/Islamic Ruling (Fatwa) on Burning Forest; Interfaith Dialog COP 22

Islamic Ruling (Fatwa) on Burning Forest; Interfaith Dialog COP 22

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Faith Group Initiatives on Clean Energy Transformation; Climate Resilience Building and Empowerment; Collaboration, Cooperation and Mobilization

The interaction between people and environment are very vital, because functioning ecosystem services is important resources for the people. The dysfunctional ecosystem services will lead to scarce of resources and people start  competing which can cause social disorder. Suriah  and Sudan civilian war is triggred by short of water and short of food. People continuously say that World War III will be triggered because of the lack of water. Hence, it becomes national security issues and the world order. This issue of changing environmental phenomena has moved from a peripheral concern of scientists and environmentalists to being a central issue in global policy-making and religious leaders in which 197 countries entered into COP 21 agreement in Paris last year, and 100 countries have ractified

The fact that economics, environment, society, finance, and institutions cannot be independent of moral and ethical values. Indonesia’s social issues, environmental damage and poverty alleviation, become more important as the people who are most affected by the changes to the natural environment are those who live in the poorest areas and who have usually contributed the least to the environmental problems. Their problems arise because they often rely on agriculture and natural resources that are threatened by rising temperatures and extreme climate.

Environmental crisis, with all of its manifestations such as climate change and global warming, in essence is a moral crisis, because people consider the nature as object to be exploit rather than subject to be protected for the life. Thus, countermeasures against the existing problems of environmental and climate issues should be the moral approach.

There are three largest rain forests in the world: Amazon in South America, Congo basin in Africa and SEA rain forest that span Indonesia. Every year, for more than a decade, the Indonesian forest fires release a huge amount of carbon. Last year in 2015 forest fire emits carbon daily than the entire US economy. And forest fire continues to happen as we speak today. What at stake is not only the livelihood of the people but also the life of these forest species as well as impacting the global warming significantly.

The annual forest fires, especially in 2015, has brought about smoke disaster that caused the loss of economic, ecological, political, social, health and life. 2.7 million hectares of forest were burned out, costing $16 billion and 24 loss of life. Deforestation is the largest contributor of climate change in Indonesia.

There have numerous laws and regulations to cope with forest fire but, the continuous catastrophic events has brought about the question about sharia law on the act of burning the forest, as Indonesia society comprise about 80% of muslim. This sharia law is called fatwa or Islamic Religious Ruling which provides Islamic guidance for the community for certain issues whether the act is permissible or forbidden.

The fatwa was set up based on the results of workshops, field trips, discussions and extensive review by the Islamic Scholars together with the Ministry Environment and forestry and all stakeholders starting from March to July 2016. It revealed that 99% of forest and land fires in Indonesia caused human by burning the forests for planting preparation, in which 80% happened in concession area, 50% in the industrial forests and 30% in the large plantations, mainly palm oil plantation. The Government of Indonesia has been fighting to bring the issue to the court for justice.

Most of the severe forest fires were in peat land conversion to plantation. Peat land stores carbon, once it is burning it will become wild fire and releases the stored carbon. The peat land fire is difficult or even impossible to extinguish it, only God who can extinguish it by rain.

In essence, the problem of forest fire is a moral crisis, where people still view the nature as objects to be exploited for economic benefit rather than subjects that should be protected for the benefit of the people and entire creatures sustainably. Therefore, countermeasures against the moral and ethical problem must be with a moral and ethical approach. With this point of view, the role religion is vital to remind people to refrain the burning of forest that bring about damage and destruction. The religious approach will deliver the message more persuasively to motivate people morally to change behavior to be more ethical for better live, in this world and the hereafter. Behavioral changes are important as it will bring social transformation and the sustainability of impact. Without behavioral changes, we can reach the target but once the project or program is finished, everything will be back to previous conditions.

The Fatwa ruling is an effort to raise public awareness in fire prevention as a core activity of controlling forest fire – prevention rather than curative action. The fatwa prohibit (or haram) the actions of burning that cause mudharat (damage, loss and pain), including facilitating, taking advantage of it. Indonesia is majority muslim and the largest muslim country in the world, the fatwa will empower the Islamic leaders and improve people awareness, participation and put obligation in protecting the forest from fire. Therefore, fatwa ruling complements government effort in facing this issue. People can escape government regulation but they cannot escape the word of God.

For the same reason, the people of different faiths need to find a common ground despite differences, especially in conceptualizing God, the creator and creation, I think a religion may come to a common ground meeting of mind which is in humanity. Because religion is indeed from God, not for God only but for human being and humanity. By bringing emphasis on humanity, we may work together and, of course, with responsibility. So this kind of collective humanity action may encourage and motivate of the people of different faiths to work together and this what we have been experiencing Indonesia despite tension, even conflict between the religious communities in our rural society of Indonesia. The approach will bring the people of different faiths through inter-religious council of Indonesia (we call it Earth Alert) to emphasize very much on the importance of humanity and human being. We have been working now of eco-houses of worship and also for other activities between christians, muslim, hindus, budhists and confucius.

At this point that religion will play its role through interfaith collaboration, and that needs to start from the Houses of Worship. The Houses of Worship are the center of religious and community life where not only people go for praying, but also serving other functions as well. The houses of worship use as community centers where people get married, and hold classes — what some might call “Sunday school.” Given the centrality of the Houses of worship in people life, it is the perfect place to start promoting “eco Houses of Worship” or eco Mosques, eco churces, eco temple, etc. This way we expect to bring our moral and ethics by sharing our values a set of ethical values and so far this kind of approach as we have in Indonesia may well compensate any tension and possible conflicts between the religious communities because of other factors.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “the believer is like a bee, which eats that which is pure and wholesome, and lays that which is pure and wholesome. When it lands on something it does not break or ruin it.”

He also says Ibda bin Nafsik – Start from ourselves, start now and start from small thing.

It is up to all of of us now what kind of actions we can take to save the earth.

Dr. Hayu S. Prabowo

Chairman of Environmental and Natural Resources Body, The Ulama Council of Indonesia