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Mohammad Yusuf Siddiq is an Associate Professor of Islam at Islamic University, Bangladesh. He has written extensively on the history, civilization, and culture of Muslim Bengal both in Arabic and English including a dozen entries in the Encyclopedia of Islam. Currently, he is the 1997-98 Benladen Fellow of Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School. He is also the Founding President of Baitulmal Prokolpo, a rural welfare project actively engaged in environmental awareness and afforestation programs in Kushtia, Bangladesh.

 

 

Abstract of paper given at Islam and Ecology conference:
An Ecological Journey to the Islamic East (Bengal)

Defined by the Prophet as din al-fitra or the religion of nature, Islam emerged in a way as the religion of ecology in the riverine Bengal--the gateway to the rice-culture--during its eight hundred years of historical presence there. Islam rapidly became the popular religion of the ever-growing picturesque Bengali villages as human settlement expanded along the delta and as rice cultivation spread, often clearing the forest of its otherwise low marsh land. Bengal's wonderful ecological balance and natural harmony left a strong imprint in its popular literature, art, architecture, culture, and folklore. This symbiotic relationship was thwarted during the colonial period due to the excessive exploitation of natural wealth such as deforestation, the legacy of which still continues, in an ever increasing manner, in this most densely populated region of the world.

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