Can Islamic Universities Produce Climate Leaders and Eco-Theologians?

July 07, 2024

Contributor: Elis Nurhayati* | Editor: Dadi Darmadi 

In a world where climate change and environmental degradation are pressing challenges, the role of educational institutions in fostering climate awareness and leadership is crucial. A recent study titled "Ulama and Climate Change in Indonesia: Curriculum Analysis and Integration Strategy for Climate Change Issues in Islamic Higher Education," launched by PPIM UIN Jakarta in collaboration with Greenpeace and Ummah for Earth, explores this very role within Islamic universities in Indonesia.

The research, launched on July 4, 2024, in Jakarta, investigates the extent to which climate change issues have been integrated into the curricula of Islamic higher education institutions. It examines whether these institutions are producing Muslim leaders, Islamic figures, and ulama who are equipped to address environmental issues.

"Climate change and environmental degradation are major challenges for societies around the world," says Didin Syafruddin, PhD, the Executive Director of PPIM, in his opening remarks. "Educating Muslim leaders about these issues will enable them to better understand the climate change challenges faced by their communities and provide guidance on practical solutions," he explained. 

Read also: UIII Student Discusses Muslim Environmentalism and Climate Change Education in Spain Conference

The study focuses on the curriculum of Islamic religious study programs at five Islamic universities. These institutions were categorized based on their integration of climate change issues into their curricula: 1) no integration, 2) partial integration, and 3) full integration. 

Leadership and Commitment: Key Findings

Through qualitative methods, including 13 Focus Group Discussions with 70 participants in five campuses, in-depth interviews with 17 informants, and observations on two campuses, the study uncovered significant insights. Testriono, a lecturer at FOSS UIII and a researcher at PPIM UIN Jakarta, noted, "Leadership plays an important role. When chancellors and leaders of higher education institutions have strong motivation and commitment to environmental issues and climate change, those institutions are more progressive." 

Read also: Indonesia's Green Qurban Movement

The research also identified that effective integration of climate change issues involves both long-term strategies, such as developing climate change study centers, and short-term strategies, like incorporating climate change topics into existing curricula and enhancing lecturer capacity. 

The study explored the perspectives of Islamic higher education management on the importance of integrating climate change issues into their teaching curricula. It identified several challenges, including limited organizational resources and institutional inertia. However, the research also formulated effective strategies for overcoming these obstacles, emphasizing the need for a holistic approach to curriculum development. 

Read also: ‘Science and Climate Negotiations’: Climate Talk with Dr. Fahad Saeed at UIII

This study represents a critical step in understanding and enhancing the role of Islamic higher education in fostering environmental awareness and leadership. As the world grapples with the consequences of climate change, the integration of these issues into educational curricula is not just beneficial but essential.

Given the relevance of this issue of religion and environment, the Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia (UIII) has introduced an MA program in Public Policy, which emphasizes the importance of incorporating climate change awareness and leadership into its curriculum. 


*) Elis Nurhayati is a UIII student in the Master of Public Policy program specializing in Climate Change.