The Blog

Islamic Environmentalism: Doing What’s Right In Hopeless Times



Editor’s note: Author Aaliah Elnasseh is a writer and researcher focusing on psychology and public relations; she calls Richmond, VA home but currently lives in the DC metro area. She is a guest blogger for Green Muslims, all views are her own and do not represent Green Muslims.

Two months ago, we heard of the mass murder of millions of corals in the Great Coral Reef. We also learned about the 58% population decline of global wildlife in the span of only four decades -a number that even more dramatically increases if we account for only the aquatic wildlife. In recent years, there have been countless other human-caused environmental disasters, including ash, chemical, and oil spills you might have never heard of. News about the environment and the issues relating to natural disasters caused by human activity is not only underreported by some of the most consumed media in the country, but it’s also a problem that may seem too overwhelming for the average individual to tackle.

The world lacks large-scale action to mitigate the effects of climate change. Public awareness efforts, made to motivate our understanding of the seriousness of climate change, often leave the average individual feeling powerless. For example, Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent documentary “Before the Flood” highlights the urgency of problems caused by global warming and explores some of the corporate and political interests that drive resistance toward finding solutions. Realizing that the problem is primarily caused by -and the solution primarily hindered by -such powerful interest groups leaves many feeling powerless.

It’s normal to wonder: does my recycling really matter if there are millions of TONS of waste being produced every year? Should I really worry about my car’s CO2 emissions if the majority of greenhouse gas emissions are not caused through transportation means? It’s normal to question whether your actions will matter in the grand scheme of things and if it’s worth all the hassle it may cause you. But how do you approach this issue as a Muslim?

This is where one of my favorite hadiths comes in.

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “If the Final Hour comes while you have a palm-cutting in your hands and it is possible to plant it before the Hour comes, you should plant it.” Sahih Al-Albani

The wisdom of this hadith is profound. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is telling us to plant a seed for a tree that will never see the light of day because it’s the last day on Earth. He’s telling us to plant a tree even if there is absolutely no hope for tomorrow. He’s telling us to do the right thing even if we have no hope that it will be fruitful.

This hadith on taking action in what seems like a hopeless situation is a very useful reminder that principled action is both the ends and the means. Our aim is to trust in God, find the best way to do good and then to keep at it.

We don’t let despair rob of us of the opportunity to do good. And we don’t stop being protectors for this Earth and its inhabitants even if we believe there is no tomorrow.

3 Things I Learned Attending COP22 by Imaad Khan

Below is a guest blog post from Imaad Khan. He is a fellow teammate in the field of community engagement and climate change. Imaad recently attended the Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Marrakesh, Morocco. Imaad is a guest blogger for Green Muslims, all views are his own and do not represent Green Muslims. If you missed Imaad’s first and second posts, check them out here and here!


COP 22 will be remembered for two things: First, it was the COP that laid the groundwork for implementation of the Paris Agreement. Second, it was the COP that witnessed the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Our time during and after Morocco was filled with discussion on the changes for climate negotiations in the future, climate funding, and what steps we should take moving forward. But there are a few events and moments that I’d like to share with you that struck a chord with me – moments that I will remember from my time at COP22.

Negotiations are led by mere humans
Amidst all of the negotiations, side events, and general running around, I came to a sudden realization of the underlying humanity in all of it. During one of my final days in Marrakech, a number of national delegations were finalizing language on a few paragraphs for a working group submission (I’m being intentionally vague so as not to call out any country in particular). Two countries disagreed with each other about which article to reference in the Paris Agreement. At the 46 minute mark of this back and forth, the two delegations found out that one of them had been working from the wrong document to make their edits.

In that moment, I was struck by the fact that we often talk about negotiations in terms of countries, governments, or organizations–wrongly picturing faceless institutions. But these delegations are composed of people, people who work very hard to try and make this planet a better place (…or inhabitable, at the very least…). It’s easy to forget the individual, but so critical that we don’t.

We can find strength in unity
At a meeting of faith community leaders outside the Green Zone in Bab Ighli, about ten of us from various major religions and denominations stood in a circle. We had just finished discussing our business when someone suggested we take time to reflect on our hopes and feelings about our time at COP22. One faith leader stole the words right from me when he expressed his deep gratitude to be among a group of people of faith working for climate justice. I am blessed with the opportunity to work with people of faith to make real changes in this world, and I am grateful for the ability to do so.

While there was no binding international agreement resulting from this COP, international leaders did issue the Marrakech Action Proclamation, a bold statement of unity saying that they are planning on moving full steam ahead with implementing the Paris Agreement. Moving ahead, countries will make and finalize plans to fulfill their NDC’s (Nationally Determined Contributions), working with NGO’s and other countries to continue work on implementing the Paris Agreement, and also focusing on civil society and work done at the local level.

Next steps for the Muslim community
As far as next steps and what the Muslim community is doing and what they can do to take part in climate action, I’ll leave it to Nana Firman, co-director of the Global Muslim Climate Network. Check out our interview here or below.