Neither Servants nor Subjects: The Qur'an's Integrative Environmental Ethic

GW University Seminar: Neither Servants nor Subjects: The Qur'an's Integrative Environmental Ethic featuring Dr. Sarra Tlili

Dr. Sarra Tlili, Associate Professor of Arabic Literature, University of Florida

Moderated by:
Dr. Arshad I. Ali, GW Associate Professor of Educational Research
Dr. Ebtissam Oraby, GW Teaching Assistant Professor of Arabic and GSEHD Alumna (Ed.D., Curriculum and Instruction)


Two environmental ethics are typically associated with the Qur’an: dominion and stewardship. Proponents of the dominion position tend to treat this theme casually, as if it is a self-evident fact, yet one also notes this group’s disagreement about this supposed dominion’s scriptural foundation. This is hardly surprising given that no verse in the Qur’an gives humans dominion over other creatures. Proponents of the stewardship position, on the other hand, rely mainly on the Qur’anic notion of “khalīfa,” which they translate as “vicegerent” or “steward,” barely realizing that this is an anachronistic reading of this term. Contrary to these two positions, in this presentation Dr. Sarra Tlili will argue that the Qur’an seeks to integrate humanity in the rest of creation.

After a brief discussion of the dominion and stewardship ethics, Dr. Tlili will cite and analyze several passages to illustrate the various ways in which the Qur’an places humanity within, rather than atop, the created realm.