Islam

Winds of Mercy

Winds of Mercy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winds blow again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Khutbah Campaign Launches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afeefa Karim-Nasir

Media Relations, Green Khutbah Campaign

e: http://khaleafa.com/contact

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Alhamdulillah for Earth Hour

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

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

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


Au Revoir Plastic?

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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 AboutIslam.net on September 27, 2017.

Is it time more Muslims turned to veganism?

By: Nadia Kadry

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

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

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

Eating lawfully and wholesomely

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

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

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

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

Environmental effects of meat production

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

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

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

Humans are the successors of the Earth

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

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

Reviving our relationship with the environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caretakers of the Earth: An Islamic Perspective

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By Omar Bagnied 

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

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

Walk Gently and Share Resources

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

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

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

Land Preservation and Sanctuary for Wildlife

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

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

Recycling and the Balance of Nature

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

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

Reinstating a Clean Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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