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UIN Sunan Kalijaga Professor Muhammad Amin Abdullah on the Relation between Religion and the Environment

Translator

TEMPO

Editor

Laila Afifa

20 April 2024 12:37 WIB

TEMPO.CO, JakartaUIN Sunan Kalijaga professor Muhammad Amin Abdullah explains Islamic environmental jurisprudence in relation to climate change.

Environmental destruction, such as deforestation and exploitation of natural resources, has caught the attention of various experts, including Muslim scholars like Muhammad Amin Abdullah. He once led the Assembly of Tarjih and Islamic Thought Development Council of the Central Board of Muhammadiyah, which produced several decisions and fatwas (rulings) in favor of environmental conservation.

Amin believes that addressing and restoring environmental damage requires tangible action. Products such as fatwas and encyclicals are not enough to push the ummah (Muslims) to protect the environment. Therefore, for Amin, an understanding of environmental fiqh (jurisprudence) is needed to save nature. “Environmental jurisprudence is faith in action,” he said.

However, Amin sees challenges in introducing environmental jurisprudence. Preachers only focus on the relationship between humans and God and among themselves. Yet there is another dimension, namely the relationship between humans and nature. As a professor at the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Yogyakarta, he is one of the scholars advocating for the reinterpretation of the Qur’an to address contemporary issues such as ecological disasters. “The interpretation certainly must be changed because the context of the time is different,” said the man born in Pati Regency, Central Java.

On Thursday, March 21, Amin received Tempo at the Indonesian Academy of Sciences office in Gambir, Central Jakarta. He explained the need for a new interpretation of the Qur’an to respond to environmental crises and the role of Islamic community organizations in ecological issues.

To enrich perspectives, Tempo conducted an additional interview over the phone on Friday, April 5. Amin explained that recommendations such as fatwas and encyclicals are not enough to address complex environmental issues. “Mobilizing society to take action is equally important,” he said. Excerpts of the interview:

What is the importance of environmental jurisprudence amid the current ecological crisis?

Today’s climate change or crisis is the result of human actions. Without the industrial revolution, perhaps a situation like this would not have occurred. We cannot slow down the pace of the industrial revolution and cannot blame it because the population continues to rise. The problem lies in the anthropocentric view—humans seem to have power over the universe—so we treat nature unfairly, extractively, and exploitatively.

Has religion failed to provide an adequate answer?

Honestly, religion does not care about environmental issues. The material delivered by preachers and clerics only focuses on the relationship between humans and God and among humans, hablum minallah and hablum minannaas. They never mention hablum minal alam, the relationship between humans and the surrounding environment. These sermons never touch on matters like waste, water, and others.

Why aren’t preachers interested in environmental problems?

The issue has been overlooked. There is also an economic aspect. What’s more important is that we are trapped in a monodisciplinary perspective. We quickly become satisfied when we know one side of knowledge and tend not to want to know other disciplines. Yet, we have the obligation to ngangsu kawruh (seek knowledge) from different perspectives.

Islamic religious group authorities have fatwas on environmental conservation. In other religious institutions, like the Catholic Church, Pope Francis wrote an encyclical Laudato si’, calling for ecological conversion. Isn’t that enough?

That’s a good effort. Religious leaders should indeed issue some kind of encyclical or fatwa like that. However, environmental problems cannot be solved with persuasion or recommendation. The problem is faith in action. We hear appeals from here and there, but nobody oversees them and gives sanctions to violators. How to mobilize the community to take action is equally important. Environmental jurisprudence helps address that issue.

How should we regard fiqh as gaining the power to change and save the environment?

Environmental jurisprudence is faith in action. If there is no action, it is not jurisprudence but merely discussion. Jurisprudence needs to raise awareness for everyone. Usually, those who touch upon it are the clerics because they understand the intricacies of religion. 

Read the Full Interview in Tempo English Magazine



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