Sustainable Development: Legal, Moral or Religious?

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Our Partner, Puan Aisha Mubarak was invited as a panel speaker at the International Conference on “Islam, Science and Sustainable Development: Maqasid al-Shariah & Humanity’s Well-Being”, at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Kuala Lumpur on the 6th of October 2015.

The Conference focused on the discussions revolving around the sustainability and relativity of Maqasid Shariah in this worldly modernization of the Ummah. Puan Aisha was given the opportunity to deliberate on the topic of “Sustainable Development – Legal, Moral or Religious?” and had highlighted to the audience on several key-points which are worth noting for. The key-points are reproduced as follows:

1.The True Essence of Maqasid Shariah

Maqasid Shariah can be briefly defined as the recognized purposes of Islamic Law. It is a jurisprudential concept that the Shariah has a definite objective and hence, all branches of government legislative, executive and judiciary should adhere to these basic objectives within their respective capacities. The principal objectives can be outlined in these five values: the protection of Life, the sanctity of the Family and Lineage, the preservation of the Religion, the dignity of the Human Intellect and the Value of Economics/Property. Within these principles, the Jurists have developed the entire corpus of what we know and have accepted as the Shariah (or Muslim way of Life).

 2. Sustainability – Our Amanah to a better future

The accepted definition of Sustainability is “to use the resources of today with a view of preserving it for the future”. In the context of the Shariah, “Sustainability” would be part of “Amanah” or Trust. This means that all of us who are part of the global citizenship today are Trustees for the next Generation, and they in turn are Trustees for the coming one.

 3. Responsibitlity of Ummah to uphold and preserve Maqasid Shariah 

The dire concern for Sustainability stems from on the way Nature has been abused to a degree that we are faced with the possibility that the Earth is not able to sustain current human life-styles and habits. Life in itself is the most precious commodity in Maqasid Shariah, which means that all personal activities and state regulations should be geared towards the protection of Life (all living things) above anything else. And, humans being endowed with the dignity of the Intellect bears the responsibility to ensure that Life is sustained until the Last Day. Life also means to allow each community to attain the highest quality of living possible within the available resources. Hence, as much as each nation bears the duty to maintain its own natural resources, it also bears the responsibility of making sure that its domestic activities do not infringe on the quality of Life of its neighbours or the Region.

4. The Right to Seek Fortune 

According to Maqasid Shariah, every person and nation has the right to seek their fortune in a legitimate manner. The State, on the other hand, has the responsibility to provide a Fair and Just economic platform based on the regulations and principles laid down in the sources of Shariah. An integral condition of Maqasid Shariah is that Economics has to be Responsible and Sustainable.

5. The Sole Source of Income

The Malaysian economy and many economies of the Muslim World is largely dependent on Petroleum. But, our over-reliance on fossil fuel is killing our planet. It cannot be acceptable that a source of income that which contributes so much of pollution and is unsustainable, be rated highly, even if the quality of Life of its citizens are perceived as high. This is would unacceptably irresponsible within the concept of Maqasid al-Shariah.

6. Hunger for Materialism

Human greed for materialism is destroying the fabric of our society and values. In the Holy Quran, the Almighty says that the characteristic of the Muslim community is one of Moderation. In fact the entire corpus of the Islamic value system is one of Sustainability and ensuring Continuity of Life. We are beseeched to lead a simple meaningful life and to fulfill the purpose of our creation. Joy, contentment and happiness comes from within oneself, the institution of family, living responsibly in a community and in balance with Nature. If every person can live by these divine principals, then we can hope for the viability of this planet as people will find peace from within rather than fulfill their desires by consuming more than they need.

7. Paradigm Shift Towards Sustainability via Judiciary

At the Paris Summit for the Global Environment in 2015, the Malaysian government has committed to preserve at least 50% of our Forests. This is a tremendous development and show of commitment from our side. The Malaysian Judiciary has in this new year (2016) set up an Environmental Division to specialize in litigation involving environmental torts and civil claims. All these efforts show that in principal our government is prepared to make the necessary paradigm shifts to embrace a more Sustainable economy in achieving Vision 2020.

8. Nobel Concept of Wassatiyah

Wassatiyah is another concept in Islamic Jurisprudence which deserves major revival in the Islamic World. The Malaysian Government in line with the spirit of our Federal Constitution promotes this concept of Wassatiyah as a basis of its position of Islam and in its governance.”Wassatiyah” refers to being what can be translated as “Justly Balanced”. As we tread our human existence on this Earth, we share a need to be fair, just and balanced in what we give and take. The message is larger than just the environment, carbon trailing or renewable energy. It is a concept of recognizing co-existence and mutual respect for the Planet and its inhabitants.