By: Marwa Hamid
Asmaa and Max are the eco-friendly Muslim couple behind the website 'Greenkum'. In this article, they shared their thoughts on Islam, the environment and animal welfare..
During my masters’ studies, one of my Professors who was giving us a lecture on the topic of Urban Environments and Sustainability told the class that she admires the importance that Muslims put on their surrounding environments. She said, 'go to Delhi and you will be enchanted by the beautiful gardens that surround houses and palaces. The Muslims who like to surround themselves with gardens do so so that they can remind themselves of the heavens'
I am lucky that my academic interests are in an environmental setting and the more I learn about our environment the more I admire the glorious abilities of Allah Subhanah wa tala’a. However, regardless of the emphasis that Islam puts on conservation and the environment, many of us contribute to a high carbon footprint and that effects our environment in a very negative way. Why have we gone so far? Is it possible for us to enjoy our so-called modern lifestyles yet still care for our environment?
We spoke to Asmaa and Musa Max, a German blogging couple who shared with us their experience living a more environmentally conscious life...
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELVES AND HOW DID YOU BECOME MORE AWARE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES?
We are Asmaa, 27, and Max Musa, 28, a German married couple, best friends and the founders of the environmental blog Greenukum. Our blog is a showcase of our journey to become more conscious in hope to create an awareness for “green” topics like sustainability, environmentalism and animal protection, Eco-travelling, and so on.
So, how did we become aware of environmental issues?
Asmaa: As long as I can remember, I have been a huge animal and nature lover. My passion for environmental issues in addition to other things was inspired by my cats and by Hima, a Muslim organisation for environmental protection in Germany. On the other hand, I am working on my PhD in animal ethics in Islam and the more I do research in the field of nature and animals in Islam, the more I realised the importance of these issues.
Max Musa: I grew up in a vegetarian family that loves fellow creatures. Besides that, I worked for a big organic supermarket chain and had a lot of training and seminars on “green-topics”. Therefore, I tried to implement my knowledge in my daily life and realised more and more that the “modern” western lifestyle and the comfort that goes with it can have a negative impact on the environment. So I became more and more environmentally conscious.
WHAT DOES GREENUKUM MEAN?
The name Greenukum is a compound word consisting of the word green and ukum. Green a colour that is most commonly associated with the environment, life, hope and spirituality and is also considered the traditional colour of Islam. Ukum is an Arabic (possessive pronoun) suffix and stands for “your/yours” (pl.): Thus, Greenukum implies that it is YOUR nature, YOUR environment, YOUR life, YOUR spirituality... You have to take care of it! For reasons mentioned above, we created Greenukum to inspire!
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR BLOG AND WHAT HAS YOUR BLOGGING EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE?
After our marriage, we decided to do our best to life a conscious lifestyle. We read a lot and watched several documentaries to learn more about it. So we become aware of our impact on the world and our function as Khalifa, stewards, on the earth.
To get more motivation we tried to find some personal blogs to follow and we came across many eco-bloggers. However, we were very disappointed by not finding any German Muslim blogger whom we could follow and identify with. That was the reason that motivated us to start our own blog, knowing that we are not perfect either we are 100% conscious since it was the beginning of our journey. We both had many discussions before deciding to do this step. Nevertheless, the desire to inspire and mobilise other people for such issues and to share our experiences in our very own way was great, so we did it in the end. Alhamdulillah.
WHAT KIND OF RESPONSES HAVE YOU HAD IN REGARDS TO YOUR BLOG FROM THE MUSLIM AND WIDER COMMUNITY?
Since we started our blog, the feedback we received from Muslims and people of other faiths all over the world was surprising. Our Instagram posts seem to be motivating especially to young Muslims. We assume that it is much easier to implement sustainable ideas into your own life when you find people you can identify with. It makes a difference if you are only reading something in an impersonal newsletter text or in a personal blog. Moreover, it makes a difference if you are getting the feeling that the author is real and not perfect: That is why we are trying to show our successes as well as our failures on the road.
The many messages we get from people who get inspired by our posts give us strength. It is also great to know that the great majority of Muslims also confirm that part of our Deen (Religion) is to take care of everything that lives with us or next to us. After a short introduction phase, we started receiving almost monthly invitations and many questions.
WHAT CORE TEACHINGS DOES ISLAM OFFER US IN TERMS OF BETTER CARING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?
There are so many teachings that we can find in Quran and Sunna, but let us focus on the aspect of being a Khalifa (steward). God placed human being's as a Khalifa (steward) on earth; He created us as intelligent creatures, gave us the task to take care and to act righteously in all of our affairs. Thereby we have to hold nature as a trust (Amanah):
“Then We appointed you viceroys in the earth after them, that We might see how ye behave”
There are so many verses in Quran that emphasise our duty to look after the earth and not to over consume its resources. For example:
“O children of Adam! … eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.”
So we are really wondering, how we can damage nature, knowing that these are signs of Allah, placed by him on earth to show us his beauty? Even more: The Quran tells us that everything is praising the Lord.
"There is not an animal on the earth, nor a creature flying on two wings, but they are nations like you." (Quran 6:38)
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS HOLDING BACK MUSLIMS FROM DOING MORE FOR THE PLANET (PARTICULARLY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD)? AND WHAT CAN BE DONE TO TACKLE THESE CONSTRAINTS?
That is a very complex question and it is very difficult to answer it briefly. Nevertheless, I remember a statement of the Iranian-born intellectual Seyyed Hossein Nasr, who has written several articles about men and nature in Islam. His opinion is that it is because of two facts: Firstly, we have societies engaged with immediate problems. Remember, Colonialism and its consequences, Radical Islamists and more. On the other hand for non-western people, the environmental problem is kind of a western problem, created by western industrialisation and capitalism that they did not identify with. Additionally, many environmental discussions do not reflect on a spiritual side of this issue. We are convinced that you can better reach people when you confront them with their faith.
Asmaa: I created an experience with my family and friends: While talking to my grandmother in Morocco about these issues, I told her that it is our task as Khalifa (steward) on this earth to protect the earth and I provided her with examples from the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) It was possible for me to reach her much better.
This is how people work! The religious values influence the way in which billions of people think and act. Why not work with them using the potential of religion!
IF YOU COULD GET MUSLIMS TO DO ONE THING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
At least reduce your meat consumption! It is not just good for you (many health benefits) but it is also necessary to protect our planet. By cutting down your meat consumption, you can help tackle these issues to name just a few:
Reduce greenhouse gases
- Improve animal welfare
- Save the Amazon from destruction (massive cattle is responsible for 75% of deforested areas in the Amazon)
- Reduce waste production (did you know that 2000 - 2500 gallons of water go into a SINGLE pound of beef!)
- Reduce world hunger (80% of global soy production is used as livestock feed).
In addition of all that we should also think about the way we’re treating animals before they are slaughtered and questioning ourselves if this way is really in accordance with the advice of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and if so is it really halal AND tayyib?
WHAT WOULD THE DAILY LIFE OF A GREEN MUSLIM BE LIKE? HOW WOULD THEY LIVE, SOCIALISE, TRAVEL, ETC?
A green Muslim is nothing more than a Muslim who is aware of his responsibility as a Khalifah on earth. Increasing awareness about this responsibility means that you are doing the main thing for the environment. You can also reflect on your daily behaviour while travelling, socialising, working or shopping – by asking yourself, is it really necessary and good? Example: Is it necessary to buy your 12th shirt only because it cost just $5? Is it necessary to take the car for a short distance? or could I go by foot or with a bicycle? Thus, with a clear understanding of how our choices are fundamental for us and for all creations around us your awareness will change and your awareness about your responsibility as a human being will rise.
“Do not mischief on the earth, after it hath been set in order[…].”
And at the end: Pray. Make Du’a. Connect to God. Connect to nature. Remember: Paradise is a Garden!
Through the course of his life, the Prophet (PBUH) who was a shepherd just like other prophets, was concerned with the environment and its protection and has left behind an 'ecological Sunnah'. The love the prophet’s (PBUH) had for all living beings and nature was clear in his verbal teachings as well as his acts concerning their protection.
One of his greatest efforts in this context was a forest in an area called “Zuraybu’t Taweel,” where he announced: “Whoever cuts a tree here should plant a new tree instead”. Together with this regulation, the area shortly turned into a forest. The Prophet also declared an area of 12-miles in distance from the centre of Medina as Haram (forbidden by religion) and also prohibited the cutting of trees and the killing of animals within its borders. 1400 years later, our planet is paying a huge toll due to the shift in lifestyles, overconsumption and unsustainable practices and we are desperately in need to implement the Prophets (PBUH) ecological Sunnah so we can protect our planet and conserve its resources for the next generation.
Special thanks to Asmaa and Musa Max for taking time, to answer our questions and provide our readers with some tips from their own experiences.
For more eco-friendly tips: www.greenukum.com
To keep up to date with their work check out their Instagram page HERE