By Kori Majeed
Ramadan is the perfect boot camp for the soul. This Blessed Month is like thirty days of acting on New Year's resolutions, only we are working on them alongside our community. What better time to focus on getting green than during Ramadan when we are consciously trying to follow the Prophet's ﷺ example and create habits that will take us through until the next Ramadan.
Green habits are especially needed at the masjid during Ramadan as we spend more time at our local masjid reading Qur'an in the musullah during the last moments before maghrib prayer, breaking fast as a community with a shared iftar meal, and standing steadfast through tarawih prayers. But there is something about the time between maghrib and tarawih when we tend to relax our spiritual muscles…and our belts.
Americans could circle the equator 300 times with the amount of paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons we ditch in a year.1 Let me share another thing that Americans do big: we eat an average of a ton of food a year2. That statistic could not be more excessive until you read that a whopping 40 percent of food in the U.S. gets chucked in the trash, uneaten 3.
I'd like to think that the statistics of Muslim communities during Ramadan would be much, much lower, but personal experience tells me that, sadly, this is not the case. At the masjid we break our fast with a bottle of water and a bowl of dates. We throw that bottle and bowl in the trash on the way to maghrib prayer. After praying, we fill our plates to overflowing with birayani, chickpea daal, chicken and salad.
We get another bottle of water and a cup of tea. We eat, we drink, alhamdullilah. We get a second plate, alhamdullilah. We throw that water bottle, plate, cup, napkin, and fork in the trash along with portions of an uneaten second helping. As the saying goes, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. We pray again.
Eat. Trash. Pray. Repeat.
Night after night of throwing away paper, plastic and styrofoam plates, cups, cutlery, napkins and paper towels. A lunar month of that unsustainable cycle leaves masses of trash produced by the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. We stand in prayer begging for forgiveness and yet thoughtlessly and ironically toss out food during a month when we should be sympathizing with those who are hungry. Our Ummah has got to do better than that. What can the masjid do to make these beautiful community meals more green? How can individual Muslims curb their earthly impact during an intensely spiritual month?
Here are several often simple ways to green our masajid during Ramadan:
- Get in contact with local Muslim green advocates – like Sarah Jawaid of Green Muslims or Ibrahim Abdul Matin, author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet – who have the knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm to help our communities develop green habits at the masjid and at home.
- Form a masjid Green Team of ambassadors who are willing to take action to implement Green Ramadan tasks and educate and refocus the community on the conservation ethic inherent in Islam.
- Provide recycling options during iftar, like containers for collecting paper, plastic and food scraps for composting. Green ambassadors can make sure plates are scraped and recyclables are put in the proper bins.
- Broadcast Green Ramadan issues in Friday khutbahs, lectures and newsletters reminding believers to use the month of Ramadan as a time to examine our individual and collective impact on the earth.
- Use platters and pitchers to serve some food and drinks instead of individual bowls or plastic bottles.
- Use reusable plates, cups, cutlery and napkins. Masajid can buy their own, borrow them from a local restaurant or encourage community members to bring their own reusable dinnerware to masjid iftars, like Zero Trash Iftar Kits from GreenRamadan.com.
- Eat less meat. Yep, I said it. Just because it is halal doesn't mean we need to eat it every day. Diversify the iftar menu with vegetarian or vegan meals. Get even more creative by having nights when iftar meals are made solely from locally grown ingredients, are gluten free, 100 percent organic, or the meats are green zabiha (halal, organic and grass-fed).
- Too much food? Challenge community members to put on their plate only what they can eat. Individuals can also bring a reusable container to take leftovers home to eat for the next morning's suhoor or the masjid can donate extra food to local shelters or soup kitchens.
- Use food scraps to generate compost for the masjid grounds.
- Launch a Greenest masjid competition between local masajid to produce the least amount of trash during Ramadan.
- Use permanent markers to write names on cups and plates. There will be less confusion on which cup belongs to whom and thus less stuff thrown away due to fear of contracting cooties.
All that is on the earth belongs to Allah. He established a balance and a natural pattern in all mankind and then appointed mankind as khalifa on earth. In the Qur'an, Allah reminds us to “…eat and drink but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.”
Insha'Allah, we can work together to revive the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ reducing our consumption and cultivating our environmental consciousness and stewardship, all the while saving our masajid money and minimizing the environmental impact of our Ramadan iftars. May these small efforts be the ones that secure our place in Paradise.
You can learn more about Kori Majeed on her site Green Ramadan
This article was originally published on MuslimsMatters on July 2nd, 2014. Wills, A. (2010, June 21). Recycling To-Go Plastics. Retrieved June 2014, fromhttp://earth911.com/news/2010/06/21/recycling-to-go-plastics/  Aubrey, A. (31 December 2011. The Average American Ate (Literally) A Ton This Year. Retrieved June 2014, fromhttp://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2011/12/31/144478009/the-average-american-ate-literally-a-ton-this-year  National Resources Defense Council. (2012, August 21). Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Retrieved June 2014, from http://www.nrdc.org/food/wasted-food.asp