Islamic Debates and Hermeneutics: Examination of Environmental Ethics in Iran

Friday, 20 July 2018: 18:10
Oral Presentation
Satoshi ABE, Nagasaki University, Japan
Islam is long known to have provided the faithful with a language or conceptual framework through which their ethical attitudes and dispositions are organized. The interpretation of its foundational texts on various matters – from mundane practices at home to state management by caliphate leaders – has crucially shaped the ways ethical practices are configured among the faithful. Contrary to the claim that Islam since its inception has not undergone any changes, this reveals a force of historical contingency that has entailed changes in Islamic tradition at different times and places.

In recent years, Iran, an Islamic Republic that upholds Islam as a guiding principle in state management, has problematized a matter that was previously considered less significant and that now draws greater attentions from its religious establishment; that is the matter concerning the environment. While increasing efforts to bolstering industrial sectors, Iran has recently been experiencing severe environmental problems, especially those pertinent to the air, water, and soil. What was used to be “outside” of Islamic concerns are now contentions of heated debates among religious leaders as well as environmental scientists. These debates freshly give rise to diverse interpretations of Islam and thereby contribute to an Islamic tradition that is distinctively reflective of historical conditions of Iran.

This paper highlights ongoing debates concerning the environment among religious leaders in Iran and relevant practices, and examines how Islam as a conceptual framework is drawn upon to address environmental problems. In doing so, it also investigates emerging ethical attitudes and dispositions generated through such discourses and practices. The paper is making a scholarly contribution to the hermeneutics of Islam, demonstrating a changing Islamic tradition in contemporary Iran in which the environment is increasingly problematized as such.