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Valuing Biodiversity: A Qur anic PDF file ayat, meaning, the smallest unit of the surah of the Qur‟an, commonly translated into English as “verse”). The Qur‟an states: “

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  • Abstract—Species diversity has been the hallmark of

    biosphere and invaluable resource for human being as well as

    for the natural environment. In order to appreciate and

    conserve these diverse species which are constituents of nature,

    different values from different frames of references have been

    proffered. This study examines biological diversity from the

    Qur’anic perspective in an attempt to explicate the kinds of

    value conferred by the Qur’an on non-human species,

    particularly among the animals and plants. Collating ayat

    (verses) of the Qur’an related to nonhuman species and

    analyzing key conceptual terms the Qur’an employs in

    reference to their diversity, the study found that nonhuman

    species are presented in the Qur’an as signs of God and as

    communities of worshipers worthy of existence and


    Index Terms—Environmental ethics, biodiversity

    conservation, nonhuman animals, Qur’anic ecology.


    The Qur‟anic account and recognition of diversity in

    nature could be traced back to the moment when Prophet

    Adam was taught al-asma‟ kullaha, the names of things or

    the capacity to name things (Qur‟an, 2:31-32). This suggests

    that there are, at least, several things out there which he could

    identify but which the angels could not. Biological items

    from which he was created, namely, water and dust, could be

    among the items of identification. Next, he was placed in the

    Jannah (garden) together with Eve where they were at liberty

    (raghadan) to eat and drink from all types of fruits and to

    take shelter and cloth therein, with the exception of a

    particular tree forbidden for them (Qur‟an, 2:35; 7:19;

    20:118-119). In this earliest encounter between human and

    nature, as recorded in the Qur‟an, a variety of biological

    things are purposefully placed in Jannah that will make it

    habitable for Adam and Eve, only that some of them are halal

    (lawful and permissible) while others are haram (unlawful

    and impermissible).

    Biological diversity (or Biodiversity), according to the

    Convention on Biological Diversity, refers to “the variability

    among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia,

    terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the

    ecological complexities of which they are part; this includes

    diversity within species, between species and of

    ecosystems”[1]. Central to biodiversity is the ecological

    complexity of interactions between biota and abiotic

    environment. All crops, livestock and marine animals and

    their interconnectivities of pollinators, symbionts, pests,

    Manuscript received August 31, 2013; revised November 1, 2013.

    A. K. H. Solihu is with Islamic Studies in the Department of General

    Studies, Faculty of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences,

    International Islamic University Malaysia, P. O. Box 10, 50728, Kuala

    Lumpur, Malaysia (e-mail: [email protected]).

    parasites, and predator-prey form part of biodiversity [2].

    There are frequent references to several species in the

    Qur‟an. Out of 114 surahs (chapters) of the Qur‟an, six are

    titled after animals: Al-Baqarah (the Cow), al-An„am (the

    Cattles), al-Nahl (the Bee), al-Naml (the Ants), al-„Ankabut

    (the Spider), and al-Fil (the Elephant). But, as reported by

    Tlili [3], approximately thirty animal species are mentioned

    in various Qur‟anic surahs. Only one surah bears a plant

    name, namely, al-Tin (the Fig), 95, but as Khafagi, Zakaria,

    Dewedar and El-Zahdany indicate, there are about 22 plants

    belonging to 17 families that are mentioned in the Qur‟an [4].

    This study explores the Qur‟anic perspective of biological

    diversity in an attempt to elucidate the values assigned to

    nonhuman species in nature. The study first analyses key

    conceptual terms the Qur‟an employs in reference to

    diversity in the biosphere and then identifies the status

    assigned to different components of biological diversity and

    ecological functions. The last part addresses the end value

    that could be drawn from the interdependence and

    coexistence of biotic and abiotic constituents of nature.


    Nature and several constituents of biodiversity have been

    valued differently based on different value systems. In the

    age of materialistic, economic driven world, financial

    implication of biodiversity is one of the predominant value

    methods. Nunes and van den Bergh provide four levels of

    biodiversity, each having its own value: genes, species,

    ecosystems and functions. Thereafter, they investigate the

    economic value and valuation method of each of these levels.

    They found that economic valuation could not measure the

    real but nonuse/passive values of biodiversity and will

    always fail to provide the entire range of biodiversity benefits


    From a more general framework, a Committee on

    Noneconomic and Economic Value of Biodiversity review

    different approaches to valuing biodiversity, such as

    economic, scientific, utilitarian, ethical, aesthetic. They

    discuss a variety of values that people derive from

    biodiversity and how such values have varyingly contributed

    to the advancement in science and technology as well as to

    the well-being of individuals and society. Yet they admit that

    no simple models or approaches can adequately address both

    market and nonmarket values due to our insufficient

    knowledge of interconnectivity of the components of

    biodiversity and the absence of detailed experimental studies

    of the ecosystem [6].

    Ehrenfeld questions the very process of valuing

    biodiversity. According to him, value is an intrinsic part of

    biodiversity. Its value does not depend on anthropocentric

    benefits, be it economic, utilitarian, aesthetic, or even

    International Journal of Environmental Science and Development, Vol. 5, No. 3, June 2014


    Valuing Biodiversity: A Qur‟anic Account

    A. K. H. Solihu

    DOI: 10.7763/IJESD.2014.V5.486

  • International Journal of Environmental Science and Development, Vol. 5, No. 3, June 2014


    ecosystem services that human derive from it. Biodiversity is

    already valuable because it is there long before humans

    realized it. Since we do not know enough about the genes,

    species and ecosystem of biodiversity, our valuations will

    always remain wanting [7].

    On the other side of biodiversity valuation stands a group

    of researchers who hold that biodiversity could endanger

    human health. It is argued that some species might be vectors

    of diseases to human population, contributing to the outbreak

    or spread of diseases. Maier challenges basing the value of

    the natural world on biodiversity, deconstructing arguments

    advanced by philosophers and scientists in favor of

    biodiversity and its conservation. He claims to appreciate

    natural value but outside the prism of biodiversity. Nature is

    valuable; biodiversity is not necessarily so. Thus, he framed

    nature‟s value on what he called “appropriate fit” which

    associates the core of natural value with a valuing

    relationship that people develop towards the natural world

    [8]. It is a particular human-nature relationship which human

    communities have devolved over their interaction with nature.

    How one could value the whole system while decrying its

    component parts is a question which Maier does not

    convincingly address in the book. This line of reasoning

    could be seen as part of mental and cultural alliance against

    nature‟s design and its intrinsic value which Bertrand Russell

    has earlier advanced in Why I am not a Christian. Russell

    acknowledges that humans are part of nature as far as their

    origin is concerned. But in the world of value, humans are the

    ultimate and irrefutable arbiters of values. As humans, he

    says, “we are the kings, and we debase our kingship if we

    bow down to Nature. It is for us to determine the good life,

    not for nature – not even for Nature personified as God” [9].

    Very few biologists would subscribe to this purely

    humanistic line of reasoning and frame of valuation. In the

    Islamic worldview, there is strong support for the idea that

    biodiversity is intrinsically valuable and that it plays a pivotal

    role in maintaining ecosystem which is crucial to human life.

    This study analyses the value that the Qur‟an assigns to

    biological diversity.


    Nature is presented in the Qur‟an as “khalq Allah” (the

    creation of Allah) (Qur‟an, 31:11) and “sun„ Allah” (the

    artistry of Allah) (Qur‟an, 27:88). It is a huge garden in

    which the artifact of the caring but invisible gardener is ever

    present. The word “nature” is translated into Arabic as

    tabi„ah. Tabi„ah is not used in the Qur‟an but

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