The Markfield Institute in partnership with Penny Appeal organized a public lecture on education for sustainable development. This lecture focused on how Islamic concepts can contribute to sustainable development. The lecture was delivered by Ruqaiyah Hibell (BSc, MA, MPhil), Research and Executive Officer at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education on 02 January 2019.

Ruqaiya presented the need for ensuring we provide education for sustainable development. She quoted: “Education for sustainable development is the process of equipping students with the knowledge and understanding, skills and attributes needed to work and live in a way that safeguards environmental, social and economic wellbeing, both in the present and for future generations.” (QAA & HEA, 2014)

Ruqaiya highlighted how the Markfield Institute is working to teach students values that underpin sustainable development of communities, economies and the environment. These include values/concepts such as khalifaa (accountability, stewardship and responsibility), mercy (rahma), social justice; Ikhlaaq: morality; khidma: service to others, human rights and wellbeing; balance (mizaan) – that is, necessity of a balance between the economy, society, and the environment; israaf: reducing waste and sustainable consumption, shura (collective decision-making for the common good), and Akhirah (future consequences of our present-day actions – sustainable futures). Students will develop the skills and knowledge to contribute to an environmentally and ethically responsible society, and pursue a career that reflects those values. In addition, students on MIHE’s MA Islam and Sustainable Development programme (which is sponsored by Penny Appeal) will explore corporate social responsibility, accountability and ethics, poverty alleviation, fair distribution of wealth, green accounting, reduction of waste and enhancing efficiency.

She stated that at the core of the Islamic faith are concepts of ‘khalifa’ (stewardship of the earth), which implies active service to humanity, thereby, seeking social justice, alongside acknowledging accountability for both actions and resultant consequences. Thus, a primary objective of education at MIHE is to encourage and empower our students to become informed, responsive and action-orientated leaders at local, national or global levels; connecting their learning and education to the world around them on the basis of interdependence, cooperation, respect for, and an appreciation of diversity in all its myriad forms. Students are also directed to apply these universal values, which transcend time and space, by personally embodying the change that society requires, nurtured during the programmes of study leading to an understanding that through collective and cooperative initiatives significant transformation can be achieved.

Ruqaiya added that extra-curricular activity at MIHE attempt to engage students with the life of the Institute and they are encouraged to undertake voluntary work in the wider community in order to construct empathetic personal portfolios that charter into a desire to make a difference in the career pathways and lifestyles pursued following graduation.

Through all of our academic programmes the Institute encourages students to develop independence of thought and critically self-reflect on how they as individuals are able to clarify, analyse and challenge their own and societal values and understand how they can exert influence and impact choice and lifestyle. Our students form a global community coming from a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities and as such are encouraged to consider the intersection and enrichment brought by multi-faceted identities and the ability to build relationships with people from across the world. Students are assisted to develop awareness of bias and prejudice alongside a deep commitment to effectively addressing such issues in an effective and holistic manner, which encompasses a deep respect for human rights.

Students are enabled to understand ethics and morals within the individual modules they study and assess the wider ranges of applicability of their learning at differing societal levels. A fundamental faith principle is to live modestly and to take the minimal amount of resources needed to fulfil the basic requirements of life; this means ensuring that resources are used efficiently and that where waste is generated that it can be recycled or appropriately diverted to other usages.

Built into the teaching modules, Ruqaiya stated is the requirement to seek solutions, through creative and critical thinking rather than merely determining problems, thereby, connecting learning to a global environment. This enables students to consider how systems and societies can be adapted to promote sustainable futures. Building empathy into educational frameworks enables understandings of how people’s social and economic circumstances can shape the ways in which they view situations and make choices, which aids students to clearly assess complexities inherent to contemporary life. In summary, education at MIHE involves engaging with the well-being of humanity in an inclusive real-world context to create productive and fulfilling futures.

Centre for Islam and Sustainable Development

In partnership with Penny Appeal