Dreaming of a Green Ramadan

By Omar Mahfoudhi

Originally published in the August 2009 issue of the Muslim Link newspaper and can be seen at iqra.ca

Want to Green Your Mosque, School, or Centre? Check out these awesome full size posters that you can print and post in your favourite place.

Ramadan is upon us, Alhamdulillah (thanks be to Allah). We are now a few days into this blessed annual guest. Preparation for this month’s treasures are well underway. Individuals have prepared their dua lists. Muslim grocers have stocked up with the regular Ramadan delights. Mosques, centers, and organizations are preparing to host iftars for the masses. And groups are planning their nightly devotions at their favourite masjids (mosques). All are abuzz leading up to the Month of Quran. Yet, something remains amiss.

The culture surrounding Ramadan, as far back as I can remember, is very much the same attitude many of us hold for most quasi-religious and secular holidays and festivities; materialistic consumerism. In order to taste the sweetness of Ramadan, it seems we must indulge in the taste of sweets of every kind, from kulfi to baklawa, gulab jamun to knafa. In this month that is supposed to teach us simplicity and humility, we often lose the very essence of minimalism and conservation.

There are a number of areas in which we can make our Ramadan have the same healing effect on the Earth as it would on our souls. Here are a few tips to make our Ramadan a little more earth-friendly.

Quran: After all it is the Month of Quran. Take a few minutes to renew your commitment to the responsibility Allah has entrusted you with; the trust and weight of being managers of this Earth. Pay heed to verses reminding you of your place on this earth and your duty towards it and its inhabitants, from people to animals, plants to the inanimate: all natural bounties from Allah. Furthermore, I can’t imagine a better way to implement the command of Allah to ponder His creation than by going out into the natural environment that so abundantly surrounds our city to explore the beauty of Allah’s creation and the might of His design, glory be to Him. It would be a beautiful habit to develop this Ramadan, that would also be following of a practice of the Prophet Mohammed’s tradition of seeking solitude in the outskirts of Makkah to worship and ponder upon Allah’s miracles. Take a copy of the Quran with you, and sit on the grass, or under a tree. You may enjoy your surroundings more without a picnic in tow.

Use local ingredients for your "Ramadan Menu"

Use local ingredients for your "Ramadan Menu"

Food: The wonderful ethnic diversity of our community is reflected in the beautiful and colourful array of deserts, and foods on the iftar spread. This I’m not about to criticize, since I certainly enjoy my occasional laddu (Indian sweet). I do suggest that we not make Ramadan the Month of Food, but that’s a whole other discussion. What I’m proposing is to try to use local ingredients in your embarrassingly named “Ramadan Recipes”. Instead of using imported chickpea flour, use local produce. Instead of imported –and incredibly expensive– dairy products, consider Ontario dairy. This will help reduce your ecological footprint, and insha Allah (God willing) with the proper intention perhaps help you increase your foot print in Jannah (paradise).

Cut back on your waste water during Woudu

Cut back on your waste water during Woudu

Water: The same applies to our use of water. We could do with the revival of some of the forgotten sunnan (traditions) of the Prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him, such as the use of very little water in our ablution. Even though we live on the banks of the Ottawa River, consider the reminder the Beloved of Allah, may peace be upon him, gave his companion to conserve water even if at a flowing river. I believe that advice is particularly appropriate for Ottawans and Canadians who have one of the most abundant freshwater resources at our hands. The fact that the prophet peace be upon him was able to make woudu with a moudd of water which is less than half a litre shows that we are far from the prophetic traditions than we should be with our woudu and water consumption.

Use reusable items vs disposable ones

Use reusable items vs disposable ones

Waste: Quite frankly a very pressing concern associated with modern Ramadan traditions is waste. Whether it be wasting the food we can’t finish on our plates, or the waste generated from using disposable plates, cutlery, and cups. This must stop. It is an illness that plagues our Ramadans. The entire month should be reminding us of the plight and distress of others, except that when that daily opportunity to ward off hunger arrives, it’s as if we forgot all about it, and are feasting with our eyes. Again, lets not make this the Month of Wasting Food.

Furthermore, with all the iftars around town and the huge numbers of people in i’tikaf (spiritual retreat) in the mosques, imagine the amount of waste produced from disposable plates, cups and cutlery, not to mention the enormous pile of PETE water bottles. I don’t imagine it would be very difficult for mosques to invest in reusable plates and cutlery. I mean we did it at our MSA at the University of Ottawa, and we all pitched in cleaning up afterwards. In fact this investment may save them a lot of money in the long run. You Can even rent dinnerware froim your favourite party store at less than $0.50 per dozen, and they will handle the cleaning. Also, all you brothers and sisters heading to the mosques should take reusable bottles for water. Think about how much easier that would be than constantly running back and forth to the water cooler, waiting in line, and then hunching over a fountain that barely produces enough water to keep its pipes moist.

Use natural "alternative" sources or energy and cut back

Use natural "alternative" sources of energy and cut back

Energy: While devoting our nights to prayer, and our days in the remembrance of Allah and the study of the Quran we needn’t help the fat cats at the energy company milk more money out of our mosques, schools and centers. Use the light of the Sun shining through the windows to read the Quran and try praying in the dark or at least in low light. You would be surprised what that can do for you in terms of increased tranquility and concentration (khushou’). Praying in the dark can increase your sense of privacy with your Creator. Maybe this Ramadan climate change watchers may see a dent in emissions because Muslims around the world have lowered their energy use. I can dream, can’t I?

Perhaps, with these tips we may not only be able to give our bodies a rest from all the food, as well as the toxins we inadvertently consume, we may give our Mother Earth the rest she well deserves from all the toxic, hurtful, wasteful habits we’ve plagued her with. This way she may leave us with more places to pray upon that will vouch for us on the Day of Recompense.

Visit the Muslim Link archives, available online at http://www.muslimlink.ca to read last year’s tips on how to green your Eid parties and gift wrapping.

Household Hazardous Waste Depots in Ottawa

The City of Ottawa will be having a one day collection depot of all your Household Hazardouse Waste (HHW) on Sunday May 10th from 9AM to 4PM.The depot will beat the Trail Waste Facility, 4475 Trail Road, off Moodie Drive, south of Fallowfield Road. Household Hazardouse Waste should not be thrown out with the rest of your garbage. You shouldn’t have bought it in the first place, but that’s another story. HHW consists of:

  • aerosol containers
  • barbecue starters
  • camping propane cylinders
  • disinfectants
  • energy efficient light bulbs
  • fluorescent light bulbs
  • fire extinguishers
  • fungicides
  • furniture stripper
  • herbicides
  • insecticides
  • mercury switches
  • mercury thermometers
  • needles and syringes
  • oil based paints
  • oven cleaner
  • pesticides
  • pool chemicals
  • stains
  • turpentine
  • window cleaner
  • wood preservatives

For other waste products like some paints, motor oil, electronics, batteries can be taken to your nearest garage, electronics store or used goods store or a hardware store, or yours truly. If you can’t make it out to one of these depots and don’t want to pollute the very river we get our drinking water from head over to greenkufi.ca and contact us under local services about picking up your household waste and taking it to the depot.

The Three Rs of Greening your Waste

The Three Rs of Greening your wasteWe’re going to tackle the three Rs of greening our waste. The concept of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle is one we hear often, yet do not properly understand how to implement in our daily habits. To start off we’ll explain a little bit about what each of the three Rs mean.

Reduce is rather straightforward. It simply involves cutting down the amount of materials that we purchase, consume, and throw out as garbage, or waste. This can be done by simply buying less or by trimming down the packaging that our commodities come in. Learning to buy less will likely involve changes in our lifestyles.

Packaging, unfortunately, typically generates the most amount of waste. Paper (including cardboard) and plastic (including Styrofoam) often make up the bulk of the volume of our purchases. Keeping in mind the concept of “reduce”, the idea here is to be mindful of the packaging waste that will be generated by your purchases, and perhaps even go a step further and check to see if the wrapping is made from recycled materials.

But if you absolutely must buy something that is heavily wrapped, don’t rush to throw out the packaging. Find a new use for it! Reusing involves giving a second life to the commodities we purchase and/or their packaging. There are many ways to give your “junk” a second life.

1. Sell it if it’s still in workable or usable condition. There are many people out there who scour used product sites in search of bargains.

2. Give it away. If you are generous (or were either unsuccessful at, or can’t be bothered with selling) consider giving your stuff to someone who would make better use of it than letting it leach into the soil of a nearby landfill.

3. Use it again. Perhaps you want to upgrade to something new, like a new monitor, or couch, or even some new clothes. Consider keeping your stuff a little bit longer. Move the couch to your basement, repaint your dining set instead of buying a new one, hack your old monitor (that is, get the parts from the electronics store) to add a second monitor to your computer set up (unless it is a CRT – these drink your electricity, remember).

4. Rework it. Make it into something else. Make use of your old clothes to make pillow shams and cases, or if they are totally worn out, make them into rags for the kitchen. You’d be surprised to see what old books (those you know no one else will want because the stuff you read is weired) can be used for. With a little bit of imagination you will never have an excuse to say you are board.

Not everything, unfortunately, has a useful reusable life. Remember that when shopping, we should try to keep the entire life cycle of our purchases in mind, including their packaging. But sometimes, things just can’t be reused in any meaningful way. Instead of sending them to become part of a poor bird’s diet, consider giving them a rebirth, in the form of recycling.

Recycling, sometimes mistakenly used synonymously with reusing, involves incorporating these materials into the creation of new materials and goods.

This is the last R in this list. Recycling is one of the most common green notions recognized by the general public. This is because it is one of the easiest to practice, or so it is thought. Generally speaking, people feel that if they recycle they are doing good no matter how much they output. Ideally we should reduce our waste to the point where we have nothing to throw out and nothing to recycle. Realistically speaking though, we should try to focus on reducing our waste as opposed to focusing on recycling. So, the first R in this series (i.e., Reducing) is really more significant, all R’s being important.

Recycling as we’ve alluded already, is the use of post consumed materials in the production of new materials. The most common materials that we see are the ones that are collected in our homes such as tin, aluminum, glass, plastic and paper. What is true about all of these materials is that there is only a subset of each that is recyclable. This is due to the way production incorporates post-consumed materials. All this to say that we need to be mindful of the type of material that we are collecting in our recycle bins.

Once you have committed to reshaping your waste material you will be introduced to another two R’s of greening practices. These are the Rest and Relaxation concept of eco-friendliness. You will Rest assured that your efforts will have a positive impact on your life and you will be able to Relax knowing that the positive changes you have made will ensure a healthy and beautiful world for our children.

Go Green This Eid with Reusable Bags

Eid will be here in a few days, so we’ve been out getting our gift shopping done. We found all that we intended on getting well within budget and well in advance, which is a first. If you are also trying to keep the tradition of the prophet, peace be upon him, alive this Eid when he said: “Offer gifts to one-another, love will develop amongst you”, then read on.

This Eid we’ve been looking into something new and different. We are trying through our daily practices to, yet again, have an eco-friendly impact on our planet this Eid.

I’m not only talking about abandoning disposable cutlery, paper plates, or Styrofoam cups, which we ditched long ago, I’m talking about rethinking our gift ideas and gift wrapping.

One idea that my mother came up with, and that we successfully implemented last Eid, was giving Eid gifts in eco-friendly reusable bags. The kind of bags I spoke about in the last green feature of the Muslim Link.

They usually cost around the same price as, if not less than, regular paper gift bags that you get from dollar stores. They are much more durable, however, and will not tear when you place that extra large, extra heavy gift in them. I am talking about the eco-friendly grocery bags that almost every grocery store and department store, and shoe store, and mechanic, and dentist now offers for less than a dollar.

This was a brilliant idea at the time, especially for my mum, since she owns almost every eco-friendly bag that has ever been made. She was, after all, the inspiration of ” Paper or plastic? Choose fabric” from last August.

This idea has three general benefits. First, these bags are readily available at almost any shopping destination. Second, they are very durable and can be used multiple times. Finally and most importantly, it is an eco-friendly alternative to the paper bags that very quickly find their way to the landfill.

By using these reusable bags as gift bags you can reduce waste in the short term, introduce a good habit to your special gift recipient, and provide them with a durable bag to use in the future, further reducing paper, and plastic waste.

Naturally, many would exclaim at this point that there is no way they are going to use an ugly shopping bag for their Eid gifts. But that’s where they would be very wrong, and why I did a little bit or research.

I decided to look into some of the various bags out there that would make for beautiful Eid bags. It is surprising how many affordable reusable grocery bags out there could pass as very fashionable tote bags. Here are a few I came across:

So if you are in the market for some new gift wrapping ideas, and would like to keep a clean conscience during this blessed Eid, consider dropping by your local grocery store for a gift that will keep on giving.

Never Mind Recycled Paper, Here’s a Recycled Printer (at least part of it)


Here’s a step in a different direction. If you’re the type who likes to make a difference by using recycled paper for your printing jobs in order to offset a tiny portion of the deforestation you could take a little step further and help out with recycled printer parts. Now I’m not encouraging you to go out and buy a new printer if you already have a perfectly good one. That would be defeating the purpose. But if you are in the market for a printer because you need one, then you may consider this neat gadget.

HP’s Photosmart D5460 Inkjet Printer uses ink cartridges made from the recycled plastic of old ink cartridges. <click read more to see pictures and description.> Continue reading

Un-Halal Treatment of Animals – WARNING: GRAPHIC


This is not what Islam teaches us about how to treat animals.

Source:GoVeg.com

In fact, many of these practices deem the meat un-halal for Muslim consumption.

Check out these references:

Rights of Animals in Islam

Animals that are diseased and/or eat feces are not Halal.

Note for our Judaeo-Christian readers who are unaware of what halal is. Briefly, Halal means “permissible”. In the context of foods for human consumption, Halal means “permissible to eat”. It is analogous, but not equivalent to kosher. There are many ways that food is considered Halal. For example: dead land animals are NOT Halal, while dead sea animals ARE Halal. Animals that are properly drained of their blood are Halal, while animals that are treated like the some of those in this video are NOT Halal. Some animals in general are not Halal for consumption, such as pigs, animals with talons, claws, or that are scavengers, or carnivores. Also, anything that would harm you, or intoxicate you is deemed un-Halal. Oh, and the proper term for “un-Halal” is Haraam, which you may come to conclude means “un-permissible” or “un-lawful”. This, by no means, is the full explanation of Halal. You’d be better off checking one of these links.
We generaly tend to forget that Allah tells us in the Quran to only consume things halal and “tayib” (clean, good, pure, healthy).

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Paper or Plastic? Choose Fabric.

Reusable BagYou may have noticed that almost every grocery or department store offers eco-friendly bags that are reusable and made of recycled materials such as post-consumer plastics or fabric. These bags can
be stylish and often cost less than a dollar. Eco-friendly bags are a good alternative to disposable plastic bags, which place a heavy burden on the natural environment.
Consider these facts about plastic bags:
• Each year, an estimated 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. This amounts to over one million per minute.
• Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags, mistaken for food. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean.
• Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade. This means they don’t disintegrate into harmless components. Instead, they break down into smaller and smaller toxic bits that contaminate soil and waterways and enter the food web when animals ingest them.
Using high quality reusable bags to take your groceries home can reduce the use of thousands of plastic bags per household. And if you choose to use eco-friendly bags, chances are you’ll also be making a
fashion statement. Reusable bags have become a fad in the current eco-chic era.
The question is, as Muslims, how committed are we to making a difference rather than just a fashion statement?
Many times we buy ecofriendly bags in our desire to be eco-conscious and live green but forget to bring the bags to the grocery store. We end up using plastic bags, or even worse, buy a new eco-friendly
bag each time we forget to bring the old one. It’s probably a good idea to have a few eco-bags to hold all our groceries, but when we buy them at the same rate as plastic bags, there’s a problem.
Here lies the flip side of using eco-friendly bags: they are only as useful as the number of times they replace plastic bags and reduce our waste.
But don’t fret too much if you forget your eco-bags at home — just remember to bring them with you next time you go shopping! And if you need to use plastic bags, you can take them to large grocery stores, such as Loeb (now metro) and Loblaws, where they have receptacles for recycling plastic grocery bags.
Our underlying motivation should be to lead moderate lives and try not to accumulate too much stuff or generate too much waste. This is one of Islam’s solutions to the environmental crisis. Buy what
you need and suffice yourself with that. There is an old Arabic proverb that states, “Contentedness is an everlasting treasure.”

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