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.

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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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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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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.

Air, Soil, Water, and Energy Conservation – Islamic Ecology

If you’ve been concerned, as many of us have been, about the state of the environment, you can learn more about it and how to become involved. I will be talking on the topic of Environmental Issues as seen from an Islamic perspective, and why it is important for Muslims to be concerned with this issue on Salam Ottawa 93.1FM radio. The second part of a four-part programme will be airing on Tuesday Jan 16 at 5PM for one hour. You can also listen on
http://www.ckcufm.com (click on “Listen Live” – you will need real player). Please email your questions, if you have any, and I will be happy to deal with them during the sessions to come ( salam_ottawa@yahoo.com). I will be posting the information provided on a Blog insha’Allah which I will announce later. Please pass on this message to your friends and family,

Thank you and Jazakum allahu khairan.
“Ruin has appeared on the land and sea, because of what the hands of man have earned, that (Allah) may give them a taste of some of their deeds: in order that they may turn back (from evil).” (Ar-Rum: verse 41)

What Is Ecology –> Okios (Greek) –> The House; Think of:

• Earth’s condition manifest in seasons, night and day, solar energy input, lunar forces, etc.
• Earth materials and any transformation they undergo; physical, chemical, biological
• Living creatures of the Earth and the interactions they have with other creatures and the materials around them, as well as changes they inevitably undergo.

Specifically, the interactions of the living organisms on the earth with their respective environments (composed of living and non-living) with carful attention to the condition in which the Earth may persist. The complete state of the Earthly system with its various components in a balance of energy and matter.

As discussed, of all the creatures on the Earth that were presented the responsibility of the Earth it was mankind who chose to take that responsibility.

Allah says in the Qura’an: (and we presented or offered the “trust” (Amanah, responsibility, stewardship) to Heavens, and the Earth, and the mountains, but they declined to uphold it, so we had mercy upon them, so mankind upheld it” Al-Ahzab. 72

As stewards, and representatives we were given guidelines and rules to follow.

Generally, against thoughtless consumption; that is, wastefulness and extravagance.
Teaching justice, conserve, and preserve. “And don’t be wasteful” and “In deed those who are wasteful are the brethren of devils” etc. “Allah enjoins upon justice”

It is within God’s wisdom that His creatures be of service to one another. The balance and measure Allah has placed in everything, all of which with a purpose is above all legal reason to conserve the environment and the resources it contains. (Chines proverb) “We did not inherit this land from our fathers, we are borrowing it from our children”

How do these general laws and guidelines translate into our daily activities.

1. In water, energy, fuel, etc.
Allah reminds us of the value water: “Have you seen the water which you drink? Was it you who sent it down from the rain cloud , or did We send it? Were it Our will, We could have made it bitter; why then do you not give thanks?” , “and we have created from water everything living”

He also reminds us that the waters of the seas, oceans, lakes and rivers are habitat for other creatures of Allah’s creation that must be honored and not transgressed upon. “It is He Who has made the sea of service, that you may eat thereof flesh that is fresh and tender, and that you may bring forth from it ornaments to wear, and you see the ships therein that plough the waves, that you may seek of His bounty ,”

Realizing the value of water to life makes it clear that to fulfil our responsibility on this earth to honor Allah’s bounties and creatures we must also conserve and preserve this valuable asset.

Any action that obstructs or impairs the biological and social functions of this element, whether by destroying it or by polluting it with any substance that would make it an unsuitable environment for living things or otherwise impair its function as the basis of life; any such action necessarily leads to the impairment or ruin of life itself. And the juristic principle is,
“What leads to the prohibited is itself prohibited.”

The Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him said: ruin
“Do not waste! Even if you are at a flowing river”

Owing to the importance of water as the basis of life, God has made its use the common right of all living beings and all human beings. All are entitled to use it without monopoly, usurpation, despoilment, wastage, or abuse. The Prophet, upon him be blessings and peace, said, “Muslims are to share in these three things: water, pasture, and fire,”

2. Air,
Importance of “And we send the fertilizing winds. “ common use and right for all.

3. Soil and Land:
God has made the land a source of sustenance and livelihood for us and other living creatures: He has made the soil fertile to grow the vegetation upon which we and all animal life depend.

He has made the mountains to catch and store the rain and to perform a role in stabilizing the crust of the earth.

If we would truly give thanks to the Creator, we are required to maintain the productivity of the soil, and not expose it to erosion by wind and flood; in building, farming, grazing, forestry, and mining, we are required to follow practices which do not bring about its degradation but preserve and enhance its fertility.

For to cause the degradation of this gift of God, upon which so many forms of life depend, is to deny His tremendous favors. And because any act that leads to its destruction or degradation leads necessarily to the destruction and degradation of life on earth, such acts are categorically forbidden.

Finally, the Prophet Muhammad, God’s blessing and peace be upon him, declared that “The whole earth has been created as a place of worship for me, pure and clean.” Accordingly, we are charged with treating it with the respect due to a place of worship, and with keeping it pure and undefiled.
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