Islamic Exhibit Captures the Journey to the Moon

moon.jpg

And He has subjected for you the night and day and the sun and moon, and the stars are subjected by His command. Indeed in that are signs for a people who reason.

(Quran 16:12)

The moon has played a pivotal role within Islamic history, marking the passage of time and symbolizing the delicate balance within the universe. It has inspired scientific understanding, formed the basis of spiritual beliefs and influenced art and poetry for millennia. It was the cohesive bond between cultures as Islam spread throughout the world, and it is no surprise that the crescent moon has become the modern symbol of Islam.

This Spring, the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto is curating an exhibit that explores the relationship of faith, science and the arts, highlighting the 50th anniversary of the Apollo lunar landing.  The Moon: A Voyage Through Time brings together important miniature paintings, scientific instruments, Islamic manuscripts, and contemporary works of art to illustrate the wonder at the moon that is shared among culture.

This immersive and interactive exhibition encourages visitors to view the moon from a new perspective by bringing together pieces by contemporary artists and masterworks from around the world.

For more information, please visit: https://agakhanmuseum.org/exhibitions/the-moon

AKM_The Moon_Landin g Page_1200x465px_3.png

Alhamdulillah for Peaches

AH-peaches.png

This week marks Peach Blossom Week! This simple sweet fruit was first domesticated in Asia and spread throughout that world, inspiring cuisine from Spain to the United States. Peaches were referred to as the ‘Persian Apple’ during Roman times, and were known as the “Fruit of Calmness’ for their ability to reduce anxiety. Though we won’t see peach blossoms for several more weeks in Canada, one can only imagine their fragrance as a sign of summer days ahead.

The “Alhamdulillah Series” has been a feature on Khaleafa for several years, aimed at highlighting the simple blessings in nature that surround us. The goal is to pause and reflect on the small things in our lives, and give thanks for these gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

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


Islamic Relief & Climate Change

Islamic aid organizations have recognized the connection between social justice and climate change, and that the changing climate is already having a devastating impact on the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Over the coming decades, climate change is an issue that will adversely affect the Muslims world, especially those who are displaced by floods, drought, desertification and extreme heat.

“We are in danger of ending life as we know it on our planet”
–   Islamic Declaration on Climate Change, 2015

Islamic Relief

Islamic Relief works with communities to strengthen their resilience to disasters, and provide vital emergency aid when disasters occur. They are known to tackle the root causes of poverty and are a policy leader on Islamic humanitarianism. In 2017, they released ‘Climate Champions - Islamic Relief’s Global Climate Action’, which captures why Islamic Relief is vocal on climate change and climate justice issues, and how they are campaigning to reduce emissions, promote sustainable living and protect the most vulnerable.

Islamic Relief recognised climate change as one of the greatest moral, social and environmental issues facing humanity. Inspired by Islamic teachings on justice and stewardship, they help communities become more resilient to climate change, improve learning on environmental issues among staff and supporters, aim to reduce our carbon footprint, and undertake advocacy to promote substantial and equitable reductions in greenhouse gases.

Global Climate Change Policy

Launching its updated Climate Change Policy this week, Islamic Relief Worldwide has reiterated its stark warning that bold and urgent action is needed to limit global warming and respond to the consequences of climate breakdown.

The Islamic Relief Climate Change policy recognises climate change as one of the greatest issues humanity faces, and sets out the far-reaching response that is needed.

“Our climate policy speaks out on behalf of the poor and marginalised suffering from climate change across the world,” said Islamic Relief CEO Naser Haghamed, speaking at the policy’s launch event on February 11th, 2019.

“We say that as a moral, social and environmental issue, mitigation of climate change demands an urgent and global response and change on an unprecedented scale.

“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is the most effective way to use resources. But there must also be investment where the consequences of climate breakdown are already being felt: in disaster risk management, adaptation and resilience building, and addressing loss and damage.”

Expressing the need for urgent action, Naser Haghamed echoed Swedish child activist Greta Thunberg’s cry that “Our house is on fire”. Thousands of schoolchildren worldwide are not attending school to take part in strikes pressurising world leaders to tackle climate change.

“Just the previous week, it was announced that 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record, the oceans are the warmest ever, the UK will average 1.5 degrees warming within five years, glaciers in the Himalayas are set to melt threatening water shortage for two billion people, and Islamic Relief was on alert as the government of Balochistan declared a drought emergency.”

Talanoa Dialogues

The Talanoa Dialogues organised by Islamic Relief in 11 countries sent messages to governments and the UN that adaptation to climate change needs to be tackled by the people who know their situation best. The duty of government is to help them plan and carry out the necessary work.

Emphasising that Islamic Relief must also continue to strive to do more, Islamic Relief’s CEO added:

“We must make sure that we are doing everything to limit our own greenhouse gas emissions, with continuously improving environmental performance integral to our business strategy and operating methods.

At next month’s UN Environment Assembly, Islamic Relief will present on their climate and consumption work in East Africa. There they will also engage with the UN secretary general’s climate summit and UN Climate Change conference later in the year.

International Polar Bear Day

andy-brunner-21063-unsplash.jpg

International Polar Bear Day is an annual event aimed to raise awareness about the impact of global warming and reduced sea ice on polar bear populations. Organized by Polar Bear International (PBI), the event encourages people to reduce their carbon footprint through making small changes in their daily lives such as driving less or lowering their thermostat. The mission of the organization is to inspire people to care for the Arctic, the threats to its future, and the connection between this remote region and our global climate.

The Polar Bear Connection

Polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt seals, which is their primary sources of food that sustain them throughout the year. However, the sea-ice in the Arctic has been melting earlier each year on average, limiting the time polar bears can effectively hunt and build up critical fat reserves. The snowball effect over several years reduces the polar bear population and range, making them vulnerable to extinction in the future.   

Changes in the Arctic are a litmus test of the effects of climate change, as the impacts are felt greater at higher latitudes. Scientists predict that as the Arctic continues to warm, two-thirds of the world's polar bears could disappear within this century. The latest IUCN report estimates there are approximately 26,000 remaining in the wild. Reducing our carbon emissions goes a long way towards limiting the negative impacts to polar bears and other Arctic species.

Islamic Perspective on Extinction

“And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures” – Quran 55:10

There are numerous references in Quran and Prophetic Tradition (Hadith) that speak to our role as stewards over the environment and the animals that inhabit it. We are obligated to take care and protect all animals as a sign our gratitude and for the blessings provided to us by Allah.

“The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Show mercy to those on earth, and He Who is in heaven will show mercy unto you.” (At-Tirmidhi, 1924)

When it comes to polar bears, we all have a collective responsibility to ensure that we prevent not only their habitat degradation but their extinction as well. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by lowering our thermostat or not idling our cars are simple steps we can take on an individual level. Educating others and engaging your community are other great ways to raise the awareness about polar bears and harmful impacts climate change to animals.

For more information on International Polar Bear Day, please visit: https://polarbearsinternational.org/

Alhamdulillah for Winter Sports

AH-winter sports.png

We admit it - Winter in Canada can be long, cold and dark, But it doesn’t mean that you have to hibernate indoors. Take advantage of the cold weather and head outdoors to ski, skate or go sledding while there’s still snow on the ground. Winter is truly a blessing that gives us countless opportunities to explore the great outdoors from a new perspective.

The “Alhamdulillah Series” has been a feature on Khaleafa for several years, aimed at highlighting the simple blessings in nature that surround us. The goal is to pause and reflect on the small things in our lives, and give thanks for these gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

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

Islamic Principles in Dealing with the Environment

By Riad Galil

Born and raised in Cairo of the Mu’ez (Old quarters of Cairo), I found myself surrounded by remnants of a glorious past.

My extended family and I used to gather on the rooftop of our home to have our usual meals. Both the Qalawun complex (a school, hospital, mosque and mausoleum) and Barquq mosque command the landscape around us.

These structures were established by the Mamluks in the middle ages. The Mamluk architectures in old Cairo reflect many devices that tend to effectively blend the built environment with the natural surroundings using some natural phenomena to improve the built environment. Such improvements helped to reflect the Islamic heritage.

The key to understanding the Islamic influence on the environment is the full appreciation of the Islamic concepts of God, the role of man on earth, and the role of the natural environment.

On the other hand, it is man who impacts the environment more than any other creature of God. Seyyed Hossein Nasr who is considered as the ‘founding father of Islamic eco-theology’, argues that “in the old days man had to be saved from nature, today nature must be saved from man in both peace and war”.

Islamic teachings provide a blueprint for an ecological sustainability that is workable and ethical. When we look at the amount of deforestation, soil erosion, water and air pollution and toxic waste in the majority Muslim countries, we find that Muslim communities are sometimes worse than many advanced nations in the world.

They tend to import inappropriate technologies to resolve local environmental issues. They overlook traditionally appropriate practices that were prompted by their Islamic teachings, and hence unnecessarily create difficulties and hazards.

The Muslim Mamluks have employed some ecological measures that enabled them to introduce a number of environmentally friendly measures to improve their built environments. Their attitude was dictated by their belief in Islamic ethics.

The environment holds a huge potential that man may wisely use for his benefit and other inhabitants of our earth making certain that enough resources for future generations were secured.

Muslims need to be aware of their environmental heritage so that they would both reap the benefits in this life and be rewarded in the Hereafter as they would have fulfilled their obligations as vicegerents of God on earth.

The primary sources of Islam; the Qur’an and the Sunna of the Prophet, contain many injunctions aiming at guiding the Muslim’s activities in this life so that on the one hand he/she would fulfil their obligations towards their God and on the other hand they would enjoy a good and healthy life with a promise of even better rewards in the Hereafter.

Qur’anic verses describing nature and natural phenomena outnumber verses dealing with commandments and sacraments. Some 750 verses, or one-eighth of the Book, exhort believers to reflect on nature, to study the relationship between living organisms and their environment, to make the best use of reason and to maintain the balance and proportion God has built into His creation.

The Qur’an and Sunna stipulate some principles that affect man’s attitude towards the environment. Fitra (initial state of creation), tawhid (Unity of God), khilafa (vicegerency), mizan (balance), and hikma (wisdom) are some important concepts that seem to lay the pathway for Muslims as they deal with their environments.

Fitra (The Creation) Principle

God created man as part of the primordial nature (fitra) of His creation [Qur’an 30:29]. Fitra is the intrinsic goodness in everything created by God. Man’s role is defined by that patterning . . . and the conscious expression of this rests with humankind.

Tawhid (The Unity of God) Principle

Muslims believe in one undividable God who has no partner nor does anyone or anything may resemble. Tawhid implies the unity and the equality of all God’s creation who should strive to mutually benefit one another. God considers every type of creation, particularly in the animal world, as nations much like human nations.

The Qur’an also emphasises the concept of the unity of God in many surahs (Qur’anic verses) indicating the supremacy of Almighty God over all of creation and that most creation willingly prostrate themselves to the will of God

Khilafa (The Responsibility) Principle

The Qur’an and the Sunna combine to remind mankind of their responsibilities towards maintaining and caring for the environment. God has created man to be His khalifa (vicegerent) on earth.

Such prerogative carries with it a heavy responsibility. Humans are “responsible for maintaining the unity of all God’s creation, the integrity of the earth, its flora and fauna, its wildlife and natural environment. As representatives of God on earth, Muslims should effectively preserve and care for the environment in order to protect God’s creation.

Mizan (The Balance) Principle

As God has created all things in quantified amounts, balance is required to maintain equity between species and their environments. The concept of balance draws the attention that moderation is required to maintain the balance in nature.

Violating the balance in nature has serious consequences. The destruction of the environment causes a severe imbalance in nature.

Hikma (The wisdom) Principle

“He giveth wisdom unto whom He will, and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly hath received abundant good” [Qur’an 2: 269].

Undoubtedly wisdom is necessary for the right judgements to be passed so that future impacts of today’s decisions would perhaps be minimised.

The five main principles for humans to deal with their environments named above, Fitra, tawhid, khilafa, mizan and hikma represent the Qur’anic plan for the relation between man and the environment.

Each creation should be guaranteed respect and the right to live in security and dignity.

“Our God, the Creator, they said, is He Who gave form, shape and features to every entity. He created and vested each entity with its qualities and attributes which guide each creature to its inherent role in life” [Qur’an 20:50],

The Qur’an asserts the universality of creation that would place every creation as an important contributor into the overall functioning of life on earth as we know it. God determined that

“Everything, spiritual, animates and inanimate We create according to plan indicating the relations of objects to one another” [Qur’an 54:49].

The books of sirah are full of teachings pertaining to the good use of the environmental resources and other measures to help in maintaining the balance of nature. The Prophet advised his followers to restrict their consumption of the earth’s resources to their immediate needs without causing any waste. In a hadith the Prophet of Islam reprimanded one of his close Companions for using excessive amounts of water for their ablution.

Muslims should be thrifty in the use of the earth’s resources even if resources were abundant. The Muslim should consume enough amounts to meet his/ her needs and then think of ways to recourse the surplus to those in the world who may need it.  The concern for a lot of other humans is so much ingrained into the Muslim’s psyche that the rewards for kind and charitable actions are highly rewarded by Almighty God in both this life and in the Hereafter.

In pursuit of conserving the environment, the Qur’an issues clear and unambiguous instructions dealing with the conservation of land animals. Almighty God has decreed in the Qur’an that “The calendar introduced by God . . . divides the year into twelve months, four of which are sacred” [Qur’an 9:36].

These four months were further elaborated in Suratul Ma’eda (The table).

“Nor are you permitted to engage in the chase (killing) of wild animals or game”, while you are on pilgrimage –major or minor- (in the sacred months). God ordains what He will” [Qur’an 5:1].

For four months every year (three of which are consecutive and one stands alone), Muslims are not permitted, by order of God, to hunt land game.

Such halt of killing the land game would allow the animals a chance to rejuvenate and multiply so that its numbers would not dwindle or even become instinct as the situation is today with so many species disappearing from the face of the earth after extensive harvesting by people.

Mr Riad Galil OAM is Senior Imam at West Heidelberg Mosque and Chaplain both at RMIT University, City Campus as well as Deakin University, Burwood campus. Married with four children and nine grandchildren, he is based in Melbourne.

This article originally appeared on AMUST on February 27th, 2019.

Alhamdulillah for Warmth

IMG_3741.JPG

As many parts of Canada succumb to frigid temperatures this winter, we are reminded of the simple blessing of warmth. Unfortunately, there are many people in Canada who do not have access to housing, and are left exposed to the elements. Take a moment to share the warmth, and reach out to those in your community who may need some additional help this time of year.

The “Alhamdulillah Series” has been a feature on Khaleafa for several years, aimed at highlighting the simple blessings in nature that surround us. The goal is to pause and reflect on the small things in our lives, and give thanks for these gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

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


Preserving Nature, Carrying Out Obligations to God

By: Nur Arinta

Islam is one of the religions in the world which has a large number of followers, and Indonesia is known as a country with the highest number of Muslims in the world. As a religion that is the guideline of human life, Islam also regulates matters concerning human to nature relations. Preserving nature not only protects the animals, but also helps protect ecological processes so that natural systems can run uninterrupted. A modern environmentalist named Mawli Y. Izzi Deen said that preserving the environment as part of ecology is an obligation within Islam. An assistant professor of King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia also said in his essay entitled “Islamic Environmental Ethics, Law and Society,” that conservation of the environment must be done because the environment and all creatures are created by Allah SWT which is entrusted to humans on earth.
 
Furthermore Islam also teaches people to do good things for the environment. Prophet Muhammad once said, anyone who treats nature well with a sincere heart will get a reward from Allah SWT in the form of pahala. Even during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam has introduced the concept of "hima", namely the establishment of certain zones for nature conservation and protecting plants and wildlife, wherein it is not permitted to make buildings, neither make fields, create land, nor hunt.
 
Quoted from republika.co.id, there are five types of hima that apply at the time of the Prophet Muhammad. The first type of hima is an area where people should not use it to herd livestock, but they are still allowed to cut trees in this area as long as the trees cut are old and have already produced flowers and fruit. The second type is an area where people are allowed to herd cattle and cut trees that have flowered and produce fruit, to help the seeding process naturally in the following season.
 
The third type is an area permitted to be a grazing area throughout the year, but is limited to the type of livestock and a quota system is applied. In this region, people may also cut grass. The fourth type is an area used as a bee sanctuary, where people can only herd cattle after the flower season is over. The fifth type functions as a forest conservation area. In this area trees may be cut only during emergencies. The last type is a forest conservation area to prevent desertification.
 
As the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, the approach through religious wisdom could be one method used in making efforts to raise awareness concerning the environmental conservation and wildlife. This can be done through community leaders, such as religious leaders or village leaders who are respected at the grassroots level.
 
The Chairperson of the Foreign Relations and International Cooperation Division of the MUI, KH. Muhyiddin Junaidi MA, stated "The Indonesian Ulema Council has formed an Environmental Breeding Institute, which has line of duty to issue fatwas or religious opinions about the needs to preserve wildlife and ecosystems in order to protect Indonesia's environment."
 
Based on this, the Indonesian Ulema Council as a leading religious institution in Indonesia stipulates Fatwa Number 4 of 2014 concerning Conservation of Endangered Animals for the Balance of Ecosystems. This fatwa orders to protect and preserve endangered species, both protected and unprotected, living in the wild or in captivity, having a small population and declining population in nature, and requiring conservation efforts to prevent extinction. Fatwa No. 4 of 2014 is to prevent species extinction caused by various threats experienced by animals which could cause extinction, which will disrupt the balance of the ecosystem, whereas it is supposed to be maintained.
 
This fatwa is comprise of recommendations aimed at the government, legislative bodies, regional governments, business people, religious leaders, and the wider community. The recommendation advice us to take steps to protect and preserve endangered species against extinction, one of which is law enforcement efforts to stop the hunting and trading of wild animals, especially protected species.
 
The Indonesian Ulema Council also has an environmental Da’i, namely the Da'i which specifically mentions the importance of protecting and preserving the environment. "MUI forms environmental Da’i because the environment is an aspect that cannot be separated from human. lt is not only fardhu kifayah (obligatory for some people), but also it is fardhu 'ain (must be done) for all humanity to protect the environment and maintain the balance of the ecosystem.
 
Religion is the approach that can be chosen as a method of socialization and education, to influence the community to preserve animals and to prevent species extinction. As the teachings in every religion says that humans not only should have good relations with God, but also to other humans living harmoniously alongside nature. Therefore, if all parties can carry out their respective functions and roles, it is not impossible for us to fulfill the dream of the preservation of animals and ecosystems.

This article originally appeared on WWF -Indonesia on January 3, 2019.

National Umbrella Day

By: Muaz Nasir

Today marks National Umbrella Day; a day where we mark our appreciation for this useful invention. (1)

Umbrella’s are an innovative tool, that have been around for thousands of years. Evidence of their use can be found in ancient art and artifacts in Egypt, Assyria, Greece and China (2). Not only do they keep us dry during the rain, but they can also protect us from the damaging rays of the sun.

As a result, the umbrella has become a symbol for climate change, representing the dueling forces of floods and droughts that have rocked the planet in recent years.

Floods, Droughts and Climate Change

Water vapour, which is the source of rain and snow, primarily comes from two sources. About 60% is derived straight from the oceans, while the other 40% is evaporated over the continents. This is important to note because the rate of evaporation from the ocean increases as the world warms, and this contributes to increases in the annual amount of snow and rain (2).

Globally, the atmosphere is getting warmer, which means that it can retain more moisture. More rain may seem like a good thing, but too much rain, especially high-intensity, short-duration storms, can have a devastating impact. Flash floods have become common in some parts of Canada, where rain that falls as a violent downpour, quickly runs back into the rivers and lakes, rather than being absorbed and retained in the soil.

On the flip side of the equation, even though evaporation is increasing, the holding capacity of the atmosphere is not keeping pace. This results in dry spells between rain events, as it takes longer for moisture to recharge the atmosphere. This leaves parched soils which are unable to hold moisture during these severe storms, and further exacerbates the run-off of water out of the system when rain actually arrives (3).

Whether it's heavy rain or blistering sun, the humble umbrella will become one of the go-to tools in the toolbox in adapting to climate change.  

Kamal Badawi, a Saudi engineer from Makkah, explains the features of a smart umbrella to a pilgrims. (Source:  Al Arabiya)

Kamal Badawi, a Saudi engineer from Makkah, explains the features of a smart umbrella to a pilgrims. (Source: Al Arabiya)

What’s Next for Umbrellas?

Recently, Saudi engineers have re-designed the umbrella to assist Hajj pilgrims avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration at the holy sites where temperatures can climb to over 40°C. Known as a smart umbrella, it is solar powered and has integrated USB ports, a fan, flashlight and a GPS system to help locate lost family members and friends (4). Other versions connect the base to a water bottle which can deliver a cooling mist to pilgrims (5).

This National Umbrella Day, give your umbrella a tune-up before spring arrives and consider its new role in a world with climate change.

Sources:

  1. National Day Calendar: https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-umbrella-day-february-10/

  2. The Climate Reality Project: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/why-does-climate-change-lead-more-floods-and-droughts

  3. Climate Communication Science & Outreach: https://www.climatecommunication.org/new/features/extreme-weather/precipitation-floods-drought/

  4. Al Arabiya: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/variety/2016/09/11/Pilgrims-use-Smart-Umbrella-.html

  5. Daily Pakistan Global: https://en.dailypakistan.com.pk/technology/saudi-engineer-invents-air-conditioned-umbrella-for-hajj-pilgrims/

Alhamdulillah for Pinecones

IMG_3711.jpg

The traditional pinecone, is the seed bearing cone of conifer trees. They vary in size, shape and even colour depending on the variety. Pinecones play a vital role in keeping seeds safe and close their scales to keep out freezing temperatures, wind, ice and hungry animals looking for a snack. They truly are little gems in the forest.

The “Alhamdulillah Series” has been a feature on Khaleafa for several years, aimed at highlighting the simple blessings in nature that surround us. The goal is to pause and reflect on the small things in our lives, and give thanks for these gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

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


Miracles of the Quran: Water

“And We sent down water from the heaven in proper quantity, and we made Earth is dwelling, and We are Able to take it away.”

Water on Earth came from outer space, particularly from ice in comets and meteors. When those comets enter our atmosphere the heat generated on entry vaporizes this ice into the atmosphere.

The Christian Bible says that God created water directly on Earth, however, the Quran says that God sent down water from outer space and then made Earth its dwelling:

And We sent down water from the heaven in proper quantity, and we made Earth is dwelling, and We are Able to take it away.

[Quran 23.18]

If God made Earth its dwelling (فَأَسْكَنَّاهُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ) then this means that water formed in outer space. In another verse, the Quran explains how water came down from outer space. The clouds are enslaved between the Earth and the heavens but the water itself came from the heavens above the clouds:

In the water which Allah sent down from the Heavens and brought with it life to Earth after being dead and gave life in it to every kind of land animal; And in directing the winds; And in the clouds that are enslaved between the Heavens and the Earth; [All these] are Signs for a people who comprehend.

[Quran 2.164]

So the water itself came from the heavens above the clouds. Here God is not talking about rain (matar or wadk in Arabic) instead God is talking about water (مَاءٍ).

In another verse, the Quran says that water originally came from the heavens (above the clouds) in the form of ice. There are mountains in the heaven that have ice inside them; those mountains could fall on Earth making a very bright flash:

Can’t you see that Allah makes the clouds move gently, then joins them together, then makes them into a pile? Then you see rain come out from within? And He sends down from heaven mountains with ice inside them; that strike whomever He wishes or miss whoever He wishes; Its flash almost blinds you.

[Quran 24.43]

rain2.jpg

God sent down from the heavens (above the clouds) mountains with ice inside them! The clouds are enslaved between the Heavens and the Earth but the water itself originally came from the Heavens (above the clouds) in the form of ice in mountains. They make a flash, this is the description of comets and meteors when they hit our atmosphere.

Rain hits everyone (no exceptions) however the Quran referred to mountains: “that strike whomever He wishes or miss whoever He wishes”. Of course, the meteor that killed the dinosaurs was the size of a mountain. If we get hit with a meteor the size of a mountain we too will die. It is Gods’ choice that we live or die.

How could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have known that water originally came from ice in comets?

More than half your body weight is water. Animals and plants on Earth are mostly water. All life in our universe also needs water. When scientists search for life on exoplanets they only look for planets with water; no water means no life. However Muslims knew about this 1400 years before it was discovered.

Do not those who disbelieve see that the heavens and the Earth were meshed together then We ripped them apart? And then We made of water everything living? Would they still not believe?

[Quran 21.30]

In the Quran, all life, on Earth and in the heaven, depends on water.

How could an illiterate man who lived 1400 years ago have known that all life in the universe also needs water?

Water covers about 71% of the Earth’s surface. This is also the same ratio as the word “Sea” and the word “Land” appear in the Quran. “Sea” appears 32 times and “Land” 13 times. The ratio of “Sea” to the total (Sea + Land) = 32/(32+13) = 71%.

This article originally appeared on TMV on January 11, 2019.

Wetlands: Our Collective Responsibility

By: Muaz Nasir

Saturday, February 2nd 2019 marks World Wetlands Day, where government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community, take this opportunity to learn, share and take action aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits. This day also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2nd 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea (1).

World Wetlands Day was established in 1997 to raise awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet. The theme for this year is Wetland and Climate Change, and draws attention to the crucial role wetlands play as a natural solution in building resilience to climate change.

What are wetlands?

Often an overlooked component of the ecological system, wetlands provide us with clean water, protect us from floods and droughts, offer food and livelihoods to millions of people and store more carbon than any other ecosystem. They also support a rich diversity of plants and animals, as well as migratory populations of birds and fish. Yet, the value of wetlands remains largely unrecognized by policy and decision makers (1).

“Wetlands play an important role in the health of our country and our communities. They remove sediments, excess nutrients and even bacteria from our drinking water. They are very effective at storing carbon. And much like a giant paper towel, they absorb and hold water to buffer our cities and farms from floods and droughts – both of which are growing more common and extreme in recent years.” Hillary Page, Director of Science and Stewardship, Nature Conservancy of Canada

wetland - vancouver.jpeg

Why are they important?

Since 1900, over 64% of the world's wetlands have been lost, with nearly 50% of this loss happening since 1970. Canada is home to nearly 25% of the world’s wetlands but 70% have either been destroyed or degraded. In the worst cases, such as some areas on the prairies, as much as 90% of our wetlands have disappeared (2).

There contributing causes for the disappearance or degradation of these valuable ecosystems include farming, urban development and resource extraction; which result in wetlands being drained and converted for other purposes (3). The negative impacts are cumulative and can have significant impacts to the surrounding environment. Every time a wetland is lost the entire watershed loses value to humans, animals and plants (4).

The loss or destruction of wetlands can result in:

  • Loss or degradation of wetland habitat and a loss of plant and animal biological diversity

  • Deterioration of wetland water quality

  • Reduction in water supply and water storage

  • Loss of flood plain land and floodplain protection

  • Increased soil erosion and desertification

  • Reduced range of recreational opportunities

“Wetland-dependent species are in serious decline. Since 1970, declines have affected 81% of inland wetland species populations and 36% of coastal and marine species.” International Union for the Conservation of Nature

Wetlands in Islam

Recent theological research has highlighted the importance of wetlands as Hima or ‘living sanctuaries’, that deserve to be protected based on their ecological importance to current and future generations. The Islamic concept of Hima has been practiced since the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) when he designated a Hima around the area of Madinah to ensure the protection of vegetation and wildlife. This approach has been expanded today, and has been interpreted to include the protection of ecologically significant or sensitive areas, including wetlands.

Hima has been recognized as a Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) System, which promotes sustainable livelihood, resource conservation, and environmental protection for all. The Hima system is considered as one of the most widespread systems of traditional conservation that is based off of consensus and mutual benefit. Proponents of the application of Hima to wetlands cite passages from the Quran that clearly identify the responsibilities Muslims have as stewards over all environments, and ensuring their health for future generations (5).

“And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” Quran 6:165.

What you can do:

  • Explore wetland areas in your community and enjoy the natural diversity of plants and animals that thrive in this environment.

  • Learn more about the importance of wetlands, and educating others on their role and importance.

  • Become involved in wetland restoration projects in your community by reaching out to your local conservation authority.

  • Raise the issue with at your local planning committee to ensure development does not adversely degrade wetlands.

  • Visit the World Wetlands Day website for more information and resources on how wetlands can help mitigate the impacts of the climate change.

Sources:

  1. Global Wetlands Outlook: https://www.global-wetland-outlook.ramsar.org/

  2. Nature Conservancy of Canada:

    http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/where-we-work/manitoba/stories/wetlands-are-disappearing.html

  3. Ducks Unlimited: https://www.ducks.ca/our-work/wetlands/

  4. Wetlands Alberta: http://www.wetlandsalberta.ca/wetland-loss/

  5. Hima as ‘Living Sanctuaries’: An approach to wetlands conservation from the perspective of Shari’a law: https://ac.els-cdn.com/S187704281304425X/1-s2.0-S187704281304425X-main.pdf?_tid=3953607b-370f-4b9d-b1dd-f90e3729cac8&acdnat=1548949103_c7e087d4a0fd8a16325fee5ff8b02eaa  

Caring for Our Common Home: Climate Change and Faith

hind_and_laura-min.jpg

Adopted from a keynote address at the Grand River Interfaith Breakfast held in Kitchener, ON on April 25, 2015

By: Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh
Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University

I had the honour and privilege to stand before 350+ attendees from the Waterloo Region and deliver the keynote on a topic that I’m passionate about at the Grand River Interfaith Breakfast, just three days after the world celebrated Earth Day. I provide below an edited version of my talk.

I started by acknowledging that “we are on the Haldimand Tract, traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples.” The indigenous people of this land have so much to teach us on how to care for it as it was their ancestors who were connected to this land, understood its seasons and rhythms, and welcomed settlers into their ever-expanding circle.

I have structured my brief talk with one goal in mind that I wanted to leave the audience with, which is that humans need to rethink and restore their relationship with and dependency on nature, and that people of all faiths are uniquely qualified to lead in this area.

The history of environmental degradation since the industrial revolution that started just two centuries ago clearly shows that human-induced climate change is by far the most serious threat to human civilization as we know it in the 21st century. Nature has a way of restoring balance in its systems after a storm, an earthquake or a volcano eruption. But, when you add to the picture people, homes, factories, farmlands, drinking water sources, basic infrastructure for transportation and sewage, border security, animals and microscopic species we depend on for food, it becomes clear how fragile this human-built civilization is to the impacts of climate change.

These impacts include, but are not limited to: rising sea levels, ocean acidification and its impact on marine life, increased intensity of hurricanes and tornadoes, loss of biological diversity and its impact on soil quality, increased intensities and duration of heat waves, flooding in some areas and drought in others, and mass migration of people fleeing conflict due to lack of water and food.

Because I’m a trained scientist and a practicing Muslim, it is very clear in my mind where science and religion stand on environmental issues:

I see science as a tool that help us make sense of the world around us at molecular, atomic and subatomic levels, and also as a tool to create things we can’t find in nature. Through scientific studies, we can quantify and project how human activities influence the chemical and physical balance of natural systems, and how we can fix them when they are out of balance because of our actions. I also can see that scientific findings can enlighten the faithful about benefits and harms of certain religious practices passed on from generation to generation.

As for religion, given what I know about human nature and how it evolves and changes over ones’ life time, religion can inform the application of science through instilling ethical principles so that products of scientific innovation are for the benefit and good of society and the rest of creation.

There is a relevant statement in Dr. David Suzuki’s book, the Sacred Balance, that reads as following:

"As scientists, many of us have had profound experiences of awe and reverence before the universe. We understand that what is regarded as sacred is more likely to be treated with care and respect. Our planetary home should be so regarded. Efforts to safeguard and cherish the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred. At the same time, a much wider and deeper understanding of science and technology is needed. If we do not understand the problem, it is unlikely we will be able to fix it. Thus, there is a vital role for both religion and science."

More scientists and politicians are coming out framing environmental problems as moral issues, not only technical scientific issues that can be fixed with machines. See for example statements by Dr. James Hansen and Al Gore.

So, what drove humanity to this degree of environmental degradation that threatens their existence? It boils down to two main factors: (1) unregulated corporate greed for resource development, whether at home or abroad, and (2) overconsumption by individuals eager to achieve and maintain a certain social status based on materialistic acquisitions.

Hence, what do religions in general, including Islam, have to offer humanity at this critical time of societal challenges?

In an excellent book authored by Andrea Cohen-Keiner with the title “Claiming Earth as Common Ground”, I echo what she lists there as the three main tools that people of faith bring to the table of environmental activism: Faith, Spirit and Social Wealth.

  • Faith: the belief in a mighty God and a benevolent universe. This faith is trust, optimism, and the capacity to work when we know we will not finish the job. With faith, we know the worst and work for the best.
  • Spirit: is the still small voice we hear that calls for alignment with natural order. It is the joyful wordless satisfaction we feel when are connected to ourselves and feel fully alive.
  • Social Wealth: is the non-competitive meaningful connection to the community. It is not governed by same physics of “material wealth”.
     

For decades, Muslim scholars specializing in religious studies, social and physical sciences have written on the topic of Islam and Ecology. They include Drs. Seyyed Hossein NasrFazlun Khalid in the UK, Adi Setia in Malaysia, and Ibrahim Ozdemir in Turkey.

The main questions addressed in their scholarly work were:

  1. What do the revelations in the Quran say about the natural world?
  2. How do Muslims understand the “stewardship” concept?
  3. How do Muslims translate that understanding into practice?

In answering question 1 on what the Quran says about the natural world, we find that verses regarding the natural world are universal and address all humanity, believers and non-believers.

These verses start with “O People..” and “O People of Adam”, or contain pronouns that refer to all humans. The context of these verses revolves around:

  • the creation of humans from a single soul and of diverse nature,
  • creation of the natural world, the living and the inanimate, and
  • how humans should view the natural world.

This verse in particular:

“He has raised the sky. He has set the balance: 8. so that you may not exceed in the balance” (Quran 55-7). The word “balance” in the above verse could be interpreted in light of our scientific understanding of how ecosystems work, where natural elements are interconnected with each other in a delicate cyclical fashion.

In addition, natural elements in the Quran are referred to as “signs” of God, a language for us to learn. God invites us to read these signs as a “book of Nature” and tell us that it is as sacred as the written “book of revelation”. It is not a coincidence that the first word that was revealed in the Quran is ‘Read’ and the name of the second chapter is the ‘Pen’, highlighting the centrality of seeking and recording knowledge to believing in God.

It is also not surprising that the first thing a reader of the Quran will notice is that a good number of the 114 chapters have names of natural elements: the Sun, the Moon, The Star, the Bees, the Ants, The Spider, the Sand Dunes, The Smoke, etc. See more selected verses in this link.

In answering the second question on how Muslims understand the “stewardship” concept:

It is mentioned in verse 165 of chapter 6 that, It is He (God) who has made you (people of Adam) successors, stewards, vicegerents on Earth.”

In light of this verse and other related ones, Muslim scholars interpreted the stewardship concept as the following: As God’s vicegerents on Earth, generations of humans are guardians of the natural world and should work hard to keep it in its inherit balanced state.

Early scholars deduced that everything in nature was created for reasons other than only serving or benefiting human kind. Hence, as Al-Burini inferred, humans “[do not] have a right to exploit the other kingdoms for [their] own desires”.

Should humans ignore their responsibility towards the natural world, we are told in the Quran (Verse 41 of chapter 30) that humans shall taste the consequences of their ignorance in this life: Corruption has flourished on land and sea as a result of people’s actions and He will make them taste the consequences of some of their own actions so that they may turn back”. The keyword “corruption” is so broad in meaning and has been interpreted by many scholars to encompass environmental degradation as a result of people’s exploitation of the natural world.

To continue on to the answer of the third question of how Muslims translate their understanding of religious texts into environmentally-friendly practices, we have to start by saying that what drives Muslims to couple faith with action stems from their desire to live a good life now and in the hereafter, where they will meet their Lord. Acts of righteousness — as Muslims understand them — encompass those to one self, other fellow humans, and the rest of creation.

In addition, traditions of Prophet Muhammad inspire Muslims to cultivate land, treat animals humanely, reduce water usage, and tread gently on the earth. See specific examples in this link.

What I’ve mentioned so far does not only provide an alternative ethical worldview of the natural world, but also builds a sense of internal accountability to the Creator to whom we will return. This internal sense of accountability was the driving force for early generations of Muslims to (1) set up a range of conservation zones for protecting land and species in their habitat, (2) designate zones where human development was not allowed, usually for the protection of water sources, and (3) establish agencies known as hisba to whom members of the community were held accountable.

In more recent history, a number of initiatives by Muslim academics, activists and concerned citizens in Canada and around the world galvanized action towards raising awareness of environmental problems and solutions, and also produce scholarly work in this area. This modern Islamic environmental movement culminated in the publication of the “Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change” in 2015 in Istanbul by a team of Muslim professionals recruited by the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences based in the UK.

2015 was also the same year when Pope Francis published his 192-page encyclical letter on climate and the environment. The letter was welcomed in the scientific community with dedicated editorial pieces written on its content in the top two scientific journals, Science and Nature. This is in addition to reports published regularly by a number of interfaith grassroots organizations and initiatives focusing on ecology: the Greening Sacred Spaces of Faith & the Common Good here in Canada, the US Sierra Club report entitled ‘Faith in Action: Communities of Faith bring Hope for the Planet’, and the UK-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation.

So, the climate change issue presents opportunities to think globally and to act and collaborate locally towards a common goal. Instead of feeling paralyzed when thinking about the impacts of climate change, we need to shift our focus and energy and think of the massive opportunities that await us in creating a new future that is more sustainable, socially just, and in harmony with nature for us and future generations.

Scientists and thought leaders in politics and the energy sector tell us that the path to meeting Paris emission reduction goals center around the following three major points:

  • Stopping all subsides to the fossil fuel industry,
  • Pricing carbon to account for the true cost of pollution,
  • Divesting investments from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Religious leaders in all faith communities also have a role to play to:

  • Remind the faithful that their value as human beings in the eyes of God does not equal the material wealth they accumulate at whatever expense,
  • Remind the faithful that their faith in the heart has to be coupled with actions that benefit the planet, the people, and all creation for generations to come, and that God is watching their intentions and actions,
  • Encourage the faithful to renovate or build homes and places of worship that consume less energy and water,
  • Encourage the faithful to cultivate the land in their homes and places of worship in form of community gardens,
  • Encourage the faithful to contemplate their diet and ways of transportation to reduce their environmental footprints,
  • Reach out to members of the indigenous communities to listen to their stories on how they cared for this land,
  • Reach out to neighbouring faith communities and other non-faith based community organizations to learn about best practices and how to support each others efforts.

I hardly can think of other ways to engage the faithful — and youth in particular — for the long term, except through working on solutions to climate change. In this way, we are sure to build a future and a community that we will be proud of for years to come.

To conclude, while science provides the understanding and technical fix to climate change, religions provide the moral and ethical framework that influences the individual’s behavior towards the creation in general.

Acknowledgments:

I want to thank my dear colleague Dr. Meena Sharifi-Funk for the introduction at the event and encouragement to participate in this year’s interfaith breakfast.

Also, thanks to Sandy Milne and John Maine for their kind invitation, Mirko from the Laurier Seminary for the media coverage, and the hardworking volunteers who made that event possible.

This article originally appeared on Faith and the Common Good on May 7th, 2018. 

Bridging the gap between the three major faiths and nature

carolyn-v-546925-unsplash.jpg

As uncertainty shrouds our planet’s future. A resurgence of religious thought and action is underway. As part of our Voices for Nature series, JAKE LLOYD explores how three faith-based organisations are reimagining or rediscovering ways for earth’s four billion Jewish, Christian and Muslim people to repair their relationship with nature

In the Biblical account of creation, God makes the universe and everything in it with the joy and abandon of a child with a paint set. He separates light from dark. He flings stars into space. He gives form to plants and animals. 

Finally, He makes humans. But unlike everything that comes before, humans are accorded the special - if ambiguous - status of being made in God’s image.  

The story unfolds from here, and as it does we see human defiance and destruction place a growing distance between us and nature.

Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden for doing the one thing they’re told not to. Cain murders his brother Abel, and flees further from the garden.

God vows to start afresh with a cataclysmic flood. But then even this, Noah’s descendent Abraham comes to the very brink of plunging a knife through the chest of his only offspring. 

A human penchant for destruction continues.

Fast forward from this most anthropocentric of creation stories, to the dawn of the Anthropocene. Now, among the Jews, Christians and Muslims of the ‘Abrahamic faiths’, questions of man’s place in God’s creation gather a new urgency.

Perhaps it’s just as well then that these faiths specialise not only in stories of struggle and failure, but in ideas of hope and redemption too. 

Below are three such ideas, that three environmental groups have put at the centre of their work, as they go about the task of repairing man’s relationship with nature.

Before the arrival of Islam in the seventh century AD, the harsh desert of the Arabian peninsula was home to nomadic tribes who frequently came into conflict. A Hima - meaning 'protected area' - became a place of respite for everyone.

Tikkun Olam - Judaism

Debate and argument are a central part of Jewish religious expression. They have even been called “a Jewish national sport”. And so the precise meaning of an expression as nebulous as Tikkun Olam – or ‘world repair’ – is up for grabs to whoever argues most convincingly.

In this spirit, throughout its history Tikkun Olam has been claimed as a guiding principle of social policy, an endorsement of volunteerism, a decree to oppose idolatry, and an invitation to participate in a mystical good-versus-evil battle.

More recently, however, the USA’s Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) argues that it is a divine instruction to respond to climate change.

Rabbi Daniel Swartz from COEJL said: “Olam can mean eternity as well as world, so this is a reminder that we have to find solutions that are sustainable across generations, not just ones that work for the present at the expense of the future”.

With this in mind, COEJL and its member organisations work from the bottom up – reacquainting Jews with nature through outdoor education programmes around the world – whilst also targeting Jewish public policy, with its energy programmes attracting the endorsement of figures like Al Gore.

Gospel – Christianity

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic friar Francis of Assisi gained a reputation for talking to animals. In one story, he preached to birds when men would not listen. In another, he pleaded with a wolf to stop terrorising a neighbourhood. He also conversed with a squirrel about the sacraments.

Assisi saw nature as polluted by the sin of humanity, and so also in need of redemption. As patron saint of animals and ecology, he’s been a popular figure in the church ever since.

Nevertheless, the gospel is ordinarily marketed as ‘good news’ for people and their souls, rather than the planet and its future. But this might be changing.

“The gospel is about relationships”, Andy Atkins, the chief executive of  A Rocha UK says. “With God, with others, with ourselves and with the environment that sustains us”. Former head of Friends of the Earth, Atkins describes A Rocha as “a home for Christians who make the connection between their faith and the environment, supporting them to influence others.”

Two years ago they launched an ‘Eco Church’ scheme to recognise churches that put the environment at the heart of their mission: from installing solar panels, to preaching on environmental stewardship, and involvement in local conservation.

There are now nearly 900 such churches in the UK, and A Rocha aims for 4,000 by 2025. Look carefully and you might spot one of their recycled wooden plaques adorning an Eco Church near you. They also have two nature reserves in the south of England.

Hima - Islam

Before the arrival of Islam in the seventh century AD, the harsh desert of the Arabian peninsula was home to nomadic tribes who frequently came into conflict. A Hima - meaning 'protected area' - became a place of respite for everyone.

Conflict was forbidden in these areas, and scarce natural resources were carefully and collectively managed for the good of all. With the arrival of Islam – which accorded a particular respect to animals – a Hima became a place of refuge for wildlife too. Some Himas were even designated as retirement homes for elderly camels.

And though the concept of a Hima was forgotten during the course of the twentieth century, it is now on its way back, thanks to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL).

Assad Serhal founded SPNL in order to protect the many migrating birds that rest in his native Lebanon. But when he re-discovered Hima, he found a way to bring communities together from across the country’s ethnic and religious groups, to engage in responsible land management, and take pride in their region’s biodiversity.

He has since been invited to work with other countries to establish Himas across the Middle East and Mediterranean.

Jake Lloyd is a communications consultant, and communications coordinator at Arukah Network. He helped his local church to join the Eco Church scheme mentioned above, and participates in a community energy project.

This article originally appeared on the Ecologist on April 18th, 2018. 

Earth Day 2018

forrest-cavale-1738-unsplash.jpg

Earth Day is upon us, a day celebrated by the world to generate awareness on protecting our planet. Earth day started in 1970, and has become a very popular event where people plant trees, clean up parks and rivers, and campaign critical efforts. The struggles our planet faces is one of the most important topics of discussion and should be discussed in our masajids, in our halaqas, and on our minbars. Allah in the Quran says:

 “And it is He (God) who has made you successors (khala’ifa) upon the Earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Surah Al-An’am:165].

Throughout the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet  there are everyday lessons of our duty and responsibility in regards to the environment. These duties bring out our mercy, compassion, righteousness, and piety. These teaching and orders soften our hearts to increase our taqwa towards Allah . Our Prophet Muhammad  said:

There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field for a human, bird, or animal eats from it, but it shall be reckoned as charity from him.” [Bukhari, Muslim].

This encourages us to build a connection with our planet, something we need to re-establish through implementation of the Quran and Sunnah. By doing so you build a stronger bond with Allah  and you reach a higher level of harmony in your life.

These role of stewardship bestowed upon us by Allah also shows us his vast mercy upon us. Allah’s Messenger  said,

LIKE THIS?

Get more of our great articles.

 

“While a man was walking he felt thirsty and went down a well and drank water from it. On coming out of it, he saw a dog panting and eating mud because of excessive thirst. The man said, ‘This (dog) is suffering from the same problem as that of mine. So he (went down the well), filled his shoe with water, caught hold of it with his teeth and climbed up and watered the dog. Allah thanked him for his (good) deed and forgave him.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Is there a reward for us in serving (the) animals?” He replied, “Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate.”

And abandoning our stewardship role that has been given to us by Allah reveals punishment in a sense. The Prophet  said,

“There are three types of people whom Allah  will neither talk to, nor look at, on the Day of Resurrection. (They are): 1. A man who takes an oath falsely that he has been offered for his goods so much more than what he is given. 2. A man who takes a false oath after the ‘Asr prayer in order to grab a Muslim’s property, and 3. A man who withholds his superfluous water. Allah  will say to him, Today I will withhold My Grace from you as you withheld the superfluity of what you had not created.” [Bukhari;2370]

Getting your masjid and community involved in worthy environmental efforts will increase rewards and reduce the chances of neglecting our obligations to the environment. This can go to the extent of being sadaqah jariya. In NJ we used to plant trees, not just on Earth Day but year round. We would go to the most impoverished cities and neighborhoods in the state and plant trees in their community. This allowed us to provide trees that will provide shade for decades to come. Prophet Muhammad  said:

 “There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field for a human, bird, or animal eats from it, but it shall be reckoned as charity from him.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

It was also a form of dawah:

“Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma’roof (whatever is good) and forbidding Al-Munkar (whatever is evil). And it is they who are successful.” (Qur’an 3:104)  The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: “The best among you are those who possess the best manners.” (Al-Bukhari/Muslim)

Make your masjid into a Green Masjid, raise funds for solar panels, wudu friendly faucets to conserve water, and proper insulation for the summer and winter seasons. Make small changes from irresponsible use of energy be it lighting, heating or cooling, to reducing use of plastics. Let us show the world how the values of Islam can lead to a healthier and more prosperous planet.

This article originally appeared on Muslims Matters on April 22nd, 2018. 

Au Revoir Plastic?

plastic-bottles-115071_1920.jpg

By: Klaudia Khan

Is there anything more frustrating than seeing the beauty of natural landscape spoiled by litter? Beaches strewn with empty plastic bottles and packets; plastic bags entangled in trees and hedges; picnic spots mottled with plastic plates and cutlery; plastic rubbish floating on the waters of lakes, rivers and seas. Plastic, plastic, plastic everywhere!

Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: “Eat and drink from the provision of Allah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:60). And “… do not desire corruption in the land. Indeed, God does not like corruptors.”(Surat Al-Qasas 28:77).

The amount of rubbish people produce is truly corrupting the earth. Not only is it ruining the earth’s natural beauty, but it’s also polluting the soil, water and air with toxins from manmade materials that aren’t biodegradable or that take hundreds of years to decompose. The situation is so desperate that scientists predict that without urgent action there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

The realization of the scale of the problem is slowly dawning with some organizations and governments taking action. Their small steps to tackle a big problem will eventually gain momentum so we can reshape our relationship with plastic materials.

Muslim Pioneers

Bangladesh became the first country in the world to ban thin plastic bags in 2002, after they blocked drainage systems during devastating floods.

Similar problems in other countries also prompted bans, while others imposed a tax or fee on plastic bags to discourage customers from using them. Animals often ingest plastic bags, which kill them by blocking their intestines. Small animals can also be trapped in them.

Thin plastic bags are currently banned in a number of Muslim nations: including Eritrea and Tanzania, who banned plastic bags in 2005; as well as Mauritania who banned the use, manufacture and import of plastic bags in January 2013; and Morocco, which was the 2nd largest consumer of plastic bags in the world after the US, who took the same step five months ago.

Two other Muslim countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, have issued guidelines for retailers to charge consumers for plastic bags. The money that comes from this is used by retailers as public funds for waste management alongside non-governmental organizations.

Packaging Deposit

Sweden has one of the oldest functioning container deposit schemes. Container deposits, also known as bottle deposits, are the additional amount of money paid in return for temporary use of containers, such as glass or plastic bottles and metal cans, that are used to package certain products. The deposit is returned when the container is returned to the shop.

Operated by a private company, Sweden’s recovery rates have reached 86% for cans and 77% for PET bottles (made of recyclable polyethylene terephthalate).

Similar schemes work effectively in other Scandinavian and European countries, notably Germany.

In other countries, like the UK, passing the ‘bottle bill’ has been strongly opposed by the manufacturers’ lobbies. The UK’s Marine Conservation Society has repeatedly called for a refundable surcharge to be added to the price of all drinks containers after its annual survey found that: “There was a big percentage rise in most drinks containers found on beaches between 2014 and 2015 – plastic drinks bottles increased by over 43%, metal drinks cans by almost 29%.”

Recently, France became the first in the world to ban plastic tableware. The new law, part of France’s “Energy Transition for Green Growth Act”, will require all disposable cups and plates to be made from at least 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020.

According to the French Association of Health and Environment, 150 single-use cups are thrown away every second in the country; a staggering number of 4.73 billion cups per year. Only about 1% of them are recycled, the rest end up in the landfills or as litter. The disposable cup is used only as long as it takes you to finish your tea or coffee, but it will last as rubbish for 50 to 250 years, depending on its material.

France’s move has been applauded by many, but the European food packaging manufacturers association, Pack2GoEurope, are determined to fight for their interests. Pack2Go Europe secretary general Eamonn Bates told The Associated Press: “We are urging the European Commission to do the right thing and to take legal action against France for infringing European law. If they don’t, we will.”

Plastic is cheap, light and convenient. It is easy to use and easy to dispose of as long as we turn a blind eye to what happens to it after we no longer need it. But if we keep on doing that, the amount of plastic rubbish will become too big to go unnoticed. Knowing that a product that will give us five minutes of convenience but hundreds-of-years-worth of burden to the ecosystem can’t agree with our conscience. It shouldn’t. Not as Muslims and not as responsible humans, God’s vicegerents on earth.

Klaudia Khan is a freelance writer interested in all aspects of green living. She studied Sociology in London and now lives with her husband and two daughters in the UK and Pakistan.

This article originally appeared on AboutIslam.net on September 27, 2017.

Can religion help save the planet's wildlife and environment?

Religious values are often consistent with conservation efforts. So it’s not surprising that a variety of religious organisations and conservationists are working together to help mitigate the devastating effects of global climate change, writes Curtis Abraham.

Valuing all life on Earth is at the heart of today’s environmental ethos.

Dekila Chungyalpa visited Bodh Gaya, a religious site associated with the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Gaya district in Bihar, northwestern India in 2007. It is here where Buddha is said to have obtained enlightenment and where Chungyalpa experienced an epiphany of her own that would create an unbreakable bond between religion and nature conservation.

The Sikkim-born conservationist was here to attend a talk on compassion towards animals given by the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, spiritual head of one of the major Tibetan Buddhist lineages.

Chungyalpa aspired to be a vegetarian but failed consistently at each attempt. Then when the 17th Karmapa asked his audience to consider not eating meat for one meal, or a day, or a week and more, it was a revelation. She suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, became a vegetarian. Not only was it a spiritual awakening but also an intellectual one.

Live in harmony

“I experienced first-hand how a religious leader could, with only a few words, influence thousands of people to change their behavior. It opened up a whole new way of approaching conservation, which had simply not occurred to me before”, says Chungyalpa, an associate research scientist at Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Two years later, Chungyalpa founded and ran the pioneering faith-based conservation program, Sacred Earth: Faiths for Conservation, at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Valuing all life on Earth is at the heart of today’s environmental ethos. Trying to live in harmony with nature is one of its basic tenets. Every religion has scriptures that expound such a view.

For example, in Genesis in the Bible, God speaks to Noah and tells him that he now establishes a covenant between himself and every living creature on the ark.

Similarly, in the Koran, there is specific mention that all animals, including creatures that fly with wings, are precious to Allah. Hinduism also has a deep reverence for nature, for different wild animals who have symbolic power and subscribe to the Dharmic law of Ahimsa, non-violence, as a way of life.

Church.jpg

Plans for conservation

The roots of nature conservation in the United States are deeply spiritual. In 1903, John Muir, the co-founder of the Sierra Club, convinced President Teddy Roosevelt to create the US Protected Area system, with the argument that this would protect the ‘creation of God’.

He saw nature and biodiversity as the best evidence of there being a benevolent God and that faith based argument helped established Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier National Parks. 

In recent years, the UK-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) has pioneered the development of conservation projects based around the fundamental teachings, beliefs and practices of the world’s major religions.

It was the brainchild of HRH Prince Philip, then president of the World Wildlife Fund, who invited the leaders of the five major world religions to discuss how could help save the natural world.

In 2012, the Many Heavens, One Earth, Our Continent conference was hosted by the ARC in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference was a celebration of the many faith groups across Africa who was launching their long term plans for conservation.

A spiritual faith

During the conference, fifty African religious leaders representing different faiths and nationalities announced a joint partnership to denounce the massacre of elephants and rhions and wildlife trafficking generally.

And, earlier this year, the Religion and Conservation Biology working group of the Society for Conservation Biology established the inaugural Assisi Award during their 28th International Congress for Conservation Biology, Cartagena, Columbia.

The award acknowledges organisations and individuals whose work demonstrates that faith-based conservation is contributing significantly to the common global effort of conserving life on Earth. 

Most people are religious. It’s estimated that over 80 percent of people in the world embrace a spiritual faith (there are some two billion Christians, 1.34 billion Muslims, 950 million Hindus and two hundred million Buddhists). 

In addition, many of the world’s most important nature conservation sites are also sacred. But these places also face overwhelming threats, including deforestation, pollution, unsustainable extraction, melting glaciers and rising sea levels. Such threats not only endanger the integrity of ecosystems but also leave the people who live there impoverished and vulnerable.

Wildlife declines

While religion can be a God-send in the battle to conserve nature, tens of thousands of wild animals have been poached (some to the brink of extinction) to satisfy our religious devotion.

African elephant ivory are carved into religious artifacts such as saints for Catholics in the Philippines and elsewhere. They are also crafted into Islamic prayer beads for Muslims and Coptic crosses for Christians in Egypt as well as amulets and carvings for Buddhists and Taoist in Thailand, and in China-the world's biggest ivory-consumer. 

Rhino horn also has its importance to Islam. In the Middle Eastern country of Yemen, the horn continues to be coveted by Muslim men, although imports were banned in 1982.

The material, whose luster increases with age, is used for the handles of curved daggers called ‘jambiya,’ which are presented to 12-year old Yemeni (jambiya are considered a sign of manhood and devotion to the Muslim religion, and are used for personal defense). Yemeni men place great value on the dagger handles, which are commonly studded with jewels.

The elephant is revered in Buddhism (it is the symbol for Thailand). And, there is a pan Asian belief that ivory removes bad spirits. In China, religious themes are common in carved ivory pieces. Chinese Nouveau rich are frantically collecting ivory in the form of Buddhist and Taoist gods and goddesses.

Monk.jpg

Eco-Buddhism

Furthermore, Buddhist monks in China perform a ceremony called kaiguang, the opening of light, to consecrate religious icons, just as some Filipino priests will bless Catholic images made of illegal ivory for their followers. 

WWF’s Sacred Earth program successfully targeted conservation initiatives in different priority places such as the Mekong, East Africa and the Amazon. 

The Himalayas was also another conservation priority area for the Sacred Earth Program (Chungyalpa’s childhood was spent exploring the wilderness of western Sikkim, an ecological hotspot in the lower Himalayas).The Buddhist monasteries and nunneries are in some of Asia’s most fragile and ecologically important landscapes. 

The Tibetan plateau and the Himalayas are the water towers of Asia. They contain the world’s largest reserve of freshwater outside the north and south poles. This area gives rise to many of the great rivers in mainland Asia including the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Mekong, Salween and Yangtse.

The combined human population in these basins is over 1.5 billion, almost 20% of the world population. At the same time, the region is also immensely vulnerable to climate change with temperatures in Tibet rising by 0.4 degree centigrade per decade-double the global average!

Senior monks

The combination of these factors means that as glaciers melt and monsoon patterns change due to climate change, over a billion people are at risk of experiencing face crop failures, water shortages, power losses, floods, and droughts at much higher frequencies.

“The awareness of protecting life and living environment in Buddhism is one of the main basic laws which were set out by the Buddha,” says Khenpo Chokey, a senior monk at Pullahari Monestry in Nepal, which runs several conservation and environment-friendly initiatives including tree planting, vegetable gardening and waste management.

Buddha taught the concepts of interdependence cause and effect (karma) and doing the right thing (dharma).The ‘Thripitaka’ (Three Baskets of Buddha’s teachings) the Buddha expressed his views on environmental protection.

In the Vinaya (rules laid down by Buddha) all forms of plants are to be protected and trees must not be cut. Monks and nuns observe the Rain Retreat during which they stay within the monastery/nunnery compound to minimize stepping on insects and sprouting grass. 

As the then director of the WWF Sacred Earth programme, Chungyalpa was asked by Ogyen Trinley Dorje to collaborate with his senior monks to create a set of environmental guidelines for Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, nunneries and centers in the Himalayas.

All monasteries are vegetarian

“The guidelines were unique in that they presented the science and solutions for major environmental threats facing the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau within the philosophical framework of Buddhism”, says Chungyalpa.

These efforts has resulted in the establishment of KHORYUG, an association of over 50 influential Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries across the Himalayas (www.khoryug.info) (stretching from Ladakh in northwest India all the way to Bhutan).

These monasteries/nunneries, under the auspices of the 17th Karmapa, eventually developed their own conservation projects that directly engage Buddhist monastics: these included organic farming, rooftop water harvesting, reforestation, river clean ups.

Their efforts are having an impact. For example, there is the annual plantation of over 25,000 indigenous tree saplings locally, as well as a shift to solar energy as the primary source of water heating and kitchen facilities in twenty-one of the monasteries.

In addition, all Khoryug institutions are plastic-free and segregate waste for recycling. All of them have community clean up days where they clean public areas once a month. All monasteries are vegetarian partly due to Buddhist principles and partly due to climate change. 

Climate disaster management

More importantly, the last three years of training has resulted in a group of monks and nuns who are qualified to become trainers themselves and who now lead training conferences for other monastics and local community members on the topics of climate change, disaster management, and community emergency response team training. 

For example, Rumtek monastery – the largest monastery in the state of Sikkim – carried out their own 5 day climate disaster management training conference last year, with representation from over 75 percent of monasteries of different lineages attending. 

In addition, KHORYUG has put out three publications during this period: “Environmental Guidelines:, “108 Things You Can Do” and, most recently, Disaster Management Guidelines”

Curtis Abraham is a freelance writer and researcher on African development, science, the environment, biomedical/health and African social/cultural history. He has lived and worked in sub-Saharan Africa for over two decades but is originally from Springfield Gardens, Queens, New York.

This article originally appeared on the Ecologist on September 27, 2017.

Ever Wondered What Islam Has to Say About Waste and Environmental Sustainability?

waste-2647287_1920.jpg

“But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters” (Quran 6:141)

When it comes to the topic of waste, there’s one thing for sure: Islam isn’t indifferent. The concept of waste (Israaf) comes up considerably in the Quran and there are no blurred lines. It’s crystal clear: it’s never excused. On a religious and spiritual level we are encouraged to use only what we need, not give into gluttony and to take care of our home.

Many environmentalists such as writer and activist Naomi Klein argue that our economic system is at odds with the well-being of the planet. Under our current capitalist and materialistic models, the Earth’s resources are used to no end.

On environmental sustainability and Islam, Salman Zafar says, “According to Islamic Law, the basic elements of nature – land, water, fire, forest, and light – belong to all living things, not just human beings.” He goes on: the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah are a guiding light to promote sustainable development in Islamic countries as well as around the world. Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) commands human beings to avoid doing mischief and wasting resources as these acts cause degradation of the environment. The privilege to exploit natural resources was given to the mankind on a guardianship basis, which implies the right to use another person’s property on the promise that it will not be damaged or destroyed.”

This shows that our role and responsibility as Muslims and as citizens on this beautiful planet is very clear. But if you’re wondering as to how serious the issue of waste is, then keep reading.

deer-1206934_1920.jpg

One of our biggest environmental issues is how much we consume, and the more we consume, the more waste we produce. Let’s talk numbers: every year, 1.3 billion tons of waste are produced worldwide. That number is expected to skyrocket to 4 billion by 2100. The average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash daily! Have you ever thought about where your trash ends up after it’s picked up? Just because we don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

“And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. Allah does not love the corrupters” (Quran 28:77)

We have to remember that waste doesn’t always translate into that stinky trash bin. The way we consume through living, eating, dressing and traveling – all aspects of our lives – can contribute to a wasteful lifestyle. If we want to be mindful of our planet and our role as Muslims, then we need to get this conversation going. We need to think about the lifestyle choices we make and how they impact our planet.

This article originally appeared on MuslimGirl on November 23, 2017.

YOUTH FROM FAITH COMMUNITIES CREATE “NATIVE PLANT” GARDENS

IMO Plaque presentation Nov 17, 2017.jpg

Faith & the Common Good (FCG) is a multi-faith not for profit organization that helps faith communities of all faith beliefs and all cultural backgrounds, to green their faith buildings and surrounding property.

Faith & the Common Good were fortunate to receive an Ontario 150 grant. It provided the opportunity for youth of different religions and cultural backgrounds, to create 8 native plant gardens in 3 cities this Spring; Ottawa, Halton/Oakville and Toronto. Toronto FCG chapter chose 3 faith sites; Shaarei Shomayim Congregation, Manor Road United Church, and the International Muslim’s Organization of Toronto (IMO).

On Friday, November 17, Donna Lang, Toronto Animator for Faith & the Common Good and Harold Smith, attended Friday prayers at IMO. After the service, Donna presented a garden plaque to Omar Farouk, Executive Director of the International Muslim’s Organization of Toronto (IMO).

Omar Farouk of IMO commented on the attendance of 3 different religions at the prayer service. “It is fitting that we have representation from 3 different religions here today. Donna Lang, Harold Smith and our congregation represent the 3 religions, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, and all of these originate from the Father Abraham. We have many complementary stories and passages in our respective religious texts, due to our common roots”.

“First Peoples, First Plants” is the title of the gardening plaque presented to the IMO congregation, and these words are meant to honour and recognize the contribution of the indigenous people of this land. Native plants were before the settlers arrived and they are low maintenance and drought resistant, due to the fact that they are original to the land.

IMO Planting May 12, 17.jpg

 

Donna thanked Sarah Narine and Atik Patel, the 2 youth leaders at IMO, who helped with the garden. Atik recruited youth for planting day and also was responsible for the video coverage. Sarah was in charge of planting day and she did a fantastic job of organizing the plants and showing the youth where to plant. There was also a demonstration, to show the youth how to plant.

Donna also thanked Harold Smith, who is Chair of the North American Native Plant Society. Harold did the garden designs and plant selection for each of the Toronto gardens.

“We were very lucky to have such an experienced garden designer on board”, said Donna Lang. “We feel very fortunate to have worked with the IMO youth, who were fast learners and hard working. It was a delight to see their happy faces at the end of the planting day”.

HOW GREEN IS ISLAMIC STYLE?

bodyamr-resort-ss12-sensored-e1372014428342.jpg

By Miriam al Ali

Islamic Fashion, 101: Many Westerners may not know this, but the long, black covering for clothing worn mainly by Arabian women is called an abaya; the headscarf that is worn with jeans and other casual wear is called a hijab. Hijab is a term that means ‘barrier, covering or veil’, and for many Muslim women around the world, it’s an essential part of the fashion they consider to be modest enough to comply with Islamic dress codes.

Unfortunately, these items of Islamic clothing are often also a ‘barrier’ to eco-friendliness, as more than not, they are made out of nasty polyester, nylon or rayon, all of which trap sweat and heat. But that is about to change.

Abeer Al-Azzawi is a young Canadian woman who fretted that in a world where eco pet accessories and organic baby clothes worn for mere months are offered to consumers in abundance, there were very few ‘green’ options for the hijab, which is worn every day by millions of women around the world.

“From all of my research, I never found one eco hijab that was available,” said the designer to the leading newspaper, the Toronto Star.

So Al-Azzawi – who doesn’t wear the traditional head scarf herself – created Queendom Hijabs, a line of head coverings that uses soy and bamboo based fabrics that breathe well, and are warm in winter and cool in summer. Due to its flexibility, breathability, and natural credentials, the line quickly gained popularity with sportswomen and Muslims living in colder climes.

“My goal is to make every hijab eco,” she says.

hijab-fashion-style-2013.jpg

While this is good news for hijab wearers from Canada to Indonesia, the eco-abaya, however, remains elusive. Still mainly a Middle Eastern phenomenon, these long black robes do make a strong appearance in London during the summer months, when many Arabs escape the heat to the more moderate weather of the English capital. While the highest quality abayas are often made of fine silk, these are often reserved for special occasions, and even so, they can’t necessary be considered ‘eco’, because the dyes used are often toxic, and they are frequently covered in synthetic crystals, plastic beads or other non-eco embellishments.

Some brands, such as Body AMR, pictured in our main image, do carry all-silk, design rich pieces that are high on style whilst being low on bling, but they are not cheap, and the thirst for embellishment is unlikely to disappear from the Gulf region any time soon.

That being said, there’s clearly also a growing eco-fashion market in the region, as demonstrated by Vogue Italia’s green design talent hunt, in conjunction with the Dubai Mall. The question is: which entrepreneurial designer will be the first to truly corner that market and become the ‘Stella McCartney’ of the Arab world?

This article originally appeared on ELUXE Magazine in 2015.