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.

Where Our Garbage Ends Up – the (not so) Great Pacific Garbage Patch


Remains of an Albatross chick showing plastic it had likely been fed by its parents.

Remains of an Albatross chick showing plastic it had likely been fed by its parents. Likely suffocated or starved because it could not expel the plastic.

This is merely one example of the plight of the natural world at the hands of what man has earned. At the cost of fauna and flora, ecosystems, and the health and integrity of the entire planet we’ve chosen the “convenience” of simply tossing out things we no longer need. While the sad reality is that we never needed them in the first place.

We lead such a horrible consumerist lifestyle that we are blinded by how much garbage we are literally feeding the planet whence we become board of our gadgets and our belongings. We end up creating such a horrible mess, leaching toxins, and killing wildlife, while we live our oblivious lives, ignorant of the giant impact we have on the planet. I’m talking about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which really is not a great thing at all. It’s horrible.

Simply and quite frighteningly, every little bit of garbage we either intentionally dump in the ocean, or that “un-intentionally” reach there from our littering the lands and waterways get drawn into the North Pacific Gyre. This gyre, like any other, is simply a vortex, a whirl-pool, in the ocean caused by the cyclical ocean currents, wind, and the rotation of the Earth.

North Pacific Gyre - Now a vortex of garbage

North Pacific Gyre - Now a vortex of garbage.

More after the break including a beautiful picture of a Laysan Albatross Chick>>>

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Eco-Friendly Bags – a Users Guide

You have probably already seen that nearly every grocery or department store is offering eco-friendly bags made of recycled material, such as post-consumer plastics, or fabric. These bags can be rather stylish, and in many cases cost less than a dollar. The use of these bags is a good alternative to the use of plastic bags, which have been a heavy burden on the natural environment.

Here are some of the facts about plastic bags:

  • Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out 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.
  • Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade— that means they don’t breakdown into harmless components, they just breakdown into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.

Using high quality reusable bags for taking your groceries home has the potential for reducing thousands of plastic bags per household. These bags have become quite a fad in the current eco-chic era. The question is though, how committed are we to trying to make a difference rather than just making a fashion statement?

In many cases we tend to buy eco-friendly bags to tame our desire to be eco-conscious, and lead a green style of living, but we then forget to bring the bags along with us to the grocery store. We end up either using plastic bags, or even worse, buy a new eco-friendly bag. Now its probably a good idea to have a few eco-bags to hold all the groceries we have, but when we are buying them at the same rate as we would normally use plastic bags, then there is a problem. And 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 the amount of waste we generate.

Don’t fret too much if you’ve forgotten your eco-bags and feel that it has to be one way or the other and give up on eco-bags. If you find that you’ve forgotten your bags and need to use plastic bags, you can take them to some of the large grocery stores, such as Loeb and Loblaws, where they have receptacles for recycling plastic grocery bags.

The underlying message should be that we should actually lead moderate lives and try not to accumulate too much stuff, thus generating a lot of waste. 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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The Beauty of the Reefs (NG Slideshow)

Lets try not to destroy these beautiful spots around the globe

“The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; And yet you understand not how they declare His glory! Verily He is Oft-Forbear, Most Forgiving!” Quran 17:44

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Our Garbage, and the amount of food we waste. Enough Said. Now Do something about it!



“And waste not by extravagance, Verily, Allah likes not those who waste” Qur’an Al-An’aam v:141.

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Plant a tree for $5.50 & see it on Google Earth

If you are the kind of person who doesn’t like to get outside too much, and abhors the idea of getting your hands dirty, but are still concerned with how little you are doing for the health and beauty of our planet, consider this. You can, for as little as $5.50, have someone plant a tree for you in Indonesia, and watch it grow.

The program offered at MyBabyTree.org allows you to simply and securely pay to have as many trees you as you want to be planted on your behalf. On top of that, you will receive a note indicating that you tree will be planted and the exact coordinates where it is located. Through integration with Google Earth you can then watch your trees progress, as well as receive information about the forest it is now a part of.
This is the response I received when I donated to have a tree planted in Borneo:

Alternatively, you can participate locally with you municipality or local organization when they go out to plant trees. Organizations in Ottaawa, such as Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, and even the City’s Municipality offer programs for planting trees locally. Even MAC and MYO have organized programs to initiate tree planting in and arround Ottawa.

Besides, if you plant a tree locally, yourself, you get this personal connection to it, plus you can go out and give it a hug

whenever you feel like it.

Snow in Saudi Arabia, Global Warming or Global Cooling? PART 2

For PART 1 and other articles click here!

Now that we’ve established the way the Earth works, and a bit about what climate is, we can now talk about the occurrence of snow in Saudi Arabia as one point of data that can contribute to the hypothesis of climate change.

As we’ve established that global climate is an average measure of temperature and precipitation, we can also interpret these abnormal conditions that we are seeing in Saudi Arabia.

The simplest explanation would be that the increased temperatures of the globe overall have increased the rates of evaporation of the Earth’s water bodies. This increase in evaporation would cause increased moisture in the air. The added moisture coupled with the cold air, which is not unusual for Saudi Arabia this time of the year would produce SNOW! See how snow works.

In general there is another way of looking at the phenomenon of global warming, and that is as climate change. As mentioned in the previous article about snow in Saudi Arabia, the Earth is one system of climatic changes that over the bigger picture can be viewed as having a long time line of climate changes. What is happening in the world right now is that certain places are undergoing local climatic changes that are affecting the overall climate trend of the Earth. Places that are usually very cold are now not as cold, while places that used to be very hot are also less hot. But when trying to balance the changes in temperature in the colder regions of the world with the changes in the temperatures in the warmer parts of the world we find that there is still a positive gain. That is that even though some places are getting cooler the change in their temperature is smaller than the places that are getting warmer. For example:

Lets say that Saudi Arabia’s average temperature in the winter is around 4 degrees. With the recent drop in temperature lets say that the average will now be 3.9 degrees (This is a serious exaggeration, not to mention the use of a single data point).

Here in Canada (Ontario) lets say the average January temperature is -14 degrees With the recent increase in temperature over the last couple of years it is now -13.5 (These are not real figures, and are used for explanation only)

If you do the math you find that the change in temperature in Saudi Arabia is -0.1 While the change in Ontario is +0.5. The net change being +0.4 degrees.

Now this is not really the case. The example I’ve used, if true, would cause a lot of problems in the world as we know it. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the worries of sea level rising, and polar bears becoming extinct. But be certain that if we don’t heed these signs, we will be heading for something very serious.

Take a look at some of NASA’s videos on these factors.

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