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This article addresses the human-earth relationship from an Islamic perspective in two parts. The first part draws attention to a set of principles, beginning with that of Divine Oneness (tawhid) and the vision it conveys of the common predicament of man with the rest of the created world. The author reviews the principle of vicegerency of man (khilafah) on Earth – which designates humankind as trustee and custodian of its natural environment – and the principle of trust (amanah). The second part addresses instances of violation of these two principles. Three such instances are discussed: spreading mischief (fasad) on earth, extravagance and waste (israf), and infliction of harm (darar). The focus of the discussion in this part is on the human management, or rather mismanagement, of the earth with the result that humanity itself has become the chief victim of its own failings. In his conclusion the author seeks to contextualise his observations within the civilisational renewal (tajdid hadari), arguing that the shared vision of Muslims must be inspired by common values and commitments for the ecological wellbeing of the planet Earth and that Islamic teachings can make a distinctive contribution to that vision by infusing man’s management of the natural world with transcendent (revealed) values and ethics that look toward a common future for humanity and the rest of its earthly inhabitants. The article ends with recommendations for possible reforms.
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