Opinion

Muslims and Indigenous Peoples Share Values

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By: Shahina Siddiqui

As we celebrate Islamic History Month, some have asked me about the theme Know Each Other and why the emphasis on the indigenous community? My response as chairwoman of this project is to look inwards. To me, the spirit of multiculturalism is best served when we step out of our comfort zone to take advantage of the amazing opportunity we have here in Canada to learn, experience, grow and broaden our horizons.

We may have come as settlers, or from war and conflict seeking relief; many of us came as economic immigrants looking for a better life. Some of us are refugees seeking sanctuary. Regardless of the why, I believe it is essential we learn of the indigenous history, the challenges and achievements of the First Nations of Canada. Muslims have so much in common with indigenous peoples, but we also unfortunately have stereotypes about each other that must be dispelled.

Both indigenous and Canadian Muslims are propelled by our traditions to look at humanity through the prism of the Creator's gift of compassion, mercy and humility. We can take the strengths and excellence of our various traditions and cultures and blend them toward an evolving Canadian culture that is truly just.

We, the new Canadians, need to remind ourselves the keepers of the national soul are the indigenous peoples, who are the original custodians of this land. We must preserve the core of indigenous values and seek to complement that with our cultural diversity, thus enhancing the spirit and heart of Canada.

How can we appreciate and contribute to Canada if we do get to know the original custodians of this land -- the mothers and fathers who so generously accepted wave after wave of immigrants from foreign religious orders, social customs, languages and races? How can we not learn and recognize the early immigrants, instead of appreciating their indigenous host, had inflicted cultural and social injustices that resulted in untold misery and pain that still continues?

Canadian Muslims have to open their hearts and their minds and welcome indigenous communities in our homes, centres and places of worship. Based on our shared core values of human dignity, human rights and justice, and as stewards of all of creation, we should collaborate on issues of common good, defeat racism and help our families, and especially our women, to flourish.

Poverty, addictions, domestic abuse, sexism, racism and religious bigotry are serious challenges facing Canada. Once we find common grounds by interacting at both the personal and communal level, we will set the stage for collaborations on issues and projects. Let us form citizens' groups in our neighbourhoods, identify common goals and start working on them. We can draw on each other's strengths and inspire our youth to be torchbearers of justice and truth.

For starters, we must vote and thereby recommit to protecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms from the politics of fear and racism that is threatening our social cohesion.

Shahina Siddiqui is the chairwoman of Islamic History Month Canada.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 13, 2015 A11

Together we Flourish: A Shared Place to Connect, Share, and Grow

Community Garden By Lina Chaker, youth at Rose City Islamic Centre

It started out with a team of 5 young girls who have never grown any food before.

With a seed in one hand and ambition in the other to create a safe, utilitarian space for residents to gather and promote interconnectedness, we were motivated to discover what we could do to transform an under-utilized area into a place that stimulates growth, connection, and sharing both food and experiences.

From a local community garden in Windsor, the Ford City Community Garden, we learned that food can act as catalyst for furthering social relations in any given area.

The sense of community and increased engagement of neighbours emerged from something as simple as a tomato plant. This inspired me to work with a number of other young adults to create a similar garden in East Windsor, called Together We Flourish.

Food has an unprecedented power of uniting everyone – it is an element that everyone can relate to: Humans rely on food to fuel their days.

Thus, the community garden at Together We Flourish serves as a to not only growing produce, but stirring personal development and growth in people. Along with sharing food comes the sharing of personal narratives and experiences. From this, it is our vital hope that this will encourage social interdependence.

We have come a long way, and had real struggles. In addition to not having prior knowledge of growing food, the lack of monetary support provided to the garden was a significant barrier to achieving our goals. We analyzed our situation and made funny and engaging vlogs documenting our strategic methods of getting things done without proper tools.

It was clear that ambition alone was not enough to get things done. We have networked with community garden collectives as well as with interested private citizens in an effort to educate ourselves and determine improvements and identify opportunities for growth.

Nearing the end of our third summer, we are now exploring other ways of pushing our vision forward: “to strengthen the sense of community and interconnectedness between all Windsorites through collaborative projects and initiatives. We want to help Windsorites live happier and healthier lives through engaging youth and providing the public with unique activities while growing together – in numerous ways”

The aspiration of making the garden a safe public place for community building has led to the establishment of a new project being hosted at the garden called Breaking Barriers.

It’s not just a veggie garden – it never was. Our prime focus has always been about to eliminating social barriers to inclusion that prevent individuals, particularly youth, from reaching their potential and maximizing their community involvement.

This article was originally featured on Greening Sacred Spaces in September 2015.

An Islamic Response to Pope Francis’ Encyclical

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By Joseph E. B. Lumbard

(June 21, 2015) – Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si (“Praised Be”), is a clarion call to all of humanity.

It also provides an important opportunity to expand the conversation regarding the relationship between religion and the environment.

Many scientists maintain that we have reached “decade zero” for addressing climate change.

We thus have no choice but to mine the riches of all the world’s traditions to create new paradigms and new solutions to environmental degradation.

As the encyclical states, “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”

According to the latest results from the Pew Research Center, by 2050, over 60% of the world’s population will be Christian or Muslim: 29.7% will be Muslim and 31.4% will be Christian.

Muslims and Christians have no choice but to come together to work for the common cause of humanity in confronting this unprecedented challenge.

Moreover, to take root in humanity any sustainable ecological worldview must incorporate and address the teachings that much of humanity seeks to follow.

As Pope Francis observes, the solutions cannot come from science and technology alone.

Among the world scriptures, the Quran provides a unique resource for building a new ecological paradigm.

Grounded in the Abrahamic tradition, it presents a harmonious view of nature reminiscent of the Far East.

In the Quran, “whatsoever is the heavens and on the earth glorifies God” (59:1; 61:1; 62:1; 64:1). “The stars and the trees prostrate” (55:6), “the thunder hymns His praise” (13:13), and “unto God prostrates whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is on the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, and the beasts” (22:18).

In these and many other verses, the whole of creation is presented as a Divine symphony, for “there is no thing, save that it hymns His praise, though you do not understand their praise. Truly He is Clement, Forgiving” (Q 17:44).

The extinction of species and the eradication of pristine environments are like the removal of a section from this orchestra of which we are all a part.

The Quran thus enjoins us to “walk not exultantly upon the earth” (17:63) and to view the whole of nature as “signs for a people who hear” (10:67; 16:65; 30:23), “signs for a people who reflect” (13:3; 30:21), and “signs for a people who understand” (2:164; 13:4; 16:12, 67; 30:24; 45:5).

Yet, in our rapacious approach to nature, we have failed to reflect and thus become like those of whom the Quran says, “they have hearts with which they understand not; they have eyes with which they see not; and they have ears with which they hear not” (7:179).

Unable to see, listen and understand, we have become like one of whom the Quran warns, “when he turns away [from God’s signs], he endeavors to work corruption upon the earth, and to destroy tillage and offspring” (2:205).

The Papal Encyclical provides an unprecedented opportunity for the people of the world’s faith traditions to turn away from the corruption we have wrought and open our hearts to one another and to the plea of Mother Nature.

For her fate will be determined by the decisions of our generation. By drawing upon the shared teachings of our traditions, humanity can again learn to honor the immutable rights of rivers, animals and trees, as well as human beings suffering inhumane working conditions.

By bearing witness to our own transgressions, we can reverse our course and ensure that the rights of God’s creation prevail over the transient interests of corporations.

As Pope Francis observes, we have no choice but to take this direction and to work with one another.

For Muslims and Christians, the place of human beings is not to subdue the earth.

It is to hear the patterns already established within nature and live in harmony with them, had we but eyes to see and ears to hear.

In both Christianity and Islam, human beings are presented as stewards of the earth.

In the Quran, this responsibility is both an honor and a trial.

Verse 6:165 states, “God it is Who appointed you stewards upon the earth and raised some of you by degrees above others, that He may try you in that which He has given you.”

From this perspective, being stewards of nature is about our responsibility toward God, not our dominion over creation.

Neither the Bible nor the Quran has any place for what Pope Francis calls “a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.”

We will thus be held accountable for the degree to which we have carried out our function as stewards.

As the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said, “The world is a green and pleasant thing. God has made you stewards of it, and looks at how you behave.”

Given the state of the environmental crisis and the alarming increase in environmental degradation, one cannot but conclude that contemporary humanity has failed this test.

The world and our children can no longer afford the cost of our failures.

It is thus time that people of all faiths unite and in the words of Martin Luther King, “rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.”

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Joseph E. B. Lumbard is Chair of the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Program at Brandeis University and a former adviser on interfaith affairs to the Jordanian Royal Court. He received his PhD and MPhil in Islamic Studies from Yale University, and a BA and MA in Religious Studies from George Washington University.

**[First published on Huffington Post and reprinted on IQRA.ca with permission of the author].

Why be Green?

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By: Dr. M. Nazir KhanThe earth and its natural resources are being ravaged by mankind. But why should people care?  Are there any practical ways to make a difference? And will people actually bother to change their current lifestyle to protect the environment before it is too late?

Every human being must at some point ask himself or herself, “why does my existence matter?” And the answer to our own purpose in life will directly determine how we see our role with respect to the planet we inhabit. When we see life as a journey to worship the Creator, we are in harmony with the rest of creation engaged in that worship. The Qur’an notes that there is nothing in nature “except that it is engaged in the glorification and praise of God, though you do not understand how it praises Him” (Qur’an 17:44), and that “every star and every tree is in prostration to God” (Qur’an 55:6).  Recognizing the earth as a fellow worshipper of God imbues it with inherent sanctity. And even more sanctity is conferred upon it by the Prophet Muhammad’s statement, “The earth has been made a place of worship and source of purification” (Sahih al-Bukhari). In other words, the whole planet is considered one giant terrestrial mosque, to be respected and sanctified.

The Qur’anic account of creation also demonstrate the value of caring for the earth. Human beings are part and parcel of the earth, having been created from its soil (Qur’an 20:55). And during its own creation, the earth was filled with blessings by God (Qur’an 41:10), and therefore one who desecrates the earth commits a violation against God.  The Qur’an in fact even explicitly condemns the one “who spreads corruption on the earth and destroys its vegetation and animals, for verily God does not like corruption.” (Qur’an 2:205). Of course, the earth will not remain a silent victim of man’s depraved rampage across its face. The Qur’an informs us that on the Day of Judgement, the earth will undergo a cataclysmic convulsion in which it will empty out all of its burdens (including landfills and the culpable corpses that made them) and it will finally “tell of its stories”, bearing witness to the sins of mankind (Qur’an 99:1-5).

Evidently, Islam establishes the importance of caring for the environment. But more importantly, Islam uniquely provides human beings with the values that will be conducive to the preservation of the environment. Lots of people talk about the environment, but few are compelled to walk the walk. In a 1972 study that interviewed 500 people, 94% acknowledged that picking up litter was a personal responsibility, but only 2% picked up the litter planted by the researcher on the way out.1 When it comes to climate change, proposals generally try to get human beings to make sacrifices in the present for the sake off bettering the distant future. The problem of course, is that people are not sufficiently motivated by their worldview. If you want people to make drastic behavioural changes, you need very compelling reasons.

Islam provides the individual with the optimal worldview to appreciate the gravity of his role as a custodian of the natural world and his culpability before God if he fails to uphold that trust.  Viewing life as a meaningful spiritual endeavour compels one to look at one’s actions and lifestyle critically. On the other hand, a person who views life without a higher purpose or ultimate objective could be free to maximize personal profit and pleasure, even if it be at the expense of the environment and future generations who will inherit it. In addition to such personal nihilism, the destruction of the environment is also accelerated by ideologies we have inherited, which are tied to our notions of scientific industrialism and capitalism. The values of modern civilization draw heavily from the 17th century Enlightenment in Europe, which preached the triumph of science and technology in bettering mankind. Inventing new machines are paradoxically seen to liberate man, even as their emissions may likely eliminate him. A world that champions industrial progress and technological development as the pinnacle of all good may find it very difficult to swallow human responsibility for the present environmental crisis. And a consumerist society propelled by constant advertising to greedily accumulate the latest products is the key ingredient in rendering our planet inhospitable for life, as Naomi Klein argues in This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.

British Columbia Logging
British Columbia Logging

The scope of the problem

The fact that pollution is devastating the environment is no secret. What has emerged in recent years however, is a scientific consensus on the urgency of correcting the problem in the wake of new climate change predictions. As a result of burning fossil fuels, by 2012 there was 42% more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than before the industrial era.2 That build-up in the atmosphere has accelerated global warming to such an extent, that arctic sea has reduced by as much as half in comparison to 50 years ago, and the polar ice caps may be completely melted by 2020.3 The Earth is rapidly looking like a mirror image of our inhospitable neighbour, Venus, which seems to have been Divinely placed next door as a deliberate forewarning.

Of course, the pollution is not merely destroying our planet, it has clear harmful effects on our health as well. In medicine, the harms of in-door air pollution and inhalation of toxins have been well-known, but recent data provides striking evidence on the harmful effects of outdoor pollution. The European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE) project studied the health of 900 000 subjects across Europe and correlated with the amount of outdoor air pollution. It was found that exposure to air pollutants and traffic increased the risk of lung cancer, 4, stroke5 and exposure during pregnancy was associated with restricted fetal growth resulting in low birth weight infants6 – among numerous other detrimental health effects. Living in a dense urban area results in breathing in significantly more particulate matter and toxins, and the study revealed that this has an association with lung cancer, stroke, and even pregnant women giving birth to low birth weight infants. One may be particularly alarmed to note then, that on a scale of 0 to 500 (which the WHO considers twenty times greater than what is safe), a city like Beijing receives a whoppingscore of 755. And in the United States, 3 million tons of toxic chemicals are released into the air annually. According toa study conducted at Cornell University, 40% of human deaths worldwide are attributable to the effects of air, soil, and water pollution. As the Qur’an advises, “Don’t kill yourselves! God has been Ever-Merciful to you.” (Qur’an 4:29)

Pollution includes not only the corruption of the air, but the corruption of land and sea as well. “Corruption has emerged on land and at sea as a consequence of mankind’s actions, that God may give them a taste of their actions in order that they may return” (Qur’an 30:41). The sheer quantity of garbage that is produced is unfathomable. For instance each year, Americans generate approximately 250 million tons of trash which is largely buried underground in landfills. These landfills inevitably leak contaminants into the surrounding terrain and in some cases, contaminate groundwater as well. In addition, landfills contribute to the production of harmful methane gas which adds to the buildup in the atmosphere described earlier.

The Earth also has a limited and finite quantity of natural resources. All human beings rely on the natural sources of food, clean drinking water, and energy, however these resources are being disproportionately consumed in a reckless and unsustainable manner. 1.3 billion people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water, contributing to a tremendous increased incidence of disease, and yet a deplorable amount of water is wasted daily. The average Canadian uses almost double the amount of water used by the average Japanese, for instance. Food should not be wasted either when 1.2 billion suffer from hunger, and 9 million die of starvation annually (majority of whom are children). And yet, in the United Kingdom, “30-40% of all food is never eaten”, according to BBC radio. Sustainable development also entails reducing energy consumption and using renewable sources of energy.  The dependence on oil consumption to drive our greedy corporate empires has been a prime incentive in countless wars (e.g.Jones 2012) and installing brutal dictators in oil rich countries who will ensure the continued exploitation of the natural resources to foreign powers.

Garbage Wave
Garbage Wave

What are simple steps to protect the environment?

Any common sense approach to protecting the natural world must take into account two key considerations: reducing pollution and avoiding overconsumption of resources. Human destructive tendencies with respect to the environment invariably fall into either wastefully consuming its beneficial resources, or filling it with harmful pollutants and garbage. Interestingly, the Qur’an targets these two essential considerations in its guidance, prohibiting man from wasteful overconsumption (laa tusrifu -7:31) and prohibiting spreading pollution and corruption (laa tufsidu - 7:56).

1. REDUCING GARBAGE (laa tufsidu)

It is easy for the average person to be more conscientious about the amount of garbage he or she produces, and engage in recycling paper and plastic products and composting organic waste. Studies looking at the effectiveness of recycling programs have found that the more convenient recycling is made, the more likely people are to do it (eg.Mueller 2013). Recalling the fact that the Prophet Muhammad said, “Removing a harmful thing from the path is an act of charity” (Sahih al-Bukhari), it becomes a moral responsibility to work to reduce the massive accumulation of garbage being deposited in this earth. In the United States, recycling efforts divert 60 million tons of garbage from landfills annually, reducing garbage by 32% (US Environmental Protection Agency), and similar effectiveness has been noted in the UK.

2. AVOIDING WASTAGE (laa tusrifu)

There is much room for improvement when one reflects on the amount of overconsumption and wastage of food and water that one commits on a daily basis. The Qur’an states, “It is He who has produced beautiful gardens, some trellised and some untrellised, and date-palms and crops of different varieties. Eat of its produce during the season and pay the dues to the poor on the day of harvest. And waste not by extravagance – verily, God does not like the extravagant” (Qur’an 6:141). Recognizing that we are all part of a global community, we must demonstrate compassion towards the poor and needy. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever goes to sleep full while his neighbour is hungry is not a believer” (Mu’jam al-Tabarani).

Amazingly, the Prophet Muhammad singled out the wastage of water as a particular focus of concern fourteen hundreed years ago. When his companion Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas was performing ablution with lots of water, the Prophet told him, “Do not commit wastage.” Surprised, Sa’d asked, “Is there such thing as wasting water for ablution?” The Prophet replied, “Of course, even if you are standing at a flowing river” (Musnad Ahmad). Today, it is well known that water is the most precious resource and that the wastage of water directly contributes to the ongoing scarcity of clean drinking water which confronts 4 billion people in the world. An astounding amount of water is wasted needlessly in showering/bathing, leaving the tap running, toilet flushing, car washing, and so on (read more about water conservation here). It is incredible to note that the hadith tradition has preserved the fact that the Prophet used only 1 mudd (750 ml) of water for ablution and only 1 saa’ (3 litres) for bathing (Sahih al-Bukhari).

Unfortunately, not everyone is alike when it comes to caring about the environment. According to the intriguing results of the 2012 Greendex survey, people in poorer countries have a smaller negative impact on the environment but feel guiltier than those in wealthy nations. As George Monbiot comments, “The richer we are and the more we consume, the more self-centred and careless of the lives of others we appear to become.” The Qur’an informs us that on the Day of Judgement, humankind will be answerable for the slightest blessings enjoyed in this life (Qur’an 102:8). The Prophet mentioned that man will be asked by God concerning the water he was provided with and the health he was blessed with (Sunan al-Tirmidhi).

Indeed the task of taking care of the environment and reversing man’s destructive impact seems like a monumental task. A person may feel discouraged and wonder, “What can I do to make a difference? I’m just one person!” But Islam provides an incredibly optimistic and empowering viewpoint – each individual has an important role to play, and no amount of good is too trivial to matter. The Prophet said, “Even if the Day of Resurrection is about to commence, and you’re holding a sapling in your hand – plant it!” (Musnad Ahmad).

References

1.

BICKMAN, L. (1972) “Environmental attitudes and actions.” J. of Social Psychology 87: 323-324.

2.

Refer to the 

Global Carbon Project

.

3.

Refer to Webster, M. A., I. G. Rigor, S. V. Nghiem, N. T. Kurtz, S. L. Farrell, D. K. Perovich, and M. Sturm (2014), Interdecadal changes in snow depth on Arctic sea ice, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 119, 5395–5406.

4.

Raaschou-Nielsen, Ole et al. Air pollution and lung cancer incidence in 17 European cohorts: prospective analyses from the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE).The Lancet Oncology , Volume 14 , Issue 9 , 813-822.

5.

Stafoggia M, Cesaroni G, Peters A, et al. Long-Term Exposure to Ambient Air Pollution and Incidence of Cerebrovascular Events: Results from 11 European Cohorts within the ESCAPE Project. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2014;122(9):919-925. doi:10.1289/ehp.1307301.

6.

Pedersen, Marie et al. Ambient air pollution and low birthweight: a European cohort study (ESCAPE) The Lancet Respiratory Medicine , Volume 1 , Issue 9 , 695 – 704.

This article was originally featured onSpiritual Perception  in January 2015. 

Photo Credits: Overpopulation, overconsumption – in pictures

It's Time We Treat Chickens as Animals and Not Products

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By: Ziyaad Mia,

"The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny...The question is not, 'Can they reason?' nor, 'Can they talk?' but, 'Can they suffer?'"

Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832) Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

Have you ever considered a chicken? Not as a nugget, kebab or omelet, but as a creature that has needs, feels pain and suffers.

The Commodity Bird

Chicken and eggs have been commodified by our desire for cheap plentiful meat and eggs; indeed, the word "chicken" has become the name of a product rather than that of an animal. More than 50 billion chickens are raised for meat and eggs worldwide annually, with about 10 billion of them in North America. In fact, chickens represent the overwhelming majority of agricultural animals in North America.

Nearly all North American chickens are raised and slaughtered in industrial operations. Despite the slick marketing, they do not live in bucolic bliss, roaming sunny meadows, dust-bathing and roosting in rustic sheds. Most chickens raised for meat, known as broilers, are engineered to grow rapidly in crowded barns with tens of thousands of other birds. The vast majority of hens producing our eggs spend their lives crammed, with several other birds, into small "battery" cages. The factory chicken's life is far removed from bucolic bliss.

Peeking Inside the Factory Farm

Despite the animal industry's scale, it's remarkable that the plight of billions of animals is largely invisible to us. Recently, we got a glimpse into that invisible world through a Mercy for Animals Canadavideo aired on CTV's W5 [caution: video is disturbing]. Their investigation shows chickens at Maple Lodge Farms' slaughterhouse near Toronto arriving frozen to death, handled roughly, shackled inappropriately for slaughter and possibly scalded alive.

The company responded saying, "the humane treatment of the birds in our care is a very high priority, and a moral responsibility, that we take seriously."

The video, and Maple Lodge's track record, tell a starkly different story.

Expressions of concern and moral responsibility ring hollow in light of the company's convictions in 2013 and 2014 on 20 counts of failing to humanely transport chickens to slaughter (chickens froze to death in sub-zero winter conditions). The judge found that profits trumped animal welfare. Despite the convictions, Maple Lodge continued breaking the law making the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's "Animal Transportation Repeat Violators" list on numerous occasions in 2014.

The Spin Machine

The animal industry's spin doctors follow the same script when caught in the act:

  1. claim high standards of animal welfare;
  2. suggest that incidents are exceptions to the high standards; and
  3. say that quick corrective action will be taken.

The egg and the pork industries deployed this crisis management model when we got a glimpse into their hidden worlds too.

This talk track suggests that the industry cares about animals and any horrors exposed are simply aberrations by a few "bad apples." While particularly heinous acts of cruelty occur in industrial farming, it's fallacious to use those incidents to conclude that, on the whole, the system is sound.

Rather, the problem is the system itself because it creates conditions where animal suffering can easily become commonplace and routine. When billions of animals are systematically raised and killed a reasonable person may assume that widespread suffering is inevitable.

Maple Lodge Farms slaughters about 500,000 chickens daily. One can easily imagine the stress on animals and workers in such an environment, some of which is depicted in the Mercy for Animals video.

"Each employee is expected to hang 20 birds a minute...So employees are hanging birds as fast as they can to keep up. So it's being grabbed pretty violently. Sometimes you'll see bones protruding out of the skin, you see toes ripped off. It's pretty horrific." ~ from CTV W5

The Business of Chicken

Chicken is a big business. Each year we consume more than 650 million of the birds in Canada. Given those numbers and the significant profits involved, it's no wonder that relatively small fines don't reform bad behaviour. Arguably, fines are just a cost of doing business.

Although it may be business as usual behind the scenes, the companies know thatconsumers care about animal welfare. That's why many of them humane-wash their products by extolling the virtues of animal welfare, and portraying happy animals on idyllic family farms. In this regard, Animal Justice Canada is challenging Maple Lodge Farms for allegedly using false advertising and claims.

Halal meat is also a growing and lucrative market. That's likely why companies like Maple Lodge prominently market their halal products in Canada's Muslim communities. The company reportedly slaughters tens of thousands of chickens a day, at an industry average rate of about 140 chickens a minute, to produce its halal products.

Factory farming raises troubling questions in light of Islamic ethics, which requires significantly more than perfunctory ritualized killing of animals used for food. Islam mandates merciful and compassionate treatment of all animals at all times, from birth to death. Therefore, many common practices in factory farms (where animals are raised) and industrial slaughterhouses (where animals are killed) are inconsistent with those ethical requirements.

Jeremy Bentham would agree with Islamic law and ethics, which says animal interests matter and humans have duty to seriously consider them. A genuine halal standard that is holistic, substantive and true to Islamic ethics would be a positive development for animals and consumers. Unfortunately, we lack credible, transparent and robust halal standards and certification.

A Better World for All

The virtual hell created for tens of billions of animals by factory farming is one of the greatest moral issues of our time. Yet, our desire for cheap, plentiful animal products and the corporate interest in profits above all else have conspired to keep the plight of countless sentient beings in the dark. Regrettably, our politicians and religious leaders remain largely silent, while the legal system stymies efforts by those who try to give animals a voice.

Positive change requires us to take animal interests seriously in the all the choices we make, as consumers, citizens and human beings. Those choices are the crucial first steps towards a just society built on compassion, dignity and respect for all creatures.

This article was originally featured on Huffington Post Canada in April 2015. To follow his blog, please visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/ziyaad-mia/ 

Ziyaad Mia is a Toronto lawyer active in human rights, national security, animal welfare and civic issues. He is also an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School. Ziyaad is the founder of Give 30, which is an innovative Ramadan-based social initiative designed to mobilize people of all faiths and moral persuasions on a grassroots level in the fight against hunger.

Ziyaad is the winner of CBC's Canada Writes Literary Challenge Award (2014 - "Stories of Belonging") and was shortlisted for CBC's Canada Writes Literary Challenge Award (2011 - "True Winter Tales"). His writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen and Vancouver Sun.

Photo Credit: kusabi

Confessions of a Muslim Vegetarian

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By: Zehra Abbas

I was about 12 when I decided I should be a vegetarian — yes, a Muslim vegetarian. Naturally, my creative parents would mush up chicken and hide it in my dinner, then lie about the entire affair. Perhaps it was observing the bloody slaughters on my trips back home, or the cuddly animals from my storybooks; Either way, I loved animals and wished to not eat them. In retrospect, it may have been the childhood experience of being chased by a severed goat’s head one Eid-ul-Adha by a tyrant cousin that resulted in this life-altering decision.

In my young age I didn’t understand the attention garnered at family dinners and holiday get-togethers by this relatively innocuous concept to not consume meat. Soon, tiring of unwanted attention and endless questions, comments, and jokes at every gathering, it was decided in the interest of my mental health that I would eat chicken and fish — for protein, of course. Now my parents wouldn’t have to resort to subterfuge and I could disappear into the background again. It was nice.

When I reached the age of 25 I wondered why I was still eating something which incessantly made me feel morally gross. Why didn’t I have the courage to be who I wanted to be? My faith is supposed to give me the confidence to do the right thing. I became a vegetarian again with renewed confidence and the dreaded social dinners picked up where they had left off over a decade ago. I have been poked, prodded, patronized, sneered at, criticized, joked about, and judged. I have also been accused of blasphemy.

When I reached the age of 25 I wondered why I was still eating something which incessantly made me feel morally gross.

Truth is, most days I’m vegan and almost decided to go public recently. When I broached the topic one daring day, a close relative declared in his booming voice that Veganism is a cult similar to Scientology. I wish I were joking. So I declared nothing. I practice being a pseudo vegan instead. This means I am mostly undercover. Cruelty products rarely enter my home.

Blasphemy. This is when the critics pull out the story of prophet Ibrahim (pbuh), The sheep sacrificed in this instance, which represents love and obedience for Allah, serves as a tradition we carry out yearly to mark the end of the Hajj. Putting the difference of opinion aside, I’d like to discuss the original sheep.

Now, I think it relatively reasonable to assume that this particular sheep was not subject to cruel industrialized farming practices. It’s feed wasn’t polluted with other animal byproducts. It wasn’t pumped with growth hormones or antibiotics. It wasn’t starved before its death for monetary gain (permissible under Canadian law). It didn’t break limbs due to cramped dwellings or brutal transportation methods. It didn’t have parts of its anatomy cut off without anesthesia.

It is relatively reasonable to assume this sheep was not shackled, beaten, tortured, or mutilated.

The reason I am writing this article is to ask my fellow Muslims to engage in Ijtihad. To stop asking ‘Is it halal?’ in this sheep-like (pun intended) thought process and start asking, ‘What is halal?’ How did this animal live, what did it eat, how was it treated, how was it slaughtered and was it in accordance with the provisions Islam is very very clear about? Indisputably clear.

The common reality of the current state of our halal meat is not a pretty picture. Industrialized farming practices do not follow Islamic guidelines. Often times we fail to draw a distinction between zabiha and halal. The two are not synonymous.  Halal in its entire depth covers more ground than hand slaughtering in the name of Allah. It is also the manner in which an animal lives. A natural life in natural conditions, with a natural diet. It’s also pertinent that the animal doesn’t see another animal slaughtered. If these requirements are not met, how can we be certain the meat we are eating is halal?

Often times we fail to draw a distinction between zabiha and halal. The two are not synonymous.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was known for his simple and often meatless diet. With colonization came the correlation between meat and wealth. Along came the factory farming industry with its policies that make life challenging for small farmers and impossible for voiceless animals.

Artificial: Hormones and antibiotics injected into the animals, to prevent disease in their confined quarters; we consume these by extension. Inept and cruel living standards, chemical interference, and mysterious animal feed; these conditions do not translate into a natural life where animals can roam and eat as they please.

Cruelty: Two investigations found on Mercy for Animals website, revealed horrid conditions in factory farms in Ontario this year alone.

Animal feed: Often animal feed used in factory farming contains discarded animal byproduct. This is in direct conflict with halal tenants, as animals permissible for consumption need to have an herbivore diet.

Environmental impact: The environmental set backs of factory farming are well documented. As Muslims, we have been called upon to be stewards of this earth. How can we participate in meat consumption of this manner when it is one of the most wasteful and environmentally damaging industries on our planet? It is famously quoted that we save more water by not eating a pound of meat than by not showering for 6 months. Antibiotics pumped into the animals have been found in local water sources along with dangerous phosphorus and nitrogen levels. Factory farming is also the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions.

There is a popular local halal meat butcher shop that promises adherence to strict Islamic rules. What this means is, and I quote, “the chicken can spread their wings, they have enough room”. Yeah… no. This does not work for me. Maximizing profits and supplying exorbitant meat products to match gluttonous diets, this is not my Islamic way. There are a few places that adhere in all respects to Islamic practices. They’re expensive. They’re supposed to be.

Capitalism is a profit driven concept that puts our ethical compass on the back burner. It’s a system that will try to mislead us by using deceptive terms that are shrouded in mystery like free-range, which doesn’t mean free at all. However, we can do our best to take a stand against injustice.

With every dollar you spend, you vote for what manufacturing policies you support. Grocery shopping is when our food choices are entirely in our hands. This is when I choose to be as vegan and cruelty free as possible because my Islam teaches me respect for animals. I cannot and will not finance an industry with my purchases that perpetuates cruelty. We don’t have to fund and condone abhorrent farming practices. We have an abundance of choices here. Let’s make the right ones.

Zehra Abbas is the founder and Executive Director of Studio.89, a social enterprise café based out the west end of Toronto. This article was originally featured on Halal Foodie in January 2015. 

Idris Tawfiq Dwells in the Gardens of Islam

idris-tawfiq By: Idris Tawfiq

{Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the Believers wilt thou find those who say “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to learning (priests), and men who have renounced the world (monks), and they are not arrogant. And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth. They pray: ‘Our Lord!  We believe, write us down among the witnesses.}  (Quran:5: 82-3)

This was what happened to the former British Catholic Priest Idris Tawfiq on reciting Islam’s holy Book, the Quran, to his students at a school in Britain. And this was one of the important steps in his journey of conversion to Islam.

During a lecture he gave at the British Council in Cairo, Tawfiq made clear that he has no regrets about his past and what he holds in regard to what Christians do and his life at the Vatican for five years.

“I enjoyed being a priest helping the people for some years. However, deep inside I was not happy and I felt that there was something not right. Fortunately, and it is God’s will, some events and coincidences in my life led me to Islam,” he told a packed hall at the British Council.

A second important coincidence for Tawfiq was his decision to quit his work at the Vatican, a step followed by making a trip to Egypt.

“I used to think of Egypt as a country of pyramids, camels, sand and palm trees. I actually took a charter flight to Hurghada.

Shocked to find it similar to some European beaches, I took the first bus to Cairo where I spent the most wonderful week in my life.

This was my first introduction to Muslims and Islam. I noticed how Egyptians are such gentle, sweet people, but also very strong.

“Like all Britons, my knowledge about Muslims up to that time didn’t exceed what I heard on TV about suicide bombers and fighters, which gave the impression that Islam is a religion of troubles. However, getting into Cairo I discovered how beautiful this religion is.

Very simple people selling goods on the street would abandon their trade and direct their face to Allah and pray the moment they heard the call to prayer from the mosque. They have a strong faith in the presence and will of Allah. They pray, fast, help the needy and dream to have a trip to Mecca with the hope of living in heaven in the hereafter,” he said.

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“On my return I resumed my old job of teaching religion. The only compulsory subject in British education is Religious Studies. I was teaching about Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and others. So everyday I had to read about these religions to be able to teach my lessons to the students, many of whom were Arab Muslim refugees. In other words, teaching about Islam taught me many things.

“Unlike many troublesome teenagers, these students set a good example of what a Muslim could be. They were polite and kind. So a friendship developed between us and they asked if they could use my classroom for prayers during the fasting month of Ramadan.

“Luckily, my room was the only one with a carpet. So I got accustomed to sitting at the back, watching them praying for a month. I sought to encourage them by fasting during Ramadan with them, even though I wasn’t yet a Muslim.

“Once while reciting a translation of the holy Quran in class I reached the verse:

{And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth.}

To my surprise, I felt tears welling up in my eyes and I tried hard to hide it from the students.”

A turning point in his life, however, came in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001.

Earth-shaking Event

“The following day, I was taking the underground and noticed how terrified the people were.  I was also afraid of the repetition of such acts in Britain. At the time, the Western people started fearing this religion they blamed for terrorism.

“However, my previous experience with Muslims took me to a different direction. I started wondering ‘Why Islam? Why do we blame Islam as a religion for the action of terrorists who happened to be Muslims, when no-one accused Christianity of terrorism when some Christians have acted the same way?

“One day I headed to the biggest Mosque in London, to hear more about this religion. Getting into London Central Mosque, there was Yusuf Islam, the former pop singer, sitting in a circle talking to some people about Islam. After a while, I found myself asking him ‘What do you actually do to become a Muslim?’”

“He answered that a Muslim should believe in one God, pray five times a day and fast during Ramadan. I interrupted him saying that I believed all this and had even fasted during Ramadan. So he asked, ‘What are you waiting for? What is holding you back?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t intend to convert.’

“At that moment the call to prayer was made and everyone got ready and stood in lines to pray.

“I sat at the back, and I cried and cried. Then I said to myself, ‘Who am I trying to fool?’

“After they ended their prayers, I headed to Yusuf Islam, asking him to teach me the words by which I announce my conversion.

“After explaining its meanings to me in English, I recited after him in Arabic that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah,” recounted Tawfiq, holding back his tears.

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‘Gardens of Islam’

Thus his life has taken a different course. Living in Egypt, Tawfiq wrote a book about the tenets of Islam.

Explaining why he penned his book Gardens of Delight: A Simple Introduction to Islam, Tawfiq noted that everyone is saying that Islam is not a religion of terrorism and isn’t a religion of hatred, but no-one tries to explain what it is.

“So I decided to write this book to give non-Muslims an idea about the basic principles of Islam. I tried to tell people how beautiful Islam is and that Islam has the most extraordinary treasures, the most important being Muslims’ love for each other. The Prophet says:

"Even a smile to your brother is a charity." (At-Tirmidhi, 1696)

Tawfiq said that he is working on a book about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which he thinks will be different from the many books already written about him.

He thinks that the “best and fastest way” of acquainting the world with the true image of Islam is to set a good example in real life. 

This article was originally published on onislam.com on January 1, 2015. 

 

‘Going Green’ in the 6th Century - Prophet Muhammad: the Environmentalist

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By: Sariya Contractor

An advertisement created by an organization that works for the environment shows the blood covered body of an injured baby seal.

The bright redagainst the white snow is a jarring illustration of human callousness.

The beautiful blue-black eyes of the baby seal mesmerize the viewer with its silent appeal for protection and justice — an appeal that perhaps is too late, this little seal is already dead.

But this little seal is making a wider appeal — one that has implications beyond its own loss of life.

Can it stir a heart among the humans who took its life? I guess this is what the clamor of voices seem to indicate as people demand a ban on indiscriminate and senseless hunting and killing of animals along with the calls for poachers to face capital punishment. Maybe the voiceless seal has had its say, and some animals may yet lead a safer life.

Al Gore's documentary — "An Inconvenient Truth" — is another soul-searching expression of the mess humankind has got itself into through its absolute lack of concern for the beautiful blue planet called home.

Natural systems have been destroyed. Pollutants are everywhere — the air, water, and even the soil we grow our food in. Forests are fast disappearing. Magnificent birds and animals have become extinct, and we now have a food chain with missing links.

A list like this can be almost boringly long, a never ending sermon of errors and selfishness. A vicious cycle which if left unchecked will come back in full circle to the very doorsteps of the species that set it off.

And this realization of the self-destructive capability that uncensored progress has made human beings more cognizant of and considerate for the ecological system that they are part of.

Many environmental problems are irreversible, but a lot can be done and is being done to minimize their effects. Green movements are slowly gaining momentum. People around the world are being more conscientious of the environmental after-effects caused by their actions.

Rallies, public protests and mass e-mails to heads of states and the "let's save the planet" bandwagon means serious business.

But being concerned with the environment is not just a matter of contemporary significance and it is not a fad that will blow away. Rather, it is a legitimate concern that can have far reaching ramifications for all humanity if left unaddressed.

Creating a Balance

Concern and care for the environment is also a teaching of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and therefore a duty on all Muslims.

Prophet Muhammad guided mankind to an ideology in which the human need for development has underpinnings of justice, generosity and good governance. Therefore, human progress must be fair to all concerned, be it man, woman, animal, or plant.

Prophet Muhammad encouraged simplicity of life. This trait is a good example he set for us in "going green". This means no fancy jargon or complex techie thingies that might save energy but cost the world. We should seek just simple doable solutions to problems that were once avoidable but today are at least still controllable.

Three paradigms seem central to the Prophet's explanation of humanity's relationship with the environment.

Humility: An understanding that all of creation belongs to God.

Justice: Deeds must be just and fair to all concerned.

Sustainability: Avoidance of all extravagances and measured use of any natural (or other) resource.

The entire world and perhaps even other hereto undiscovered worlds are God's creation. They are a manifestation of His might, His wonder and His power — not of humanity's doing, but only granted to humans by God in His mercy. And so inherently all of creation must be respected and treated with equity.

Once this concept of respect is firmly grounded in our thoughts, attitudes and actions, we can progress further to realize how respect can ensure that we are just in all that we do.

As per the Quran, human beings are God Almighty's vicegerents on this world and inheritors of the earth. God says in the Quran:

{It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth.} (6:165)

A vicegerent has power and authority, but also has responsibility towards every living being it has authority over, a balance in which the relationship is symbiotic; all efforts are conscientious and any achievements are sustainable.

God says in the Quran what means:

{And the heaven, He raised it high, and He made the balance.} (55:7)

The Prophet has said that:

"The world is beautiful and green and verily Allah has installed you as a vicegerent in it in order to see how you act…" (Muslim, 2742)

The responsibility therefore comes with a test attached to it, a duty to ensure that all deeds must be fair, all acts commendable. It is within this framework that Prophet Muhammad's philosophy of care for the environment can be explored and understood.

Even the most taken for granted amenities of life are a blessing from God Almighty, be it the water we drink or the air we breathe as the water could have been bitter to taste while the air may have been poisonous fumes unsuitable for breathing.

These resources and any other must be used in moderation. Processes must be sustainable, ensuring that our heirs have enough for their use and so forth.

Pasture
Pasture

Being Just to Animals

Animals and birds form communities like our own and they will be gathered unto their Lord. Any ill-treatment of them will have to be accounted for; any kindness to them will be blessed.

The Prophet has said:

"The Compassionate One has mercy on those who are merciful. If you show mercy on those who are on earth, He who is in heaven will show mercy on you" (Abu Dawud, 4941)

God forbade purposeless killing of any animal or bird, be it as tiny as a sparrow. The only purpose for which an animal may be killed is for consumption. Hunting for sport is classified as senseless and is wrong. If these rules were adhered to, the life of the baby seal in the beginning of the article may have been spared.

Provocation of animals to fight for sport or entertainment causes pain and harm to the animals and was strongly condemned by the Prophet. The matador who infuriates a bull, leading it on a wild goose chase ending in its death, is just as cruel as the people chasing a bull through the streets.

These and other such acts are demeaning to an animal and deny it the respect it deserves and would have no place in an ecologically conscious settings. There is a narration which tells us that Ibn Umar, the son of Umar ibn Al-Khattab who was the second Muslim caliph, stopped some young boys from target practice on a chicken.

In dealing with domestic animals, kindness was the Prophet's way. He narrated stories where sinners were granted forgiveness on account of some trifling act of kindness they may have shown to an animal. Other narrations mention individuals who were sent into Hell as punishment for cruelty to animals.

He said:

"May Allah condemn the one who branded the donkey" (Muslim, 98) and that it was a sin for a man to imprison animals which were under his power.

It would be interesting to see the response of contemporary battery farmers who breed chickens to live their entire lives in cages so small that they can barely turn around.

In another narration, some of the Prophet's companions captured the chicks of a bird. The irate mother spread her wings and tried to get her babies back. Seeing her, the Prophet asked:

"Who grieved this for its young ones? Return its young ones to it" (Abu Dawud,2675)

To end, it would be appropriate to illustrate the Prophet's fondness of trees. He said that:

"There is none amongst the believers who plants a tree, or sows a seed, and then a bird, or a person, or an animal eats thereof, but it is regarded as having given a charitable gift" (Al-Bukhari, 2320)

He forbade the cutting of trees during war. He has also said that if you are planting a tree and something as serious as doomsday comes upon you, continue planting the tree.

This was the Prophet's way, which requires respect from humankind for the rest of creation that we share this planet with.

This article was originally published on onislam.com on December 21, 2014. 

Against Modernity

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Fazlun Khalid - Islamic environmentalist, Founder-Director, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science

One of the effects of what we’ve now come to know as modernity is that if you’re not up there with the rest of the crowd following “fashion” then you must be backward. Fashion has many guises and its most obvious manifestation is the clothes industry (the words clothes and fashion are now interchangeable) where models manage to look progressively glamorous whilst they progressively wear less and less. This is a trick, and in this trick lies a moral.

Behind the jargon of political correctness and the hype of the advertising industry, the idea of modernity stands as naked as the fashion models. Like them, it exudes glamour at the same time. But it is the fleeting glamour of built-in obsolescence, and its nakedness attracts and devours. This process is most evident in the garish cities to which people are attracted like suicidal moths to a powerful street lamp. It is estimated that over 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities before the end of this century. Think what will happen to these people when the water stops flowing through the taps, as it will inevitably do, and the flush toilets stop working in the high rise blocks.

Seasoned travellers sometimes face the unexpected, and this happened to me in Indonesia during a visit to this mosaic of a country before the financial meltdown in 2008. My colleagues in the Institute of Ecology in Bandung were taking me to a madrassa (Qur’an school) in one of the neighbouring villages. It was described blandly in advance as an alternative school system that employed “traditional methods”. But I was in for a surprise. The person I was first introduced to was the “marketing manager”. A marketing manager in a Qur’an school? This puzzled me. “The economic crisis in the country never touched us,” he told me. “Why?” I asked. “Our fresh produce is in great demand, especially in the cities,” he replied, patiently. My puzzlement grew into curiosity: Qur’an schools equal economic independence, but how could that be?

I was led into a village community, which practiced organic farming for economic self-sufficiency in what was described to me as the traditional way. Here is another example of how modernity plays tricks with words. It is fashionable in the developed world to go into “organic farming” yet the methods used by this movement are as old as the hills, and the people of this village have got it right – it is the “traditional way”. This was one of a network of Qur’an school villages that had survived the ravages of colonialism. Apparently there are hundreds of them and the particular village I was taken to supports about 300 students whose ages ranged from twelve to eighteen. A third of them were female. Most of the learning activities centred in and around the mosque and, when they were not studying, the male students worked in the fields. The female students worked in the packing sheds grading and weighing the produce for market. The village also boasted a herd of dairy cows and a fish farm. There was also a clinic and sports facilities.

The remarkable thing about this community was that the whole ethos of it was non-institutional. I didn’t get the impression of being in a regimented, over-organised place. The feel was that of a village – a community of people of which the students were a part. The income derived from agricultural produce supported the students. The students paid no fees and they were housed and fed by the village. And yet the village made a profit. I then saw the point of the marketing manager.

My discussions with the Imam, who was also the head of the community, ranged amongst other things to self-sufficiency and the way the Muslims used to trade internationally without the help of the banks. I told him about certain Muslim groups in the West who are advocating a return to traditional trading through the use of gold and silver coins. His response was that he does not trust paper money and that his community traditionally kept their surplus wealth in gold. This is how they saved themselves when the crisis hit the country and the banks collapsed.

So we are back to tradition again. The fashion today is for banks and for paper money, which is at the root of the environmental crisis, but any critique of this is considered to be a bit unfashionable, if not loony. Such is the power of fashion and the path to “progress” – another fashionable buzzword, but what does it mean? The term’s application relates almost exclusively to economic progress, but the fact that this is causing massive pollution and species extinction at an alarming rate are issues people are not willing to look at squarely.

And then there is “sustainability”. It is now the buzzword in eco-economics. Very fashionable in fact, but nobody can agree what it actually means. Here in Indonesia, however, we have people living sustainably after the very traditional fashion of their forefathers and learning to cope with the dominant model at the same time. No definitions needed here – just getting on with it. So, tradition is best. It is not about a monopoly of any one faith or nation or tribe or group. Tradition has evolved out of centuries of responses to the rhythms of nature; importantly, it is in context. It is not subject to the vagaries of one economic theory or another, and neither is it dependent on the impulses of global financial markets. This is real progress. It is not polluting and it does not line the pockets of corrupt politicians, racketeers, petty officials and trans-national corporations. Such tradition is by the people, for the people.

This article was originally published on iai news in October 2014. 

On the Recovery of the Ozone Layer

Climate Change
Climate Change

By Hind Al-Abadleh,

Reading the news headlines1 on September 10, 2014 about the start of recovery of the ozone layer over Antarctica cheered my heart as someone who teaches about the chemistry of the ozone hole and the role that chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) played in speeding up the destruction of this ‘shield’ gas up in the stratosphere.

To place this news in the context of environmental history:

In 1974, it was scientifically established that CFCs –used in fridges, radiators, spray cans, and air conditions- are agents that can destroy stratospheric ozone, and it was 13 years after that the Montreal Protocol was established for a total global ban on the production of CFCs by the late 1990s.

This protocol is one of a kind international treaty by politicians, hosted by Canada, that sent the right message to the people of the Earth that governments care about the ozone layer.  It also sent the signal to the industry that manufactured the CFCs that you need to innovate and come up with chemicals that have useful applications to society, but would not cause environmental degradation.  In effect, the treaty revoked the social and political licenses given to industrial sectors that made the CFCs.

We’re in 2014 now, 40 years after the science was established, and 27 years after the Montreal protocol was signed.  It is in September 2014 that reports of the first signs of recovery of the ozone layer are reported.  Why? Because CFCs have a very long lifetime in the atmosphere (140 years for CFC-12 known commercially as Freon 12 or R-12), even after stopping their emissions.  This is why we’re still experiencing ozone loss in Antarctica every winter and spring time in the Southern hemisphere.  While full recovery is projected to happen in 2050, the impacts from global climate change on ozone loss are still uncertain.

Take home messages:

  • Nature has its own recovery time that is on the order of decades when humans acknowledge their negative disturbance of natural equilibrium and gather the political will and courage to act and stop further degradation of natural ecosystems.
  • Governments take a relatively long time to formulate and enforce regulations on industrial emissions.  Why?  Because they’d rather (1) wait for a significant body of scientific data to come through rather than following a precautionary principle of ‘better be safe than sorry’ when new man-made substances are manufactured and dumped irresponsibly, and (2) have unsatisfied and frustrated citizens who demand action on environmental issues that affect people on the ground.

How could we use the above success story to understand the most pressing environmental issue of our time, global climate change?  Again, a bit of environmental history would be useful:

In 1957, increasing CO2 buildup was reported as ‘surprising’ by scientists at the Scripps Oceanographic Institute working on international geophysical year projects.

In 1979, the first major international climate science conference was held in Geneva, which led to the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  in 1988.  In 2013, the IPCC started releasing reports on their fifth assessment of the status of the climate.  They announced that the planet has warmed about 0.8 deg C since the beginning of the 20th century, and that CO2 buildup is happening at a faster rate than previously projected.2

There is no debate among scientists that humans are the main driving force behind a changing climate. We are currently experiencing the disruption and impacts3: faster rates of melting ice caps, ocean acidification, depletion of fresh water resources, increased severity of storms, floods and droughts with impacts on crop production, in addition to rising surface and atmospheric temperatures.

One could argue that the success story of saving the ozone layer through the Montreal Protocol is hard to replicate for solving global climate change because the industries and consumer products that were dependent on CFCs represent a much smaller sector than the gigantic fossil fuel industry that underlies our current way of life in the 21st century.

This very statement could either depress us to no action, or motivate us to rethink our current value system to innovate our way out of a fossil fuel era.  After all, humanity did not transition from the stone age because of lack of stones!  Similarly, we have the potential to transition from a fossil fuel-dependent civilization without burning every drop of oil in the ground.  It was refreshing to read about a new fossil fuel divestment group in Canada, called “Fossil Free Faith-Canada’s Interfaith Divestment Network”4 that “aims to be a source of support and resources for Canadian faith communities and their members who are committed to or considering climate action, especially around fossil fuel divestment and clean energy reinvestment.

We’re now in 2014 (57 years after reporting CO2 buildup).  Governments of the world have met many times, 4 since 2007, in Bali, Copenhagen, Cancun and Qatar, and left with no concrete steps on how to move forward.

Determined not to lose hope and motivated to work to send a loud message to politicians, people from all walks of life will be marching on September 21 during the 2014 UN Climate Summit meetings taking place in New York City.  The ‘People’s Climate March’5 is being planned by hundreds of coordinated efforts among hundreds of social and environmental non-governmental and non-profit organizations.

Peoples Climate March
Peoples Climate March

Marches around the world will also take place outside the U.S. during September as well.  The demands are clear5: “a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.”  The film, Distruption,6 features leading scientists, historians, activists and faith-based leaders and documents the planning and calls to join the largest people’s march for the climate in the history of human beings.

These critical times in history challenge us to rethink who we are, where we’re going, and what ideals and ethical principles we struggle to live up to.  It is incumbent that we stand on the right side of history as concerned people who are empowered by scientific knowledge and rich inherited and collective human wisdom.

References:

1 http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/international-action-against-ozone-depleting-substances-yields-significant-gains/index.html

2 https://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/pr_1002_en.html

3 ‘What We Know’ initiative on Climate Change from AAAS:http://whatweknow.aaas.org/get-the-facts/

4 http://fossilfreefaith.ca

5 http://peoplesclimate.org

6 http://watchdisruption.com

Hind Al-Abadleh is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, ON.  She could be reached via email: halabadleh@wlu.ca

Getting to Green During Ramadan

Green Ramadan 2014  

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. 

[1] Wills, A. (2010, June 21). Recycling To-Go Plastics. Retrieved June 2014, fromhttp://earth911.com/news/2010/06/21/recycling-to-go-plastics/
[2] 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
[3] 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

Islam offers important lessons for environmental movement

Climate Change By: Syed Rizvi,

When I first heard of Obama’s most recent plan to combat climate change, I thought about the issue of the environment more broadly.Ninety-seven percent of scientists say climate change exists, and according to 18 scientific associations,humans are the prevailing cause for this change. Putting aside the inevitable political wrangling over such a plan, the environment is something that stands as a universal concern. The details of Obama’s plan may receive legitimate criticism, but cutting coal pollution is without a doubt a prudent course of action. Yet Congress and the American people are having difficulties coming together on this issue.

About 83 percent of Americans are affiliated with a religion, thus religion is a driving force for a majority of Americans. In addition, faith is the biggest authority on morality, and environmentalism is a moral issue. That is why religion can and should take leadership and provide political aid to environmentalism. It should boggle the mind of any conscientious person why environmentalists haven’t been able to team up with religious blocs, including Jews, Christians and Muslims. I don’t know the answer to that question, but I can speak on Islam’s articulated and well-documented beliefs on protecting the environment. Recognizing Islam’s position on the environment will help redefine a widely misunderstood and misjudged religion so that Muslims and non-Muslims can work together on tackling environmental issues here at the University of Texas at Austin and abroad.

To determine the ‘Islamic view’ on any certain issue one must reference Islamic jurisprudence, which is derived from two main sources. The first source is the fourth and the most holy of holy books, the Quran, and the second source is hadiths, or the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). It is important to note that while the beliefs presented here are held by a majority of Islamic schools of thought, if not all, there are still varying interpretations, and if a conclusion has consensus it may be reached by different means. In fact, there are four schools of jurisprudence in the Sunni sect of Islam and also a separate Shia sect of Islam.

In regard to the preservation and protection of the environment, Dr. Nasr Farid Wasil, the former Mufti of Egypt, or Sunni scholar and interpreter of jurisprudence, states that humans “must keep the universe as pure and magnificent as Allah [the Arabic word for God] has created it” because humans are the guardians of the world. One of the supporting pieces of evidence is Surah, or chapter, 16 verses 5-14from the Quran, which talks about humans being entrusted with the world and its bounties. Nearly 1,400 years ago, Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (peace and blessings be upon him), a divinely guided leader for Shiites and the father of the Sunni schools of thought, wrote extensively on the sciences. His writings warned that we should not pollute the environment, otherwise the planet would become uninhabitable. Surah 6 verse 141 supports Imam Jafar al-Sadiq’s (peace and blessings be upon him) scientific postulation with a stern warning to humanity not to be wasteful and harvest the land in consideration of its vitality.

In addition to the the Holy Quran and its teachers, Muslims look to the greatest teacher the Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Muslims find answers to many of life’s questions in hadiths. According to Al-Bukhari and Muslim, Sunni collections of hadiths, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said that “Muslims will always earn the reward of charity for planting a tree, sowing a crop and the birds, humans, and animals eat from it.”

With this brief introduction of Islamic jurisprudence on environmentalism, it is important to know that there is real work being done by Muslims in today’s world. Although without the force of law, the Indonesian Ulama Council, Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body, made the unprecedented move recently of outlawing all activities resulting in wildlife extinction, and in Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, called for “all-out endeavors to protect the environment in Iran, and urged a halt to the environmental damage caused by the new constructions,” according to the Tasnim News Agency, an Iranian government news agency. In addition, there are Muslim organizations that strive to protect and conserve the environment like the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences.

However, this is not nearly enough. Here in Austin and more broadly in America, the Muslim community is not as concerned with environmental issues. For example, in recent history, none of the Muslim organizations at the University of Texas at Austin have hosted or organized an event with the purpose of supporting environmentalism. This may be a problem shared by communities of other faiths; however, as a Muslim, it is important not only to educate but to act. As Muslims, it is important to realize that protecting the environment is a part of our faith as clearly demonstrated, and for non-Muslims, it is vital to see the Muslim community as partners in the advancement of our world and its shared goals. Religious organizations on campus working together can serve not only to build on Austin’s environmental accomplishments but also to build mutual understanding, working toward a political unity that promotes a moral voice on issues like environmentalism, so that cutting coal emissions is not all that we do to combat climate change.

This article was originally published in The Daily Texan on June 12th, 2014. 

The “Muslim” response to climate change?

INDD
INDD

By: Hind Al-Abadleh

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) started releasing reports on their fifth assessment of the status of the climate starting in September 2013.  The latest report on adaptation and mitigation came out last Sunday, April 13.  The reports are the synthesis of scientific studies on climate science from field, laboratory and modeling work, which shows with greater levels of confidence that humans are the main driving force behind a changing climate.

Mainly, the high carbon, consumer-driven life style powering industrial civilizations and those aspiring to catch up are saturating the planet with the junk we continue to pump into the atmosphere.   We are currently experiencing the impacts(1): faster rates of melting ice caps, ocean acidification, depletion of fresh water resources, increased severity of storms, floods and droughts with impacts on crop production, in addition to rising surface and atmospheric temperatures.

I’ve written before(2) on how Islamic teachings provide an ethical worldview of Nature based on Quranic verses and traditions of Prophet Mohammed – PBUH.  Motivated by these teachings, and in response to the call of the IPCC for humanity to adapt and mitigate climate change, I believe that Muslims can take a leadership role in this arena.

The goal would be to reduce their carbon footprint by 40-80% as a community inspired by its faith by staring now through practical steps to be implemented in their mosques, community centres, businesses and homes:

1)    Energy conservation:  One old-fashioned way of adapting to climate change is to conserve energy.  We need to become more efficient in energy and material consumption.  In our minds and deep in our hearts, we need to connect being conscious of God (having taqwa coupled with internal accountability) with how many light switches we keep on or off and how long we keep the cars idling for no good reason.   We need to embrace behavioral changes that monitor our energy consumption everywhere we go.  Requesting energy audits to mosques, busineses and homes are necessary, and following up on the recommendations by improving insulations, and replacing old appliances with energy efficient ones, will not only save money in the long run, but also reduce carbon emissions dramatically.

2)    Smart and environmentally-friendly Sharia investments:  To keep global warming to 2 degrees this century, we need to keep 66-80% of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground.(3)  This means that we need to burn about 20-30% strategically as transition fuels to clean energy generation.  Currently, Sharia-compliant investment firms invest in fossil fuel energy companies because oil is considered an ‘asset’ like gold and silver.  Well, if we are to truly live up to teachings of our religion, Muslim investment firms should be among the early birds in divesting from fossil fuels, and investing instead in emerging clean energy technologies likes solar and wind, and in technologies that aim to capture carbon from large point emission sources to prevent its addition to the atmosphere.

3)    Abolishing factory farming: Muslims are among the largest consumers of red meat and poultry around the world.  As a fast growing visible minority in Canada, the halal industry is expecting to grow substantially to meet their needs.(4,5)  It has been estimated that producing 1 kg of beef results in more CO2 emissions than going for a three-hour drive while leaving all the lights on at home.(6)  The root cause of the high carbon emissions is the factory farming practices driven by high consumer demands.  I’ve written before on Muslims relationship with food, and the need to care for animals’ well being and not only how they were slaughtered.(7)  This area of the economy that is driven by Muslims consumer demand for halal food present a golden opportunity to ‘vote with our wallet’ to abolish inhumane factory farming practices that are carbon-intensive, and to encourage natural and organic ways of raising animals for food.

Climate change is symptom of a disease that infected humanity at large and threatens its survival.  Inspired by a belief system that places the human being as a steward of the Earth and the rest of God’s creation, and by a rich heritage and history that embodies how a human civilization could thrive in harmony with Nature, Muslims ought to revive the spirit of their commitment to living by the message in the Quran and traditions of Prophet Muhammad –pbuh.  I sincerely pray that Allah make us from among those who reflect and follow the best of what is being said.

References:

1)    'What We Know' initiative on Climate Change from AAAS:http://whatweknow.aaas.org/get-the-facts/

2)    Through religious lens: combating climate change: http://iqra.ca/2009/through-religious-lens-combating-climate-change/

3)    Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0081648

4)    Halal in Toronto: http://vimeo.com/16597158

5)    Canadian Halal Meat Market Study:http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/afu9886

6)    Meat production 'beefs up emissions': http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/jul/19/climatechange.climatechange

7)    Our relationship with food – should we really care?’:http://iqra.ca/2011/our-relationship-with-food-–-should-we-really-care’/

Hind Al-Abadleh is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, ON.  She could be reached via email: halabadleh@wlu.ca

Islam and Animal Rights

Sheep  

By: Luyfiyah Suliman

All living beings – humans, birds, animals, insects etc – are worthy of consideration and respect. Islam has always viewed animals as a special part of God's creation. Mankind is responsible for whatever it has at its disposal, including animals whose rights must be respected. The Holy Qur'an, the Hadith, and the history of Islamic civilization offer many examples of kindness, mercy, and compassion for animals. According to Islamic principles, animals have their own position in the creation hierarchy and humans are responsible for their well-being and food.

Islam strongly asks Muslims to treat animals with compassion and not to abuse them. The Holy Qur'an states that all creation praises God, even if this praise is not expressed in human language. Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) often chastised his Companions who mistreated animals, and spoke to them about the need for mercy and kindness.

Holy Quran and Animal Welfare

The Holy Quran contains many examples and directives about how Muslims should treat animals. The Quran describes that animals form communities, just as humans do:

"There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but they form communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they all shall be gathered to their Lord in the end"(Quran 6:38).

The Quran further describes animals, and all living things, as Muslim - in the sense that they live in the way that Allah created them to live, and obey Allah's laws in the natural world.

“Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praise all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise, and Allah knows well all that they do.” (Quran 24:41)

"And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures" (Quran 55:10).

Animals are living creatures with feelings and connections to the larger spiritual and physical world. We must consider their lives as worthwhile and cherished.

"And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures" (Quran 55:10).

These verses serve as a reminder to us that wildlife, like humans, are created with purpose. They have feelings and are part of the spiritual world. They too have a right to life, and protection from pain and suffering.

Ahadith and Rights of Animals

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) exhorted Muslims to show kindness and compassion towards animals and birds, and repeatedly forbade cruelty towards animals.

"Whoever is merciful even to a sparrow, Allah will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgment."

“A good deed done to an animal is like a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as cruelty to a human being."

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) once passed by a camel that was so emaciated that its back had almost reached its stomach. He said, "Fear Allah in these beasts who cannot speak." (Abu Dawud)

Humans were created by Allah, the Almighty, to be custodians and guardians of the Earth. Killing without need- that is killing for fun- is not permissible.

The Companions said,”O Allah’s Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He replied: “There is a reward for serving any living being.” (Bukhari)

A group of Companions were once on a journey with the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and he left them for a while. During his absence, they saw a bird with its two young, and they took the young ones from the nest. The mother bird was circling above in the air, beating its wings in grief, when the Prophet came back. He said, "Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its young? Return them to her." (Muslim)

In Islam, hunting for sport is prohibited. Muslims may only hunt as is needed to meet their requirements for food. This was common during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, and he condemned it at every opportunity.

Few Points to Ponder

We need to seriously ask ourselves – is the Muslim community upholding the rights of animal despite explicit orders from Allah (SWT) and the Prophet (SAW)? What should our role be, not only in the debate on such subjects, but in conservation and protection of animals and the environment as a whole? Have we disenfranchised wildlife? How do the laws of the country in which we live stand up to the Islamic principles? And finally, how does Islam help us to find solutions to the dilemmas we face?

It is not impossible to demand greater action and consideration for the natural world. Bolivia has gone as far as to legally grant nature equal rights with humans and has introduced the Law of Mother Earth which reportedly assigns 11 new rights to nature, including: ‘the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.’ Ecuador has also changed its constitution to give nature "the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution".

These laws are considered radical, but what it enshrines does not ask for much, indeed only that animals, and nature are given equal respect and care- as much as is expected of us in Islam. Individuals and governments have an important role to play in educating the public animal welfare and establishing institutions to support animal well-being.

Lutfiyah Suliman is a Master of Science student at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and the Media representative for Green Deen South Africa. Her research delves into the impact and influence of journalism and the media industry on environmental science communication. Lutfiyah’s interests lie in environmental communication, education and policy. For queries related to the content and media aspect of Green Deen please email at lutfiyah.suliman@gmail.com

This article was originally published on EcoMENA on February 25th, 2014. 

Photo Credit: TheAnimalDay.org

Combating the Disease: Materialism and its Effects

Eaton Centre By Safia Latif

Rows of colorful handbags repose on shelves and display tables around me. They boast of their structured silhouettes and textured leathers: boarskin, saffiano, patent. But these are not just any handbags. Carefully embossed in the center in glossy patent black or lined in gold, the words of the designer brand catch the eye of even the most timid shopper.

The brand, a multi-million dollar high-end fashion company and daughter of a multi-billion dollar global corporation—caters to the world’s sophisticated elite. Handbags, accessories, and clothing are specially designed for a particular type of woman: the career woman on a mission, who gracefully flags down taxis and makes important business meetings just in the nick of time—all while modeling the latest haute couture and thousand-dollar handbag. She is fun, playful, and smart. But most importantly, she is rich.

This fashion house, like any other global brand, capitalizes on our naivety—our false belief that somehow a glamorous new handbag can solve our problems. Worse yet, it fools real working-class Americans into thinking that they too, can be worth a million dollars. You can be a celebrity so long as you acquire this superfluous material item most likely manufactured in China for a fraction of American minimum wage yet sold at the price of an average car payment. The shattering reality, however, carries deep social ramifications.

Last year, I lived abroad in Egypt where I studied Arabic at Alexandria University. When I returned to the States, I began the tedious process of applying to jobs. Egypt—where socioeconomic problems run rampant and a large portion of society visibly lives below the poverty line—had rendered me disillusioned with modernity and materialism. So one can imagine what a painful process it was to go from life in a developing country to the shiny interior of a wealthy corporation. I became a temporary employee at the above mentioned company to make, as one of my co-workers thoughtfully put it, “fun money,” while I pursued other more long-term enterprises.

I began work, detached and aloof yet resolute in my antipathy towards consumer culture. I hated the slew of handbags and their patina of false promises. I observed as customers attempted to trade in their personal problems for a new designer purse. One woman confabulated with me about a death in the family. She had recently come into money and decided to treat herself. Another woman also lamented over the loss of a family member. This evidently prompted a shopping spree. She bought four purses and a wallet and trying to justify her lavish expenditure stated matter-of-factly, “I needed retail therapy.”

My co-workers and managers, also puppets of a deceitful corporate puppeteer, cautiously pick up various handbags in the store, and as if children, cradle them longingly. Every particular purse has a name. Eerily, they are treated like animate objects, virtually assuming human value.

“I love this little guy,” my co-worker says, eying a pebbled cowhide neon green purse. “Little Curtis is my faaavorite.” Another popular piece, the “Beau Bag” or “boyfriend” bag replaces the need for male companionship. It is, according to the official fashion brand’s website, “the ideal companion to tote around town.”

Sales associates, like at most corporate companies, are paid minimally with little health benefits. Pressured into buying products, as the company demands that employees model the name brand at work, associates find their already meager paychecks further diminished. Duped by the illusion that employee discounts actually save them money, they end up spending more in the long run. One manager, a young dainty single mother, struggles to make ends meet every month. Although she works full-time, managing unseemly hours and forsaking invaluable time with her three-year-old daughter, she complains mournfully of having to eat ramen noodles for dinner. As American social critic, Chris Hedges contends in his book, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle:

“The wild pursuit of status and wealth has destroyed our souls and our economy. Families live in sprawling mansions financed with mortgages they can no longer repay. Consumers recklessly rang up Coach handbags and Manolo Blahnik shoes on credit cards because they seemed to confer a sense of identity and merit. Our favorite hobby, besides television, used to be, until reality hit us like a tsunami, shopping. Shopping used to be the compensation for spending five days a week in tiny cubicles. American workers are ground down by corporations that have disempowered them, used them, and have now discarded them.”

In an age of capitalist fantasy and materialism, Hedges’s words ring painfully true. The upshot is unavoidable. Societal ills are tempered with and all together forgotten for a beguiling fantasy world that aims to encroach upon even the most fervent iconoclasts. Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad also preaches against materialism. In a scholarly essay, he notes:

“When we forget who we are, so radically, the protection begins to be withdrawn, and we are at the mercy of the material world, which we now trust and love more than we trust and love God.”

That God should become secondary to our materialistic pursuits is a very real scare. We see it happening in our local Muslim communities. Muslim families compete over luxurious homes and fancy cars. Intrinsic value is measured monetarily by occupation and financial status rather than moral and spiritual conduct. Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), warns against this precarious state in surah Al-Takathur: “Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you. Until you visit the graveyards,” (Qur’an, 102:1-2). The reality—cold and difficult to swallow—reminds us that all trivial pursuits end in permanent privation. The middle path, however, can be hard to find.

Lately I have nurtured a radical desire to withdraw from the modern world, and become somewhat of an ascetic. Although many of my friends candidly pointed out severe flaws in this plan, I still struggle to maintain a balance between love of this world and love of the next. Shamefully I must admit that, despite all my attempts in resisting the urge, I am not immune to the sparkly consumer allure of this fashion house. I purchased my first leather handbag a few weeks ago. I can’t say that I am any happier than I was before. But I can say with every certainty, that money would have been better spent elsewhere. In the future, it might do well for me as well as everyone else battling the pathology of consumer culture to remember the beautiful adage attributed to the Prophet Jesus, alayhi as-salaam, blessings be upon him:

“The world is a bridge; so pass over it to the next world, but do not try to build on it.”

This article was originally published on SuhaibWebb.com on January 21st, 2014. 

Photo Credit: n.karim

Reconnecting with Nature

By: Klaudia Khan

The concept of responsible management and taking care of the natural environment is firmly embedded in the teachings of Islam, so Muslims shouldn’t be reminded that living eco-friendly lifestyle is part of their religion. Or do they?

Fazlun Khalid, a man synonymous with the eco-Islam movement and one of the most influential contemporary Muslims, claims that people nowadays, including Muslims, are getting more and more disconnected from nature.

It’s not only Islam that teaches respect for the natural environment, but it’s an idea rooted in every religious system in the world. Yet as the philosophy of the Post-Enlightenment Era divided the sacrum from the Profanum, industrialization and urbanization allowed people to live lives that are physically disconnected from nature, the sacrosanct link between the Creator and the creation has gone into abyss.

The result is a new world order in which the decisions are made by the people who care more for economical growth and the disastrous consequences this growth causes to the planet. And while environmentalists of all faiths are proclaiming the doomsday for Earth, the decision-makers seem deaf or oblivious to their reasoning and continue pushing our civilization towards environmental disaster. So is everything lost for us and future generations?

Not if we wake up now and make radical changes to our lives. But it’s not going to be easy as we have to make a step back and give up on luxuries that we got accustomed to. We have to go back to the Prophetic tradition of simplicity. As Khalid put it: "We have to live simply, so that others may simply live."

Reconnecting with Nature seen through a faith perspective was the subject of a series of lectures followed by discussion organized by Dr. Rizwan Nawaz at Leeds University on November 12.

Khalid was the first speaker with his lecture on ‘Reconnecting with Nature – An Islamic Perspective’; and his vast knowledge and experience in the field of conservationism made the listeners realize the seriousness of the problem.

His lecture provided an exposition of the problem, while the other speakers tried to present the possible solutions.

Emma Clark, a well-established international garden designer specializing in Islamic gardens, a writer and a senior tutor and lecturer at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London gave a presentation on ‘The Islamic garden as an opportunity for bridge-building between cultures’.

She started by explaining the concept of Islamic garden and the philosophy underlying all of its elements and went on to point out how the sacred art of Islamic gardens, the indisputable beauty and the magnitude of nature can speak and be understood by people from all the cultural and religious backgrounds and help build bridges between the communities.

Traditional Islamic gardens – Charbagh, are reflections of heaven on Earth, but the idea of heaven which they reflect is common to people of different faiths, not only Muslims.

And so through pondering on the beauty and the manifestation of cosmic harmony expressed through the design of Charbagh, people could find what has been missing in their lives and start the process of realigning themselves back to nature.

Mark Bryant, Development Officer for the study of Islam at University of Cardiff, and the last speaker at the event presented a lecture ‘Are British Muslims green?’ which offered some insight into how local Muslim communities are reconnecting with nature, often through creating green spaces, Islamic inspired gardens and communal gardens.

One of the success stories he related is the Community Garden created by the Wapping Women’s Centre in the East London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Creating a green space for vegetable garden enabled women not only to grow their own greens, but also boosted their confidence, helped establish a sense of belonging and promoted some pro-ecological changes to their lifestyle.

While many British Muslim communities are skeptical about the gardening projects, those who give it a try and start soon begin to see the positive changes that such ventures bring, their outlook changes and they do embrace more green lifestyles.

The lectures were followed by refreshments and discussions over the cups of tea, where the speakers, organizers and the visitors freely exchanged impressions, opinions and ideas. It was an interesting event and it certainly provided lots of food for thought and inspiration. Maybe the best way to start reconnecting with nature is by getting physically close to it. To find our right place within Allah’s creation we need to realize its grandeur. “Assuredly the creation of the heavens and the earth is a greater (matter) than the creation of men: Yet most men understand not.”(Surat Ghafir: 40:57).

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 was originally published November 24, 2013 on Onislam.  Photo credit from mwanasimba

Climate Change: A Religious Perspective

album photo cefic.indd By:Mohammed Salarbux

Nowadays, two groups have mainly polarized the discussions about global warming and the Environmental Protection Act. On one end, the religious right and its pundits have been very active in denying climate change and making mockery of any meaningful environmental protection measures. On the other end, environmentalists, who are ignoring and/or ridiculing the role of religious upbringing in shaping people's attitudes toward the environment, are undermining the importance of spreading their message across a large group of people.

Science, religion and preservation are not necessarily mutually exclusive in their approach to this important subject. In Islam, seeking and accepting knowledge, respect to the environment, preservationism, and respect of other forms of life are part of the faith. There are no contradictions within Islam for Muslims to accept the scientific research of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), and it is a part of its belief system that humans will suffer the consequences for any abuse of the earth's natural resources.

It is without doubt that had humankind practiced a balance between enjoying the earth's natural resources without being wasteful and preserving the environment for future generations, the world would be today a very different place. Furthermore, such a concept would have made it easier for the environmentalists to convey their messages to others. We would not have reached the edge today from run away Carbon Dioxide increases into the atmosphere that not only threaten our climates, but also our very existence. Pollutants and overfishing are destroying a great food resource, while gluttony and waste in food distribution further threaten a clean and healthy food supply. Food has now become an entertainment with non-stop television commercials promoting a lifestyle where people live to eat instead of eating to survive.

We are in a vicious adaptation to the needs of consumerism; everything must be fun and entertaining. This demand for convenient and immediate gratification has, for example, led to the mass production of petroleum based plastic products that not only leach PCB's into the food and water supply, but also create the ubiquitous waste of bottles and bags that swirl along our highways and have formed a giant whirlpool of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean further decimating wildlife and our food supply.

"Corruption appears on land and sea because of (the evil) that man's hands have done, so that He may make them taste a part of what they have done, in order that they may return." (Quran 30:41)

Contrary to other religious beliefs, in Islam, humans have to take full responsibility for their actions and not expect divine intervention to mollify their abuse of the world's resources. Sadly some environmentalists have failed to make the distinction that not all religions are inherently antagonistic toward exploring meaningful solutions to halt the degradation of our environment. The Quran teaches us that men are the caretakers of the earth (Quran 2:30), and are responsible for maintaining it. This belief is part of the Muslim tradition. While definitely not a part of the history of secular movements who tend to advocate, "Enjoy life as much as you can" which has contributed to the neglect of so many important aspects of our ecosystem. As a result our rain forests, aquifers, and waterways have suffered and cannot be expected to continue to sustain man's endless appetite for more "stuff."

Water conservation in Islam is more a matter of principle. The Prophet (pbuh) forbids wasting this precious resource even when it is available in abundance. He also cautions against its waste even while performing certain religious rites.

"Do not waste water even if you were on the bank of a flowing river." (Prophet Mohammed [pbuh])

Interestingly, one of his sayings was promoted by a water bottling company in Australia to stress the importance of conserving water. It is a developmental lesson with profound meaning that should be taught to all children. Just imagine our planet if we raised our children to respect the waters of our earth from the smallest springs to the mighty oceans. How much more would they appreciate the water flowing from the tap?

It has been counter-productive just to blame religion per se for obstructive solutions to rectify and address climate change, instead of focusing on the impact that consumerism has had on the ecosystem. The Quran has clearly laid down a balanced and commonsensical approach, wherein individuals are instructed to enjoy the good things of life, but not become intoxicated with their pleasures and abuse them. The "live as if there is no tomorrow" way of life only serves to further degrade our environment by encouraging everyone to consume more and more of the earth's natural resources. The Islamic position, however, (often not reflected in the Muslim world today) of believing in "life is a test" is overlooked as is the belief that we will be held accountable for our actions. Even a skeptic would admit the benefits of this concept, which should make one at least pause and be more conscious of the squandering of the earth's resources.

This article was originally published September 17, 2013 on HuffPost Green.  Photo credit from Phillippe 2009

 

Environmental Jihad

Environmental Jihad
Environmental Jihad

By Shajuti Hossain

One must think twice, maybe three times, before using religious terminology. Words that are commonly used in the media to describe “religiously motivated” acts of violence are of special concern.

I recently got an email with the subject, “Environmental Jihad?” from the League of Conservation Voters, a nonprofit that promotes pro-environment policies. It said, “Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson just called our climate action campaign ‘an environmental jihad.’ We need every LCV supporter to help us push back. Tell him to apologize for his offensive rhetoric and stop blocking congressional action on climate change now.”

Upon reading this email, I laughed with disgust. Not because I am an environmentalist (although I am quite a fervent one), but because I am a Muslim. I and every other Muslim I have spoken to have always learned that “jihad” is “the struggle to please God.” Examples included giving charity even when money is tight and visiting the sick even when time is short. These are the acts of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) that Muslims must follow.

Muslims frequently and contentedly hop on this struggle bus when our intention is to please God. Helping a friend move out even though we haven’t gotten much sleep is jihad, because God says to use our resources for the benefit of others. Waking up at 6:00 a.m. on weekdays to work out is jihad, because God says to take care of our bodies. Visiting our parents on weekends even when college life begs us to stay on campus is jihad, because God said to be dutiful to our parents.

My career goal is to be an environmental policy-maker and that is jihad, because I am struggling to protect human beings from the devastating effects of environmental degradation. Jihad is not committing acts of terror, suicide or corruption, even if the Muslims with the loudest voices these days say so. Since they do not understand the concept of jihad, the rest of us, whether Muslim or not, must educate ourselves and others of its true meaning before we use it as a negative term or as an insult.

It is unfortunate to hear Sen. Johnson, like the mainstream media, use the word “jihad” negatively. One cannot blame him, because the media has accepted and spread a distorted definition of the word. Then again, one cannot put the entire blame on the media either, because people with Muslim names are propagating a misinterpreted definition through their actions. Regardless of the blame, those of us who want to use the term “jihad” must make sure we use it appropriately to avoid turning a spiritual, self-reflective and inspirational word into a word that implies intolerance and hate.

Other phrases in the news, such as “Islamist” or “Islamic extremist” or “Islamic fundamentalist” also have negative associations, even though they actually have positive meanings. Did the journalists and politicians who use these phrases even stop to think what these phrases really mean? “Islam,” which literally means “submission,” comes from the word “salaam” which means “peace.” Do journalists and politicians know that they’re condemning “pacifists” and “submission-ists?” Granted, there are some people out there who call themselves Muslim and say they are killing in the name of Islam, but they are ruining the peaceful message that Muhammad brought to us from God. Why can’t we call these terrorists “apostates” or “heretics” or just leave religion out of the equation?

Muhammad always emphasized taking the middle, or moderate, path and to stay away from any kind of extreme. So a true Islamic extremist is actually moderate.

Politicians, the media and those who strive to think and speak more intelligently must think about the true definitions of jihad and Islam in order to do justice to these beautiful terms. The general public expects politicians to lead with respect and expects the media to provide accurate information. If policy-makers and journalists want to stay true to their work, they must do their research. They can begin by substituting “pacifist” or “moderate” for “Islamist,” “Islamic extremist” or “Islamic fundamentalist” and think about how that sounds. That will prompt them to use a more appropriate phrase to describe those who tarnish the image of a religion that emphasizes peace, unity, tolerance, self-improvement, knowledge, helping others and trusting God. They can thereby use religious terminology more carefully and appropriately while educating themselves and others.

This article was originally published September 13, 2013 on The ChroniclePhoto credit from Peter Blanchard

Hungry for Change? Impact Hunger

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By Shehnaz Toorawa

When we fast in Ramadan, we inevitably think of those who feel hunger every day of the year. Can you imagine if no food was available at sunset? Millions of people face this crisis—their hunger doesn’t end at sunset. We know the grim statistics: 850 million people in the world are undernourished (that’s one in every six human beings), 5.6 million children under the age of five die from hunger-related illness each year. Yet, our world produces enough food to feed twice the global population.

So why are people hungry? A lack of power and justice, not a lack of food, causes hunger. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

If anyone fulfills his brother’s needs, Allah (glorified and exalted be He) will fulfill his needs; if one relieves a Muslim of his troubles, Allah (glorified and exalted be He) will relieve his troubles on the Day of Resurrection’’ [Bukhari and Muslim].

Here are 8 easy and effective ways to change your eating habits so you can help end hunger in the world today:

1. Eat more fruits and vegetables

Livestock consumes 80% of the grain the United States produces. In Mexico, where poverty and hunger are abundant, 45% of the nation’s grain is fed to livestock. In most industrial nations, corporations raise animals in factory farms that consume huge quantities of grain, water, hormones and electricity, and produce tonnes of toxic wastes. A diet high in grain-fed meat consumes two to four times more land than a vegetarian diet. If everyone ate meat at the North American rate, the world would run out of farmland and food! Try to reduce your share of the world’s food and energy by eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat. 

2. Eat locally grown food

The farther food travels before it reaches your plate, the less money the rural farmer retains. When you purchase coffee grown in Uganda, for example, 10% of the profit goes to the farmer and 90% is consumed by giant North American corporations that import and process the coffee. The farther food travels, the more energy it consumes for pesticides, preservatives, ripening, packaging, processing, transportation and sales. The food processing industry in the United States consumes ten calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food energy it produces.

In North America, we like to eat all our fruits and vegetables in winter. To meet this demand, governments of developing countries subsidize and encourage farmers to plant one-crop monocultures for export. This leaves small farmers unable to grow food for their families and communities. With one crop to rely on, farmers in the developing world become vulnerable when market prices fall or a disease hits their crop. Monocultures need high inputs of hazardous pesticides that threaten the health of farmers and their environment.

This winter, forget the guavas and mangoes. Find the local farmer’s market and buy what’s in season. When you buy local, you avoid an unjust food trade system that keeps the poor hungry.

3. Choose organic food

Conventional farming, especially monocultures, requires high inputs of pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation that eventually degrade soils. 30 million hectares from the world’s 240 million irrigated hectares are severely damaged by salt build-up. Almost a third of the world’s cropland is abandoned due to soil erosion. A lack of land forces many farmers to clear and destroy forest land that cannot sustain agriculture. Pesticides and fertilizers trap farmers in a cycle of spending more and more on chemical inputs as insects become immune and the land loses its fertility. Eventually small farmers in developing countries fall into debt or degrade their land and are forced into poverty.

Organic farming uses natural methods to protect the quality of agricultural land and soil and ensure that the land can continue to produce food. Organic agriculture may be the best way to ensure a continuous world food supply and protect the health of farmers and consumers. Each organic product you buy supports farmers who care about hunger and the environment.

4. Buy fair trade food

Fair trade eliminates injustices in the trade system and guarantees farmers a minimum price for their crop, enough to sustain their families. Fair trade shortens the market chain for products, allowing the farmer to receive a higher proportion of the profits. Fair trade standards require the farmer to follow environmentally and socially ethical agricultural practices. A portion of the profit from fair trade products funds social development projects in the farmer’s community. Currently, fair trade coffee, tea, chocolate, fruit, rice, and spices are available in North America. The next time you go to a grocery store, look for the fair trade logo.  Every fair trade purchase prevents hunger in a poor farming community.

5. Avoid genetically modified food

Genetically modified crops are “owned” by corporations that have a monopoly on the seeds. Farmers cannot save the seeds for re-planting. They must purchase new seeds from the company each year and must succumb to the corporation’s regulations and prices. As more and more crops become genetically modified, our food becomes a ‘product’ rather than a renewable resource. GM crops pose health risks because they are not tested for environmental and health effects and are not subject to government safety regulations. Do your best to avoid GM products to prevent our food from becoming a corporate commodity, controlled by a few large companies.

6. Buy less and avoid wasting food

On average, an individual in a developed nation consumes twice as much grain, twice as much fish, and three times as much meat as an individual in a developing nation. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) warned us that

“No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for his breathing” [At-Tirmidhi].

Along with overeating, North Americans waste large amounts of food. 30% of consumable food in the United States is lost in retailing, food service, and consumers. The Quran tells us to

“eat and drink: but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess” [7:31]

Help end hunger with a commitment to buy less, eat less and waste less food.

7. Choose charities that make people independent

Food aid from rich nations does not help hunger. Rich nations often dump surplus grain on poor nations, as “food aid”. This “aid” rises and falls to maintain the market price of commodities in rich countries. Food dumping reduces the price of farmers’ crops in developing nations. Farmers cannot sell their produce and earn enough to invest in future crops.

Poor farmers need long-term solutions. They need investments and interest-free loans to buy land or equipment so they can diversify their crops and survive times of drought or falling prices. When you send Zakat overseas, choose a charity that helps people become independent, rather than dependent on aid.

8. Write letters

Change the world with your words. Encourage governments to cancel the high interest debts owed to them by developing countries. The Quran warns,

O you who have believed, fear Allah (glorified and exalted be He) (glorified and exalted is He) and give up what remains [due to you] of interest, if you should be believers“ [2:278] 

Debt repayments to rich countries prevent poor countries from spending on poverty, hunger and welfare of their citizens. Start a family letter-writing campaign to eliminate debt and hunger.

Hunger in the world is intimately connected with what we, in North America, choose to buy and eat. Decide as a family to earn extra rewards by changing the way you eat so you can impact hunger. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

If any Muslim feeds a Muslim when he is hungry, Allah (glorified and exalted be He) will feed him with some of the fruits of Paradise” [Sunan Abi Dawud].

Shehnaz Toorawa is a teacher with a degree in education,  professional writing and geography. She also holds a Shariah degree from the American Open University. She is a busy homeschooling mother of three and is active in the Toronto community and currently host a blog called myinkspiration.

This article was originally published November 5, 2012 on ProductiveMuslim. Photo credit from ginnerobot.

Environmental Justice in Islam

Sunrise By Khaled Dardir

Is what am I doing harming another living being on Earth?

Is being equal the same as being “ecoual”?

For thousands of years man has had a symbiotic relationship with the environment. We took only what was needed, and did not take any excess from the land. Did the Prophet (PBUH) say anything about saving our planet? Did he promote any ideas or practices to ameliorate the growing concern about the future of the Earth and its resources? The Prophet (PBUH) was probably the first environmentalist, born over 1400 years ago, he took care of every creature he came across.

Indeed, all of nature, in the Islamic view, is in a state of continuous worship. Trees and grasses, fish and animals, are all bending in a sweet, invisible breeze that wafts their worship back toward their creator. Human beings can learn from this process of unwavering devotion and seek harmony with it by joining with other creations in worship of Allah.

What Allah left for us is a trust; everything is a blessing. Islam expresses great concern for the environment. A number of verses in the Qur’an and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad  have addressed this topic.

Ibn Mas'ood  reports, "While we were on a journey with Allaah's Messenger  he went a short distance from where we had encamped. There we saw a small bird with two of its chicks and caught them. The bird was fluttering when the Prophet came back, so he    asked, 'Who has distressed it by taking its chicks?' Then he asked us to return the chicks. There we also saw an anthill and burnt it out. When the Prophet saw that, he asked, 'Who has burnt it?' When we informed him that we had done it, he said, 'Only the Lord of fire has the right to punish with fire.’ This was the character of the Prophet (PBUH); he understood the difference between eco and ego. He did not treat other creatures negatively because he was bigger or thought himself to be more important. On the contrary, he went out of his way to protect and serve every living entity which crossed his path. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet said, "A man felt very thirsty while he was on the way, there he came across a well. He went down the well, quenched his thirst and came out. Meanwhile he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. He said to himself, "This dog is suffering from thirst as I did." So, he went down the well again, filled his shoe with water, held it with his mouth and watered the dog. Allah appreciated him for that deed and forgave him." The Companions said, "O Allah's Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?" He replied: "There is a reward for serving any living being." (Bukhari)

Today people say “we are top of the food chain” -  that’s ego. We should say we are “eco-ual” The ecosystems are built on a delicate balance created by Allah (swt); a balance so delicate that if one creature is wiped out or removed for whatever reason the system fails and major catastrophes await.  So how are we responsible for disturbing this ordained balance? How could we hurt our one and only planet? We are doing it directly and indirectly. We are directly hurting ourselves and the creatures around us by clearing forests, mining, drilling for oil, etc. Indirectly we are poisoning ourselves and the environment via genetically modifying our food, pesticides, plastics, ruining our water supplies, etc. We need to see the big picture as Muslims. Is what am I doing harming another living being on Earth?

We are a species that would sacrifice our health for money, then we reach a point where we must spend that money to make ourselves healthy again. We do the same to the environment. We rape the land seeking its value, then when use our profits to fix our errors. Allaah has set severe punishments for those who damage and abuse natural resources. He says (what means): “Eat and drink from the provision of Allaah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption." [Quran 2:60] When you understand the cyclical nature of the environment, you see how you can turn problems into solutions.

The Quranic solution to the problem our environment is facing is, in a word, holistic. Living a truly Islamic life requires avoiding the evils of extravagance and the indulgence in materialism. The way that harmony can be grasped is by living within our means with the other creations Allah bestowed upon us.

If I destroy a person’s property that is called vandalism, but when corporations clear hundreds of acres of land, destroying the lives of millions of creatures we call it progress. This land is not inherited from our ancestors it is borrowed from our children and is a trust left to us by Allah (swt). The Prophet said, "Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, Allah will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment."  The listeners asked, "O Messenger of Allah, what is a just cause?" He replied, "That he will kill it to eat, not simply to chop off its head and then throw it away." (An-Nasa'i)

Abdullah ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet said, "A woman entered the (Hell) Fire because of a cat which she had tied, neither giving it food nor setting it free to eat from the vermin of the earth." (Bukhari)

Today, with the increasing awareness of the dangers facing our planet and the great interest in green ideas, a reflection on the guidance of the Prophet in this area proves relevant. What is distinctive about the Prophet's approach to environmental issues is the connection he establishes between green practices and the Hereafter reward, which, represents for Muslims, an incentive greater than any worldly gain or reward. Thus, his lessons prompt a greater care for the Earth and more effort to conserve its resources. We are responsible for the effects of our actions, our purchases, and our lack of involvement in serving any living creature in need.

This planet and body is a TRUST from Allah. Make dua that Allah allows you to continue taking care of that trust.

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”

Photo Credit: paul bica