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ISLAM AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
UNDERLYING ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES
While the "Arab Spring", as articulated by Samir Amin, is a major phenomenon in itself, its potential for helping to bring about an integral polity in Egypt at least in the coming decade may be unlikely given all the major ecological, economic, social and cultural challenges, as intimated above, that need to be solved first. To help us further along the way, we now turn to the work of Jordanian-Palestinian Odeh Al-Jayyousi (14), for as an environmentalist, Islamic scholar, engineer and economist, he has focused, from a more natural and cultural vantage point than a military man like Sisi might do, on sustainable development from an Islamic perspective. To that extent, his springboard is not only the Arab world, in particular, but also the overall worldwide, sustainable development movement, in general, to which, for example, Prince Charles, Juniper and Kelly have heavily alluded (see Chapter 20).
Al-Jayyousi specifically identifies key principles, or domains, underlying sustainable development, from an Islamic perspective, which may be in tune with Sisi's own perspective, implicitly if not yet explicitly, in incorporating religion within democracy as:
Natural State – Fitra
Striving for highest resource productivity Amplifying performance with each cycle of use Employing "income" rather than "capital"
Affecting a closed-loop flow of matter and energy Establishing a "service" orientation
Accounting for Ecosystem Services – Mizan
Employing a comprehensive concept of wealth Aligning the world's economy with nature's regeneration capacity
Embodying a measure of wellbeing in economic calculations
Designing regulation and tax policies to optimize the whole
Respecting All Communities of Life – Umam
Harvesting species only to regeneration capacity Assuming stewardship for planetary biological diversity
Shaping land-use patterns to restrict human encroachment Conserving the variety of the existing gene pool
Promoting the Role of a Trustee – Ummah Wassat
Fostering tolerance as a cornerstone of social interactions Enshrining human rights in a framework of planetary citizenship Providing for good governance Ensuring equitable access to life-nurturing support
Establishing cooperation to manage global issues and planetary resources
Understanding the Symphony of Life – Tasbeeh and Sujood
Acknowledging the transcendent mystery (gahyb) that underlies existence Fulfilling humanity's unique function (tashkeer and istikhlaf) in the universe Honouring the earth's intricate ecology of which humans are an integral part Fostering compassion and an inclusive approach to human endeavours Linking inner transformation (dameer) to outer transformation (taghyeer); laying the foundations for the emergence of global consciousness.
The five domains altogether contribute to a good life: Hayat Tayabeh. The good life, from an Islamic perspective, has to do with the positive role of the human to construct and add value to life (Emarat al Ard), to be a witness and trustee and to leave a good legacy. Such a "good" life, from an Islamic perspective, is rooted in notions of simplicity and sufficiency (Zuhd) using local resources to attain people-centred development.
AN INTEGRAL ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE
Finally, following our own integral perspective, straddling South and East, North and West, from his central vantage point, Al-Jayyousi proposes that a transformative education informed and guided by Islamic worldviews on the unity (tawhid) of mind and soul, natural and social sciences, is the way forward. The future of humanity depends to a large extent on the human capacity to evolve and reinvent seamless connections between culture, economy and ecology.
Figure 21.1 Sustainable Development: Integral Islamic Approach
In Figure 21.1 we can see, in Al-Jayyousi's view, how the Middle East could be the centrifugal force whereby "Hayat Tayabeh" can be attained between and amongst the four integral perspectives. The justice of the North, the beauty and excellence of the East, the social capital and community of the South, and the good governance and limit of mischief of the West, all meet, potentially if not yet actually, in the centre.
But how can this be more specifically applied in today's context? We now consider each of the elements in turn.
Starting with Arham
Islam, for Al Jayyousi, considers the social order as natural and necessary because it is in this theatre that the human can realize his/her potential. The social order is where the value- based policies, decisions and choices are formed as inspired by Islamic values. The role of community (ummah) in commanding good and prohibiting evil highlights the collective intent for good work in all domains of life including social, political, economic and cultural. Arham emphasizes family-community values which refer to the social networks from family to neighbourhood and the people's interests and opinions in policy formulation and decision-making. This can be realized in a form of democratic, decentralized government in which the civil and private sector take a share in community development.
This can also be connected to the principle of zuhd as the obligation on everyone who owns a certain minimum of wealth to pay a fixed sum for the expenditure on the welfare of the poor and the needy. Furthermore, the concept of waqf as trust or endowment funds to support community needs can be seen as a vehicle to contextualize the notion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and value-based organization. Not only in terms of money but also institutional capacity building.
The Advent of Ihsan
Philosophically for Al-Jayyousi, ihsan means beauty and excellence in the sense of selfmastery by appreciating the value and meaning of the unity between inner and outer beauty. In our integral rhythm it means that a transformational journey always has to start with oneself and then transcend into the outer world of organization, community and society. The concept of beauty is intimate to God and ihsan can be manifested through humans in the form of beautiful geometry, gardens, calligraphy and arches. Hence, art and beauty can be viewed as feedback loop for reflection and meditation but also as a mirror indicating to what degree a society understands the "grammar of harmony" as described by Prince Charles. His statement that humankind currently suffers from a "crisis of perception", hence consciousness, can be fully linked to a lack of understanding the concept of ihsan. One needs only to look at the vast amounts of plain cement block buildings that are everywhere nowadays in Egypt where masses of people live together in tiny spaces to understand the destructive effect on people's consciousness.
Ihsan is intimately connected to "ijtihad" which means in a wider sense applying diligence and intellectual capital to solve current and emerging problems in accordance with Islamic core values and principles. So ijtihad means nothing more than reinventing new tools and methods to make a transition to sustainable development to realize a state of ihsan.
Unfortunately, Islamic thought was challenged by the notion of "closing of ijtihad" by the religious scholars of the third Islamic century which is surely part of the reason why a gap has developed between Islamic law and the changing conditions of today's society. Re-opening the "doors of ijtihad" with great efforts of education and critical thinking and including the society in a critical and open dialogue must be part of the agenda from government and civil society.
Turning to Adl
With adl we understand justice as good governance in its broad sense. More concretely, it means the sustainable rule based on rights. Therefore, the constitution, laws and regulation play an important role. But it is important to realize that laws and regulations are always a trade-off to the process of ihsan because as soon as we define a norm and write it down it becomes "dead" and people tend to forget the active process of thinking and developing their own ethics. Of, course there must be some core laws and regulations but people must not forget that adl has many dimensions which include justice in the three domains of the social, economic and environment even without explicit laws. How far reaching would we go as humans if we also recognized the need for justice with respect to other species including not only animals but also nature like rivers. Justice from an Islamic perspective is the cornerstone for a sustainable civilization. But it needs to be applied and enforced. We finally consider Fasad.
Limit of Fasad
If justice is not enforced we speak of fasad as the state of imbalance and pollution attributed to human-made actions, corruption – a deviation of the natural state (fitra) and the balance (mizan) that was created by God. This imbalance is attributed to human activities that do not consider ecological and ethical values. Connecting this to the notion of ihsan, Islam sees humankind's inward corruption is not only reflected in the world's outward corruption, it is its actual cause.
We are now ready to conclude our Middle Eastern-Egyptian navigation.
CONCLUSION: WHERE ARAB SPRING AND INTEGRAL POLITY FAIL TO MEET
Why then, is the integral potential, to which Al-Jayoussi and ourselves have alluded, by and large not realized in the world's centre, and where do we go from here? Ziauddin Sardar, firstly, has already given us some clues (see Chapter 19) when he refers to the rigid interpretations of the Qur'an, and of Shari'a law, which have held the Muslim people, and thereby the world as a whole, back.
Moreover, as is clearly apparent in Egypt, and even more so in other parts of the Arab world, the so-called "Arab Spring" may be a genuine socio-political, if not also technological movement, via the new social media, but it is much more difficult to see where and how an ecological, cultural and economic transformation is taking place and if substantial progress on managing the existing challenges can be achieved. The Constitution is a promising start but its potential depends by and large on the willingness of the military to give away power and the civil society to fight for a proper implementation of their basic rights.
Thirdly, and perhaps most problematically, Islam, while a very important, if not dominant, force, in the centre of the globe (Middle East), is not the only such force. For there are three major religions that emerged from that part of the world – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – and although Islam is the most syncretic of the three, it is not the only monotheistic religion. Furthermore, the more pantheistic influences, in both indigenous and also Sufi belief systems, tend to be sidelined. A critical question that remains is how Islam is interpreted and applied to the modern, if not post-modern, context. Indeed, such a question might be addressed of all contemporary religions.
Finally, and most evidently, the overall dynamics in the Middle East are both secular and religious in nature and scope, and these need to be purposefully interconnected, within an integral polity. Mainstreaming Islamic values in the sense of their relevance for sustainable development into all domains of life is surely not something harmful for society. This touches also on the general challenge of humankind to find a balance between spirituality and materialism. The challenge is to achieve this with a conscious effort and in an inclusive manner. This cannot work unless poverty and illness among the population are eliminated and a solid, open and critical education system is in place and accessible for all. Moreover, and in the final analysis, the key to such sustainable development is the co-evolution of a peaceful world – most especially for one of us, Ibrahim Abouleish, peace between Israel and the Arab world, in a spirit of mutual love, rather than hatred.
The strongest attempt to achieve all of this, integrally, that we have come across in the Middle East, is Sekem in Egypt, complemented by its new University for Sustainable Development based in Heliopolis, and it is to each of these that we now turn.
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