How the Encyclical Compares With the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change

Thousan Lights Mosque (Photo by Kanna B on Flickr)

This week, Muslim leaders from 20 different countries gathered in Istanbul for the Islamic Climate Change Symposium.  At the end of the two-day summit, attendees released the “Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change.” Released just months after Pope Francis published his environmental encyclical, “Praised Be: On Care for Our Common Home,” it is hard not to see similarities between the encyclical and the Islamic Declaration. We’ve read both, and here are how the two compare.

Both the Encyclical and the Islamic Declaration Address Everyone

In Islam there is a belief that Allah encompasses all things — animals, plants, oceans, rivers, mountains, valleys, deserts, forests, and humans, both Muslim and non-Muslim. The Islamic Declaration affirms that belief and recognizes that all humans have caused environmental degradation. It makes a specific call to people and leaders in all nations to take action, whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim.

The subtitle to Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical, “On Care for Our Common Home,” also stresses that the problem of environmental degradation extends to both Catholics and non-Catholics. His plea for action was directed at everyone.

Unlike Encyclical, Declaration Focuses on Climate Change 

In 192 pages, Pope Francis addressed a wide variety of environmental issues and societal plagues from human trafficking, to GMOs, to climate change, to a disconnect with the world around us. The Islamic Declaration focuses mostly on climate change, but does recognize that humans have contaminated the atmosphere, land, water, and seas; caused soil erosion, deforestation, and desertification; and continue to damage human health.

Religion Now Accepts Science

Like the encyclical, the Islamic Declaration recognizes the science of evolution — that our planet has existed for billions of years and been subject to changing climates and changing ecosystems. It also accepts the facts of climate science — that humans are the cause of climate change through our use of fossil fuels. There gradual “phases wet and dry, cold and warm, in response to many natural factors” the earth’s climate has experienced in the past, are different from the “pace of Global climate change today.”

The Islamic Declaration cites the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (UNEP, 2005), which was backed by over 1,300 scientists from 95 countries, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s study released in March 2014, to reach the conclusion “that there are serious flaws in the way we have used natural resources — the sources of life on Earth.”

Unlike religion of the past, this new religion of the future — as seen in the Pope’s encyclical and this Islamic declaration — has no problem with accepting science.

We Are Dominating Nature; We Must Care for Creation

Pope Francis wrote that “nowadays we must forecefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.” He is clear that the misinterpretation of the scriptions that the Bible gives humans the right to dominate and subdue nature, must be rejected.

Similarly, the Islamic Declaration is clear: “we have now become a force dominating nature” and have caused “such corruption and devastation on [earth] that we are in danger ending life as we know it on our planet.” By ignoring our duty to be a caretaker or steward (khalifa) of the earth, we are abusing Allah’s gifts — gifts such as a functioning climate, healthy air to breathe, regular seasons, and living oceans. The Declaration asks two chilling questions: “What will future generations say of us, who leave them a degraded planet as our legacy? How will we face our Lord and Creator?”

Climate Change Will Impact the Poor; Something Must Be Done

Like the encyclical, the Islamic Declaration recognizes that the poor will suffer the brunt of climate change’s impacts. The Declaration calls on wealthy nations, and all people and their leaders, to take specific action to help the poor, such as reduce consumption, invest in decentralized renewable energy, and prioritize adaptation efforts with appropriate support to the vulnerable countries with the least capacity to adapt, and to the vulnerable groups, including indigenous people, women, and children.

A Common Home We Must Care for as Faith Commands

The Islamic Declaration recognizes that we all share a common home, like Pope Francis’s encyclical, and emphasizes that “we are but one of the multitude of living beings with whom we share the Earth.” Quoting from the Qur’an 6:38, “There is no animal on the earth, or any bird that wings is flight, but is a community like you.”

The emphasis on our “miniscule part of the divine order” and oneness with the creation around us inspires a certain humbleness and responsibility. As the Islamic declaration states, “intelligence and conscience behoove us, as our faith commands, to treat all things with care and awe (taqwa) of their Creator, compassion (rahmah) and utmost good (ihsan).”

Environmental Teachings of Muhammad

The Prophet Muhammad encouraged Muslims to protect the environment through four examples: (1) declared and protected the rights of all living beings from babies, to wild animals, to water, to trees, to birds, to ants; (2) established inviolable zones (harams) around Makkah and Al-Madinha, within which native plants may not be felled or cut and wild animals may not be hunted or disturbed; (3) established protected areas (himas) for the conservation and sustainable use of rangelands, plant cover and wildlife; (4) lived a frugal life; (5) renewed and recycled; (6) ate simply; (7) took delight in creation; and (8) was, in the words of the Qur’an, “a mercy to all beings.”

Call to Well-Off Nations and Oil-Producing States

The Islamic Declaration urges certain well-off nations and oil-producing states to take specific action in advance of the COP21 meeting taking place in Paris this December. While its pleas phase out greenhouse gas emissions and invest in a green economy are not surprising, the Declaration also asks these nations to consider the morals and ethics of their decisions. Specifically, it calls on them to “recognize the moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the earth’s non-renewable resources” and “re-focus their concerns from unethical profit from the environment, to that of preserving it and elevating the condition of the world’s poor.”

Call to All People and Their Leaders

The call on all people and their leaders to act once again highlights that climate change is a global problem, not a problem for Muslims, Catholics, the rich, or the poor. The Declaration sets out some ambitious targets such as a zero emissions strategy and a “fresh model of wellbeing, based on an alternative to the current financial model which deplete resources, degrades the environment, and deepens inequality.”

Call on Corporations, Finance, and the Business Sector

It’s hard to believe that businesses would be interested in something more than profit, but some businesses do put their religious beliefs first. In the United States, we’ve seen businesses do that regarding abortion and gay rights. The Islamic Declaration is asking businesses to do that for environmental reasons as well. Specifically, they are calling on all corporations and businesses — Muslim and non-Muslim — to “take a visibly more active role in reducing their carbon footprint,” commit to a zero emissions strategy, adopt a circular economy that is wholly sustainable, pay more heed to social and ecological responsibilities, and assist in the divestment from the fossil fuel driven economy.

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About the Author

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, and field work. I believe in God; however, I do not call myself a Christian or a Jew or a member of any religion. I am merely someone who finds a spiritual connection to all humans and the environment. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .