Muslims Can Welcome New Papal Decree

Pope Francis acknowledges Sufi mysticism when he stresses God’s presence in all nature in his environmental encyclical, writes Rashied Omar.

Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical entitled Laudato Si (“Praise be to you”): “On Care For Our Common Home”, which was released on June 18 is undoubtedly one of the most important interventions in the campaign for environmental justice in the 21st century.

It is not surprising that the 184-page document, released in eight languages, took more than 18 months to draft.

This second papal encyclical has already had a significant impact on shifting the global debate in favour of those who advocate that humanity should act with greater care for our common home. This is clearly in evidence at the discussions taking place at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) which is convening in Paris until Friday.

Moreover, Laudato Si has had a ripple effect within the inter-faith community. The imminent release of Laudato Si inspired the issuing of a statement in June by more than 330 rabbis in a letter on the climate crisis entitled: “A call to action to prevent further climate-fuelled disasters and work toward eco-social justice.”

Laudato Si no doubt has also inspired the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change released in Istanbul in August.

Muslim scholars, such as Joseph Lumbard, who have engaged with Laudato Si, have concurred that the important themes in Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment resonate well with the teachings of Islam on the environment.

Here I would like to highlight two of them that were also evident in the exegesis and commentary on Laudato Si, by Father Peter-John Person.

First and foremost, one of the most significant aspects of Laudato Si is that it frames the issue of environmental conservation within a framework of justice. In Pearson’s interpretation, Laudato Si is a document about justice with a focus on the environment, rather than the other way around.

Pope Francis sees the issue of climate change through the eyes of the poor and this is the key hermeneutic or interpretive lens.

In other words, the pontiff wants the economic, social and environmental world orders to be fairer to the poorest.

Laudato Si criticises consumerist, profit-seeking economies, and emphasises acute sensitivity to debt, inequality, and poverty, and suggests differentiated responsibilities based on wealth and ability. Compassion and justice require voices to speak up for the most vulnerable and marginalised – those often left voiceless, those who have been pushed into poverty, those who have been denied access to food, water and other basic human rights, those who stand to suffer the most from climate change, while having contributed the least to the problem.

The social, economic and environmental dimensions cannot be considered in isolation, but should be treated integrally as a complex joint crisis. These social justice concerns resonate fully with the teachings of Islam.

It is most eloquently depicted in the Qur’an in Surah al-Rahman, chapter 55, verses 5-7, where God proclaims:

“God has raised the cosmos,

And set up (for all things) the balance.

So do not transgress the balance.

Weigh, therefore, (your deeds) with justice,

And cause no loss in the balance!”

From an Islamic perspective, the environmental crisis humanity is facing today can be viewed as a symptom of a deeper spiritual malaise.

This spiritual malaise has come about through extravagant and consumerist lifestyles that have transgressed the balance between humans and nature. An imbalance or altering of the mizan (balance) has taken place at the individual, social and global levels and this is now being reflected in the environmental crisis.

Such a perspective is also evident in the nomenclature and mission of The Claremont Main Road Masjid’s environmental programme: Muslims for Eco-Justice.

A second new theme that Laudato Si takes up is that of acknowledging the existential rights of those with whom we share this planet, namely animals and plants, etc, and more importantly, recognising their spiritual essence.

In the sixth chapter of the encyclical, Francis writes that humanity can “discover God in all things”. Hence, the pontiff asserts, “there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face”.

Interestingly, in order to drive home and substantiate this point, in footnote 159 of the encyclical, Francis credits a 9th century Muslim Sufi mystic Amir al-Khawas for the concept of nature’s “mystical meaning”. In his theology, al-Khawas was obviously inspired by the abundance of Qur’anic verses that depict the natural environment in this manner.

Joseph Lumbard in his response to Laudato Si has provided the following examples of Qur’anic verses wherein God affirms the spiritual essence of our natural environment. The Qur’an proclaims, “whatsoever is in 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” (17:44).

According to an Argentinian priest, Father Augusto Zampini, “it is certainly unusual for a Pope to cite a Muslim Sufi in support of his theology of environmental transcendence, but those who have known Pope Francis since his days in the slums of Argentina know that this shows his personal touch on the encyclical”.

By quoting al-Khawas, Zampini argues Francis is “inviting all human beings to transcend, to go out of themselves and therefore to improve the relationship that we have with other people, with the Earth, with God”.

Moreover, Zampini contends that through his citing of a Muslim mystic “Pope Francis is trying to foster ecumenical and interfaith dialogue about shared spirituality”. Such a view is confirmed by the following quote from Laudato Si in which Francis emphasises the importance of interconnectedness and shared spirituality:

“Everything is connected. Concern for the environment this needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.”

In conclusion, it is my considered view that through Laudato Si, Francis has inaugurated a constructive platform for credible faith and secular leaders to enter into renewed dialogue on the critical question of climate change and discuss ways in which we can bring ourselves closer to living in harmony and reverence with nature.

Moreover, by locating such a conversation within the broader framework of Francis’s theology of compassion for the poor, which offers a powerful social critique of our global culture of consumerism, covetousness, and opulence – inter-religious dialogue should find even greater resonance among Muslims.

It is my sincere hope that more Muslim scholars will take up the dialogical challenge presented in Laudato Si in a spirit of reverence and hospitality comparable to that with which the 12th century Muslim leader, Sultan al-Kamil, welcomed Saint Francis of Assisi, from whom the current pope takes his name. Muslims can and should engage substantively with Laudato Si in order to build broad solidarity with meaningful global commitments for the collective good, through responsible stewardship of the earth.

* Rashied Omar is imam of the Claremont Main Road Mosque located in Cape Town, South Africa.

This article was originally published on IOL on December 8, 2015. 

Be Calm & Plant Your Seedling

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Shaykh Yasir Fahmy shares two important points of action to remember in the face of the tragedies surrounding us. Courtesy of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.

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Shaykh Yasir Fahmy was born and raised in northern New Jersey and completed a BS from Rutgers University and worked for three years in corporate America. During his seven years of studying in the Middle East, he completed a degree from the prestigious Al-Azhar University, while simultaneously studying with other numerous scholars. Shaykh Yasir received numerous ‘ijazaat in the subjects of fiqh, hadith, aqeeda, usul al-fiqh, seerah, tazkiyyah, mantiq, Arabic grammar, sarf (morphology) and balagha (rhetoric). In 2013, he became the first American Azhari to teach in the renowned Al-Azhar Mosque.

History of Medicine in the Islamic Civilization

Medicine

By: Amira Ayad

For early Muslims, knowledge was a treasure they would eagerly seek. Medical science and pharmacy were no exceptions.

Muslim physicians’ early practice emphasized the importance of preserving health through natural gentle interventions. The Hippocratic philosophy of ‘Premium non nocera’(first don't harm) was a well kept notion in their minds as it reflected the teaching of their religion. Prophet Muhammad’s words, “Your body has rights over you” (agreed upon - Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī) paved their way to amazing advancement in the medical, pharmaceutical, and health fields.

Studying history, we can see that medicine within the Islamic civilization passed through three main stages (Abouleish, n.d.). The first stage started in the early 7th century by collecting and translating the medical knowledge of the Greeks, Persians, Assyrian Syriacs, Indians and Byzantines. (Nagamia, 1998)

Soon enough, Muslim physicians started to elaborate on the collected body of knowledge and largely expanded it through experience, exploration, experimentations, testing, and practice. This was during the Golden Age of the Islamic civilization that brought the original contributions of Muslim physicians in the medical, pharmaceutical, herbal, nutritional and botanical fields. This second stage extended during the ninth through thirteenth centuries. During the last stage, however, decline occurred which reflected the stagnation and gradual deterioration of the whole Islamic nation.

During the second stage, many physicians, Arabs as well as non-Arabs, contributed to the flourishing of the medicine. Physicians like Al-Razi, or Razes (841 – 926 AD), and Ibn-Sina, known as Avicenna (980 – 1037 AD) were pioneers in the medical fields. Their books and teachings were used as bases for medical study in Europe for centuries to come.

Al-Razi’s fame started with the establishment of a hospital in Baghdad in the 9th century which included a special ward for mental illness. He also pioneered in holistic and spiritual medicine, advocating healing and caring for the whole patient. This idea was well reflected in his book ‘Al-Tibb al-Rawhani’ (Spiritual Medicine) where he emphasized the importance of heart purification and ethical and virtuous conducts in achieving total healing.

In his famous book, Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb (The Law in Medicine), Ibn-Sina laid the foundation of medical practice, compiled a complete Materia Medica, described diseases and malfunctions  and gave a full formulary of remedies, suggestions and recipes for treatment.

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Balancing Body

 

As early as the 10th century, Muslim physicians were treating eye diseases and even performing cataract surgery. Al-Mawsili, an Iraqi ophthalmologist and physician, designed a special needle to remove cataract by suction. And, an amazingly complete text book on eye disease ‘Notebook of the Oculist’ was written by Ali Ibn Isa also in the 10th century Baghdad. On Ibn Isa’s valuable reference was based the European knowledge of modern ophthalmology. (Al-Hassani, 2006)

Ibn al-Nafis, the Syrian Muslim scholar, described in a treatise written in 1210 AC the role of the heart and lung in blood purification and elaborated on Ibn-Sina’s description of the pulmonary circulation. Ibn al-Nafis accurately described the anatomical structure of heart chambers and the fine structure of the circulatory system hundreds of years before Western discoveries.

Early Muslims also laid the foundation of modern day pharmacology through the early work of Sabur ibn Sahl, Al-Razi and Ibn-Sina in the early 9th century. Later on, in the 11th century, Al-Biruni wrote his famous master piece ‘The Book of Pharmacology’ compiling an amazing work on drugs and remedies. Al-Zahrawi’s writings ‘Al-Tasrif’ (Dispensing) further taught methods of drug preparations and formulation starting from simple remedies all the way to complex compounding. (Al-Hassani, 2006)

The principal concepts embodying medicine as practiced during this period were based on the essential meaning of balance. They presented the physician’s role as one of in balancing and harmonizing overall bodily functions while restoring health and healing on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual planes.

Physical ailments were thought to arise mainly as a result of accumulation of excess waste substance in the body. Overeating, improper food choice and other unhealthy habits were regarded as the source of the accumulated morbid matter, and a disease’s symptoms appears when the digestive process becomes overwhelmed. (Al-Jauziyah, 2003)

More importantly, however, it was the fundamental belief of a Muslim physician that the physical body should never be the sole interest of the physician. It is the Ruh, or soul, which gives this body its vitality and true essence. (Nagamia, 1998) It was thus essential for a Muslim physician to be well aware of the diseases of the heart and soul and how to treat them along with managing physical symptoms.

Mixed Approach

 

During the third stage of this thriving medical history within the Islamic world, and around the fourteenth century, a new type of medical writing emerged. The authors were religious scholars, rather than physicians. Their aim was to preserve the wealth of knowledge and heritage compiled and practiced by Muslims over the years from fading away before the rapidly rising Western society. (National Library of Medicine, 1998)

Their writings all carried the same title: Al-Tibb Al-Nabawi (Prophetic Medicine) and was intended as an alternative to the Greek-based medical science. Most famous among them were the writings of Al-Jauziyah, As-Suyuti, and Az-Zahabi which are considered as the base for what is today referred to as ‘Islamic Medicine.’

Al-Jauziyah’s recommendations for approaching the patient reflected the preserved notion of balance and holistic approach taught by early Muslim physicians. He advised physicians to investigate all areas of their patient’s life, research the real cause behind the disease, examine the patient’s feelings, mood and life style and consider dietary options before resorting to drugs. (Al Jauziyah, 2003)

The physicians were knowledgeable about the ‘sickness of the heart and soul’ and took great care when approaching them in a professional yet caring manner. They realized the effects of stress, emotions and mental state, and used positive affirmations from Qur’an and Prophetic Sunnah to increase hope and strengthen the will for healing.

Moral values, love, courage, patience, kindness, and altruism were prescribed as the best remedies for the inner self, and prayer was practiced for maintaining the connection with God, preserving the health of the body and soul, strengthening faith, bringing happiness and energizing the body against acute ailments. (Ayad, 2008)

The six primary channels that should be balanced to avoid contacting diseases, as stated by As-Suyuti, further reflected the wisdom of early Muslim knowledge. He emphasized the importance of the quality of air we breathe, food and drink we consume, physical exercise and movements, our emotional state and feelings, our sleep and waking cycles, and our body’s ability to excrete toxins, get rid of accumulated morbid matter and retain valuable nutrients.

“Whenever it is possible to use gentle remedy, do not use something powerful instead,” he wrote, advising a physician to be “gentle in his speech, kind in his words and close to God.” (As-Suyuti, 2009)

Az-Zahabi, on his side, recommended using only medicines that are similar or related to regular food and that contained no noxious or harmful substances. (Az-Zahabi, 2004)

Starting from the beginnings of the seventeenth century, Islamic Medicine was challenged by rapidly spreading science of conventional modern medicine, which eventually replaced the core of the health care systems in most of the Islamic countries (Nagamia, 1998).

Contemporary practice of Islamic Medicine is restricted to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh where one can find established medical schools teaching this type of medicine, certified and supervised by the Indian Medical Council. (Nagamia, 1998) And while these schools do teach such medical approach while being highly influenced by the teachings of the old Greek practice, it is also common to find conventional physicians in Middle Eastern countries and Malaysia giving medical advice and some treatment while making use of the Islamic approach. Some believe that this mixing of the old and the new, the eastern and the western, makes their patients benefit from ‘the best of both worlds.

References

Abouleish, E. (n.d)Contributions of Islam to medicine. In S. Athar (Ed.), Islamic medicine. Retrieved May 16, 2007.

Al Jauziyah, I. Healing with the medicine of the Prophet (2nd ed.) (J. Abual Rub, Trans.). KSA: Darussalam. 2003.

Al Jauziyah, I. Healing with the medicine of the Prophet (2nd ed.) (J. Abual Rub, Trans.). KSA: Darussalam. 2003.

Al-Hassani, S. (Editor). 1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World. UK: Foundation for Science Technology and civilization. 2006.

As-Suyuti, J, A. Medicine of the Prophet [Ahmed Thomson, translator]. UK: Ta-Ha publishers. 2009.

Ayad, A.. Healing Body & Soul. KSA: IIPH. 2008.

Az-Zahabi, S. الطب النبوي [Prophetic medicine]. (M.A. Al-Merashly, Ed.). Lebanon: Dar An-nafaes. 2004.

Nagamia, H. F. (October 1, 1998). Islamic medicine: History and current practice. Retrieved May 16, 2007.

National Library of Medicine. Islamic Culture and the Medical Arts: Prophetic Medicine. Retrieved June 6, 2007. April 5, 1998.

Amira Ayad is a natural health consultant and a holistic nutritionist. She holds a Master Degree in Pharmaceutics; and a PhD in natural health. She is a Board Certified Holistic Health practitioner by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP) and a Registered Orthomolecular Health Practitioner by the International organization of Nutrition Consultants (IONC). She published 2 books: Healing Body & Soul, in 2008; and, The True Secret, in 2011. Amira teaches Biochemistry & Body Metabolism at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto, Canada.

This article was originally published on onislam.com on May 2, 2014. 

Alhamdulillah for rocks, pebbles and stones

alhamdulillah for rocks It is easy to marvel at the rocks, pebbles and stones that built the wonders of the world. From the Pyramids of Giza to the Leaning Tower of Pisa to the Kaaba in Mecca, we see the artistry of man. And they help us reflect on the magnificence of Allah’s artistry.

Narrated Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said: ...And we said: O messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), tell us about the material from which Paradise is made, and he replied by saying: “Bricks of gold and silver, and mortar of fragrant musk, pebbles of pearl and sapphire, and soil of saffron. Whoever enters it is filled with joy and will never feel miserable; he will live there forever and never die; their clothes will never wear out and their youth will never fade.” [At-Tirmidhi 2526]

Photo Credit: Muaz Nasir

The “Alhamdulillah Series” was inspired by Ruzky Aliyar who featured a series of nature images with the tagline “Alhamdulillah”. The series was profiled on Muslim Matters during the Winter of 2012 and quickly drew praise for the simplicity of the message. Building upon this effort to remember the many blessings of Allah, Khaleafa.com has picked up the initiative and will continue to highlight the many signs of Allah.

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

Green Leaders: Maisaloon Al-Ashkar

Maisaloon Al-Ashkar
Maisaloon Al-Ashkar

Green Leaders is new online series, profiling Muslims who are involved in the environmental movement. The goal is to highlight the achievements of those within our community and provide role models for youth who are interested in pursuing a career in the environmental field. This week we follow Maisaloon Al-Ashkar, a university student and activist in British Columbia who is part of Fossil Free Faith, a national multi-faith consortium that supports and engages our faith institutions in climate justice, fossil fuel divestment and strengthening the role of  faith in our shared future.

1) Briefly explain your educational and professional background. What piqued your interest in the sustainability field? Was there a defining cause, person or event that was your source of inspiration? What possible career options do you have in mind?

I just started my second-year at Simon Fraser University, particularly focusing on First Nations Studies and Political Science. I work for the City of Burnaby as a Program Leader, through which I facilitate a wide-range of activities for children.

I’ve always had a spark for contributing to my communities, but I often got absorbed by popular organizations that glamourize youth engagement and approach activism from a subtle, yet problematic perspective. My view of involvement shifted in grade 12, when I took a Social Justice course. It was the pivotal moment through which I began to think critically, and learned how to conceptualize and contextualize embedded systems of oppression. As I reflect back on that class, I find that it was also a source that guided me to reconnect with and rediscover the causes that are dearest to my heart.

I feel the most gratitude when I do work that directly pays homage to my communities and where I come from. Also, as an immigrant-settler who lives on unceded Coast Salish Territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, I want to engage in work that meaningfully supports Indigenous sovereignty. The main career options I’m currently exploring involve a combination of human rights law and community organizing.

2) Your identity has played an instrumental role in shaping your worldview when it comes to social and environmental justice. What are the parallels between the two and what experiences/lessons have you drawn from this? Why is it important that we review the impact of social issues with an environmental lens?

I’m a Muslim Palestinian woman of colour. These labels that constitute my identity are deemed problems that must be silenced by current hegemonic systems. So, engaging in activism is essentially both an act of resistance and survival for me; I’m fighting for my liberation, which is deeply intertwined to the liberation of beloved people and sacred places.

My grandparents were Palestinian farmers who planted so much knowledge in me through oral history, teaching me that land, culture, and traditions are interwoven, and that they cohesively contribute to the resilience of our well being, both as communities and as individuals. My grandparents were also refugees, and it really hits home when I witness that many communities, who are often already marginalized, are facing displacement due to the climate crisis.

Social and environmental issues are inseparable, and acknowledging this reality allows for approaching such matters with a meaningful and holistic lens. Existing colonialist and capitalist structures have formed the belief that lands, peoples, and cultures are separate entities, and internalizing these principles desensitizes and isolates us from everything around us. However, when we begin to look for the impact of social issues with an environmental lens, and vice versa, we can pave the way for reciprocal solidarity among diverse communities and empower our calls to action.

3) Describe what Fossil Free Faith is about. How did the organization arise and what is its mandate? Why is it important that youth become involved in the divestment movement? What lessons can you provide for other youth that are looking to become more environmentally active?

Fossil Free Faith is an interfaith divestment network, composed of passionate leaders who contribute their respective faithful voices to climate justice. It’s powered by Faith & the Common Good and Spirited Social Change, emerging from volunteers across Canada who are eager to involve faith communities in the divestment/reinvestment movement and contribute new perspectives to climate justice. We have a shared vision of bringing together diverse individuals who want to advocate from a place of faith or spirituality.

From a divestment perspective, fossil fuels and the corporations that perpetuate their use are embodiments of capitalism, colonialism, and injustice. They operate through the domination over lands, extraction of resources, and exploitation of all the life that relies on these lands and resources. Thus, divestment is one piece of the climate justice movement that seeks to revoke the immense socio-economic power that the fossil fuel industry holds and give this authority back to local communities.

I would encourage youth to learn about what it means to be environmentally active to them personally, and to also find ways to ground this awareness to a bigger picture that goes beyond making sustainable choices.

4) Are there any parallels you can describe between Islam and the environment specific to your educational/career path? How has your faith been a source or inspiration or direction in your life (both professionally and personally)? What is one environmental message you would like the Muslim community to adopt?

Faith is central to my soul, and so it’s a guiding force in my life. Islam means peace, and in many ways, it brings me internal peace, as I find that faith is very much integral to my self-care and sense of hope. Stewardship and valuing the intricate environment that Allah blessed us with are concepts I learned from Islam, and from stories about prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and how he was mindful of respecting his surroundings.

I decided to join Fossil Free Faith’s Youth Fellowship program because I was keen on finding an avenue that would allow me to directly unite my Islamic knowledge with my activism, while collaborating with youth like myself who also want to mobilize their respective communities to interlink faith and climate justice.

It’s crucial that I acknowledge that the Muslim community is widely diverse, as we are often generalized and made into a homogenized group. The Muslim identity isn’t one-dimensional; rather, it intersects with one’s ethnicity, gender, culture, and so many other aspects. The personal awareness I want to share with our exquisitely diverse Muslim community, is that all the magnificence of life around us is a reflection of Allah, and so I believe it’s a daily act of worship to treat the environment and honour all the humanity it encompasses as such; a reflection of the Divine.

5) Can you provide any advice for someone considering a career in the environmental field? Are there any lessons you have learned, mentors who were influential or causes that influenced you so far? What advice can you provide to those considering becoming involved with the social justice movement? 

I’m eighteen-years-old, and although I’m grateful to have a strong sense of purpose, I’m definitely still exploring the idea of career paths. I value intersectionality and aspire to bring all of who I am to any experience. I want to free myself from the narrative that restricts ourselves and our dreams into categories and hierarchies. I believe that we can bring an environmental lens, or any particular climate justice perspective, to any field we choose or encounter.

The social justice movement has opened my eyes to systemic forms of oppression, allowing me to become much more critical of the status quo around me. I’ll admit that this awareness can be daunting at times; however, I can wholeheartedly say that my soul, mind, and body are much more content now. I’m the granddaughter of Palestinian farmers, refugees, resisters and freedom fighters, and it is now that I truly appreciate the powerful beauty of my ancestors. I feel their legacy living within me when I engage in activism, which is a subtle yet empowering internal spiritual experience that brings so much meaning to my life. So, the social justice movement has been a blessing to my overall well being.

From what I’ve learned thus far, I strongly encourage starting from within to be able to meaningfully and holistically situate yourself in any activism you participate in; try to learn about your ancestors, cultures and heritages, and connect with causes that speak to your heart. I find that the process of doing so, is in itself a profound act of dismantling oppressive structures, as it supports me in revitalizing my spirit and intertwining my roots along the way.

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

Alhamdulillah for Pomegranates

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And He it is who causes gardens to grow, [both] trellised and untrellised, and palm trees and crops of different [kinds of] food and olives and pomegranates, similar and dissimilar. Eat of [each of] its fruit when it yields and give its due [zakah] on the day of its harvest. And be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess (Quran 6:141).

Anas bin Malik narrated that the Prophet Muhammad said, "There is not a pomegranate which does not have a pip from one of the pomegranate of the Garden(of Jannah) in it" (Abu Nu'aim).

It’s pomegranate season! The pomegranate is a superfruit packed with antioxidants, vitamins B5 and C, potassium and fibre. It improves heart health and helps to manage the body’s glycemic index (helping to prevent diabetes). Alhamdulillah for pomegranates.

Photo Credit:Matt

The “Alhamdulillah Series” was inspired by Ruzky Aliyar who featured a series of nature images with the tagline “Alhamdulillah”. The series was profiled on Muslim Matters during the Winter of 2012 and quickly drew praise for the simplicity of the message. Building upon this effort to remember the many blessings of Allah, Khaleafa.com has picked up the initiative and will continue to highlight the many signs of Allah.

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

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.

Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change

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The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change was launched by Islamic leaders from 20 countries at the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium in Istanbul on August 17-18, 2015. The Declaration presents the moral case, based on Islamic teachings, for the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims and people of all faiths worldwide to take urgent climate action.

Read the declaration: http://islamicclimatedeclaration.org/islamic-declaration-on-global-climate-change/

Related News Articles:

“Major Islamic Climate Change Declaration Released” Press Release, August 18, 2015 http://www.greenfaith.org/media/press-releases/major-islamic-climate-change-declaration-released

“Can Islamic scholars change thinking on climate change?” By Davide Castelvecchi, Quirin Schiermeier, & Richard Hodson, Nature, August 19, 2015 http://www.nature.com/news/can-islamic-scholars-change-thinking-on-climate-change-1.18203

“The Islamic Climate Change Declaration Could Be More Effective Than Pope Francis's Encyclical” By Emma Foehringer Merchant, New Republic, August 19, 2015 http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122575/islamic-climate-change-declaration-more-effective-encyclical

Shared from: Forum on Religion and Ecology Newsletter (September 2015)

International Islamic Climate Change Symposium

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Photos from IR staff in Nepal following the earthquake, 2015. Introduction

This year, 2015, is a watershed year for the climate movement. In December governments will converge in Paris where they are expected to forge a new, international climate agreement that is robust, ambitious and comensurate with the scientific imperatives outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We believe that their ambition has to be driven by a bigger, broader and stronger citizens’ movement.

Faith communities increasingly recognise that the climate crisis is also a moral crisis. The adverse impacts of climate change that we have witnessed so far, present a clear case for people of faith to examine the underlying moral causes of this phenomenon. It prompts faith communities to take action to halt the desecration of nature that leads to destruction of creation, human and otherwise. Furthermore this is an opportunity for faith communities to provide a vision, inspire others and lead the way in building a fairer, safer, cleaner world built on renewable energy – leading the way on a journey to an economic system that meets development goals and is also spiritually fulfilling. The Islamic faith community represents a significant section of the global population and certainly, can be influential in the discourse on climate change.

Overview

A group of top academics has been engaged in drafting an “Islamic Declaration on Climate Change” and the initial draft has been circulated widely for consultation. The symposium will be an experts’ meeting convened to seek broad unity and ownership from the Islamic community around the Declaration, and to further discuss the amplification of messages and mobilization of various actors and groups around COP 21 and in the future. In attendance will be senior international development policy makers, leaders of faith groups, academics, and other experts. This symposium shall also provide opportunities to connect with leaders from other faiths as well as secular organisations, and promote inter-faith and cross-movement cooperation around aligned and joint messages. It will moreover highlight the future role and contribution of Muslims to the climate movement, and present ample communications opportunities, the aim being to secure high level representation from the diversity of actors mentioned above.

For more information about the symposium, please visit: http://islamicclimatedeclaration.org

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].

5 Ways to be more green this Ramadan

The blessed month of Ramadan is drawing nearer by each sunset – and boy can I feel the excitement in the air.

There is no doubt that in the month of Ramadan; we are able to renew and strengthen our spirituality, increase both our mental and physical state and purify our hearts.

Yet, as we change our habits to become closer to Allah, we should also look at ways to become closer to the earth (figuratively speaking of course). “It is He (Allah) that has appointed you (mankind) as stewards in the Earth…” (Qur’án, 35:39) - With this in mind, I have compiled my 5 ways to be Green this Ramadan

1. Drop the Grande Vanilla soy sugar free, shaken not stirred latte - now hear me out. I know that coffee is very much the essence of intelligent life on Earth and without it we become only shells of our former selves. But this Ramadan can be a great way to drop the coffee, not only will it have lasting health benefits, but coffees are making the world more brown than green, and no I’m not talking about teeth stains. It takes 140 litres of water to create one cup of coffee. With water scarcity becoming a real and prominent issue effecting 1.2 billion people- let’s do what we can to help!

For more information about the hidden cost of water click here

2. Eat your greens... please - go veggie this Ramadan, I mean you can do full throttle and go the whole month as a vegetarian (or dare I say it, a vegan *insert horror scream*) or just avoid the meats (please take note of the plural) once or twice a week. From Middle Eastern Dolma to Southern Asian Aaloo Gobhi, the Muslim world has a range of vegetarian dishes just waiting for you to try.

To find out even more reasons to go veggie click here

3. Skip the supermarket, get the local stuff - the majority of our food from the supermarket is imported. This means that the food we eat has travelled thousands of miles, leaving massive impacts on our environment. This Ramadan let’s try to eat as local as possible, whether that be growing our own mints in the flower pot for those special mint teas after Taraweeh, or going to the local city farm/community garden to buy some greens. To be fair, if you live in London, you’re spoiled for choice. With the amount of city farms, community gardens and farmers market- you’ll never believe just how close they are to home and how cheap the veg is! A bag of spinach, a bag of lettuce, a packet of strawberries and a bunch of coriander all for under £5 #WINNING, and if you help grow the produce you can take it home for free! Did I mention #WINNING

Check out your nearest local producer here

4. Spend more time outside - let’s try and not get sucked in by the comfort of our homes this Ramadan, let’s spend more time outside! Whether that is by starting to garden, turning that small patch into your own personal produce section, or praying and doing dhikr outside. Once you find that special outside space, visit it regularly and let it remind you of what’s at stake.

Just in case you’re not quite sold on the outside thing, click here

5. Don’t take that free water bottle at the Masjid… - unless it is a reusable bottle that you can just keep using till the end of time and the bottle can accompany you forever and ever, much like this sentence. There is no doubt about it, Masjids hit full capacity during Ramadan, and as lovely as it is, it gets REALLY hot. Now the Masjids do what they can to help - by turning that air conditioning on, and getting the volunteers to ensure everyone is well by giving out free plastic water bottles. Now I might be speaking for myself, but normally I’m there at the word ‘free’- but try to not take those free plastic bottles this Ramadan. Buy a reusable water bottle, not only will you look chic, stylish, effortless (the list can go on) but you will be reducing your carbon footprint, helping clear those landfills sites and reaping up those ‘saving the world’ points.

For more info, check out MADE’s ‘I drink tap’ campaign here

So you have read the list on how to be green this Ramadan! So share and spread the greenness, and just like Hulk, nobody can be too green, so share your own tips below!

Fatima El-meeyuf, Eco Ambassador

This article was originally featured onMADE  in Europe in June 2015. 

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

The Forgotten Sunnah – Standing in the Rain

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By Sh. Khalid Abduroaf

An unusual sound penetrated my train of thought as I sat studying at my desk. I looked up pensively from my book and a few moments passed before I realised that what I was hearing was the sound of pouring rain. A sound so common back in my hometown,Cape Town, was now so foreign to me in the desert city of Madinah.

I rushed out onto the balcony to admire the rainfall. As I stood, witnessing Allah’s answer to the prayers of the community, a strange sight caught my eye down below. A man, instead of running for cover, walked calmly to and into his building. He reappeared shortly carrying a chair. Still in a state of composure, he placed thechair out in the pouring rain and just sat down! He appeared to be enjoying the sensation of the raindrops falling on his skin. I was intrigued.

Back home, many people become grumpy at the first sign of rain or run frantically from it when it catches them unawares. I just kept staring. I then made an intention to find out more about what I had witnessed and soon discovered that spending time in the rain was a practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and His Companions (may Allah honour them), based on these findings:

It is Sunnah (A practice of the Prophet (pbuh)) to stand in the rain and to expose a portion of your body to it.

Its narrated by Imaam Muslim in his authentic compilation from the hadith of Anas, He said: It rained upon us as we were with the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him). The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) unveiled his garment (from a part of his body) until the rain fell on him. We said: Messenger of Allah, why did you do this? He said: Because it (the rainfall) has just come from the Exalted Lord.

And Haakim in his book Al-Mustadrak narrates this hadith with the following words: “When the rain came down from the heavens He (The Prophet May peace be upon him) used to remove his garment from his back until the rain fell on it (his back).”

The scholars have taken proof from this hadith that it is Sunnah (recommended) to expose your body and clothing to the falling rain. Out of happiness that Allah is sending down his blessing and moreover rejoicing that its falling down on us.

And the meaning of the phrase: “Because it (the rainfall) has just come from the Exalted Lord.” is mentioned in the explanation of Sahih Muslim of Imaam Nawawiy by saying: That the rainfall is a mercy which Allah has just created, therefore use it as a blessing.

Imaam Ashafi’ee mentions in his book Al-Umm: It is narrated by Ibn Abbaas (RA): That the rain fell from the heavens so he told his servant to bring out his mattress and saddle so that the rain may fall on it. Abu Jawzaa’ then asked Ibn Abbas: Why are you doing that, may Allah have mercy on you? He (Ibn Abbas) then said: Do you not read the book of Allah: “And we have sent down from the heavens water that is blessed” [Surah 50, Verse 9], Therefore I would like the blessing to fall (incur) on it.

Scholars of jurisprudence have mention the following regarding standing in the rain:

1. The Sunnah of exposing oneself to the rain can be obtained by unveiling any portion of one’s body no matter how small the portion may be like one’s head or arms.

2. One should not expose one’s Awrah.

3. Avoid standing in the rain if it may cause harm or sickness to oneself.

4. It is recommended by some scholars to take Wudu (ablution) and Ghusl (wash) from the rainfall. And they based their deduction on the following Hadith: It is narrated from the Prophet (may peace be upon him) that when stream used to flow he (Prophet) would say: “Leave with us to that which Allah has made pure so that we may purify ourselves from it and praise Allah most exalted.”

Imaam Albayhaqee states that this is a narration from Umar (may Allah honour him) and not from the Prophet (may peace be upon him).

Imaam Nawawiy also mentions in Al-Majmoo’ that: “Its recommended that when the gorge flows (with rain water) to perform wudu (ablution) and ghusl (washing) from it. And if he or she is not able to do both then at least to perform wudu (ablution) from it.

And Allah knows best

This article was originally featured on Fiqhul Hadith in June 2012. Born in Cape Town, South Africa. Graduate from the Islamic University of Madinah. Specializing in the field of Islamic Jurisprudence and its Principles.

Green Tips from the Sunnah

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This article was released in advance of Earth Day 2015 at the Islamic Institute of Toronto. For more information, please visit www.islam.ca. 

By Shaikh Ahmad Kutty

Today, the earth is in a deplorable state: greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from our over use of fossil fuels is creating a crisis of epidemic proportions. Rising sea levels are making parts of the world at risk of disappearing into the sea, and the earth is becoming parched and dry making it more or less unsuitable for further cultivation. Isn’t it about time we asked ourselves how we are contributing to this and what we can do to reverse the process?

Fortunately, for us as Muslims, we have in the Prophet of mercy, a guide for us in even this. And so let us look to, and allow his daily examples to serve as a source of inspiration, and motivation for us in our attempt to live life green.

  1. While brushing our teeth or making wudhu, think of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who never used more than one liter of water for his wudhu and remember that no one can perform wudhu better than he.
  2. As we take our morning shower, think of the three liters of water that the Prophet used for bathing and consider making your shower shorter (not more than five minutes).
  3. Remember that the Prophet’s mosque had only lanterns, which were themselves used sparingly, and that many of our eminent scientists and scholars used the moon light to read and write. Following in their lead, turn off the lights when not absolutely necessary and learn to relax and function without light or in dim light!
  4. Before debating purchasing a new outfit, remember that the Prophet’s wife, Aisha, wore a gown with close to sixty patches on it.
  5. Pitch in to remove litter from the streets knowing that the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said that doing so is an act of charity.
  6. Curb our never-ending desire to consume and amass more by reflecting on the Prophetic words that, “He is not a believer who fills himself while his neighbor is starving!”
  7. Recall that many of the Prophets were trained as shepherds and that a good shepherd is one who is out in the field. So, get to know the earth and its inhabitants and act as a guardian and goodly shepherd over it.

So, let us think of the blessings of Allah and appreciate them, and know that appreciating them means to use them wisely, in moderation and never abuse them or be wasteful. And let's take responsibility for protecting the environment by following in the non-carbon, green footsteps of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him)! 

Huge support for ‘Islam Is Green’ environment campaign

  Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 10.45.58 AMEarlier in March, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) launched its ‘Islam is Green’ campaign in conjunction with the ‘Time to Act Climate Change’ march in London.

The ‘Islam is Green’ campaign saw iERA’s official launch of their official website, a destination designed to empower Muslims in tackling climate change, and fulfilling their religious duties towards nature.

Additionally, iERA provided training and delivered a lecture on the importance of looking after the environment from an Islamic perspective at a local community centre. After the talk, iERA volunteers made their way to the assembly point in central London, where they joined a group of more than 5,000 people from various backgrounds who came together to voice their concern on climate change.

During the demonstration, iERA volunteers handed out leaflets to members of the public informing them of how Muslims take the preservation of the environment seriously. They engaged in many interesting discussions, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Demonstrators were very surprised to know that Islam has a supportive stance towards the environment, and this initiated numerous discussions where they wanted to find out more.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2hdU7zTce0]

iERA also teamed up with an organisation called ‘Made in Europe’, a campaign group who envisage the Muslim community leading the struggle against global poverty, injustice and environmental issues. The collaboration with Made in Europe was very productive, and the feedback from the general public was extremely promising.

The ‘Islam is Green’ campaign was endorsed by the general public who wanted more Muslims to participle in future environmental events.

The iERA team also gained interest from a number of independent media outlets, which led to two interviews with Reel News and Nuwave Pictures.

This article was originally featured on Aquila Style in April 2015. 

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

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

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  Water-Banner

 

TORONTO, March 16, 2015 - Muslims across the world will commemorate Earth Day on Friday, April 24th, 2015, with the ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ as religious leaders deliver a sermon to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity.

“The theme of this year’s Green Khutbah Campaign is “Water – A Sacred Gift,” said Muaz Nasir, the publisher of the Canadian environmental website, Khaleafa.com and one of the founders of the Campaign. “God states in the Qur’an, ‘We made from water every living thing (21:30),’ and we hope, this year, to raise awareness on the immense gift of water that we’re blessed with.”

“The Campaign challenge is to request all Muslims to commit to protect, care for and wisely use our water resources with the 3 C action plan: Consume wisely, Conserve responsibly and Care for our waters.”

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

The ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ commemorates Earth Day that will take place on Wednesday, April 22.

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

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

Environmental concern around the world is on the wane, according to the GlobeScan global poll that tracked public concern on six environmental issues.

The poll found that across eighteen countries, public concern about water pollution, fresh water shortages, natural resource depletion, air pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss is way down from its peak in 2009.

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

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

“Those who violate or abuse the Trust are described in the Qur’an as those who corrupt, degrade and bring ruin on earth,” Muaz Nasir added. “The corrupters abuse the Trust and are in clear contrast to what Muslims must be - the stewards of the earth.”

An extensive online resource has been created by Khaleafa.com (www.Khaleafa.com/greenkhutbah) to support the ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ and Islamic organizations and well-known leaders are throwing their support behind the initiative.

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

Umar Nasir, Media Relations,

Green Khutbah Campaign e: http://khaleafa.com/contact

Watchful Eyes

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Filmmaker Aman Ali shares word of Homegrown Homies, a wonderful new internet short film series with Google about the lives of Muslim Americans. The first episode is about professor and author Dr. Ingrid Mattson and her dog Ziggy.

"Dr. Mattson is one of the most prominent female leaders in the Muslim community, and was almost attacked and received several hateful threats for being in her position," Aman tells us. "So she got a dog named Ziggy to protect herself and her family and thus a beautiful bond was born."

"Our series is steering clear of religion and preachiness because that shit is lame and turns people off," adds Aman, "Myself included. So our storytelling series is about the lives of Muslim Americans focusing on emotions like love, regret, redemption, guilt, sadness, and joy."

Dr. Mattson understood that dogs were haram, or forbidden, when she converted to Islam. She learned it's more nuanced than that. And at any rate, she and Ziggy are best buds forever.

Subscribe for more.

Alhamdulillah for Tea

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The “Alhamdulillah Series” was inspired by Ruzky Aliyar who featured a series of nature images with the tagline “Alhamdulillah”. The series was profiled on Muslim Matters during the Winter of 2012 and quickly drew praise for the simplicity of the message. Building upon this effort to remember the many blessings of Allah, Khaleafa.com has picked up the initiative and will continue to highlight the many signs of Allah.

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