The concept of development is not new; in fact, it is as old as mankind. When God created man and placed him on earth as a vicegerent, it was with the understanding that the earth and everything on it belonged to God Alone. The earth and its resources are a trust which, while meant to benefit man and serve him, is to be cared for, protected and preserved into the future for the needs of both human and non-human life.
Unfortunately, the cumulative impact of man’s activities on earth have all but come close to destroying it. The industrial revolution that began in the second half of the 18th century launched an era of change that has since continued to transform our world. And in spite of the fact that industrialization brought numerous positive changes, it has nonetheless undermined the overall health of our environment as well as that of society.
But all is not lost. The world has finally woken up to the fact that man now stands at the crossroads of survival or destruction. This realization has allowed us to accept our part in damaging our world and search for solutions to exist and develop without jeopardizing future generations; in other words, to gear all efforts towards sustainable development.
However, it is not possible to stimulate genuine sustainable development when the preservation of wealth and physical resources are our only focus. We are certain that the path to development can only be achieved if the individual and everything related to him religiously, culturally, economically and socially are at the heart of the development process.
Sustainable development is an inherent value of religions in general and Islam in particular in the sense that it meets the spiritual and material needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In other words, sustainable development is one of the objectives of Islamic law which seeks to enhance the religion, life, intellect, prosperity, and honor and dignity of the people. The realization of these objectives is the true reflection of sustainable development.
Given that man is the subject matter of fatwa which plays an active and pivotal role in all issues related to him and his development, and given the urgency of our global situation, it comes as no surprise that Egypt’s Dar alIfta and the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide dedicates this year’s conference to the topic “Fatwa and Sustainable Development Goals”. Since its inception, the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide has committed itself to exploring issues of relevance to the worldwide community of Muslims and to the world at large as well as to address the complexities presented by every era and age and the development of unprecedented issues and challenges to which previous generations have not been exposed. At present, the dynamic landscape of our human activities and their impact on our world can no longer remain ignored.
The conference aims to achieve a wide range of goals foremost of which is to give a wholistic definition for sustainable development. It was also important to root the concept in the Holy Quran and Prophetic Sunnah, provide examples of sustainable development enshrined in these primary texts of Islam, cultivate and cement the values of sustainable development in the modern Muslim world and produce robust scholarly outcomes capable of making valuable contributions to the 17 sustainable development goals.
It is likewise the aim of the conference to highlight the role of fatwa in achieving certain societal goals such as peace, security and justice at the global level and cooperation and integration at the human level; building strong institutions; achieving the economic goals of sustainable development, particularly in supporting national economies, encouraging industry and innovation, eradicating poverty, hunger, and unemployment and achieving prosperity for all the people.
Equally important, the conference will allocate considerable time to discussing the role of fatwa in achieving the environmental goals of sustainable development, in particular climate change and the empowerment of women.
Our environment is suffering. Countless people around the world are suffering. The increasingly challenging problems we have been encountering are messages to rouse us all from our complacencies. We are all responsible for the current state of our planet and we are all duty bound to participate and assist in finding effective and comprehensive solutions if we wish to fulfill the trust which God Almighty has bestowed upon us, to be a driving force of good and live and administer earth without incurring harm to our planet, ourselves or to others at present or in the future.