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I. Introduction

Longtermism is the notion that those who will live in the long-term future matter just as much, morally, as those beings that are alive today; that, although current conceptions of who society ought to care about appears restricted to living people, this understanding must change because there is, on society at large, a moral obligation to care, and to ensure that future people are able to live their lives satisfactorily.[1] MacAskill coined the term Longtermism in 2017, in a bid to help concretize the idea of caring about future people into one word that helped make it sound like a consequential movement.[2]

This, however, is not to say that the ideas that longtermism espouses are particularly brand new.  To the contrary, it has been admitted that longtermism builds on a rather long historical concern for future people.[3]

A perception that may be gleaned is that longtermism is a ‘Western’ idea, so to speak. In this regard, one need not look further than the leading scholarship in this area,[4] where most of the literature comes from, who it talks about, and the solutions espoused[5] – all seem to originate from Western perspectives. Consequently, longtermism could perhaps mistakenly be seen as a completely novel concept emerging from the West, and its recent surge in popularity only serves as evidence to this notion.[6]

In this piece, I seek to illustrate how Islam, and the initial flagbearers of Islam,[7] have historically preached tenets of longtermism, despite the religion finding inception some several centuries ago.[8] In fact, I will show in this piece that, not only is there a moral obligation on societies to care about future people, but that Islam, the Prophet, the Caliphs and even its prominent leaders place this obligation as one that is of great importance. This will be done with the following end in mind: that to convince Muslims to think in longtermist ways, the best method will be to find evidence that the idea finds some backing within Islamic teaching. 

II. Justifying the Study and Laying Groundwork

At the very onset, one may question the very utility of this piece, by questioning why involving an Islamic perspective is at all necessary. In other words, what are the ramifications of an Islamic viewpoint of longtermism? In response to such argumentative resistance, one may merely resort to stating that this discussion is important for its own sake. That may be true. However, there are certainly a deeper reasons.  

Since its inception in 2017, when MacAskill offered the term ‘longtermism’, the main impetus pushing him to coin this word, essentially, was to make it appealing as a movement.[9] He opined that the previous renditions of phrases and terms that were used to appeal to longtermism, as we now know it, were ‘a mishmash’. The entire point of the term and its meaning, was to make it ‘attractive’ as a movement for the wider public.[10] From the foregoing, it becomes clear that the conceptualizers of the term sought to find ways to make longtermism appeal to the public, presumably so that the movement gains support. In fact, it could be said that various undertakings have since occurred to do just that: increase the movements following. Whether using moral arguments, or other ideological arguments, much has been done to try and popularise the longtermist thought. 

Some discussion, on the Effective Altruism Forum, as well as other informal platforms, has taken place on how it may be possible to bring in the Christian contingent onboard to the idea of Effective Altruism and longtermism.[11] But, this avenue, using the Christian religion to garner longtermist support, appears to face some sort of resistance. This is well summarized by Dominic Roser in his three-part sub-claim – Christians are discouraged from worrying about the future, the future is determined only by God, and it He who already has plans for it.[12] In fact, there exists scholarship on how compatible longtermism is with Christianity.[13]

Despite this, albeit constricted discussion on the Christian compatibility with longtermism, (almost) no work has been produced making the case on how Muslim’s can be brought on board with the ideology. This is surprising, given that, if one can successfully make the case that Islam places a duty on its followers to care about future generations, the movement is likely to see success. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions, if not the fastest growing religion as claimed by Pew Research.[14] Current numbers illustrate that North of two billion people subscribe to Islam, equating to nearly 25% of the global population.[15] As such, with the large numbers associated with Islam, the inclusion of Islamic viewpoints into the conversations and discussions around effective altruism and longtermism is important. 

Therefore, for the simple reason that Islam has a large contingent of followers, it is important that one attempt to make the case that these 2 billion people are compelled, by their teachings to be longtermist thinkers.  

In this piece I make the case that these longtermist ideas about future people, the importance of avoiding extinction, and future people in general, were already part of Islamic thought 1400 years ago. I intend to illustrate how Islam, and the initial flagbearers of Islam,[16] have historically preached tenets of longtermism, despite the religion finding inception some several centuries ago.[17] Highlighting the link between Islam and longtermism could potentially attract Muslims to embrace the Effective Altruism movement and its longtermist principles.

It must be understood, at this juncture, that Islamic law (shariah), essentially, comes from various areas, principal of which is known as the Qur’an, and the Sunnah. The Qur’an is well-known and therefore merits little discussion. This is particularly because, the Quran is unequivocal in the importance of the book to Muslims: “This [Qur'an] is a clear statement to [all] the people and a guidance and instruction for those conscious of Allah”.[18] The sunnah is a lesser-known part of Islamic law which entails a word spoken, or an act done, or a confirmation given by the Holy Prophet.[19]Sunnah is a critical facet of Shariah Law. In fact, the Qur’an makes various mentions of this. To mention a few: “Believe in Allah and His Messenger and the light which He sent down”;[20] “Believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet.” (Qur’an, 7:158);[21] “Take what the Messenger brings you”,[22] among many other commands from God.[23]Sunnah, therefore, is taken to be an extension of the Qur’an. In fact, the very word chosen, sunnah, literally translates to ‘the path’ or ‘the way’ and has been used in the Qur’an to mean ‘the ways of God’.[24] This, then, is the importance placed on the sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. 

That said, it becomes clear that two things, so far, merit interest: one, that Muslims must follow the teachings and wordings of the Qur’an; second to that, the sunnah of the Prophet is of critical importance to the Muslim people. But there is one more area to mention, that stems from the saying of the Prophet. Cognizant of his impending mortality, the Prophet underscored the importance of the words, reports and acts of his immediate successors, the Khalifa (or caliphs). Just before his death, the Prophet counselled his companions one last time, upon their request. Therein, the Prophet stressed, inter alia, two things: one, the importance of following his sunnah; second, he was unequivocal about keeping to thesunnah of the khulafah ar-rashideen, or the rightly guided caliphs.[25] From the foregoing, one learns that, not only is the way of the Prophet important for Muslims to take heed of, but so, too, is the sunnah of the caliphs. 

From the foregoing, one can reasonably conclude, that if the Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Prophet, or the caliphs, or shari’ah law discusses, or places importance on the moral obligation of caring for future people, then, by extension, all Muslims must also follow suit. At the very least, if it can be shown that those sources even thought about future people and their wellbeing, then by that very nature, it is incumbent on all Muslims to think just as deeply about the wellbeing of future people.

III. Guardians of the Future: Longtermist Obligations in Islamic Thought

Hillary Greaves and MacAskill have postulated that that decision making in EA must be premised on two factors: (a) every option that is near-best overall is near-best for the far future; and (b) every option that is near-best overall presents significantly more benefits to far future people, than it does to near future people.[26] From here, one thing is clear – there is a significant importance placed on not just decision making, but decision making that maintains the interest of those in the far future.

According to longtermists, another important tenet of longtermism is that extinction of human species must be avoided at all costs, and in the inverse, the human species must perpetuate.[27]  It is quite easy to see why this is the case: after all, no decision matters, if future people cease to exist. Longtermists stress on the importance of preventing any risk that could exacerbate the odds of humanity going into extinction. To put a term to this phenomena, Nick Bostrom discusses ‘existential risk’.[28] This is a risk “that threatens the premature extinction of Earth-originating intelligent life or the permanent and drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development.”[29] In other words, anything that could potentially end human existence, is an existential risk, and it must be prevented at all costs. [0073] By way of providing concrete examples as to what would constitute an existential risk, one could consider catastrophic incidents relating to climate change, nuclear war, bioterrorism, the misuse of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), etc. Interestingly, the worst aspect is not that the foregoing events may cost the lives of billions of people who are alive at that time; rather it is that the potential of humanity’s future existence would be stopped, trillions of potential future lives would be lost, and that a great amount of potential achievements by the human race would never occur.[30] From the foregoing discussion, it is clear that for longtermism, the perpetuity of the human race is a necessity. That this is a necessity ought to be stressed and kept in mind for later discussions in this post. 

It must be noted that there are perhaps many more features of longtermism, and in the interest of full disclosure, I merely chose to discuss a few, such that this piece is concise. From the foregoing chapter, two things about longtermism seem to stand out further: one, that longtermism is centered around the idea that future people matter as much as those that are living; two, that, as living human beings, we owe a duty to ensure that future people not only exist, but they thrive (and whether they will thrive is based on what we do today). It follows then, that if Islam were preaching longtermism, or at least a type of longtermist thought, first, there must be evidence that Islam has placed on its followers the moral obligation to care about future people in a way that shows that they matter as much those in the present. Once that is shown, it must also be shown as to whether Islamic Shari’ah has placed certain guidelines to ensure how that ought to be done. In later parts, this piece will seek to do just that – to show that Islam places an obligation to care about future people, and that Islam actually shows how that ought to be done. 

It can be said that future generations were kept in mind when the Prophet was carrying out his mandate to spread Islam. To be precise, he has been quoted saying that those who believed in Islam were blessed; but those who believe in Islam without seeing the Prophet (future people, essentially) are an extraordinary seven times more blessed.[31] From this Hadith, not only is the fact that the Prophet acknowledged future people and future Muslims, but he essentially declared that those in the future are far more superior (and blessed). A Muslim may ask themselves a simple question: if these people were seven times more blessed, then isn’t it incumbent on them to ensure that they safeguard the interest of this blessed people? The answer, in my opinion, would be a resounding yes. Interestingly, he merely said that those who did not see him and believed were blessed; they could be people born a hundred million years after his death. This is not a solitary time when the Prophet specifically thought of future generations.

Another instance that comes to mind is when the Prophet talked of the Quraysh, a tribe that opposed Islam. He said, “I do hope that Allah will bring forth from their progeny those who would worship Allah alone and not associate partners with Him".[32] From this, it is clear that future people were of great importance to the Prophet, and his actions had them in mind. Or at the very least, that he acknowledged that future people would exist, and because he would not be there to guide them, his recorded actions would be used as an example for future people. And so from these examples it becomes evident that, the leading flag bearer of Islam, the Prophet, cared or at the very least, kept future people in mind, during his life several centuries ago. 

Another instance that illustrates that Muslim’s 1400 years ago demonstrated an awareness for the people in the future comes from a hadith regarding one of the Caliphs of Islam.[33] Shortly following the death of the Prophet, his immediate successor, Abu Bakr, ordered one Zaid Ibn Thabit, to make a collection of Quranic verses in 632 AD.[34] Admittedly, the primary and immediate reason for the collecting and putting down Quranic verses in writing can be understood from the context of how the whole situation played out. Before Ibn Thabit was tasked with collecting the verses, the Muslims had been through a bloody battle – the Battle of Yemama.[35] Here, the Muslims lost various men who had memorized the Qur’an. After this, based on the counsel of Abu Bakr’s companions, and with the cognizance that the words of God may be lost, the collection of Quranic verses was ordered for. However, it has been argued, understandably, that the fear of losing the verses was problematic because future generations would not get access to the Qur’an.

Even when it came to issues such as land distribution after the spoils of war won by Muslims, there is clear indication that there was deep thought about progeny. This can be exemplified by a scenario where, Umar ibn Khatab, one of the Caliphs of Islam, declared that spoils of war would not go solely to the victors. Instead, he said that he would preserve land and weaponry such that future generations would benefit. The exact quote is rather critical given that it is explicit in mentioning, ‘future generations’: "But for the future generations, I would have distributed the land of the villages I conquer among the soldiers…". Here, the Caliphs decision making illustrated exactly what MacAskill and Greaves suggested about decision making:[36] he made a decision that was best for people of future generations, and second, that the option he picked presented significantly more benefits for future people, as opposed to living people. And so, this is yet another example of the fact that indeed, that historically, Islam, and Muslims of the time by extension, have had the needs of future people well in mind.

After having shown that future people are of concern, Islamically speaking, the next part of this section goes into show how Islam places importance on ensuring that future people live well and thrive. 

To longtermists, the conservation of the environment remains critical. But specifically, it is unimpeachable that a tenet of longtermism is leaving for future generations a habitable and good Earth. Among the many tenets discussed in longtermist literature, risks emanating from climate related disasters remain ever present. It can be said that the reason for this is that a climate related disaster has the potential to end humanity as we know it.[37] In fact, according to Nick Beckstead, merely recognizing that climate change as a critical risk, and instituting plans to deal with the risk was a significant step.[38] Moreover, threats such as climate change are said to have been the impetus for the need for a campaign stronger than mere ‘sustainability’.[39] Clearly then, environmental conservation, and the curbing of climate change is at the forefront of longtermism, or at least, it is a crucial factor of consideration. However, for good measure, it must also be made clear that there is debate on the longtermism forum over whether climate change presents an ‘existential risk’ in and of itself.[40] Nonetheless, what is agreed upon is that for future generations, should a good Earth be left.

Islam places critical impetus on Muslims to ensure that the Earth is left clean and proper for future generations, with conservation being on the forefront.  Islamically, all that is bestowed on Earth is said to be a ‘gift’ from God or an ‘Amaanah’.[41] Because of the same, it is said that none can misuse and waste the gifts from God. When it comes to the environment, this is no different. It has been strictly prohibited by God Himself, and later the Prophet Muhammad (the Prophet), for instance, to be wasteful in any regard, including with environmental resources. The Qur’an is explicit when God says:

‘O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: Eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters’.[42]

As regards the Prophet, he has been quoted saying “Do not waste water, even if you are at a running stream”.[43] It is further said by God, that all that is on Earth has been put in trust of human beings, and as beneficiaries, we must therefore protect its rights.[44] On the same, the Qur’an states that God offered the trust of the nature to the mountains, but they declined to bear it; when humans were asked the same, they accepted.[45] There are many other revelations from God, and quotes from the Prophet. And so, what exactly do these verses and declarations mean? 

The foregoing has been interpreted to mean, obviously, that we must protect the environment and the Earth at all costs, given that it is an Amanah (a trust).[46] But bearing more weight to the context of this piece, scholars have further agreed that the duty to protect the environs of Earth is one placed on the living, such that those who may live in the future are guaranteed to benefit from God’s gift. In fact, Bagader et al. were categorical in their interpretation of the foregoing verses, and the idea that the Earth is a gift to mankind. In their view, the conservative use of nature and the gift of God is not reserved for ‘one generation above other generations’.[47] To the contrary, living beings must ensure they utilize the environment in a way that keeps in mind the interests of future generations.[48] In other words, Islam prohibits excessively using the environment for the sole benefit of living beings. Instead, everyone must conserve natural resources for the benefit of all people – living and future people. It is common knowledge that the exacerbation of climate change, and among the critical reasons for a potential climate disaster, is the excessive utilization of resources.[49] And so, Islam has, in essence, placed obligations on beings to ensure that climate change is not an issue, by ordaining that resources be used conservatively. Further credence regarding the Earth being for future generations is found by scholars in their interpretation of the verse: 

‘It is God who has made for you the Earth’.[50]

Here, ‘you’ has been interpreted to mean “the earth is not created only for one generation of creatures but for every generation: past, present, and future.”[51]

So, environmentally speaking, Islam has placed on its followers a deep moral obligation to ensure that the same is conserved for future generations, in one way or the other, with the ultimate goal that humans leave a good Earth for future generations to benefit from. Anything to the contrary would be a violation of the teachings of Islam. Interestingly, these verses that impart onto Muslim’s an obligation to care about the environmental concerns of future generations were revealed over 1400 years ago. 

But there is much more than mere environmental conservation. Shari’ah is a branch of Islamic canon law. It is believed to be the total of what God ordained to be the set of rules, values, and laws that must be followed.[52] It is said that, if one were to do as Shari’ah prescribes, they would be granted a place in heaven. So, there is great importance placed on Shari’ah. After all, if one were to be faithful to the rules of Shari’ah, they would go to heaven. And so, if it can be shown that Shar’iah prescribes a moral obligation to care about future, surely, my point will be made clear. 

Deeper investigation of the Shari’ah and its objectives reveal how critical future generations are to the success of Shari’ah. Notably, Shari’ah seeks to safeguard necessities or ‘dharuriyyat’. It has been said, that the necessities, in Shari’ah are: protection of life, property or wealth, health, religion, lineage and progeny, and dignity.[53] It ought to be further noted that everything propagated and proposed by Islam seeks, intrinsically, to protect these necessities.[54] Said differently, the protection of property, health, progeny, dignity and life is at the forefront of everything Islam seeks to protect. In the interesting of protecting the necessities, Ibn Ashur posits that there are two ways to do so: first, there must be the legalization of all measures to ensure that these interests are protected and preserved for not just individuals, but for the whole community;[55] and second, ‘protect these interests and entities from destruction by preventing anything that can violate, damage, or destroy these entities’.[56] So sacred, in fact, is the protection of the necessities, that Islam places stringent deterrents as far as exile for some who seek to steer the proverbial ship away from strongly protecting the necessities. It is therefore clear that these dhuriyyat are extremely sacrosanct. That we must protect progeny (or nasl), life, property, dignity, and the religion. 

With this view, even a superficial look reveals something important: that Shari’ah seeks to protects lineage and progeny. This essentially means that Shari’ah is not only aware that there will be future people, but it seeks to ensure that those people are protected, and by extension, their interests, safeguarded. But, for progeny to exist at all, Islam would have to emphasize on the need to procreate, such that there actually are generations to protect. It does so variously. For instance, the Prophet has been quoted saying that he would be proud of an ummah (community) with great numbers, and so he encouraged marriages and offspring.[57] To briefly connect this with longtermism, Will MacAskill is also of the opinion that having kids is an important part of furthering the cause of longtermism.[58] The discussion here then becomes: if Islam encourages creating humans, it follows, one, that there is an active awareness to the fact that future people will exist, and two, that if they will exist, then, Shari’ah must ensure (and its rules ensure) that their lives and livelihood are both protected, because protection of life is one of its key objectives. Thus, a big part of the Shari’ah law is pegged on the perpetuation of the human species, and the avoidance of total extinction.[59]

Shariah seeks to ensure, inter alia, the protection of life. However, this is not reserved for the living life alone. It is simply that Shari’ah exists to protect life.  And so, if it exists to protect life, would this not follow that both existing life and future potential lives all matter, and are worthy of protection? On face value, one may argue that it does not say it places a moral obligation on future lives, either. However, that it does is especially clear if further considerations are put on how much emphasis is placed on the continuity of the human species and the avoidance of extinction, as mentioned earlier, and the overall subsidiary objectives of Shari’ah. 

Generally, decision making, and the consequences thereafter are critical in Islam. Even on the most basic level, Muslims are aware that every decision they make can either lead them to heaven or hell in the hereafter. Simply, that every decision and every act following the decision is a good deed, or a bad deed.[60] The argument here will be as follows: if future generations matter, morally, in Islam, it follows that decision makers must ensure that decisions they take are with the best interest of the progeny, who matter morally, and are worthy of protection. In fact, in doing so, one would be following the sunnah of Umar ibn Khattab, who clearly made decisions based on what was best for future generations. Islam, therefore, is a religion which takes consequences of actions very seriously (almost as if it subscribes to a consequentialist thought). In fact, in this regard, Al Shatbi writes:

Examining the consequences of actions is consistent with the objectives of the Shari‘ah, whether the actions concerned are in accordance with or contrary to the Shari‘ah. Therefore, the mujtahid does not judge an action performed by a legally responsible individual, whether it is one of commission or omission, until he has examined the action’s resultant consequences.[61]

Therefore, examining consequences of actions – all actions – is important. And because Islam has historically placed importance on future people, it follows that one ought to consider the consequences of their actions with future people in mind, as did the Caliphs, and the Prophet. 

At the very basic level, and in summation, as long as the reader is convinced that one, the Prophet and the Caliphs were aware and cared about future people, they must also be convinced that Islam places an obligation to care about future people. This arises from the very basic idea that in Islam, what the prophet did is sunnah, and his sunnah (teachings) ought to be followed. 

IV. Conclusion

As discussed very early on in this post, getting Muslims on board with the idea of longtermism would be a fundamental step to the growth of the longtermist movement. This post sought to illustrate just how one can get the Muslim contingent to join the movement. In saying so, the author opined that this can be done, if one can illustrate that what longtermism stands for, is exactly in line with what Islam and Islamic law stands for. 

In pursuit of doing exactly that, the piece outlined evidence that future generations were well within the mind of the Prophet. Not just that, but the Prophet thought that the generations to come were much more blessed. Further evidence from the Qur’an, and the sunnah of the rightly guided caliphs shows concern for future people. Most convincing is the action of the Caliph who made a decision that benefitted those to come much more than those who lived. Shari’ah law outlines, within the necessities, the importance of progeny, and protecting progeny. It places great importance on decision making. 

Based on the premise that a Muslim must follow the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the Shari’ah, it follows that a true Muslim must think and care for future people. It is also clear that for a Muslim, future people matter as much, morally, as do living people. 



[1] MacAskill W, ‘Longtermism’, Effective Altruism Forum, 26 July 2019 — <https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/qZyshHCNkjs3TvSem/longtermism> on 16 September 2022. 

[2] MacAskill W, ‘Longtermism’, Effective Altruism Forum, 26 July 2019.

[3] Moorhouse F, ‘Longtermism: An Introduction’, Effective Altruism Forum, 27 January 2021 <https://www.effectivealtruism.org/articles/longtermism> on 17 September 2022.

[4] Most of the scholars who write on longtermism and are popular for doing so are Western writers such as Nick Bostrom, Will MacAskill, Hillary Greaves, and Nick Beckstead. 

[5] Solutions provided to issues such as X-Risk are often centered around the capabilities of the West. Even decision making when voting, which is one of the ideas that longtermists such as MacAskill preach, are focused on Western ideas of a political divide. In most countries in the Global South, a strict right-left policy divide is often absent. 

[6] See <https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&q=longtermism> wherein there is an illustration of where most inquiries appear to originate from. 

[7] In this regard, the author refers to the Prophet Muhammad, and his companions, otherwise known as the, Caliphs of Islam, Tab’een, and the Tabi-Tab’een. These are people who took over following the death of the Prophet, learnt directly from the Prophet, and their teachings hold hefty credence even in the Islamic world today. The Prophet was quoted saying, ‘so it is upon you to be upon my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided Caliphs’, See: Hadith 28, 40 Hadith an-Nawawi.

[8] Potočnik D, ‘Islam between the past and the present’ 2(2) International Journal of Euro-Mediterranean Studies, 2009, 1.

[9] MacAskill W, ‘Longtermism’, Effective Altruism Forum, 26 July 2019.

[10] MacAskill W, ‘Longtermism’, Effective Altruism Forum, 26 July 2019.

[11] See for instance, Roser D, ‘How much should Christian EAs care about the far future? (Part I)’, WordPress, 6 April 2019 —<https://eachdiscussion.wordpress.com/2019/04/06/how-much-should-christian-eas-care-about-the-far-future-part-i/>; Hautala V, ‘Tensions between Christianity and Effective Altruism’, EA for Christians —< https://www.eaforchristians.org/blog/tensions-between-christianity-and-effective-altruism> ; Eure L, ‘Impartiality is not baked into Christianity’, 23 April 2023 —<https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/85PweDWmiCTbbKtyJ/impartiality-is-not-baked-into-to-christianity

[12] Roser D, ‘How much should Christian EAs care about the far future? (Part I)’, WordPress, 6 April 2019 —<https://eachdiscussion.wordpress.com/2019/04/06/how-much-should-christian-eas-care-about-the-far-future-part-i/>.

[13] Hautala V, ‘Tensions between Christianity and Effective Altruism’, EA for Christians —< https://www.eaforchristians.org/blog/tensions-between-christianity-and-effective-altruism

[14] Pew Research Center, The Changing Global Religious Landscape, April 5 2017.

[15] World Population Review —<https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/muslim-population-by-country#>

[16] In this regard, the author refers to the Prophet Muhammad, and his companions, otherwise known as the, Caliphs of Islam, Tab’een, and the Tabi-Tab’een. These are people who took over following the death of the Prophet, learnt directly from the Prophet, and their teachings hold hefty credence even in the Islamic world today. The Prophet was quoted saying, ‘so it is upon you to be upon my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided Caliphs’, See: Hadith 28, 40 Hadith an-Nawawi.

[17] Potočnik D, ‘Islam between the past and the present’ 2(2) International Journal of Euro-Mediterranean Studies, 2009, 1.

[18] The Holy Quran, Chapter 3, Verse 138.

[19] Usmani, M. The authority of Sunnah. Kitab Bhavan, 2009, 5.

[20] The Holy Quran, Chapter 64, Verse 8.

[21] The Holy Quran, Chapter 7, Verse 158.

[22] The Holy Quran, Chapter 59, Verse 7. (Qur’an, 59:7)

[23] See for instance, The Holy Quran, Chapter 48, Verse 8-9; The Holy Quran, Chapter 33 , Verse 21; The Holy Quran, Chapter 33, Verse 21; etc.

[24] The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 33, Verse 62.

[25] Hadith 28, 40 Hadith an-Nawawi.

[26] MacAskill W and Greaves H, ‘The case for strong longtermism’ Global Priorities Institute, GPI Working Paper No. 5, 2021, 3 —< https://globalprioritiesinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Case-for-Strong-Longtermism-GPI-Working-Paper-June-2021-2-2.pdf> on 27 September 2022.

[27] Beckstead N, ‘On the overwhelming importance of shaping the far future’ Published PhD Thesis, The State University of New Jersey, New Jersey, 2013, 4.

[28] Bostrom N, ‘Existential risks: Analyzing human extinction scenarios and related hazards’ 9(1) Journal of Evolution and Technology, 2002.

[29] Bostrom N, ‘Existential risk prevention as global priority’ 4(1) Global Policy Journal, 2013, 17.

[30] Parfitt D, ‘Reasons and Persons’ Oxford University Press, London, 1984, 454.

[31] Musnad Aḥmad 12578

[32] Al-Bukhārī, al-Ṣaḥīḥ, 3059.

[33] A ‘caliph’ in Islam refers to those people who were handed the mantle following the passing of the Prophet. It ought to be noted, however, that different sects of Islam believe there were a different number of Caliphs. For instance, Sunni Muslims believe there were only 4 Caliphs, while Shiism believes in a total of 12 Caliphs. 

[34] Waraich M, ‘Orientalists on the Early History of the Compilation oftheQuran: A Studyof “The Origins of the Koran”by Ibn Warrāq’ 1(2) Al Qamar Journal of Islamic Studies, 2018, 7. 

[35] Muir W. ‘The Coran: Its Composition and Teaching and the Testimony it Bears to the Holy Scriptures’ The Macmillan Company, 1920. Pages 38. See also, Furber M, ‘Obligations to Future Generations A Shari‘ah Perspective’, Tabah Paper Series No. 6 of 2012, 24.

[36] See footnote 26.

[37] Posner R, ‘Catastrophe: Risk and Response’ Oxford University Press, London, 2004, 12. See generally also, Broome J, ‘The most important thing about climate change’ in Boston J, Bradstock A, Eng D (eds) Public Policy: Why Ethics Matters, ANU Press, Australia, 2010, 101-116.

[38] Beckstead N, ‘On the overwhelming importance of shaping the far future’ Published PhD Thesis, The State University of New Jersey, New Jersey, 2013, 68.

[39] Samuel S, ‘What we owe to future generations’ Vox, 2 July 2021 —< https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/22552963/how-to-be-a-good-ancestor-longtermism-climate-change> on 27 September 2022.

[40] See the EA forum where there is debate regarding this topic. For an example, see —<https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/eJPjSZKyT4tcSGfFk/climate-change-is-in-general-not-an-existential-risk>

[41] See Qur’an 6:165. "It is He who has made you stewards on the earth and raised some of you in ranks above others, that He may try you in what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful."

[42] The Holy Qur’an 7:31.

[43] Musnad Aḥmad 7065

[44] Lewis M, ‘Islam and accounting’ 25(2) Accounting Forum, 2020, 110.

[45] Quran 33:72. For a commentary on the verse, see —<https://myislam.org/surah-ahzab/ayat-72/> on 14 October 2022.

[46] Islam M, ‘Towards a green earth: An Islamic perspective’ Asian Affairs, 2004, 48-57.

[47] Bagader et al., Environmental Protection in Islam, International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN environmental policy and law Paper no. 20 rev 2–3. 

[48] Bagader et al., Environmental Protection in Islam, 19.

[49] Stichting Natuur en Milieu, Towards a sustainable use of natural resources, 1-15.

[50] Quran 40:64.

[51] Izzi Dien, Environmental Dimensions of Islam, James Clarke & Co, Cambridge, 2000, 75.

[52] Rauf I, ‘Shariah and the objectives of Islamic law’ in Defining Islamic Statehood: Measuring and Indexing Contemporary Muslim States, Palgrave Macmillan, London, England, 2015, 17-35. See 17-19. 

[53] Duguri S, Salleh M, Hassan I, Azmi M, ‘The Application of Maqasid Al-Shari’ah in the Foreign Policy of Islamic States’ 11(3) International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Science (2021), 89. See also, Ghazzali M On Legal theory of Islamic Jurisprudence, Vol 2. Syarkah al-Madinah al Munawwara li al-Tiba’ah, Madinah, 2014; Ayyubi F The objectives of Islamic law and their connections with legislative evidence, Dar Ibn al Jauzi, Riyadh, 2011; Ashur, Objecives of Islamic Law, Dar al Nafaes, Amman, 2001.

[54] Auda J, Maqāṣid al-Sharī ah as philosophy of Islamic law: A systems approach, International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2008, 4.

[55] Ashur M, Obectives of Islamic Law, International Institute of Islamic Thought, Washington DC, 2006.

[56] Ibrahim AH, Rahman NNA, Saifuddeen SM, Baharuddin M, ‘Maqasid al-Shariah Based Islamic Bioethics: A Comprehensive Approach’ 16(1), Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, 5.

[57] Irwa’ al-Ghaleel, 1784.

[58] MacAskill W, ‘What we owe the future’, Basic Books, New York, 2022, 200-202.

[59] Furber M, ‘Obligations to Future Generations’, 19

[60] In this regard, what matters, in few instances, is the act itself, in most others, the consequence and circumstance. For instance, one of the few where contextual factors do not matter is in associating a being with God (shirk) – it is wrong and unforgivable; see, Quran 4:48 – “Surely Allah does not forgive that a partner be ascribed to Him, although He forgives any other sins for whomever He wills.” On the other hand, other decisions, such as deciding to abort a pregnancy may not be a bad action, if it is under the right circumstance; see, l Matary, ‘Controversies and considerations regarding the termination of pregnancy for Foetal Anomalies in Islam’ 15(10) Biomedical Ethics, 2014, 2. Nonetheless, the consequence of an action is extremely important to keep in mind. 

[61] Al-Shāṭibī, Al-Muwāfaqāt fī uṣūl al-Sharī‘ah, 194-195.

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Have you considered polishing this for publication in a peer-reviewed academic journal? It is a very interesting case you make, and I think it would be valuable to make it citeable in academic publications.

Correct me if I'm way off the mark, but something like an I see lslamic theology journal or book could be an option, especially as the kind of readers for that could be the ones most likely to appreciate it and make high impact changes.

Perhaps something like this in the Oxford university of Islamic studies. https://academic.oup.com/jis/pages/General_Instructions


I'll be sure to look into that. Thank you. 

Hey! Thanks for stopping by. I am very open to this idea, and would be thankful if you could point me to a journal that would publish such a paper. Thanks again. :)

It depends on what the final version looks like. Nick Laing makes some good suggestions; I could also see this go to e.g. a philosophy journal, given longtermism and intercultural philosophy are both topics that are currently popular in philosophy. Doing so would require a somewhat less EA-ish framing, and going away from the pragmatic "how do we make people" longtermist framing. Instead, it would require careful exposition of Longtermism, then exegetical work on how Muslim sources seem to accord or not accord with it. Most of this latter work is already quite well done in this post.

If you want to follow up on this, feel free to shoot me a message.

Thank you so much. I will reach out to you for further guidance soon. 

Thanks again. 

Hillary Greaves and MacAskill have postulated that that decision making in EA must be premised on two factors: (a) every option that is near-best overall is near-best for the far future; and (b) every option that is near-best overall presents significantly more benefits to far future people, than it does to near future people.[26]


Point of information: I don't think that they've said that all decision making in EA should be based on axiological or deontic strong longtermism, which is specifically what that paper is about. 

Really good piece, kudos!

The bit you may add probably in a subsequent write up is that Islam's concept of a day of judgment where humans will account for their actions on this earth supplemented by its teachings of focusing on working towards success in the afterlife is the ultimate and best example of longtermism.

The benefit of having a longtermism mindset may not benefit the individual who practices it since the fruits of practice may be seen years or even generations later whereas there is a direct benefit for the individual who practices longtermism based on Islamic belief system as the said individual will see the benefits of his actions on judgement day and such actions will inevitably lead him to eternal bliss or torture.

"Islamic longtermism", if I may term it that way is superior to the longtermism concept coined by MacAskill and his likes since it addresses in a more effective and practical way various problems that longtermism attempts to deal with.

To finish off, I am firmly of the view that longtermism is definitely enshrined within the Islamic tradition (as you have aptly proven) and if anything, the said principle when looked at through the Islamic lens gives it more meaning and significance compared to when looked at independently from the Islamic faith.


Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your input. For this study, the scope was limited since it's just a beginning. Perhaps for future studies, I could make other claims. The claim you suggest, though, in my view, is unfeasible.

Thank you. :)

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