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Using my faith to tackle the climate crisis 

Stewardship and conservation are at the heart of Islam and other religions.

By Afzal Khan

Islam is inherently environmental. Harmony and balance in the natural world are central to the Muslim faith. It is the duty of Muslims to conserve nature and to recognise that the Earth deserves respect and care. Nationally and internationally, we are seeing Muslim environmentalists and campaigners highlight how Muslims can make a positive impact by putting the environment at the centre of their faith.

The impact of the climate crisis is being felt across the globe. We have seen unprecedented fires, devastating droughts, life-threatening heatwaves and catastrophic flooding. But most of the impact of climate change is felt by the world’s poorest countries – those who contribute the least to global carbon emissions, including much of the Muslim world. Pakistan, a country close to my own heart, faced devastation last year from floods over an area larger than the UK. More than 1,700 people died, and 33 million people were displaced from their homes and livelihoods by climate disaster.

We are all responsible for our own actions. Although we must hold governments and corporations accountable, we are all khalifah (or stewards) of the Earth according to the Koran. “Thus We have made you trustees on the Earth after them, to see how you would act” (Koran 10:14). Allah (swt) allows us the use of nature, but expects us to be responsible for balance and sustainability.   

[See also: How to ensure net zero brings good growth and green jobs]

Khalifah is not a concept unique to Islam. We see variations on the idea of natural stewardship across different faiths, including Christianity and Judaism. Together, being of faith means caring; caring for people and caring for the planet. Our faith and values are tools that allow us to achieve a goal towards a common cause.  

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Our faith is not the only thing to bring us together. The climate crisis also unites communities because we all struggle with its impacts. It threatens all of humanity, all faiths and all cultures. If we do not work together, we cannot adapt or prevent the destruction that climate change is bringing us.

There are many ways we can become better climate activists using our faith. But, the overarching theme is remembering mizan (balance). The Koran says, “O Children of Adam, dress well whenever you are at worship, and eat and drink (as We have permitted) but do not be extravagant [mizan]: God does not like extravagant people” (Koran 7:31). This is a reminder that we should act in moderation and with balance.

When considering the environment, we must avoid excess waste, pollution or environmental destruction. This is particularly important to remember as we near the end of Ramadan and may consider items or gifts that are unnecessary or extravagant for Eid al-Fitr. This was reflected by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him, PBUH) in his own actions when, during ablution (wudu), he used limited water and spoke of why we should not waste water, even if at a running stream.  

[See also: Powering careers that secure our net zero future]

During this holy month of Ramadan, I am proud to see so many Muslims across the world engaged and ready to make change. I am delighted I was able to work with the climate activist Zehra Abbas to mobilise communities in the UK, Canada, Lebanon, Malaysia, Cyprus, Bangladesh and more to coordinate “green” iftars – the fast-breaking meal – in each country. These events are free or low-cost, inter-faith, plant-based and zero-waste, and in many of the events the food is what the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had noted as some of his favourites.  

I am also proud to be a Labour MP. Our party has put climate at the heart of our agenda for a fairer, greener future here in Britain: ensuring that people across the country have warm homes, that they can afford the utility bills, and have green jobs. We cannot deny the impact the climate crisis has on all of us, and we must not delay making changes to make the planet a better place to live.

As a Muslim, I consider my faith to be part of who I am. My values and beliefs stem from by belief in Allah (swt) which the Koran teaches me how to put into practice. This is why I am passionate about action against the climate crisis, and I want to do all I can to improve our planet for our generation and future generations. When nature thrives, we all thrive – I hope together as Muslims and the wider community we will continue to come together on this global movement. 

[See also: The UK will need to show it can deliver “good, green jobs”, not just talk about them]

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