Islam and Sustainable Development

What does Islam have to do with sustainable development and the ongoing economic, financial and environmental crises? A lot, as Professor Odeh Rashed Al-Jayyousi explains in his new book on Islam and Sustainable Development (Transformation and Innovation) (Gower, 2012). Unhappy with the lack of cultural and spiritual elements in mainstream, conventional ‘Western’ understandings of sustainability (mostly cited as the three pillars of economy, society and environment), he argues that Islamic notions can help frame and develop a new, more integral model of sustainability, more suited to understand and help solve our most pressing issues, such as financial crisis, poverty gap, natural resources shortage and climate change.

Drawing on Islam custom and teachings, his proposed framework of sustainability consists of four components: governance (adl), excellence (ihsan), social capital (arham) and integrity without corruption (fasad). While by themselves none of those concepts are novel or new, linking them together under the umbrella of sustainability thinking is only now emerging in the Islamic world, long plagued with colonialisation and subsequent reshapings and political reforms. Having borrowed heavily from the Western models of development during and after colonisation, it is now time to come up with a better understanding of development and sustainability rooted in the soil an culture of the Middle East, according to Al-Jayyousi. Following a foreword by His Royal Highness El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan and a reflection of his own personal and professional journey, Al-Jayyousi provides a detailed analysis of sustainable development as understood in the Western world and how this fits to Islamic worldviews.

Particularly for those curious about an Islamic take on sustainability, development and ongoing economic, social and environmental crises, Islam and Sustainable Development (Transformation and Innovation) will make a rewarding and worthwile read. It is also a valuable contribution to the sustainability literature, reminding us that there is no one way to interpret the world – and that sustainability is perhaps best understood as a step-by-step local journey rather than an achievable universal goal.

About the Author: Odeh R. Al-Jayyousi is the Vice President, Science and Research, of Jordan’s Royal Scientific Society. Prior to taking his current post, Professor Al-Jayyousi was the Regional Director at the West Asia/ Middle East Regional Office, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). He was awarded his Masters and then in 1993 his PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago, in Urban Planning and Public Policy Analysis. He taught for 10 years at the Applied Science University, Jordan, where he became Professor of Water Resources and Environment and Dean of Research. Professor Al-Jayyousi has worked in the US, at the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning, and at the University of Illinois’ Center for Urban Economic Development. As a consultant, he has advised EU and UN agencies, the World Bank, and GTZ. He has published several scientific articles in international journals.

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