COP 28 Insight: Mahmood Hussain’s Sharia Legal Vision for Climate  

With Suzan Taha

In an exclusive interview with Dr. Mahmood Hussain, Founding Partner at M&CO Legal and a prominent legal expert with over two decades of experience, LegalcommunityMENA delves into the intersection of Sharia law with climate action.   

As COP 28 shapes a transformative agenda for global climate policies, Dr. Hussain shares his insights on the evolving legal landscape, potential contributions of Sharia law, and the impact of these developments on the international legal community.  


The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an annually held international climate summit where world leaders gather to work together on solutions to tackle climate change. There are now 198 Parties (197 countries plus the European Union) to the Convention.  

The host of the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, or Conference of the Parties (COP28) will be the UAE (United Arab Emirates). The United Nations Climate Change Conferences are the world’s highest decision-making body on climate issues and one of the largest international meetings in the world. COP28 UAE will provide a milestone opportunity for the world to come together, course correct, and drive progress to keep 1.5C within reach – so we can meet the goals and ambitions of the Paris Agreement.  

In the context of COP 28, how do you perceive the role of Sharia law in addressing climate action, particularly concerning environmental protection and sustainability? 

As all are aware, Sharia law is developed from the holy Qur’an., the Sunnah scriptures, and the records of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.). The Holy Quran bestows great value on environmental protection.   

Sharia law has provided two juristic principles on man’s role on Earth.   

  • The first is what is known as khilafah or the viceregent/representative, which means that God is the one who owns Earth and man is its beneficiary.  Islamic environmental law insists that human beings must not destroy, deplete, or unwisely use natural resources and emphasizes their obligation to develop and sustain natural resources.  
  • Next is the responsibility towards environmental protection for future generations like a trust or amanah, whereby God has provided such resources to man based on the trust that when they use the natural resources, the needs of future generations must be considered.  Sharia law places a high degree of reverence for animal and plant life. Sharia directs that water, air, and land should be used in a manner that does not jeopardize the natural resources for future generations.  

The Maqasid al Sharia is contained in the primary sources of Sharia law and it explicitly encourages Muslims and mankind as a whole to protect its natural resources, ensure sustainable practices and provide sustainable consumption and distribution.  

Considering your extensive experience in international commercial arbitrations and dispute resolution, how can Sharia law contribute to shaping legal frameworks for climate-related disputes emerging from COP 28 agreements?  


The concept of arbitration has been practiced in the Middle East for thousands of years. In pre-Islamic Arabia, tribes would settle disputes by referring them to a neutral third party who was considered trustworthy and respectable. This form of dispute resolution was subsequently recognized by Islam.   

Arbitration is also referred to and encouraged in the Quran. The Quran and the Sunnah encourage settling disputes mediating via neutral parties. Before conventional courts came into existence, the arbitral process was the only means of achieving this.   

In this modern era, given the flexibility with which the Sharia is applied to national laws at relevant dispute resolution platforms as well as national courts, it is clear that Sharia can positively influence legal frameworks for climate-related disputes emerging from COP 28 agreements.   

Sharia possesses the lineage that strongly supports environmental protection and sustainability coupled with a strong judicial base and therefore it can contribute to shaping legal frameworks for climate-related disputes and the precedents show that Sharia can support enforcement of awards as well.  

As a member of the ICC Commission in Arbitration and ADR, how do you foresee Sharia law influencing the development of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms related to climate change following COP 28?  

The meaning of the word “Sharia” literally means “the way” or “the path”. Sharia can bring positive influence as it is founded on exemplary values like fair hearing, transparency, etc.  

Sharia has inherently promoted alternative dispute resolution mechanisms like Mediation and Arbitration. There are Holy Quran verses in support of this. In addition, Sharia and Islam attach great importance to environmental protection. Therefore, nuances of Sharia laws would be befitting in resolving climate change disputes and it will therefore leave a lasting influence.  

COP 28 is expected to set ambitious targets for nations. From a legal perspective, how might Sharia law align with or contribute to achieving these climate-related targets and commitments?  

Sharia law and Statutory laws are the two fundamental pillars of the UAE legal system: It is time-tested that these legal streams can co-exist.   

Sharia has an exclusive advantage in that it also has religious backing which is quite influential among Islamic states and their population. It insists and promotes environmental protection and sustainability as an ideal way of life. In addition, as the values embodied in Sharia are also reflected in statutory laws it is feasible for legal enforcement.  

Sharia strongly advocates environmental protection and sustainability. Therefore, it is worth exploring how Sharia law can contribute to achieving the climate-related commitments.  

Given your role in establishing the DIFC Courts and your experience in corporate governance, how can Sharia law be integrated into corporate practices to enhance climate responsibility, especially in the post-COP 28 era?  

As all are aware, Sharia law is a religious law that lays down the governing principles for spiritual, mental, and physical behaviour that must be followed by Muslims. Sharia principles are based on transparency, equity as well as fair use without exploitation, and mandate to protect the environment and sustainability.   

Islamic Sharia law uses a “duty paradigm” directing that human beings must not destroy, deplete, or unwisely use natural resources and emphasizes their obligation to develop and sustain natural resources.  

Therefore, it is highly recommended to integrate Sharia law values into corporate practices to enhance climate responsibility.  

With a focus on your involvement in international arbitration proceedings, how can Sharia law principles be incorporated into the arbitration processes that may arise from climate-related disputes post-COP 28?  

The concept of arbitration and mediation is recognized and confirmed by Islam. The arbitration process is already Sharia compliant in that sense as the process involves a judge who is neutral, competent, and acceptable to both parties, as well as a fair hearing and transparent process.   

In my opinion, it is high time that we stop viewing Sharia as a mere religious law and it is time to embrace Sharia’s innumerable desirable values like transparency, fair hearing, sustainability, equity, prohibition of exploitation and corruption, fairness in transactions, etc. to the international legal frameworks.  

About Dr. Mahmood Hussain 

Dr. Mahmood Hussain, the Founding Partner at M&CO Legal, boasts over two decades of comprehensive experience in both the public and private sectors. Serving as a litigator at Dubai Courts, Dr. Hussain has garnered numerous favourable judgments in high-profile cases, setting a benchmark for effective representation in complex legal matters. His expertise extends to successfully resolving lucrative shareholder disputes and participating in over 30 International Arbitration proceedings under various rules.  

Dr. Hussain played a pivotal role in establishing the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts and was the first Deputy Registrar, contributing to the development of DIFC legislations.  

Dr. Hussain is a Board Member of ICC-UAE and Vice Chairman of ICC-UAE Commission in Arbitration and ADR. Recently appointed to the ICC Commission in Paris on Arbitration and ADR, he holds the esteemed title of International Arbitrator at DIAC and Abu Dhabi Commercial Conciliation and Arbitration Center.  

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