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

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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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The reality of some "eco-friendly" alternative energy sources.


The problem we are facing regarding environmental challenges, such as climate change, is not solely the onset of such dramatic shifts in global trends, but is the ill-devised approach to dealing with these issues.

Lets take the example of carbon dioxide emissions that have been linked to climate change and may very well be the amplifier of global warming. The approach that major stakeholders are taking doesn’t seem to be so much as a move to cleaner, more sustainable fuels than it is a move from oil-reliant technologies, and the reliance on foreign energy sources. This kind of mentality seems to be driven primarily by international politics and the fact that reliance upon international energy sources is not politically or economically stable.

The question begs, why not resort to alternative fuels that will allow nations to be independent of one another? Well, with that kind of mentality driving innovation we may find ourselves falling backwards in our greenness and the greenness of our energy technologies, by resorting to less viable energy sources, that in fact can be even more harmful to human health and the environment either directly or indirectly.

One very important concept to understand before we proceed is that we will not be running out of oil any time soon (just over 42 years – not a lot though). This may come as a shock, but it is true. What we will be running out of is economically viable sources of oil and other fossil fuels. What this means is that oil will still exist past the “oil crisis”, but will not provide the desirable return on investment from extracting such fuels as oil, and tar sands. This concept is referred to as the EROI or Energy Return On Investment. In this case, investment not only means financial, but also energy investment.
After all, as it costs money to make money, it costs energy to get energy. Lets start off with oil, which has an EROI of 1:20 globally. This means that for every unit of energy spent to extract crude oil, 20 units of energy are gained. This doesn’t seem too dire, but consider that it used to get 1:60 a couple of decades ago.


With the current EROI of oil in mind, lets take a look at some of the alternatives to crude oil and how it measures up. Now, you will notice that I will not be discuss wind energy, or solar energy because neither technology is really being given much attention by the big energy companies who hold just short of a monopoly on the market. Because of that, advancement of these technologies is not moving at the speed that would be accomplished had there been a stronger focus on these truly renewable, sustainable, and unlimited sources of energy.

As for some of these new technologies that are being labeled as “green”, “environmentally friendly”, or “Eco-conscious,” in fact still derive their energy from not so green sources, or non-viable environmental resources. Lets take ethanol for example, which is an extraction of corn through a distillation process. This fuel source has an EROI of close to 1:1, which is not at all viable. We’d be better off preserving the energy that goes into growing, farming, and cultivation, which by the way is done by machines that run dirty inefficient fossil fuels. In addition to the ill-planned “greenness” of ethanol production, cutting into food staple yields for fuel production creates a tight food budget, driving up food costs, and placing a greater demand on other grains. Not to mention that these grains are often transported long distances consuming energy in the process and affecting fuel prices, and the cycle goes on.

But it’s a cleaner fuel, well not really… Continue reading

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