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>>>

Continue reading

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.

Greenhouse Gases from Your Broccoli – Buy Local – Support the Environment and the Community

Greenhouse Gases From Your Broccoli
“Buy Local”
Support the Environment and the Community
(Appearing in the Muslim Link newspaper – by Omar Mahfoudhi)

On average the fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and poultry we consume travel between 2,400 to 4,000 kilometers from the farm to your home. This long-haul transportation of our food is quite energy intensive considering the volumes being transported and the required refrigeration of perishable goods during transport. This is referred to as the food carbon footprint.

The concept of reducing our food’s carbon footprint is becoming a commendable endeavor that communities can collaborate on to reduce greenhouse gas emission from their daily practices. The carbon footprint of our food is the amount of carbon dioxide produced from processing, transporting, and storing the food we eat. Buying local is a simple concept, but in practice it may not be that attainable on an individual level. Soon you will understand why this needs to be a community endeavor.

Buying local means committing to buying produce and meats cultivated within 100 kilometers of your city. Not only does this reduce environmentally harmful emissions, but it also reduces the waste generated from packaging, the food remains fresh, and of course reduces the cost, which is passed on to the consumer.

So why don’t we just buy from our local farms? Well this is where it gets interesting. On a broad scale the evil of globalization has masked the true cost of the food we eat, and most large cities are ecologically dead since they no longer produce the goods needed to sustain themselves. On a more manageable scale, there are challenges that can be addressed with social awareness and community collaboration, which is the case here in Ottawa. As it happens, Ottawa has the largest local agro-economy of any major Canadian city. But there are some hindrances to committing to a dynamic market of locally produced meat and vegetables. Some salient hindrances are:

• Inconvenience/not consistently available
• Lack of awareness – where/how to access the food
• Lack of variety
• Lack of consumer support/demand
• Labour and financial constraints

There are already local organizations who are committed to promoting and facilitating the distribution and sale of locally grown produce. Community Shared Agriculture (CAS) is an approach to growing and purchasing food products in which the farmer and consumer are working cooperatively. Along with CAS is the Ottawa Buy Local Project, which also supports and advertises the wholesale component of the Ottawa Farmers’ market with businesses. Moreover, the Ottawa Buy Local Project delivers “Buy Local” presentations that highlights what is needed for a healthy food system in Ottawa.
A quick survey of some of our local halal grocers yielded that most of the halal grocers already provide locally raised meats and some provide locally grown produce. There was also a willingness of grocers to place signs that their foods are locally cultivated.

Here is where this endeavor becomes a communal effort. Encourage your local grocer to buy locally grown produce, and make a commitment to buy your fruits, vegetables and meats from them. This way the grocers can offset the cost and effort it takes to seek out locally grown produce with a committed market for this environmentally righteous source of food we would be buying anyway. This will also, create this demand that will motivate other halal grocers to enter the market of locally cultivated foods.

In this way we can support both environmentally righteous consumerism and our local Muslim businesses.

Tracking Foxes, Ducks, and Squirrels in Ottawa

The other day I had an interesting experience in the woods near the Rideau river. I was on the train going back and forth enjoying the scenery, as I often do with the hour before the radio show, when I happened to spot a couple of foxes sitting on the snow. I regretted not having my camera with me for the sight was worth capturing. Not to be defeated, I jumped off the train at the next stop, and ran down the tracks towards where I had seen the foxes. Surly enough, they were still there, but had realized my presence. They looked on at me with intrigue as I walked closer. The encounter, through brief was beautiful. The two rusty coloured creatures against the contrast of the silvery snow was simply beautiful. I crept closer only to induce them to dodge into their den.

I walked on, finding my self at the edge of the woods at a local park on the bank of the Rideau river. There I also happened upon a crowd of ducks and loons. They walked along side me as I walk along side the river, as if in anticipation of some food. I had nothing regrettably. I continued onwards to cross paths with a couple of birds that took no offense to my presence and hopped but a few feet away from me to peck at some seeds strewn on the snow by some previous visitors of this park. They were truly bold in their manner as well as their appearance. A soft blue breast with an outline of brown, crowned with a black mask across their eyes giving them the appearance of police scouting the area.


I trekked on to come across a family of red squirrels. What seemed to be the youngest of the three was all alone. As the other two bickered on about what seemed to be who got to be on a particular branch, the youngin’ nestled at the base of a near-by tree. The fighting went on until the youngster built up the courage to scurry over to the other two and join in on the action.
At this point it was nearing the time for my radio show and I had to run through two feet of snow to the nearest road in soggy shoes to the radio station; a 30 minutes walk away. I most definitely recommend to anyone, if you see, or think of something exciting, go after it. Have fun with the little time in your life. Forget routines, and live as life was meant to be. As a passage.

The Rights of Plants and Animals in Islam – Islamic Ecology

There is a Chapter in the Quran Entitled: The Spider.

Recap of the Previous two weeks:
First week: Islam’s attitude towards the Environment: 

  • balance
  • purpose
  • relationship:meditation, sustainable, utilization, care and nurture
  • Stewardship ( خلافة)

Second week: Conservation in Islam

  • Ecology: Water, Air, Land and Soil.
  • Conserve: DON’T waste – Allah says: “In deed those who are wasteful are the brethren of devils”
  • Justice and goodliness: DON’T harm – Allah says: “Do not cause ruin in the Earth after it has been developed”‘What may lead to a prohibition is prohibited itself’

This week: Animals and Plants in the Ecology of Islam.

  • Living resources of enormous benefit.
  • All with a purpose and in balance.
  • Part of a balanced ecosystem.

Plants:

“Then let man consider his nourishment: that We pour down the rain in showers, and We split the earth in fragments, and therein make the grain to grow, and vines and herbs, and olives and palms, and gardens of dense foliage, and fruits and fodder- provision for you and your cattle.”

  • Sustenance and nourishment for animals, and humans.
  • Plants enrich the soil and protect it from erosion
  • They conserve the water by impeding its runoff.
  • Habitat for other living things.
  • They moderate the climate and produce the oxygen, and store CO2.
  • Medicines (Periwinkle childhood leukemia, yew tree à anticancer), oils, perfumes, waxes, fibres, timber, and fuel.

The prophet Mohammed peace be upon him said: “If on the day of resurrection, and there is in the hand of one of you a sapling, then let him or her plant it”

It is forbidden to cut down trees even in the time of war.

“The is nothing in this Earth except that it exalts Allah with His Grace, but we do not comprehend their praise (of Him)” – Al-Issra’ 44

“See you not that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and Ad-Dawab (moving living creatures, beasts, animals etc.), and many of mankind? But there are many (men) on whom the punishment is justified. And whomsoever Allah disgraces, none can honour him. Verily! Allah does what He wills”. Al –Hajj 18

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَسْجُدُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ وَالنُّجُومُ وَالْجِبَالُ وَالشَّجَرُ وَالدَّوَابُّ وَكَثِيرٌ مِّنَ النَّاسِ وَكَثِيرٌ حَقَّ عَلَيْهِ الْعَذَابُ وَمَن يُهِنِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِن مُّكْرِمٍ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَفْعَلُ مَا يَشَاء

Al Hajj – 18

Animals:

  • Provide sustenance for plants (fertilizers), for one another, and for man.
  • Pollination, and distribution of plants.
  • Provide food for one another and provide mankind with leather and wool, medicines and perfumes, and means of transportation, as well as milk, and honey and other by-products.
  • aesthetic functions of these creatures
  • ECOLOGICAL balance – keystone species,
  • Worshiping Allah – Spiritual INTRINSIC VALUE – WHALES Singing

“The is nothing in this Earth except that it exalts Allah with His Grace, but we do not comprehend their praise (of Him)” – Al-Issra’ 44

“There is not an animal on the earth, nor any being that wings its flight, but is a people like unto you.” – Al- An’aam 38

  • Absolute destruction of any species of animals or plant is unjustified; harvesting rates should not excess the rate or its natural regeneration.
  • This applies to hunting and fishing, forestry and wood-cutting for timber and fuel, grazing, and all other utilization of living resources.
  • It is imperative that the genetic diversity of living beings be preserved–both for their own sake and for the good of mankind and all other creatures.

The prophet Mohammed peace be upon him said: “The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Show mercy to those on earth, and He Who is in heaven will show mercy unto you.”

  • Taught mercy to animals:
    • The woman who was sent to Hell for torturing a cat to death.
    • The prostitute who was granted forgiveness and paradise for giving water to a dog.
    • The practice of sharpening and hiding the blade when slaughtering and being quick to ease the animal.
    • Forbidding killing for sport. Cursed who ever used living things as a practice target.
    • Not to startle a mother bird by taking its young
    • Forbidding the killing of livestock in the time of war.
    • Animals have a sacredness of life similar to that of humans.

“The rights of livestock and animals with regard to their treatment by man: These are that he spend on them the provision that their kinds require, even if they have aged or sickened such that no benefit comes from them; that he not burden them beyond what they can bear; that he not put them together with anything by which they would be injured, whether of their own kind or other species, and whether by breaking their bones or butting or wounding; that he slaughter them with kindness if he slaughters them, and neither flay their skins nor break their bones until their bodies have become cold and their lives have passed away; that he not slaughter their young within their sight; that he set them apart individually; that he make comfortable their resting places and watering places; that he put their males and females together during their mating seasons; that he not discard those which he takes in hunting; and neither shoot them with anything that breaks their bones nor bring about their destruction by any means that renders their meat unlawful to eat.”

في كل كبد رطب أجر The Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him said: “and in doing good to any living thing there is a reward”

Islam looks upon these created beings, both animals and plants, in two ways:

1. As living beings in their own right, glorifying God and attesting to His power and wisdom;

2. As creatures subjected in the service of man and other created beings, fulfilling vital roles in the development of this world.

Hence the binding obligation to conserve and develop them both for their own sake and for their value as unique and irreplaceable living resources for the benefit of one another and of mankind.

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَسْجُدُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ 

وَالنُّجُومُ وَالْجِبَالُ وَالشَّجَرُ وَالدَّوَابُّ وَكَثِيرٌ مِّنَ النَّاسِ وَكَثِيرٌ حَقَّ عَلَيْهِ الْعَذَابُ وَمَن يُهِنِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِن مُّكْرِمٍ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَفْعَلُ مَا يَشَاء – al Hajj 18

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