Islam and the environment

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014


MUSLIMS today are focused in so many day to day challenges in their lives. Looking at Islam as a complete way of life, it covers at least five dimensions of human life. These dimensions are politics, economic, culture, religion, and spiritual. In the present context, how do we face the challenges in these five dimensions?

Take the case of the environment. Not known to many of us, Liguasan Marsh (LM) is the last frontier of the Muslim Filipinos/Bangsamoro, particularly the Maguindanaon ethnic linguistic tribe. This marsh has been the home of the "people of the flooded plains". To describe the beauty of the marsh, let me give this brief description. LM is an important component of the Cotabato River basin for it is a natural flood control. It is a natural wetland and it is one of the country's largest freshwater bodies with approximately 288,000 hectares. It is also a priority area for biodiversity conservation (EHc) based on the PBCPP1jointly undertaken by PAWBi, Conservation International, and UP-Center for Integrative and Development Studies.

In a recent study (2012) conducted by Ateneo de Davao - Tropicsii, Ligawasan Marsh is a wetland ecosystem located in the heart of the vast floodplains of the Cotabato-Agusan River Basin. The Mindanao River is the principal drainage way of the Cotabato River Basin which traverses the Ligawasan Marsh Complex.

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It is formed by the confluence of three major tributaries, namely the Pulangi River (from Bukidon), joined by Kabacan, Maridagao and Malitubog and Libungan Rivers in the north where the merging point is the town of Kabuntulan.

The south source is Allah being supported by Kabulnan before merging with Maganoy River down to the town of Datu Piang.

The south eastern part of the Ligawasan marsh proper is the Buluan River which is the main outlet of the water from Lake Buluan (5,888 ha.)

Not known to most of us, the Mount Matutum Protected Landscape (MMPL) and the Ligawasan Marsh are actually connected. The Ateneo Tropics study further states that:

The north western portion of MMPL is being drained by a river system that feeds into Lake Buluan which in turn feeds into the Ligawasan Marsh.

The Taplan-Marbelrivers flow to Lake Buluan. Mt. Matutum is the farthest headwater of Taplan River, a tributary to Marbel River which in turn drains to Lake Buluan and to the Liguasan Marsh.

The LM is also an aquifer or a fresh water catchment. Thus,

"With its 500-hectare large pit with the depth of two stacked Empire State Buildings and its similarly large fresh-water catchment, it will adversely affect the fresh water supply of the Koronadal Valley, including its irrigation system, and threaten its shallow aquafers with toxicity. The Mal River will be worst affected through the SMI construction of a fresh water dam just above the NIA's irrigation.

While we are all busy in observing the on-going peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), it may be good to know that the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro (FAB) gives us a concrete way in engaging both panels in the protection of our environment through proper policy and laws to be included in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

In the FAB, it mentioned that there is a need to "strengthen the Shari'ah competence" of the Bangsamoro. It also ensures the people that the Bangsamoro Basic Law will include "comprehensive framework for sustainable development through the proper conservation, utilization and development of natural resources".

This provision in the FAB is already innate in every Muslims and it is enshrined in the Holy Quran. We Muslims believe that man has been given a responsibility by Allah on this earth and that we will be accountable to Him for our actions. Prophet Muhammad said, "Everyone of you is a guardian and is responsible for his charges. The ruler who has authority over people is a guardian and is responsible for them" (SahihBukhari 3.46.730).

To illustrate further, the environment is the ancestral domain of human beings. We are directly connected with the environment because of the water, food, and our basic survival that it provides us. Hence, our relationship with nature symbiotic. For us to survive in a given environment, we need to adjust what we take from the environment to what can give us sustainable harvests at any given period of time. Moreover, this means that we need t conserve our resources, cultivate the properly, and protect the environment as our home.

With these points of discussion I enjoin my Muslim brothers and sisters in Mindanao and in the Bangsamoro to reexamine and to restate our own commitment to environmental integrity from our Islamic viewpoint. We need to make a stand to stop the mining in Tampakan. We need to join hands with our Christian brothers and sisters in South Cotabato to make our voices be heard at the national government.

We need to be reminded of the following key points in Islam.

Al Qalam Institute puts emphasis on the basic Islamic principle that:

The Quran mandates that men and women are viewed as God's vicegerents on Earth. (2:30) God created nature in a balance ("al-mizan") and mankind's responsibility is to maintain this fragile equilibrium through wise governance and sound personal conduct. Another ayah refers to Believers as "the believing men and women as those who "walk on the Earth in humility." (25:63) Scholars have interpreted this verse, and others like it, to mean that Muslims are to protect nature's many bounties given to them by the Almighty. Ecological Preservation is therefore not just a good policy recommendation but is a divine commandment from Allah. (SWT)

If we call ourselves Muslims, peace advocates, Mindanaons or Bangsamoro, then we must also be protectors of our environment.

Pablo, Sendong, and Ondoy remind us that the effects of climate change is an inevitable reality. It will affect us regardless of our faith, political views, and even economic status in life. In the words of Mr. Lory Tan of WWF, Climate impacts will disregard all political frameworks - and drive the imperative that all peoples must work together and learn how to live together.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 04, 2014.

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