Constituent policy

UW-Milwaukee water policy scholar discusses relationship between Islam and environmentalism

Misbah Husain is a water policy specialist at the Center for Water Policy, a component of the innovative School of Fresh Water Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“Growing up, I wanted to be a healer, to bring relief to the less fortunate,” he explains. This led to a bachelor’s degree in environmental toxicology from the University of California, Davis.

“The first maxim of toxicology is ‘the dose makes the poison’ – that nothing is inherently good or bad, rather it is the quantity that dictates the harm. We see this at all levels of biology, from our cellular interactions up to environmental scale cycles.

As a Muslim, this affected Husain deeply. “Islam is the religion of ‘sirat al mustaqeem‘, or ‘the middle way’ of moderation,” he says. “My studies have revealed that this moderation and balance is essential at all levels of existence, and this understanding has put me on the path to a better understanding of all our cycles and systems that make us what we are. we are, whether in terms of biology, sociology, or our political institutions.

From UC, Davis, he went to Boston College, where he earned a law degree as well as a master’s degree in social work. As a participant in the college’s civil rights clinic, he co-wrote a brief for a lawsuit challenging the Boston Police Department’s racially discriminatory policies.

“Over time, I learned that the sources of our disease lay not just in the balance of our biochemistry, but in our social structures and the treatment of each other. The first law of ecology is that it’s all connected, and I find that each of the various disciplines I’ve studied transition easily from one to the other,” Husain said.

Islamic influences and history of environmentalism

He recognizes Islam as the foundation and inspiration for his life’s work. “Much of our world today has been shaped by the contributions of Muslim society, to advances in medicine, technology and even jurisprudence.

The practice of vaccination, for example, originated in the management of infections during Hajj. The concept of the jury dates back to Muslim rule in Spain. It is a legacy of which I am proud and motivated to continue.

At a deeper level, Muslims are encouraged to act with ‘ehsan or excellence, in everything they do. I wanted to deepen my education and knowledge, because it would mean approaching my studies and my blessings in this way. Knowing more about this world helps me appreciate my faith, my blessings, and my opportunities.

Some environmentalists have blamed Abrahamic religions for encouraging environmental degradation. Husain replies that in the Quran, “there is a verse that is often translated as God stating that humans are ‘vice-regents’ or ‘stewards’ of the Earth. It’s not a complete transfer of ownership or inheritance, it’s a trust, where we are responsible for looking after the creation in a way that would please our creator.

Likewise, Islam offers guidance for all aspects of life, “and we cannot have harmony in justice in one aspect if we are oppressive in another,” Husain continues. “Social justice – granting every human being the rights, agency and respect due to them – is also about being a good steward of creation.”

Working in water policy and influencing stakeholders