Prince Hussain visited the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon yesterday to inaugurate an exhibition of artwork designed by students from the Portugal Jamat’s Talim (religious education) classes, inspired by The Living Sea photo exhibition currently on display at the National Museum of Natural History and Science in Lisbon.

The visit followed a series of events in which Prince Hussain offered guided tours to Ismaili youth and children visiting his photographic exhibit at the museum. The exhibition features over 100 photos depicting the beauty, fragility, and diversity of marine life, reflecting Prince Hussain’s ecological and environmental concerns.

Last month, Prince Hussain accompanied three groups of youngsters of different ages, made up of over 130 young members of the Jamat, to raise awareness of ocean ecosystems and the imminent threats they face through excessive plastic waste, pollution, overfishing, and climate change.

Each group had the opportunity to ask questions, and hear the story behind each picture, each species, and each region represented. In the process, they learned more about Prince Hussain’s passion for sea life and photography, and later depicted this in their own art.

Inspired by the exhibition, the students’ artwork displayed at the Ismaili Centre brings attention to the necessity and urgency to protect, conserve, and manage our oceanic heritage and resources.

The faith of Islam teaches followers to care for Allah’s creation, encouraging us to look after the natural resources which have been gifted to us, and not to waste or disrupt the delicate balance of nature. Since we only inhabit the earth for a relatively short time, each of us has a responsibility to leave behind a better environment for the next generation.

Mawlana Hazar Imam has often spoken of the importance of caring for the environment. In Ottawa in 2013, he said, “Our faith constantly reminds us to observe and be thankful for the beauty of the world and the universe around us, and our responsibility and obligation, as good stewards of God’s creation, to leave the world in a better condition than we found it.”

From a young age, Prince Hussain has been interested in marine life, and began scuba diving at the age of 14, which further developed his keen interest in nature conservation. His photographs have been featured in multiple exhibitions in the USA, France, Switzerland, and Kenya.

During the first tour, Prince Hussain said: “I’ve loved animals since I was really small, and I am really worried some of them are going extinct, at some point, possibly in our lifetimes.”

The exhibition features underwater photos of dolphins, sea lions, turtles, sharks, and other sea creatures, and aligns with many of the themes that students explore in the Talim and Secondary curriculum at religious education classes, including Allah’s creation, a sustainable environment, stewardship, social conscience, humility, and generosity.

One of the young participants, Noor Francisco said, “We learned about important subjects, like the mass extinction of living creatures, in this specific case, sea creatures. Prince Hussain told us that, in some circumstances, animals that had been photographed on previous dives, are almost impossible to find today, like the coral reefs.”

Another participant, Alyanna Bhanji spoke of her newly-found interest in wildlife conservation, saying, “I never had much interest in this topic, but after this tour I want to know more about sea life and I want to know more about everything. This was an amazing and unique opportunity and I am very thankful for having been a part of it.”

Prince Hussain’s photographs have been published in two books, Animal Voyage in 2004 (a new edition was printed in 2007) and Diving into Wildlife in 2015. Prince Hussain's recent photographs have also featured in several National Geographic blogs. For more information on The Living Sea exhibition, visit Focused On Nature.

In a speech delivered in Stockholm earlier this year, Prince Hussain asked, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all have a chance to see dolphins, turtles, sharks, and whales in the wild for years to come? To breathe clean air. To be able to keep growing our crops and feed ourselves. To drink clean water and not waste it. To be measured and thoughtful. To reduce our impact. And to roam plastic-free beaches and witness clean deserts and plains.”

As the young students learned, respecting the gifts of creation and finding new ways to adapt to and care for our shared planet, can allow us to thrive and grow alongside the natural world, enabling us to hand over a sustainable environment to those who will inherit the world after us.