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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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

Paper or Plastic? Choose Fabric.

Reusable BagYou may have noticed that almost every grocery or department store offers eco-friendly bags that are reusable and made of recycled materials such as post-consumer plastics or fabric. These bags can
be stylish and often cost less than a dollar. Eco-friendly bags are a good alternative to disposable plastic bags, which place a heavy burden on the natural environment.
Consider these facts about plastic bags:
• Each year, an estimated 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. This amounts 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. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean.
• Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade. This means they don’t disintegrate into harmless components. Instead, they break down into smaller and smaller toxic bits that contaminate soil and waterways and enter the food web when animals ingest them.
Using high quality reusable bags to take your groceries home can reduce the use of thousands of plastic bags per household. And if you choose to use eco-friendly bags, chances are you’ll also be making a
fashion statement. Reusable bags have become a fad in the current eco-chic era.
The question is, as Muslims, how committed are we to making a difference rather than just a fashion statement?
Many times we buy ecofriendly bags in our desire to be eco-conscious and live green but forget to bring the bags to the grocery store. We end up using plastic bags, or even worse, buy a new eco-friendly
bag each time we forget to bring the old one. It’s probably a good idea to have a few eco-bags to hold all our groceries, but when we buy them at the same rate as plastic bags, there’s a problem.
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 our waste.
But don’t fret too much if you forget your eco-bags at home — just remember to bring them with you next time you go shopping! And if you need to use plastic bags, you can take them to large grocery stores, such as Loeb (now metro) and Loblaws, where they have receptacles for recycling plastic grocery bags.
Our underlying motivation should be to lead moderate lives and try not to accumulate too much stuff or generate too much waste. This is one of Islam’s solutions to the environmental crisis. Buy what
you need and suffice yourself with that. There is an old Arabic proverb that states, “Contentedness is an everlasting treasure.”

Where Do Your Gadgets Go?

A couple of entries ago I wrote about a then newly released eco-friendly MacBook Air for my fellow tech enthusiasts out there. The new MacBook Air, boasted a new standard of tech eco-friendliness beyond the energy-wise approach by building the MacBook Air with less toxic components, and reducing harmful chemicals.

Not that you are ready to throw out your brand new MacBook Air, but here’s a quick slide show of what’s happening with yesterday’s nasty waste today.

“And do not cause ruin on the Earth after it has been ordered, but call on Him with fear and longing: for the Mercy of Allah is (always) near to those who do good. ” – Qura’an – Al-A’raaf 7:56

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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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