water supply and water storage

  • Loss of flood plain land and floodplain protection

  • Increased soil erosion and desertification

  • Reduced range of recreational opportunities

“Wetland-dependent species are in serious decline. Since 1970, declines have affected 81% of inland wetland species populations and 36% of coastal and marine species.” International Union for the Conservation of Nature

Wetlands in Islam

Recent theological research has highlighted the importance of wetlands as Hima or ‘living sanctuaries’, that deserve to be protected based on their ecological importance to current and future generations. The Islamic concept of Hima has been practiced since the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) when he designated a Hima around the area of Madinah to ensure the protection of vegetation and wildlife. This approach has been expanded today, and has been interpreted to include the protection of ecologically significant or sensitive areas, including wetlands.

Hima has been recognized as a Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) System, which promotes sustainable livelihood, resource conservation, and environmental protection for all. The Hima system is considered as one of the most widespread systems of traditional conservation that is based off of consensus and mutual benefit. Proponents of the application of Hima to wetlands cite passages from the Quran that clearly identify the responsibilities Muslims have as stewards over all environments, and ensuring their health for future generations (5).

“And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” Quran 6:165.

What you can do:

  • Explore wetland areas in your community and enjoy the natural diversity of plants and animals that thrive in this environment.

  • Learn more about the importance of wetlands, and educating others on their role and importance.

  • Become involved in wetland restoration projects in your community by reaching out to your local conservation authority.

  • Raise the issue with at your local planning committee to ensure development does not adversely degrade wetlands.

  • Visit the World Wetlands Day website for more information and resources on how wetlands can help mitigate the impacts of the climate change.

Sources:

  1. Global Wetlands Outlook: https://www.global-wetland-outlook.ramsar.org/

  2. Nature Conservancy of Canada:

    http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/where-we-work/manitoba/stories/wetlands-are-disappearing.html

  3. Ducks Unlimited: https://www.ducks.ca/our-work/wetlands/

  4. Wetlands Alberta: http://www.wetlandsalberta.ca/wetland-loss/

  5. Hima as ‘Living Sanctuaries’: An approach to wetlands conservation from the perspective of Shari’a law: https://ac.els-cdn.com/S187704281304425X/1-s2.0-S187704281304425X-main.pdf?_tid=3953607b-370f-4b9d-b1dd-f90e3729cac8&acdnat=1548949103_c7e087d4a0fd8a16325fee5ff8b02eaa  

Can The Halal Industry Contribute to a Better Environment?

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By Latifa Saber 

Many often link the halal industry to the food industry, but what a lot of people miss is that ‘halal’ goes way further than that. When we think about halal we mostly think about the slaughter process that is different for Muslims, but we seem to forget that it doesn’t stop there. Depending on what industry we’re talking about, the halal rules can differ. A main guideline when it comes to halal is that it should be good for humans, animals and the environment. What’s really interesting is that many of these ‘halal – rules’ are very respectable and could change many things that are quite harmful to our environment today.

Let’s take a look at the beauty industry for example and think about how halal is implemented when it comes to manufacturing cosmetics.  Halal beauty and personal care goes way further than banning pork derivatives from the products and having halal financial services. When we’re speaking of halal beauty we have to make sure that the products don’t own any pesticides. But that’s not all; besides the ingredient list the halal beauty sector also focuses on the manufacturing. This means that the environment and the people who work on the cosmetics are not to be forgotten. It is highly recommended to manufacture products locally, which reduces the effect on the environment. Also fair trade is a must! Exploitation of production workers is definitely a no-go. Last but not least: The creation of halal beauty products needs to be free from any type of animal cruelty.

So we’re talking about banning pesticides, stopping the exploiting of working forces, and fair-trade, all these standards are exactly what many environmental activists are pleading for these days. So what if these halal guidelines were a standard for all industries? Could this be an optimal solution for the many problems that live in the industry these days? Think of sweatshops exploiting workforces in third world countries, the use of pesticides or the abuse of animals to manufacture products.

The ideal answer would obviously be yes, but of course it isn’t that easy. Even though the standards are high when it comes to the halal guidelines, many of these industries lack a standardized approach, which makes it really hard to control it. And unfortunately there’s also this strange feeling towards halal products by some non-Muslims who still see it as some kind of Muslim hocus-pocus

But maybe being more open about it and having more transparency into the halal industry would get rid of these problems, which could lead to more industries applying these guidelines. Because if we look at the way our environment is often treated these days, it really screams for a new way of doing things. More specific it screams for a way in which we can enjoy products without exploiting people, abusing animals or disrespecting our planet.

This article originally appeared on mvslim on July 24th, 2017.