Caring for our fellow man and the environment around us are central tenets of the teachings of Islam. Throughout the Quaran, ahadith or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad refer to this deep responsibility: “You will not believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.”
With this in mind, it becomes easy to see how and why Muslims should identify with the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDG). The SDGs were established to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Thus the SDGs mirror values that Muslims have embraced for centuries. That is a deep commitment to the care of those around us, our environment and those to follow. In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into the sustainable development goals, and discuss why they should matter to you as a Muslim in Australia.
What Are Sustainable Development Goals? (SDGs)
Sustainable development goals can be thought of as a blueprint for a better society. After years of preparation, 17 goals were outlined by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. These were later endorsed by member states to form the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
The UN’s goals cover a broad spectrum of global concerns that address the needs of people both in developed and developing nations. The aim is to leave no-one behind.
Environmentalism in the Teachings of the Quran
Poverty is defined as having insufficient resources to meet your basic personal needs. This includes economic poverty, but also extends to food, water, clothing, and shelter where it’s not available.
UN member states are committed to ending poverty in all its forms, everywhere.
The UN seeks to end inequality wherever it exists in the world. Of the 2030 sustainable development goals, three seek to address inequality:
Goal number 4 promotes quality education and lifelong learning for all. Education should be inclusive and freely available. And no child or adult should be disadvantaged due to their social, economic, or political background.
Goal number 5 exists to end gender inequality. Women should not experience discrimination or violence in public and private spheres. Nor should they be subjected to harmful practices, such as child marriage.
Finally, the 10th development goal commits UN member states to reduce inequality both between states and within them. This includes a commitment to growing the income of the poorest 40% of the world’s population. This means ending inequalities of outcome and promoting differential financial investments to support developing countries.
Protecting Our Planet
Recognising that the future of the environment underpins many of the other SDGs, the UN reinforced its commitment to protecting the planet in the 2015 agreement. The SDGs call for:
- Sustainable consumption and production
- Sustainable management of the earth’s natural resources
- Taking urgent action on climate change
- Protecting the earth for the present and future generations
- Maintaining marine habitats
To achieve these broad goals, the UN is advocating for the development of clean energy, sustainable communities and asking nations to step up conservation efforts. There’s also an expectation that wealthier nations will support developing nations, which may otherwise lack the funding to pursue environmental policies.
Promoting Peace and Justice
The final bucket of the UN’s sustainable development goals focuses on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, enabling justice for all, and building accountable institutions.
The UN fiercely believes that there can only be truly sustainable development when peace is achieved. The SDGs seek to entrench fundamental human rights, including freedom of belief and the right to fair representation.
Why Should I Care?
You’ve probably read through the above and already started to draw parallels between the SDGs and the values fostered by Islam. In the Quran, many verses indicate the importance of the civic and natural worlds.
Additionally, the Shuratic process, the ruling principle of Islam, defines Islam’s conception of sustainable development. Defined as “organic unity in everything,” the Shuratic process commits followers to the pursuit of social justice and ecological balance. In short, as a Muslim, you should care about the sustainable development goals because they embody the philosophies at the core of our religion.
Environmentalism in the Teachings of the Quran
In the Quran, it is said that: “To Him belongs what is in the heavens and what is on the earth and what is between them and what is under the soil” (Qur’an, 20:6). In other words, the earth itself is God’s property. Verse 7:85 then goes on to say “do not damage on the planet after it has been put in order.”
The impact mankind is having on the environment is well documented and most certainly damaging. As Muslims, if we are to follow the teachings of the Quran, we must strive to mitigate the harm we are causing. Hence the commitment to preserving the environment.
Whats more, the Qur’an states that all living beings and natural resources are to benefit all men. As such, humanity as a whole should use them for betterment. Misappropriating resources is not allowed in Islam. Thus by striving to achieve the UN’s goals for resolving inequalities and redistributing wealth, we’re completing our duty as followers.
Poverty and Charity in the Quran
The sustainable development goals place considerable weight on tackling world poverty. Similarly, the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad emphasise the rights of those subjected to poverty.
Like the SDGs, Islamic philosophy encourages us to strive for justice and brotherhood. And part of this is an expectation that the richest people in our society support the essential requirements of the underprivileged. Hence the tradition of Zakat, in which wealthier Muslims dedicate a part of their wealth to support their less fortunate brothers.
Zakah is tied to the concepts of social justice and social responsibility promoted through the SDGs. In Islamic scripture, the wealthy are not the owners of their wealth, they are the trustees. As such, they must perform several duties, one of which is wealth redistribution.
Zakah means ‘cleansing.’ By redistributing wealth, we’re not only following our duties but stepping towards spiritual deliverance. This is why we should welcome the adoption of sustainable development goals.
The Role of Islamic Finance
Now that we’ve established the link between Islamic Teachings and the values promoted by the sustainable development goals, it’s time to discuss how we can contribute. And it may surprise you to learn that Islamic finance has the potential to play a huge part in realizing the SDGs.
Islamic finance has grown over the past few decades and has emerged as an effective means of financing development worldwide. A huge share of Islamic funds is already invested in sustainable, ethical projects as Islamic finance provides seek halal investment opportunities for their clients.
Unlike traditional lenders, who frequently invest in riba (interest-based) funds, Islamic financiers prioritise socially conscious investments. These include:
- Clean energy
- Sustainable infrastructure
- Maintaining natural resources
- Providing healthcare
- Social microfinancing
- Sukuk financing
Islamic financial instruments like these can go a long way toward achieving the SDGs. And many projects are already in place!
Green Sukuk bonds are one example, paving the way for climate-friendly investments. Other examples include Islamic superannuation funds and waqf (Islamic endowment funds) which provide financing for small to medium enterprises following halal principles.
What Can I Do?
Not everyone can dedicate their lives to social development. But, everyone can contribute to the realization of the sustainable development goals.
On a personal level, it might be as simple as following Zakat or supporting local projects that align with one of the 17 SDGs. You might choose to fundraise at work or dedicate your free time to a volunteer role. Whatever you do, it’s a step in the right direction.
Beyond that, you can make sure that the institutions you trust reflect your values. An effective way to do this is to choose Islamic finance providers who invest in the community.
The Sustainable Development Goals Mirror Muslim Values
For Muslims, many of the goals outlined in the UN’s 2030 sustainable development agenda are nothing new. A commitment to reducing poverty, inequality, and environmental damage is woven into our religion and belief system. But, that doesn’t mean we should dismiss them.
Being conscious is the first step to action. By familiarizing yourself with the sustainable development goals, you can find extra opportunities to act. And one such option is to make sure you invest your finances in Islamic funds that support ethical investment principles.
In doing so, you’ll make sure that your money isn’t only protecting your own and your family’s futures, but the futures of generations to come.
Contact us to find out how our superannuation funds are contributing to the realization of the SDGs.
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Ethical Finance and Innovation
Dr. Sayd Farook is the Executive Director of Crescent Foundation. He is Group Chief Operating Officer of Crescent Wealth and Managing Director of Crescent Finance. He previously served as Advisor to the Executive Office of the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. In this capacity, he envisioned and executed strategic / transformation initiatives for Dubai and the UAE. Prior to that, he was the Global Head Islamic Capital Markets at Thomson Reuters, where he advised and served large corporates, multilaterals and governments in the Middle East, North Africa and South East Asia.