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


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:


Resources on

Stanford University study on the Global Coffee Trade:


History of Fair trade:

Documentary called Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Extended Trailer:

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

The Muslim 500 Project Recognizes Environmental Achievements



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.

Windsor Islamic Centre Adopts Solar Power

There is another reason to look forward to sunny skies next year.

The Rose City Islamic Centre announced plans of a new solar project that will generate approximately 250 kilowatts of electricity for the surrounding community of Windsor, Ontario. The initiative will be carried out in partnership with Solgate Solar, a Woodbridge-based company that manufactures solar photovoltaic panels to meet the domestic content requirements of the Green Energy Act.

The new installation of 1200 solar panels will cover approximately 55 000 square feet of the facilities existing roof and will reduce carbon monoxide emissions by about 371 000 kilograms per year.  It is expected that the project will generate enough electricity to power 250 homes and will displace more than 4000 barrels of oil.

The inspiration for the project grew from a desire to invest in the future of the local community, both economically and socially. The venture will utilize Ontario-made products and will employ local labour to install and maintain the panels. The energy that is generated will be fed into the electricity grid and under the provincial feed-in-tariff; will generate another source of funding for social programs operating at the centre.

"We wanted to generate revenue to fund an expansion of our social service programs and also reduce our carbon footprint in the community," said Abdul Asfour, president of the Windsor chapter of the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) whose organization also collaborated in the project.

It is expected the installation will be begin within the next few weeks with a completion date set for the end of this year.

For more information on the announcement, please visit:

Islamic centre to produce solar power – CBC

Windsor Islamic centre to product solar –  The Windsor Star

Photo credit from Tyler Brownbridge

Eco-Friendly Eid Gifts


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.  

Planet Forward is a company that offers a wide range of sustainable products from reusable shopping baskets to environmentally-friendly cleaning products. Their stainless steel water bottles are by far their most popular product which comes in several cleverly named colours.  What makes this company even better is that a portion of their gross sales go towards supporting environmental organizations and their operations utilize clean, renewable energy offset by Bullfrog Power.

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.








For those looking for unique gifts, Ten Thousand Villages offers a diverse range of fair trade and sustainable products. Each item comes with its own artisan story and is made by handicraft and agricultural organizations based in low-income countries. On their website you search for product by category, or you visit them in person at their stores located across the country.








Grassroots is a one-stop shop for every kind of environmental product you could imagine. Their selection includes clothing, stationary, electronics, beauty products and toys. Right now they have a back-to-school collection which is perfect for those looking for practical gifts for students. They also have a large selection of natural cleaning products, detergents and soaps for those with chemical sensitivities.

Etsy has recently come into the mainstream for those interested in purchasing handmade, one of a kind, or customizable products. It boasts artists from across the world, with many products oriented toward Muslims and Islamic holidays. These include sustainable amber bamboo earrings, birch eco-wood Eid cards and Japanese dolls made from Eco-felt, which are manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. Thanks to Zaufishan for these suggestions.


Passing of Prominent Muslim Environmentalist


Ayman Ahwal, a prominent Muslim environmentalist, journalist and filmmaker passed away on August 16, 2011.  He was well-known in the United Kingdom for his advocacy work in Birmingham and abroad for his conservation work in Malaysia and Indonesia.  His extensive travels through the Muslim world reinforced the Islamic environmental ideals which he shared through numerous articles and short films, documenting how Muslims can live in harmony with nature.

In 2008, he was interviewed by EcoIslam Magazine and was asked about the impact “Islamic Environmentalism” can have on the struggle to save our planet. His response below sums up the principles he lived by and the message he strived to convey through his work. May Allah forgive him and grant him mercy.

This word ‘environmentalism’ sounds like just another distorted pseudo-scientific worldview like atheism, humanism, secularism, Islamism, etc! To be complete (insan al kamil) a Muslim should be as conscious of the natural environment as he is about other temporal preoccupations, as well as his nafs (ego), his ehsan (striving for excellence) and his ibadat (worship). The environment is about loving the Earth. To serve the people is to love Allah; to manage the Earth wisely is to love Allah. It’s like the other face of deen (faith). Without being conscious of the natural world a Muslim is out of balance. How then can he be expected to be khalifah (guardian) and see when nature is out of balance, as it truly is today?

Five ways to green your Ramadan


“Now, behold! Your Lord said to the angels: I am placing upon the earth a human successor to steward it” (Qu’rán, 2:30).

On the eve of Ramadan, there are five simple ways you can make this month more environmentally-friendly. All of these suggestions set the foundation for green habits that can be implemented year-round.

1)Eliminate Waste:

This Ramadan there has been a growing movement to eliminate the use of Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery to serve the Iftar meal. Consider alternatives such as plant-based containers and plastics that are compostable or organize a litterless Iftar where patrons bring their own containers. Also, try opting out of disposable water bottles. An estimated 88% of water bottles are not recycled in Canada and plastic bottles are the fastest growing segment of municipal solid waste in Canada.[1]  There are many reusable water bottle options from BPA-free plastic bottles, to aluminum and stainless steel flasks that are both inexpensive and lightweight.

2)  Purchase Local Produce/Organic Foods:

In our globalized economy, most of the food that reaches our dinner-plate has travelled hundreds if not thousands of kilometers. This Ramadan presents the perfect opportunity to get in touch with local farmers markets that are brimming with fresh produce. Not only will you reduce your carbon footprint but you will also be supporting your local economy. Also, try experimenting with organic produce either at the Suhur or Iftar meals. Organic foods taste different and generally contain no pesticides, herbicides, preservatives or other additives[2]. Be sure to check that the product is certified and what selection criteria was used.

3)  Reduce Energy Consumption:

There many ways to reduce your energy consumption throughout Ramadan. Turning the air conditioner on only when you are at home or sleeping will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and your energy bills. Closing open blinds, turning off lights and using fans to circulate air will also keep your home cool.  Similarly at the mosque, keeping doors closed when the air conditioning is on and dimming the lights also reduces energy consumption as well[3].

4)UseAlternative Transit Options:

If you do have access to car and plan to drive to the nightly Taraweeh prayers, try carpooling when possible. There are many youth and elderly within our community without access to a vehicle or reliable transit at night who would be more than grateful for a ride. Mosque parking lots tend to overflow with congregants during Ramadan, so the fewer number of vehicles actually increases traffic flow for everyone. Also, if you are within a reasonable distance from the mosque, consider taking advantage of the warm weather to ride your bike or walk to prayers.

5)  Give AGreen Donation:

There are many environmental organizations across Canada that promote, educate and conserve our natural resources. Consider making a donation this Ramadan to an environmental cause that resonates with you. Also, try becoming more involved in the political or policy making process by letting your elected leaders know that environmental issues are an important part of your faith and that you expect them to make it an important part of their platform as well.

[1] Project Blue – Roots and Shoots Canada Water Campaign

[2] Canada Organic Trade Association

[3] Natural Resources Canada – Tips on Saving Energy in Your Home

Photo Credits from Jasmine, Natalie MaynorP. Gordon, Tobias, Benson Kua & Paul Reynolds.

Rouge Valley National Park

Plans for Canada’s first true urban park were unveiled last Friday by the Conservative government in its throne speech. The Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, made the announcement as part of broader celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of our national parks system. The Rouge Valley straddles several municipalities  in the Greater Toronto Area including Markham, Richmond Hill , Toronto and Whitchurch-Stouffville and encompasses over 10 000 acres of creeks, forests, meadows and watersheds. The area has been described as a prime example of Carolinian forest, which has recently been threatened by increasing urban encroachment. The new designation brings with it added funding for patrols, educational programs and conservation efforts that will introduce a new generation to Canada’s parks. More details will emerge in the coming months as relevant stakeholders meet to discuss the future transition of the park.

Recently several planting events have taken place within the Rouge Valley. In late March, The Canadian Muslim Fellowship of Scouting participated with the GTC Scout and Guide groups in their annual Tree Planting and Wildlife Habitat Restoration Day at the Bob Hunter Memorial Park; a 500 acre parcel of environmentally sensitive land that was recently added to the Rouge Park. In late April, a joint collaboration called Plating Faithfully was formed between the Islamic Foundation of Toronto, Darchei Noam Synagogue, and Friends of the Rouge Watershed to help promote environmental stewardship and sustainability through interfaith dialogue. The event exchanged various faith-based perspectives on the environment and closed with joint planting ceremony in the Rouge Valley.

For more information on the Rouge Park, please visit:

To learn more about current conservation efforts, please visit: