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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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.

Why the Environment Should be Important to Muslims

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُون

Surat Ar-Room, Verse 41

In the book Environmental Protection In Islam, Dr. Bagader et al explain Islam’s attitude towards the environment and the Universe (islamset.com):

 

 

  1. All things that God has created in this universe are created in due proportion and measure both quantitatively and qualitatively. God has declared in the Qur’an, “Verily, all things have We created by measure”1 and “Everything to Him is measured.”2 And He says, ” And We have produced therein everything in balance.”3
  2. God has not created anything in this universe in vain, without wisdom, value and purpose. God says, “We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them carelessly. We have not created them but for truth.”6
  3. Man is part of this universe, the elements of which are complementary to one another in an integrated whole. Indeed man is a distinct part of the universe and has a special position among its other parts. The relation between man and the universe, as defined and clarified in the Glorious Qur’an and the Prophetic teachings,
    1. A relationship of meditation on, and consideration and contemplation of, the universe and what it contains.
    2. A relationship of sustainable utilization, development and employment for man’s benefit and for the fulfillment of his interests.
    3. A relationship of care and nurture, for man’s good works are not limited to the benefit of the human species, but rather extend to the benefit of all created beings; and “there is a reward in doing good to every living thing.”
  4. God’s wisdom has ordained to grant human beings stewardship (khilafah) on the earth. Therefore, in addition to being part of the earth and part of the universe, man is also the executor of God’s injunctions and commands. And as such he is only a manager of the earth and not a proprietor; a beneficiary and not a disposer or ordainer. He has forbidden waste and destruction, “Do not cause destruction in the Earth after it has been rectified”

All of the resources upon which life depends have been created by God as a trust in our hands. He has ordained sustenance for all people and for all living beings.
” And He has set within it mountains standing firm, and blessed it, and ordained in it its diverse sustenance in four days, alike for all that seek.”‘1 Thus, the
utilization of these resources is, in Islam, the right and privilege of all people and all species. Hence, man should take every precaution to ensure the interests and rights of all others since they are equal partners on earth.

 

Dr. Mawil Izzi Dien Ph.D., of the University of Wales, UK summarizes why it is “Islamic” to conserve the environment in the following reasons(captiveminds.org):

1. The environment, is God’s creation. The creation of this earth and all its natural resources is a sign of His wisdom, mercy, power and His other attributes and therefore serves to develop human awareness and understanding of this creator. (Quran 13: 2-4; 21:79)

2. Muslims should seek to protect and preserve the environment because by so doing they protect God’s creatures which pray to Him and praise Him. Humankind might not be able to understand how these creatures praise God but this does not mean that they do not do so:

The seven heavens and the earth, And all beings therein, Declare His glory: There is not a thing, But celebrates His praise: And yet ye understand not. How they declare His Glory! (Quran 17:44)

3. Thirdly, the environment contains God’s creatures which the `ulama’ or Muslim scholars consider to also deserve protection (hurma).

4. A fourth reason why Islam seek to protect and preserve the environment is that Islam, as a way of life, is established on the concept of good (khayr). Therefore it is expected that Islam will protect the environment once it is understood that such protection is good by itself. The Quran states that:

He whoso do good, An atom’s weight, Will see it. And whoso do ill, An atom’s weight, Will see it. (Quran 99: 7-8)

5. All human’s relationships in Islam have to be based on the concept of justice (`adl), and kindness (ishn), and not on material or economical gain. The Qur’an strongly emphasizes this concept in the following verse:

God enjoins justice; And kindness. (Quran 16: 90)

In Islam, humans are expected to protect the environment since no other creature is able to perform this task. Humans are the only being that God has “entrusted” with the responsibility of looking after the earth. This trusteeship is seen by Islam to be so onerous and burdensome that no other creature would `accept’ it. The Quran (33: 72) says:

Lo! We offered the trust; Unto the heavens and the; Earth and the hills, But they shrank from bearing it, And were afraid of it, And man assumed it, Lo! he is a tyrant and fool

Accordingly, not every human can claim this appointment, only those who are aware of this caring pact of respect for life can claim it.

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