Au Revoir Plastic?


By: Klaudia Khan

Is there anything more frustrating than seeing the beauty of natural landscape spoiled by litter? Beaches strewn with empty plastic bottles and packets; plastic bags entangled in trees and hedges; picnic spots mottled with plastic plates and cutlery; plastic rubbish floating on the waters of lakes, rivers and seas. Plastic, plastic, plastic everywhere!

Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: “Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:60). And “… do not desire corruption in the land. Indeed, God does not like corruptors.”(Surat Al-Qasas 28:77).

The amount of rubbish people produce is truly corrupting the earth. Not only is it ruining the earth’s natural beauty, but it’s also polluting the soil, water and air with toxins from manmade materials that aren’t biodegradable or that take hundreds of years to decompose. The situation is so desperate that scientists predict that without urgent action there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

The realization of the scale of the problem is slowly dawning with some organizations and governments taking action. Their small steps to tackle a big problem will eventually gain momentum so we can reshape our relationship with plastic materials.

Muslim Pioneers

Bangladesh became the first country in the world to ban thin plastic bags in 2002, after they blocked drainage systems during devastating floods.

Similar problems in other countries also prompted bans, while others imposed a tax or fee on plastic bags to discourage customers from using them. Animals often ingest plastic bags, which kill them by blocking their intestines. Small animals can also be trapped in them.

Thin plastic bags are currently banned in a number of Muslim nations: including Eritrea and Tanzania, who banned plastic bags in 2005; as well as Mauritania who banned the use, manufacture and import of plastic bags in January 2013; and Morocco, which was the 2nd largest consumer of plastic bags in the world after the US, who took the same step five months ago.

Two other Muslim countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, have issued guidelines for retailers to charge consumers for plastic bags. The money that comes from this is used by retailers as public funds for waste management alongside non-governmental organizations.

Packaging Deposit

Sweden has one of the oldest functioning container deposit schemes. Container deposits, also known as bottle deposits, are the additional amount of money paid in return for temporary use of containers, such as glass or plastic bottles and metal cans, that are used to package certain products. The deposit is returned when the container is returned to the shop.

Operated by a private company, Sweden’s recovery rates have reached 86% for cans and 77% for PET bottles (made of recyclable polyethylene terephthalate).

Similar schemes work effectively in other Scandinavian and European countries, notably Germany.

In other countries, like the UK, passing the ‘bottle bill’ has been strongly opposed by the manufacturers’ lobbies. The UK’s Marine Conservation Society has repeatedly called for a refundable surcharge to be added to the price of all drinks containers after its annual survey found that: “There was a big percentage rise in most drinks containers found on beaches between 2014 and 2015 – plastic drinks bottles increased by over 43%, metal drinks cans by almost 29%.”

Recently, France became the first in the world to ban plastic tableware. The new law, part of France’s “Energy Transition for Green Growth Act”, will require all disposable cups and plates to be made from at least 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020.

According to the French Association of Health and Environment, 150 single-use cups are thrown away every second in the country; a staggering number of 4.73 billion cups per year. Only about 1% of them are recycled, the rest end up in the landfills or as litter. The disposable cup is used only as long as it takes you to finish your tea or coffee, but it will last as rubbish for 50 to 250 years, depending on its material.

France’s move has been applauded by many, but the European food packaging manufacturers association, Pack2GoEurope, are determined to fight for their interests. Pack2Go Europe secretary general Eamonn Bates told The Associated Press: “We are urging the European Commission to do the right thing and to take legal action against France for infringing European law. If they don’t, we will.”

Plastic is cheap, light and convenient. It is easy to use and easy to dispose of as long as we turn a blind eye to what happens to it after we no longer need it. But if we keep on doing that, the amount of plastic rubbish will become too big to go unnoticed. Knowing that a product that will give us five minutes of convenience but hundreds-of-years-worth of burden to the ecosystem can’t agree with our conscience. It shouldn’t. Not as Muslims and not as responsible humans, God’s vicegerents on earth.

Klaudia Khan is a freelance writer interested in all aspects of green living. She studied Sociology in London and now lives with her husband and two daughters in the UK and Pakistan.

This article originally appeared on on September 27, 2017.

Climate Change to be Top Priority in Muslim World

Zafirah Zein - Environment Ministers from more than 50 Muslim countries have come up with a joint declaration on environmental protection and sustainable development. At the 6th Islamic Conference in Morocco, members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) convened to discuss ways to combat climate change and deal with obstacles to sustainable development.

In the declaration, countries were urged to commit to a number of key goals. These included pursuing green economies, raising awareness about the importance of eradicating poverty, creating a new energy operating system, and adopting standards for good practices in sustainable governance.

"Climate change is a serious threat, especially to the developing world. It is only through collective action that we will overcome one of the pressing challenges of our generation,” said OIC secretary general Iyad Ameen Madani, who is the former Information Minister of Saudi Arabia.

Global warming is due to have drastic effects in the Middle East. A recently published study in the journalNatural Climate Change predicts that countries in the Arabian Gulf and parts of Iran will be uninhabitable in the future due to extreme heatwaves predicted to sweep over the region after 2070.

Professor Elfatih Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who co-conducted the study, said, "We would hope that information like this would be helpful in making sure there is interest [in cutting carbon emissions] for the countries in the region. They have a vital interest in supporting measures that would help reduce the concentration of CO2 in the future."

The OIC, founded in 1969, is the second largest inter-governmental organization in the world and includes some of the world's least developed countries. It includes conflict-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq and huge resource-dependent states such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Developing nations are most vulnerable to global warming, and while some wealthier oil-rich Muslim countries might be able to afford protection against rising temperatures, poor countries like Yemen will suffer.

Food security also remains a critical issue in many of the OIC member states. Famines have occurred in Somalia and Mali in the last five years, and environment-linked disasters have led to widespread poverty in Bangladesh, which was ranked by the World Bank as one of the 12 countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Conserving the environment has a distinct place in Islamic thought as the religion prioritizes meeting the needs of present and future generations without destroying natural balance or excluding any segments of society. A form of sustainable development within Islam that has gained traction in recent years is Islamic finance, in which financial institutions are governed by both Islamic law and regular banking rules.

At the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, Chief Economist of the Islamic Development Bank Savas Alpay said, "In mobilizing resources for the Sustainable Development Goals, non-traditional sources of financing need to be given due attention. In this context, Islamic finance is offering a very promising alternative."

The Bank announced in July that it would be increasing development assistance to more than USD$150 billion to support short- and long-term environmental, social and economic projects in member states of the OIC.

While the OIC declaration is not legally binding to member states, it is an important rallying call in a region that has not taken a strong lead in the climate debate.

This article was originally published on Solutions in January 2016. 

The Forgotten Sunnah – Standing in the Rain


By Sh. Khalid Abduroaf

An unusual sound penetrated my train of thought as I sat studying at my desk. I looked up pensively from my book and a few moments passed before I realised that what I was hearing was the sound of pouring rain. A sound so common back in my hometown,Cape Town, was now so foreign to me in the desert city of Madinah.

I rushed out onto the balcony to admire the rainfall. As I stood, witnessing Allah’s answer to the prayers of the community, a strange sight caught my eye down below. A man, instead of running for cover, walked calmly to and into his building. He reappeared shortly carrying a chair. Still in a state of composure, he placed thechair out in the pouring rain and just sat down! He appeared to be enjoying the sensation of the raindrops falling on his skin. I was intrigued.

Back home, many people become grumpy at the first sign of rain or run frantically from it when it catches them unawares. I just kept staring. I then made an intention to find out more about what I had witnessed and soon discovered that spending time in the rain was a practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and His Companions (may Allah honour them), based on these findings:

It is Sunnah (A practice of the Prophet (pbuh)) to stand in the rain and to expose a portion of your body to it.

Its narrated by Imaam Muslim in his authentic compilation from the hadith of Anas, He said: It rained upon us as we were with the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) unveiled his garment (from a part of his body) until the rain fell on him. We said: Messenger of Allah, why did you do this? He said: Because it (the rainfall) has just come from the Exalted Lord.

And Haakim in his book Al-Mustadrak narrates this hadith with the following words: “When the rain came down from the heavens He (The Prophet May peace be upon him) used to remove his garment from his back until the rain fell on it (his back).”

The scholars have taken proof from this hadith that it is Sunnah (recommended) to expose your body and clothing to the falling rain. Out of happiness that Allah is sending down his blessing and moreover rejoicing that its falling down on us.

And the meaning of the phrase: “Because it (the rainfall) has just come from the Exalted Lord.” is mentioned in the explanation of Sahih Muslim of Imaam Nawawiy by saying: That the rainfall is a mercy which Allah has just created, therefore use it as a blessing.

Imaam Ashafi’ee mentions in his book Al-Umm: It is narrated by Ibn Abbaas (RA): That the rain fell from the heavens so he told his servant to bring out his mattress and saddle so that the rain may fall on it. Abu Jawzaa’ then asked Ibn Abbas: Why are you doing that, may Allah have mercy on you? He (Ibn Abbas) then said: Do you not read the book of Allah: “And we have sent down from the heavens water that is blessed” [Surah 50, Verse 9], Therefore I would like the blessing to fall (incur) on it.

Scholars of jurisprudence have mention the following regarding standing in the rain:

1. The Sunnah of exposing oneself to the rain can be obtained by unveiling any portion of one’s body no matter how small the portion may be like one’s head or arms.

2. One should not expose one’s Awrah.

3. Avoid standing in the rain if it may cause harm or sickness to oneself.

4. It is recommended by some scholars to take Wudu (ablution) and Ghusl (wash) from the rainfall. And they based their deduction on the following Hadith: It is narrated from the Prophet (may peace be upon him) that when stream used to flow he (Prophet) would say: “Leave with us to that which Allah has made pure so that we may purify ourselves from it and praise Allah most exalted.”

Imaam Albayhaqee states that this is a narration from Umar (may Allah honour him) and not from the Prophet (may peace be upon him).

Imaam Nawawiy also mentions in Al-Majmoo’ that: “Its recommended that when the gorge flows (with rain water) to perform wudu (ablution) and ghusl (washing) from it. And if he or she is not able to do both then at least to perform wudu (ablution) from it.

And Allah knows best

This article was originally featured on Fiqhul Hadith in June 2012. Born in Cape Town, South Africa. Graduate from the Islamic University of Madinah. Specializing in the field of Islamic Jurisprudence and its Principles.

The Value of Trees in Islam

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September 21-27, 2014 marks National Forest Week in Canada. To learn more on how you can become involved, please visit

By: Muaz Nasir

Many of us are aware of the environmental benefits of trees. They provide shelter and food for animals, purify the air of pollution and regulate the temperature within urban environments. They play a critical role in the quality of human life as well as the environmental well-being of our communities. Few would argue against the importance of trees, but have we really considered their full potential and the economical value of the services they provide?

Recently, TD Economics conducted a study analyzing the influence and impacts of trees within Toronto and came up with several noteworthy findings:

  • Urban forests do more than beautify the scenery. They represent an important investment in environmental condition, human health and the overall quality of life.
  • The trees in the City of Toronto’s urban forest are worth an estimated $7 billion, or about $700 per-tree.
  • Toronto’s urban forests provides residents with over $80 million, or about $8 per-tree, worth of environmental benefits and costs savings each year. For the average single family household, this works out to $125 of savings per annum.
  • For every dollar spent on annual maintenance, Toronto’s urban forest returns anywhere from $1.35-$3.20 worth of benefits each year.

From their study, trees play an important role in managing wet-weather flow, regulating air quality, contributing towards energy savings and sequestering carbon. This has become increasingly important as climate change has altered the weather patterns across Canada, with some areas experiencing extreme drought while others face localized flooding. There are also the societal benefits of a healthy forest canopy such as the aesthetic value of trees and their importance in naturalizing parks and boulevards.

In another study, TD Friends of the Environment found that 96% of Canadians feel it is important to plant trees today in order to sustain a healthy environment and improve the quality of life for future generations. While only two in ten Canadians participate in the tree-planting or greening initiatives, two-thirds were willing to volunteer a few hours if they believed there was a community benefit. There is a strong desire by Canadians to enhance the forest canopy and protect our natural areas.

What is Islam’s perspective of trees?

The Islamic tradition is rich in references about our responsibility as Muslims to act as stewards of the environment. The Quran also has numerous passages that describe the lush gardens and trees in heaven, highlighting their value not only in this world but their significance in the hereafter. There are several sayings from the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that relate the importance of trees and plants in Islam.

1. Planting trees is regarded as an act of charity (sadaqa) and the planter receives blessings from all those who benefit from it:

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him."

2. Trees are to be treated with respect and not to be unnecessarily harmed:

"I was throwing stones at a date-palm belonging to some of the Ansar. They tool me along with them to the Prophet (ﷺ). He said: "O Rafi'! Why were you throwing stones at their date-palm?'" He said: "I said: 'Out of hunger, O Messenger of Allah! He said: 'Do not throw stones at them, eat what falls. May Allah fill you and quench your thirst.'"

3. The Prophet also had a deep spiritual connection to trees:

The Prophet (ﷺ) used to stand by a tree or a date-palm on Friday. Then an Ansari woman or man said. "O Allah's Messenger (ﷺ)! Shall we make a pulpit for you?" He replied, "If you wish." So they made a pulpit for him and when it was Friday, he proceeded towards the pulpit (for delivering the sermon). The datepalm cried like a child! The Prophet (ﷺ) descended (the pulpit) and embraced it while it continued moaning like a child being quietened. The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "It was crying for (missing) what it used to hear of religious knowledge given near to it."

4. The Prophet also used trees as a metaphor to describe the believing Muslims:

We were with the Prophet (ﷺ) and fresh dates of a palm tree were brought to him. On that he said, "Amongst the trees, there is a tree which resembles a Muslim." I wanted to say that it was the datepalm tree but as I was the youngest of all (of them) I kept quiet. And then the Prophet (ﷺ) said, "It is the date-palm tree."

5. There are also several references to trees in the afterlife in both positive and negative contexts:

The Prophet said: “Whoever says: ‘Glory is to Allah, the Magnificent, and with His Praise (Subhan Allahil-Azim, Wa Bihamdih)’ a date-palm tree is planted for him in Paradise.”

Regarding: 'And We granted the vision (Ascension to the Heaven "Miraj") which We showed you (O Muhammad as an actual eye witness) but as a trial for mankind.' (17.60) It was an actual eyewitness which was shown to Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) during the night he was taken on a journey (through the heavens). And the cursed tree is the tree of Az-Zaqqum (a bitter pungent tree which grows at the bottom of Hell).

What we can take from these Hadiths is that planting and maintaining trees are an act of faith. Like all of creation, they should be respected and represent signs of Allah.

In Surat Al-Hajj, Allah says, “Do you not see that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth and the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the moving creatures and many of the people?...”(Quran 22.18). Trees are given special mention as Allah created them as one of the many signs of His existence. The next time you are in a park, take a moment to pause and reflect on the beauty of their stature, the complexity of their lifecycle and the blessings they bestow upon us and other animals.

How can I become involved in planting trees?

There are several organizations that host planting events throughout the spring and fall seasons. If you are unable to attend an event, you can also donate to have trees or native shrubs planted on your behalf.

Tree Canada: A charitable not-for-profit organization, Tree Canada is committed to working with its corporate, government, and individual partners on tree-planting programs, including providing “ReLeaf” to areas suffering damage from natural disasters, offering funding to communities for fruit-bearing trees, providing schools with outdoor classrooms, and more.

Evergreen: Evergreen is a national not-for-profit that has been working since 1991 to restore the connection between Canada’s cities and the natural environment. Focusing on four program areas—Greenspace, Children, Food and CityWorks—Evergreen builds partnerships with diverse groups and engages key influencers and the public to inspire local action and create sustainable urban development.

TD Tree Days: As TD’s flagship urban greening program, TD Tree Days provides TD employees and their families, our customers and community partners the opportunity to demonstrate leadership in environmental stewardship in their local communities.

If you are interested in increasing the forest canopy on your property, many municipalities will plant trees on City-owned boulevards at no cost. If you are within the Greater Toronto Area, LEAF is an organization the provides valuable information about trees and species that are best suited to urban environments. They also provided assessments of your property on which trees will thrive in your soil and light conditions.

LEAF: LEAF is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of the urban forest and engages citizens in urban forest stewardship through planting, education and training.


Islam and Earth Day

Earth Day By: Joshua Brockwell

In the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, men and women are viewed as God’s vicegerents on Earth. (2:30) God created nature in a balance (“al-mizan”) and mankind’s responsibility is to maintain this fragile equilibrium through wise governance and sound personal conduct.

The Quran also describes the believing men and women as those who “walk on the Earth in humility.” (25:63) Scholars have interpreted this verse, and others like it, to mean that Muslims are to protect nature’s many bounties given to them by the Almighty. Preservation is therefore more than a good policy recommendation – it is a commandment from God.

There are more than 700 verses in the Quran that exhort believers to reflect on nature.

For example, the Quran states: “And it is He who spread out the earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm and (flowing) rivers; and fruit of every kind He made in pairs, two and two; He draweth the night as a veil over the Day. Behold, verily in these things there are signs for those who consider.” (13:3)

According to Islamic beliefs, the Earth is a sanctuary in which mankind was made to dwell in comfort. The vast oceans, forests and mountains that make up this bountiful planet have been subdued by God for our enjoyment and productive use.

Further, God compels Muslims in the Quran to respect and revere the environment when He says, “Greater indeed than the creation of man is the creation of the heavens and the earth.” (40:57)

The Prophet Muhammad told his followers they would be rewarded by God for taking care of the Earth. He said: “If any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal eats of it, he will be rewarded as if he had given that much in charity.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, 8:41) He also compared Muslims to a “fresh tender plant” that bends, but does not break, when afflicted with life’s inevitable calamities. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, 7:547)

Another tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, or hadith, quotes him as saying: “If the Hour (Judgment Day) is about to be established and one of you is holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it.”

An example of Muslims taking ownership of their divine obligation to protect the environment was seen recently when the people of Tanzania reversed a growing trend toward ecological destruction through a policy of sustainable fishing and environmental preservation based on the principles of the Quran.

Prior to implementation of the educational program, over-harvesting by fishermen on the Muslim-majority island of Misali had threatened the area’s aquatic ecosystem. But thanks to an indigenous campaign to remind local inhabitants of Islam’s respect for nature, those who earn their living from the sea learned the benefits of protecting the region’s biodiversity.

In Islamic history, Ottoman civilization provides us with another example of the seriousness with which Muslims have traditionally taken their environmental obligations. Ottoman viziers, or ministers, advising the sultan on matters of administration and policy regularly encouraged moratoria on matters deemed potentially damaging to future generations.

Innovations in technology, for example, were hotly debated among scholars, all of whom recognized the importance of considering the long-term impact on both society and the environment.

In Islam, even the Earth has inalienable rights endowed by its Creator.

Sound ecological principles are not limited to Islam, and should be acted upon by practitioners of other faiths. Together we can tackle the environmental problems that besiege our planet.

On this year’s Earth Day, people of all faiths should take time to examine their own faith tradition’s advice for taking care of the Earth that we share.

Photo Credit: katerha

This article was originally published April 7, 2011 in advance of the 35th anniversary of Earth Day.

The Honeybee: A Blessing From Allah

By Khaled Dardir - June 18-22 2012 marks International Pollinator Week. Pollination plays a pivotal role in the life cycle of plants and the goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about the importance of these species. Pollinators range from bees and moths to birds and bats. The diverse range ensures that both flowers and crops are able reproduce and contribute to the overall health of the ecosystem. Khaled Dardir explores the role of one pollinator, the honeybee, and the health benefits associated with honey.

Among the many creatures Allah has created in this world, there is one in which Allah’s blessing is so clear that all of mankind sees it. This creature is no bigger than my thumb and affects our well being, our society and our economy. This miraculous creature is the honeybee. There is a reason why a whole chapter in the Quran has been devoted to it as Allah has enabled the honeybee to produce a substance within which there is a cure for all mankind. Allah says in the Quran:

And your Lord inspired to the bee, "Take for yourself among the mountains, houses, and among the trees and [in] that which they construct (Surat An-Naĥl: 16:68).

Then eat from all the fruits and follow the ways of your Lord laid down [for you]." There emerges from their bellies a drink, varying in colors, in which there is healing for people. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought (Surat An-Naĥl: 16:69).

From these verses, we can see the reference to the healing benefits of the honeybee.  Unlike other creatures that are limited in range to specific locations, the honeybee can be found worldwide, and its medicinal benefits are universal.

In a Hadith, Abdullah bin Mas’ood has reported Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) as saying:

“Make use of two remedies, Honey and Quran.”

Honey has been useful both as food and medicine. It has been produced by bees from nectar and contains a unique combination of sugars, acids, minerals, enzymes, vitamins, and flavour to make it one of the most nutritionally diverse and easily digestible foods known to man. For these properties it has become known as a Super-food for its superior health benefits.

Approximately a third of all the food we eat is due to pollination from the honeybee. Unfortunately, due to habitat loss, pollution, pesticides and disease their numbers have been dwindling. Over the last decade, there has been a startling rise in colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon by which the worker bees in a colony disappear. Research is still ongoing but several possible causes have been identified including pathogens, mites, radiation and fungus. As honeybees are essential for maintaining our food supply, it has become a major concern from an economic perspective as well. Without a healthy bee population, produce prices would skyrocket, costing both the agricultural and food industry billions of dollars.

The list of benefits which the honeybee gives to its consumers and our society through honey and pollination include:

  • One teaspoon will help to clear most colds and coughs
  • Drinking honey diluted in hot water in winter and cold water in summer relieves stress and is an ideal energy supplement
  • A spoonful of honey early in the morning restores health and increases potency
  • Honey improves memory and eyesight
  • Honey strengthens the joints in the body
  • Honey has four times more energy than milk
  • Honey reduces stress and tiredness
  • Honey is not harmful for diabetics
  • Honey bees are vital as pollinators. They are responsible for 1/3 of your food.
  • It is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.
  •  Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water; and it's the only food that contains "pinocembrin", an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.

The critical role of the honeybee and the benefits of honey have only become apparent over the last several decades. Modern science is becoming more aware of the knowledge that has existed within the Quran and Sunnah over 1400 years ago, which is a testament to the signs of Allah. May Allah guide on the straight path, and guide to better understand his creations and his blessings.

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

Community Gardens: Green Faith in Practice



And it is He who sends down rain from the sky, and We produce thereby the growth of all things. We produce from it greenery from which We produce grains arranged in layers. And from the palm trees - of its emerging fruit are clusters hanging low. And [We produce] gardens of grapevines and olives and pomegranates, similar yet varied. Look at [each of] its fruit when it yields and [at] its ripening. Indeed in that are signs for a people who believe. (Quran, 6:99)

We may be in the depth of winter across Canada, but to many gardeners, this is the time of year to plan for the upcoming season. Local community groups are also preparing for the advent of spring and are putting final touches on proposals for gardening projects on open roofs, parking lots and empty fields within their neighborhoods.

Community gardens have begun to flourish in recent years, especially within urban centres. While collective gardening is not a new phenomenon, it has taken root and evolved beyond local parks, schools and recreation centres to include underutilized regions of the city such as vacant lots and hydro corridors.

The emerging movement towards growing and purchasing local, organic produce has generated interest in community gardens, especially in cities where residents lack access to arable land. There have also been several health scares over the last few years over contaminated produce which has fueled the drive for organic products. Aside from the health benefits of eating naturally grown produce, the movement as a whole has created several positive impacts in the communities they serve, including revitalizing neighborhoods and fostering a new generation to make  more conscious food choices.

Places of worship have also been looking at developing community gardens to serve both their congregations and the general public. Generally their facilities are situated on large open lots that are able to be easily converted into small-scale gardens or into larger agricultural plots. The congregations they serve also possess a diverse range of skills that are able to build, create and maintain an ongoing garden.

After the garden is established, it becomes a beacon for the community by providing educational and recreational opportunities for children and seniors, raises awareness about how our food is grown and physically connects the spiritual teachings with the natural word. The produce that is cultivated can be donated as a fresh alternative to local food banks or used in soup kitchens to feed those less fortunate.

While the initial push has mainly been from churches, community gardens are now beginning to become established within mosques as well.

The Winnipeg Central Mosque teamed up with the Daniel McIntyre / St. Matthews Community Association to start an urban community garden in 2011. The project was constructed within the parking lot and now contains eleven raised beds and three decorative planter beds. The goal of the program is to “encourage environmentalism and to create a safe and welcoming space where families and individuals can enjoy community connectivity through organic urban gardening.”

The Islamic Society of Kingston also launched their own community garden initiative called Gardens of Mercy. The mandate of the project was to encourage “a more efficient and sustainable way of providing healthy food to those in need.” There were several goals of the program which include:

  • Helping our hungry neighbors in Kingston by providing them with fresh, local produce;
  • Learning about gardening, which can help us in starting a garden at home;
  • Appreciation of nature, the environment and Allah's blessings upon us;
  • Opportunity to welcome other faith and cultural groups to take part in this project and work together for a good cause.
  • Gaining the pleasure and mercy of Allah by being merciful to others.

While there are many benefits to community gardening, there is also a lot of preparation that goes into developing and planning before the first shovel hits the ground. This includes forming a dedicated team to take ownership of the garden, developing and designing the site, taking an inventory of the materials needed, securing the necessary funding and ensuring continued support for the garden in future years.

There are many resources available for those looking at creating a community garden at their mosque. Recently, the Noor Cultural Centre held a workshop entitled A Beginners Guide to Urban Farming, presented by Young Urban Farmers. Their organizations website provides a wealth of information on edible gardens, plants ideal for urban environments, soil management and pest control.

The Toronto Region and Conservation Authority also held a workshop this past fall entitled Creating a Community Garden at your Place of Worship. There they presented resources from the David Suzuki Foundation which includes information on planting native species and attracting pollinators to your garden. They also went through a workshop module from Food Share, which guides you through the steps in recruiting and securing funding for the development of a community garden.

Whether your mosque plans to develop a small rooftop garden with a couple of planters or a large area with several dozen plots, there are key elements that should be considered in the planning phases. The Halifax Garden Network effectively summarizes these steps which include:

1. Organize a meeting of interested people 2. Form a planning committee 3. Identify all your resources 4. Find Financial Support 5. Choose a site 6. Design the garden 7. Prepare and develop the site 8. Make the Garden Accessible 9. Create membership guidelines and put them in writing 10. Keep in touch with each other

Community gardening is a rich and rewarding experience that allows you to share the joys of the outdoors while meditating over the signs of Allah’s creation. The initial investment multiplies in the following years and creates a lasting legacy that can be enjoyed by all in the community. For more information, please visit the following resources below:

Young Urban Farmers

Food Share

Halifax Garden Network

Photo Credit from: Torontoist