The Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES) is a multi-dimensional organisation. From tentative beginnings in the mid 1980’s we have earned an international reputation as leaders in developing a specifically Islamic approach to environmental protection and natural resource management.
That is, to develop ecological knowledge and promote conservation and sustainable development based on environmental ethics contained in Islamic teachings. Because of the undeveloped nature of this specialism we have engaged in all facets of this work from theory to practice which could be broadly described as educational. The work evolved as we responded to the demands made on us by students at one level, and international agencies such as the World Wide Fund for Nature at another. This process helped us to build our own knowledge base and over the course of time we were able to identify the following streams of work that now keeps us occupied –
- The development of a knowledge base and sharing this knowledge by producing educational material.
- The development of training programmes based on this knowledge.
- Developing projects on the ground based on this knowledge.
- The development of networks dedicated to this work.
- Sharing this knowledge in seminars, conferences and other public fora.
- The dissemination of this work through the use of media, information technology and other available channels.
Our founding objective was to set up a centre for research on conservation practice which would serve as a training institution for practical and theoretical subjects based on Islamic principles. This however has proven to be overly ambitious as it has been said to us that we were way ahead of our time, and much groundwork needed to be done to ready the Muslim population to support such an undertaking. This is what we have been doing since then and we have been functioning as roving ambassadors successfully applying the techniques we have developed in various parts of the world and at the same time learning about the enormity of the task we face. We are particularly pleased that Prince Charles referred to the successful project in Zanzibar where we played a training and consultative role, in his Oxford address on Islam and the Environment on June 2010.
In the early days of our existence we had no other aspiration but to fill a knowledge gap in this growing area of human concern. Events however have overtaken us and our work and organisation is now acknowledged by the international community as unique, and the expertise we have developed is recognized as making an important and positive contribution on the world stage. IFEES was established as a charity in 1994 and is now part of the emerging coalition of faith and secular organisations that have come together to deal with global warming and other environmental threats.
Staff and support
Uniquely IFEES has been a voluntary organisation all its life with possibly less than five percent of our work being funded. Fazlun Khalid, the founder (link to Founder below) has worked full time in an honorary capacity as Director. He has over the years been supported by volunteers who can average between two and twenty at any given time depending on the work in hand. Muzammal Hussein was one of the earliest volunteers and he pioneered the establishment of local groups in the UK setting a trend with his experiment with the London Islamic Network for the Environment (LINE). Others followed his example and soon there was the Midlands Islamic Network for the Environment (MINE) run by Rianne Ten Veen; Sheffield Islamic Network for the Environment (ShINE) run by Kate Fryer; Wales Environmental Link Creating Opportunities for Muslim Engagement (WELCOME) run by Masood Yusuf; Earth Guardians run by Ziad Logart in Leicester. Muzammal now runs Wisdom in Nature (WiN).
Harfiyah Haleem who is one of our trustees is possibly one of the most active Muslim environmentalists in the UK. She plays a key role in developing this work in the London area and also edited Islam and the Environment which was published in 1998 by Ta Ha. Ashfaq Ahmed, Shabaaz Moghal and Mizan Raja have supported our work as general factotums setting up workshops and meetings and contributing to the smooth running of events. Samina Faiz and Shafgufta Yaqub were part of the pioneering team that created EcoIslam, our experiment in environmental journalism. Khalilah Khan has taken a leading role in developing our web site and sorting out information technology issues. Ali Khan who is a chartered accountant has taken care of our accounts. Amongst our other volunteers who have supported us in various ways from designing publicity material, raising funds and giving us general support are Tareq Ali, Iftikhar Awan, Zeshan Akhter, Luzita Ball, Zainab Heath, Abbas Holcroft, Mohammed Khalid, Shaid Hussein, Khalil Mitchell, Sarah Nagi and Fuad Nahdi.
Our international work continues to be supported by Fachruddin Mangunjaya (who translated our training resource into Indonesian) and now at the National University, Jakarta and Nana Fitriana in Indonesia (who has moved to the United States and now represents IFEES in the West Coast); Ali Thani, Thabit Masoud and colleagues in Zanzibar and Tanzania; Usman Modibbo and colleagues in Nigeria; Faraz Khan represents our work in the East coast of USA; Kashif Sheikh in Canada. Abdur Razzaq Lubis is our representative in Malaysia and is based in Penang. He has been contributing to our work from the mid 1990s and provided us with the early support to develop our training programmes amongst under graduates; Hashim Dockrat in South Africa; Farheen Mukri and Sofiah Jamil in Singapore.
We have been helped in our work in the research and policy areas by Prof. Emeritus Muhammad Hyder in Kenya; Prof. Mary Evelyn Tucker and Prof. John Grimm both of Yale University, USA; Dr Aslam Parvaiz Principal of Zakir Hussein College in Delhi; Othman Llewellyn of the Department of Protected Area Planning at the Saudi Wildlife Authority; Dr. Yasin Dutton of the University of Cape Town, South Africa; Dr. Mawil Izzi Dien of the University Wales, Prof. Azizan Baharuddin of the University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur; Prof. Richard Foltz of Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.
There are two people that deserve special mention in the development of this work. Saba Khalid is the wife and companion of Fazlun Khalid the founder of IFEES and she has been with him almost all the time he has been putting this work together. He says that her constant counsel has been irreplaceable and her support vital to the successful development of this work. Dawud Price also deserves special mention because of his total dedication to this work. Although he has been employed by us over the past four years for just one day a week he has been contributing three to four times of the amount of time he was expected to deliver and without whose services we would be in considerable difficulty.
There are many others who have been of service to us over the past thirty or so years and we apologise if we have overlooked them.
Funding and the future
As much as 95% of all the work we have featured in this web site has been carried out over a period nearly thirty years by a small group of dedicated volunteers based in Birmingham, England. Now our volunteers, although still tightly knit, range from the West coast of the USA, through Africa and South Asia all the way to Indonesia. With increasing public awareness this work has expanded beyond the capacity of a small group of volunteers however knowledgeable and dedicated, to cope with. As a charity we now need to be adequately resourced to expand the kind of work we have featured in the resources and activities sections of this web site and to do the kinds of things that are most urgent in places where they are most needed. The charter and matrix sections of this web site are indications of our intentions to dig deeper into the issues that face us today. We have laid down the basic foundations for an Islamic approach to this work by doing the thinking, the writing, the training and importantly by establishing facts on the ground.
In the past four years our core support funding, now ended, has come from the London based Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. A visionary charity they have enabled us to maintain a basic administrative set up and also employ a part time worker for one day a week for the past four years. We have also been helped by the London based Polden Puckham Charitable Trust to support a national GM Freeze project in 2004 which was run by Muzammal Hussein, and more recently, in 2010, to help subsidise our office rent. We have also been helped by the Alliance for Religion and Conservation, Islamic Relief, Muslim Hands, the Iqra Trust and Yusuf Islam in our publications programme.
We have been fortunate in that for most of our existence we have had rent free office space where most of our overheads have also been met. For this we are grateful to the Muslim Education Consultative Committee and Seghal and Company, solicitors both of Birmingham and the Midlands Muslim Council, Burton on Trent in the East Midlands.
Now we hopefully await the emergence of visionaries who will champion this work.