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Islamic Law and Environmental Ethics: How Jurisprudence (Usul Al-Fiqh) Mobilizes Practical Reform

Where some religious environmentalisms deploy traditional concepts according to the practical needs of cosmology, usul al-fiqh (jurisprudence) envisions an alternative practical strategy for Islamic environmental ethics.

Jurisprudence governs religious adaptations according to guiding principles designed to conform practical reason to the ongoing discovery of divine will. This article shows how those principles can function as mechanisms for normative change, and reviews their diagnostic capacity for evaluating various uses of Islamic resources.

Religious environmentalisms often must develop two projects at once: one displaying a tradition’s normative resources, and a second vindicating their novel use in the face of environmental challenges. The second project shows how a practical ethic utilizes religious resources so that they maintain or acquire normative significance in a new context. Environmentalist appeal to Buddhist dharma concepts, for example, must not only highlight their environmental relevance, but also demonstrate how their new significance might be justified within the tradition (cf. Swearer 2003). Showing why the novel use is fitting often demonstrates how appropriation of a religious resource mobilizes a tradition’s normative authority for a contemporary problem.

Environmental ethics sometimes appropriates the traditional resources of Islam with only implicit reference to that second project. Sometimes environmental ethics deploys Islamic themes and concepts in service of a practical ethic tacitly shaped after a standard western model. Yet Islam possesses unique internal functions for deploying its normative concepts in novel and challenging contexts. In the conventions of its jurisprudence, the tradition offers terms for intelligible appropriation of its resources. As tools to guide the way in which moral authority assimilates unforeseen social challenges, methods of legal justification might offer potential principles for a successful Islamic environmental ethic. At the very least jurisprudence presents a system of diagnostic questions that allows readers to test an Islamic environmental ethic for the way it frames environmental problems, discloses practical solutions, and sets the terms for appropriate policy justifications.

Bibliographic Information

Title: Islamic Law and Environmental Ethics: How Jurisprudence (Usul Al-Fiqh) Mobilizes Practical Reform

Author(s): Willis Jenkins

Published in: Worldviews 9,3 338-364. 2005

 Language: English

Length: 25 page

Islamic Law and Environmental Ethics

About Ali Teymoori

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