The Blog

food (miles) for thought

sometimes in our statistic-infused daily lives, we latch onto certain numbers that “mean” something to us. 50% more likely to get 1/3 less of that stuff…(you get the point). some statistics gain popularity, others notoriety, and some just don’t really get questioned. we are an information-loving creature, after all.

as a self-professed foodie (who hates the word foodie), and someone who’s definitely interested in the process of food getting from the farm to the table, i found this article interesting.

the moral i get from this story is, seek truth over information.

on the fence

i’m new around these parts so let me introduce myself. my name’s yasmin, i’m a vt alum (go hokies!), i like blogging, and i would like to help in a small way with dc green muslims (even though i’m from the VA). please find it within yourself to forgive my habit of not capitalizing, using many many commas, and just generally being one of “those” bloggers.

let’s get right to it then- why? i’m here to share my views, help make some of the people around me more conscious of the decisions they make (and why), and figure out *why* issues of sustainability are so important to me. why indeed. when it comes to my intentions, i try to be brief (perhaps for my own lack of mental organization), so forgive me for my brevity. on with it 🙂

does anyone else like driving as much as i do? i tend to get my best thoughts while driving, and find it very easy to engage in dhikr (remembrance of God). granted, of course, that the driving is easy (sooo, not so much in dc proper ;). anyway, i’m a fan of analogies and they seem to come together for me most while i’m driving. here’s my latest…

i was thinking about what it means to be “green,” and how it’s been described in “shades”- darker, lighter. i think even i’ve used that imagery. sometimes i feel like there’s this hidden competition to see who’s greener- having a hybrid vs. riding a bike vs. walking vs….i don’t know. eating at mcdonalds vs. eating only raw stuff vs…not eating? not to say we shouldn’t reduce our ecological footprint on our beloved planet, but what is our end goal, anyway? if it’s harmony we’re looking for, i think it’s safe to say i’ve met quite a few harmonious people who aren’t your typical “greenies.” and God knows better (allahu alam).

i feel like encouraging sustainable behaviors is more a sensibility and less an argument- a demonstration of adab (manners), perhaps. (don’t worry, i’m getting to the analogy)* and how, perhaps instead of each person being a particular shade of green, each person’s sensibilities is like a field. some fields are adjacent and some share no borders at all. each is tilled in its own way, grows its own things, and yes, they even affect each other (runoff, cross-pollination, etc.). now imagine fences between them (happy fences, if the thought disturbs you). well, i’m on the fence on most issues. the benefit being that i know that even if the grass looks greener on one side, the potential on the other side isn’t diminished.** occasionally, i pick sides. but in the case of my philosphy on being green, i like knowing that fences can be jumped.

*perhaps you should know before reading the analogy: i studied agriculture in college. maybe that’ll explain a little.
** in particular, i studied soil. yes- dirt. that lovely dark (sometimes red, if you’re from my area) stuff. it’s important 🙂

ps – oh, i forgot to mention. i try to keep my intentions short, but i tend to ramble on posts (you win some, you lose some).

My Niyyah

My name is Sarah and this is my niyyah: Being a Green Muslim, to me, means recognizing and reflecting on my presence in the moment and my direct impact on everything around me. Despite negative externalities, which may seek to unsettle my state of equilibrium, I take time to get lost in the simple miracles of nature, the streams, sycamores, pocket parks in an urban jungle and the like. This is where I feel at peace with myself. I am reminded of a Rumi poem:

“to enjoy this conversation…make everything in you an ear, each atom of your being, and you will hear at every moment what the Source is whispering to you, just to you and for you, without any need for my words or anyone else’s. you are—we all are—the beloved of the Beloved, and in every moment, in every event of your life, the Beloved is whispering to you exactly what you need to hear and know. who can ever explain this miracle? it simply is. listen and you will discover it every passing moment. listen, and your whole life will become a conversation in thought and act between you and Him, directly, wordlessly, now and always. it was to enjoy this conversation that you and i were created.”

For me, my presence in nature is a deep conversation between me and my Creator. I realize this feeling of general health/wellness that nature provides is often times a luxury and can be seen as intellectual elitism, a sentiment I do not share. Everyone should have the right to reach their greatest human potential and this is certainly true in our interactions with something as ubiquitous as the built environment and the natural world. Many of our urban centers are concrete sterile shells void of a meaningful exchange between the built environment and nature. We are unequivocally changed by our surroundings, public spaces can empower us or be a part of our detriment.

My involvement with Green Muslims stems from my desire to help others see the inequalities that exist between those who have access to affordable housing in safe neighborhoods, equitable transportation uses, healthy foods, and accessible green public space, and those who unfortunately do not. My hope is that we can foster greater opportunities for bottom-up community building, thereby directly addressing these inequalities. Simultaneously, engaging in dialogue with the other Green Muslims will help me grow into a more reflective person, in hopes of discovering sustainable ways to preserve the environment for future generations. In many ways, my interest in urban planning is motivated by these factors.

I am humbled to be in the presence of my Green Muslim peers. I have spent much of my academic profession, having to explain what I do to the older generation, qualifying it to careers comparable to those typical of South Asian second-generation Americans. To be in the presence of other Green Muslims, people who just get it, is a very empowering feeling. They have taken the initiative to demand change and I want to be a part of this movement.

Picture: Garden in Pasadena, CA

My Niyyah

My love for the outdoors, and the natural world, is a classic case of nature vs. nurture. On one hand, I believe this deep connection is encouraged in Islam, and inside each and every one of us. On the other, my love for nature has been conditioned by my father, who also loved nature-and wanted to give his wife a break from their six kids. Perhaps he felt that the racket of a rambunctious family was muted (however momentarily) by the rustle of the soaring trees, or by the calming sound of water lapping against rocks. He gave us the gift of tranquility, teaching us to sit in stillness and awe of God’s creation in all its vast scope and beauty. Today, nature is where I go to be still, when I need to re-center.

I am a Green Muslim because I want to be a part of the change I desire for my community and humanity at large. Spirituality for me is recognizing my connection to all creation, and translating all commandments of my faith in action. Islam challenges us to a higher consciousness, to reach for our highest self, and in that, we begin to see past ourselves and fulfill our duty as caretakers of all creation, including each other.

One of my favorite hadith/sayings of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is to “want for your brother/sister what you want for yourself”. This blog, this group, and our intention is Inshaallah the beginning of many ways we, individually and collectively, personify this saying. Among other things, I want to help preserve the beauty and nature I associate with some of my best childhood memories, for future generations.

My intention in joining Green Muslims is to meet and work alongside people wanting to make a positive change in the community, and to share this experience with as many people as we can.

Ramadan Reflection: Consumption and Empathy

We fast during the month of Ramadan for a number of reasons: to cleanse our spirits, refocus our minds for the coming year, empathize with the poor and most importantly, to strengthen our faith. Despite the obvious benefits, it is often difficult to balance the mental exhaustion due to waning energy and the resulting physical experience. We may even feel disempowered to complete our daily tasks. We continue onward with this struggle in hopes of coming closer to our Creator, despite the mental and physical difficulty associated with not eating and drinking.

Come sunset, we escape this struggle. The moment our bodies are once again nourished with food and water; we instantly become more present in our lives, more aware of our surroundings and have more faith in our ability to realize our human potential. So what about those who cannot escape? How can we expect the most broken, beaten and down-trodden in society to pull themselves out of poverty when their most basic needs are not met? That is a ridiculous expectation, given that we know how difficult this feat is in our own lives. Not to say we have the wisdom behind Allah’s gifts, but perhaps forcing us to see the plight of others through fasting is a very powerful gift, allowing us to be more aware of our own consumption patterns

This gift should be seen as a teaching mechanism, training us, through out 14 hours abstention from basic necessities. This fast, which is a commitment to God, acts as a shield. Come sunset, when this shield is taken away, it is important to remember our training throughout the day, paying special attention to what we consume. Being deprived for the day, our eyes will want to eat everything in sight; this same desire was locked up behind the shield of the fast. It would be ideal to take advantage of our training and consume that which is necessary. This level of self-restraint can be more broadly applied to our consumption of all material goods. Ramadan allows us to take an inventory of how we live and take the steps needed to become better versions of ourselves. Ramadan also creates ample opportunity for us to me more aware of our intake, our responsibilities in our communities and ultimately our carbon footprint. In the age of environmental awareness, Ramadan serves as a great impetus for Muslims to get involved in this process of reclaiming the environment and ourselves.

DC GM Mentions

From time to time, I come across websites that link to the DC Green Muslims blog. Three recent finds:

* MPAC-DC News & Views: Faith Goes Green

* USC Knight Chair in Media and Religion: The Next Big Thing (scroll down the page to the see the link)

* From the Green Party in England – Another Green World: Ramadan is Green (DC GM link and info about the London Islamic Network for the Environment’s (LINE) Fast for the Planet –

Also, make sure to check out MSA National’s Link magazine – two short articles on “Connecting to Allah’s Creation” (Spring/Summer) and “Putting your MSA on the Green Path” (Fall/Winter). (Thoughts or feedback to the author much appreciated! 🙂