Editor’s note: The Deseret News published a series of article about stewardship of the earth. These stories highlight the efforts of religious people around the world to preserve the environmental conditions that sustain life. One of the stories presenting Fachruddin Majeri Mangunjaya, chairman of the Center of Islamic Studies at Universitas Nasional Jakarta, who has been working to combining science and religion.
The full article and the Deseret News is available here
The son of an Imam, Fachruddin Majeri Mangunjaya, 54, was born in Borneo, a rugged island in Southeast Asia. The cultivation of palm oil trees dominates the island and much of its natural forests have been slashed and burned to make way for the crop — in high demand by overseas corporations that produce everything from makeup to snack foods.
In the mid-2000s, the United States led the way in encouraging the use of palm oil for the creation of biofuels — an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from gasoline. But the initiative had the opposite of its intended effect, according to The New York Times. In 2017, NASA researchers said rapid deforestation in Borneo contributed to the largest single-year global increase in carbon emissions in two millenniums, catapulting Indonesia to become the world’s fourth-largest source of such emissions.
Mangunjaya, an environmentalist, author and chairman of the Centre for Islamic Studies at Universitas Nasional in Jakarta, has helped train more than 1,000 clerics in delivering sermons that connect Islam with environmental science.
“It’s an Islamic principle that everything in life is also a sign of God,” said Mangunjaya. “God is not just in the text of the Quran, but in the context of the world we live in.”
A scientist by training, Mangunjaya has a bachelor’s degree in biology, a master’s degree in conservation, and a doctorate in environmental management. But in his work as a conservationist, he felt like something was missing. As a devout Muslim who prays five times a day, Mangunjaya believes religion cannot be separated from daily life, or the decisions we make.
“To me, the ecological crisis is the result of a moral crisis,” he said.
He refocused his attention and began working with Muslim leaders to protect forests and wildlife. He spearheaded initiatives to promote the greening of masjids, or Muslim places of worship, and the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.
One of his major accomplishments was working with the Indonesian Council of Ulama to issue a fatwa (or ruling on a point of Islamic law) that prohibits the burning of land and forest. In the past four years, the number of hotspots has successfully declined as a result of the edict and government initiatives, Mangunjaya said.
“There is no gap between biology and religion,” said Mangunjaya. “When you study biology, you are studying God’s creation, you are studying the glory of God.”