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Al-Mizan's vision and the path towards practical Islamic finance

Al-Mizan, convened by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), represents a pioneering effort to fuse Islamic-based ethics with environmental stewardship, addressing ecological degradation and conservation through a faith-based lens. This ground-breaking, first of its kind, document underscores the significant role that Islamic beliefs, teachings, and values can play in promoting sustainable development and environmental care.

By intricately weaving together the threads of faith, ethics, and ecology, Al-Mizan not only enriches the dialogue on faith-based environmental action but also serves as an inspirational guide for integrating environmental considerations into daily life and investment decisions.

The Framework: Bridging the Gap Between Ideals and Action

The document provides a framework that highlights the importance of integrating environmental considerations into faith-based practices and investment decisions. While this serves as a crucial starting point, Al-Mizan could benefit from specific, pragmatic solutions to the environmental issues it addresses. For instance, while it champions the role of ethical investments in driving sustainability, detailed guidance on navigating the complexities of green financing or establishing partnerships with Shari'ah-focused financial organisations could offer the valuable tools to enact change. However, even Islamic financing is primarily based on concepts and frameworks that have 'mostly been developed since the 1970s and 80s… to integrate Islamic concepts with traditional financial structures', according to Blake Goud (CEO of the RFI Foundation, C.I.C.). Although some Islamic banks have begun integrating environmental considerations through established initiatives like the UN Principles for Responsible Banking, further development within Shari'ah financing could potentially benefit from Al-Mizan's framework by providing a structure for environmental approaches that not only follow guidance adopted by secular initiatives but also demonstrate a connection to the Maqasid (higher objectives) of Shari'ah.

Call to Action: Beyond Inspiration

Al-Mizan's call to action resonates with urgency and conviction, to commit to sustainable practices within a faith lens. However, the path from inspiration to action is fraught with obstacles. The document could strengthen its calls to action by outlining a series of step-by-step, achievable actions that organizations and individuals can undertake immediately. Offering a toolkit for action — ranging from policy advocacy to engagement strategies –– empowering readers to translate their faith convictions into tangible environmental outcomes.

Hayu Prabowo, FaithInvest trustee and Chairman of the Environmental and Natural Resources Board of the Council of Islamic Scholars of Indonesia, has recommended starting investment projects that align with Al Mizan, and working through the obstacles and practicalities by doing - an effort FaithInvest is currently exploring with members of its Network. He also notes that Islam has other mechanisms to encourage implementation, citing a recently issued Fatwa in Indonesia (no. 86/2023) containing specific practical recommendations and actions for addressing the climate crisis.

A Constructive Path Forward

Al-Mizan represents a significant stride towards aligning faith-based initiatives with environmental sustainability. However, bridging the gap between its visionary ideas and the practical execution of these ideas is essential for realising its full potential. By focusing on pragmatic solutions, detailed guidance, and scalable investment strategies, Al-Mizan can evolve from a collection of inspiring ideas and frameworks to a manual for real-world action. In doing so, it will not only inspire but also equip faith-based asset owners with the tools that they need to contribute effectively to the global pursuit of sustainability and net-zero goals.


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