Al-Mizan – A Covenant for the Earth

Mauricio Silva, Columban Interreligious Dialogue Co-ordinator here in Britain comments on Al-Mizan - A Covenant for the Earth, which is a restatement of the principles governing the protection of nature in a form that meets current challenges.

A team of leading Islamic eco-theologians an practitioners working with UN Environment Programme have launched a document with the aim to demonstrate that ‘Islam can be a driving force for sustainable development and environmental care.’ This historic document is called Al-Mizan, A Covenant for The Earth, and calls on all Muslims to live sustainably and to take care of our common home by combating climate change and biodiversity loss.

The title of this important project reflects concept of ‘balance’ following this verse from the Qur’an: ‘…He (God) set up the balance (al-mīzān) so that you may not exceed the balance. Weigh with justice and do not fall short in the balance. He has spread out the Earth for all living creatures’ (Qur’an 55:7-10)

In a similar fashion to Laudato Si’s linkage to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, Al-Mizan circumscribes the current environmental challenges by highlighting the grave effects of these phenomena on the poorest and the most vulnerable. The text says, ‘all this brings death and grievous suffering to the most vulnerable – the impoverished, the dispossessed, the persecuted, refugees, children, women, the aged, and the disabled: those who are least to blame for corruption and devastation pay the highest price’ (1.2). Similarly, the text offers a scathing critique of the dominant economic system which is fuelled by greed and that ‘is built on a subterfuge which is now devouring the natural world’( 4.19).

The text leaves no doubt about identifying human intervention as the root cause of Climate change. Humans have abused nature and have desacralized their understanding of it. In this sense, the text stresses that behavioural change is at the heart of the response needed at this critical junction. The emphasis on this aspect, echoes the calling for an ecological conversion in recent environmental Catholic teaching: Al-Mizan identifies the need of a renewed understanding of the relationships between humanity and all Creation. An understanding which ‘might help us rediscover the pricelessness of what we are losing’ (1.21).

It is not strange that the compelling theological framework offered by Islamic scholarship in this text can easily lend to a myriad of synergies with the Catholic teachings found in Laudato Si and Laudate Deum. One of them is around the concept of ‘interconnectedness’. In several part of Al-Mizan there are references to the need to rediscover the profound Scriptural truth that ‘we are irrevocably connected with the Lord of all in the natural world. “To God belong all things in the heavens and on the Earth. And God has ever encompassed all things”(Qur’an 4:126)’(Annex).

As with Christian ecological perspectives, Al-Mizan finds in the role of men as women as stewards of Creation the core individual and collective duty in facing the current Climate emergency. As the document beautifully expresses it, ‘to begin to heal the communities of life that we have so gravely wounded, ( we need )to become caring, competent khalīfahs on the Earth’. (3.9).

Al-Mizan is a bold, scholarly and prophetic text that comes to us at a very critical time. Most importantly, it offers Christians, and all people who are concerned about our Common Home, yet another platform to exercise collaboratively our responsibility towards God’s Creation.

As Columban Missionaries, we welcome this beautifully written document and recommit to working together as people of all faiths and none to protect of our Common Home.

“The All-Merciful taught the Qur’an
He created man and taught him eloquence.
The sun and moon both run with precision.
The stars and the trees all bow down in prostration.
He erected heaven and established the balance
so that you would not exceed the balance
Establish weight with justice
and do not fall short in the balance”

Quran 55:1-9

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