Dubai’s Worsening Climate Needs Islamic Eco-Ethics

Published: 1 May 2024

Dubai knows no high skies where skyscrapers pierce the clouds and artificial islands dot the coast, the quest for rapid urbanisation presents unique challenges and opportunities. However, this recent flood-hit city’s climate is no longer a safe haven. Experts say more storms are brewing. It’s set to embrace a worsening climate. But amidst this modern architectural wonder, the wisdom of Islamic environmental ethics offers a blueprint for sustainable urban development that harmonises with the natural world.

Islamic Environmental Ethics in Urban Planning

Islamic teachings on the environment are profound and pervasive, advocating for stewardship, moderation, and the balance of ecosystems. These principles are derived from the Quran and Hadith, which provide a framework for living sustainably that is incredibly relevant to today’s urban challenges.

For instance, the Quran states, “And do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption” (Quran 2:60). This verse underpins the Islamic mandate to avoid excessive alteration of the natural environment, promoting urban planning that respects ecological boundaries and seeks to minimise environmental impact.

Moderation and Resource Management

In the context of Dubai, these teachings can influence building practices. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “Do not waste water even if performing ablution on the bank of a fast-flowing (large) river” (Sunan Ibn Majah). This Hadith highlights the importance of water conservation, which is critically relevant in Dubai’s arid climate. Urban planners can incorporate advanced water recycling systems and xeriscaping (landscaping that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water) to adhere to this principle.

Community Welfare and Urban Design

The concept of community welfare is central to Islamic ethics. This includes ensuring that urban developments cater to the needs of all residents, providing accessible public spaces, affordable housing, and facilities that enhance community life. The integration of green spaces in urban areas not only provides aesthetic and recreational benefits but also aligns with the Islamic vision of gardens as places of reflection and social interaction.

Sustainable Practices and Technological Innovation

While Dubai has embraced technology in its urban development, Islamic teachings could guide the ethical use of such technologies. The city’s use of cloud seeding to induce rainfall, for instance, addresses water scarcity but raises sustainability concerns. Aligning this technology with Islamic principles involves ensuring that it is used responsibly and in ways that do not lead to greater ecological imbalance.

Biodiversity and Habitat Protection

Respect for all forms of life is another significant aspect of Islamic environmental ethics. Urban planning inspired by this value would prioritise biodiversity and the protection of natural habitats, even in an urban setting. This can include designing buildings and developments in ways that do not disrupt local wildlife and maintaining natural corridors within urban layouts.

Since Dubai continues to expand and innovate, integrating Islamic environmental ethics into its urban planning processes could provide a model for sustainable development that other cities might emulate. This approach does not merely mitigate the environmental impact but enriches the urban landscape, making it more livable and aligned with ethical principles that advocate for a balanced coexistence with nature.

Such a paradigm, rooted in the rich heritage of Islamic teachings, holds the promise of developing modern cities that are not only technologically advanced but also sustainable and just, providing a conducive environment for future generations.