Caretakers of the Earth: An Islamic Perspective

NASA

By Omar Bagnied 

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

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

Walk Gently and Share Resources

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

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

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

Land Preservation and Sanctuary for Wildlife

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

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

Recycling and the Balance of Nature

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

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

Reinstating a Clean Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Canadian Prayer Rug Weaves Together the Stories of First Nation’s People, Muslim Immigrants, and Alberta’s Landscape

Noor Iqbal, an elementary school teacher and weaver of the prayer rug, worked with Kit Wilson to brainstorm ideas of the design, and translate the designs into something that was feasible to weave.

Noor Iqbal, an elementary school teacher and weaver of the prayer rug, worked with Kit Wilson to brainstorm ideas of the design, and translate the designs into something that was feasible to weave.

By Aaron Wannamaker

Thomas King, the Canadian First Nations author, once said,

“The truth about stories is, that’s all we are.”

We express our stories in many ways, such as through literature, film, and song. Art is about telling a story of who you are, or what your world is, in a capsule that can be digested by any of a person’s five senses. It is a window into a unique story.

This is the story of a rug. A rug that, woven into its fabric, are the stories of Alberta, its people, its land, and the Muslim settlers who, over a century ago, came here to start their own lives.

This is the story of The Canadian Prayer Rug.

Five times a day, every day, Muslims stand facing the direction of Mecca for prayer. Typically, they’ll be standing on a prayer rug. For the most part, their eyes won’t be focusing on the intricate arabesque designs of the rug, the arches or monuments depicted on the fabric, or the colours or patterns woven into it. Their focus will be on a higher power, God, and when they are finished with their prayers, the rugs will be folded up and tucked away, perhaps in a cupboard or closet.

But these rugs have much more to say than just being a simple cloth to pray on. They are a medium for cultural expression. They reflect the culture and values of the people who make them, and the places they are born in. From the symbols used, to the type of material, to the patterns and designs, these rugs tell stories: stories of belonging, of history, of place, purpose, and faith.

Omar Yaqub, a professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Alberta, recounts his travels in the Middle East.

The prayer rug he carried with him belonged to his grandfather and had been passed on to him. It followed Omar through his journeys, from the sacred pilgrimage of Hajj, to Tanzania, Turkey, Pakistan, Nigeria and more.

Wherever he went, he saw a myriad of prayer rugs, all made of different materials that were indigenous to the land, with varying colours that were used by locals, and many different symbols that were culturally important.

“I saw that story being repeated in many, many places,” Omar says, “that people were telling a story about where they were from and celebrating things that were around them.”

A few years later, the Edmonton Heritage Council put out a call for applications for creative cultural projects. Omar, also a board member of the Edmonton-based not-for- profit, Islamic Family and Social Services Association (IFSSA), saw potential for a project that could highlight Edmonton’s Muslim community and help both them and the public realize their roots in the broader Canadian context. Omar and the team at The Green Room, IFSSA’s youth program, put together a grant proposal and submitted it to the Edmonton Heritage Council. That project would be The Canadian Prayer Rug.

The goal of the project was to create a prayer rug that spoke to the history of Edmonton’s Muslim community, the culture of Alberta, and also pay tribute to the Indigenous people who live on Treaty Six Territory. In the broader sense, it was meant to contribute to the creation of a uniquely Canadian Muslim identity, and help Canadian Muslims realize the roots they have in this province and in this country.

The Al Rashid Mosque built in 1938 in Edmonton with donations from all the monotheistic faith groups in the region

Edmonton’s Muslim community has been around for almost as long as there has been an Edmonton. The Al Rashid mosque was built in 1938, only 30 years after Edmonton was declared a city. A community of Syrian and Lebanese immigrants garnered donations from members of all monotheistic faiths in Edmonton. The land it was built on was donated by the City of Edmonton. It was designed by a Ukrainian-Canadian architect, resembling a Russian Orthodox Church, and is recognized as the first purpose-built mosque in North America. The mosque became a community hub, as the Muslim community would host dinners and events for the broader Edmonton community, regardless of their faith. The building currently resides in Fort Edmonton Park as a heritage site, where it is under the care of Richard Awid, a descendant of one of the first Lebanese immigrants who settled in the city, and is still used as a place of worship.

Ultimately, the Edmonton Heritage Council approved a $15,000 grant for the project, much to the surprise and delight of Omar and The Green Room team. The next inevitable question was: what would a Canadian Prayer Rug look like?

Do a quick search of prayer rugs, and you’ll see many motifs present in them: archways, geometric arabesques, domes, often in hues of red, gold or green. Some have mosques or the Ka’bah — the holy mosque in Mecca — featured prominently in their designs. While these rugs are very beautiful and ornate in and of themselves, they are a reflection of the culture in which they are created. To a western audience, the designs of a prayer rug — even Islam as a whole — remain largely in the realm of foreigners and desert dwelling Arabs, imagery held over from the orientalists. These images, and the beliefs associated with them, remain on the periphery of acceptance. To your average person, they’re nice to look at, but not taken seriously as anything but another reflection of the “other”, from which much xenophobia stems. “Arabism” is often equated with Islam — that is, anything resembling Arabic culture is somehow Islamic. This is even more inaccurate when you realize there are a broad spectrum of cultures that get unfairly lumped in to just being “Arabic”, despite countries like Syria, Pakistan, India, Turkey and more having their own unique cultures. This is similar to how the broad spectrum of Indigenous cultures in Canada, including Cree, Blackfoot and Assiniboine, are all seen as interchangeable — and that’s without even getting into the differences between First Nations, Metis and Inuit.

However, the idea of a monolithic “Islamic” culture is one that is not necessarily rooted in Islam itself. In his essay, “Islam and the Cultural Imperative”, Dr. Umar Faruq-Abdullah writes that,

“In history, Islam showed itself to be culturally friendly and, in that regard, has been likened to a crystal clear river. Its waters (Islam) are pure, sweet, and life-giving but — having no color of their own — reflect the bedrock (indigenous culture) over which they flow.”

He stresses the necessity of creating a uniquely American — and by extension Canadian — Islam that reflects the bedrock of our own culture. The Canadian Prayer Rug was always seen as a means to that goal.

The Green Room hiredMétis designer Kit Walton, who had a fascination with Islamic motifs and architecture, to solve the riddle of what the prayer rug would actually look like.

“Canada is such a mashup of cultures coming together,” she says, and the challenge was finding a way to weave together “the history of Edmonton, the history of the Islamic culture and Alberta and… Treaty 6 and the land before everyone started coming in.”

Over the past year, Alberta has become the staging ground for the landmark Truth and Reconciliation commission, which has sought to bring to light the abuse and mistreatment of Canada’s Indigenous peoples at the hands of white settlers. Particular focus was given to the residential schools, which has sought to strip Indigenous children of their language and culture. Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin labelled the practice “cultural genocide.” It has since spurred everything from a revived interest in Indigenous culture to formal apologies by the Canadian government to the country’s Indigenous population. Many speeches by Alberta’s premier begin with acknowledgement of being on Treaty 6 territory, alluding to the historical document signed in 1876 by 50 First Nations bands that covered land use in most of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Incorporating the Indigenous story into the rug required tact and respect, but not so blatant and obvious as to “tokenize” it, as Taouba Khelifa, Program Manager for the Green Room, put it. After all, the easy way out would just be to slap a medicine wheel in the middle and call it a day. On the other hand, the rug had to acknowledge the history of the Muslim community here, while reflecting the universal aspects that every Albertan holds dear.

The shape and design of the rug went through several iterations. At one point, leather was considered as the medium for the prayer rug, a reflection of Alberta’s ranching history. Other designs had the rug shaped like the province itself, the design being an aerial map that included depictions of mountains, plains and the North Saskatchewan River. Symbols considered included prominent Albertan flora, like Saskatoon berries, pine cones, and cattails. The prominence of the Al Rashid mosque on the rug was also an element that required thought; would the building itself be woven into the pattern, or would its presence be shown through symbolism? Of course, Edmonton’s reputation as “oil country” also came up as well.

“There was a joke that ‘perhaps this rug will be made out of petrochemical product,’” Taouba says.

As Kit worked on the face of the rug, her designs also had to be mindful of the medium of weaving.

“Traditional prayer rugs are quite intricate and I couldn’t really do anything too intricate because of the weaving techniques,” she said. Weaving as a medium doesn’t allow for fine, intricate details the way embroidery or stitching does. Even still, certain elements of the rug — such as the crescent moons — would later be embroidered.

Noor Iqbal, an elementary school teacher and weaver of the prayer rug, worked with Kit to brainstorm ideas of the design, and translate the designs into something that was feasible to weave.

Weaving is a textile art in which two distinct sets of yarns are interlaced together, typically on a loom, to produce a fabric. As a medium, weaving itself is an integration of cultures.

“Weaving isn’t necessarily something that’s indigenous to this place. There’s not a lot of weaving heritage here,” Noor says, referring to First Nations cultures in Alberta. The tradition of weaving doesn’t reach back thousands of years, as it does in other parts of the world. Ukrainian and Francophone communities brought over the weaving heritage from their homelands when they settled here. “[Weaving] comes through in an immigrant context… The medium speaks to an immigrant identity.”

The project used only locally sourced wool and dyes made from plants and herbs native to the Edmonton region to further reflect the spirit of locality. However, it also limited the colour palette that could be used in designing the rug, as natural dyes and wool typically produce more subdued colours, not the more vibrant and saturated tones found in regular textiles.

The design process for the rug took over 4 months of research, brainstorming, and various iterationsbefore landing on a main focus and design.

Ultimately, the focus of the rug came down to Alberta’s one universal aspect that connects everyone living in it, whether Indigenous or immigrant, born-and-raised or newly-arrived, religious or not.

“It tells the story of the land,” says Rachel Pereira, a researcher on the project. “It’s really important because, when we think about how to be in this place and how to honour those who came before us, I think the land is so central to that. The land is so central to Indigenous ways of life and we’ve disrespected it so much — intentionally and not intentionally — and I think it’s a reminder of the sacredness, I think, of the land.”

For Kit, it tells her story, being Métis, and growing up in rural Alberta and experiencing the landscape. For her, incorporating the natural aspects of Alberta was important, as a reminder of how people should respect the land and, by extension, the place they live in.

The final design is a testament to the story of Alberta’s land — from the boreal forest to the central agricultural plains, to the mountains and rivers to the west — and the shared history of its peoples. All of these threads have been woven together to create something beautiful.

At the center of the rug stands Alberta’s official tree, the lodgepole pine, mimicking the motif of Cyprus trees found on traditional Syrian and Lebanese rugs. Surrounding the tree is an arch — a common feature in traditional rugs — which is inspired by the architecture of the Al Rashid mosque. The arch shifts into four sets of rich colours, representing Edmonton’s bold seasons, while also paying homage to the four cardinal directions. The two crescent moons in the top corners symbolize the crescents on the Al Rashid mosque and the Islamic lunar calendar. The wheat on the bottom represents Alberta’s prairies and its abundance of food, and the blue triangles represent the Rocky Mountains and the flow of the North Saskatchewan River.

With many people inquiring about how to get the Canadian Prayer Rug for their own homes, The Green Room approached Shubinak, an ethical clothing manufacturer based out of Lahore, Pakistan, to produce replicas for consumers. “It is a spiritual product, it connects you with the creator,” says Sayed Farooq, founder of Shubinak. “It cannot be made with anything which has stains of, you can say, unethical manufacturing.”

Shubinak employs artisans from Pakistan, and uses sustainable materials to create woven, embroidered and screen-printed fabrics and textiles. To Sayed, this traditional and human approach to creating the prayer rug for consumers is part of being a responsible corporate citizen, and this philosophy lined up with the philosophy of the prayer rug. “The design of the prayer rug, it’s very localized and at the same time it connects with the history of Islam,” he says. “The key is knowing where the product is coming from.”

The overall theme of the rug is to promote a sense of welcoming. In Cree, the word pehonan means “gathering place.” Similarly, the Arabic wordmasjid refers to a gathering place, serenity, and home. This rug is meant to be a symbol of home, and that no matter where we come from, this land — “glorious and free” — is our home.

Our story.

We are at a unique time in the story of Alberta.

Last May, the 40 year reign of the Conservatives came to an abrupt end as the left-leaning New Democratic Party was elected into power. Shortly thereafter, Alberta’s oil economy — its key resource — crashed.

With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, there have been many stories coming out of the darker side of Alberta’s history of residential schools. With it has come the beginnings of a renewed respect for Indigenous culture and language. These stories are part of the longer narrative of the Indigenous peoples and their experiences on the land.

Recently, thousands of Syrian families joined the rich collection of Alberta’s ethnic milieu. Like the founders of the Al Rashid, they are families in a new land, striking out to find their own sense of community and belonging. Their stories, and the stories of the children who follow them, are just beginning.

“We are in a very unique situation given that the newly-arrived live alongside people who’ve been here for centuries,” says Rachel, “and I think somehow both of those groups are struggling to find belonging and call this place home.”

Yet there are ways to speak across that historical divide.

“In the dialogue that leads up to this, we find our common thread,” Omar says. That thread is our cultural and artistic expression, all of which speaks to our past, present and future. As Omar says, it is a call to “take the stories that are all around us and the stories of our being here and recognize them and speak them more.”

The Canadian Prayer Rug is a nexus point for all these stories.

“It tells the people who are coming here now that they have a history here and they have a future,” Omar says, “telling people that they have a history here and that their future is interwoven into the fabric and the landscape of where they are now.”

In a broader sense, the rug helps to engage with social issues that have been relevant in Edmonton, both in the past and now, from the challenges of reconciliation with the Indigenous people, to recognizing that Muslims have a pivotal role in terms of engaging with the broader society, to our treatment of the land. It’s meant to recognize that these stories are a way to connect our past and future stories, to see the common threads that unite us all, and to build a tradition of cooperation, caring, and love. It’s meant to tell the people here — Indigenous, Syrian, Caucasian, whoever — “This is your story and you belong here and there are people who have come before us who built our community and now are continuing to contribute to that,” says Taouba.

The Canadian Prayer Rug is meant to weave together our stories. It is a story of the land.

It is a story of resilience.

It is a story of community, growth, and home.

It is a story of past, present, future — humanity, forgiveness, spirit. And as we continue to spin the yarns of our own stories, we must never forget that we are all, each and every one of us, one mere thread, woven together with many others on a beautiful tapestry.

This article originally appeared on Ummahwide on August 31st, 2016.

Ramadan Reminder Series

Stay healthy this Ramadan while curbing your carbon footprint!

Stay healthy this Ramadan while curbing your carbon footprint!

Did you know that a bit of physical activity each day can aid our digestive systems and have lots of other positive impacts on our bodies?

Did you know that a bit of physical activity each day can aid our digestive systems and have lots of other positive impacts on our bodies?

Approximately 30% of energy used in buildings is used inefficiently or unnecessarily.

Approximately 30% of energy used in buildings is used inefficiently or unnecessarily.

Reusing wrapping not only saves waste, but is a cost effective way of giving gifts.

Reusing wrapping not only saves waste, but is a cost effective way of giving gifts.

Green Ramadan Steps

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By Khaled Dardir

1. Start Ramadan by making the right intentions.

What is your intention this Ramadan? Create realistic goals for yourself, and your community!

2. Have a healthy Ramadan through proper diet.

Ramadan is a time to detox ourselves: mind, body and soul. Add more vegetarian options, do not over-eat, use locally sourced foods. Avoid fizzy drinks, or anything high in sugar content, as an alternative use honey. Avoid deep fried foods or enjoy in moderation (once a week). Start and end your fast with green or herbal tea to cleanse the stomach after a day of fasting in order to help flush the toxins out.

3. Give up your CO2 contribution by traveling light and smart.

You can walk or ride your bike to the nearest mosque and earn both spiritual reward and help the planet. No need to drive 5 times a day for every prayer.

4. Spend meaningful energy, conserve wasteful energy.

Consider conserving more water when making wudu. Conserve electricity by shutting off the television and computer and opening the Holy book.

5. Charity is more than giving money to a good cause.

For Zakat, consider a local organization that is doing good work to protect the under privileged or the environment. Starting an initiative at your school, workplace or local mosque to make a real difference.

6. Host an Eco-Iftar that will be the talk of the town.

Show you care for the environment, host an Iftar that produces no waste, recycles, uses biodegradable cutlery and dishware or invite others to bring their own dishware! Most importantly, serve a healthy locally sourced Iftar meal.

7. Green your Eid, celebrate in style.

By all means, treat yourself to a nice new outfit, just be sure you are supporting local industry, and that the dyes used are not polluting the water streams. When giving Eid gifts to children, highlight the importance of using it responsibly: buying nothing unnecessary or that will harm planet, your body or community, consider paying it forward earn extra reward.

8. Commit random acts of kindness

Try smiling at people that pass by, greet the street guards, or just randomly express your gratitude for a friend. Volunteer your time at the local mosque, or in the community for an initiative you are passionate about or start a new one!

9. Celebrate Ramadan by breaking a bad habit

We all face our own challenges and bad habits. Ramadan is the perfect time to end that sugar or nicotine addiction, watch less TV, walk more, give up bad language, fix your sleeping cycle.

10. Reflect on what you’ve achieved this month.

By staying focused, observing your behaviour, lifestyle and habits you will have become much more mindful and aware by the end of the month. Make sure you stay consistent!

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”

How did the Prophet and his Companions eat?

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By: Ibrahim Khan

Ramadan is a month when we are all intensely aware of the relationship we have with food, how much we are reliant on it, and how it can affect us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We really understand the power of food in dictating our moods, behaviours, and outlook on life.Islam is a lifestyle, not a stand-alone product, and all the different bits and pieces come together, intermesh, and are mutually dependent on others to work most effectively. If we truly want to taste the sweetness of prayer, and if we truly want our duas to be accepted, and for our children to be the coolness of our eyes, then we need to assess our lives holistically in the light of Islam.Consequently Ramadan is a great month to have a sincere look at how our eating habits stack up against those of the Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions (RAH) and why it is important for us to have an Islamic eating lifestyle for us to be the best Muslims we can be.The following are 8 ahadith taken from Bukhari that give a priceless insight into how the Prophet (PBUH) and his Companions would eat, feed, and live.

A paradigm shift in our eating habits

Narrated Abu Huraira: Once while I was in a state of fatigue (because of severe hunger), I met ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, so I asked him to recite a verse from Allah’s Book to me. He entered his house and interpreted it to me. (Then I went out and) after walking for a short distance, I fell on my face because of fatigue and severe hunger. Suddenly I saw Allah’s Apostle standing by my head. He said, “O Abu Huraira!” I replied, “Labbaik, O Allah’s Apostle, and Sadaik!” Then he held me by the hand, and made me get up. Then he came to know what I was suffering from. He took me to his house, and ordered a big bowl of milk for me. I drank thereof and he said, “Drink more, O Abu Hirr!” So I drank again, whereupon he again said, “Drink more.” So I drank more till my belly became full and looked like a bowl. Afterwards I met ‘Umar and mentioned to him what had happened to me, and said to him, “Somebody, who had more right than you, O ‘Umar, took over the case. By Allah, I asked you to recite a Verse to me while I knew it better than you.” On that Umar said to me, “By Allah, if I admitted and entertained you, it would have been dearer to me than having nice red camels. (Bukhari)

What an astounding hadith this is when we compare our modern lives to the scenes it is describing. The Prophet and the Companions lived in a paradigm where calories and food were scarce and people would genuinely starve and feel hunger. Compare that to our times and we have to blush. Food is so plentiful for the first time in human history that the biggest threat to us is not a lack of calories and malnutrition but an excess of calories. This means that we must all reassess our relationship with food and shift from the “eat up and finish your plate” mentality which was designed to tackle malnutrition, to a “eat wholesome food in a controlled manner” mentality.

1. Small portions & simplicity

Narrated Anas: To the best of my knowledge, the Prophet did not take his meals in a big tray at all, nor did he ever eat well-baked thin bread, nor did he ever eat at a dining table. (Bukhari)

The latest preventative medical research is now suggesting that the best way to control our food intake is by restricting portion sizes, and that the best way to do that is by replacing large bowls and plates with smaller versions. This results in less food being eaten over time. And SubhanAllah this is what our Prophet (PBUH) did naturally all those years ago.

What is also fascinating to note here is, despite the Prophet living in a time where food was scarce and the received wisdom was “eat as much as you can when you get it”, he still insisted on eating in a controlled way. This shows the great importance of having this control over our portions and eating habits.

2. A wedding banquet fit for a Prophet (PBUH)

Narrated Anas: The Prophet halted to consummate his marriage with Safiyya. I invited the Muslims to his wedding banquet. He ordered that leather dining sheets be spread. Then dates, dried yoghurt and butter were put on those sheets. Anas added: The Prophet consummated his marriage with Safiyya (during a journey) whereupon Hais (sweet dish) was served on a leather dining sheet. (Bukhari)

A wedding banquet usually conjures up visions of a lavish, rich, opulent, and incredibly unhealthy meal. It does not conjure up images of dates, dried yoghurt, butter, and Hais, That is the equivalent to half a starter in our current mindset – and not a very good one at that. You can imagine the complaints if that was served at a wedding.

And yet the Prophet (PBUH), a religious and political leader, found it perfectly acceptable to serve this to his guests. Who do we think we are?

3. Eating with the poor & Portion control

Narrated Nafi’: Ibn ‘Umar never used to take his meal unless a poor man was called to eat with him. One day I brought a poor man to eat with him, the man ate too much, whereupon Ibn ‘Umar said, “O Nafi’! Don’t let this man enter my house, for I heard the Prophet saying, “A believer eats in one intestine (is satisfied with a little food), and a kafir (unbeliever) eats in seven intestines (eats much food).” (Bukhari)

This is a beautiful hadith that teaches us two things. Firstly that our eating is inextricably tied up with the eating and survival of those around us, as we have duties to them as their neighbours, relatives, and brothers in faith. When we eat this should provoke the thought of others who we have duties to who may not have food or have had the time or skill to cook. Secondly, it teaches us the incredible importance of portion control and eating well within our limit. Ibn ‘Umar thought this man’s behaviour so reprehensible that we banned the man from ever returning to his house. If we did that we would end up banning everyone – including ourselves!

4. Eating with proper etiquette and respect

Narrated Abu Juhaifa: While I was with the Prophet he said to a man who was with him, “I do not take my meals while leaning.” (Bukhari)

This is a fascinating hadith as it shows the importance and the respect the Prophet (PBUH) had for the bounty of Allah. We live in an era where food is cheap, easily accessible, and plentiful and varied. Consequently we don’t think twice about wasting it, throwing away half-eaten food, and treating it with the proper respect it deserves. Our Prophet on the other hand would not even take meals while leaning.

5. Fat-free, meat-free dishes

Narrated Sahl bin Sad: We used to be happy on Fridays, for there was an old lady who used to pull out the roots of Silq and put it in a cooking pot with some barley. When we had finished the prayer, we would visit her and she would present that dish before us. So we used to be happy on Fridays because of that, and we never used to take our meals or have a mid-day nap except after the Friday prayer. By Allah, that meal contained no fat. (Bukhari)

Every week the Companions would look forward to a meal that was entirely vegetarian and fat-free. The Companions didn’t require that every one of their meals include a meat element to it. This is something we need to reflect on as nearly all our meals have some meat involved. This is not only unsustainable for the environment, but it also limits the variety and quality of our nutrients. Some meat is certainly good, but overdoing anything never is.

6. Don’t criticise the bounties of Allah

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet never criticized any food (he was invited to) but he used to eat if he liked the food, and leave it if he disliked. (Bukhari)

This hadith is self-explanatory, and we’ve heard it many times before. And yet, daily complaints can be heard at Muslim dinner tables up and down this country. This is not from the Sunnah. Not only has someone gone the effort of making something for you and you are being ungrateful by complaining, but your complaint indicates a level of attachment to food that is harmful. We only complain about things we really care about and hold dear – so unfortunately we don’t complain about our children not praying or knowing even the last ten surahs by heart – but we do complain about the levels of salt in a saalan. Now there’s a revealing and disturbing insight into the mind of the contemporary Muslim.

7. No refined white bread

Narrated Abu Hazim: that he asked Sahl, “Did you use white flour during the lifetime of the Prophet ?” Sahl replied, “No. Hazim asked, “Did you use to sift barley flour?” He said, “No, but we used to blow off the husk (of the barley). (Bukhari)

In the age of refined sugar, refined bread, and processed food, calories are overwhelming us. Did you know one slice of white bread is 361 calories? That means that just 6 slices of bread (or 3 sandwiches) takes us over the daily recommended amount of calories. Any more than that and we are just putting on fat. The best alternative to this kind of high-calorie food, is to go for the wholesome, unrefined food that is rich in fibre and nutrients and low in calories. This kind of food is also closer to the Prophet and his Companions’ eating habits.

May Allah make us heathier spiritually and physically this Ramadan, Ameen!

This article was originally featured on 1st Ethical in June 2015. 

Photo Credit: razanmasari.com

Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and the Environment

  By: Francesca De Chatel

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “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 [for which there is great recompense].” [Al-Bukhari, III:513].

The idea of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) as a pioneer of environmentalism will initially strike many as strange: indeed, the term “environment” and related concepts like “ecology”, “environmental awareness” and “sustainability”, are modern-day inventions, terms that were formulated in the face of the growing concerns about the contemporary state of the natural world around us.

And yet a closer reading of the hadith, the body of work that recounts significant events in the Prophet’s life, reveals that he was a staunch advocate of environmental protection. One could say he was an “environmentalist avant la lettre”, a pioneer in the domain of conservation, sustainable development and resource management, and one who constantly sought to maintain a harmonious balance between man and nature. From all accounts of his life and deeds, we read that the Prophet had a profound respect for fauna and flora, as well as an almost visceral connection to the four elements, earth, water, fire and air.

He was a strong proponent of the sustainable use and cultivation of land and water, proper treatment of animals, plants and birds, and the equal rights of users. In this context the modernity of the Prophet’s view of the environment and the concepts he introduced to his followers is particularly striking; certain passages of the hadith could easily be mistaken for discussions about contemporary environmental issues.

Three Principles

The Prophet’s environmental philosophy is first of all holistic: it assumes a fundamental link and interdependency between all natural elements and bases its teachings on the premise that if man abuses or exhausts one element, the natural world as a whole will suffer direct consequences. This belief is nowhere formulated in one concise phrase; it is rather an underlying principle that forms the foundation of all the Prophet’s actions and words, a life philosophy that defined him as a person.

The three most important principles of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) philosophy of nature are based on the Qur’anic teachings and the concepts of tawhid (unity), khalifa(stewardship) and amana (trust).

Tawhid, the oneness of God, is a cornerstone of the Islamic faith. It recognizes the fact that there is one absolute Creator and that man is responsible to Him for all his actions: “To God belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth, for God encompasses everything [4:126].”  The Prophet acknowledges that God’s knowledge and power covers everything. Therefore abusing one of his creations, whether it is a living being or a natural resource, is a sin. The Prophet considered all of God’s creations to be equal before God and he believed animals, but also land, forests and watercourses should have rights.

The concepts of khalifa, stewardship, and amana, trust, emerge from the principle of tawhid. The Qur’an explains that mankind holds a privileged position among God’s creations on earth: he is chosen as khalifa, “vice-regent” and carries the responsibility of caring for God’s earthly creations. Each individual is given this task and privilege in the form of God’s trust. But the Qur’an repeatedly warns believers against arrogance: they are no better than other creatures.  “No creature is there on earth nor a bird flying with its wings but they are nations like you [6:38]”; “Surely the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of man; but most people know not [40:57]”.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) believed that the universe and the creations in it – animals, plants, water, land – were not created for mankind. Man is allowed to use the resources but he can never own them. Thus while Islam allows land ownership, it has limitations: an owner can, for example, only own land if he uses it; once he ceases to use it, he has to part with his possession.

The Prophet recognized man’s responsibility to God but always maintained humility. Thus he said: “When doomsday comes, if someone has a palm shoot in his hand, he should plant it,” suggesting that even when all hope is lost for mankind, one should sustain nature’s growth. He believed that nature remains a good in itself, even if man does not benefit from it.

Similarly, the Prophet incited believers to share the earth’s resources. He said: “Muslims share alike in three things – water, herbage and fire,” and he considered it a sin to withhold water from the thirsty. “No one can refuse surplus water without sinning against Allah and against man” [Mishkat al Masabih].

The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) attitude towards sustainable use of land, conservation of water and the treatment of animals is a further illustration of the humility of his environmental philosophy.

Sustainable Use of Land

“The earth has been created for me as a mosque and as a means of purification.” [Al-Bukhari I:331] With these words the Prophet emphasizes the sacred nature of earth or soil, not only as a pure entity but also as a purifying agent. This reverence towards soil is also demonstrated in the ritual of tayammum, or “dry wudu” which permits the use of dust in the performance of ritual purification before prayer when water is not available.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) saw earth as subservient to man, but recognised that it should not be overexploited or abused, and that it had rights, like the trees and wildlife living on it. In order to protect land, forests and wildlife, the Prophet created inviolable zones known as hima and haram, in which resources were to be left untouched. Both are still in use today: haram areas are often drawn up around wells and water sources to protect the groundwater table from over-pumping. Hima applies particularly to wildlife and forestry and usually designates an area of land where grazing and woodcutting are restricted, or where certain animal species are protected.

The Prophet not only encouraged the sustainable use of fertile lands, he also told his followers of the benefits of making unused land productive: planting a tree, sowing a seed and irrigating dry land were all regarded as charitable deeds.“Whoever brings dead land to life, that is, cultivates wasteland, for him is a reward therein.” Thus any person who irrigates a plot of “dead”, or desert land becomes its rightful owner.

Conservation of Water

In the harsh desert environment where the Prophet (peace be upon him) lived, water was synonymous to life. Water was a gift from God, the source of all life on earth as is testified in the Qur’an:  “We made from water every living thing” [21:30].  The Qur’an constantly reminds believers that they are but the guardians of God’s creation on earth and that they should never take this creation for granted: “Consider the water which you drink. Was it you that brought it down from the rain cloud or We? If We had pleased, We could make it bitter” [56:68-70].

Saving water and safeguarding its purity were two important issues for the Prophet: we have seen that his concern about the sustainable use of water led to the creation of haram zones in the vicinity of water sources. But even when water was abundant, he advocated thriftiness: thus he recommended that believers perform wudu no more than three times, even if they were near to a flowing spring or river. The theologian El-Bukhari added: “ The men of science disapprove of exaggeration and also of exceeding the number of ablutions of the Prophet.” The Prophet also warned against water pollution by forbidding urination in stagnant water.

The Treatment of Animals:

“If anyone wrongfully kills even a sparrow, let alone anything greater, he will face God’s interrogation” [Mishkat al Masabih]. These words reflect the great reverence, respect and love that the Prophet always showed towards animals. He believed that as part of God’s creation, animals should be treated with dignity, and the hadith contains a large collection of traditions, admonitions and stories about his relationship to animals. It shows that he had particular consideration for horses and camels: to him they were valiant companions during journey and battle, and he found great solace and wisdom in their presence as the following tradition reveals: “In the forehead of horses are tied up welfare and bliss until the Day of Resurrection.”

Even in the slaughter of animals, the Prophet showed great gentleness and sensitivity. While he did not practice vegetarianism, the hadiths clearly show that the Prophet was extremely sensitive to the suffering of animals, almost as though he shared their pain viscerally. Thus he recommends using sharp knives and a good method so that the animal can die a quick death with as little pain as possible. He also warned against slaughtering an animal in the presence of other animals, or letting the animal witness the sharpening of blades: to him that was equal to “slaughtering the animal twice” and he emphatically condemned such practices as “abominable”.

Conclusion

It is impossible to do justice to the full scope and significance of Prophet Mohammed’s environmental philosophy in this short article. His holistic view of nature and his understanding of man’s place within the natural world pioneered environmental awareness within the Muslim community.

Sadly, the harmony that the Prophet advocated between man and his environment has today all too often been lost. As we face the effects of pollution and overexploitation, desertification and water scarcity in some parts of the world and floods and violent storms elsewhere, it is perhaps time for the world community as a whole, Muslims, Christians and Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, atheists and agnostics, to take a leaf out of the Prophet’s book and address the current environmental crisis seriously and wisely.

This article was originally appeared on The Islamic Bulletin

Radwah Community Garden - Turning Parking Lots into Produce

Parking lots of have long been a source of contention at local mosques. Whether it is for Jummah Salat or during Ramadan, mosques have often faced an uphill battle securing enough space for congregants. 

However, one community is taking the opposite approach and transforming this empty landscape into a beautiful community garden. The Muslim Community Association in Santa Clara, California, in collaboration with the MAS Bay Area Give have teamed up to create the Radwah Community Garden in the north end of their mosque. The goal of the project is to encourage environmentalism and to create a safe and welcoming space; promoting community connectivity through organic urban gardening.

Community gardens have become popular in the last several years as consumers seek local and organic produce. The spin-off benefits of urban gardening include revitalizing neighborhoods, creating community hubs and fostering a new generation to make sustainable and eco-conscious food choices. From a spiritual perspective, gardening allows you to be part of nature while meditating over the signs of Allah’s creation.

There is a three-tiered goal for the Rawdah Community Garden:

  • Community Connectivity: Raising the volunteerism and community spirit in the Islamic Centers in service of the larger American society.

  • Educating Sustainability: Learning about healthy eating and gardening, which can help us in starting a garden at home.

  • God's Bounties: Appreciation of nature, the environment and Allah’s blessings upon us.

The garden aims to provide educational and recreational opportunities for children and seniors and raise awareness about food systems. The produce that is grown and cultivated will be donated as a fresh alternative to local food banks or used in local soup kitchens.

For More Information

To learn more about the project and how you can become involved, visit the MAS Bay Area page at: http://masbayarea.org/rawdah/

The organizers have also initiated a LunchGood page at: https://www.launchgood.com/project/mas_rawdah_community_garden_at_mca_bay_area_mosque__ecoislam#/

Alhamdulillah for Rain

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

"That We may bring to life thereby a dead land and give it as drink to those We created of numerous livestock and men." (quran, 25:49)

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)

Toronto Imams Mark Earth Day with 'Green' Khutbah

Imams in Toronto joined the worldwide Green Khutba Campaign on Earth Day and delivered sermons to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity.

“Islam appreciates and celebrates the earth and the environment to the extent that some Qur’anic surahs are named after some creations such the cow, the ants, the bees, the sun, and the moon,” said Imam Dr. Wael Shehab of Masjid Toronto in his message to the congregation. “The earth and all creations glorify Allah, so we have something in common with them all.”

“We love all creations and they love us too,” said Imam Shehab. “For us, the whole earth is like a masjid, so we should preserve it.”

The Green Khutbah Campaign commemorates Earth Day which coincided with the sermon awareness campaign this year.

“This year the theme of the Green Khutbah Campaign is ‘Climate Change: Working Together to Solve a Global Challenge’ whereby we encourage Muslims to evaluate their contribution towards global warming and consider the implications for current and future generations,” said Muaz Nasir, the publisher of the Canadian environmental website, Khaleafa.com and one of the founders of the Campaign.

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.

“We have been honoured to be vicegerents of God on earth,” Imam Dr. Hamid Slimi told the congregation at the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga. “Take responsibility of your duty to Mother Earth.”

“This environmental crisis is not localized but universal,” said Friday Imam Muneeb Nasir in his sermon at Masjid Toronto at Adelaide. “This crisis is not just a scientific problem or an environmental one but the result of a deep, inner crisis of the soul – it is a moral issue.”

“We cannot tune out – tuning out would mean that we are disregarding our moral responsibility to Allah’s creation,” added Nasir. “As such, we must be, not just ‘friends of the earth’, but its guardians.”

“Today’s Green Khutbah Campaign is calling all Muslims to reflect and join with others to create a sustainable future – a future where we meet our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

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.

As the world commemorated Earth Day on Friday, leaders from more than 170 countries gathered at the United Nations in New York to sign an international treaty that aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Earlier in the week, 250 religious leaders around the world released the Interfaith Climate Change Statement warning, “The planet has already passed safe levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

“Unless these levels are rapidly reduced, we risk creating irreversible impacts putting hundreds of millions of lives, of all species, at severe risk.”

This article appeared on Iqra.ca on April 22nd, 2016. 

Delivering on the Promises of Paris

Why the World’s Muslims Are Demanding Climate Action Now

Naser Haghamed CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide, an independent humanitarian and development organisation with a presence in over 40 countries worldwide.

The global Muslim community - made up of around 1.6 billion followers from world leaders to academics, from teachers and healthcare workers to business people and investors - has incredible collective power. Islam is the fastest-growing religion: 1 in 5 people today are Muslim, and Muslims will make up around 30% of the global population in 2050. As the newly appointed CEO of the world’s largest Islamic humanitarian and emergency relief NGO, I have witnessed this collective power harnessed to achieve immense and noble things, from providing shelter and relief to victims of floods and earthquakes to supporting refugees from war-torn countries. However, one longstanding crisis constantly threatens to undermine our efforts to make the world a safer place to live in: climate change. With world leaders gathering in New York on April 22nd to reaffirm the commitment they made to end the fossil fuel era in Paris last December, it is time for a reminder of just how important it is that they turn their promises into action without delay.

We can’t fall into the trap of thinking that climate change is a problem for the next generation whose effects won’t be felt for years. Climate change is devastating the world. Now. Many Muslim majority countries are on the front lines: a recent report from the Asian Development Bank showed that in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country and the fourth largest country in the world by population, climate change and the floods it causes are turning the poor into the ‘ultra-poor’. Most of the Middle East and North Africa is expected to become hotter and drier due to climate change, worsening droughts and exposing millions to water shortages. These changes provoke migration to other countries themselves facing resource deficiencies aggravated by climate change, thereby increasing the risk of violent conflict. This, and the ever-growing death toll among the world’s poorest who have contributed least to greenhouse gas emissions, are unjust realities with which we are all too familiar at Islamic Relief.

Whilst more and more Muslims are experiencing the ravages of climate change first hand, more Muslims and governments are in turn starting to join the fight against climate change. Last August, Muslim scholars, experts and activists from over 20 countries called on the world’s Muslims to act on climate, with a particular demand to governments to move away from fossil fuel sources of energy and towards societies where 100% of energy is provided by renewable sources such as solar and wind - resources which many Islamic countries have in abundance - as early as possible. There is nothing radical in the claim that acting on climate change is a fundamental part of Islam: we know from the Qur’an that Allah has made each of us a steward (khalifah) of the earth - a ‘precious home’ with finite resources - in order to maintain its delicate equilibrium (mizan). The fossil fuels that once brought us prosperity are now destroying this equilibrium and our prosperity along with it.

Islamic Relief took to the streets in 2015 to demand an ambitious Paris Agreement

In January this year, the Islamic Development Bank agreed with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to use Islamic finance to combat climate change and food insecurity. Days later, in February, the world’s largest solar power plant opened in Morocco and could provide enough energy to power over 1 million homes by 2018. At the beginning of April, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince announced the country’s intention to create a $2 trillion megafund to help it transition to the post-oil era. Islamic Relief has also done its bit, building solar-powered homes in places like Bangladesh - the most disaster prone country in the world - and installing water harvesting systems in Kenya. However, the scale of the problem is so large that it will require a huge increase in efforts from Muslims and non-Muslims alike in solidarity.

That is why, together with 270 faith leaders, I have today issued an urgent call to faith communities around the world to divest their money from fossil fuels and reinvest it in renewable energy solutions. Together, we will reduce emissions in our homes, workplaces and centers of worship, standing in solidarity with those communities already facing the severe consequences of climate change. Such is my conviction, that on April 22nd, the day that a record number of countries will meet at the UN Headquarters in New York to sign the Paris Agreement, Islamic Relief Worldwide will be helping to launch a global Muslim network dedicated to tackling climate change issues in the Islamic world and will present the Islamic Climate Change Declaration to the President of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Mogens Lykketoft. To show they are equally serious, countries must implement the Paris Agreement as soon as possible, phasing out the astonishingly high fossil fuel subsidies that the International Monetary Fund estimated would be $10 million every minute in 2015, and endeavoring to peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to give us the best chance of going 100% renewable and to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

We must urge world leaders to make a real difference to prevent climate change and help people of all faiths and none to adapt to the climate change that we are already experiencing, in accordance with Islamic teachings. Much is already being done by both governments and citizens, but we are not fulfilling our collective potential. With the World Humanitarian Summit taking place in Istanbul in May and the implementation-focused sequel to last December’s successful conference in Paris taking place in Morocco in November, 2016 has to be the year that the world starts delivering on its promises in earnest, before we lose further lives in the fight against climate change.

Follow Naser Haghamed on Twitter: www.twitter.com/irworldwide

This article appeared in the Huffington Post on April 18th, 2016. 

2016 Green Khutbah Campaign

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

TORONTO, April 11, 2016 - Muslims across the world will commemorate Earth Day on Friday, April 22nd, 2016 with the Green Khutbah Campaign as religious leaders deliver a sermon to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity.

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

“This year the theme of the Green Khutbah Campaign is ‘Climate Change: Working Together to Solve a Global Challenge’ whereby we encourage Muslims to evaluate their contribution towards global warming and consider the implications for current and future generations,” Nasir added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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 Khutba Campaign

e: http://khaleafa.com/contact

Alhamdulillah for Colours

AH Colours-2-3.jpg

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)

 

 

Islam and Environmentalism Today

By: Tarik M. Quadir

As a child growing up in a small town in Bangladesh, I remember being very careful not to hurt bugs, ants, birds, animals and even plants because it would be a sin against God to do so. Even the earth was not to be dug or hurt unnecessarily because one day when we die we will be returned to the earth, and the grave itself would punish us for our unnecessary cruelty toward it. Islam, my religion, had formed my view of nature and made me a little environmentalist two decades before I became aware of the environmental crisis. This realization inspires me to this day to take a religious approach to environmentalism. Today, as Islam is often maligned by some as a religion of hatred and violence, it is worth remembering that this religion possesses immense potential as a source of healing for this beautiful planet that is our home.To begin with, according to the Quran, the various species on the earth "form communities" like us, 6:38, "every entity celebrates God's praise," 17:44, and they are all "signs of God," 42:29, and thus, all have transcendent meanings and purposes. Moreover, the Quran uses the same term "aya" to refer to both the entities in nature and the verses of this revelation. In other words, we are immersed in the "cosmic Quran" by which God sustains not only our bodies, but also our souls. In fact, the Quran speaks of nature as reminders and beacons of God, more than the central scriptures of any other major world religion. Moreover, intrinsic worth is "greater than" that of any arrogant human, 40:57, and forbids us from activities that may upset the balance in nature, 55:8. Most importantly, humans were sent with the charge and capacity to be God's representatives, 35:39, and all of nature, including our own faculties, were given to humankind as trusts for which we will be held accountable if we misuse them, 102:8.

LOVING EVERY CREATION

These teachings were also manifest in the examples set by the Prophet Muhammad. The prophet forbade dirtying public spaces and water sources and thus established the institution of "harim" (forbidden space) for that same purpose. Likewise, he established sanctuaries for animals and plants. He forbade waste of any natural element even if it is available in plenty and urged sharing of basic necessities. The prophet strongly encouraged the planting of trees, saying, "There is no believer who plants a tree or sows a field from which a human, bird or animal eats, but it shall be reckoned as charity." He encouraged showing mercy and compassion to all beings, saying, "O people, have mercy for those who are on the Earth, then He who is in heaven will have mercy on you."

Apart from the prophet's extraordinary environmental sensitivity, the idea of nature as a sign of God, and thus, as conveyer of transcendental meanings, can give us insight into what may be missing in today's mainstream environmentalism.

Today, most environmentalists do not see environmentalism as a religious or spiritual cause. Accordingly, most mainstream environmentalists do not see that the root of this crisis lies in the unprecedented level of materialistic values of modern societies that sustain the economic system and government policies that they seek to change. Even when they realize this, they do not see that the root of this level of materialism lies in the secularized perception of nature generated by modern science, the kind of science most of them view as their greatest hope.

Without denying the benefits of modern science and technology, we must understand their limitations, especially in their role in grinding out all notions of transcendent value, meaning and purpose of nature. Unless the materialistic values of greed for wealth, power and sensual pleasures are not sufficiently restrained, efforts to change economic models and government policies cannot succeed in solving the problem. The worldly solutions that mainstream environmentalists seek, very helpful as they are, can only delay environmental catastrophes by a few decades, but not in the long run. Aware of this prospect, many veteran environmentalists are calling for a paradigm shift in values, but still within a secular framework.

ISLAMIC SENSIBILITY OVER NATURE

Let us remember that the flame of greed is deeply ingrained in human souls. From a religious perspective, only that which can reach our souls at a deeper level, and not just better economic models and policy changes, however well intended, can keep the flame of greed sufficiently restrained to let nature survive, and even thrive. As the Prophet Muhammad and even the creation story of Genesis, says, humans are made in the "image of God," the one who has no limitations. Made in God's image and yet unaware of this, there is something in us that is never satisfied by anything of this finite world – we hunger for the infinite. Unless this hunger is sufficiently turned toward the one who has no end, it can only end with humans devouring the world. From a spiritual perspective, this is what has been happening over the last 300 years since the scientific revolution gave us a mechanical worldview and thus stripped nature of its status as a sign of God. Instead of seeing nature as a spiritual means for knowing God, modern science taught us to see nature, including ourselves, only in purely physical terms.

Muslims should acknowledge and proclaim this deficiency in mainstream environmentalism and join people of all faiths in demonstrating the crucial role all religions can play in reawakening humanity to eternal meanings of nature. They should "compete in good works," 5:48, with people of other faiths as the Quran advises them to do. In these very difficult times for the earth as well as for millions across the world, more than ever, Muslims should pay heed to these words: "The servants of the Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, 'Peace'!" 25:63.

* An assistant professor of environmentalism and of contemporary Islamic thought at Necmettin Erbakan University in Turkey, the author of "The Traditional Islamic Environmentalism."

This article was originally published on Daily Sabah on March 7th, 2016. 

MADE launches the Ultimate Water Challenge

The Muslim Action for Development & Environment (MADE) has launched its newest campaign to raise awareness about water consumption and educate Muslims about the importance of conservation.

The Ultimate Water Challenge encourages Muslims to reduce their water use through completing a series of challenges from March 21st-March 25th, 2016. Participants can either sign up as an individual or a team and compete against each other across several categories. The overall goal of the campaign is to raise awareness and funds to support well-boring initiatives in Zanzibar.

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CHALLENGE LEVEL 1 – Only for the Conscious!

Beat the Tap: Use only the Prophetic amount of water [the mudd approx. 675ml] during wudu for the five prayers over five days - mudd is included!

CHALLENGE LEVEL 2 – Only for the Brave!

Beat the Bucket: Beaten the tap? Well then how about the ghusl bucket challenge and use 1 bucket for your daily shower – challenge yourself and be one of the brave!

CHALLENGE LEVEL 3 – Only for the Heroic!

The Ultimate Water Walk: Is the bucket a breeze? Then take the Ultimate Water Walk carrying a weight of 20 litres for 6km through central London passing iconic places whilst raising awareness of water injustice and the Islamic teachings of water. Experience what many women and children go through daily who do not have access to water - challenge your endurance and be one of the heroes!

To learn more and sign up as an individual or a team, visit www.made.ngo

 

From Asthma to Zika: UNEP tackles links between health and environment

Skin cancer. Lung cancer. Asthma. Lead poisoning. Mercury poisoning. Malaria. Ebola. Zika. The list of health conditions that can be linked to environmental pollution and degradation is long and growing.

Speaking to a packed room of international delegates on Wednesday morning, UN Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner stressed that the links between health and environment are fundamental, and that international action can have a profound impact.

"The spread of Zika, just as with Ebola, has sent a strong signal to the international community that there is a need for increased attention to the linkages between environment and health," he said. "There is a growing awareness that humans, through their intervention in the environment, play a vital role in exacerbating or mitigating health risks."


Mr. Steiner was addressing UNEP's Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR), a group of 300 delegates representing over 140 countries and major groups. The CPR is meeting at UNEP's Nairobi headquarters this week to prepare for the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the world's highest-level decision-making body on the environment, which will convene at the end of May.

In his remarks, Steiner cited data from the World Health Organization (WHO), which has found that 23 per cent of all premature deaths around the world can be attributed to environmental factors. Among children, that figure rises to 36 per cent.

"Every year, nearly 7 million people die because they are exposed to indoor and outdoor air pollution, from power generation, cookstoves, transportation, industrial furnaces, wildfires, or other causes," Steiner said.

"We are eating into an ecological infrastructure that not only sustains us, but protects us. The fallout from the footprint of human activity in the 21st century seems to grow every year."

Mr. Steiner also pointed out that more than 2 billion people live in water-stressed areas, 1,000 children die every day from water-borne diseases, and 42 million life years are lost every year due to natural disasters.

There is strong evidence that international action to protect the environment can have strong, positive impacts on human health. Thanks to the Montreal Protocol, which took effect in 1989, nearly 100 substances that deplete the ozone layer have been removed from circulation. Because of that progress, some 2 million cases of skin cancer will be prevented before 2030. And the removal of lead from fuel is already preventing over 1 million premature deaths each year.

UNEP - in partnership with the World Health Organization, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and the Montreal Protocol - is preparing a report entitled Healthy Environment, Healthy People that will explore how the environment impacts human health. The report will be launched at UNEA, where it will be the subject of a discussion among ministers on the implementation of the environmental dimension of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The Agenda and its 17 goals were adopted in September by 193 Member States, and lay out a pathway for sustainable development. The goals integrate the social, economic and environmental concerns of development.

A healthy environment presents opportunities for a healthier society, and it brings economic benefits as well. The phase out of ozone-depleting CFCs should result in a cumulative $1.8 trillion in global health benefits by 2060. Eliminating lead in gasoline on a global scale will boost global GDP by an estimated 4 per cent. And the return on investment in water and sanitation services is between $5 and $28 per dollar invested.

Climate Change to be Top Priority in Muslim World

Zafirah Zein - Environment Ministers from more than 50 Muslim countries have come up with a joint declaration on environmental protection and sustainable development. At the 6th Islamic Conference in Morocco, members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) convened to discuss ways to combat climate change and deal with obstacles to sustainable development.

In the declaration, countries were urged to commit to a number of key goals. These included pursuing green economies, raising awareness about the importance of eradicating poverty, creating a new energy operating system, and adopting standards for good practices in sustainable governance.

"Climate change is a serious threat, especially to the developing world. It is only through collective action that we will overcome one of the pressing challenges of our generation,” said OIC secretary general Iyad Ameen Madani, who is the former Information Minister of Saudi Arabia.

Global warming is due to have drastic effects in the Middle East. A recently published study in the journalNatural Climate Change predicts that countries in the Arabian Gulf and parts of Iran will be uninhabitable in the future due to extreme heatwaves predicted to sweep over the region after 2070.

Professor Elfatih Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who co-conducted the study, said, "We would hope that information like this would be helpful in making sure there is interest [in cutting carbon emissions] for the countries in the region. They have a vital interest in supporting measures that would help reduce the concentration of CO2 in the future."

The OIC, founded in 1969, is the second largest inter-governmental organization in the world and includes some of the world's least developed countries. It includes conflict-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq and huge resource-dependent states such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Developing nations are most vulnerable to global warming, and while some wealthier oil-rich Muslim countries might be able to afford protection against rising temperatures, poor countries like Yemen will suffer.

Food security also remains a critical issue in many of the OIC member states. Famines have occurred in Somalia and Mali in the last five years, and environment-linked disasters have led to widespread poverty in Bangladesh, which was ranked by the World Bank as one of the 12 countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Conserving the environment has a distinct place in Islamic thought as the religion prioritizes meeting the needs of present and future generations without destroying natural balance or excluding any segments of society. A form of sustainable development within Islam that has gained traction in recent years is Islamic finance, in which financial institutions are governed by both Islamic law and regular banking rules.

At the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, Chief Economist of the Islamic Development Bank Savas Alpay said, "In mobilizing resources for the Sustainable Development Goals, non-traditional sources of financing need to be given due attention. In this context, Islamic finance is offering a very promising alternative."

The Bank announced in July that it would be increasing development assistance to more than USD$150 billion to support short- and long-term environmental, social and economic projects in member states of the OIC.

While the OIC declaration is not legally binding to member states, it is an important rallying call in a region that has not taken a strong lead in the climate debate.

This article was originally published on Solutions in January 2016. 

Stewards of the Earth: Fulfilling Our Environmental Trust

The Muslim Chaplaincy at the University of Toronto in collaboration with khaleafa.com – A Sacred Trust andBlossomPure Organic brings you this Winter 2016 Symposium, titled “Stewards of the Earth: Fulfilling Our Environmental Trust.” We’re also greatly indebted to the Muslim Students’ Association @ University of Toronto for their constant support and assistance.

SYMPOSIUM DESCRIPTION:
The current environmental crisis is a reflection of a deeper spiritual disease that has polluted the hearts of many people today. As Muslims, we believe that we have a duty towards all of God’s creation, and that abusing that trust compromises our connection to the Divine.

God the Exalted warns us in the Quran of the dangers of corrupting the earth: “Corruption has appeared on land and sea as a result of what people’s hands have earned, and He will make them taste the consequences of some of their own actions so that they may turn back.” (Quran 30.41)

In this Symposium, we will cover some of the following topics:
• The metaphysical relationship between the believer and the environment.
• Modern food industry and the spiritual blessing of wholesome food.
• Practical methods and initiatives to fulfill our environmental trust.

To register, please sign-up at: http://mcuoft.com/symposium

Alhamdulillah for Great Ideas

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)

Quran Inspires Environmental Stewardship

In this ICNA-MAS session, we
1) Discuss the Sunnah of our Beloved Prophet (SAWS) as it relates to conservation and care for creation

2) Explore how Muslim communities around the world are reviving this tradition in the face of environmental calamities, and

3) Understand how this revival has led to more Muslims living the environmental spirit of Islam.

● How was the Prophet (SAWS) mindful of the environment? What is his Sunnah in relation to conservation and care for creation?

● What does the Qur’an say about environmental stewardship?

● What is the extent of the environmental damage and challenges we face, and what plausible avenues are there to mend our situation?

● Aligned with the Sunnah of Rasul Allah (SAW), what actions have Muslim communities taken to live more in accordance with our deen?

For all ICNA-MAS Convention (2015), please visit https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list…

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): 9 Healthy Habits That Science Later Proved

In honor of Mawlid Al-Nabi, the prophet’s birthday, we decided to share with you some of Muhammad’s (PBUH) healthy habits, which happen to be backed scientifically today!

Early Riser: Prophet Muhammad slept early and woke up with the Adhan of Fajr each day. Being an early riser has scientifically been correlated with better productivity, as well as better mental health in general. So, waking up early may be hard but with baby steps, even if it’s just waking up 15 minutes earlier to start with, you can begin improving your quality of life.

Eating Less: The practice of eating less to prevent sickness and disease was emphasized by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and now backed heavily by science much later. The Islamic concept ‘1/3 for your food, 1/3 for your liquids, and 1/3 for your breath’ matches very closely to the Japanese ‘hara hachi bu’ concept, which means eat until you are only 80% full. Read more about the health benefits of the ‘hara hachi bu’ practice here.

Eating Slowly: We now know that it takes our body 20 minutes to send signals to our brain that it is full. Slow eating will help you eat less food and improve your digestion, and it is a practice Muhammad (PBUH) did himself and strongly advocated. Read more about slow, mindful eating here.

Mindful Eating: ‘Eat together and not separately, for the blessing is associated with the company’. The prophet stressed this, and today sharing and enjoying food has been proven to reduce stress, improve family and romantic relationships, and build healthy eating habits within children.

Water: ‘Do not drink water in one breath, but drink it in two or three breaths’, is the manner by which Muhammad (PBUH) drank water. Science today proves that when a person drinks too much water in a short period of time they can experience headaches, imbalance in blood electrolyte levels and sometimes dizziness too. Drinking slowly helps you actually absorb the fluid and get the most benefit out of it.

Pomegranates: Pomegranates are thought to have been the prophet’s favorite fruit, and modern scientific research has proven pomegranates to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. They contain manganese, which helps in the formation of bone structures during the metabolic process, and potassium, which aids in maintaining cellular function and keeps a balance in fluid levels. They are also potent in flavonoids and polyphenols, antioxidants which protect our bodies against heart disease.

Fasting: Recent evidence is showing that not just the food we eat, but our eating timings and patterns also have a profound impact on our health. Fasting was a regular practice of Muhammad’s (PBUH) life, not just during Ramadan. He would fast until Maghrib every Monday and Thursday, and also on the 13th, 14th and 15th of each month. This is similar to the intermittent fasting practice, which has been proven to balance hormone levels, prevent oxidative stress, and reduce overall inflammation. When you think about it, the less food you put into your body the less it focuses on digestion and the more it can focus on healing itself from certain ailments!

Dates: Dates are the perfect foods to break your fast as they stabilize your blood sugar levels, rebalance blood electrolyte levels, and help kick start your digestive system in preparation for food. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also recommended dates to be eaten in the lead up to childbirth. Dates are now proven to boost oxytocin production in your body and speed up labor.

Staying Active: Fulfilling three of the five pillars of Islam requires that Muslims be of sound health and fitness; prayer in itself is a form of exercise that requires movement of your body’s muscles and joints. Good health is also necessary if you intend to fast or participate in Hajj. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) strongly encouraged physical exercise and told parents to encourage physical activity in their children too by ‘teaching them swimming, horse riding, and archery’.

This article was originally published The Daily Crisp on December 23, 2015.