Creating a Community Garden at your Islamic School

Community gardens have recently taken off as a way of engaging communities in the local food movement. Not only does it raise awareness, community gardens can also serve as a learning tool for schools. The Safa and Marwa Islamic School (SAM) in Mississauga, Ontario received a grant from TD Friends of Environment in 2015 towards the creation of their own gardening space. Khaleafa.com has the opportunity to speak with Nisreen Shawahneh, who was instrumental in coordinating the project, to learn some successes and challenges in creating a community garden in a school environment. 

Preparation:

a.     How did the idea for a community garden first come about, what was the motivation?

At Safa and Marwa Islamic School (SAM) our goals are to deliver a ‘living’ curriculum that ensures the spiritual and academic success of our student body and to build a sense of comradely and community amongst our students, parents and staff. Every year our team brainstorms projects that would help us meet these goals. It was in one of these sessions that the idea for a community garden was born. We recognized that building a community garden would bring to life curricular concepts allowing students to cement their learning in the classroom by living examples in the garden. From a spiritual point of view, having a garden would allow students to understand the importance of stewardship and the environment in Islam. Furthermore, having a garden that was not owned and manned by one, but the entire school community brought teachers, students and staff together to work towards a common goal. It was heartwarming to see the way harvests were enjoyed and celebrated by all involved.

In addition to being motivated by our goals for students we were also cognizant of the fact that having a community garden would complement our healthy living and physical education program nicely. Prior to having our community garden our student body has regularly participated in the 60 second kids club, we are currently ranked 10th in the Province. We would also have healthy eating competitions across the grades. We hoped that the addition of the garden would give kids the push they needed to begin eating healthier in their day to day lives.

b.     How have the students been involved?

Students from Junior Kindergarten to grade 8 all participated in the community garden.  Each class was assigned a plot to plant in. Students chose what to grow; the school provided the seeds and the seedlings. Students, with the help of their teachers, planted the seedlings and seeded the seeds. Students, watered, weeded and took care of the garden the whole season.

In addition, we conducted workshops for both parents and students on how to establish and run their own gardens at home. The presentation was delivered by Ms. Nisreen, the Garden Coordinator. The agenda was as follows:

  • General information for parents and students on how they could begin their own community gardens in their neighborhoods.
  • General information for parents and students on how they could begin their own community gardens in their backyards.
  • General information on the different types of plants that could be grown year-round.
  • General information on the tips and tricks of gardening. 

c.     What was involved in planning the project?

To plan the project we put together a planning team that consisted of members from administration, teachers, auxiliary staff, parents and students. The following diagram depicts the team and their tasks in terms of planning the project.

d.     What were the greatest hurdles?

In bringing this project to fruition, there were several hurdles. Following are the greatest hurdles we faced and we feel that these were all equally challenging:

·Finance: In Ontario, private faith based schools do not receive any public funding. Therefore, all the money that is generated to operate the school is derived from tuition. It is difficult to allocate tuition money to a project such as this because there are often competing needs that take precedence such as those related to the facility infrastructure and those related to curriculum delivery directly. Although there are many grants available through the Government of Ontario that could fund a community garden, they are often only open to publically funded schools - which we are not. We had to be creative in finding a grant. We are very appreciative of the grant we received from TD to deploy our garden.

·Space: We are at capacity in terms of student body because SAM has consistently been named the top Islamic school by the Fraser institute. Space is over utilized and therefore to carve out space on our grounds was extremely difficult. It required re-planning our play areas and putting in another outdoor rotation for our students which resulted in an overhaul of the school and classroom schedules. It was also challenging to convince some school members and parents that the reutilization of the space would add more to the curriculum then the original play space.

·Manpower: Maintaining a garden (watering, weeding, harvesting, replanting) and asking teachers to integrate curriculum related to the garden day to day was extremely challenging because both are time consuming and rely on volunteerism.

 

Participation:

a.     What has the response been to the project?

The garden has received so much love and support from students, staff and parents, especially around harvest time where everyone gets to taste their success. Our garden has inspired parents to create their own gardens.  Following are some testimonials:

I love the garden. I planted it, watered it and picked it. It was fun in the garden because I saw plants grow - Hannah, Grade 6

I love being in the garden. We picked basil and onions and many more. There were even carrots, being in the garden made me feel free and happy - Mustafa, Grade 4

The garden was the best. I especially loved when it was time to pick the plants. I even got to sell it. I loved the garden - Adam, Grade 3

I got to pick plants from the garden. We even bought some. I ate carrots, too. They tasted amazing - Leena Grade 1. 

 b.     Have you been able to incorporate parents and other groups into the project?  

We have successfully been able to engage parents during garden planning and planting. We did not incorporate other groups into the project.

c.     How does the garden sustain itself over the summer?

SAM operates a summer program that incorporates a unit on community gardening. Students in this program maintain the garden over the summer and are supervised by the summer teachers and administration.

d.     What happens to the produce in the fall?

Throughout the summer and fall produce is harvested and, depending upon the yield, either sold to parents during school fundraisers, distributed to student volunteers and those who have completed a related curricular unit, donated to families in need and shared with the entire school in our ‘welcome to school’ fall barbecue.

Programming:

a.     Have you included any spiritual or religious programming into the garden? If so, what has the messaging been?

Our community garden helped us explain Islam’s ethos of environmentalism and stewardship to our students using a hands-on approach. In Islam humans were created to serve God (Allah) and work towards creating the greatest good for all his creations which includes the earth and its environment. Caring for the earth is our shared responsibility. Our department of religion began incorporating what it means to live a sustainable life into religious curricula as follows:

  • Allah created us directly from the Earth and we must therefore be stewards of the Earth by taking care of it and protecting it in a sustainable way.
  • We have undertaken a trust with our creator to protect the planet and contribute to and sustain its resources responsibly.
  • We must treat all creation including the natural world with justice.
  • We must recognize that Allah has created the world in a balance and we must work to sustain that balance.
  • We must live a simple lifestyle – which includes growing our own produce.

b.     Are multiple grades involved in the project?

Yes, multiple grades were involved in the project namely: junior kindergarten, senior kindergarten, grade 1, grade 2, grade 3, grade 4, grade 5, grade 6 and grade 7. Each grade was assigned their own part of the garden and were responsible for caring for it.

c.     How do you see the garden growing in the future?

Thus far, we have planted produce that was quick and easy to grow in our garden. We planted: tomatoes, curled parsley, basil, strawberries, carrots, sunflowers, corn, peas, beans, green onion, hot pepper, bell pepper, cucumber, potatoes, beets and Swiss chard.

In the future, we would like to plant our garden by theme. For example, we would like to plant a salad garden, a salsa garden, a fruit salad garden etcetera. In addition, we are looking to move our school to a new location to continue to deliver quality curriculum. Whereas a community garden would never have made it onto our list of ‘must haves’ for a new property in the past; after our project, we have decided that our new location would never be complete without space for a new community garden.

Lessons Learned:

a.     What have been the biggest challenges and what were the lessons that were learned in creating a community garden?

As mentioned in 1d above the biggest challenges were finance, space and manpower. The lesson we learned were as follows:

  • Finance: When establishing the garden, we factored in the cost for building the garden however we did not factor in the cost for continuing to maintain and sustain the garden.
  • Space: We could have collaborated with our school neighbors and shared property to build a larger garden which would not have compromised out play area.
  • ·Manpower: We need to build capacity around having more consistent volunteers for the garden and demonstrate to teaching staff that taking their students out to the garden is worth the time it takes to do so. In addition, we learned that it is important to ensure that those that tend to the garden document what they have done so that it can be passed on to those who take it over the following year.

b.     Can you provide any advice to other groups looking to start their own community garden?

Be cognizant of our lessons learned.

Breastfeeding: Fulfilling an Islamic Duty & Environmental Stewardship

By Khairoon Abbas

My second child turns two years old this month and it’s an emotional moment for me. I am filled with pride seeing my toddler grow, hearing his sweet little voice sing his ABCs and call for mama. Yet I am teary-eyed as I realise our two wonderful years of breastfeeding is coming to what feels like an abrupt end. The four years I have spent breastfeeding my two children have allowed me to reflect upon the spiritual significance of breastfeeding, particularly as a Muslim mother. In fact, this journey has brought me closer to Islam. With every passing month of breastfeeding, I, like millions of Muslim mothers around the world, am reminded of how Islam guides and encourages us to give our children the best nourishment in their early years through breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding and Islam

After my first child was born in 2012, I struggled to breastfeed him and I was very close to giving up. In between my son’s piercing cries and my moments of desperation, I turned to Allah in prayer, beseeching guidance. If breastfeeding was a natural act, why was it challenging? I remembered the wise words of my grandmother who lovingly reminded me that it is the child’s entitled right to breastfeed and that I should persevere.

In fact, the Holy Qur’an and various traditions place utmost importance on breastfeeding. It is narrated from the Prophet (PBUH): “Allāh (SWT) has placed the sustenance (rizq) of the child in the two breasts of the mother, in one is his water, and in the other his food.” In the mother’s body, Allah (SWT) has created a remarkable system of feeding a child in the most beneficial way. It is narrated from the Prophet (PBUH) that “For a child, there is no milk better than the milk of the mother” (Mustadrak al-Wasāil, vol. 15, pg. 156).

“Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period].” Qur’an 2:233

Breastfeeding not only provides the optimal nutrients for the baby’s growth and development, but it also creates an extraordinary bond between a mother and child. Like Islam, national and international health organizations such as Health Canada and the World Health Organization recognize breastfeeding as the normal and unparalleled method of feeding infants and mothers are advised to breastfeed - exclusively for the first six months, and sustained for up to two years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding. The more I breastfed and read about the benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and child, I realized that breastfeeding goes beyond a religious duty or obligation.

 

Breastfeeding and the environment

Breastfeeding offers countless environmental benefits. It is both environmentally-friendly and is an invaluable renewable resource. Breastfeeding is also one of the most environmentally sound food sources available no matter where you live in this world, whether you are in a rural Morocco or urban Canada. Firstly, breastfeeding does not waste scarce resources or produce pollution. Secondly, breastmilk is produced by the mother and given to the baby with a zero ecological and carbon footprint. And thirdly, breastfeeding requires no packaging, shipping, transport or disposal and therefore, there is less waste going to landfills.

As a communications professional who spent seven years working as a sustainable lifestyles consultant for the United Nations, I remain continually intrigued by how our daily actions impact the environment. My work involved researching, writing and training young people and educators on how to incorporate sustainable lifestyle choices in their daily lives at a time when the Earth’s resources are being depleted faster than they can be replenished. This work enabled me to recognize humanity’s crucial role in adopting more sustainable ways of living that are in harmony with our communities and nature.

Islam encourages environmental stewardship, particularly given our role as caretakers of the environment. We all have a responsibility to take care of our planet and protect it as much as we possibly can. Science tells us that If we continue the same consumption patterns, by 2030, just 13 years from now, we will need two planet Earths to support all 8.5 billion of us. This is a stark reminder that the time to change and take action for a better, cleaner and greener environment, one that is well within the Earth’s bounds, is now. As individuals, that action begins in our homes, in the food we eat, and the way we feed our children.

Sources:

Khairoon Abbas holds a bachelor's degree in communications and a master's degree in journalism and has spent many years (2009-2016) working as a consultant with the United Nations Environment Programme. Khairoon currently lives in Richmond Hill, Canada. 

#WasteFreeRamadan

By Nouman Khalil

This year, Peel, Halton and Toronto’s Muslim community is celebrating environment-friendly Ramadan by saying "no" to disposable bottles from sunset to sunrise.

The fasting month of Ramadan begins next weekend, May 27-28. It’s the Islamic month in which holy Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the revelation occurred during one of the last 10 nights, called Laylat Al-Qadr.

To reap maximum reward in this month, benefit others and protect the environment, TorontoMuslims — a project of DawaNet, a Mississauga-based nonprofit organization committed to community service, outreach and development — launched a pilot project called the #Waste Free Ramadan campaign to encourage all community members not to send plastic bottles to landfills.

“We really want to be environmentally conscious, especially in the coming month of Ramadan,” said Taha Ghayyur, one of campaign organizers. “If we are fasting to develop God-consciousness, we are also ensuring that we are not damaging the world and that’s the whole idea of seeking mercy.”

He said the campaign began with an initial goal of distributing 5,000 bottles through few major mosques in Peel, Halton and Toronto regions, especially in the cities of Brampton and Mississauga, but due to overwhelming response they have double the target to 10,000.

“The earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you stewards over it,” reads a campaign message quoting a hadith (saying of the Prophet).

Bottles are available free of charge at local mosques such as ISNA Canada, Al Falah Islamic Centre, Sayeda Khadija Centre, Anatolia Islamic Centre, Islamic Propagation Centre (aka Coopers Masjid), and Dar At-Tawheed Islamic Centre. People can also obtain one free of cost by making an online donation.

Ghayyur said since it's a pilot project, TorontoMuslims initiated this campaign with selected mosques, but the actual idea was to distribute bottles free of cost.

The colourful bottles are designed for people to also write their own names on it and encourage others to do the same.

The #WasteFreeRamadan campaign hopes to engage all Canadian in discussions about climate change, global warming, environmental degradation and conservation.  

For more information, visit https://www.launchgood.com/project/wastefreeramadan#/.

Nouman Khalil is a reporter with The Mississauga News, Brampton Guardian and South Asian Focus. This article originally appeared on Mississauga.com on May 19th, 2017. 

Alhamdulillah for Cameras

The greatest mathematician, astronomer and physicist of the medieval world was a 10th century Arab by the name of Ibn al-Haytham. Among his many contributions to optics was the first correct explanation of how vision works. He used the Chinese invention of the camera obscura (or pinhole camera) to show how light travels in straight lines from the object to form an inverted image on the retina. He is also credited with being the first man to shift physics from a philosophical activity to an experimental one.

The "Alhamdulillah Series" was inspired by Ruzky Aliyar who featured a series of nature images with the tagline “Alhamdulillah”. The series was profiled on Muslim Matters during the Winter of 2012 and quickly drew praise for the simplicity of the message. Building upon this effort to remember the many blessings of Allah, Khaleafa.com has picked up the initiative and will continue to highlight the many signs of Allah.

“There truly are signs in this for people who reflect.” (Quran 13:3)

Lakehead Student Crosses Canada to Raise Awareness of First Nations Plight

How far would you go for clean water? For one recent Lakehead graduate, quite literally across the country.

Hasan Syed, a community bridge-builder active in Thunder Bay, has undertaken a cross-country run to raise awareness about the water crisis among First Nation’s communities in Canada.

Syed was shocked to learn about the conditions on some reserves, and thought Canada had moved beyond basic water access issues he witnessed in his native Pakistan. As of the end of February, there were more than 80 drinking water advisories in First Nations communities across the country.

"It literally took me back to the country I immigrated from. Like then there's no difference between here and there." said Syed to the CBC. Until then he had assumed the services he had access to were afforded to all Canadians.

Upon learning more he knew he had to take action and his faith played a crucial role. "I feel like there's like God saying, 'Okay, I told you about this. Now what are you going to do about it?'"

Partnering up with First Nations organizations, Syed founded Access 2 Clean Water, to raise awareness about the issue and funds to develop solutions.  "I'm brand new to this, so I'm still learning how to approach these situations and how to be respectable so I don't overstep any boundaries."

Syed’s journey started in Vancouver and his goal is to reach Ontario in 150 days - marking the 150 years anniversary of Confederation. Given the tumultuous history between First Nations and the Federal Government, this journey represents the ongoing struggle in the era of reconciliation.

To support the project,, a Go Fund Me page has been set up and is almost halfway towards its goal. You can also follow Syed’s journey through the Access 2 Clean Water Instagram account which has photos and videos of the trek.

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Islamic Ecotheology: A Religious Call To Protect Ecosystem

By: Malik Gazi Bilal

The calls for ecological justice are intensifying faster and louder than ever. Environmental experts and climate scientists, after conducting vigorous researches, found that climate change is a functional reality which poses great threats to survival of humankind. Their research findings endorse, every decade since the 1970s has been warmer than the previous and polar icecaps and glaciers worldwide have been melting rapidly, faster than their scientific projections. In such a vulnerable situation, together with governments, non-governmental organizations and different international environmental research committees, religious organizations and faith leaders, all across the world,  have also become conscious regarding their role and responsibility vis-à-vis establishing justice for earth, inter-generational justice, and justice for all creation.

Since, environmental crisis is basically the problem of “disequilibrium” of natural world through men’s exploitative behaviour. Therefore, alongside politico-scientific considerations, it also demands a systematic theological perspective that has potential to appeal spiritual and psychological dimensions of man’s “consciousness” towards the biological and physical composition of his (her) environment. The “awakening” of religious consciousness vis-à-vis ecological justice demands that faith-activists of all religions should recognize “ecological justice” as common responsibility and must work together to make this earth a beautiful abode.

Today, the world is witnessing the ever growing participation of faith leaders and appearance of “scripturally contextualized” ecological writings over burning environmental issues such as soaring greenhouse gas emissions, rising global temperatures, typhoons, floods, and killing droughts. Faith leaders, unhesitatingly, are accepting the fact that establishing a just society in principle and practice, would be impossible unless vigorous public discussions, through all channels of communication, are generated regarding how “ecological justice” is valued in religious scriptures and theological formulations. The “utopia” of “just society” would also not come true, if faith-based pro-environment movements for “global action on climate change” are not promoted at national and international level.

Since late 1960’s, Muslim scholars and environmental experts, have been adding their voice to a crescendo of religiously-inspired call for “global action on climate change”- a movement towards developing an Islamic ecotheology. Making “theological formulations” relevant to contemporary ecological issues, Muslim scholars have been engaged in different environmental projects thereby developing a sense of interconnectedness between man and his (her) surrounding ecosystem. Transforming their “less-heard” voice into a meaningful “movement”, on 17-18 August 2015, Muslim faith leaders, ecologists and politicians from more than 20 countries, gathered at a seminar in Istanbul and launched unanimously agreed-upon Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change– a document appealing world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to take immediate, well-mechanized and relevant action against ecological disequilibrium. This declaration followed a similar intervention by the Vatican group earlier this year when Pope Francis issued his 192 page long-awaited encyclical on climate change which warns of “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems and serious consequences” if the world fails to act on the mechanics of climate change.

The discussions generated around the issue of ecological injustice and Islamic response laid the basis of Islamic ecotheology.  Now, the point of concentration is what is this Islamic ecotheology and how does it work?

In my understanding, Islamic ecotheology is a concept that Islam has its own well-structured environmental framework. The philosophical underpinnings of Islamic ecotheology basically include all those concepts and precepts that have been frequently referred to in shari’ah (Islamic law) vis-à-vis God’s design for creation of natural world (ilm al-khalaq)and man’s responsibility for its utilization, maintenance and preservation. Interestingly, Muslim ecotheologists- scholars dealing environmental problems in light of theological formulations- have found that there are about 750 verses in the Qur’an that are, directly or indirectly, related to creation of natural world, the laws that govern it and its impact on quality of human life. For example, the Qur’an has mentioned word maa’ (water) at more than 60 places and introduced it as the origin of whole biological life (21:30). It has also provided every minute detail regarding its source, its forms, its cycling, and its impact on entire ecosystem.

Muslim ecotheologists also maintain that many chapters of the Qur’an are named after specific animals and natural incidents, such as: ‘the Cow’, ‘the Cattle’, ‘the Thunder’, ‘the Bee’, ‘the Ant’, ‘the Daybreak’, ‘the Sun’, ‘the Night’, ‘the Fig’ and ‘the Elephant’ which indicates that Islamic theology doesn’t recognize man a “living being” independent of his (her) environment and the laws that operate therein. Islam advocates that “physically” all ecological factors such air, water, earth, plants and animals support human life. Therefore, man’s attitude towards his/her environment should be based on the principles of justice (‘adl), wisdom(hikmah) and compassion (rahmah). They are also of the opinion that Islam has characterized all natural phenomena as divine signs of God (ayaat-ul-Allah); manifesting His knowledge, wisdom and power. Therefore, it would be right to claim that environment offers profound and constant opportunities to man to be aware of God’s presence and any maltreatment to environmental factors would tantamount man’s negligence towards giving due “respect” to God’s noticeable signs.

However, giving respect doesn’t entail that man cannot take advantage from the nature and its abundant resources positively. Rather, it means while benefiting from the nature, he (she) has to abide by certain principles which form basis of the Islamic ecotheology. These principles can be described as following:

Trusteeship (amanah):

To understand the concept of trusteeship, it is important to understand the nature of relation between the God, man and earth. From the Islamic point of view, whole of earth and all its abundant resources are seen as a divine gift from God and man as the vicegerent (khalifah) of God on the earth (2:30; 6:165; 35:39). The principle of man’s vicegerency tells us that absolute ownership of resources of the earth belong to God and man has been positioned as trustee having right to creatively use it, maintain it and deliver back to God in the best possible conditions. The following Qur’anic verse emphasizes the point, “Believe in Allah and His messenger, and spend of that whereof He hath made you trustees… (57:7).” The meaning of this verse has been appropriately conveyed by Ali ibn Abi-Talib, who said, “partake of it gladly so long as you are the benefactor, not despoiler; a cultivator, not destroyer…man’s abuse of any resource is prohibited”. Hazrat Ali’s explanation suggests that man has been endowed with “special status” over the rest of creation, but, it doesn’t give him (her) liberty to exploit the earth and use its resources extravagantly.

In the contemporary times, modern techno-centric man, fully dependent on energy resources, has abandoned the principle of “trusteeship” in theory and practice. Consequently, he (she) started behaving like an “owner” instead of a “trustee”. This changed nature of relationship from “owner” to “trustee” has become the root cause of environmental disequilibrium. Therefore, rebuilding the concept of “trusteeship” rather than “absolute ownership” while applying the modern technology to earth and its resources can prove one of the effective ways to improve earth’s conditions and protect the ecology from man’s exploitative behavior.

Conservation and Moderation:

Wastefulness (israf) of resources is one of the major contributing factors to present vulnerable conditions of man’s “living” on the earth. Researchers, experts and policy makers have been tirelessly working to generate public consciousness regarding benefits of moderate and conservative approach while consuming natural resources. However, for the Muslims “conservation” of resources is not a reactionary method to avoid “resource dearth” in future; rather, it an “active process” which has been described as essential component of faith. Muslims as “revolutionary community” have been cautioned that “but waste not by excess: for Allah loves not the wasters (6:141)” and “Surely the squanders are friends of Satan (devil) and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord (7:31).”In the light of these verses, exceeding limits in “consumption” and living lavishly at cost of others- that include all biological and physical elements of earth- are considered as grave sins and also violation of “divine balance” in Islam.

The principle of conservation can be further understood in the light of Prophet’s golden saying that has been reported in many hadith books.  It is reported from Abdullah bin Amr that messenger of God passed by S’ad while he was performing ablution. The Prophet said, “What is this extravagance?” S’ad said, “Is there extravagance with water in ablution?” The Prophet said, “Yes, even if you were on the banks of a flowing river (Sunan Ibn Majah).” If the essential message of this Prophetic tradition, which is nothing but “conservation”, is applied in a broader context, its practical benefits would be bewildering.

Corruption and Vandalism:

According to Islamic doctrines vis-à-vis creationism, God (khaliq or creator) has created everything in its best form and that too with “balance” as is mentioned in the Qur’an, “Who made all things good which He created (32:7).”  After giving perfection of “form and purpose” to creation, God commanded man, the only one amongst whole creation who has been given power and control, to keep it that way, “Do no mischief on the earth, after it hath been set in order (7:56).” In light of these commands, it is evident that Islam opposes mischief (fasad) and corruption (zulm) in all forms. However, some may argue here that these verses only talk about interpersonal relations, but, many scholars such as Tariq Ramadan, Sayyed Hossein Nasr, and Mohammad Aslam have broadened the scope of these verses to adopt wider issues of the environment wherein man lives.

It is worth to note here that there stands a well-established maxim, “La dhararwa la dhirarafi’l Islam” in the Islamic jurisprudence which states, “harm may neither be inflicted nor reciprocated in Islam”. This maxim is general in application and includes all kinds of harm whether it involves individual, society or environment. Thus, whatever causes harm to environment should be seen as forbidden (haram) and punishable act and all necessary measures should be taken to prevent this harm from happening.

Cleanliness and Hygiene:

Islam doesn’t consider cleanliness only a desirable attitude rather an indispensable part of faith. According to Qur’an, “God loves those that turn to Him in repentance and purify themselves (2:222).” Since, Islam places great impetus on cleanliness, in both physical and spiritual dimensions, that is why we see all great works on hadith(collection of Prophet’s narratives) and fiqh(Islamic jurisprudence)  start with discussions related to cleanliness (taharah) which was methodologically a novel practice in the history of world literature. In effect to cleanliness, there are numerous Prophetic sayings such as, “cleanliness covers half of faith (cited by Imam Muslim)” and “Surely God is clean and loves the clean, so clean your courtyard (Sunan Ibn Majah)”. The Prophet is also reported to have said, “Surely the clothes glorify, (but) when they are dirty and unclean they do not glorify (Mizan al-Hikmah).” What all could be understood from these Prophetic traditions is nothing but “completion” of faith is impossible without having proper sense of cleanliness.

Apart from cleanliness of one’s body, Islam demands cleanliness of the houses, roads, streets, public parks, health centers and educational institutions in order to enhance the living standards and value structures of society. For example, he is reported to have said, “you must clean your houses and do not follow in the footsteps of Jews (practicing ruhbaaniyat i.e. abandoning worldly responsibilities, reported in Al-Tirmidhi)” and “Removing harmful things (which include impurities and filth) from the roads is a charitable act (Bukhari and Muslim)”. The Prophet has also admonished against creating problems for other living beings and considered it one of the reasons to incite God’s curse. He has said, “Beware of three acts that cause others to curse you: relieving yourselves in a watering place, on foot paths or shaded places and public parks (Sunan Abu Dawud)”. In view of the significance of cleanliness in Islam, Muslims are ordained to take these instructions in conjunction with the protection of the environment and establishing ecological justice.

Ecological Responsibility and Acts of Kindness:

There are numerous sayings of the Prophet that promote care and compassion vis-à-vis establishment of “ecological justice” such as protecting animals, preserving the productiveness of the soil, using water sparingly, planting a new tree if cutting down another for a just reason, and not polluting streams with sewage. In a tradition reported by Anas bin Malik, the Prophet(PBUH) has encouraged Muslims to look after God’s creation also referred to as God’s family (ayaal al-Allah) including plants and animals. He is reported to have said, “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows a field, which later nourishes a human, a bird, or beast, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him (Bukhari).” While denouncing unnecessary cutting or destruction of plants, the Prophet said, “He who cuts a lote-tree [without justification], God will send him to hellfire (Sunan Abu Dawud).” The environmental consciousness of the Prophet is brilliantly described in his own saying, “If the qiyamah (last hour) comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it (Musnad Ahmad).

As far as the concept of “animal care” is concerned, Tariq Ramadan in insightful book In the Footsteps of the Prophet has outlined some key sayings of the Prophet about judgment day. For example he has quoted Prophet’s saying that, “whoever kills a sparrow or a bigger animal without respecting its rights to exist will be accountable to God for it on the Day of Judgment (Sunan Nasa’i).” It has been also reported that once companions asked Prophet “Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He replied “There is reward for serving any living being (Bukhari).” And yet in another tradition, it is mentioned that “A woman entered fire because of a cat which she had tied, neither giving it food nor setting it free to eat from the vermin of the earth (Bukhari).”

These Prophetic sayings, which came more than 1400 years ago, not only promote an ethical sense towards ecological responsibility, but, also reinforce the scientific concept of “chain of life” wherein all living species, including man, depend on each other for their survival. In this regard, God reminds us of His divine balance (here referred to as ‘measure’), “And the sky He hath uplifted; and He hath set the measure, that ye exceed not the measure, but observe the measure strictly, nor fall short thereof (55:7-9).

Conclusion:

To conclude, I propose Islamic ecotheology considers environment very sacred and equates serving environment with other forms of Ibadah (worship) such as prayer and fasting. This implies that even if there is no threat of “resource crisis”, Muslims must still take care of earth and its resources, protect animals and plants and, more importantly, improve conditions of“life” on earth by paying due consideration towards their environment with the sense of both duty as well as morality. For that, they need to develop a strong “eco-consciousness” and establish different environmental groups and institutions in order to promote global awareness of damage that is being done to environment. Since good environment promises good life, therefore, it becomes imperative for every single Muslim to maintain the “goodness” of life. Imam Jafar Sadiq has said, “There is no joy in life unless three things are available: clean and fresh air, abundant pure water and fertile soil”.

This article originally appeared on The Companion on April 4th, 2017. 

The Spiritual Significance of Jihād in Islamic Economics: The Need for a New Economic Paradigm

By: Waleed El-Ansary

I begin with three questions: What is the spiritual significance of jihād?  What does this have to do with Islamic economics? Why does a proper understanding of jihād show the need for a new economic paradigm for the modern world?[1]Regarding the first question, the meaning of jihād has unfortunately been obscured by the Western image of Islam as the “religion of the sword.”[2]Although jihād relates to the defense of the Islamic world from invasion by non-Islamic forces, and thus represents a form of just warfare (tragically inverted by violent extremists),[3] it also has a much broader meaning as a form of economic and spiritual activity. Upon returning from the battle of Badr, which threatened the existence of the Islamic community, the Prophet of Islam said, “You have returned from the lesser jihād to the greater jihād.” This greater battle, which describes the inner meaning of jihād, is the struggle to integrate the whole of life around a Sacred Center. In fact, jihād is derived from the root j-h-d, whose primary meaning is “to strive” or “to exert oneself,” and corresponds to similar doctrines in most of the world’s major religious traditions.[4] Within Christianity, this inner struggle is indicated by Christ’s statement, “Think not that I come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword.”[5]

“Applied to Islamic economics and in answer to the second question, the Qur’ān teaches that to struggle for a living is tantamount to defending the community in battle.”

Applied to Islamic economics and in answer to the second question, the Qur’ān teaches that to struggle for a living is tantamount to defending the community in battle.[6] Before the Battle of Badr, the Prophet saw a young man with a strong physique running to his shop through the area that the Prophet was marshalling his men for battle. Someone remarked that he wished the youth would use his strength to ‘run in the way of God’ by joining them to defend the Muslim community from its enemies. The Prophet responded, “If this young man runs with the intention of not depending on others and refraining from begging, he is in the way of God. If he strives for the livelihood of his weak parents or weak children, he is in the way of God. If he tries to show his health out of pride, he is in the way of the devil.”[7]

This saying of the Prophet demonstrates that exertion to support oneself and family is a form of jihād that has a spiritual significance and should be performed as “an act of worship as if [one] were praying.”[8] Far from merely serving to maintain one’s physical and material wellbeing, work for pious Muslims involves the edification of human nature in all its fullness, requiring that right actions in economic activity be combined with right intentions in order to actualize their spiritual dimension, following the “Straight Path” (al-sirāt al-mustaqīm). In fact, the Divine Law in Islam gives religious meaning to all acts that are necessary for human life.[9] Accordingly, work must somehow support us in attaining our highest aspirations as human beings, including our spiritual destiny, rather than prevent us from realizing them by engaging in completely tedious and degrading activity that prevents us from realizing our human dignity.

Division of Labor in Islam

The division of labor and coordination of economic activity required by Islamic (and many other religions’) economic systems must have a spiritual and not simply a corporeal significance. Some division of labor is required to provide any society with its necessary and useful goods and services, requiring that some members of the community perform various tasks, functions and professions. Other collective and civic duties (fard kifā’i), such as building orphanages and hospitals, are analogous. If no members of the community fulfilled these needs, each member of the community would be held spiritually accountable. Such division of labor, both in the personal and collective sense, is a duty under Islamic law, not simply a pragmatic possibility.

“The division of labor and coordination of economic activity required by Islamic (and many other religions’) economic systems must have a spiritual and not simply a corporeal significance.”

Moreover, all forms of labor and service must allow space for the expression of human creativity, and the realization of personal satisfaction in its intrinsic meaning and usefulness. Thus, each member of society can perfect his or her God-given talents, and become good stewards of the vitality and worthwhile heritage of the community, as well as Nature itself. However, an extremely high or overspecialized division of labor that employs too few of man’s faculties can have serious social costs by constraining the proper development of human talents and skills that benefit individual workers, their families, and society. Adam Smith stated:

“In the progress of the division of labour, the employment of the far greater part of those who live by labour, that is, of the great body of the people, comes to be confined to a few very simple operations, frequently to one or two. The man whose life is spent in performing a few simple operations… has no occasion to exert his [creative talent and improve his] understanding… He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become… but in every improved and civilised society this is the state into which the labouring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall, unless government takes some pains to prevent it.”[10]

A division of labor that stultifies the minds of laborers leads to a lopsided and unjust form of development that fails to provide most people with psychological and spiritual fulfillment. A disequilibrium between meeting the corporeal, but not spiritual needs of mankind, can only persist in the short or medium-term. “Equilibrium on the socio-economic plane is impossible to realize without reaching that inner equilibrium which cannot be attained save through surrender to the One and living a life according to the dictum of Heaven.”[11]

The Role of Islamic Intellectual Sciences

“Islamic metaphysics and sciences of nature based on sacred scripture and its subsequent inspired commentaries applied to everything in the productive processes—from architecture and urban planning to the artistry of clothing, and the design of personal living and communal working space. The same principles of traditional sciences applied to everything, including social organization and the treatment of animals, plants, and the environment.”

While Islamic laws of religious and economic practices set the conditions for providing mankind’s needs for products and services, it is the Islamic intellectual sciences, with their vision of man’s integral place in the cosmos—grounded in physical, psychological and spiritual reality—that allow for modes of work that can meet the needs of man for both bread and the Spirit.[12] Islamic religious laws provide the necessary approach, but Islamic intellectual, productive, and artistic sciences are also necessary, because the norms and principles of art, which are also derived from the Quranic revelation, govern the making of things in a traditional Islamic economy.[13] The Qurʾān is not only the source of rituals, ethics, and social institutions, but is also the source of the knowledge of reality. From this point of view, what humankind makes, or humankind’s art, should also communicate a spiritual truth and presence analogous to Nature, which is God’s art. “The ethical aspect of work in this case embraces also the aesthetic.”[14] Production and service are conceived as spiritual disciplines in which work is not only a means of livelihood but also a product of devotion. As Coomaraswamy asserts, “Every man is a special kind of artist,” the artist is not “a special kind of man.”[15] 

A necessary condition for making things in traditional Islam is consciousness of one’s mortality and complete dependence on the Absolute, a kind of “spiritual poverty” (faqr) or humility.[16] Spiritual preparation involving prayers and spiritual contemplation were an integral part of the creative process for traditional Muslim craftsmen, whose products combined utility and beauty with spiritual truth and presence.[17]

Islamic metaphysics and sciences of nature based on sacred scripture and its subsequent inspired commentaries applied to everything in the productive processes—from architecture and urban planning to the artistry of clothing, and the design of personal living and communal working space. The same principles of traditional sciences applied to everything, including social organization and the treatment of animals, plants, and the environment. The link between work, spiritual education, and sacred ambiance forged by the Islamic intellectual sciences were crucial to meeting all of mankind’s needs by ineluctably integrating religion, economics, arts and crafts, and indeed all of civilization. This approach to work must conform to the nature of things, and bringing us into conscious alignment with reality, because “[A]ction by definition manifests God, and … the creature can therefore do nothing that does not in some way affirm God.”[18]

The traditional Islamic guilds of various trades and crafts transmitted the Islamic doctrines and practices on the division of labor, production, and market exchange that allowed man to live in harmony with himself, his community, and nature. This observation is not intended to suggest a restoration of the specific practices of the historic Islamic economic models, but they can serve as a source of inspiration for restoring ethics and the edifying dignity of work to our contemporary economic practices.

“The link between work, spiritual education, and sacred ambiance forged by the Islamic intellectual sciences were crucial to meeting all of mankind’s needs by ineluctably integrating religion, economics, arts and crafts, and indeed all of civilization.”

Honorable and noble intentions, in addition to making a living, were clearly important in the traditional Islamic economic system, tightly integrating ethics and economics. The guild approach to production, service, and social organization entailed a system of coordination between members. Traditional craftsmen accepted the duty to supply their goods at just and stable prices, since the appropriate division of labor and its fruits was a duty, not just the unintended result of an “efficient” market.[19] To avoid over-supply or under-supply of the market at a particular time, a master craftsman would postpone or accelerate taking on extra apprentices while other qualified craftsmen had insufficient or excess work, respectively. Maintaining this equilibrium of supply and demand in Islamic economies was critical, not only for meeting the craftsmen’s physical needs through reliable employment and steady income, but also for satisfying the guildsmen’s spiritual need for dignity and pride in the service and products they provided consumers.

Law and Jjihād for Ethical Economics

Traditional Islamic (and other religious) societies provide a model of the integration of ethics and economics through their organic union of market and non-market institutions. For example, Islamic law encourages charity in many forms, whether through permanent endowments (such as waqf) or specific charitable donations (such as zakāt), which spiritually purify one’s wealth—and gives rise to an Islamic “gift economy,” through which needs of the disadvantaged are met outside the “market economy.”

E.F. Schumacher, who corresponded extensively with Muslim philosophers and scientists on religion and economics,[20] identified three objectives of work related to the hierarchy of spiritual and other needs in any religious approach to economics:

First, to provide necessary and useful goods and services.

Second, to enable every one of us to use and thereby perfect our gifts like good stewards.

Third, to do so in service to, and in cooperation with, others, so as to liberate ourselves from our egocentricity.”[21]

In Islam, all three of these objectives are forms of jihād applicable to what humanity does and what humankind makes, and are necessary for an ethical economics.[22] Islamic economic law is relevant to all three of Schumacher’s objectives. The first objective defines necessary and useful goods and services while excluding “noxious markets” such as pornography and gambling (or speculation). And Islamic economic law establishes the external conditions for fulfilling the second and third objectives. However, the intellectual and esoteric dimensions of Islam are necessary for realizing the latter objectives, perfecting our talents as stewards, and working cooperatively to liberate ourselves from our egocentricity.

Of course, all economists recognize Schumacher’s first objective of work, and Adam Smith acknowledged the second objective to some extent, noting the potentially degrading and dehumanizing effects of an extremely high division of labor. But other classical economists such as David Ricardo and James Mill strongly opposed this view, denying the existence of such harmful effects. They asserted that all types of work are homogeneous in terms of human development.[23] These thinkers also denied the possibility of work as a form of spiritual jihād that could liberate anyone from egocentricity and realize their spiritual destinies. They only acknowledged the first objective of work—production and service. These various positions have critical implications for the link between ethics and economics and the extent to which economic realities can be governed by their own logic, pointing toward an answer to the third question on the need for a new economic paradigm. As Robert Foley has pointed out, the modern economic approach bases itself on a view of

. . . modern society as made up of two spheres: an economic sphere of individual initiative and interaction, governed by impersonal laws that assure a beneficent outcome by pursuit of self-interest; and the rest of social life, including political, religious, and moral interactions that require the conscious balancing of self-interest with social considerations.[24]

This is sometimes called the “separate domain” argument, namely, that the motivations of the “actors,” whether ethical or not, have nothing to do with whether a market economy generates “beneficent” outcomes. In response to such propositions, Gandhi stated that, “dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good” is one of the greatest delusions of our time.[25]

“A prevailing preoccupation with the accumulation of wealth is self-defeating, often converting the joy and blessings of wealth into a sort of envious misery—because somebody else will always have more.”

From a religious point of view, we are not merely human beings “having” and “doing” things, we are humans aspiring to “be” all that we can be, which includes transcending the state we find ourselves in—to realize our highest potential as human beings, not just as intelligent animals that consume and reproduce and destroy our environment for our grandchildren. Ignoring questions of intrinsic meaning in work and spiritually productive cooperation leads to a destructive growth in production, consumption and pollution (corruption of the earth, or fasād fi’l ard to use the Quranic expression), and a diminution of the potential of workers, craftsmen, and artists (and all other providers of useful goods or services) to realize their dignity as human beings made in the image of God. A prevailing preoccupation with the accumulation of wealth is self-defeating, often converting the joy and blessings of wealth into a sort of envious misery—because somebody else will always have more.

Worldviews and Islamic Economics: Material vs Spiritual

From the perspective of Islamic economics, solutions to the mounting crises in our current environmental, economic and social/psychological domains (such as crime, suicide and the moral degradation of our culture) require changing our way of life, of the way we look at the world, and the way we look at ourselves—ultimately the way we understand reality.[26] Accordingly, the root cause of our environmental economic and socio-economic ailments is the prevailing mechanistic and materialistic worldview, with a scope of scientific inquiry absurdly limited to the grossly physical realm. This truncated worldview ignores the higher orders of reality that ultimately determine man’s destiny and current well-being. Instead, it generates scientific, technological, political, economic and other social structures that do violence to man and nature, by ignoring nearly everything necessary for a harmonious and just society. These structural injustices, in turn, generate patterns of economic instability and environmental degradation that manifest themselves in specific financial and economic crises, on the one hand, and ecological catastrophes on the other.

“From the perspective of Islamic economics, solutions to the mounting crises in our current environmental, economic and social/psychological domains (such as crime, suicide and the moral degradation of our culture) require changing our way of life, of the way we look at the world, and the way we look at ourselves—ultimately the way we understand reality.”

This abbreviated worldview and its corresponding structures also promote the erosion of non-market values, leading to “the expansion of markets, and of market values, into spheres of life where they don’t belong.”[27] When “everything is for sale,” markets may corrupt and degrade the very goods that are being marketed:

Paying kids to read books might get them to read more, but also teach them to regard reading as a chore rather than a source of intrinsic satisfaction. Auctioning seats in the freshman class to the highest bidders might raise revenue but also erode the integrity of the college and the value of its diploma. Hiring foreign mercenaries to fight our wars might spare the lives of our citizens but corrupt the meaning of citizenship… [W]hen we decide that certain goods may be bought and sold, we decide, at least implicitly, that it is appropriate to treat them as commodities, as instruments of profit and use. [28]

Degradation in this context means treating something

…in accordance with a lower mode of valuation than is proper to it. We value things not just “more” or “less,” but in qualitatively higher and lower ways. To love or respect someone is to value him/her in a higher way than one would if one merely used [them like prostitutes].[29]

Central to this argument “is the idea that goods differ in kind; it’s therefore a mistake to value all goods in the same way, as instruments of profit or objects of use.”[30]

Islamic economics is therefore defined as “applied ethics,” understood broadly as applying both individually and structurally, which acknowledges the aesthetic aspect of work, and spells out the consequences of violating spiritual, ethical and aesthetic principles in our economic affairs. If such principles are necessary for socio-economic and environmental equilibrium, then ignoring or diverging from those principles makes no sense and subverts and destroys any hope of a just, harmonious, efficient, and environmentally sustainable economy.[31] The “separate domain” argument is not only false; it is pernicious. At stake is the starting point of economic theory, for an economic system that is unsustainable in the long-term and intrinsically unstable in the short-term is unintelligible in its own terms, just as disease is not intelligible except in terms of health, the loss of which leads to death.

“Islamic economics is not reducible to a combination of modern economic theories and Islamic economic law any more than traditional Islamic medicine can consist of a distorted combination of conventional allopathic medicine with elements of Muslim medical ethics.”

Islamic economics is not reducible to a combination of modern economic theories and Islamic economic law any more than traditional Islamic medicine can consist of a distorted combination of conventional allopathic medicine with elements of Muslim medical ethics. Moreover, a similar hybrid approach to economics (often espoused in popular studies and publications on Islamic economics) is inadequate for anything beyond the treatment of symptoms. Such an attempt at synthesizing Western and Islamic economics fails because they cannot be integrated, and cannot adequately address the structural issues between traditional Islamic science, technology and production processes and those of modern, Western, and scientistic secular materialism.

Another related problem is that current Islamic economics literature does not adequately refute the claim that mainstream, or “neoclassical,” economic theory can accommodate any “instrumentally rational,” that is, internally consistent set of values or tastes. If that claim were true, then the Islamic sciences would have nothing to say about how neoclassical theory reduces needs to wants and values to tastes.[32] But this reduction eliminates the distinction between “necessary and useful goods and services” in the first objective of work (let alone the distinction between intrinsic “good” and “evil”), thereby rationalizing trade-offs with Schumacher’s second and third objectives of work—perfecting our gifts as stewards of humanity and nature, and submitting the lowest elements of our souls (egos) in obedience to God’s will for our ultimate felicity. This agnostic economic view of ethical neutrality reinforces the secularization and degradation of the human spiritual jihād through engagement in ethical production, service and exchange processes.

“An honest debate over the analytical tools for evaluating the ethical implications of economic assumptions and policies is critically needed. Fortunately, the Islamic sciences of nature and ethical social cohesion have important implications for such a critique of the analytical tools of neoclassical economic theory.”

The neoclassical claim of accommodating choice and preferences, without regard to ethics, fosters libertarian policies that claim to be ethically neutral, but, in fact, embrace hedonism as the prevailing economic policy while avoiding substantive philosophical debate over this covert objective. This obfuscation in honestly describing economic theory leads to prescriptive failure in economic policy. An honest debate over the analytical tools for evaluating the ethical implications of economic assumptions and policies is critically needed. Fortunately, the Islamic sciences of nature and ethical social cohesion have important implications for such a critique of the analytical tools of neoclassical economic theory. This problematic theory was largely imported from Newtonian mechanics and nineteenth century physics, and frozen in place, while ignoring the revolutionary discoveries of more modern physics refuting Newton, such as those of Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg and Schrödinger. [33]

The jihād that Islamic economists must now undertake is to intensify debate among scholars and the public at large regarding the fact that the Westernized modern worldview of economics is in desperate and urgent need of a new economic paradigm—a paradigm based on fostering an economic system that meets all of the needs of mankind for engaging in their jihād of work in a way that mediates the objectives of work described by Schumacher, and recognized in traditional Islamic societies for centuries.

Dr. Waleed El-Ansary is University Chair in Islamic Studies at Xavier University, where he teaches courses on comparative religion, Islamic studies, and religion and science. He holds a Ph.D. in Islamic and Religious Studies from George Washington University and M.A. in Economics from the University of Maryland. His research focuses on the intersection of religion, science, and economics. He has authored numerous publications, including “Islamic Environmental Economics and the Three Dimensions of Islam” in his co-edited volume Muslim and Christian Understanding: Theory and Application of A Common Word. His recent work includes a book sponsored by a UNESCO-based organization, the Aladdin Project. 

This article originally appeared on Maydan on March 23rd, 2017.

[1]Thanks to Darrell Blakeway for reviewing and editing this offering.

[2] Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Traditional Islam in the Modern World (London and New York:  KPT, 1987), 28.

[3] See Waleed El-Ansary, “The Economics of Terrorism: How Bin Laden Has Changed the Rules of the Game,” in Joseph Lumbard (ed.), Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition: Essays by Western Muslim Scholars, 197-241.

[4] See for instance Whitall Perry, A Treasury of Traditional Wisdom (Cambridge: Quinta Essentia, 1971), 391-412.

[5] Matthew, 10:34 (a challenge to slay one’s ego and love one’s neighbor above all, and despite the harm he or she may have done to you).

[6] See for instance Muhammad Abdul-Rauf, A Muslim’s Reflections on Democratic Capitalism (Washington, D.C.:  American Enterprise Institute, 1984), 5.

[7] Al-Ghazzali, Ihyā’ ‘Ulūm al-Dīn (New Delhi:  Kitab Bhavan, 1982), vol. 2, 54.

[8] Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Ideals and Realities of Islam (San Francisco: The Aquarian Press, 1994), 98.

[9] Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islam in the Modern World: Challenged by the West, Threatened by Fundamentalism, Keeping Faith with Tradition (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2012), 55.

[10] Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776, V.1.178. It is worth noting that Smith’s reservation regarding the division of labor does not appear in the first edition of the Wealth of Nations, but was added in subsequent editions. Smith seems to have had second thoughts about the salubrious effects of the minute division of labor.

[11] Seyyed Hossein Nasr, “Review of Ethics and Economics—An Islamic Synthesis,” Hamdard Islamicus 5/2 (Summer, 1982), 89–91: 89.

[12] “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4).

[13] See for instance Amanda Coomaraswamy and Roger Lipsey, Selected Papers—Traditional Art and Symbolism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978); or Titus Burckhardt, Art of Islam: Language and Meaning (Bloomington, Indiana: World Wisdom, 2009).

[14] Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Traditional Islam in the Modern World (London: Kegan Paul International, 1994), 43. He also notes that ḥusn, the root of iḥsān (excellence) in Arabic, also means both “beauty” and “goodness” . . ..

[15] See Rama Coomaraswamy (ed.), The Essential Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (Bloomington, Indiana: World Wisdom, 2004), 124.

[16] For the man who has acquired faqr, its immediate consequence is “detachment with regard to all manifested things, for the being knows from then on that these things, like himself, are nothing, . . .  .” René Guénon, “Al-Faqr or ‘Spiritual Poverty’,” Studies in Comparative Religion 7/1 (Winter 1973), 16–20:16.

[17] Yusuf Ibish, “Traditional Guilds in the Ottoman Empire: An Evaluation of their Spiritual Role and Social Function,” Islamic World Report (1999): 6.

[18] Frithjof Schuon, The Eye of the Heart (Bloomington, Indiana: World Wisdom Books, 1997), 15.

[19] See for instance Volumes 17 to 19 on prices (al-asʿar; sing. siʿr) in Ali Gomaʿa (ed.), Revealing the Islamic Economic Heritage (Takshīf al-Turāth al-Islāmī al-Iqtisādī) (Cairo: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1997).

[20] See Waleed El-Ansary, ed., Not by Bread Alone: E.F. Schumacher and the Perennial Philosophy (Bloomington: World Wisdom, forthcoming, 2018).

[21] E.F. Schumacher, Good Work (New York:  Harper & Row, 1979), 3-4.

[22] As Nasr points out in an essay on Islamic work ethics, “Work carried out in accordance with the Sharīah is a form of jihād and inseparable from the religious and spiritual significance associated with it.”  Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Traditional Islam in the Modern World, 35.

[23] For an excellent survey of classical and neoclassical approaches to work in the history of economic thought, see Ugo Pagano, Work and Welfare in Economic Theory (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd, 1985).

[24] Robert Foley, Adam’s Fallacy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006), 1.

[25] Quoted in E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, 24.

[26] See for instance Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s“Islam and the Preservation of the Natural Environment,” lecture at Georgetown University, Qatar, Center for International and Regional Studies, January 6, 2009.

[27] Michael J. Sandel, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013), 7.

[28] Michael J. Sandel, What Money Can’t Buy, 9.

[29] Elizabeth S. Anderson, “Is Women’s Labor a Commodity?” Philosophy and Public Affairs 19/1 (Winter 1990), 72–92: 77, as quoted in Michael J. Sandel, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), 94.

[30] Michael J. Sandel, Justice, 95.

[31] See for instance John Medaille, The Vocation of Business: Social Justice in the Market Place (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2007), Part I.

[32] See for instance Lutz and Lux, The Challenge of Humanistic Economics (Menlo Park, California:  The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Inc., 1979).

[33] For a critique of the analytical tools of neoclassical economic theory in light of the Islamic sciences of nature, see Waleed El-Ansary, “The Quantum Enigma and Islamic Sciences of Nature: Implications for Islamic Economic Theory.”.

All My Relations: Uniting Muslim and Indigenous Voices

By Muaz Nasir

Faith leaders and community activists gathered in Toronto yesterday evening for a discussion on strengthening the bond between the Muslim and Indigenous communities.

United Muslim and Indigenous Voices is the first of a series of events focusing on solidarity and reconciliation and was brought to fruition as a result of recent racial and religious attacks, both at home and abroad.

The panel discussion was hosted by Canadian Roots Exchange, a national not-for-profit organization that is committed to building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people. The goal of the event was to discuss issues of racism, colonialism and Islamophobia from Indigenous and Islamic perspectives and fits in the organization's mission to facilitate dialogue and strengthen relationships through leadership programs.

The Toronto Foundation and the Inspirit Foundation were also supporting partners, and follows up on a report released last year which cites the ongoing discrimination Muslim youth face and the prevailing sentiment that this is expected to increase in the future.

“It’s no secret that folks from Muslim communities face discrimination and prejudices, much like Indigenous people,” said Max FineDay, co-executive director Canadian Roots Exchange to MetroNews. “This is an opportunity to start getting to know one another better and work together for the common good.”

The panel discussed the importance of educating ourselves about each others’ injustices and confronting our own prejudices as part of the decolonization process. “In order to activate yourself, educate yourself.”

The audience also raised questions about meaningful forms of solidarity, and the importance of making incremental steps towards fostering a friendship not just between Indigenous and Muslim communities but with all Canadians. “Solidarity to me looks more like friendship,” said panelist Zainab Amadahy as she recollected a very personal experience; it can be small or it can be grand. But at the end of the day, it’s about a responsibility, a meaningfulness and a connection to one another.

 

About the Speakers:

SARAIN FOX

Sarain is an Anishinabe dancer, choreographer, facilitator, and activist. Since 2015, Sarain has turned her focus more toward media undertaking several hosting contracts with the VICE network, including RISE, a multi-episode show focusing on the endeavours of indigenous cultures from around the world, and Cut Off, which followed Justin Trudeau as he visited Shoal Lake 40, a remote Indigenous community struggling with water security. Most recently, Sarain has been contracted to co-host a forthcoming show on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN). All of her work, both artistic and community-based, serves her deep commitment to the process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada and beyond.

ZAINAB AMADAHY

Of mixed race heritage, Zainab Amadahy is a researcher, organizational development consultant, author and educator currently based in Toronto. Her background in community service is in the areas of Indigenous knowledge reclamation, curanderismo, non-profit housing, women’s services, migrant settlement and community arts as well as medical and photovoltaic technologies. Among her publications is "Indigenous Peoples and Black Peoples in Canada: Settlers or Allies” (co-authored with Dr. Bonita Lawrence, 2009) and the futurist novel Moons of Palmares (Sister Vision Press, 1998). Links to Zainab’s more recent writings can be found at http://swallowsongs.com/

AUSMA MALIK

Elected to the TDSB in 2014, Ausma brings expertise and experience in education policy and community organizing to representing her vibrant downtown community. From serving on the Board of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, the city's only social justice environmental organization, to volunteering with young people in Toronto's high needs communities, to labour organizing and leading equity initiatives on Ontario campuses, Ausma is a committed life-long human rights and social justice activist. Her work continues as Director of Social Engagement at the Atkinson Foundation.

RUDAYNA BAHUBESHI

Rudayna Bahubeshi is the Communications Manager at Inspirit Foundation. She is a passionate social justice advocate and city builder who always asks who is at the table and who is missing? She is currently a CivicAction DiverseCity Fellow and a Youth Advisor on Wellesley Institute's Supports for Success program, an emerging project seeking to bridge the gap across systems, services, and programs to enable children and youth to succeed. Rudayna has led programming and communications in the non-profit and grassroots sector for several years with organizations including Women in Toronto Politics, The Natural Step Canada, Engineers Without Borders, Getinvolved.ca, and Impact Hub Ottawa. Rudayna is deeply interested in civic engagement and developing a more inclusive civic discourse. She is originally from Ottawa and holds a Bachelor of Humanities from Carleton University.

 

Islam and the Environment - What can you do be an Eco-Friendly Muslim

By: Marwa Hamid

Asmaa and Max are the eco-friendly Muslim couple behind the website 'Greenkum'. In this article, they shared their thoughts on Islam, the environment and animal welfare..

During my masters’ studies, one of my Professors who was giving us a lecture on the topic of Urban Environments and Sustainability told the class that she admires the importance that Muslims put on their surrounding environments. She said, 'go to Delhi and you will be enchanted by the beautiful gardens that surround houses and palaces. The Muslims who like to surround themselves with gardens do so so that they can remind themselves of the heavens'

I am lucky that my academic interests are in an environmental setting and the more I learn about our environment the more I admire the glorious abilities of Allah Subhanah wa tala’a. However, regardless of the emphasis that Islam puts on conservation and the environment, many of us contribute to a high carbon footprint and that effects our environment in a very negative way. Why have we gone so far? Is it possible for us to enjoy our so-called modern lifestyles yet still care for our environment?

We spoke to Asmaa and Musa Max, a German blogging couple who shared with us their experience living a more environmentally conscious life...

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELVES AND HOW DID YOU BECOME MORE AWARE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES?

We are Asmaa, 27, and Max Musa, 28, a German married couple, best friends and the founders of the environmental blog Greenukum. Our blog is a showcase of our journey to become more conscious in hope to create an awareness for “green” topics like sustainability, environmentalism and animal protection, Eco-travelling, and so on.

So, how did we become aware of environmental issues?

Asmaa: As long as I can remember, I have been a huge animal and nature lover. My passion for environmental issues in addition to other things was inspired by my cats and by Hima, a Muslim organisation for environmental protection in Germany. On the other hand, I am working on my PhD in animal ethics in Islam and the more I do research in the field of nature and animals in Islam, the more I realised the importance of these issues.

Max Musa: I grew up in a vegetarian family that loves fellow creatures. Besides that, I worked for a big organic supermarket chain and had a lot of training and seminars on “green-topics”. Therefore, I tried to implement my knowledge in my daily life and realised more and more that the “modern” western lifestyle and the comfort that goes with it can have a negative impact on the environment. So I became more and more environmentally conscious.

WHAT DOES GREENUKUM MEAN?

The name Greenukum is a compound word consisting of the word green and ukum. Green a colour that is most commonly associated with the environment, life, hope and spirituality and is also considered the traditional colour of Islam. Ukum is an Arabic (possessive pronoun) suffix and stands for “your/yours” (pl.): Thus, Greenukum implies that it is YOUR nature, YOUR environment, YOUR life, YOUR spirituality... You have to take care of it!  For reasons mentioned above, we created Greenukum to inspire!

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR BLOG AND WHAT HAS YOUR BLOGGING EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE?

After our marriage, we decided to do our best to life a conscious lifestyle. We read a lot and watched several documentaries to learn more about it. So we become aware of our impact on the world and our function as Khalifa, stewards, on the earth.

To get more motivation we tried to find some personal blogs to follow and we came across many eco-bloggers. However, we were very disappointed by not finding any German Muslim blogger whom we could follow and identify with. That was the reason that motivated us to start our own blog, knowing that we are not perfect either we are 100% conscious since it was the beginning of our journey. We both had many discussions before deciding to do this step. Nevertheless, the desire to inspire and mobilise other people for such issues and to share our experiences in our very own way was great, so we did it in the end. Alhamdulillah.

WHAT KIND OF RESPONSES HAVE YOU HAD IN REGARDS TO YOUR BLOG FROM THE MUSLIM AND WIDER COMMUNITY?

Since we started our blog, the feedback we received from Muslims and people of other faiths all over the world was surprising. Our Instagram posts seem to be motivating especially to young Muslims. We assume that it is much easier to implement sustainable ideas into your own life when you find people you can identify with. It makes a difference if you are only reading something in an impersonal newsletter text or in a personal blog. Moreover, it makes a difference if you are getting the feeling that the author is real and not perfect: That is why we are trying to show our successes as well as our failures on the road.

The many messages we get from people who get inspired by our posts give us strength. It is also great to know that the great majority of Muslims also confirm that part of our Deen (Religion) is to take care of everything that lives with us or next to us. After a short introduction phase, we started receiving almost monthly invitations and many questions.

WHAT CORE TEACHINGS DOES ISLAM OFFER US IN TERMS OF BETTER CARING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

There are so many teachings that we can find in Quran and Sunna, but let us focus on the aspect of being a Khalifa (steward). God placed human being's as a Khalifa (steward) on earth; He created us as intelligent creatures, gave us the task to take care and to act righteously in all of our affairs. Thereby we have to hold nature as a trust (Amanah):

 “Then We appointed you viceroys in the earth after them, that We might see how ye behave”
(Quran 10:14)

There are so many verses in Quran that emphasise our duty to look after the earth and not to over consume its resources. For example:

“O children of Adam! … eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.”
(Quran 7:31)

So we are really wondering, how we can damage nature, knowing that these are signs of Allah, placed by him on earth to show us his beauty? Even more: The Quran tells us that everything is praising the Lord.

"There is not an animal on the earth, nor a creature flying on two wings, but they are nations like you." (Quran 6:38)


WHAT DO YOU THINK IS HOLDING BACK MUSLIMS FROM DOING MORE FOR THE PLANET (PARTICULARLY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD)? AND WHAT CAN BE DONE TO TACKLE THESE CONSTRAINTS?

That is a very complex question and it is very difficult to answer it briefly. Nevertheless, I remember a statement of the Iranian-born intellectual Seyyed Hossein Nasr, who has written several articles about men and nature in Islam. His opinion is that it is because of two facts: Firstly, we have societies engaged with immediate problems. Remember, Colonialism and its consequences, Radical Islamists and more. On the other hand for non-western people, the environmental problem is kind of a western problem, created by western industrialisation and capitalism that they did not identify with. Additionally, many environmental discussions do not reflect on a spiritual side of this issue. We are convinced that you can better reach people when you confront them with their faith.

Asmaa: I created an experience with my family and friends: While talking to my grandmother in Morocco about these issues, I told her that it is our task as Khalifa (steward) on this earth to protect the earth and I provided her with examples from the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) It was possible for me to reach her much better.

This is how people work! The religious values influence the way in which billions of people think and act. Why not work with them using the potential of religion!

IF YOU COULD GET MUSLIMS TO DO ONE THING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

At least reduce your meat consumption! It is not just good for you (many health benefits) but it is also necessary to protect our planet. By cutting down your meat consumption, you can help tackle these issues to name just a few:

  • Reduce greenhouse gases

  • Improve animal welfare
  • Save the Amazon from destruction (massive cattle is responsible for 75% of deforested areas in the Amazon)
  • Reduce waste production (did you know that 2000 - 2500 gallons of water go into a SINGLE pound of beef!)
  • Reduce world hunger (80% of global soy production is used as livestock feed).

In addition of all that we should also think about the way we’re treating animals before they are slaughtered and questioning ourselves if this way is really in accordance with the advice of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and if so is it really halal AND tayyib?

WHAT WOULD THE DAILY LIFE OF A GREEN MUSLIM BE LIKE? HOW WOULD THEY LIVE, SOCIALISE, TRAVEL, ETC?

A green Muslim is nothing more than a Muslim who is aware of his responsibility as a Khalifah on earth. Increasing awareness about this responsibility means that you are doing the main thing for the environment. You can also reflect on your daily behaviour while travelling, socialising, working or shopping – by asking yourself, is it really necessary and good? Example: Is it necessary to buy your 12th shirt only because it cost just $5? Is it necessary to take the car for a short distance? or could I go by foot or with a bicycle? Thus, with a clear understanding of how our choices are fundamental for us and for all creations around us your awareness will change and your awareness about your responsibility as a human being will rise.

“Do not mischief on the earth, after it hath been set in order[…].”
(Quran 7:56)

And at the end: Pray. Make Du’a. Connect to God. Connect to nature. Remember: Paradise is a Garden!

Through the course of his life, the Prophet (PBUH) who was a shepherd just like other prophets, was concerned with the environment and its protection and has left behind an 'ecological Sunnah'. The love the prophet’s (PBUH) had for all living beings and nature was clear in his verbal teachings as well as his acts concerning their protection.

One of his greatest efforts in this context was a forest in an area called “Zuraybu’t Taweel,” where he announced: “Whoever cuts a tree here should plant a new tree instead”. Together with this regulation, the area shortly turned into a forest. The Prophet also declared an area of 12-miles in distance from the centre of Medina as Haram (forbidden by religion) and also prohibited the cutting of trees and the killing of animals within its borders. 1400 years later, our planet is paying a huge toll due to the shift in lifestyles, overconsumption and unsustainable practices and we are desperately in need to implement the Prophets (PBUH) ecological Sunnah so we can protect our planet and conserve its resources for the next generation.

Special thanks to Asmaa and Musa Max for taking time, to answer our questions and provide our readers with some tips from their own experiences.

For more eco-friendly tips: www.greenukum.com

To keep up to date with their work check out their Instagram page HERE

This article originally appeared on Bahath.co on February 3rd, 2017. You can connect via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for more profiles.

Alhamdulillah for Coffee

The Muhammadan Bean - Listen Now  

Journalist Abdul-Rehman Malik leads us on a journey to Turkey as he investigates the forgotten history of coffee. He discovers that coffee was popularised by Sufi mystics in the Yemen who used the drink as a way of energising themselves during their nocturnal devotions. Originating in Ethiopia, finding its spiritual home in the Yemen, evading zealots and Sultans from Mecca to Constantinople, defying prejudice from Vienna to London – coffee made its mark wherever it went, facilitating radical new forms of social exchange.

The "Alhamdulillah Series" was inspired by Ruzky Aliyar who featured a series of nature images with the tagline “Alhamdulillah”. The series was profiled on Muslim Matters during the Winter of 2012 and quickly drew praise for the simplicity of the message. Building upon this effort to remember the many blessings of Allah, Khaleafa.com has picked up the initiative and will continue to highlight the many signs of Allah.

“There truly are signs in this for people who reflect.” (Quran 13:3)

Fashion with a Purpose - #WaterBracelet

The International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF) recently partnered up with Azha, an Arabic spiritual lifestyle brand, to help raise awareness about water access issues and promote their clean water project.

All proceeds from the Water Bracelet will go towards promoting clean water for schools, sand filters for villages and water pumps to help improve people's quality of life in drought prone regions.

According to the World Health Organization, 663 million people lack access to safe water and every 90 seconds a child dies due to a water borne disease. The World Economic Forum announced last year that the water crisis is the number one global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation). The Water Bracelet is one tool to encourage the discussion around the issue of water scarcity and security abroad, while also promoting conservation here at home.

The IDRF also operates Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs that provide access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation facilities (such as washrooms and hand washing stations), and hygiene education for women, men, and children to keep families healthy and break the cycle of poverty.

About IDRF

IDRF (International Development and Relief Foundation) is a Canadian registered charitable organization dedicated to empowering the disadvantaged people of the world.

IDRF provides effective humanitarian aid and sustainable development programs, without discrimination, based on the Islamic principles of human dignity, self-reliance, and social justice.

IDRF seeks to provide the most vulnerable communities with the means to create lives of dignity, equality and sustainability, towards a more just world. Since 1984, IDRF has implemented relief and development projects across territories in South and Southeast Asia, Africa, the Americas, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Impact of Water Scarcity

  • 750 million people in the world don’t have access to safe water and 2.5 billion people don’t have access to adequate sanitation. Tragically, every minute a child dies of water-related diseases, and over 500,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.

  • Water is essential for survival, and for peace. Water shortages lead to reduced food production, mass displacement, undermined livelihoods, and dire public health outcomes – all of which can lead to conflict. Working with whole communities on comprehensive solutions is critical. So too is using technology and innovation to bring water where it is needed most.

  • In many communities, women and girls are most affected by water scarcity. Women and children spend an estimated 140 Million hours each day collecting water, often from distant, unsafe sources to provide for their families. When women do not have a safe place for sanitary practices, they risk increased violence, increased health risks, and diminished abilities to participate in school and public life. IDRF WASH programs consider the unique needs of all members of the community, and make access and education key components of our programs.

                                                                                                                                                                        Source: IDRF

An open letter to faith based organisations represented at COP 22 in Marrakesh

COP 22 The twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties and the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12) is being held in Bab Ighli, Marrakech, Morocco from 7-18 November 2016.

Dear friends and colleagues,

Greetings!

The Paris protocol is now in force but may I just remind you that where we need to take giant strides this is only one small step for humankind. The COP process is vital and necessary but what we need overall is a paradigm shift that will enable us to leave a liveable Earth for our children. Divesting in fossil fuel investment to the exclusion of everything else is like plugging a leak in a dam that is about to burst. Let us take note that big oil is pushing a pipe line through North Dakota in the face of stiff opposition and the British Government is inviting bidders for new offshore drilling licences. And I wonder if anyone is talking to the Middle Eastern oil producers about divestment.

The voices of faith communities are now beginning to be heard in the global arena in matters of vital concern for us all. From tentative beginnings COP 21 in Paris witnessed the burgeoning presence of Faith Based Organisations (FBO's) in the public arena to the extent that we have earned ourselves our very own acronym. FBO's are now on the map and ask to be heard. This is unprecedented and long overdue though it must be said that people of faith did run the world for millennia keeping it in reasonable shape for past generations to thrive in. The organisation of the Climate Conscience Summit by the far sighted Government of Morocco in Fez on 3 November, is a commendable event. It not only recognises the emergence of once marginalised faith communities but also assures the continuing consolidation of this movement.

As you are no doubt aware human induced climate change now poses a deadly threat to all life on planet Earth. Although FBOs have the potential to be a positive force for change there are other fault lines defined by special interests which have the capacity to impede progress. Looking at this fairly and squarely in the face it has to be said that much of the responsibility for change lies in the hands of corporations and banks that wield enormous power and have access to resources. They perpetuate a counter narrative to the COP process we need to address. In a sceptical editorial that appeared in the influential Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Monday 14 December 2015, on the first week day edition after the Paris summit, it made the following comment:

"The moment to be wariest of political enthusiasms is precisely when elite opinion is all lined up on one side ... if climate change really does imperil the Earth, and we doubt it does, nothing coming out of a gaggle of governments and the United Nations will save it."

This is verging on the rude and displays an arrogance of monumental proportions. The WSJ is located like the UN headquarters in New York and I wonder if one is listening to the other or do they just stare at each other over the sand bags. The best place to experience the chasm that exists between big business and the COP process is to visit the World Economic Forum that is held in Davos, Switzerland each year. Take your snow boots with you as it is held in deep winter. There is a serious need here for the two groups that think they run the world to be talking to each other.

The G20 Summit held in Hangzhou, China just about eight weeks ago was heralded by both China and the USA announcing their ratification of the Paris climate proposals. However one doesn't have to read too hard between the lines to notice some feet dragging is going on. For example there were some rumblings in Hangzhou concerning timelines for the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies. In some countries tampering with existing subsidies is tantamount to political suicide because in the final analysis it is the voice of the people that matter.

Sustainable Development (SD) warranted frequent references in the final Hangzhou communiqué. But it is just about dawning on policymakers that SD becoming a reality requires a capital intensive transition which is bound to interfere with the carbon reduction programme. We are in a double bind and a huge responsibility lies on the shoulders of the politicians because it is they who have to straddle the fine line that exists between cutting carbon emissions to the required proportions which on the one hand requires a degree of austerity and on the other responding to people's demands for prosperity. This puts the onus on developed countries to rethink their economics beyond COP and SD and apply the brakes to slow down growth to enable the rest to have a fair share of the cake. This is no time to be pointing our fingers at the United States as it is preoccupied in electing a new leader and I only refer to that country as a template for the rest of the world. The campaign for the presidency clearly reflects the universal fact that the climate change agenda is always subordinate to the growth agenda.
 

Morocco is unique amongst Muslim countries in the lead it is giving to bring the climate agenda to the notice of the people and following it up with an agenda which is both international and local in scope. The hosting of COP 22 takes care of the international and the local which is of primary importance becomes apparent in government policy where there is an undertaking to provide renewable energy to hundreds of mosques in all parts of the country by installing solar panels. I would urge the Moroccan Government to catch the wind and embark on an education programme that reflects Islam's basic conservationist approach to life. In this regard we offer our experience built over more than thirty years of work.

We have a shared responsibility and this is where the burgeoning FBO movement has a vital role to play. The collective will of people of faith can be a force to be reckoned with and as an interface between people and policy makers there is much this movement can deliver. As a lobby we can be strong enough to influence public policy but we also need to engage in demonstrable change if we are going to be taken seriously.

Yours sincerely

Fazlun Khalid

Fazlun Khalid is the Founder and Director of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (EcoIslam), Birmingham UK; Convenor of the drafting team of the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change .Fazlun Khalid Founder Director IFEES/EcoIslam

 

Is it time more Muslims turned to veganism?

By: Nadia Kadry

“It’s haram to be vegetarian, you’re denying what Allah has made permissible for you.”

This is a complaint I receive from family members when I am vocal about eating less meat. Whilst eating halal tayyib meat is permissible in Islam, there are compelling arguments made that adopting a vegan, vegetarian, or semi-vegetarian diet is more in accordance with the Prophetic tradition and Islamic principles than the current daily meat eating culture amongst many Muslim communities.

We can look directly to the diet of the Prophet (pbuh) who reportedly only ate meat occasionally, to support maintaining at least a semi-vegetarian diet today. It is a forgotten Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (pbuh) to keep meat consumption minimal, treating it as a luxury rather than a daily necessity. During his caliphate, Umar ibn al Khattab (ra) prohibited people from eating meat two days in a row, warning that meat has “has an addiction like the addiction of wine.” We can see a huge divergence when we compare many Muslim majority cultures’ meat eating habits to that of the Prophet’s (pbuh).

Eating lawfully and wholesomely

 “O mankind, eat from earth what is halal (lawful) and tayyib (good/wholesome)…” (Holy Quran 2:168)

From a strictly religious standpoint, for meat to be considered halal tayyib and therefore permissible, the process needs to meet requirements beyond what many understand as halal as the draining of the blood and the recitation of Allah’s name at the time of slaughter. The other requirements needed for meat to be tayyib and thus lawful to eat, are less known.

The animal must be raised in a humane and wholesome environment, be fed and given water prior to slaughter, and not be stressed, abused or mishandled, nor witness another animal being killed, among other requirements. The reality is that most of today’s meat, even when labeled “halal,” comes from battery farms where the animals endure cramped conditions and cruel and inhumane practices and are injected with harmful steroids and hormones.

Animal welfare is essential in Islam with the Prophet (pbuh) often preaching that animals be treated with the utmost compassion, mercy and kindness. There is thus a stark contrast between Islam’s stated animal ethics and the poor conditions that thousands of mass-farmed animals endure everyday. It is worth wondering whether the Prophet (pbuh), who would curse the one who mistreated an animal would approve of such practices.

Environmental effects of meat production

“Do not pollute the earth after it has been (so) wholesomely (set in order) …” (Holy Quran 7:56)

Animal agriculture reportedly accounts for 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with no other single human activity having a greater impact on the planet. This is unsurprising when you think about all the land, vegetation, energy and water required for raising animals for consumption, especially considering our growing population and appetites. Eating meat is a hugely inefficient transfer of energy, as the amount of food the world’s cattle consumes is reportedly equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people.

This illustrates the huge inequality our food systems sustain, as grains that could nourish those in poverty are being used to feed livestock to then be consumed by wealthier people. The increased demand for grains puts humans in competition with animals and drives the price for these grains up, further compounding the global food crisis.

Humans are the successors of the Earth

“And it is He (Allah) who has made you successors upon the earth…” (Holy Quran 6:165)

The natural world is a fundamental part of Islam; the whole of earth has been created a place of worship for us and the Qur’an glorifies nature and wildlife frequently. The Qur’an tells us that we were appointed as stewards on Earth, and thus have a duty to protect our planet, Allah’s creation, from environmental degradation. This includes protecting against the mass deforestation that the meat industry requires and thus protecting the habitats of much wildlife. More importantly, we need to recognize the impact of global greenhouse gas emissions on our fellow humans, mostly those in the global south who disproportionately suffer the effects of climate change whilst contributing the least.

Reviving our relationship with the environment

“…Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commitabuse on the earth, spreading corruption” (Holy Quran 2:60)

Following the principles of our religion, we ought to reevaluate and revive our relationship with the environment and consider how our diets, among other things, impact the earth and other people. I will be the first to admit that a transition to a more ethical and meat-free diet is difficult and requires time, thought, and money, which is a luxury not everyone has.

Conversations about the environment, animal welfare, our health and reviving the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) need to be started which can help enable a cultural shift amongst Muslim communities in the way we view and eat meat and our participation in harmful food systems. This need not involve shaming anyone’s diets or lifestyles, but rather in showing the perfect harmony a vegetarian diet has with Islam’s principles in the modern day.

“The point is to live consciously and intentionally—to walk on the path of continual, voluntary self-surrender, for this is what it means to be in Islam. First for the Creator, then for our own spiritual development, for the good of the beings we share this world with, and for the continued health of this delicate world itself.” – Ezra Ereckson

On a practical level, we can make greater effort to lessen our meat consumption to a couple of times a week, month or year. This can involve designating a specific day a week to eating meat. Where possible and affordable, one should buy organic and locally sourced foods, which extends beyond meat and animal products. Ultimately, we need to become more conscious of the way we live and eat and try to keep in accordance with the ethics of Islam.

This article originally appeared on The Muslim Vibe on October 20th, 2016. 

Caretakers of the Earth: An Islamic Perspective

NASA

By Omar Bagnied 

Environmental stewardship is an integral part of Islam. We’re currently experiencing a revival in practice and scholarly engagement in this important area. Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, as one example, has notably developed a contemporary understanding of ecological principles in Islam as antedating modern environmentalism. In a logical and compelling way, he has inspired many to re-engage the subject through his book “Green Deen,” and I will present some of his suggestions at the end of this article.

Quran and hadith contain numerous textual evidences in support of environmental stewardship. The Quran says, “It is He who has appointed you vicegerent on the earth…” (Quran 6:165). And indeed, the Muslim’s character (khulq) is one that is to be inclined to moderation and conservation rather than excess and wastefulness. The role of human beings in general, and Muslims by extension even more so, as caretakers of the environment, is stressed in seven Quranic verses that tie stewardship (khalifa) to the earth (fil ardh). There is a responsibility charged to human beings to carry out this trust (amana). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, the exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves” (Saheeh Muslim).

Walk Gently and Share Resources

Although the earth is created to serve the purposes of man, it should never be degraded in any way – contaminated or immoderately exploited. Its resources are available to humanity, but are to be used in ways that are sustainable and without harmful impact to the environment and the ecological balance. The Quran tells us, “The servants of the Lord of Mercy are those who walk gently upon the earth…” (Quran 25:63). Islamic teachings oppose using resources in excess or in pursuit of an opulent lifestyle; extravagant excess by some typically deprives others of a basic standard of decent and secure living.

There should always be justice (‘adl) in resource distribution. Allah SWT instructs us about the sharing of resources, using the example of the tribe of Thamud: “And let them know that the water [of their wells] is to be divided between them, with each share of water equitably apportioned” (Quran 54:28). Inequitable distribution of water has been a catalyst for conflict in several Muslim-majority countries. Consulting the prophetic example could offer a starting point to inspire solutions. There are no fewer than four hadith that speak to this. The first, transmitted via Abdullah Ibn Abbas, affirms that “humans are co-owners in three things: water, fire and pasture.” Another, relayed in Mishkat al Masabih, warns “No one can refuse [to share] surplus water without sinning against Allah and against man.” Still another, transmitted via Muhmmad al-Bukhari, relays, “There are three types of people whom Allah will not look at on the Day of Judgment, nor will He purify them, and theirs shall be a severe punishment. One of those is a person who possessed superfluous water on a path and withheld it from travelers.”

The fourth hadith, transmitted via Muhammad al-Bukhari, tells the story of the Ruma Well, which during the time of the Prophet was owned by a man who was charging a high price for people to use it. The Prophet said “For anyone who will purchase the Ruma Well and use its water jointly with other Muslims, a wonderful place in the Garden of Eden will be prepared.” The Prophet’s companion Uthman bought the well and made its use free for all people of Medina. Uthman would continue to maintain the well as he ascended to leadership as the third khaliph.

Land Preservation and Sanctuary for Wildlife

The Prophet was also a pioneer when it came to land preservation and providing sanctuary for wildlife. He designated special areas where water, wildlife, and forestry use would be restricted (haram) or left alone altogether (hima). These are precedents for what’s currently referred to as a nature reserve or preserve. The Prophet believed that animals, land, and water were not the possessions of mankind, but rather provisions from Allah to use in moderation and wisdom. The Quran says, “…waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters (Quran 7:31).

In line with protecting wildlife, the Prophet has instructed us that hunting is for valid reasons such as obtaining food or when necessary for the safety of humans, but never for sport or pastime. He mentioned: “If anyone wrongfully kills a sparrow or anything greater, God will question him about it” (An-Nasa’i).”

Recycling and the Balance of Nature

Recycling should be a reflex. In many places it’s as easy as placing non-food remains in the appropriate bin. And where composting is available (which can be anywhere food is grown), most waste can be reused as nutrients to fertilize the soil for further growing of fruits and vegetables. Things that we typically throw in the trash can be re-used in one way or another. Metals, plastics, and glass should not be going to landfills as they can be reused or recycled. The paper that comes from a chopped-down tree is worth far more than a single use.

The balance (mizan) of nature is complex and intricate and must be maintained. And all living things have a symbiotic relationship, and that interdependence should be mutually beneficial. Corrupting the balance of nature has far-reaching consequences. The Quran tells us, “Corruption has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of humans have wrought, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return [to guidance]” (Quran 30:41).

Reinstating a Clean Environment

Our industrialized societies emit large amounts of carbon every day. Trees were once able to absorb the lower-level amount of emissions, but the balance (mizan) of greenery to carbon-fueled activity has tipped toward the latter. Carbon dioxide emissions, which account for roughly 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., come from burning fossil fuels, generating electricity, vehicle fuel emissions, manufacturing, and burning of waste. Exposure to even low levels of carbon dioxide can cause a wide array of health hazards, particularly respiratory complications. The imbalance that humanity has created has also resulted in a warmer atmosphere that catalyzes extreme weather occurrences like hurricanes, floods, heat waves, and droughts.

We should approach the need to reinstate the balance and clean up the environment with urgency but also optimism. We now, more than ever, have access to information, resource optimization, renewable energy, and recycling infrastructure. More and more people feel motivated and the tools are available. Wholesale lifestyle changes aren’t practical as they are not likely to be made, but incremental adoption can provide tremendous benefit.

Abdul-Matin details a number of smart suggestions that can help us change, and address the sources and circumstances surrounding climate change. And we should not forget what Allah SWT tells us: “…truly, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…” (Quran 13:11). Abdul-Matin points out that we can change our global narrative from one of scarcity to emphasizing that we have all we need if we use the resources equitably and in moderation. Both organic and halal food can become affordable and readily available when demand sensibilities change and folks refuse to buy unhealthy foods. There are ways to not only eat smarter, but also to build with greater efficiency. Islamic infrastructure, like mosques, can naturally optimize resource efficiency. Mosques in hot-dry climates are optimally built with heavy, thick materials and minimal openings (windows, doors) to keep hot air out. Mosques in hot-humid climates are better served by shade via plants, awnings, and courtyards, as well as good ventilation. And if mosques in cold climates are appropriately weatherized they can optimize energy efficiency by preventing air leakage.

As Muslims we should, naturally, be a community that consumes less, and uses the bounty provided on the earth in ways that are healthier, more efficient, and more equitable. Through this we facilitate more fair access to resources, preservation of public health, and cultivation of local economies. These practices promote social harmony, as well as charity (zakat and sadaqah) by shunning excessive consumption and the disharmony (fitna) that results. Recycle, repurpose, reuse, and reflect on Allah’s bountiful blessings. Look around and observe, in nature and in the environment, the multitude of signs of Allah, and the beautiful interweave of ecosystems and species that make up a oneness of creation, all beholden to the order and sustenance put in place by the creator.

Omar Bagnied is currently teaches environmental education with the Anacostia Watershed Society in Washington DC.

This article originally appeared on The Message on September 26th, 2016. Photo credit from NASA  

A Canadian Prayer Rug Weaves Together the Stories of First Nation’s People, Muslim Immigrants, and Alberta’s Landscape

Noor Iqbal, an elementary school teacher and weaver of the prayer rug, worked with Kit Wilson to brainstorm ideas of the design, and translate the designs into something that was feasible to weave.

Noor Iqbal, an elementary school teacher and weaver of the prayer rug, worked with Kit Wilson to brainstorm ideas of the design, and translate the designs into something that was feasible to weave.

By Aaron Wannamaker

Thomas King, the Canadian First Nations author, once said,

“The truth about stories is, that’s all we are.”

We express our stories in many ways, such as through literature, film, and song. Art is about telling a story of who you are, or what your world is, in a capsule that can be digested by any of a person’s five senses. It is a window into a unique story.

This is the story of a rug. A rug that, woven into its fabric, are the stories of Alberta, its people, its land, and the Muslim settlers who, over a century ago, came here to start their own lives.

This is the story of The Canadian Prayer Rug.

Five times a day, every day, Muslims stand facing the direction of Mecca for prayer. Typically, they’ll be standing on a prayer rug. For the most part, their eyes won’t be focusing on the intricate arabesque designs of the rug, the arches or monuments depicted on the fabric, or the colours or patterns woven into it. Their focus will be on a higher power, God, and when they are finished with their prayers, the rugs will be folded up and tucked away, perhaps in a cupboard or closet.

But these rugs have much more to say than just being a simple cloth to pray on. They are a medium for cultural expression. They reflect the culture and values of the people who make them, and the places they are born in. From the symbols used, to the type of material, to the patterns and designs, these rugs tell stories: stories of belonging, of history, of place, purpose, and faith.

Omar Yaqub, a professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Alberta, recounts his travels in the Middle East.

The prayer rug he carried with him belonged to his grandfather and had been passed on to him. It followed Omar through his journeys, from the sacred pilgrimage of Hajj, to Tanzania, Turkey, Pakistan, Nigeria and more.

Wherever he went, he saw a myriad of prayer rugs, all made of different materials that were indigenous to the land, with varying colours that were used by locals, and many different symbols that were culturally important.

“I saw that story being repeated in many, many places,” Omar says, “that people were telling a story about where they were from and celebrating things that were around them.”

A few years later, the Edmonton Heritage Council put out a call for applications for creative cultural projects. Omar, also a board member of the Edmonton-based not-for- profit, Islamic Family and Social Services Association (IFSSA), saw potential for a project that could highlight Edmonton’s Muslim community and help both them and the public realize their roots in the broader Canadian context. Omar and the team at The Green Room, IFSSA’s youth program, put together a grant proposal and submitted it to the Edmonton Heritage Council. That project would be The Canadian Prayer Rug.

The goal of the project was to create a prayer rug that spoke to the history of Edmonton’s Muslim community, the culture of Alberta, and also pay tribute to the Indigenous people who live on Treaty Six Territory. In the broader sense, it was meant to contribute to the creation of a uniquely Canadian Muslim identity, and help Canadian Muslims realize the roots they have in this province and in this country.

The Al Rashid Mosque built in 1938 in Edmonton with donations from all the monotheistic faith groups in the region

Edmonton’s Muslim community has been around for almost as long as there has been an Edmonton. The Al Rashid mosque was built in 1938, only 30 years after Edmonton was declared a city. A community of Syrian and Lebanese immigrants garnered donations from members of all monotheistic faiths in Edmonton. The land it was built on was donated by the City of Edmonton. It was designed by a Ukrainian-Canadian architect, resembling a Russian Orthodox Church, and is recognized as the first purpose-built mosque in North America. The mosque became a community hub, as the Muslim community would host dinners and events for the broader Edmonton community, regardless of their faith. The building currently resides in Fort Edmonton Park as a heritage site, where it is under the care of Richard Awid, a descendant of one of the first Lebanese immigrants who settled in the city, and is still used as a place of worship.

Ultimately, the Edmonton Heritage Council approved a $15,000 grant for the project, much to the surprise and delight of Omar and The Green Room team. The next inevitable question was: what would a Canadian Prayer Rug look like?

Do a quick search of prayer rugs, and you’ll see many motifs present in them: archways, geometric arabesques, domes, often in hues of red, gold or green. Some have mosques or the Ka’bah — the holy mosque in Mecca — featured prominently in their designs. While these rugs are very beautiful and ornate in and of themselves, they are a reflection of the culture in which they are created. To a western audience, the designs of a prayer rug — even Islam as a whole — remain largely in the realm of foreigners and desert dwelling Arabs, imagery held over from the orientalists. These images, and the beliefs associated with them, remain on the periphery of acceptance. To your average person, they’re nice to look at, but not taken seriously as anything but another reflection of the “other”, from which much xenophobia stems. “Arabism” is often equated with Islam — that is, anything resembling Arabic culture is somehow Islamic. This is even more inaccurate when you realize there are a broad spectrum of cultures that get unfairly lumped in to just being “Arabic”, despite countries like Syria, Pakistan, India, Turkey and more having their own unique cultures. This is similar to how the broad spectrum of Indigenous cultures in Canada, including Cree, Blackfoot and Assiniboine, are all seen as interchangeable — and that’s without even getting into the differences between First Nations, Metis and Inuit.

However, the idea of a monolithic “Islamic” culture is one that is not necessarily rooted in Islam itself. In his essay, “Islam and the Cultural Imperative”, Dr. Umar Faruq-Abdullah writes that,

“In history, Islam showed itself to be culturally friendly and, in that regard, has been likened to a crystal clear river. Its waters (Islam) are pure, sweet, and life-giving but — having no color of their own — reflect the bedrock (indigenous culture) over which they flow.”

He stresses the necessity of creating a uniquely American — and by extension Canadian — Islam that reflects the bedrock of our own culture. The Canadian Prayer Rug was always seen as a means to that goal.

The Green Room hiredMétis designer Kit Walton, who had a fascination with Islamic motifs and architecture, to solve the riddle of what the prayer rug would actually look like.

“Canada is such a mashup of cultures coming together,” she says, and the challenge was finding a way to weave together “the history of Edmonton, the history of the Islamic culture and Alberta and… Treaty 6 and the land before everyone started coming in.”

Over the past year, Alberta has become the staging ground for the landmark Truth and Reconciliation commission, which has sought to bring to light the abuse and mistreatment of Canada’s Indigenous peoples at the hands of white settlers. Particular focus was given to the residential schools, which has sought to strip Indigenous children of their language and culture. Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin labelled the practice “cultural genocide.” It has since spurred everything from a revived interest in Indigenous culture to formal apologies by the Canadian government to the country’s Indigenous population. Many speeches by Alberta’s premier begin with acknowledgement of being on Treaty 6 territory, alluding to the historical document signed in 1876 by 50 First Nations bands that covered land use in most of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Incorporating the Indigenous story into the rug required tact and respect, but not so blatant and obvious as to “tokenize” it, as Taouba Khelifa, Program Manager for the Green Room, put it. After all, the easy way out would just be to slap a medicine wheel in the middle and call it a day. On the other hand, the rug had to acknowledge the history of the Muslim community here, while reflecting the universal aspects that every Albertan holds dear.

The shape and design of the rug went through several iterations. At one point, leather was considered as the medium for the prayer rug, a reflection of Alberta’s ranching history. Other designs had the rug shaped like the province itself, the design being an aerial map that included depictions of mountains, plains and the North Saskatchewan River. Symbols considered included prominent Albertan flora, like Saskatoon berries, pine cones, and cattails. The prominence of the Al Rashid mosque on the rug was also an element that required thought; would the building itself be woven into the pattern, or would its presence be shown through symbolism? Of course, Edmonton’s reputation as “oil country” also came up as well.

“There was a joke that ‘perhaps this rug will be made out of petrochemical product,’” Taouba says.

As Kit worked on the face of the rug, her designs also had to be mindful of the medium of weaving.

“Traditional prayer rugs are quite intricate and I couldn’t really do anything too intricate because of the weaving techniques,” she said. Weaving as a medium doesn’t allow for fine, intricate details the way embroidery or stitching does. Even still, certain elements of the rug — such as the crescent moons — would later be embroidered.

Noor Iqbal, an elementary school teacher and weaver of the prayer rug, worked with Kit to brainstorm ideas of the design, and translate the designs into something that was feasible to weave.

Weaving is a textile art in which two distinct sets of yarns are interlaced together, typically on a loom, to produce a fabric. As a medium, weaving itself is an integration of cultures.

“Weaving isn’t necessarily something that’s indigenous to this place. There’s not a lot of weaving heritage here,” Noor says, referring to First Nations cultures in Alberta. The tradition of weaving doesn’t reach back thousands of years, as it does in other parts of the world. Ukrainian and Francophone communities brought over the weaving heritage from their homelands when they settled here. “[Weaving] comes through in an immigrant context… The medium speaks to an immigrant identity.”

The project used only locally sourced wool and dyes made from plants and herbs native to the Edmonton region to further reflect the spirit of locality. However, it also limited the colour palette that could be used in designing the rug, as natural dyes and wool typically produce more subdued colours, not the more vibrant and saturated tones found in regular textiles.

The design process for the rug took over 4 months of research, brainstorming, and various iterationsbefore landing on a main focus and design.

Ultimately, the focus of the rug came down to Alberta’s one universal aspect that connects everyone living in it, whether Indigenous or immigrant, born-and-raised or newly-arrived, religious or not.

“It tells the story of the land,” says Rachel Pereira, a researcher on the project. “It’s really important because, when we think about how to be in this place and how to honour those who came before us, I think the land is so central to that. The land is so central to Indigenous ways of life and we’ve disrespected it so much — intentionally and not intentionally — and I think it’s a reminder of the sacredness, I think, of the land.”

For Kit, it tells her story, being Métis, and growing up in rural Alberta and experiencing the landscape. For her, incorporating the natural aspects of Alberta was important, as a reminder of how people should respect the land and, by extension, the place they live in.

The final design is a testament to the story of Alberta’s land — from the boreal forest to the central agricultural plains, to the mountains and rivers to the west — and the shared history of its peoples. All of these threads have been woven together to create something beautiful.

At the center of the rug stands Alberta’s official tree, the lodgepole pine, mimicking the motif of Cyprus trees found on traditional Syrian and Lebanese rugs. Surrounding the tree is an arch — a common feature in traditional rugs — which is inspired by the architecture of the Al Rashid mosque. The arch shifts into four sets of rich colours, representing Edmonton’s bold seasons, while also paying homage to the four cardinal directions. The two crescent moons in the top corners symbolize the crescents on the Al Rashid mosque and the Islamic lunar calendar. The wheat on the bottom represents Alberta’s prairies and its abundance of food, and the blue triangles represent the Rocky Mountains and the flow of the North Saskatchewan River.

With many people inquiring about how to get the Canadian Prayer Rug for their own homes, The Green Room approached Shubinak, an ethical clothing manufacturer based out of Lahore, Pakistan, to produce replicas for consumers. “It is a spiritual product, it connects you with the creator,” says Sayed Farooq, founder of Shubinak. “It cannot be made with anything which has stains of, you can say, unethical manufacturing.”

Shubinak employs artisans from Pakistan, and uses sustainable materials to create woven, embroidered and screen-printed fabrics and textiles. To Sayed, this traditional and human approach to creating the prayer rug for consumers is part of being a responsible corporate citizen, and this philosophy lined up with the philosophy of the prayer rug. “The design of the prayer rug, it’s very localized and at the same time it connects with the history of Islam,” he says. “The key is knowing where the product is coming from.”

The overall theme of the rug is to promote a sense of welcoming. In Cree, the word pehonan means “gathering place.” Similarly, the Arabic wordmasjid refers to a gathering place, serenity, and home. This rug is meant to be a symbol of home, and that no matter where we come from, this land — “glorious and free” — is our home.

Our story.

We are at a unique time in the story of Alberta.

Last May, the 40 year reign of the Conservatives came to an abrupt end as the left-leaning New Democratic Party was elected into power. Shortly thereafter, Alberta’s oil economy — its key resource — crashed.

With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, there have been many stories coming out of the darker side of Alberta’s history of residential schools. With it has come the beginnings of a renewed respect for Indigenous culture and language. These stories are part of the longer narrative of the Indigenous peoples and their experiences on the land.

Recently, thousands of Syrian families joined the rich collection of Alberta’s ethnic milieu. Like the founders of the Al Rashid, they are families in a new land, striking out to find their own sense of community and belonging. Their stories, and the stories of the children who follow them, are just beginning.

“We are in a very unique situation given that the newly-arrived live alongside people who’ve been here for centuries,” says Rachel, “and I think somehow both of those groups are struggling to find belonging and call this place home.”

Yet there are ways to speak across that historical divide.

“In the dialogue that leads up to this, we find our common thread,” Omar says. That thread is our cultural and artistic expression, all of which speaks to our past, present and future. As Omar says, it is a call to “take the stories that are all around us and the stories of our being here and recognize them and speak them more.”

The Canadian Prayer Rug is a nexus point for all these stories.

“It tells the people who are coming here now that they have a history here and they have a future,” Omar says, “telling people that they have a history here and that their future is interwoven into the fabric and the landscape of where they are now.”

In a broader sense, the rug helps to engage with social issues that have been relevant in Edmonton, both in the past and now, from the challenges of reconciliation with the Indigenous people, to recognizing that Muslims have a pivotal role in terms of engaging with the broader society, to our treatment of the land. It’s meant to recognize that these stories are a way to connect our past and future stories, to see the common threads that unite us all, and to build a tradition of cooperation, caring, and love. It’s meant to tell the people here — Indigenous, Syrian, Caucasian, whoever — “This is your story and you belong here and there are people who have come before us who built our community and now are continuing to contribute to that,” says Taouba.

The Canadian Prayer Rug is meant to weave together our stories. It is a story of the land.

It is a story of resilience.

It is a story of community, growth, and home.

It is a story of past, present, future — humanity, forgiveness, spirit. And as we continue to spin the yarns of our own stories, we must never forget that we are all, each and every one of us, one mere thread, woven together with many others on a beautiful tapestry.

This article originally appeared on Ummahwide on August 31st, 2016.

Ramadan Reminder Series

Stay healthy this Ramadan while curbing your carbon footprint!

Stay healthy this Ramadan while curbing your carbon footprint!

Did you know that a bit of physical activity each day can aid our digestive systems and have lots of other positive impacts on our bodies?

Did you know that a bit of physical activity each day can aid our digestive systems and have lots of other positive impacts on our bodies?

Approximately 30% of energy used in buildings is used inefficiently or unnecessarily.

Approximately 30% of energy used in buildings is used inefficiently or unnecessarily.

Reusing wrapping not only saves waste, but is a cost effective way of giving gifts.

Reusing wrapping not only saves waste, but is a cost effective way of giving gifts.

Green Ramadan Steps

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By Khaled Dardir

1. Start Ramadan by making the right intentions.

What is your intention this Ramadan? Create realistic goals for yourself, and your community!

2. Have a healthy Ramadan through proper diet.

Ramadan is a time to detox ourselves: mind, body and soul. Add more vegetarian options, do not over-eat, use locally sourced foods. Avoid fizzy drinks, or anything high in sugar content, as an alternative use honey. Avoid deep fried foods or enjoy in moderation (once a week). Start and end your fast with green or herbal tea to cleanse the stomach after a day of fasting in order to help flush the toxins out.

3. Give up your CO2 contribution by traveling light and smart.

You can walk or ride your bike to the nearest mosque and earn both spiritual reward and help the planet. No need to drive 5 times a day for every prayer.

4. Spend meaningful energy, conserve wasteful energy.

Consider conserving more water when making wudu. Conserve electricity by shutting off the television and computer and opening the Holy book.

5. Charity is more than giving money to a good cause.

For Zakat, consider a local organization that is doing good work to protect the under privileged or the environment. Starting an initiative at your school, workplace or local mosque to make a real difference.

6. Host an Eco-Iftar that will be the talk of the town.

Show you care for the environment, host an Iftar that produces no waste, recycles, uses biodegradable cutlery and dishware or invite others to bring their own dishware! Most importantly, serve a healthy locally sourced Iftar meal.

7. Green your Eid, celebrate in style.

By all means, treat yourself to a nice new outfit, just be sure you are supporting local industry, and that the dyes used are not polluting the water streams. When giving Eid gifts to children, highlight the importance of using it responsibly: buying nothing unnecessary or that will harm planet, your body or community, consider paying it forward earn extra reward.

8. Commit random acts of kindness

Try smiling at people that pass by, greet the street guards, or just randomly express your gratitude for a friend. Volunteer your time at the local mosque, or in the community for an initiative you are passionate about or start a new one!

9. Celebrate Ramadan by breaking a bad habit

We all face our own challenges and bad habits. Ramadan is the perfect time to end that sugar or nicotine addiction, watch less TV, walk more, give up bad language, fix your sleeping cycle.

10. Reflect on what you’ve achieved this month.

By staying focused, observing your behaviour, lifestyle and habits you will have become much more mindful and aware by the end of the month. Make sure you stay consistent!

Khaled Dardir has recently completed a Master of Science specializing in the chemistry and is currently enrolled as a student in Mishkah pursuing a bachelors in Islamic Studies. He is the founder and Chief Coordinator of the non-profit organization The Building Blocks of New Jersey whose mission is: “To aid self development, promote activism, and bolster community building”

How did the Prophet and his Companions eat?

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By: Ibrahim Khan

Ramadan is a month when we are all intensely aware of the relationship we have with food, how much we are reliant on it, and how it can affect us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We really understand the power of food in dictating our moods, behaviours, and outlook on life.Islam is a lifestyle, not a stand-alone product, and all the different bits and pieces come together, intermesh, and are mutually dependent on others to work most effectively. If we truly want to taste the sweetness of prayer, and if we truly want our duas to be accepted, and for our children to be the coolness of our eyes, then we need to assess our lives holistically in the light of Islam.Consequently Ramadan is a great month to have a sincere look at how our eating habits stack up against those of the Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions (RAH) and why it is important for us to have an Islamic eating lifestyle for us to be the best Muslims we can be.The following are 8 ahadith taken from Bukhari that give a priceless insight into how the Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions would eat, feed, and live.

A paradigm shift in our eating habits

Narrated Abu Huraira: Once while I was in a state of fatigue (because of severe hunger), I met ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, so I asked him to recite a verse from Allah’s Book to me. He entered his house and interpreted it to me. (Then I went out and) after walking for a short distance, I fell on my face because of fatigue and severe hunger. Suddenly I saw Allah’s Apostle standing by my head. He said, “O Abu Huraira!” I replied, “Labbaik, O Allah’s Apostle, and Sadaik!” Then he held me by the hand, and made me get up. Then he came to know what I was suffering from. He took me to his house, and ordered a big bowl of milk for me. I drank thereof and he said, “Drink more, O Abu Hirr!” So I drank again, whereupon he again said, “Drink more.” So I drank more till my belly became full and looked like a bowl. Afterwards I met ‘Umar and mentioned to him what had happened to me, and said to him, “Somebody, who had more right than you, O ‘Umar, took over the case. By Allah, I asked you to recite a Verse to me while I knew it better than you.” On that Umar said to me, “By Allah, if I admitted and entertained you, it would have been dearer to me than having nice red camels. (Bukhari)

What an astounding hadith this is when we compare our modern lives to the scenes it is describing. The Prophet and the Companions lived in a paradigm where calories and food were scarce and people would genuinely starve and feel hunger. Compare that to our times and we have to blush. Food is so plentiful for the first time in human history that the biggest threat to us is not a lack of calories and malnutrition but an excess of calories. This means that we must all reassess our relationship with food and shift from the “eat up and finish your plate” mentality which was designed to tackle malnutrition, to a “eat wholesome food in a controlled manner” mentality.

1. Small portions & simplicity

Narrated Anas: To the best of my knowledge, the Prophet did not take his meals in a big tray at all, nor did he ever eat well-baked thin bread, nor did he ever eat at a dining table. (Bukhari)

The latest preventative medical research is now suggesting that the best way to control our food intake is by restricting portion sizes, and that the best way to do that is by replacing large bowls and plates with smaller versions. This results in less food being eaten over time. And SubhanAllah this is what our Prophet (PBUH) did naturally all those years ago.

What is also fascinating to note here is, despite the Prophet living in a time where food was scarce and the received wisdom was “eat as much as you can when you get it”, he still insisted on eating in a controlled way. This shows the great importance of having this control over our portions and eating habits.

2. A wedding banquet fit for a Prophet (PBUH)

Narrated Anas: The Prophet halted to consummate his marriage with Safiyya. I invited the Muslims to his wedding banquet. He ordered that leather dining sheets be spread. Then dates, dried yoghurt and butter were put on those sheets. Anas added: The Prophet consummated his marriage with Safiyya (during a journey) whereupon Hais (sweet dish) was served on a leather dining sheet. (Bukhari)

A wedding banquet usually conjures up visions of a lavish, rich, opulent, and incredibly unhealthy meal. It does not conjure up images of dates, dried yoghurt, butter, and Hais, That is the equivalent to half a starter in our current mindset – and not a very good one at that. You can imagine the complaints if that was served at a wedding.

And yet the Prophet (PBUH), a religious and political leader, found it perfectly acceptable to serve this to his guests. Who do we think we are?

3. Eating with the poor & Portion control

Narrated Nafi’: Ibn ‘Umar never used to take his meal unless a poor man was called to eat with him. One day I brought a poor man to eat with him, the man ate too much, whereupon Ibn ‘Umar said, “O Nafi’! Don’t let this man enter my house, for I heard the Prophet saying, “A believer eats in one intestine (is satisfied with a little food), and a kafir (unbeliever) eats in seven intestines (eats much food).” (Bukhari)

This is a beautiful hadith that teaches us two things. Firstly that our eating is inextricably tied up with the eating and survival of those around us, as we have duties to them as their neighbours, relatives, and brothers in faith. When we eat this should provoke the thought of others who we have duties to who may not have food or have had the time or skill to cook. Secondly, it teaches us the incredible importance of portion control and eating well within our limit. Ibn ‘Umar thought this man’s behaviour so reprehensible that we banned the man from ever returning to his house. If we did that we would end up banning everyone – including ourselves!

4. Eating with proper etiquette and respect

Narrated Abu Juhaifa: While I was with the Prophet he said to a man who was with him, “I do not take my meals while leaning.” (Bukhari)

This is a fascinating hadith as it shows the importance and the respect the Prophet (PBUH) had for the bounty of Allah. We live in an era where food is cheap, easily accessible, and plentiful and varied. Consequently we don’t think twice about wasting it, throwing away half-eaten food, and treating it with the proper respect it deserves. Our Prophet on the other hand would not even take meals while leaning.

5. Fat-free, meat-free dishes

Narrated Sahl bin Sad: We used to be happy on Fridays, for there was an old lady who used to pull out the roots of Silq and put it in a cooking pot with some barley. When we had finished the prayer, we would visit her and she would present that dish before us. So we used to be happy on Fridays because of that, and we never used to take our meals or have a mid-day nap except after the Friday prayer. By Allah, that meal contained no fat. (Bukhari)

Every week the Companions would look forward to a meal that was entirely vegetarian and fat-free. The Companions didn’t require that every one of their meals include a meat element to it. This is something we need to reflect on as nearly all our meals have some meat involved. This is not only unsustainable for the environment, but it also limits the variety and quality of our nutrients. Some meat is certainly good, but overdoing anything never is.

6. Don’t criticise the bounties of Allah

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet never criticized any food (he was invited to) but he used to eat if he liked the food, and leave it if he disliked. (Bukhari)

This hadith is self-explanatory, and we’ve heard it many times before. And yet, daily complaints can be heard at Muslim dinner tables up and down this country. This is not from the Sunnah. Not only has someone gone the effort of making something for you and you are being ungrateful by complaining, but your complaint indicates a level of attachment to food that is harmful. We only complain about things we really care about and hold dear – so unfortunately we don’t complain about our children not praying or knowing even the last ten surahs by heart – but we do complain about the levels of salt in a saalan. Now there’s a revealing and disturbing insight into the mind of the contemporary Muslim.

7. No refined white bread

Narrated Abu Hazim: that he asked Sahl, “Did you use white flour during the lifetime of the Prophet ?” Sahl replied, “No. Hazim asked, “Did you use to sift barley flour?” He said, “No, but we used to blow off the husk (of the barley). (Bukhari)

In the age of refined sugar, refined bread, and processed food, calories are overwhelming us. Did you know one slice of white bread is 361 calories? That means that just 6 slices of bread (or 3 sandwiches) takes us over the daily recommended amount of calories. Any more than that and we are just putting on fat. The best alternative to this kind of high-calorie food, is to go for the wholesome, unrefined food that is rich in fibre and nutrients and low in calories. This kind of food is also closer to the Prophet and his Companions’ eating habits.

May Allah make us heathier spiritually and physically this Ramadan, Ameen!

This article was originally featured on 1st Ethical in June 2015. 

Photo Credit: razanmasari.com

Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and the Environment

  By: Francesca De Chatel

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “There is none amongst the believers who plants a tree, or sows a seed, and then a bird, or a person, or an animal eats thereof, but it is regarded as having given a charitable gift [for which there is great recompense].” [Al-Bukhari, III:513].

The idea of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) as a pioneer of environmentalism will initially strike many as strange: indeed, the term “environment” and related concepts like “ecology”, “environmental awareness” and “sustainability”, are modern-day inventions, terms that were formulated in the face of the growing concerns about the contemporary state of the natural world around us.

And yet a closer reading of the hadith, the body of work that recounts significant events in the Prophet’s life, reveals that he was a staunch advocate of environmental protection. One could say he was an “environmentalist avant la lettre”, a pioneer in the domain of conservation, sustainable development and resource management, and one who constantly sought to maintain a harmonious balance between man and nature. From all accounts of his life and deeds, we read that the Prophet had a profound respect for fauna and flora, as well as an almost visceral connection to the four elements, earth, water, fire and air.

He was a strong proponent of the sustainable use and cultivation of land and water, proper treatment of animals, plants and birds, and the equal rights of users. In this context the modernity of the Prophet’s view of the environment and the concepts he introduced to his followers is particularly striking; certain passages of the hadith could easily be mistaken for discussions about contemporary environmental issues.

Three Principles

The Prophet’s environmental philosophy is first of all holistic: it assumes a fundamental link and interdependency between all natural elements and bases its teachings on the premise that if man abuses or exhausts one element, the natural world as a whole will suffer direct consequences. This belief is nowhere formulated in one concise phrase; it is rather an underlying principle that forms the foundation of all the Prophet’s actions and words, a life philosophy that defined him as a person.

The three most important principles of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) philosophy of nature are based on the Qur’anic teachings and the concepts of tawhid (unity), khalifa(stewardship) and amana (trust).

Tawhid, the oneness of God, is a cornerstone of the Islamic faith. It recognizes the fact that there is one absolute Creator and that man is responsible to Him for all his actions: “To God belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth, for God encompasses everything [4:126].”  The Prophet acknowledges that God’s knowledge and power covers everything. Therefore abusing one of his creations, whether it is a living being or a natural resource, is a sin. The Prophet considered all of God’s creations to be equal before God and he believed animals, but also land, forests and watercourses should have rights.

The concepts of khalifa, stewardship, and amana, trust, emerge from the principle of tawhid. The Qur’an explains that mankind holds a privileged position among God’s creations on earth: he is chosen as khalifa, “vice-regent” and carries the responsibility of caring for God’s earthly creations. Each individual is given this task and privilege in the form of God’s trust. But the Qur’an repeatedly warns believers against arrogance: they are no better than other creatures.  “No creature is there on earth nor a bird flying with its wings but they are nations like you [6:38]”; “Surely the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of man; but most people know not [40:57]”.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) believed that the universe and the creations in it – animals, plants, water, land – were not created for mankind. Man is allowed to use the resources but he can never own them. Thus while Islam allows land ownership, it has limitations: an owner can, for example, only own land if he uses it; once he ceases to use it, he has to part with his possession.

The Prophet recognized man’s responsibility to God but always maintained humility. Thus he said: “When doomsday comes, if someone has a palm shoot in his hand, he should plant it,” suggesting that even when all hope is lost for mankind, one should sustain nature’s growth. He believed that nature remains a good in itself, even if man does not benefit from it.

Similarly, the Prophet incited believers to share the earth’s resources. He said: “Muslims share alike in three things – water, herbage and fire,” and he considered it a sin to withhold water from the thirsty. “No one can refuse surplus water without sinning against Allah and against man” [Mishkat al Masabih].

The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) attitude towards sustainable use of land, conservation of water and the treatment of animals is a further illustration of the humility of his environmental philosophy.

Sustainable Use of Land

“The earth has been created for me as a mosque and as a means of purification.” [Al-Bukhari I:331] With these words the Prophet emphasizes the sacred nature of earth or soil, not only as a pure entity but also as a purifying agent. This reverence towards soil is also demonstrated in the ritual of tayammum, or “dry wudu” which permits the use of dust in the performance of ritual purification before prayer when water is not available.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) saw earth as subservient to man, but recognised that it should not be overexploited or abused, and that it had rights, like the trees and wildlife living on it. In order to protect land, forests and wildlife, the Prophet created inviolable zones known as hima and haram, in which resources were to be left untouched. Both are still in use today: haram areas are often drawn up around wells and water sources to protect the groundwater table from over-pumping. Hima applies particularly to wildlife and forestry and usually designates an area of land where grazing and woodcutting are restricted, or where certain animal species are protected.

The Prophet not only encouraged the sustainable use of fertile lands, he also told his followers of the benefits of making unused land productive: planting a tree, sowing a seed and irrigating dry land were all regarded as charitable deeds.“Whoever brings dead land to life, that is, cultivates wasteland, for him is a reward therein.” Thus any person who irrigates a plot of “dead”, or desert land becomes its rightful owner.

Conservation of Water

In the harsh desert environment where the Prophet (peace be upon him) lived, water was synonymous to life. Water was a gift from God, the source of all life on earth as is testified in the Qur’an:  “We made from water every living thing” [21:30].  The Qur’an constantly reminds believers that they are but the guardians of God’s creation on earth and that they should never take this creation for granted: “Consider the water which you drink. Was it you that brought it down from the rain cloud or We? If We had pleased, We could make it bitter” [56:68-70].

Saving water and safeguarding its purity were two important issues for the Prophet: we have seen that his concern about the sustainable use of water led to the creation of haram zones in the vicinity of water sources. But even when water was abundant, he advocated thriftiness: thus he recommended that believers perform wudu no more than three times, even if they were near to a flowing spring or river. The theologian El-Bukhari added: “ The men of science disapprove of exaggeration and also of exceeding the number of ablutions of the Prophet.” The Prophet also warned against water pollution by forbidding urination in stagnant water.

The Treatment of Animals:

“If anyone wrongfully kills even a sparrow, let alone anything greater, he will face God’s interrogation” [Mishkat al Masabih]. These words reflect the great reverence, respect and love that the Prophet always showed towards animals. He believed that as part of God’s creation, animals should be treated with dignity, and the hadith contains a large collection of traditions, admonitions and stories about his relationship to animals. It shows that he had particular consideration for horses and camels: to him they were valiant companions during journey and battle, and he found great solace and wisdom in their presence as the following tradition reveals: “In the forehead of horses are tied up welfare and bliss until the Day of Resurrection.”

Even in the slaughter of animals, the Prophet showed great gentleness and sensitivity. While he did not practice vegetarianism, the hadiths clearly show that the Prophet was extremely sensitive to the suffering of animals, almost as though he shared their pain viscerally. Thus he recommends using sharp knives and a good method so that the animal can die a quick death with as little pain as possible. He also warned against slaughtering an animal in the presence of other animals, or letting the animal witness the sharpening of blades: to him that was equal to “slaughtering the animal twice” and he emphatically condemned such practices as “abominable”.

Conclusion

It is impossible to do justice to the full scope and significance of Prophet Mohammed’s environmental philosophy in this short article. His holistic view of nature and his understanding of man’s place within the natural world pioneered environmental awareness within the Muslim community.

Sadly, the harmony that the Prophet advocated between man and his environment has today all too often been lost. As we face the effects of pollution and overexploitation, desertification and water scarcity in some parts of the world and floods and violent storms elsewhere, it is perhaps time for the world community as a whole, Muslims, Christians and Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, atheists and agnostics, to take a leaf out of the Prophet’s book and address the current environmental crisis seriously and wisely.

This article was originally appeared on The Islamic Bulletin

Radwah Community Garden - Turning Parking Lots into Produce

Parking lots of have long been a source of contention at local mosques. Whether it is for Jummah Salat or during Ramadan, mosques have often faced an uphill battle securing enough space for congregants. 

However, one community is taking the opposite approach and transforming this empty landscape into a beautiful community garden. The Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara, California, in collaboration with the MAS Bay Area Give have teamed up to create the Radwah Community Garden in the north end of their mosque. The goal of the project is to encourage environmentalism and to create a safe and welcoming space; promoting community connectivity through organic urban gardening.

Community gardens have become popular in the last several years as consumers seek local and organic produce. The spin-off benefits of urban gardening include revitalizing neighborhoods, creating community hubs and fostering a new generation to make sustainable and eco-conscious food choices. From a spiritual perspective, gardening allows you to be part of nature while meditating over the signs of Allah’s creation.

There is a three-tiered goal for the Rawdah Community Garden:

  • Community Connectivity: Raising the volunteerism and community spirit in the Islamic Centers in service of the larger American society.

  • Educating Sustainability: Learning about healthy eating and gardening, which can help us in starting a garden at home.

  • God's Bounties: Appreciation of nature, the environment and Allah’s blessings upon us.

The garden aims to provide educational and recreational opportunities for children and seniors and raise awareness about food systems. The produce that is grown and cultivated will be donated as a fresh alternative to local food banks or used in local soup kitchens.

For More Information

To learn more about the project and how you can become involved, visit the MAS Bay Area page at: http://masbayarea.org/rawdah/

The organizers have also initiated a LunchGood page at: https://www.launchgood.com/project/mas_rawdah_community_garden_at_mca_bay_area_mosque__ecoislam#/