With hajj under threat, it's time Muslims joined the climate movement

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By: Remona Aly

With hajj under threat, it's time Muslims joined the climate movement

According to research published last week by US scientists, hajj is set to become a danger zone. As soon as next year, they say, summer days in Mecca could exceed the “extreme danger” heat-stress threshold. The news comes just weeks after over 2 million people completed their journey of a lifetime. The environmental threat to the holy pilgrimage is a panic button for British Muslims like me, signaling that the climate crisis is endangering an age-old sacred rite.

Hajj is a pillar of Islam that I’ve yet to undertake, and the physical endurance required will only become more gruelling in coming decades – scientists predict that heat and humidity levels during hajj will exceed the extreme danger threshold 20% of the time from 2045 and 2053, and 42% of the time between 2079 and 2086.

Environmental stewardship may well be advocated by my faith – the Quran states that humans are appointed as “caretakers of the Earth” and the prophet Muhammad organised the planting of trees and created conservation areas called hima – but it hasn’t mobilised Muslims on a mass scale for what the world needs now: a global eco-jihad.

Fazlun Khalid, founder of Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences and author of Signs on the Earth: Islam, Modernity and the Climate Crisis, has been on a green mission for over 35 years, but his biggest challenge has been to motivate Muslims. “Islam is inherently environmental, but modernity has induced all of us to distance ourselves from nature. The reason I don’t give up is my grandchildren – what kind of planet will they inherit? How can they perform hajj under those conditions?”

Khalid previously gathered a team of scholars and academics who drafted the Islamic declaration on climate change adopted at the International Islamic climate change symposium in Istanbul in 2015 (an event co-sponsored by Islamic Relief, a global charity that is again calling on Muslims to take action now if they want to safeguard the pilgrimage for future generations). Maria Zafar of Islamic Relief UK said: “Hajj has physically demanding outdoor rituals which can become hazardous to humans. It isn’t only Mecca, other sacred sites will be at risk too, like the religious sites in Jerusalem, the Golden Temple in India – it will affect what we hold dear to our hearts. We think that climate change is distant from us, but there is no area of life that it won’t touch.”

If we are truly to tackle a catastrophe as huge as the climate crisis, we have to make it personal. Without a personal stake, it remains an abstract and we unite in perpetuating it. So if money is the only form of emotional investment for some, and if economics wields more power than the will to save our planet, we must use it. Next year Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 summit, so let’s pressure the country to consider the financial threat due to a loss of religious tourism. Hajj is lucrative: economic experts have said revenues from hajj and umrah (a lesser pilgrimage undertaken any time of year) are set to exceed $150bn by 2022.

“For the Saudis, hajj is more precious than oil,” says Dr Husna Ahmad, CEO of Global One, who’s been campaigning for a greener hajj for years. Ahmad created a green guide to hajj in 2011, and is now working on a green hajj app, which she plans to launch next year if funding is secured.

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With approximately 100m plastic bottles left behind each year after the pilgrimage ends, it’s clear that action is desperately needed. Slowly, Saudi authorities are beginning to implement a more environmentally friendly hajj by installing recycling points around the holy sites, and they aim to cut waste volumes by two-thirds by 2030. Pushing for change has been a struggle in the kingdom, but apathy is a wider problem. It’s bound up in socio-economic deprivation, and too often “saving the planet” is seen as something for the rich, a kind of green elitism.

“Right now in the UK it feels like middle-class white women – and Sadiq Khan – are the only ones taking up the baton,” says Ahmad. “We know that climate change started with the European industrial revolution and poverty is inextricably linked to that.

“People are trying to survive, you can’t blame them if climate change is not their priority. This is why achieving the UN sustainable development goals are high on my agenda.”

The climate crisis does not exist in and cannot be tackled in isolation. While the big dogs must green-up their institutions and businesses, grassroots activists need better relations with governing bodies, more Muslims need to get involved with the broader debate and we all need to rethink our lifestyles – cut down on meat consumption, use less packaging and step back from throwaway consumerism.

We all have a part to play – institutionally, socially, morally, economically and religiously. Whether it’s through the lens of our conscience, faith or finance, it’s imperative to find our own catalyst for action. If the threat to hajj can motivate Muslims, then that’s all for the good.

This piece was originally published in The Guardian on August 30 2019.

Environmentalism and Islamic Ecotheology

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As climate change threatens much of the Middle East, Muslim academics from Bahrain to Turkey have begun to advocate for a unique solution: looking to Islam itself. Muslim proponents of ecotheology argue that, because the Quran emphasizes the importance of environmental protection, Muslims have an obligation to defend the natural environment. This little-known but fast-expanding school of thought can bring the Environmental Revolution to the Middle East and fight global warming.

While many academics, analysts, and pundits like to frame Islamism as a political movement, the ideology lies at the heart of another, apolitical trend in the Greater Middle East. An ever-growing number of Middle Eastern academics argue that Islam can inspire the environmental movement, citing a range of verses from the Quran suggesting that Muslims have a religious obligation to defend the natural environment. As climate change envelops every corner of the Muslim world, the potential importance of this developing school of thought is growing.

“In Islam, the environment is sacred and has an intrinsic value.”

Proponents of ecotheology, the study of a religion’s calls for environmental protection, transcend the Middle East’s geographic and theological boundaries. In Iran, Dr. Mohammad Ali Shomali, founding director of the International Institute for Islamic Studies, has observed, “In Islam, the environment is sacred and has an intrinsic value.” 

In Palestine, meanwhile, Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway at Quds University has said, “Theologically, there are signifiers in the universe and in the environment, and by taking care of these signifiers we are really doing the right thing in terms of our relationship with God.” 

However esoteric these thoughts may seem, few philosophies have appealed to Iranian Shias and Palestinian Sunnis alike. Given that global warming threatens the entirety of the Middle East and the rest of the Muslim world, ecotheology offers a unique, all too rare opportunity to unite Muslims across the political spectrum against climate change.

One verse of the Quran indicates how Islam might jump-start the Environmental Revolution in the Middle East.

One verse of the Quran, emblazoned on the website of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science, indicates how Islam might jump-start the Environmental Revolution in the Middle East: “Corruption has appeared on land and sea caused by the hands of people so that they may taste the consequences of their actions and turn back.” 

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Advocates of ecotheology point to this verse in particular as evidence that Muslims, the guardians of what the Quran describes as God’s creation, have a duty to the natural environment lest they want to confront the ever more apparent perils of environmental degradation. While the social movement behind ecotheology remains small, its supporters are working to spread their message far and wide.

The most prominent ambassadors of ecotheology include Dr. İbrahim Özdemir, one of Turkey’s best-regarded environmentalists and the founding president of Hasan Kalyoncu University, and Dr. Odeh Rashid al-Jayyousi, a Palestinian-born, Manama-based environmentalist who chairs the Innovation and Technology Management Department at Arabian Gulf University. 

Özdemir, who contributed to drafting the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change in Istanbul in 2015, has emphasized the “need to empower Muslim scholars and imams to understand contemporary science on the natural environment and facilitate dialogue.” 

“civil society activism in the Muslim world should support and nurture a green way of life in line with the Islamic worldview,” which he has called “one form of jihad to ensure balance and harmony between humans and nature.”

Al-Jayyousi leveraged a job on the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel at the United Nations to urge the international community to create an Islamic financial endowment geared toward sustainable development in the Muslim world. According to al-Jayyousi, “civil society activism in the Muslim world should support and nurture a green way of life in line with the Islamic worldview,” which he has called “one form of jihad to ensure balance and harmony between humans and nature.”

Several spots in the Muslim world have proved receptive to al-Jayyousi and Özdemir’s ideas. In Morocco, mosques are training imams to find inspiration for the environmental movement in the Quran. As far from the Middle East as Indonesia—the most successful example of ecotheology in practice—officials are collaborating with religious organizations to fight plastic pollution, and a number of gurus have founded schools dedicated to ecotheology. Indonesian clerics even got a few headlines by announcing a fatwa forbidding wildlife trafficking, the first of its kind. Other countries, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have indicated that they are joining this trend by hosting conferences and starting research institutes focused on ecotheology.

In a startling development, even militants best known for their hostility to progressive ideals are preaching ecotheology. In 2017, Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada asked Afghans to “plant one or several fruit or non-fruit trees for the beautification of Earth and the benefit of almighty God’s creations,” a bizarre request from insurgents who have otherwise done more to harm the natural environment than beautify it. 

In 2018, clerics affiliated with al-Shabaab banned plastic bags in a move that provoked widespread derision on social media. Though the Taliban and al-Shabaab’s odd pronouncements will likely do more to hurt ecotheology than advance it in the long run, the militants’ receptiveness to the philosophy’s tenets furthers the argument that its ideals can bridge even the widest ideological divides in the Greater Middle East.

Amid climate change and environmental degradation’s stranglehold on the Global South and the deserts of the Muslim world in particular, the region needs unity now more than ever. Of the ten countries considered most at risk from water scarcity by the World Resources Institute, nine fall within North Africa or Western Asia. Many countries in the Greater Middle East, from Pakistan to Yemen, may exhaust their water supply within the next decade, and global warming has only exacerbated these environmental issues. To face this challenge, the Muslim world, like the rest of the world, will have to reexamine its role in climate change and retool environmental policies at every level. Ecotheology can accelerate and inform this urgent introspection.

As ecotheology has established footholds in Bahrain, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Turkey, and the UAE, this social movement would likely have little difficulty gaining traction in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the Muslim world’s other centers of gravity if supported by local leaders. In fact, Pakistani and Saudi officials have already expressed interest in devising an Islamic approach to environmentalism. The works of scholars such as Abu Sway, al-Jayyousi, Özdemir, and Shomali are providing the Muslim world’s leaders a chance to realize their eco-friendly goals.

The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, a landmark document based on the ideas of Muslims from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America and the high-water mark of ecotheology in the Muslim world, urges “all Muslims, wherever they may be, to tackle the root causes of climate change.”

The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, a landmark document based on the ideas of Muslims from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America and the high-water mark of ecotheology in the Muslim world, urges “all Muslims, wherever they may be, to tackle the root causes of climate change, environmental degradation, and the loss of biodiversity, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, who was, in the words of the Quran, ‘a mercy to all beings.’ ” 

Today, followers of ecotheology are echoing these words in an ever-expanding list of countries because, as global warming overwhelms the Muslim world, they might have a solution.

Austin Bodetti studies the intersection of Islam, culture, and politics in the Greater Middle East. He has conducted fieldwork in Bosnia, Indonesia, Iraq, Morocco, Myanmar, South Sudan, and Thailand, and his writing has appeared in The Daily Beast, USA Today, Vox, and Wired. Austin graduated summa cum laude from Boston College with a bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies in 2018. 

This piece was originally published on Inside Arabia on September 7, 2019.

FORESTS AND FATWAS: Islam, Terrorism, and Environmental Jihad

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The Islamic world is currently engaged in a debate over climate change: not about whether it’s happening, but about whether militants or reformists are best equipped to stop it.

As climate change threatens countries from Malaysia to Mauritania, environmentalists across the Muslim world are wrestling with how to respond. A growing number are looking to Islam itself for an answer to what is now being called a “climate crisis.” Some of the region’s activists and intellectuals have argued that Muslims, the stewards of what the Quran defines as God’s creation, have a responsibility to care for the Earth and promote environmental protection. And given that Indonesians and Iranians alike have embraced this idea, the concept of a religious obligation to the natural environment appears to transcend Islam’s geographic and theological divides. 

Even Muslim militants are talking about environmentalism.

In Somalia and Afghanistan, longtime allies of al-Qaeda have begun to portray environmental conservation as an Islamic duty. Militants in Iraq and Yemen are taking steps toward copying this model, a sign that—at least in the Greater Middle East—environmentalism is far from the exclusive domain of progressives. Whether out of sincere theological conviction or just for the sake of their propaganda, several American-designated terrorist groups are trying to co-opt the environmental movement by aping the message of their traditional adversaries in the Muslim world: Western-friendly Muslim philosophers and scholars.

If Muslim proponents of eco-theology, the fast-spreading belief that religious texts can inform an approach to environmental protection, want to stop militants from polluting a philosophy that has potential to become a social movement, eco-theologians must refrain from making the mistake of ignoring them. Though al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) have failed to influence even the margins of political theory in the Muslim world, both umbrella organizations have proved adept at exploiting social issues that divide religious communities and encourage sectarian strife. Only the handful of Muslim intellectuals pioneering an eco-friendly interpretation of Islam can reverse what some militants are trying to turn into an extra-regional trend.

Like Muslim eco-theologians, the Taliban and al-Shabaab assert that Islam tasks humans with protecting the natural environment from all manner of threats, including humans themselves. The Quran has become the most reliable resource for Muslim environmentalists across the political spectrum, who cite a variety of Quranic verses about the importance of environmental protection. “Corruption has appeared on land and sea caused by the hands of people so that they may taste the consequences of their actions and turn back,” recites the website of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science (IFEES), a British non-profit that has held workshops in Indonesia, Nigeria, and Zanzibar and published a pamphlet highlighting “the ethical foundations of Islamic environmentalism.” Muslim environmentalists interpret that Quranic quotation as an ancient but timeless warning against soil contamination and water pollution.

While IFEES operates out of London, one of Europe’s many secularist bastions, the ideas behind eco-theology have proved popular in even the most conservative corners of the Muslim world. Dr. Mohammad Ali Shomali, founding director of the International Institute for Islamic Studies in Qom, began his 2008 article “Aspects of Environmental Ethics: An Islamic Perspective” with a quotation from the Muslim prophet Mohammad: “If Resurrection is starting and one of you has a sapling in his hand that he can plant before he stands up, he must do so.” In the article, Shomali noted how “in Islam, the environment is sacred and has an intrinsic value,” adding that “as the vicegerent of God, [Muslims] have to channel the mercy of God to everything within [their] reach.” An idea championed by Muslims in the liberal democracy of Britain has a following in the Shi‘a theocracy of Iran. Across the Persian Gulf in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which adhere to a traditional interpretation of Sunni Islam often hostile to Shi‘a practices, officials have hosted conferences and research institutes dedicated to studying the intersection of ecology and Islam. Eco-theology has managed to appeal to Islamic schools of thought across the world.

Eco-theology’s distinguished Muslim voices include Dr. Odeh Rashid al-Jayyousi, chairman of the Innovation and Technology Management Department at Arabian Gulf University and author of Islam and Sustainable Development, and Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a professor emeritus of religious studies at the George Washington University. An outspoken member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel at the United Nations, al-Jayyousi has pressed Muslims to reframe jihad as a struggle against climate change and urged the international community to establish an Islamic financial endowment dedicated to sustainable development. Nasr, who started writing about Islam and environmentalism in the 1960s, has lamented Muslim clerics’ failure to take a greater role in the environmental movement. Dr. Akhtar Mahmood at Panjab University in India, Dr. Md Saidul Islam at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway at Quds University in Palestine echo these sentiments in their writings.

Muslim eco-theologians found their most conspicuous platform in 2015, when supporters of an Islamic commitment to the natural environment traveled from countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America to Istanbul to release the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change. The landmark document sought to reinforce the message that, because “Islamic environmentalism is embedded in the matrix of Islamic teachings,” Muslims must fight on the front lines of the war against climate change. Dr. İbrahim Özdemir, founding president of Hasan Kalyoncu University and a contributor to the document, has stressed Islam’s potential place in environmental policy: “Muslim countries must use the Islamic perspective in environmental protection and sustainable development, taking into consideration religious texts and the practices of Islamic heritage.”

No country embodies Özdemir’s ideal better than Indonesia, where activists, clerics, and officials have led grassroots and top-down efforts to incorporate Islam into the environmental movement. Indonesian environmentalists have launched several madrasas that focus on environmentalism as one of Islam’s foremost principles, and the Indonesian government has partnered with two of the country’s most influential religious organizations to campaign against plastic pollution. For its part, the Indonesian Ulema Council, Indonesia’s top faith-based organization and a government agency, issued the world’s first fatwa against wildlife trafficking in 2014.

Thousands of miles away from Indonesia, the Taliban and al-Shabaab have announced their own bids to combat environmental issues. Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s latest leader, called on Afghans to “plant one or several fruit or non-fruit trees for the beautification of Earth and the benefit of almighty God’s creations” in 2017. Just a year later, clerics tied to al-Shabaab outlawed plastic bags as “a threat to the health of humans and livestock.” Though experts on the Taliban and al-Shabaab debate the sincerity of these edicts, the pronouncements imply that some insurgents have adopted the methods of eco-theologians. The Taliban’s and al-Shabaab’s rhetoric also fits the wider pattern of militants taking advantage of environmental issues.

In the most obvious example of a Western-labeled terrorist group benefiting from environmental degradation, ISIS recruited Iraqis in rural areas by blaming the beleaguered central government of Iraq for water scarcity. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), often considered the most dangerous franchise of the umbrella organization that Osama bin Laden founded, attempted to improve its poor reputation in Yemen’s hinterland by refurbishing some of the drought-plagued country’s water mains and wells. Even bin Laden himself demonstrated a bizarre fascination with environmental issues, at one point recommending that Americans undertake “a great revolution for freedom” to bolster Barack Obama’s campaign against environmental degradation and global warming. Unlike the Taliban and al-Shabaab, ISIS, AQAP, and bin Laden never seemed to link these actions to the tenets of eco-theology or any other overarching religious themes. How long that divergence between al-Qaeda’s allies and offshoots will persist remains another story.

Anti-Western militants expressing support for the environmental movement and trying to rebrand themselves with an eco-friendly image may seem entertaining. Even so, this phenomenon could create further challenges for Muslim eco-theologians already struggling to spread their message beyond academia. If the concept of an Islamic approach to environmentalism becomes associated with the reactionary ideologues of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, not the liberal activists and scholars who have dedicated their careers to devising an Islamic interpretation of environmentalism, the Muslim and Western worlds will prove that much more reluctant to embrace eco-theology.

Nothing suggests that the Taliban and al-Shabaab got inspiration for their nascent environmental policies from mainstream eco-theologians, nor have leading Muslim advocates of eco-theology responded to extremists’ attempts to frame banning plastic bags and planting trees as an Islamic obligation. In fact, neither side of the extraordinary political spectrum that spans eco-theology in the Muslim world—from Somali guerrillas to eco-friendly philosophers—seems to have acknowledged the other’s existence. This appears all the more striking in light of the widespread, well-publicized ridicule that has greeted the Taliban’s call for reforestation and al-Shabaab’s ban on plastic pollution over the past two years. While a staffer at the Daily Caller took a moment to lampoon the Somali militants’ strange announcement as “giving them at least one thing in common with U.S. states California and Hawaii,” eco-theologians missed a chance to denounce al-Shabaab’s half-baked attempt at environmentalism and distinguish the innovative field of eco-theology from the insurgents’ ultraconservative interpretation of Islam.

Eco-theology has the potential to revolutionize how the Muslim world confronts global warming. Given that summer temperatures are predicted to rise twice as fast in North Africa and Western Asia as in the rest of the world—and that, according to scientists, “prolonged heat waves and desert dust storms can render some regions uninhabitable”—the need for a sociopolitical philosophy that can unite Muslim-majority countries behind the environmental movement has become more urgent than ever. Still, the longevity of any Islamic approach to environmentalism will depend not only on the ability of eco-theologians to mobilize peoples and governments but also on whether they can prevent extremists from co-opting and corrupting eco-theology.

Muslim eco-theologians have yet to ignite the kind of viral, country-spanning social movement sparked by the world-famous teenage Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg. This problem likely stems from the intellectualization of their field: With the promising exception of Indonesia and a handful of limited initiatives sponsored by Arab governments, eco-theology has remained the domain of academics and philosophers. The public-facing work of scholars such as Özdemir and al-Jayyousi has failed to translate into the type of attention from the international community and the news media that the Taliban and al-Shabaab’s strange edicts received.

To build a political movement and keep extremists from dominating the already-scant coverage of eco-theology in the Muslim world, advocates of an Islamic approach to environmentalism will have to employ a multi-pronged strategy. First, eco-theologians must highlight al-Shabaab and the Taliban’s hypocrisy: Just as the Council on American-Islamic Relations has condemned actions that ISIS has undertaken in the name of Islam as “anti-Islamic,” supporters of eco-theology can draw attention to the Taliban and al-Shabaab’s involvement in illegal logging, which contravenes the militants’ eco-friendly propaganda. Emphasizing the disparity between militants’ halfhearted environmental policies and eco-theology will not only preempt any cynical attempts to conflate eco-theology with extremism but also undermine militants’ hopes of hijacking the environmental movement. Eco-theologians can no longer ignore extremists’ forays into environmentalism.

In addition to combating the rhetorical threat of extremists’ propaganda, Muslim eco-theologians will have to overcome the much larger challenge of rallying a coalition of their faith’s disparate ideologies and religious denominations behind an Islamic approach to environmentalism. Even if eco-theology appears confined to seminaries and universities for the time being, the geographic and theological breadth of its supporters—ranging from a Shi‘a scholar in the United States to a Sunni academic in Singapore—indicate that the up-and-coming philosophy can bridge this gap. Despite eco-theology’s promising future, its proponents have a lot of work ahead of them.

As Islam has evolved into a rallying cry for militants, reformists, and revolutionaries alike, few analysts have doubted its potency as a tool for exciting social movements and structural changes. If Muslim eco-theologians hope to capitalize on this centuries-old trend, they will have to stop extremists from exploiting their ideas, transform their philosophy from an arcane academic field into a call to battle for Muslim environmentalists, and win the race against the dangerous effects of global warming. As climate change devastates the Global South and the Greater Middle East in particular, the importance of the eco-theologians’ mission becomes all the more apparent. In fact, the fate of the environmental movement in the Muslim world may rest on their success.

Austin Bodetti studies the intersection of Islam, culture, and politics in Africa and Asia. His research has appeared in the Daily Beast, USA Today, Vox, and Wired. This piece was originally published on American Interest on August 16, 2019.

Part 2: Being and becoming Métis and Muslim

This is the second in a two-part series (you can find part one here) on the experiences of Dr. John Andrew Morrow (Imam Ilyas Islam) on his journey towards finding himself, his roots and becoming both Métis and Muslim. The Métis are people of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, and one of the three recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada; the use of the term Métis is complex and contentious and has different historical and contemporary meanings.

By: Dr John Andrew Morrow

One of the most moving moments in my life and one that drove me with greater determination to document my native ancestry was the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that I attended in 2009. As the dancers entered the ring, as part of the Grand Entry, and the chanting, drumming, and circling commenced, I entered a trance, the most profound of spiritual states. Overwhelmed, in ecstasy, with tears uncontrolled flowing down my cheeks, I became at one with my people, and at one with the One, the Creator, the Provider, and the Great Spirit. I may have embraced Islam at the age of 16, finding spiritual similarity between Sufism (Tasawwuf/’Irfan), and the Right Path of Life found in Native American spiritual teachings; however, for me, the Grand Entry at the Gathering of Nations was comparable to making the pilgrimage to Mecca and circling the Holy Kaaba.

Although I have visited my spiritual forefathers, Idris I and Idris II, in Zerhoun and Fez, in Morocco, along with other saintly figures in South Africa, and have derived great benefit from performing pilgrimages to their holy sanctuaries, and while I would eagerly visit other sacred personalities in North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond, the Earth itself is a masjid, a mosque, a place of prayer, and a site of prostration.

“Some Muslims may travel to Arabia, Iraq, and Iran in search of spiritual satisfaction: I find mine here, on my land, the land of my ancestors.”

Although I have been offered employment in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Iran, I refuse to leave Turtle Island. I would rather perform tawaf or circumambulation with the Miami Nation, the Chippewa Nation, and the Métis Nation than performing it in Wahhabi-occupied Arabia where Islam merely exists in name. 

Although the essence of Islam remains pure, some of its teachings have been corrupted by Muslims. And while some North American Indians may have become corrupted, their teachings remain pure. There is more Islam in the Seven Grandfather Teachings than there is in the entire body of Salafi-Wahhabi-Takfiri literature. The Eastern Woodland Indians believe that that there is One God, the Great Spirit. They believe that the Great Spirit created the world in harmony and that we, human beings, are but a part of the whole. The Eastern Woodland Indians believe that the Great Spirit is Omnipresent in Creation. Consequently, all of creation must be respected. This is the religion of Muhammad. This is the religion of Jesus. This is the religion of Moses. This is the religion of Abraham. This is the religion of Adam. And this is the real religion of Allah, Islam, peace and submission. It is true tawhid or Divine Unity: The Creator is One and Creation is One. All at one with the One.

It was the will of God that I was brought from North Dakota, traditional Métis territory, to Indiana, traditional Métis territory. I spent two years conducting research at the Genealogy Center, at the Allen County Public Library, in Fort Wayne, the second largest institution of its kind in the United States. As an experienced academic and university professor, with decades of research experience, I painstakingly prepared the ancestral tree of my family, in all directions, going back over 500 years and, in some cases, even further back in history, with each link supported by birth, death, and marriage certificates, and supplemented by other historical documents, photographs, and paintings. Although many modern-day Métis and Indians trace their ancestry back to a single indigenous ancestor, I confirmed my descent from hundreds of aboriginal forefathers and foremothers.   

I vividly remember the moment in which I discovered a document confirming my descent from Roch Manitouabeouich, a scout and interpreter for the French, and his wife, Oueou Outchibahabanoukoueau. If these identifiably indigenous names were not enough, historical documents described them as “savages,” the French term that was used to contrast them from the “civilized” Europeans. Roch appears to have been Huron whereas Oueou appears to have been Abenaki. Their daughter, Marie Olivier Sylvestre Manitouabeouich is listed as being an Algonquin who lived with her father who was the Chief of the Hurons.

Not only was I a direct descendant of Manitouabeouich and Outchibahabanoukoueau through various family lines, I also confirmed that I was a direct descendant of Chief Membertou, the leader of the Mi’kmaq Nation, as well as Gisis “Jeanne” Bahmahmaadjimiwin, the wife of Jean-Nicolet de Belleborne, who belonged to the Nipissing Nation. These are only a few of the most prominent of my indigenous ancestors. There were hundreds more in an unbroken chain from the past to the present. Some of my French ancestors married Native women. Some of my French ancestors adopted Amerindian girls. Their mixed-blood descendants virtually always married other mixed-bloods. The fact that Métis typically married other Métis for centuries indicates that they shared a common Aboriginal culture. Although there are Métis with roots in a single region, my indigenous ancestry is varied and comes from Acadia, Québec, Ontario, and beyond. They were Huron-Wyandot, Mi’kmak, Abenaki, Penobscot, Algonquin, Innu, Abekani, and Nipissing. The ethnogenesis of the Métis or and Michif Otipemisiwak, did not take place in the prairies in the 19th century. It dates to the 17th century and took place throughout New France.

Like many Métis, my parents and grandparents did not speak openly about our indigenous ancestry. We were proud Francophone Canadians. We would canoe and kayak. We would harvest, trap, fish, and hunt. We passed down knowledge of medicinal herbs. We transmitted the songs and music of our ancestors. We were intimately connected with our environment. Our language was Métis. Our food was Métis. Our traditions were Métis. And our culture was Métis. We did not, however, openly identify as Métis. When I told my lifelong Jamaican-Canadian friend that I was indigenous, he could not comprehend why my family failed to tell me: “Your commitment to social justice and your solidarity with the oppressed has always been remarkable.”

Dr. John Andrew Morrow runs an educational YouTube channel on Islam. You can find a link at the end of the article.

Since the Métis have no specific phenotype and range from blue-eyed people with blond hair to tanned people with black hair, they can be racially ambiguous. Although some Métis moved onto reservations with their First Nation cousins, others continued to live with their French-Canadian cousins. Since it was bad enough being Francophone under English domination in Canada, professing to be Aboriginal was an added burden. Louis Riel, the revolutionary leader and martyr, who holds the same position to the Métis as Imam Husayn holds to Shiite Muslims, warned his people against being placed in reservations. Louis Riel wanted the Métis to maintain citizenship and the right to vote. As reservation Indians, the Métis would become wards of the State: their way of life would also suffer.

If my parents and grandparents did not openly speak about their Indigeneity, it was because the State literally came after our children. Inuit, First Nation, and Métis children were rounded up by the Canadian government and placed in residential schools to supposedly civilize, Anglicize and Christianize them. They were humiliated, degraded, physically abused, and sexually assaulted. The Aboriginal people of Canada still suffer from the scars that were inflicted upon them in residential schools. Our parents and grandparents did not assimilate to seek privilege. They were already second-hand citizens, subject to racism and discrimination as Francophones. They did what any sensible parent would do: they stressed their French-Canadian side as opposed to their Native Canadian side for the sake of survival. Call it strategic dissimulation. They lived as Métis people. They just did not use that dangerous word.

Since the documentary confirmation of my indigenous ancestry was an overwhelming experience, I was concerned as to how my father would react when I revealed to him the result of two years of genealogical research. My mother reassured me that I had nothing to be concerned about. After I presented the fact to my father, he smiled and said: “Son, you are right.”

The secret was just below the surface. All I had to do was scratch.

He had suspected it all along and, as my mother suggested, my paternal grandfather of Irish ancestry, was certainly aware of it. My grandmother, after all, was a Beaulieu, a family of noble French ancestry. In New France, the men from the Beaulieu line married indigenous women. Many of them lived in Québec but travelled throughout New France. Some had spouses in Eastern Canada and spouses in the Mid-West and prairies. Some settled in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and North Dakota, among other places. Others reached the West coast of North America. 

When I presented my 5000-member circular genealogical chart to my mother, with all the Métis and First Nation ancestors highlighted in yellow, she was amazed at my work and accepting of my findings. Although they never described themselves as Métis, due to the dangers of racism and discrimination, she recognized that the Drouin and Bisson families were of mixed ancestry. When I presented my findings to my aunt, who looks stereotypically Indian, she acknowledged that we were indeed aboriginal people. Like a well that had been held back, and that suddenly burst, she started sharing information about her kokum or great grandmother, who was a big Indian woman and the head of her family clan. I reached out to another branch of the Drouin family in the Beauce and found that they openly identified as Métis. In fact, a relative of mine, François Beaulieu recently assumed the leadership of the Métis Nation of Québec. One cannot fake being Métis. All Métis descend from a small number of common ancestors. They are all interrelated and interconnected. Métis families are famous for keeping meticulously detailed genealogical trees. We have all found each other and in so doing we have all found ourselves. My family, which lives in Québec, Ontario, and Indiana, all fly the Métis flag with pride. In fact, my father, who is nearly eighty, insists upon it: “Son,” he said, repeating words he told me when I was but a boy, “Be proud of who you are.” I say the same to my sons who are being raised openly and proudly as indigenous inhabitants of Turtle Island. We are proud to be Métis and we are proud to be Muslim.

Dr John Andrew Morrow (Imam Ilyas Islam) is an Amerindian with Canadian and American citizenship. He received his PhD from the University of Toronto in the year 2000. He worked as an Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor of Foreign Languages for over a decade and a half at Park University, Northern State University, Eastern New Mexico University, the University of Virginia, and Ivy Tech Community College. He is the author of over thirty academic books in the fields of Hispanic, Islamic, and Indigenous Studies, including the critically-acclaimed Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. A public figure and activist, he lectures all around the globe and acts as an advisor to world leaders. In recognition of his accomplishments, Dr Morrow received an ISNA Interfaith Achievement Award in 2016.

This piece was originally published on TMV on August 9, 2017.

Winds of Mercy

Winds of Mercy

Today marks Global Wind Day, an annual event for discovering wind energy, its power and the possibilities it holds to reshape our energy systems, decarbonise our economies and boost jobs and growth. To mark the event, we feature a reflection piece by Ridwhan Khan on the simple pleasures and blessings of wind.

And it is He who sends the winds as good tidings before His mercy, and We send down from the sky pure water (25:48)

Is He [not best] who guides you through the darknesses of the land and sea and who sends the winds as good tidings before His mercy? Is there a deity with Allah? High is Allah above whatever they associate with Him. (27:63)

Sitting idlily on the finely cut field grass, I find myself struggling. My racing thoughts linger carrying with it worries and anxieties from the day. My breath is short; the rush of panic raging inside my body has me nervous. To fight it off, I clench my fists hoping to contain myself and force calm. It doesn’t work; stress builds percolating to the point of pressuring my muscles. 

Externally, amidst my struggle, the summer breeze gently sweeps through the trees. In the moments where the air is still and the temperature cool, the fresh air attempts to provide comfort. The air softly seeps through my skin, layers on top of my closed eyes, and passes through my inhaling nostrils.

Regardless, I still struggle. My internal strife grows louder weakening my resolve for a second of ease.

And then suddenly, strong winds blow passing right through me.

 The leaves whirl around. The grass, even at its low cut, sweeps forward. And the noises from the passing cars somehow become distant.

The strong push from the winds envelops me. Its’ whistle holds my attention. Its’ force summons me to its blowing commands. Even when the winds dissolve, I’m left encaged by its might. My attention is awaiting its return. As unsettling as the winds are, there is something gripping about them.  

Winds blow again.

This time its lighter. As the winds blow past me, they pump in an unexplainable, calming energy. The peaceful sound is rhythmic, the tender touch of air is soothing, and every inhalation forces air to push throughout my body challenging it to unwind.  

The inner noise that previously polluted me dissipates. It doesn’t occur to me that my thoughts have stopped, my fears and anxieties displaced, and my breath even. A moment of tranquility sets in without warning.

As my inner struggle weakens, my outer surroundings take over their place. The chirping sound from birds becomes louder as if they’re speaking to me. The greenness of the grass and trees radiates as if there is no other colour around me. And the gentle breeze tickles my skin as if playing with me.

My body feels a certain symmetry with nature. The state of my body is dictated by her providence. Her serenity and constancy produce serenity and constancy in me.

I stand up, loose and strangely content, and feeling refreshed by the winds of mercy.

Ridhwan is a recent M.A. graduate in Political Economy from Carleton University. His interests are in politics, social issues, and philosophy. In his leisure time, he enjoys long walks outdoors. 

Part 1: Being and becoming Métis and Muslim

This is the first in a two-part series on the experiences of Dr. John Andrew Morrow (Imam Ilyas Islam) on his journey towards finding himself, his roots and becoming both Métis and Muslim. The Métis are people of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, and one of the three recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada; the use of the term Métis is complex and contentious and has different historical and contemporary meanings. 

By: Dr John Andrew Morrow

I was born John Andrew Morrow in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Although both of my parents were Francophone Quebeckers, and French was my maternal language, my English (or rather Irish) name was the cause of some confusion to both myself and others. My mother was Francophone from both sides and my father was Francophone from one side and Anglophone/Francophone from the other. I was clearly French Canadian as opposed to English Canadian. So while much was clear, much, however, remained veiled.

During the time of my grandparents, we were simply Canadians, a term used to distinguish us from the English invaders and colonizers. During the time of my parents, we moved from being Canadians to hyphenated French-Canadians. During my time, we moved from being French Canadians to being Québécois. Our identity was becoming increasingly narrow as we became increasingly minoritized and marginalized in the new multicultural Canadian mosaic.

Although my maternal family was clear that they were French, French Canadian, and Québécois, my paternal family was more ambiguous. My paternal grandfather was a Quebecker of Irish ancestry. His family had been in la Belle Province for generations. He spoke fluent French and became renowned as an expert woodsman and fisherman. My paternal grandmother spoke English as a second language – she only learned it after marrying my grandfather. I never heard her describe herself as French, French Canadian or Québécois. Her origins were obscure. She never spoke about her parents, her family, and her past. We assumed she was hiding some painful family secrets. As my father said when I asked him about our origins:

“Whatever we are, be proud of it.”

As much as my name was Irish, I knew that I was only Irish by direct paternal ancestry; not by language, culture, or identity. At the same time, I knew, deep-down, that we were not entirely French Canadian either.

My maternal grandfather, who spoke nothing but joual, a 16th-century French dialect, peppered his colorful language with indigenous words: “Grand Manitou”, something he would cry out when he was shocked, surprised, or excited. My maternal grandfather used to invoke the Great Spirit. When I asked my maternal grandmother about our ancestry, she mentioned that we descended from the coureurs des bois, the runners of the woods; they were the trappers, traders, and voyageurs who traveled North America from North to South and East to West and were mostly Métis. They were of mixed ancestry: part French and part First Nations. They typically spoke Métis French along with half a dozen indigenous languages. Among themselves, they spoke a language of their own, a mixed language, known as Michif.

“Do we have any Chinese in our family?” I once asked my mother when I was a child. “Not that I know of,” responded my mother. “Why do you ask?” “Well, we have many family members with Oriental eyes,” I pointed out referring to the epicanthic eye-folds that I noted on my cousins and maternal grandmother. I also noted that, with the exceptions of my paternal and maternal grandfathers, who were blue-eyed blonds, the rest of my relatives had thick, jet-black hair, and while their complexions varied, many of them had olive colored skin and high cheekbones. In fact, some of my uncles were so dark that some of my mulatto friends had lighter skin than my family members. Although we were proud of our Francophone culture, it was clear that we were not entirely European. If some of us appeared white, it was only on the outside.

After my family relocated from Québec to Ontario, my sense of Otherness intensified due to discrimination. My circle of friends consisted of people like me, who were different, and was made up mostly of immigrants, African Canadians, and Asian Canadians. As a French Canadian, and as a Quebecker, I was an outsider to Anglo Canadians. Consequently, I always insisted upon being Québécois. In short, I had roots dating back to the 16th century. As was eventually to be revealed, those roots traced back tens if not hundreds of thousands of years.

*

As a teenager in Toronto, I was fond of collecting, listening, and singing traditional French-Canadian folk-songs. Some of these songs were clearly from France, some dating back to medieval times. Others dated from the Encounter between the Old World and the New World. They were songs of voyageurs, loggers and raft-men. I literally learned the entire repertoire of traditional French-Canadian songs by heart. Apart from a few songs, which were clearly composed by Métis runners of the woods, my relatives in Québec were completely unfamiliar with the songs that I would sing. “But these are traditional French-Canadian songs that are accompanied by a guitar,” I asserted. “What kind of music did you hear at home?” I asked my mother. “There were dances every weekend,” she responded, “They played the fiddle; not the guitar. Your grandmother played the spoons. And they used to dance to jigs.” When I played French-Canadian songs to my mother, she could not identify them. However, when I played her Métis music from the prairies, it was like taking her back in time: that was the music they played in her childhood home.

From the time I was a small child, I sensed that we had indigenous roots. My grandmother had said so subtly herself: we descend from the runners of the woods. I was always at home in the forests of the eastern woodlands of North America. I would wander for days on end in the traditional territory of the Algonquins in the company of my cousin. As I child I danced in pow-wows in northern Ontario. As a teenager and a young man, I attended indigenous events in and around Toronto. As a university student, I was a regular at the Native Canadian Center in Toronto and at events organized by Mayan, Quechua-Aymara, and Mapuche Indians. I stood in solidarity with the First Nations of the Americas. Rather than lose my time and my soul dancing in discos of Western decadence, I would spend my time celebrating Inti Raymi with the Incas and other events of cultural and spiritual significance. I remember a friend of mine looking at an old family portrait of my father, his parents, and his sisters. He said: “They look Latino. Your grandmother looks Indian.” In the words of my Salvadorean friend, “If you told me this was a Mestizo family, I would believe you.”

My Latin American friend was only partly correct. The people in the photograph were indeed Mestizo, the Spanish word for Métis, people of mixed blood, particularly used to describe the miscegenation of Europeans and Native people. The Mestizo people of the Americas, however, are not indigenous people. Although they have Indian blood, they are not Indian by language, culture or identity. In short, they do not embrace the indigenous worldview. Having indigenous blood does not make one indigenous. To be an indigenous person, one must have indigenous genes, one must identify as an indigenous person, one must belong to an indigenous community, and one must be recognized as indigenous by an indigenous community. The Mestizos of Latin America may have some Indian blood; however, they are Hispanic by language, culture, history, and identity. They are Western European in their worldview. What is more, they are not considered indigenous by the indigenous people of Spanish America. In fact, the Mestizos of Mexico, Central, and South America have a long history of slaughtering, persecuting, and oppressing indigenous people. In fact, in Latin American Spanish, the term Indio or Indian signifies “idiot” or “imbecile,” a person who is hopelessly backwards.

A representation of a Mestizo, in a Pintura de Castas from New Spain during the late colonial period. The painting’s caption states “Spanish and Indian produce Mestizo”, 1780.

I was of indigenous ancestry. I embraced the indigenous worldview. I celebrated indigenous culture. I devoted myself to the indigenous studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels. I completed both an M.A. thesis and a doctoral dissertation on indigenous themes: The Indigenous Worldview in César Vallejo and The Indigenous Presence and Influence in Rubén Darío and Ernesto Cardenal. I would eventually publish the former in a peer-reviewed journal while the latter was published as two separate academic monographs, Amerindian Elements in the Poetry of Rubén DaríoThe Alter Ego as the Indigenous Other and Amerindian Elements in the Poetry of Ernesto Cardenal: Mythic Foundations of the Colloquial Narrative.

As much as I was indigenous by blood, by mind, and by soul, I was reluctant to assert my identity openly due to lack of documentation. (How silly is that? Did our ancestors have Indian or Métis status cards? Why do we continue to allow others to define who we are as a people?) Still, I was drawn to participate in wasipis with the Dakotas, Lakotas, and Nakotas in South Dakota, and to visit the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. My life journey brought me from Québec to Acadia, from Acadia to Québec, from Québec to Ontario, from Ontario to Missouri, from Missouri to South Dakota, from South Dakota to New Mexico, from New Mexico to North Dakota, from North Dakota to Indiana, and from Indiana to Michigan. I realize now that I was retracing the paths of my ancestors, my predecessors, the Métis traders of centuries past. As my research would find, I have indigenous relatives in all these regions.

Dr John Andrew Morrow (Imam Ilyas Islam) is an Amerindian with Canadian and American citizenship. He received his PhD from the University of Toronto in the year 2000. He worked as an Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor of Foreign Languages for over a decade and a half at Park University, Northern State University, Eastern New Mexico University, the University of Virginia, and Ivy Tech Community College. He is the author of over thirty academic books in the fields of Hispanic, Islamic, and Indigenous Studies, including the critically-acclaimed Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. A public figure and activist, he lectures all around the globe and acts as an advisor to world leaders. In recognition of his accomplishments, Dr Morrow received an ISNA Interfaith Achievement Award in 2016.

This piece was originally published on TMV on August 9, 2017.

Green Eid Gift Guide

As Ramadan comes to a close, most of us are preparing for the upcoming celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. Part of the Eid tradition includes exchanging gifts with loved ones and spending time with family and friends.

We are always on the lookout for green gift ideas for Eid and have roundup some of our favourite ideas (in no particular order) in case you’re still looking for that perfect Eid gift!

  • Azha Workshop

    makes Arabic spiritual and culturally inspired accessories. We especially love the water bracelet (a partnership between Azha and IDRF). All proceeds 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 of the world. Talk about #fashionwithapurpose

  • Afflatus Hijab

    prides itself on being socially conscious. Their business stands for women empowerment and spreading awareness around mental health. (P.S. they also have the cutest Ramadan and Eid cards on sale this year!)

  • Peace by Chocolate

    This Syrian family of chocolate makers lost their chocolate factory in Lebanon to a bombing and then spent several years living in a refugee camp.When they arrived in Canada, they were eager to share their chocolate with world again. They continued their family tradition of chocolate-making and only use the highest quality ingredients including fresh local organic honey. The company is also giving back with a purpose pledging to hire 50 refugees, mentor 10 refugee start ups and help 4 refugee businesses access new markets through their own distribution and retailing networks.

  • Dates

    aren’t just for Ramadan. A lovely box of fresh, organic, sustainably sourced dates or a box of these gourmet stuffed dates are perfect ways to thank a host for having you over for Eid. You can also make your own gourmet dates with this recipe from Muslimah Canadian nutrition expert Nazima Qureshi.

  • Canadian Prayer Rug

    was inspired by the stories around Canada’s oldest mosque, the Al-Rashid, and the Syrian, Lebanese, Ukrainian and Indigenous pioneers who helped build, preserve, and protect the mosque. A local Metis designer worked alongside a local Muslim weaver to craft and create a rug that symbolized Alberta and spoke to the province’s natural and communal landscape. Materials from a local wool mill were used, including wool that had been hand-dyed with plants that are native to the region.

  • Books

    are always a great idea! The Prophet (PBUH) said to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. Consider gifting one of your favourite books to someone in your life. Lately we’ve been loving The Study Quran and Muslims of the World! Also check out used book stores for hidden gems like books out of print or hard to find Islamic titles.

The less “stuff” route to gift giving

  • Make a donation in someone’s name in lieu of a physical gift.

    We all have so much “stuff” nowadays and a gift of Sadaqah Jariyah (a form of giving that extends past our lifetime & helps those in the future with rewards that benefit us into the afterlife) is a thoughtful touch. Consider endowment fund organizations like the Olive Tree Foundation or other organizations like Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid and Penny Appeal among many others.

  • Try gifting experiences to family and friends. We recommend checking out:

    • Blooming Tulip Events for beautifully curated wellness and creative experiences that will help everyone unwind and get their creative juices flowing!

    • Studio.89’s paint night is also a great option with proceeds going towards supporting the organization (YTGA) and all the great work they’re doing around environmental awareness, animal rights and sustainability!

    • Husna Vacations features halal vacations and local Canadian excursions that will make the perfect family gift for anyone!

Bonus tips and guidelines:

  • Try to support Muslim brands wherever possible. We can build up our own community from the inside out with our own dollars. For example, choose items from local shops like NurShop, The Date Palm or Modah Lifestyle Store instead of Amazon.

  • Support brands with a commitment and passion for sustainability and social justice. We mentioned a few earlier in this article.

  • Think about the life cycle of the gift item you are giving: will it last? can it be recycled? is it a single purpose item or can it be reused or re-purposed in different ways? what kind of waste will it generate? where will that waste end up?

  • Think about how to you wrap your gifts: avoid using paper and opt for eco-friendly wrappings (for example, Japanese furoshiki wrapping cloth) that can be reused. Or opt for reusable gift bags and maybe skip or go easy with the tissue paper.

  • Support local brands. It helps to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the global transportation chain involved with getting your gift to you or your gift recipient.

And if you’re still hunting for ideas, also check out our Eco-Friendly Eid Gifts post from a few years ago for other ideas like the WWF Store and Ten Thousand Villages!

We hope that everyone has a wonderful Eid insha’Allah!

Green Ramadan Guide

Khaleafa.com is pleased to release the Green Ramadan Guide 2019.

From food to transportation and energy, this guide explores various aspects of everyday life and how simple changes can make a big impact this Ramadan.

Grab your free copy of the Green Ramadan Guide (click the image below) and share with friends, family and community members far and wide. We hope that through this guide everyone is inspired to take action this Ramadan. And may we all reap the rewards inshaAllah. 

(Green) Ramadan Mubarak!

As an extension to our Green Khutbah Campaign, we are excited to launch a Green Ramadan initiative designed to help everyone have a greener Ramadan.

This year’s Green Khutbah campaign centred on the idea that everyday is earth day; that we do not need one specific day to speak about, educate or tackle environmental issues like climate change.

During Ramadan, as we gather and give thanks for our many blessings, we encourage everyone to think of this planet that is entrusted to us. This earth, this one home, is all we have. And as stewards of this earth, on a daily basis there are countless individual actions that can make which will have a large collective difference.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a quick and easy Green Ramadan Action Plan with simple actions that will help get you started on a greener journey - whether at home, at the mosque or elsewhere in the community!

Download the Green Ramadan Action Plan and share with friends and family, community members or post it up at your local mosque or community gathering place to spread the word about #GreenRamadan19!

Alhamdulillah for Robins

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Robins are known as the quintessential sign of spring, and have already been spotted in many parts of the country. Their graceful song and cheery presence are a sign of warmer days to come and the arrival of other songbirds such as house sparrows and nightingales. Robins are generally more active during the days, feeding on insects, cultivated fruits and berries, and assemble in large flocks at night to roost. This spring, consider leaving out suet cakes or mealworms to supplement their diet, and take advantage of this musical blessing of nature.

The “Alhamdulillah Series” has been a feature on Khaleafa for several years, aimed at highlighting the simple blessings in nature that surround us. The goal is to pause and reflect on the small things in our lives, and give thanks for these gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

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

This Is How Islam Advocates for the Environment

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This article originally appeared on MuslimGirl.com on April 22nd, 2019.


Sarah Huxtable Mohr

We all know that the environmental crisis facing our planet is one of the most urgent issues of our generation, and for the near future. Whales are washing up dead with hundreds of pounds of plastic in their stomachs; rain that is falling from the sky is saturated in micro-plastics; there’s a lack of clean water for so many people on earth;  and, the most devastating extinction event since the dinosaurs is upon us. As a general rule, research shows that one in five species go extinct annually. However, scientists are now estimating that we are losing species at 1000 to 10,000 times the normal rate. We are losing multiple species per day and the biodiversity of our planet suffering so dramatically.

So what does the Islamic faith have to say about this? Islam teaches us that everything has rights. From the animals, the plants, the air, the water, and the soil. Our Prophet (PBUH) advocated for the rights of all beings and things with his radical emphasis on justice and mercy.   Most Muslims are doing something about climate change and the environmental crisis in their personal lives and practices, and some Muslims are also making this a full-time endeavor. Sister Nana Firman, originally from Indonesia, is one of the women doing the most on this issue. She kindly agreed to share some of her history, work, and thoughts with the #MuslimGirlArmy for Earth Day.

MUSLIM GIRL: Asalaam aleikum wa ramatulah wa barakathu. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me about your work and knowledge on environmental justice. As we know, you are one of the most active figures in the Muslim community on this issue and have done such great work, including receiving an award from the White House in 2015 as a “Champion of Change.” How did you get involved in environmental justice work and climate activism?

SISTER NANA FIRMAN: Wa’alaykumussalaam warahmatullahi wabarakatuh. Alhamdulillah, the pleasure is mine!

I was born in Jambi (the eastern part of Sumatra) in Indonesia, but both of my parents are from Minangkabau culture of West Sumatra. Since the age of 9 months old, I was raised and grew up in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, until high school. I then continued my higher education in the United States. I did my Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design and my Master’s degree in Urban Design. I returned back home in 1998 and was a practicing Urban Designer for several years in Indonesia. That’s how I got into environmental work. My work in planning and designing cities and towns at that time required me to engage with a group of geologists from whom I learned a lot regarding the appropriate designs for cities with disaster-prone areas, such as the ring of fire regions like Indonesia.

At that moment, I realized that Islamic teaching could help me increase environmental awareness in Indonesia.

Fast forward to early 2005, I was called upon to lead a Green Reconstruction Program by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for Nature in Indonesia for the recovery efforts after the 2004 tsunami in the religiously conservative region of Aceh (the northern tip of Sumatra). It was very hard to convince local people of the benefits of planting mangroves to reduce the impact of storm surges at that time—until I remembered a hadith (the saying of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH) about the benefit of planting trees. At that moment, I realized that Islamic teaching could help me increase environmental awareness in Indonesia.

Since then, I have taken those messages worldwide. In 2012, I moved to the United States to join my husband in California, and immediately after, I was asked by the late sister Tayyibah Taylor to write an article about Climate Change from an Islamic perspective for Azizah Magazine.

I was also invited to join a Fellowship Program with GreenFaith that same year, and I have been part of the faith-based environmental movement in the United States and around the globe ever since. In early 2015, I was asked to join the Green Mosque Committee for Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and launched the Green Ramadan Campaign nationwide.

In the same year, I helped to organize the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change that calls on Muslims everywhere to take action, from conserving water during the cleaning rituals of ablution (wudu) to reducing plastic waste during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. And in early 2016, I co-founded the Global Muslim Climate Network (GMCN) as a platform to implement the declaration on renewable energy transformation and also to introduce the network to the international event of COP22 (UN Climate Convention) that year.

In my life’s journey, learning about the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has been absolutely a major influence on me because he was so green in his attitude toward the natural world, including the animals and plants. Nevertheless, looking back, I also realized that my own mother, with her passion in planting and gardening, was very environmentally-friendly and has helped to instill in me some of the green virtues.

MashAllah, what great work. Can you tell us more about GreenFaith? What kind of work are you doing? I know part of it involves the Living the Change Initiative which I think is really exciting. It’s such a concrete way for average people to get involved.

So, I’d be happy to talk about this. GreenFaith is an interfaith environmental organization with a mission to inspire, educate, organize, and mobilize people of diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds globally for environmental actions. We believe that religious traditions see the sacred in nature, and that people grow spiritually through a strong relationship with the earth.  

Our behavior and consumption habits must help heal, restore, and renew the Earth—because all people deserve a healthy environment, regardless of their race, gender, or income. We do our work through several activities like Training and Capacity Building, Campaigning and Advocacy, as well as Local Organizing.

Living the Change started during the UN Climate Convention in November 2017. It’s a global, multi-faith campaign that supports sustainable lifestyle commitments by faith leaders and their followers in the areas of home energy use, diet, and transportation.

It came about from our concern on climate change impacts to the earth and our communities. Our misuse of natural resources over the years, while improving conditions for many, is wearing the web of life.

We have seen more disasters happening around the world, such as numbers of storms, droughts, fires, floods, and other catastrophes. They are more severe, intense and frequent, like the recent Cyclone Idai affecting the people in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Malawi, as well as the Bomb Cyclone in the U.S. which has flooded Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri.

As Muslims, we are called by Allah in the Holy Qur’an to “walk gently upon the earth”, meaning that we are bound by a moral imperative to treat our shared common home with the care and respect it deserves. 

The tragedy of such occurrences has caused much suffering and loss of life. Sadly, the most vulnerable amongst us—those least responsible for this global threat—suffer the most, unfairly and unjustly. We absolutely need to raise consciousness and start to live sustainably. This responsibility is more urgent than ever before! We have done the talks. Now, it’s time for us to take real actions and to change our ways!

As Muslims, we are called by Allah in the Holy Qur’an to “walk gently upon the earth”, meaning that we are bound by a moral imperative to treat our shared common home with the care and respect it deserves. So, for me and many other Muslims, the reality of climate change not only has grave implications for the future of our planet, but also represents one of the great moral and ethical issues of our time, which must drive us to respond with actions.

And through the collective effort of Living the Change, we started to create a global community of practice in which we learn to put our beliefs into real actions in our own lifestyles. We have also inspired each other during the past year and we look forward to invite more individuals and engage more communities to join this journey together.

Thanks so much for that explanation, and mashAllah, what amazing work! Please tell me more about the Green Ramadan campaign you are working on. That sounds like something beneficial for ourselves and our communities that we all need to focus on.

Yes, absolutely! Every Muslim around the world knows that the purpose of prescribed fasting during Ramadan is to attain taqwa. In my own words, I call it, the time for purifying our souls while detoxing our bodies.

Yet, whether we admit it or not, a big part of Ramadan is eating! Even more so, Ramadan is about eating in community. We fill up a plate, then grab a drink and a few utensils, sometimes we remember a napkin, eventually sitting next to people whom we might see every Friday prayer, but never know their names. After a month of bumping elbows at iftar tables, we leave behind Ramadan with tons of styrofoam, paper, and plastic plates, forks, spoons, knives, cups, napkins and paper towels to pile up in our local trash dumps! We definitely can’t ignore those bags of trash after every beautiful iftar each night—and don’t forget, the food wastage as well! That really defeats the purpose of the sacred month, doesn’t it? This has to change! So, how can we make this Ramadan spiritually and practically better?

First and foremost, we need to make a sincere niyah for this Ramadan to be environmentally conscious, socially responsible and compassionate to those around us by following the example of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)—the mercy to the worlds. That’s how the Green Ramadan Initiative was born. Then, taking the opportunity of this blessed month, to remember and respect our planet which, through the grace of Allah, provides us with the sustenance with which we nourish our bodies and community spirit during a month of fasting.

…please remember that interacting mindfully with our environment is simply a manifestation of our imaan.

As the khalifah upon this earth, we have a responsibility to protect the environment. And please remember that interacting mindfully with our environment is simply a manifestation of our imaan. So, we should try to make this Ramadan a better and greener one by doing one or two simple actions individually or collectively with our communities. In short, just keeping in our mind that less consumption also means less waste! May Allah azza wa jalla make it easy and help all of us accomplish a better and greener Ramadan this year, to the best of our ability in seeking His pleasure, ameen!

This is so important. I would also say that Women have a special role to play in the work of a green ummah and a green Ramadan. I mean, we do a lot of the cooking, grocery shopping, and selection of what kind of household choices each family makes. In previous conversations you had said to me that you think women play a special role in environmental work. Can you elaborate?

Well, all through the history of civilization, women unquestionably have played a significant role in managing natural resources and contributing to environmental rehabilitation and conservation, on their family-level as well as community levels. In many communities around the world, women manage water, sources for energy and food, and in some instances also forests and agricultural lands.

Survival of their families and communities is closely linked to the health of the ecosystem around them. Through their roles as farmers, collectors of water and firewood, women have developed a close connection with their local environment. And on many occasions, they are the most sensitive to changes in the environment, and often become those who suffer the most from environmental problems.

Throughout centuries, women’s direct interaction with the natural world has produced their deep-knowledge about the environment, which served them as agriculturalists, water resource managers/keepers, and traditional healers/scientists. Because of their traditionally primary responsibility of domestic and household management, women interact more intensively with the natural and built environment they inhabit. Thus, they are vulnerably exposed by degraded homes, neighborhood and village/city environments, similar to if they are living in poor housing and community, with inadequate infrastructure and accessibility.

Even if climate change were not an issue, it is still our duty as Muslims to walk gently on the earth and to protect all creations.

Today, with devastated ecological degradation and intense climate change impacts, women also bear a disproportionate share of the burden—whether about access to food and water in times of resource scarcity, land ownership, or even being able to swim in floods/storms. These have become disadvantages. Nevertheless, women are still marginalized in the economic and political spheres to participate in decision-making processes for climate and environmental policy, finance and implementation. But, despite those disadvantages, many experts acknowledge that women have skills, knowledge, leadership and wisdom which is critical for solving the challenges the world faces today—climate resilience!

I was very fortunate, in 2009, to be selected to join the Climate Reality Leadership Program and was trained by former U.S. Vice President, Al Gore, in Australia. Immediately after that, I initiated Eco-Fab Living, a social campaign to increase public awareness in Indonesia, by presenting current ecological and climate crisis while at the same time advocating sustainability for a better future through citizen involvement, public participation, and policy reform.

During those times, I engaged with many women’s groups who were so eager to learn and participate in taking real actions, starting from themselves and their families. And I continued that initiative when I moved to the United States in 2012—this time around by engaging American Muslim communities in practicing eco-lifestyle in their homes and their mosques.

Alhamdulillah, in the recent years, women around the world from many walks of life have become change-makers toward sustainability, including behavior-change towards living in harmony with nature.

Women now account for approximately 80 percent of household purchases in developed countries. Interestingly, based on some studies, women are more likely to buy recyclable, eco-labeled and energy-efficient products than men. Women in Sweden spend more time than men seeking information on sustainable consumption and lifestyle alternatives. Meanwhile, Japanese women are more concerned about the environment and are willing to pay more for sustainable products. And, in North America, 80 percent of women believe strongly that individuals can affect the environment, though they aren’t yet doing enough.

In addition to that, more women in the developing world realize the financial and environmental advantages of eco-products and eco-markets. On many occasions, women are also the key to managing the aftermath of disasters, especially for the practical needs such as providing food, water, sanitation, clothing and health care. Since women are more likely to be affected by environmental problems due to their social roles and impoverished status in many places, women are more environmentally mindful and careful, and apt to follow sustainable pathways. At last, as the hand that rocks the cradle, they become the first and best teachers to their children—the future generation—and can instill in them the love for Allah’s creations, as the manifestation of our gratitude to the Creator.

Sister Nana, your work is so important. MashAllah, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview, and to share your knowledge. Are there any closing thoughts you’d like to share?

Thanks so much. Yes, the thought I want to leave you with is that it is incumbent upon us, as Muslims, to protect the environment and to be green. Even if climate change were not an issue, it is still our duty as Muslims to walk gently on the earth and to protect all creations. With the crisis we are facing, it needs to be a central part of our lives as Muslims. This is the basic understanding we see amongst a lot of Muslims today and the direction we need to continue to take as a community.

Thanks so much, may Allah bless you in this work!

To learn more about the initiatives discussed in this interview, please visit the following websites:

https://greenfaith.org/

https://livingthechange.net/

http://www.isna.net/greenramadan/

The Ethical Treatment of Animals

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Cori Mancuso reflects on the Islamic moral and theological approach towards the treatment of animals, the controversial practices of industrial animal farming, and provides practical advice and recommendations on ethical consumerism in the Muslim community.

What are the Rights of Animals in the Modern World?  

Animals are part of our everyday lives and environment; whether one owns a pet, keeps livestock, or eats meat. Yet few Muslims today are aware of Islam’s rulings regarding ethical animal treatment and consumption, or the centuries’ worth of scholarly literature on the topic. This literature reflects our scholars’ profound understanding of the rights and responsibilities that come with our relationship with animals. Modern agricultural and farming practices such as intensive animal farming, machine slaughtering, and animal experimentation, are among a few of the most controversial trends which directly oppose the Islamic moral and ethical treatment of animals.

As consumers and participants in the global world, it is essential that Muslims make every effort in aligning their actions and attitude towards a greater awareness of the proper treatment of animals in their everyday lives.

What Does the Qur’an Say About Our Relationship With Animals?

The Qur’an and Hadith outline the moral and theological significance of animals and their relationship with mankind. Allah Most High says in the Qu’ran “It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth.” (Surah al Baqarah 2:29) Human beings were given permission to make use of animals in terms of transportation, clothing, shelter, warfare, hunting, food, and drink. (Musa Furber; Rights and Duties Pertaining to Kept Animals) The Qu’ran honors several types of animals, including livestock, camels, birds, cows, sheep, and fish. There are three chapters of the Qur’an named after specific animals, such as The Bee (Surah an Nahl 16), The Ant (Surah an Naml 27), The Spider (Surah al Ankabut 29) and The Elephant (Surah al Fil 105). We are encouraged to reflect upon animals and created beings as a means of gratefulness and appreciation towards The Creator. One’s treatment towards animals reflects one’s state of guidance; ethical treatment of animals is a sign of guidance and appreciation, while one’s mistreatment of animals is a sign of misguidance and ungratefulness towards the Creator and His creation. (Musa Furber; Rights and Duties Pertaining to Kept Animals) Our state of guidance is reflected in our behavior towards animals, making it of utmost priority to realign our behavior towards that which we were commanded and created to uphold.

Treatment of Animals in the Hadith Literature

As the Qur’an clearly outlines the proper moral and theological approach towards animals, the Hadith specifies how one should properly interact with and keep animals. The Hadith collections emphasize the overall necessity of mercy, avoidance of harm, and proper care towards animals. For those who mistreat animals, this is a major sin worthy of Allah’s punishment (Musa Furber; Rights and Duties Pertaining to Kept Animals). In a well-known hadith, reported from Ibn Umar, Allah be pleased with him, says “The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: ‘A woman was tormented because of a cat she had confined until it died and for this she entered Hellfire. She did not provide it with food or drink as it was confined, nor did she free it so that is might eat the vermin of the earth.’” (Muslim ibn al-hajjaj; al-Musnad al-sahih) For those who treat animals with mercy and compassion, there is a great reward with Allah Most High. The companions of the Prophet, Allah be pleased with them, asked the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace “O Messenger of Allah, is there a reward for us even for serving these animals?” He said ‘Yes, there is a reward for rendering service to every living animal.’” (Bukhari; al-Sahih)

Injunction of Eating Halal and Tayyib

In the modern global economy, there is a veil between humans and animals in terms of meat and dairy production. Although there is a growing movement towards farm to table, organic, and humane certified products, the vast majority of people participate in the industrialized agricultural system of slaughter, production, and consumption. Animals living under these conditions have little to no movement, are raised in inappropriate housing without sunlight or air, and face regular trauma and injury (Musa Furber; Intensive Animal Farming). All of these practices violate Islamic law and our religious principles. Animals cannot be raised under these conditions for the mere purpose of economic gain or efficiency. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, warned the believers that committing unlawful acts affects the acceptance of our deeds.

Allah has enjoined us to avoid the doubtful and unlawful matters. This alone should be enough to concern us regarding our direct and indirect involvement in industrial animal farming production and consumption. As individuals and as a community, we must strive to prevent, alleviate, and offer alternatives to industrial animal farming.

Practical Advice on Ethical Consumerism  

Muslims are commanded to eat of the halal and tayyib, “O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan.” (Surah al Baqarah 2:168) We are reminded to do all things in the most excellent manner and with ihsan. This includes making conscious decisions surrounding our purchases and consumption of animal products and goods. How does one go about acquiring halal and tayyib products?

For starters, Muslims should purchase halal-certified meat products, preferably from local farmers and butchers. When inquiring about the farming and production practices of a halal farmer or business, one should be asking the following questions “Is the animal raised in a wholesome and humane environment? Is the animal distressed or mishandled during transportation? Are the animals slaughtered in an ethical and merciful manner? Are the animals killed away from the view of other animals?” (Ezra Ereckson; Animals in Islam).

This is easier to recognize when one purchases locally or as a group from a local halal butcher. In cases where this is not applicable or accessible, there are other options such as inquiring into the specific halal certification on the label and purchasing meat and animal products online. There is no standard government sanctioned or internationally recognized halal certification, so we must be cautious about this labelling. Most halal certifications regulate the slaughter of the animal, not the conditions in which they are kept or how they are raised. In terms of halal and tayyib meat and dairy products, Beyond Halal.org offers an online directory of farmers and businesses around the world which are providing quality halal meats and dairy products.

Mufti Musa Furber, offers several recommendations for individuals, communities, and scholars to address the inhumane production and consumption of animals. (Musa Furber; Intensive Animal Farming) Although Vegetarianism and Veganism are on the rise, these are not viable options for most of the Muslim community given that Islam still requires animal sacrifice for specific religious rites. Also, they do not address or counteract the mainstream practice of industrial animal farming. It is among the sunnah of our Prophet, and all the Prophets, Allah bless and give peace on all of them, to eat meat in moderation. It would be beneficial to reduce the amount of meat in one’s diet, or to adopt more healthy alternatives to meat products.

As a Muslim community, we must create alternative farming initiatives which raise animals in a lawful manner and provide permissible and nourishing products to the community. As consumers, we must strive to find lawful sources of meat and dairy, even at the expense of paying higher prices. Lastly, many animal products can be substituted by alternative materials and consumable goods. Furber challenges the scholars and religious leaders of our time to address many of these controversial legal issues related to industrial animal farming and halal certification standards. (Musa Furber; Intensive Animal Farming)

As believers, we are called to be an example to humanity and stewards on this earth. This is a great honor and responsibility. We must be willing to start with ourselves and address our own individual lifestyles. Then we can begin to work as a community to adopt and promote the ethical treatment of animals according to our tradition. We have been commanded to be stewards of the earth, to eat of lawful and nourishing bounty, to perfect our character and actions, and to treat all animals with compassion and mercy.

Cori Mancuso is a graduate in Religious Studies at Lycoming College. While seeking sacred knowledge, she develops content for SeekersGuidance and Sabeel Community.

This article originally appeared on SeekersGuidance on April 2nd, 2019.

Alhamdulillah for Houseplants

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This weekend marks International Plant Appreciation Day – a day where gardeners and plant enthusiasts pause and reflect on the benefits plants provide, and encourage others to incorporate plants into their own lives. Much of human existence and nutrition can be attributed to plants, from filtering the air, producing food, offering medicinal cures, providing shade and regulating weather to name a few. In urban environments, the growth of the houseplant industry has grown exponentially by wellness-minded millennials, seeking to bring nature and greenery into their homes and offices. If you're considering adopting a plant, make a note of your lighting conditions, and speak with the staff at your local nursery who would be more than happy to guide you through finding the perfect plant.

The “Alhamdulillah Series” has been a feature on Khaleafa for several years, aimed at highlighting the simple blessings in nature that surround us. The goal is to pause and reflect on the small things in our lives, and give thanks for these gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

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

Cambridge’s burgeoning Muslim community to benefit from new ‘eco’ Mosque

By: Nashwa Gowanlock

A new ‘eco’ mosque in Cambridge hosted its first morning prayers this month — it’s a unique building with world-class environmental credentials and hopes to better serve the city’s burgeoning Muslim community. Freelance journalist Nashwa Gowanlock went to visit for Environment Journal.

Beyond the striking university campuses of historic Cambridge, lies a lesser-known part of the city that boasts its own chronicle — one of tolerance and diversity.

The heart of this multicultural community is Mill Road, a narrow and heaving thoroughfare lined with ethnic eateries and specialist supermarkets.

Nestled within the Victorian terraced housing is one of the city’s newest builds — the UK’s first eco-mosque.

A first not only in the country but also throughout Europe, the new mosque will serve some of the city’s estimated 8000 Muslims — including students — who hail from around 60 nations.

The project was founded by Tim Winter, a renowned scholar and lecturer in Islamic Studies at Cambridge University.

‘The mosque has been designed as a facility for local residents of whatever religious persuasion,’ Winter says.

‘Its public areas, including the gardens, cafeteria, and teaching space, will provide a significant new amenity for all our neighbours.’

Cambridge’s population has experienced a boom in recent decades, due in large part to the development of the city’s science and technology industries.

With only a handful of smaller mosques serving the city, demand for such a space to accommodate its Muslim residents had been mounting.

Community Regeneration

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The mosque itself has been ten years in the making, with the once-derelict land at the far end of the street, in the Romsey neighbourhood, acquired in 2008.

According to local historian and guide, Allan Brigham, the area past the railway bridge has always been an area of change.

‘200 years ago, the only people living here were farm labourers,’ says Brigham.

‘After the railway came in 1845, Romsey Town became really an area for railway workers living here, which was a community completely unknown in Cambridge and they came mainly from the east of England. They weren’t people who lived in Cambridge before.’

A Romsey local of 40 years, Brigham was a member of a committee consulted in the project’s initial planning stages.

‘We said this end of Mill Road needed an area of greenery,’ Brigham says. ‘It will create a bit of breathing space and be really attractive. It will – and has already – helped uplift this end of the road.’

Creating a calm oasis

Inspired by the Islamic gardens of India and Spain, this greenery at the entrance to the mosque was sculpted by garden designer, Emma Clarke, as a contemplative space.

Along with the café and the atrium, which will host various functions and exhibitions, the garden was designed for all visitors to enjoy.

The mosque’s tree-shaped columns made from Swiss timber are another distinctive feature, meeting at the ceiling in a latticed canopy.

Selected in 2008 through an international competition were architects Marks Barfield, who also designed the London Eye and Kew treetop walkway.

This project was principally the vision of the late David Marks together with his partner, Julia Barfield, who says that marrying tradition and local character with contemporary design was a priority.

‘Throughout the world and throughout history, mosques have taken on the character of their area — they’ve taken on the vernacular of the architecture,’ Barfield says.

‘The idea of the calm oasis is very important in Islam. We imagined the site covered in a glade of trees and then the trees became structural trees and then they were joined at the top with this geometry.’

Eco-benefits

Every detail of the mosque was designed to specification and environmental concerns were at the forefront of structural plans.

‘The mosque incorporates a number of green technologies,’ Winter explains, ‘including air-source heat pumps, rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling, sedum roofs, photo-voltaic arrays and passive ventilation.’

‘These and other features respond to the Qur’anic insistence on the sanctity of the natural world and the commandment to avoid waste and extravagance.’

Natural light is diffused via circular skylights, supplemented with low-energy LED artificial lighting. Energy use is designed to be minimal, using static heating and natural ventilation supplemented by displacement cool air supply.

‘Cambridge is a symbolic capital city of modernity,’ Winter says.

‘This build signals Islam’s constructive and healing response to the challenges and problems which the modern world faces. Muslims should be at the forefront of the fight against waste and global warming.’

Social factors were also measured in planning the configuration of the building, whose height was determined by that of the local three-storey terraces; its brick façade also complements the architecture of the town.

The mosque’s gold dome may be an eye-catching attribute, but there will be no minaret and no call to prayer broadcast outside the building.

‘Sustainability is not just environmental; it’s also social,’ Barfield says.

‘In order for it to fit into this local setting, it needs to be of this place and of this time. But it also needs to celebrate Islamic culture.’

A city of tolerance

Over £23m was raised to fund the project, including donations from the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs and at least 8000 individuals. at least 8000 individuals.

Although it has yet to launch officially, the mosque temporarily opened its doors to the local Muslim community for its first Friday prayers on March 15.

Despite that morning’s news of shootings at two New Zealand mosques, which left 50 people dead, the prayer hall at the new Cambridge mosque, which has a 1000-person capacity, was packed with worshippers.

‘Hopefully, the mosque will be part of the community in the way that all the other churches in the area are,’ Brigham says.

Dubbed ‘the community of communities’, Mill Road has long been a landmark of unity.

Its Winter Fair, during which the entire length of the street is closed off to traffic, draws huge crowds every year.

Locals mostly run the stalls, exhibitions and stage performances that line the street, no matter the weather.

According to the organisers, the event is ‘created and run by people from the Mill Road area’. It is a ‘celebration of the area’s community,’ as well as its ‘culture and way of life’.

‘Most main roads divide communities,’ Brigham adds. ‘Mill road, one way or another, brings communities from both sides of the road together. And I think that’s what makes it unique in Cambridge.’

Its popularity is even beginning to gain acclaim, with Romsey Town being listed by Travel Supermarket in 2018 as being one of the country’s ‘hippest neighbourhoods’.

This year’s fair will be a chance for one of its newest neighbours to participate.

One of those welcoming them is Cambridge councillor for Romsey Ward, Anna Smith.

‘Romsey is a wonderful, diverse and vibrant ward, with a fantastic community spirit,” Smith says.

‘I’m thrilled that this beautiful new mosque, with its welcoming congregation, is coming to Romsey.’

Offering parallel values of respect for a place and its people, the mosque should find itself in good company as the city of Cambridge continues to thrive.

This article originally appeared on Environmental Journal on April 4th, 2019.

Green Khutbah Campaign Launches

Muslims across the world to celebrate Earth Day with Green Khutbah Campaign

TORONTO, March 30, 2019 - Muslims across the world will commemorate Earth Day on Friday, April 19, 2019 with the Green Khutbah Campaign as faith leaders deliver a sermon to raise awareness on climate change.

“We are encouraging mosques, schools, universities and Islamic Institutions to devote their Friday Khutbah to celebrate the blessings, graces and beauty of all of God’s creation and to raise awareness about climate change,” said Muaz Nasir, the publisher of the Canadian environmental website, Khaleafa.com and one of the founders of the Campaign.

This year the theme of the Green Khutbah Campaign is Everyday is Earth Day’.

“We chose this year’s topic with this thought in mind: at this very moment in time - right here, right now - we are at the tipping point in history for whether climate change can be reversed; or whether it will continue unchecked having irreversible consequences on this earth,” Nasir added.

The Campaign was launched in 2012 in Canada and, every year, Imams across the world are encouraged to deliver a message that remind their congregations of the Qur’anic message to be stewards of the earth and its environment.

The Green Khutbah Campaign commemorates Earth Day that will take place on Friday, April 19.

The first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

More than 1 billion people across the world now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

“Leading climate scientists now believe that a rise of two degrees centigrade in global temperature, which is considered to be the “tipping point”, is now very unlikely to be avoided if we continue with business-as-usual; other leading climate scientists consider 1.5 degrees centigrade to be a more likely “tipping point””, according to the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change.

“This is the point considered to be the threshold for catastrophic climate change, which will expose yet more millions of people and countless other creatures to drought, hunger and flooding. The brunt of this will continue to be borne by the poor, as the Earth experiences a drastic increase in levels of carbon in the atmosphere brought on in the period since the onset of the industrial revolution.”

Muaz Nasir says that Muslims cannot tune out from the environmental damage.

“Tuning out would mean that we are disregarding our moral responsibility to God’s creation,” he said.

“This earth, this one home, is all we have. And as stewards of this earth, we encourage everyone to think about the individual actions we can take on a daily basis that can make a large collective difference,” Nasir added.

Islamic organizations and well-known leaders here in Toronto and around the world are throwing their support behind the campaign intending to dedicate their Friday Khutbah on April 19, 2019 to this year’s Green Khutbah theme.

The Khaleafa.com team has also created an extensive online resource kit to aid faith leaders participating in the Green Khutbah Campaign.

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For more information, photos or to arrange an interview please contact:  

Afeefa Karim-Nasir

Media Relations, Green Khutbah Campaign

e: http://khaleafa.com/contact

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Alhamdulillah for Earth Hour

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This weekend marks Earth Hour, the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment, inspiring millions of people to take action for our planet and nature. As accelerating climate change and staggering biodiversity loss threaten our planet, Earth Hour 2018-2020 endeavours to spark never-before-had conversations on the loss of nature and the urgent need to protect it. Earth Hour is more than just turning off the lights for one hour. It’s a time to pause and reflect with those around us the blessings we have, and a catalyst to encourage us to lead a more sustainable life. This year, take the Earth Hour pledge and share it with friends and family.

The “Alhamdulillah Series” has been a feature on Khaleafa for several years, aimed at highlighting the simple blessings in nature that surround us. The goal is to pause and reflect on the small things in our lives, and give thanks for these gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

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


Campaign Challenges Interfaith Community to Take Action

Living the Change is a globally-connected community of religious and spiritual institutions, along with leading experts in the field of sustainable consumption practices. Through commitments in the areas of diet, transportation, and energy use, they seek to create a worldwide community of conscience and practice to drive lifestyle-related reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

Living the Change Campaign

Living the Change began as part of the interfaith communities global response to the Special Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on "Global Warming of 1.5ºC", and continued through the opening of the United Nations’ climate change conference COP24 in Katowice, Poland. The first campaign was held between October and December 2018, and diverse religious and spiritual communities organized more than 100 local sustainability events in 25 countries across 6 continents.

We believe everyone can become part of the solution to climate change, and it will take all of us working together for our shared future. We know what must be done, and we have the ability to start taking action today. We are all environmental stewards, united in the responsibility and the blessing to care for our common home. We feel love and concern for the billions of living beings with whom we share this planet. We have the knowledge and skills to help make a healthier, happier future for all. During the most challenging times, we are reminded how truly we are all in this together.

Many notable Muslim leaders have joined the campaign including Imam Zaid Shakir, Dr. Ingrid Mattson and Imam Ibrahima Saidy among other prominent Muslim acamedics, theologians, community leaders and environmental champions. Over the next several weeks, Khaleafa will be featuring their stories, highlighting the importance to take action on climate change.


Interfaith Statement “Walk on Earth Gently”

During COP23, Living the Change published and delivered the Interfaith Statement “Walk on Earth Gently”. This call for climate action was signed by distinguished faith leaders, clergy, theologians, scholars, climate advocates, and community members. They represent many of the world religions: Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity (Anglican/Episcopal, Baptist, Roman-Catholic, Franciscan, Jesuit, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian), Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Quaker, Unitarian, and Zen.


WALK ON EARTH GENTLY

A MULTI-FAITH INVITATION TO SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLES

Earth is a blessing. She supports life and is the basis of all our economies. She conveys beauty and evokes our recognition of something greater than ourselves. She is our temple, our mosque, our sanctuary, our cathedral. Our home.

Our actions now threaten the delicate balance of life on Earth, with climate change posing a most grave danger. Record numbers of severe storms, droughts, fires, and related catastrophes leave trauma and grief in their wake. Recent months have witnessed the tragedy of such occurrences in the Caribbean, the US, and India. We shudder over the enormity of this suffering and over what more lies ahead.

For thousands of years, our traditions have taught us to care for Earth. This responsibility has become urgent in recent decades. Our misuse of Earth’s generosity, while improving conditions for many, is not improving them for all and is fraying the web of life. The most vulnerable among us, those least responsible for this global threat, suffer the impacts of a warming climate unfairly and unjustly.

We have begun to respond, raising consciousness and starting to consume more sustainably. We have implored leaders to act. We have studied, prayed and petitioned, advocated, marched and mobilized. We have awakened to the urgent challenge and begun to change our ways.

However, we are at a crossroads. The Paris Agreement affirmed limiting temperature rise to well below 2⁰C, while pursuing efforts to a far safer 1.5⁰C limit. Our friends from Fiji and small island states, understanding the stakes and underscoring the science, have told us “1.5 to stay alive.” Yet we are currently headed for warming of 3⁰C or more, perilously beyond this limit

This challenge is both dire and urgent. It calls for us to act.

As religious and spiritual leaders, we are committing to make changes in our own lives, and to support the members of our communities in doing the same. Together, we come to you with an invitation to embark on a journey towards compassionate simplicity for the sake of the climate, the human family, and the community of life. For many of us, changes in three areas make the greatest impact: dramatically reducing emissions from our home energy use, adopting a plant-based diet and reducing food waste, and minimizing automobile and air travel. Because of the gravity of our situation, substantial and long-term changes in these areas are indispensable if we are to reach a 1.5⁰C future, particularly for those of us in communities whose carbon footprints exceed sustainable levels. We pledge our commitment to such change.

Through this collective effort, we look forward to creating a global community of conscience and practice in which we learn to put belief into action in relation to our own lifestyles. Our spiritual and faith communities will give us hope and companions for this journey. We will share ideas, materials, and stories of struggle and success. Our practices of mindfulness, spiritual discipline and prayer will enable us to grow. These ancient teachings and practices, and our renewed commitments and willingness to strive, will help us build pathways towards a sustainable future.

We wish to be clear that we understand that systemic change is required to solve this crisis. We will continue to advocate for the policies that are so urgently needed. However, we also believe that individual commitments and behaviors are as important in addressing climate change as they are in addressing poverty, racism, and other grave social ills. And we know that our spiritualities and traditions offer wisdom about finding happiness in a purposeful life, family and friendships, not in an overabundance of things. The world needs such wisdom; it is our privilege both to share and to seek to embody it.

We invite you to join the many others willing to walk this path by adding your name to this document, and by preparing to make commitments in the three areas named above. The diverse groups coming together in this moment will reach out to invite you to become involved in a programme of support and action which will take shape over the coming year.

Let us pray and hope we can come together in love for each other, those who suffer from climate change, future generations, and planet Earth.

Alhamdulillah for Sparrows

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Today marks World Sparrow Day! The common House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is a familiar sight to many in Canada, and their colonies are common in many urban centres across the country. Unfortunately, this species has been in decline in recent years for a number of reasons, from the loss of habitat to a lack of insects for food. This year World Sparrow Day is marking its 10th anniversary of bringing together those working for the conservation of the species to better protect this humble bird.

The “Alhamdulillah Series” has been a feature on Khaleafa for several years, aimed at highlighting the simple blessings in nature that surround us. The goal is to pause and reflect on the small things in our lives, and give thanks for these gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

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



Faiths Unite to Save the Rainforest

Rainforests play a critical role in regulating the Earth’s climate. They are the only safe, proven, natural solution that exists for carbon capture and storage and are key to addressing climate change. Unfortunately, tropical forests are highly undervalued assets even though they provide many ecosystem services, including removing carbon from the atmosphere; providing protection against floods, landslides, avalanches and ocean surges; providing clean water, fish, medicines and crops; space for recreation and exercise; and places sacred to the world’s various faiths

The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative is an international, multi-faith alliance that works to bring moral urgency and faith-based leadership to global efforts to end tropical deforestation. The initiative welcomes engagement by all organizations, institutions and individuals of good faith and conscience that are committed to the protection, restoration and sustainable management of rainforests.

Components of its mandate include:

  • Build consensus - Facilitate dialogue across religions about the shared moral, ethical and spiritual responsibility to protect rainforests.

  • Make the case - Create opportunities for religious leaders, scientists and indigenous peoples to speak in concert about the case for ending tropical deforestation.

  • Facilitate learning - Equip religious and spiritual leaders with the science, training and tools they need to become effective advocates for protecting rainforests.

  • Mobilize commitment - Mobilize religious and spiritual leaders to make ending tropical deforestation an ethical priority and create space for them to advocate for policies that protect rainforests and those that serve as their guardians.

  • Raise awareness - Increase the profile and visibility of the deforestation crisis, and the fundamental role that rainforests play in addressing climate change, achieving sustainable development and surviving as a planet.

  • Influence policy - Serve as a moral force for change to influence governments and companies to adopt, fulfill and expand upon commitments to protect rainforests.

  • Build coalitions - Facilitate new partnerships among religious and faith leaders, indigenous peoples, and other sectors – government, business, and civil society – to anchor global commitment to protecting rainforest in on-the-ground action in rainforest countries.

  • Inspire action - Create a worldwide movement for rainforest protection that is grounded in the values, ethics and moral guidance of faith communities.

The initiative was launched in June of 2017 at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway in a first-of-its-kind summit of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist religious leaders, climate scientists, rainforest experts and indigenous peoples’ representatives from Brazil, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Meso-America and Peru.

Alhamdulillah for Time

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This week marks the beginning of Daylight Savings Time for those living in Eastern Canada. This bi-annual rotation between Daylight Savings and Standard time is not only a reminder to change the batteries in your smoke alarm, but shifts our daily patterns as the time for prayers move forward and the days begin to get longer. This gives us a greater reason to pause and reflect on the passage of time; a connection between our past and the present, and set a new direction for the future.

The “Alhamdulillah Series” has been a feature on Khaleafa for several years, aimed at highlighting the simple blessings in nature that surround us. The goal is to pause and reflect on the small things in our lives, and give thanks for these gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

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