News

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.

Islamic Relief & Climate Change

Islamic aid organizations have recognized the connection between social justice and climate change, and that the changing climate is already having a devastating impact on the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Over the coming decades, climate change is an issue that will adversely affect the Muslims world, especially those who are displaced by floods, drought, desertification and extreme heat.

“We are in danger of ending life as we know it on our planet”
–   Islamic Declaration on Climate Change, 2015

Islamic Relief

Islamic Relief works with communities to strengthen their resilience to disasters, and provide vital emergency aid when disasters occur. They are known to tackle the root causes of poverty and are a policy leader on Islamic humanitarianism. In 2017, they released ‘Climate Champions - Islamic Relief’s Global Climate Action’, which captures why Islamic Relief is vocal on climate change and climate justice issues, and how they are campaigning to reduce emissions, promote sustainable living and protect the most vulnerable.

Islamic Relief recognised climate change as one of the greatest moral, social and environmental issues facing humanity. Inspired by Islamic teachings on justice and stewardship, they help communities become more resilient to climate change, improve learning on environmental issues among staff and supporters, aim to reduce our carbon footprint, and undertake advocacy to promote substantial and equitable reductions in greenhouse gases.

Global Climate Change Policy

Launching its updated Climate Change Policy this week, Islamic Relief Worldwide has reiterated its stark warning that bold and urgent action is needed to limit global warming and respond to the consequences of climate breakdown.

The Islamic Relief Climate Change policy recognises climate change as one of the greatest issues humanity faces, and sets out the far-reaching response that is needed.

“Our climate policy speaks out on behalf of the poor and marginalised suffering from climate change across the world,” said Islamic Relief CEO Naser Haghamed, speaking at the policy’s launch event on February 11th, 2019.

“We say that as a moral, social and environmental issue, mitigation of climate change demands an urgent and global response and change on an unprecedented scale.

“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is the most effective way to use resources. But there must also be investment where the consequences of climate breakdown are already being felt: in disaster risk management, adaptation and resilience building, and addressing loss and damage.”

Expressing the need for urgent action, Naser Haghamed echoed Swedish child activist Greta Thunberg’s cry that “Our house is on fire”. Thousands of schoolchildren worldwide are not attending school to take part in strikes pressurising world leaders to tackle climate change.

“Just the previous week, it was announced that 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record, the oceans are the warmest ever, the UK will average 1.5 degrees warming within five years, glaciers in the Himalayas are set to melt threatening water shortage for two billion people, and Islamic Relief was on alert as the government of Balochistan declared a drought emergency.”

Talanoa Dialogues

The Talanoa Dialogues organised by Islamic Relief in 11 countries sent messages to governments and the UN that adaptation to climate change needs to be tackled by the people who know their situation best. The duty of government is to help them plan and carry out the necessary work.

Emphasising that Islamic Relief must also continue to strive to do more, Islamic Relief’s CEO added:

“We must make sure that we are doing everything to limit our own greenhouse gas emissions, with continuously improving environmental performance integral to our business strategy and operating methods.

At next month’s UN Environment Assembly, Islamic Relief will present on their climate and consumption work in East Africa. There they will also engage with the UN secretary general’s climate summit and UN Climate Change conference later in the year.

National Umbrella Day

By: Muaz Nasir

Today marks National Umbrella Day; a day where we mark our appreciation for this useful invention. (1)

Umbrella’s are an innovative tool, that have been around for thousands of years. Evidence of their use can be found in ancient art and artifacts in Egypt, Assyria, Greece and China (2). Not only do they keep us dry during the rain, but they can also protect us from the damaging rays of the sun.

As a result, the umbrella has become a symbol for climate change, representing the dueling forces of floods and droughts that have rocked the planet in recent years.

Floods, Droughts and Climate Change

Water vapour, which is the source of rain and snow, primarily comes from two sources. About 60% is derived straight from the oceans, while the other 40% is evaporated over the continents. This is important to note because the rate of evaporation from the ocean increases as the world warms, and this contributes to increases in the annual amount of snow and rain (2).

Globally, the atmosphere is getting warmer, which means that it can retain more moisture. More rain may seem like a good thing, but too much rain, especially high-intensity, short-duration storms, can have a devastating impact. Flash floods have become common in some parts of Canada, where rain that falls as a violent downpour, quickly runs back into the rivers and lakes, rather than being absorbed and retained in the soil.

On the flip side of the equation, even though evaporation is increasing, the holding capacity of the atmosphere is not keeping pace. This results in dry spells between rain events, as it takes longer for moisture to recharge the atmosphere. This leaves parched soils which are unable to hold moisture during these severe storms, and further exacerbates the run-off of water out of the system when rain actually arrives (3).

Whether it's heavy rain or blistering sun, the humble umbrella will become one of the go-to tools in the toolbox in adapting to climate change.  

Kamal Badawi, a Saudi engineer from Makkah, explains the features of a smart umbrella to a pilgrims. (Source:  Al Arabiya)

Kamal Badawi, a Saudi engineer from Makkah, explains the features of a smart umbrella to a pilgrims. (Source: Al Arabiya)

What’s Next for Umbrellas?

Recently, Saudi engineers have re-designed the umbrella to assist Hajj pilgrims avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration at the holy sites where temperatures can climb to over 40°C. Known as a smart umbrella, it is solar powered and has integrated USB ports, a fan, flashlight and a GPS system to help locate lost family members and friends (4). Other versions connect the base to a water bottle which can deliver a cooling mist to pilgrims (5).

This National Umbrella Day, give your umbrella a tune-up before spring arrives and consider its new role in a world with climate change.

Sources:

  1. National Day Calendar: https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-umbrella-day-february-10/

  2. The Climate Reality Project: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/why-does-climate-change-lead-more-floods-and-droughts

  3. Climate Communication Science & Outreach: https://www.climatecommunication.org/new/features/extreme-weather/precipitation-floods-drought/

  4. Al Arabiya: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/variety/2016/09/11/Pilgrims-use-Smart-Umbrella-.html

  5. Daily Pakistan Global: https://en.dailypakistan.com.pk/technology/saudi-engineer-invents-air-conditioned-umbrella-for-hajj-pilgrims/

YOUTH FROM FAITH COMMUNITIES CREATE “NATIVE PLANT” GARDENS

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Faith & the Common Good (FCG) is a multi-faith not for profit organization that helps faith communities of all faith beliefs and all cultural backgrounds, to green their faith buildings and surrounding property.

Faith & the Common Good were fortunate to receive an Ontario 150 grant. It provided the opportunity for youth of different religions and cultural backgrounds, to create 8 native plant gardens in 3 cities this Spring; Ottawa, Halton/Oakville and Toronto. Toronto FCG chapter chose 3 faith sites; Shaarei Shomayim Congregation, Manor Road United Church, and the International Muslim’s Organization of Toronto (IMO).

On Friday, November 17, Donna Lang, Toronto Animator for Faith & the Common Good and Harold Smith, attended Friday prayers at IMO. After the service, Donna presented a garden plaque to Omar Farouk, Executive Director of the International Muslim’s Organization of Toronto (IMO).

Omar Farouk of IMO commented on the attendance of 3 different religions at the prayer service. “It is fitting that we have representation from 3 different religions here today. Donna Lang, Harold Smith and our congregation represent the 3 religions, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, and all of these originate from the Father Abraham. We have many complementary stories and passages in our respective religious texts, due to our common roots”.

“First Peoples, First Plants” is the title of the gardening plaque presented to the IMO congregation, and these words are meant to honour and recognize the contribution of the indigenous people of this land. Native plants were before the settlers arrived and they are low maintenance and drought resistant, due to the fact that they are original to the land.

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Donna thanked Sarah Narine and Atik Patel, the 2 youth leaders at IMO, who helped with the garden. Atik recruited youth for planting day and also was responsible for the video coverage. Sarah was in charge of planting day and she did a fantastic job of organizing the plants and showing the youth where to plant. There was also a demonstration, to show the youth how to plant.

Donna also thanked Harold Smith, who is Chair of the North American Native Plant Society. Harold did the garden designs and plant selection for each of the Toronto gardens.

“We were very lucky to have such an experienced garden designer on board”, said Donna Lang. “We feel very fortunate to have worked with the IMO youth, who were fast learners and hard working. It was a delight to see their happy faces at the end of the planting day”.

HOW GREEN IS ISLAMIC STYLE?

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By Miriam al Ali

Islamic Fashion, 101: Many Westerners may not know this, but the long, black covering for clothing worn mainly by Arabian women is called an abaya; the headscarf that is worn with jeans and other casual wear is called a hijab. Hijab is a term that means ‘barrier, covering or veil’, and for many Muslim women around the world, it’s an essential part of the fashion they consider to be modest enough to comply with Islamic dress codes.

Unfortunately, these items of Islamic clothing are often also a ‘barrier’ to eco-friendliness, as more than not, they are made out of nasty polyester, nylon or rayon, all of which trap sweat and heat. But that is about to change.

Abeer Al-Azzawi is a young Canadian woman who fretted that in a world where eco pet accessories and organic baby clothes worn for mere months are offered to consumers in abundance, there were very few ‘green’ options for the hijab, which is worn every day by millions of women around the world.

“From all of my research, I never found one eco hijab that was available,” said the designer to the leading newspaper, the Toronto Star.

So Al-Azzawi – who doesn’t wear the traditional head scarf herself – created Queendom Hijabs, a line of head coverings that uses soy and bamboo based fabrics that breathe well, and are warm in winter and cool in summer. Due to its flexibility, breathability, and natural credentials, the line quickly gained popularity with sportswomen and Muslims living in colder climes.

“My goal is to make every hijab eco,” she says.

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While this is good news for hijab wearers from Canada to Indonesia, the eco-abaya, however, remains elusive. Still mainly a Middle Eastern phenomenon, these long black robes do make a strong appearance in London during the summer months, when many Arabs escape the heat to the more moderate weather of the English capital. While the highest quality abayas are often made of fine silk, these are often reserved for special occasions, and even so, they can’t necessary be considered ‘eco’, because the dyes used are often toxic, and they are frequently covered in synthetic crystals, plastic beads or other non-eco embellishments.

Some brands, such as Body AMR, pictured in our main image, do carry all-silk, design rich pieces that are high on style whilst being low on bling, but they are not cheap, and the thirst for embellishment is unlikely to disappear from the Gulf region any time soon.

That being said, there’s clearly also a growing eco-fashion market in the region, as demonstrated by Vogue Italia’s green design talent hunt, in conjunction with the Dubai Mall. The question is: which entrepreneurial designer will be the first to truly corner that market and become the ‘Stella McCartney’ of the Arab world?

This article originally appeared on ELUXE Magazine in 2015. 

Conference Promotes Sustainable Development in the Islamic World

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The Islamic Conference of Environment Ministers adopts various documents and projects aiming to give substance to environmental protection and promote sustainable development in Islamic world

Today at the headquarters of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) in Rabat, the 7th Islamic Conference of Environment Ministers closed with the adoption of many documents and projects that aim to activate environmental protection and promote sustainable development in the Islamic world.

In this regard, the Conference adopted the Report of the 4th Islamic Executive Bureau for the Environment and urged the Member States to complete the appointment of focal points for the Bureau to facilitate the follow-up to the implementation of the decisions, resolutions and recommendations of the Executive Bureau and the Islamic Conference of Environment Ministers.

It also adopted the Report of the Director General on ISESCO’s Efforts in the Field of Environment and Sustainable Development between the 6th and 7thICEM Sessions. In addition; commended ISESCO’s efforts devoted to the implementation of the programmes geared towards Environment Protection and Sustainable Development; and invited ISESCO Director General to pursue these efforts, in coordination and consultation with the OIC General Secretariat, the Member States’ competent parties and the national, regional and international specialized bodies, in such a way as to achieve sustainable development goals.

By the same token, the Conference adopted the Report on ISESCO’s Efforts in the 22nd Conference of the Parties on Climate Change and Preparation of the 23rd Session of the Conference and lauded ISESCO’s efforts devoted to activating the “Islamic Declaration on Environment Protection and Sustainable Development.

It also lauded the Organization’s efforts in enforcing the resolutions of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP), through the implementation of relevant programmes and activities for the benefit of Member States; commended its contribution to the preparation for and participation in the COP22 held in Marrakech and urged the Member States to engage in further joint action for activating the relevant conventions pertaining to climate change and to the mitigation of its effects; and to take practical measures likely to ensure the necessary adaptation in this regard.

Further, the Conference adopted the “Progress Report on the Creation of the OIC Water Council and its Terms of Reference”; commended the efforts put by the OIC General Secretariat and the Islamic Conference of Ministers Responsible for Water towards creating this Council, developing its statutes and defining its terms of reference and working mechanisms; invited the Member States to support this Council in the implementation of water-related programmes in such a way as to enhance water resources management and climate change adaptation in the Islamic world. Likewise, it invited the OIC General Secretariat and ISESCO to coordinate water-focused joint Islamic action in order to uphold the Council’s action in light of the “Strategy for Integrated Management of Water Resources in the Islamic World” and the “OIC Water Vision 2025”, in such a way as to contribute to ensuring water security for Islamic countries.

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In another vein, the Conference adopted the Progress Report on the Creation of the Islamic Academy for the Environment and Sustainable Development; thanked the Kingdom of Morocco for its sustained efforts towards the implementation of this major academic and developmental project, as well as for the administrative and technical measures taken, within the framework of the new conception of the Academy, towards providing its headquarters and developing its organizational structure and action programme; and invited the competent party in the Kingdom of Morocco to coordinate with ISESCO for pursuing the necessary practical measures for the creation of the Islamic Academy for the Environment and Sustainable Development.

In addition, the Conference adopted the Report on “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Award for Environmental Management in the Islamic World”;reiterated thanks and gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for the creation of the Award and for his kind consent as to expanding its scope to cover the Islamic world and entrusting its General Secretariat to ISESCO, in order to entrench the broad concept of environmental management and promote sustainable development in Islamic countries.

It also hailed the efforts exerted by ISESCO and the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to effectively launch this Award in the Islamic world, starting from the current edition of 2016-2017 and commended ISESCO’s role in assuming the General Secretariat of the Award, undertaking the organizational and technical arrangements for the implementation of its media plan, and ensuring the academic and technical supervision of the submissions assessment process, in cooperation and coordination with the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In another vein, the Conference agreed that a new category under title “Honoring the Best Environmentally friendly Islamic City” be added to the Award’s four categories in a bid to encourage the development of green cities in the Islamic world in line with the Guidance Document on Green Cities and their Role in Achieving Sustainable Development.

The Conference also adopted the updated version of the “Report on the Creation of the Joint Committee on the Executive Work Plan for Natural Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in the Member States” and adopted the proposal made by the Islamic Executive Bureau for the Environment to set up the Joint Committee on the Executive Work Plan for Natural Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in the Member States, composed of the OIC General Secretariat, ISESCO, Islamic Development Bank, the General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental Protection of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, under the supervision of the Islamic Executive Bureau for the Environment.

In the same vein, it adopted the Pilot Programme on Capacity-building in Natural Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in the Member States for 2018-2019 and invited the OIC institutions concerned to cooperate with the Joint Committee to convene an Expert Meeting in order to define Member States’ priorities and capacity-building activities in line with the said Pilot Programme, and submit a report on the subject to the Eighth Islamic Conference of Environment Ministers.

Further, the Conference commended the efforts being made by the Member States towards achieving sustainable development within the framework of their regional and international commitments, and invited them to continue their efforts to implement the resolutions of the 7th Islamic Conference of Environment Ministers in such a way as to respond to the needs, priorities and public policies of the Member States in this area.

In another vein, it called for building on the “Guidance Document on Green Cities and their Role in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals” in the development of relevant national plans; commended the ongoing efforts in the Member States having opted for sustainable urban planning and development, and urged the rest of Member States to prioritize sustainable urban development in their national policies and take the necessary legal measures to regulate green building projects, in line with the best international practices and in anticipation of the steady growth of cities in the decades to come.

By the same token, it recommended fostering cooperation and exchange of successful experiences in green urbanization and enhancing the climate resilience of existing cities, and invited Member States to adopt smart and sustainable city policies in building, energy, transportation, waste recycling and water use, protect forests and prevent their exploitation for urbanization purposes, and build the capacities of local governments in this field.

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Moreover, the Conference adopted the Report on “the Creation of an OIC Joint Commission for Sustainable Development (OIC-CSD)” and called for merely activating the existing relevant OIC and its affiliated institutions’ mechanisms with regard to directing joint Islamic Action efforts towards encouraging sustainable development among Member States, and working towards highlighting these efforts within the UN System, the regional and international forums as well as specialized conferences on environment and sustainable development, in order to achieve sustainable development goals and enable the neediest Member States to benefit from the expertise and potential available in this field.

Likewise, it adopted “the Programme on the Celebration of Islamic Capitals of Environment and Sustainable Development”, taking into consideration the observations of the Conference members and called on Member States to adhere to this Programme and work towards taking the necessary measures for making their cities environmentally friendly as per the “Guidance Document on Green Cities and their Role in achieving Sustainable Development Goals”, and in line with the best international practices in this field.

It welcomed the endeavors of the Executive Director of the UN Environment Assembly to dispatch a qualified team of international experts to conduct a field study on the state of the environment in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Eastern Al-Quds, pursuant to the request submitted by the State of Palestine, and in accordance with the procedural guidelines of environmental assessments and called on the Executive Director to act towards dispatching the abovementioned experts team to conduct the said study in the event of a refusal by the Israeli occupation authorities to cooperate by issuing a written approval to facilitate the team’s mission and its entry to the occupied Palestinian territories, including Eastern Al-Quds and invited the competent parties to support this resolution in the relevant international forums in appropriate ways.

In conclusion, the Conference decided to hold the 8th Session of the Conference at ISESCO headquarters, in October 2019 and thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for allocating a fixed budget for the convening of each session of the Islamic Conference of Environment Ministers and the Islamic Executive Bureau for the Environment.

For more information about the conference, visit the ISESCO website at https://www.isesco.org.ma/

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

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

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

By Aaron Wannamaker

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

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

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

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

This is the story of The Canadian Prayer Rug.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our story.

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

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

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

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

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

Yet there are ways to speak across that historical divide.

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

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

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

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

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

It is a story of resilience.

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

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

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

Radwah Community Garden - Turning Parking Lots into Produce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For More Information

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

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

Charter for Compassion

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Since its inception, Khaleafa.com has served as a portal to reignite the discussion about the environment from the Muslim-Canadian perspective. We have shared stories, profiled leaders and provided resources to highlight the contribution Islam can bring to the global environmental movement. What has remained at the core of our mandate has been to raise awareness about different aspects of the environment and identify ways that Muslims can become more engaged with our natural surroundings.

Part of this includes restoring compassion (rahama) towards the environment. Compassion towards nature; towards plants and animals; towards the delicate balance of the natural systems surrounding us. Compassion is a central tenet of the Islamic faith and an attribute that is best fostered in our relationship with nature.

On this note, Khaleafa.com is proud to become a signatory to the Charter for Compassion, an international cooperative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but compassionate action to the center of religious, moral and political life. Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves in the shoes of the others, and lies at the heart of all religious and ethical systems. In the context of the environmental movement, this also means developing an awareness of the role and responsibilities we have as stewards of this planet.

The best idea humanity has ever had…

The Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national differences. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter activates the Golden Rule around the world.

The Charter for Compassion is a cooperative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but, more importantly, compassionate action to the center of religious, moral and political life. Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and lies at the heart of all religious and ethical systems.


The text of the Charter for Compassion:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.


We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

 

If you represent an institution, organization, or community interested in signing the Charter, please visit the Charter for Compassion web site.

Canada Muslim Kids Go Green

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CanadaMuslim-Kids-Go-Green_ BRAMPTON — Muslim volunteers in Ontario’s city of Mississauga have launched a new campaign to raise environmental awareness, planting 300 trees in the wooded areas in the Peel region.

“We wanted to teach kids the notion of ‘sadaqa-e-jariya’,” Abdul Wahab, head imam of Muslim Welfare Centre, told Northumberland News on Tuesday, June 3.

“We also wanted to preserve the conservation area along Mississauga and Brampton,” said Wahab.

In a campaign sponsored by Mississauga’s Muslim Welfare Centre, more than 100 young Muslim volunteers participated in the one-day drive and planted hundreds of trees.

The volunteers included around 80 students, ranging in age from grades 1 to 12, as well as teachers and volunteers from Muslim Welfare Centre.

Cooperating to make the event successful, Mina, one of Canada’s leading halal food companies, sponsored the event and provided free food and drinks to all participants.

Though it is the first to be led by the Islamic center, Sunday’s event is not the last.

Wahab said that MWC hoped to continue tree planting next year.

The MWC is a community service group, which operates under the slogan that 'Service to Humanity is Service to Allah'.

Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the country.

A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.

‘Sadaqa-e-jariya’ (continuous charity) is a kind of donation, which is highly encouraged in Islam.

Under this category, the donor is believed to keep getting rewarded as people, as well as all other living creatures, are benefiting from the charity, even after the death of the donor.

This article was originally published on OnIslam on June 4th, 2014. 

Green Khutbah Campaign 2014

Green Khutbah 2014
Green Khutbah 2014

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

TORONTO, March 20, 2014 - Muslims across the world will commemorate Earth Day on Friday, April 18th, 2014, with the ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ as religious leaders deliver a sermon to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity.

“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 on the environmental challenges facing humanity,” said Muaz Nasir, the publisher of the Canadian environmental website, Khaleafa.com and one of the founders of the Campaign.

“This year’s ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ challenge is to request all Muslims to commit to a sustainable lifestyle with a 3action plan – be empowered to act as stewards of the environment, become educated about eco-friendly principles, be engaged by working together to improve the environment,” 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 Tuesday, April 22.

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.

Environmental concern around the world is on the wane, according to the GlobeScan global poll that tracked public concern on six environmental issues.

The poll found that across eighteen countries, public concern about water pollution, fresh water shortages, natural resource depletion, air pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss is way down from its peak in 2009.

However, 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.

“Those who violate or abuse the Trust are described in the Qur’an as those who corrupt, degrade and bring ruin on earth,” Muaz Nasir added. “The corrupters abuse the Trust and are in clear contrast to what Muslims must be - the stewards of the earth.”

An extensive online resource has been created by Khaleafa.com (www.Khaleafa.com/greenkhutbah) to support the ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ and Islamic organizations and well-known leaders are throwing their support behind the initiative.

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

Umar Nasir,

Media Relations, Green Khutbah Campaign

e: http://khaleafa.com/contact

Is the rise of Islamic finance good news for the environment?

BankBy Nalima Choudhury

The growing Islamic finance sector could spell good news for investments in clean energy according to experts RTCC has spoken to.

Islamic finance is growing 50% faster than the traditional banking sector, and it has huge growth potential, with assets expected to increase by 250% this year.

Its profile was boosted last week when UK Prime Minister David Cameron told the World Islamic Economic Forum he wanted the country to be the “first western sovereign to issue an Islamic bond”.

In an interview with RTCC, Professor Habib Ahmed, a World Bank author and Professor in Islamic law and finance at the University of Durham said the principles and values on which Islamic finance is based could contribute to sustainable economic development.

“There is an increasing demand from different stakeholders that Islamic finance should also reflect the ethical, social and environmental aspects in their financing,” he said.

“Many non-Muslims are attracted to Islamic finance because they find it sound from economic and ethical perspectives.”

This could be positive news for the clean energy sector that in 2012 suffered a 14% drop in investment as Europe curbed green subsidies and the USA’s attention was diverted from renewables to fracking.

Last month analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that annual investment in renewables and energy-smart technologies will fall for the second consecutive year.

Emerging sector

There are already signs the clean-tech sector is starting to benefit from Islamic finance.

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) is already a major player in the clean energy sector investments of around $1 billion between 2010-2012.

The top five beneficiary countries of IsDB’s renewable energy sector financing were Morocco ($908 million), Pakistan ($896 million), Egypt ($886 million), Tunisia ($764 million) and Syria ($668 million).

Last month the IsDB agreed a $100 million investment with the Industrial Development Bank of Turkey for the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

On a wider scale, a report by  Ernst & Young published in December 2012 valued Islamic assets at about $1.8 trillion in 2011, representing about 1% of the global financial market.

Green shoots 

Some analysts believe Islamic finance will be good for the environment because it values more than just profits.

Western banks are required by law to provide the best return on investment for their clients regardless of where that investment goes.

But according to Asad Zaman from the International Institute of Islamic Economics in Pakistan, while green growth in the west is secondary to economic growth, this is not the case in Islamic financial circles.

“Natural resources are a sacred trust and protecting them for future generations a primary responsibility,” he said.

“Economic growth is not (directly) a goal at all, though it may be desirable as a means to (say) poverty alleviation.”

It’s a view shared by the heir to the British throne Prince Charles, who recently said Islamic banking could provide the answers where conventional banking could not, given Islam’s emphasis on a “moral economy”.

Where large Western banks have divested from oil and gas, it has generally taken place not because of ‘green’ reasons, but as a result of long term investment planning.

“Scottish Widows divested from these [fossil fuel] companies not on ethical grounds but because we think they’re not a very good investment decision. That view is shared very widely in the investment community,” said the bank’s head of sustainability Craig Mackenzie.

New investment model

The Islamic financial structure is so attractive that the UK Treasury is now investing about £200 million to work on the practicalities of issuing “sukuk”, or Islamic law compliant bonds in the country.

Sukuk bonds do not pay interest, but instead offers the investor a share of ownership in the project they are supporting.

In order to develop an environmentally friendly sector financed by Islamic banks, the Green Sukuk Working Group was launched last year by think tanks Climate Bonds Initiative, NGO Clean Energy Business Council of the Middle East and North Africa and the Gulf Bond & Sukuk Association.

“Interest in both Shari’ah compliant and ethical investing is on the rise. Green sukuks can support this trend by expanding the range of available financial instruments,” said the GBSA’s Michael Grifferty at the group’s launch.

“Green sukuks also support national development strategies by offering longer term finance for essential infrastructure.”

The group aims to develop best practices and promote the issuance of sukuks for the financing of climate change investments and projects, such as renewable energy projects.

Banks like UK-based Islamic investment bank Gatehouse Bank offer people the opportunity to invest in sustainable companies that offer technology, products and services throughout the water industry to help with water desalination, a burgeoning sector in the Middle East.

According to Professor Ahmed, the Islamic financial sector’s growth is likely to continue because it has proven to withstand events like the 2008 global financial crisis.

“After the crisis, Islamic finance came to light because it had features that would have lessened the intensity of the crisis,” he said.

Social responsibility

A paper published in July this year by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) argues that increasing levels of debt in the ‘West’ will make Islamic banking a safer bet for many investors.

“Islamic finance principles serve to insulate the Islamic financial system from excessive leverage, speculation and uncertainty, which in turn contributes toward promoting financial stability and long-term sustainability,” the authors say.

“As a result, the implementation of Islamic finance principles is anticipated to grow, not only in Muslim countries’ financial markets, but also in those markets concerned with socially responsible objectives and ethical financial solutions.”

Muhammad bin Ibrahim, the Central Bank of Malaysia’s deputy governor, argued earlier this month that it was an Islamic bank’s duty to “enhance the general welfare of society.”

“The teachings of Islam basically promote preservation of natural resources and the need to respect all living things. Failure to do so would be detrimental…where severe destruction of the land and sea would come upon those who mistreat the environment,” said Ibrahim.

There are, of course, plenty of examples of Islamic banks lending to oil and gas companies. Money based in Saudi Arabia and Qatar is, in all likelihood, derived from the extraction of fossil fuels.

But the rapid growth of a financial sector underpinned with strong ethical and environmental leanings indicates that the damage investments may do to the planet may come under increasing scrutiny.

Ahmed argues that currently there is little sign of a “green” culture in the Islamic financial sector, perhaps not a surprise given its relatively small size.

But he says there is a debate among bankers over what the sector’s role should be moving forward, and how it can be a force for the global good.

“As the industry moves forward it will be expected that they consider social and environmental issues as the values on which Islamic finance is based on [these] demands,” he said.

This article was originally published November 7, 2013 on Responding to Climate Change. Photo credit from emrites247

Green Eid Gift Guide

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As Ramadan comes to a close, most of us are preparing for the upcoming celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim month of fasting.  Part of the tradition includes exchanging gifts with loved ones and spending time with family and friends. To add an environmental slant to the celebration; this year consider purchasing products that are sustainable, ethically sourced or fair trade.  Some suggestions from both Canadian and international retailers are listed below of products that not only make good gifts, but also minimize the impact on the environment.

Green Toys

Eastern Toybox is a company offers a wide range of eco-friendly, fair trade and handmade products made by socially and environmentally conscious artisans. They carry a wide range of unique toys, stationery and decor from Turkey, India, Indonesia and Germany as well as locally sourced products from Canada and the United States. Some of the more novel items include hijaushka, whimsical wooden nesting dolls and Mecca Tours, a handmade, hand painted wooden bus with 4 Hajjis.

Toys

Green Fashion

For those more into fashion, the Azadi Project is a retailer that offers high quality, ethical products that ensures their producers provide fair wages and dignified working conditions. They offer an assortment of clothing from dresses and shirts to purses and jewelry. What impressed us most is that they clearly outline their fair trade standards and offer profiles of the artisans they source their products from. Their Saidpur Tote is an example of their commitment to working with rural communities in Bangladesh, a country that has recently been in the spotlight for its safety practices.

Fashion

 

Green Books

The gift of knowledge is often the most treasured, so why not share it with friends and family. Green Deen by Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is a good primer on what Islam teaches us about protecting the environment. A Picnic of Poems by Dawud Warnsby is a collection of poems and songs for children that educates them about the importance of caring for each other and nature. Green Muslims by Luqman Nagy takes a historical perspective examining the contributions Muslim civilization has made in the field of environmentalism and sustainability.

Green Books

Green Causes

World Wildlife Fund Canada is one of the country’s leading conservation organizations whose goal is to prevent the degradation of the natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. Their online store offers several products that follow this mandate, such as organic clothing and books. They also offer ‘animal adoptions’ which includes a personalized certificate, a plush toy and details on the work this gift will support.

WWF

Eating less meat is more Islamic

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Kebab By: Joseph Mayton

The Qu'ran reminds us animals and birds are 'communities like you'. So why do so many Muslims break their fast with meat?

For most of the billion-plus Muslims who sit down each evening to break their Ramadan fast, meat will be on the menu. Lots of it. But how Islamic is eating meat?

Not very, according to Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, who argues that historically Muslims ate so little meat they were almost vegetarian. "Meat is not a necessity in sharia, and in the old days most Muslims used to eat meat – if they were wealthy, like middle class – once a week on Friday. If they were poor – on the Eids."

In today's world, meat-eating has taken on a new fervour, with many Muslims demanding animal flesh as part of their daily diet. Just the other day, an Egyptian journalist was relating to me how he attended a dinner at a local organisation here in Cairo. When people arrived, questions began to fly across the hall: "Where is the meat? We aren't going to have enough for everyone."

According to a recent study by the Egyptian cabinet's Information and Decision Support Centre, 89% of Egyptians eat more than 2kg of meat monthly. This figure rises along with social class. The study revealed that wealthy Egyptians often consume more than 8kg of meat each month.

The prophet Muhammad was not an advocate of daily meat-eating. Instead, the Islamic Concern website says, he warned his followers against constant meat consumption as it could become "addictive". It seems that 1,500 years later his concerns are not being heeded.

Early Islamic leaders and scholars repeatedly emphasised that animals were to be cherished and treated in a humane manner, but many Muslims nowadays view animals as the dominion of people. A sheikh at the Egyptian ministry of religious endowments told me: "Animals are slaves for human purposes. They were put here for us to eat, so talk of vegetarianism is un-Islamic."

This statement by the ministry official goes against everything the prophet stood for, in the opinion of Gamal al-Banna, a prominent Islamic scholar who has come under attack in recent years for his "liberal" stance. Al-Banna told me that being a vegetarian and Muslim does not break any tradition and is in no way un-Islamic.

"When someone becomes vegetarian they do so for a number of reasons: compassion, environment and health reasons," he began. "As a Muslim, I believe that the prophet would want the followers to be healthy, compassionate and not destroy our environment. If someone believes not eating meat is that way, it is not like they are going to go to hell for it. It may be the right thing to do."

Al-Banna continued, when I asked him about the Eid al-Adha sacrifice (which many argue is obligatory), that any Muslim who believes in being vegetarian does not have to slaughter a sheep. "In today's modern world, ideas and religion change and Islam is no different. We must not remain rigid in our understanding of faith to mean the blind acceptance of anything, killing living beings included. There is no obligation to kill."

Others disagree, arguing that meat-eating is part of the Islamic tradition and, thus, vegetarianism is a foreign notion for the Middle East. Muslims who eat meat at every iftar (fast-breaking evening meal) this month undoubtedly believe they are doing the right thing. On the other hand, the idea that animals are merely slaves to humans is not only abhorrent to animal-rights advocates, but seems to be at odds with the prophet's teaching.

Some would argue that the prayer said before halal slaughtering is part of Islam's humanity when animals are killed for food. This may have been true historically, but in today's "halal" slaughterhouses, a pre-recorded prayer often blares nonstop as the animals are lined up and killed. That is a cop-out from what Islam teaches about "humane" slaughter.

Ultimately, the argument is simple. The Qur'an reveals that all living animals are sentient beings, just as human beings are.

"There is not an animal on earth, nor a bird that flies on its wings – but they are communities like you." (Qur'an, 6:38)

Joseph Mayton is an American journalist based in Cairo, Egypt. He is currently working on a book about the Muslim Brotherhood and is founder/editor of Bikya Masr website.

This article was originally published in The Guardian on August 26, 2010. 

Photo Credit: ugod

Green Ramadan Switch

ZeroTrashIftarKit Recently Khaleafa.com had the opportunity to the interview Kori Majeed, the founder of the Green Ramadan Switch, an innovative initiative aimed at increasing awareness about waste during the month of Ramadan. She shares with us her inspiration and motivation for going green and highlights the importance of being aware of the environmental consequences of our actions.

1) Briefly share with our readers a little bit about yourself. How did you become interested in the environmental field?

I'm a "military brat" -- in the best sense of the word -- so although I was born in Alabama, I rarely lived in a place for more than 4 years until I got married. I graduated from Spelman College with a B.S. in Computer Science and afterwards was commissioned as an officer in the US Air Force. I worked at the Pentagon for 4 years, during which I got married, went on Hajj, and then transitioned into web development for a DC non-profit. I stopped working after I had our first child. I couldn't bring myself to give her to someone else for 8-10 hours out of the day. I did freelance web work for a while and got my Masters from Johns Hopkins University after having my second child. My husband and I decided to move to Amman, Jordan to study Arabic at Qasid Institute. While there, I had my third child. We came back to the States for a bit, then headed to central Turkey where my husband taught ESL at a private high school while I homeschooled our girls and we enjoyed the amazing hospitality, culture and food of the Turks. You might have guessed that I had our fourth child while in Turkey. We returned to the States and eventually settled down in the DC area. My husband works in Network Security, while I continue to homeschool our gaggle of four girls and blog about it. I'm also a serial small-time entrepreneur and Girl Scout Troop Advisor with Troop 3480 at Prince George's Muslim Association in Lanham, Maryland. My husband and I are also working to create Good Tree Village, the first Muslim cohousing community in the DC-area, inshaAllah.

My interest in environmental issues began to blossom when I had children. No, probably when they were in utero. In trying to provide the best for our children, I think parents start to question everything: Is the hospital the best place to give birth? What is in those vaccines? What was used to grow that food? That meat has WHAT in it? Did we check for lead paint? Can I teach my children better than the local school system? Our children are a trust to us, on loan from Allah. Am I doing my best with this beautiful loan? I'm just my thankful that my husband always supported me or at least heard me out and gave my "crunchy" ideas a go.

2) What is the Green Ramadan Switch? What motivated you to create this campaign and what are the goals?

Last year I became saddened & disgusted by all the trash we Muslims create at community iftars during Ramadan, both at the masjid and in private homes.  The bags of trash didn’t correspond with the blessings of eating in community during this sacred month. So, I decided to try to curb the impact of my own family. I researched reusable dinnerware that would add to the significance of the occasion while being sustainable, stylish and affordable. I always got positive feedback after people questioned why my family was the only one eating off of "prison-style" food trays. In early February of this year, I decided to try to share my version of a Green Ramadan and help others make the Green Ramadan Switch from disposable styrofoam, plastic and paper products to a smart, reusable and sustainable Zero-Trash Iftar Kit.

Sometimes it is challenging and slow to effect change at a masjid, so I see Green Ramadan's Zero-Trash Iftar Kit as a way for individuals to make a positive impact on the sustainability of their Ramadan.  InshaAllah masajids will catch on and, in preparation for Ramadan, make an initial investment in reusable dinnerware instead of wasting money on huge boxes of styrofoam plates, plastic cutlery and paper napkins every year -- in effect, preparing to create a whole lot of trash.

It's my goal to help 1000 Muslims green their Ramadan this year by doing a simple, thoughtful, easy good deed: reducing the amount of waste we create at iftars. No more single-use water bottles. No more non-biodegradable styrofoam plates, bowls & cups. No more plastic cutlery. I'm helping Muslims make the Green Ramadan Switch to a stainless-steel food tray, BPA-free tumbler, bamboo cutlery and cloth napkin: all of which are reusable, sustainable and pretty cool-looking. Plus, there is a reusable bag to carry it all in.

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3) Briefly explain what is the Zero-Trash Iftar Kit. How did you come up with this idea and what has been the response?

I have children, so I wanted the Kit to be washable, reusable, durable and cool. Some people bring out special decorations and dish sets for Ramadan. Our tradition is to bring our Zero-Trash Iftar Kits to community iftars.

Every item in a Green Ramadan Zero-Trash Iftar Kit is either reusable, responsibly-made, sustainable, or all of the above. The Kit includes a stainless steel divided food tray (my kids don't like their food to touch); a bamboo fork, knife and spoon (there is so much noise when bamboo comes in contact with stainless steel); a BPA-free tumbler with straw that's pretty close to spill-proof; a cloth napkin (a touch of class); and a reusable bag in which to carry it all.

The environmental benefit of Zero-Trash Iftar Kits is that it replaces disposable (and sometimes even toxic) styrofoam, plastic and paper plates, cups, straws, cutlery, napkins & paper towels, and plastic water bottles with a Kit that we can use over and over again every Ramadan, inshaAllah.

4) During Ramadan there often is a lot of waste and excess. What are some lessons you would like to share with the Muslim community when it comes to making their Ramadan more environmentally-friendly? 

Simple, small deeds can make a huge impact for our local community and for the world. A Green Ramadan is a return to mindfulness in our actions and we can take the habits we cultivate in Ramadan and use them throughout the year. A Green Ramadan is a return to the Sunnah. We can turn the water to a trickle when making wudu. We can eliminate waste by using reusable dinnerware at home and in community. We can eat modest portions of food. We can eat meat only on weekends or eat vegetarian at least once a week. We can carpool. We can plant something.

5) How has the Muslim community responded to this project? How do you plan on building on the campaign in the future?

The response has been amazing, alhamdullilah! Green Muslims are coming out of the bamboo woodworks. I've gotten lots of positive feedback, constructive criticism and requests for customization. Green Ramadan has been on facebook for less than a month and already has over 120 likes. One woman decided she would make a better, greener, longer-lasting impact by investing in Zero-Trash Iftar Kits for her masjid rather than sponsoring an iftar. Right now Green Ramadan's focus is eliminating waste at iftars, however in the future I'd like to focus on other areas including water conservation, recycling, composting, portion control & reducing food waste, gardening & permaculture, and eating less meat.

For more information about the Green Ramadan Switch and to purchase a Zero-Trash Iftar Kit, please visit: http://greenramadan.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/GreenRamadan

Muslims for White Ribbon

Over the past year Khaleafa.com has featured articles on various aspects of the natural environment and our interaction with it. Recognizing the relationship towards the outside world and the need to conserve has been a primary focus of this website as we strive to encourage discussion and action on these issues.

However, the environment at home is also a significant component of our faith and ensuring a safe, respectful and inclusive environment is equally as important. This is why Khaleafa.com is proud to the support the Muslims for White Ribbon campaign, designed to break the silence towards domestic violence within our community.

For more information about the campaign and sign the pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls,please visit http://muslimsforwhiteribbon.com/

About                                      

What is the White Ribbon Campaign?

The White Ribbon Campaign is the largest grassroots effort in the world of men working to end violence against women. [see: www.whiteribbon.ca].

What does it mean to wear a White Ribbon?

Wearing a White Ribbon is a pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.

What are our Objectives?

  • Break the silence on violence against women in the Muslim community by encouraging Mosques and organizations to sponsor awareness events and deliver a Friday Khutba (on December 14) on this issue.
  • Promote healthy and non-violent relationships through education.
  • Create partnerships among Mosques, women’s organizations, and social agencies to create a future with no violence against women.

When is the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign? The Campaign will be run from November 25, 2012 [International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women] and culminate in White Ribbon Days at RIS at the Metro Convention Centre (Dec 21 – Dec 23).

The National Khutba Campaign on Violence against Women will be on Friday, December 14, 2012.

Who are we? We are a committee of volunteers – fathers, sons, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, and friends. We strongly believe that violence against women and girls is unacceptable and we are committed to working with our fellow citizens to eliminate it.

Khaleafa.com nominated for Brass Crescent Award

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The Brass Crescent Awards were created in 2004 with the purpose of promoting the best writing of the Muslim web and exposing them to a greater number of readers. Since then it has grown to become one of the most anticipated awards within the Muslim blogosphere and continues to encourage creative new talent within our communities. We are proud to announce that Khaleafa.com has been nominated for the Brass Crescent Award for “Best New Blog.” It is humbling to be considered alongside such great writers in this category and we ask that you take a moment to visit the sites nominated and to cast a ballot in each category. Polls close end of day Sunday, October 21, 2012! 9 pm (Mon) PST, 12 am (Tue) EST, 5 am (Tue) GMT

We look forward to your continued support over the year to come, and hope you consider voting for us as Best New Blog.

 

 

About Khaleafa.com

Khaleafa.com was created with the goal of reigniting the discourse surrounding the Islamic approach to environmentalism and to draw upon the essence of these teachings, emphasizing the movement from a North-American perspective. This past year, it has taken off as interest grows in the environmental movement, and its articles have been featured on various websites including SuhaibWebb, IslamOnline and recently Productive Muslim. There have also been contributions from academics, religious scholars and activists within the Muslim community, each adding their own unique perspective to the conversation.

This spring Khaleafa.com held its first roundtable event entitled Think Green: Creating Sustainable Communities which brought together community activists to discuss what it means to green the Muslim community, as well as how to identify and implement environmental initiatives within a diverse society. This was the first such initiative in Canada and set the foundation for future discussions on how environmentalism could play a more active role within the Muslim-Canadian context.

Khaleafa.com also ran a successful Green Khutbah Campaign to coincide with Earth Day which garnered the support of over 75 Imams/Organizations across North America, Europe and Africa. The campaign posed a challenge to Muslims to become stewards of the Earth by making changes to their daily routines and encouraged mosques, schools, universities and Islamic Institutions in North America to devote their Friday Khutbah to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity.

This fall there are plans to expand the environmental movement into mosques with the launch of the "Ban the Bottle" campaign targeting disposable water bottles in Islamic institutions.  This will include providing promotional material, resources and educational tools for organizations considering alternatives to bottled water. There will also be the launch of a new series profiling Canadian mosques and will highlight some of the creative and unique environmental projects that Muslims are already engaged in. We will also continue to partner with other environmental events within the Muslim community and foster partnerships with external organizations that have similar mandates.

If you are interested in getting involved, submitting an article or would like more information on how you can help your community, please contact us at info@khaleafa.com.com.

Green Khutbah across North America to mark Earth Day

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By Muneeb Nasir

Muslims across North America will be commemorating Earth Day with a major campaign that will see Imams deliver a ‘green’ sermon on Friday, April 20 to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity.

“The ‘Think Green Khutbah Campaign’ has been launched to challenge Muslims to become stewards of the Earth and its environment by making changes to their daily routines,” Muaz Nasir, the publisher of the Canadian environmental website, Khaleafa.com and one of the organizers of the campaign, told IQRA.

“We are encouraging mosques, schools, universities and Islamic Institutions in North America to devote their Friday Khutbah to celebrate the blessings, graces and beauty of all of Allah’s creation and to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity,” Nasir added.

An extensive online resource has been created by Khaleafa.com (www.Khaleafa.com/greenkhutbah) to support the campaign and Islamic organizations and well-known leaders are throwing their support behind the initiative.

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is urging Imams to join the ‘Think Green Khutbah Campaign’ and asking Muslims across the continent to make small changes in their lives.

“We do not have to take drastic action, every little bit helps,” ISNA states in its press release. “Let’s take this day to reflect on new ways we can “go green” this year to help reduce waste and protect our planet.”

Professor Tariq Ramadan, currently on a U.S. lecture tour, told IQRA that he endorses the campaign and commended the organizers for coordinating Muslims across the continent to speak out on the environmental crisis facing humanity.

In support of the campaign, the popular women’s publication, Azizah Magazine is asking North American Muslims to take the “How Green are you” survey on its website. (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Azizah_Green)

“Azizah is taking this opportunity to raise awareness about our responsibility to the Earth and its environment,” states Azizah Magazine. “This survey will show how diligent we are about that responsibility.”

As part of the campaign, Muslims will be asked to consider their current lifestyles and to make changes.

“This year’s ‘Think Green Khutbah Campaign’ challenge is to request all Muslims to live according to the 3 S plan:  live a simple life, live a sustainable life and live as stewards of the environment,” said Muaz Nasir, Publisher of Khaleafa.com.

Imams across the continent, from Los Angeles to Boston, New York, Washington DC, to Toronto and Ottawa will be delivering a message that will remind their congregations of the Qur’anic message to be stewards of the earth and its environment.

“The Qur’an describes the believing men and women as those who ‘walk on the Earth in humility’,” stated ISNA in its press release.

“The Earth and all its bounties are a gift from God and many scholars have interpreted this verse to mean that respect for and preservation of the earth is not only the obligation of Muslims but is also a way for us to show humility and respect towards God for His many blessings,” ISNA added.

Meanwhile, many groups across North America will mark Earth Day by taking part in recycling projects, clean-up days, and tree planting initiatives.

One such group is CivicMuslims (http://www.civicmuslims.ca/event/tree-planting/) in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga which will be joining the city in its tree planting effort on Saturday, April 21.

Muneeb Nasir is a well-known community activist, writer and public speaker on religious and societal matters and is highly respected for his knowledge and involvement in religious and current affairs.

He is the Managing Editor of the online magazine website, Iqra.ca, which provides a Muslim perspective on current issues  and a freelance contributor to a number of online web sites. He was the Managing Editor of the IMPRINT newspaper and Editor of the community magazines, AN-NUR and Al-Basheer

‘Green’ Talk and Call for Action at RIS in Toronto

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by Hind Al-Abadleh

Attending the 2011 Reviving Islamic Spirit (RIS) Convention in Toronto was an intellectual and spiritual treat to environmental activists in the Muslim community.  For the first time since its launch in 2001, highly respected and well-informed Muslim scholars addressed the attendees in their 40-50 min lectures on the green dimension of Islam, the moral and ethical imperative of protecting the planet, advocating for animal and workers rights, and the need to critically examine our lifestyles in light of the dominant unjust economic system.

The theme this year was “Control, Chaos or Community: Three Ways, One World, Our Choice,” which had a record-breaking 20,000+ people in attendance, not counting those who tuned in for live streaming over the internet.  Below a summary is provided from my personal notes from the lectures delivered by Dr. Umar F. Abdalla, Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson.

Under the theme “Noah’s Ark or the Titanic: The Navigational Value of a Moral Compass,” Dr. Umar F. Abdalla focused his talk on the role that we should play in addressing the environmental crisis facing humanity.  “Today’s luxuries are tomorrow’s disasters,” he stressed.  Dr. Abdallah got to the heart of the issue by stating that “we are extremely inefficient and extremely wasteful.”  He reminded the audience that we have what it takes to make a difference in the world.  The important tools we need are intellect, an ethical way of life and knowledge (in Arabic Aql, Deen, and Ilm).

Dr. Abdallah called the attendees to challenge inhumane practices to animals raised for food.  He reminded them that God – the Almighty - created this world as a garden for animals and as faithful stewards of God on Earth, we should not turn it into hell for them. “Even pigs, we –Muslims - don’t eat pigs, but we should not be silent on the filthy environments in which they are raised for food.”

Dr. Abdallah stressed that it is a moral and an ethical obligation stemming from clear commands in the Quran and rich prophetic traditions that describe animal rights.  He also alluded to the centrality of water in Islam and the highlighted the legal instruments in Islamic law that were derived to govern access to this natural resource by humans and animals, and protect it from pollution and contamination.

Dr. Abdallah emphasized that in our time and age, translating principles to action is possible and invited people to learn more about permaculture.  He stressed that it is a proven system that can be implemented in the inner city, in the suburbs and rural areas, which can bring back to life dead lands for farming and inner cities plagued with violence and other social ills.

Later in the same evening, Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr gave a lecture under the theme “Changing the Present, Dreaming the Future.”  Professor Nasr is the author of the book “Man and Nature” that came out in the same year as Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in the sixties.  His lecture at RIS was on “Man, Nature and the Environmental Crisis from an Islamic Point of View.”  He started by stating that Muslims inside and outside of the Muslim world are starting to pay attention to this matter.  He stressed at the beginning of his talk to not be fooled by the rhetoric of some politicians who dismiss environmental degradation and global climate change as being serious and urgent issues that need to be dealt with.  Professor Nasr said such attitudes are based on a “suicidal view of the nature of human existence on this earth.”

He highlighted the universality of the environmental crisis in that no one can evade from it, and gave an example of how people in Indonesia have been impacted by the contamination from the nuclear reactor in Japan this year.  He criticized that of all the subjects that people discuss, addressing the environmental crisis is at the bottom of their concerns.  This shows that humans are not attuned to the most essential, which is “the condition of our life on earth and how we are going to survive as human beings.”

Dr. Nasr stressed that the urgency in addressing the environmental crisis should be more than that of the economic crisis inflicting the world today.  Deep down, the current economic crisis is a consequence of what humans have done to the environment in the name of “economic progress and development.”

He emphasized that the environmental crisis will continue unless there is a “profound paradigm shift in what the modern man considers himself and the world to be.” It means “a death to what we think we are and a birth to what we really are.”  Dr. Nasr acknowledged the difficulty in doing so and said that this is the reason why the rest of the world, Muslim and non-Muslim, is developing by blindly following the model of the Western industrialized world; which has experienced firsthand environmental degradation since the industrial revolution.

Dr. Nasr focused the rest of his lecture to highlight how the Islamic world produced a civilization that was in harmony with the natural world and has “a long tradition of dealing with nature in a rational and scientific way.” Muslim intellectuals have written scientifically, philosophically, mystically, legally and judicially about nature and humans relationship to it.  This is in contrast to Western association of civilization and modernization with unlimited growth, even at the expense of the destruction of nature.  And the latter explains the delay in reaction to addressing the environmental crisis.

He invited people to examine the condition of the remaining traditional towns and cities in the Muslim World (such as Fes in Morocco and Isfahan in Iran), with that of contemporary towns and cities in the Muslim and Western worlds.  Traditional cities were built in complete equilibrium and harmony with the natural world and could survive for centuries because they were built to efficiently use natural air circulation, water, space and light.  This is in contrast to modern buildings that require a lot of energy to cool in the summer and heat in the winter.

Dr. Nasr elaborated on the meaning of Quranic verses that discourage and warn against ‘corruption on the Earth’ (see for example 2:11-12, 2:60, 7:74, 7:86, 7:103, 11:85, 26:183, 28: 77). The ‘corrupt’ human being is the one who does not respect the rights of God’s creation.  In doing so, he does more serious damage than the cruelest killings of human beings or the most abusive forms of economic transactions.

Dr. Nasr emphasized that every creature has a right and that we – as humans - have no right to deny them that.  He highlighted that the Quran contains “a complete cosmology, a philosophy of Nature in which Nature participates, not only in our lives, not only serves us, but also participates in our spiritual life.”  He quoted a beautiful line of poetry by Jalaluddin Rumi in Persian that translates to:

“If only the world of existence has tongues, then it could lift off all the mysteries of God”

Such is the Islamic view of Nature that needs to be revived.  Our role as God’s vicegerents of Earth is mainly to act as protectors of creation.  Hence, it is a religious duty to protect elements of Nature.  The Divine Shariaa contains references to the protection of non-human elements of nature alongside those that describe our duties to God and fellow human beings.  Examples include, but not limited to, clear prohibition to polluting rivers and cutting fruit trees because these activities are sins in Islamic law.

About the future, Dr. Nasr said that God gave us intelligence to plan, and hence we have to:

-rethink man’s relationship with nature from an Islamic point of view that starts with a profound critique of the western worldview of nature

-reformulate, in a language that is understandable by youth, Islamic teachings concerning nature written in Arabic and Persian poetry

-revive Islamic science and technology in areas like agriculture, irrigation and architecture; and integrate elements from western science and technology that are in line with the core of Islamic worldview of nature.

-formulate “an Islamic ethics and metaphysics of nature.”  The word “metaphysics” refers to a view of the nature of reality.  “To be ethical while considering all animals to be machines because someone in high school told me so is very superficial.”

-concern for the environment has to become a central concern for Muslims.  We need religious scholars and leaders to preach to the vast majority of Muslims about their religious duties towards the environment. These are duties towards God, ourselves, children and grandchildren.

The following day, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson of Zaytuna College in California delivered a thought-provoking lecture on “Sharing Success: Fair Trade Commerce for a Better World.”  He narrated the history of the fair trade movement in North America that was started by a Mennonite woman who visited Central America and voiced her concerns over the exploitation of farmers.

Shaykh Hamza highlighted that the comfortable and relatively cheap lifestyle of the average person in North America is at the expense of the pain and suffering of farmers, children and workers in Asian, African, Central and South American countries that lack labor laws.  This is how slavery in the 21st century looks like.  He challenged people to think of the person who collected the cocoa and coffee beans before consuming and enjoying these products.  He then expanded the list to include all cheap and mass produced goods that are imported to North America from the aforementioned countries.

As a trained scholar in traditional Islamic teachings, Shaykh Hamza called upon the Muslims to resist this unjust dominant economic system. He started by reflecting on the life of Prophet Mohammed – peace and blessings of God be upon him - before revelation as a shepherd in his youth and then a merchant in his adulthood.  As a shepherd he learned to take care of his flock and to protect them from wolves, which were skills he utilized to spread the message of Islam.

Merchants by far are the most important members in society because they are at the heart of the commerce and economic systems.  He said trustworthy merchants are at the ranks of martyrs on the Day of Judgment.  He said commerce teaches manners in dealing with other people. If a merchant wishes to be successful, they have to be patient, kind, and keep their word with customers.  Prophet Mohammed was known among non-believers and even his enemies as the ‘Truthful and Trustworthy’ one.

Shaykh Hamza drew upon the rich Islamic tradition that provides the legal and spiritual framework for building economic systems that are based on social justice, transparency, mutual agreement in profit making, and financial solidarity in times of crises.

Shaykh Hamza acknowledged that it will take time for the Muslim communities in North America to step up to the challenge and provide alternatives to the larger communities.  In the mean time, he encouraged attendees to look and support alternatives that are socially just, based on fair trade and locally produced. This may be through farmers markets or local businesses that genuinely care for the people who make the products we consume.  He encouraged us to move our money from big banks, use cash instead of credit cards, support local banks, credit unions, invest in corporations that are socially conscious, and boycott those with an agenda to make profit without regard for people, animals or the environment.

Below is a list of websites the speakers referred to during their talks:

Permaculture: http://permacultureprinciples.com/

Resources on http://www.nasrfoundation.org/audio/Environment

Stanford University study on the Global Coffee Trade:

(http://www.probeinternational.org/coffee/global-coffee-trade)

http://fairtrade.ca/

History of Fair trade: http://www.fair-trade-hub.com/history-of-fair-trade.html

http://moveyourmoneyproject.org/

Documentary called Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Extended Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv3vEXy_EwU)

Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh is an associate professor of Chemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, ON.  She could be reached via email: halabadleh@wlu.ca

The Muslim 500 Project Recognizes Environmental Achievements

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The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, an international Islamic non-governmental organization, recently released its report of the most prominent Muslim leaders of 2011. The Muslim 500 is an annual publication that provides insight into some of the most influential Muslims in the Islamic world. The selected individuals range across 14 categories including the sciences, business, technology, media and the arts. Those nominated were reviewed based on their qualitative and lasting effects in their field and many have demonstrated cumulative achievements over their lifetime.

This year several prominent Muslim environmentalists have been featured including:

Sheikh Ali Goma’a, the Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt, has been mentioned for his recent work in environmental sustainability. He has advocated for Muslims to safeguard our environment as a religious duty and that pollution and global warming pose a greater threat to humanity than war.  In 2009 he unveiled the Muslim Seven Year Action Plan to make Medina a model “green’ city as part of the Celebration for the Environment organized by the United Nations Development Program.

Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Islamic Studies professor at George Washington University, has published over fifty books and over five hundred articles focusing on a variety of topics including, Islamic civilization, the spiritual void in society and the impending environmental crisis that faces humanity. He has researched into the religious commitment towards the natural environment has and has lectured widely on historical perspective of Islamic environmentalism.

Fazlun Khalid,  one of the most prominent Muslim environmentalists in the United Kingdom, is the founder of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences. The organization conducts research and produces training materials, books and journal articles disseminating the Islamic perspective on environmental issues.

Nasheed Mohamed is the president of the Maldives and is known as one of most environmentally conscious leaders on the world stage. Rising sea levels have threatened the island nation with destruction and Mohamed has called on the international community to deal with the impending climate refugee crisis. The country has taken the lead and is on the path to becoming carbon neutral, relying solely on wind and solar power for its energy needs.

The Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Sa’id Aal Sa’id has also been given an honorable mention for his work in promoting environmentalism in his country. These include recognition of the Arabian Oryx Project, which saved that species from the brink of extinction, and protecting the Dimaaniyat Islands, the breeding ground of several migratory bird and sea turtle species.

For more information about the Muslim 500 Project, please visit. http://www.themuslim500.com/