LSRI Celebrates New Book Exploring the Resonances of Laudato Si' and the Qur'an
The Laudato Si’ Research Institute, based at Campion Hall, University of Oxford, in collaboration with the Randeree Charitable Trust, celebrated on 23rd May at Westminster Cathedral Hall the launch of the book: Al-Ḥamdu li’llāhi Rabbi’l-ʿĀlamīn ‘Praise to God, Lord of the Worlds’: An Introduction to Qur’anic Ecology and Resonances with Laudato Si’.
This study, written by Qur’anic hermeneutics scholar Farhana Mayer, unpacks the multiple resonances of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ with the Qur’an. It demonstrates significant common ground on perceptions of the natural world as a precious part of God’s creation, the interrelatedness of all creation, the understanding of humankind as the being in whom earth and spirit are conjoined, the need for divine guidance, and others. The book dwells especially on the most beautiful names of God – the Compassionate, the Merciful, the Lord-Nurturer, the Kind, the Nourisher, the Guide – and on ethical and ecological principles for human action that can be derived from these.
I have never come across anything like it as a gesture of hospitality and bridge-building between Catholicism and Islam.
During the event, Bishop John Sherrington, the Auxiliary Bishop for Westminster, responded to the book by highlighting many areas that resonate with the Catholic Social Teaching tradition. He noted that speaking of ‘resonances’ instead of the usual ‘similarities and differences’ between faiths was more uniting. This need to deepen our common ground in the face of our complex contemporary ecological challenges was emphasised by all panellists.
Fazlun Khalid, a pioneer of Islamic ecological thought, argued that over the course of the last two centuries humanity has shifted from a focus on the divine to a focus on the human, and latterly to a focus on the mechanistic. One particular sentence from the Laudato Si’ encyclical – “there can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself” (§118) - was cited many times. All faiths need to work together to turn the tide of what Laudato Si’ calls “the modern myth of unlimited material progress” (§78) and to rediscover humanity’s place in creation, and balance (mizan in the Qur’an), in reference to a forthcoming milestone document Al-Mizan: A Covenant for the Earth, for all Muslims worldwide. The virtues of moderation and learning to live with less were mentioned as central to this rebalancing of humanity’s relationship with the earth.
Rabiah Mali, founder of the Green Deen Tribe, which seeks to heal the wounds of separation and lack of access to nature for Muslim women, shared in her contribution how overcoming a sense of fear of being in nature as an unsafe place – which has been the experience for many women in the world – was fundamental. That the same word is used in Arabic for compassion (raḥim) and for a woman’s womb is a powerful way of seeing the presence of the divine in all life that is germinating in nature.
Colette Joyce, the Justice and Peace coordinator of the Westminster Diocese, in response to a question about the usefulness of conceptual work for practical action, highlighted the importance of concepts in the formation of people. Concepts, as described in this book, include mercy, integrity, equitability, and others, and are essential for people to be formed in mercy, integrity, or what Christian ethics would call virtue formation.
For Fr Damian Howard, Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain, the formation of virtues, and deep listening to each other in a way that is transformative, provides a way forward for further Christian-Muslim collaboration. He commented, “Farhana Mayer’s book is quite exceptional. Here is a distinguished Muslim theologian who has set herself the task of listening with incredible sensitivity to the text of a papal encyclical and allowing it to spark off reflections and what she calls “resonances” in her own religious tradition. I have never come across anything like it as a gesture of hospitality and bridge-building between Catholicism and Islam.”
There is only one home, and we are one family. The LSRI hopes that this book - the Qur’anic Resonances of Laudato Si’ – will be a means to bring that family closer as together we seek to care for our common home.
The book can be downloaded for free as an e-book here. It is the fruit of the Qur’anic Resonances of Laudato Si’ project, part of the Christian-Muslim Dialogue on Integral Ecology research cluster at the LSRI that aims to explore the comparative perspective between Christian and Muslim traditions.
See additional coverage of this event, including the full text of Bishop Sherrington's response to Farhana's talk, on the Diocese of Westminster page here.