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Pre-Ramadan Collective Consciousness

Ramadan always comes faster than expected and ends even sooner. In the midst of a busy and hectic life, preparing for the most blessed of months often falls to the wayside. However, with only about two weeks to go it is the perfect time to start creating the intention to make the most out of this Ramadan.

 

Ramadan is a time, as we all know, to be spent with community to share in the blessings that surround us and to think of those in need.  We have the opportunity to think of this time as a hardship, a test, or a blessing.  I have always felt that Ramadan is the ultimate test of willpower and a reflection on all the things, good and bad that have become habits for me. It has always been a time to assess the things I do, which are very often based on wants and needs. Through fasting, and through being mindful of my every action, I am given the opportunity in this month to truly revisit my daily life and reflect on ways towards self-improvement. This Ramadan however, in accordance with the mission of Green Muslims to promote the Islamic principle of environmental stewardship, it is my intention to not only consider ways towards a more wholesome self-reflection but to also assess how my lifestyle and actions impact the earth and the environment. We depend on the Earth for our livelihood and it sustains us. It is essential that we take time to reflect on whether our lifestyle is mindful of our impact on the Earth or if we are taking without consideration of the effect we are having on the environment. This Ramadan is the perfect time to judge both how are actions can work in the best way for ourselves and the Earth around us.

“O you people! Feel close (and love) your Guardian-Lord, Who created you, and those who came before you, That you may have the chance to learn righteousness; Who has made the earth your couch, and the skies your canopy; And sent down rain from the skies;  And brought forth from there Fruits for your sustenance …”  2:21-22

Sarina Bajwa is Green Muslims’ Community Outreach Manager.

Into The Wild

As an over-eager seeker of new experiences with little foresight, I often find myself ill-prepared and in unexpected situations.  Yet it is those elements of surprise and challenge that have given me the chance to encounter some of life’s greatest lessons.

In the fall of 2009 I studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Though a very random choice, I quickly fell in love with the country. On a whim, and with the desire to be a more rugged individual, I signed up for a weekend “hillwalking” trip in the Scottish Highlands.  At the beginning of the walk, hoping to demonstrate my strength and prowess, I quickly outpaced the rest eager to prove that I could master the trail with ease. Yet, as the guide pointed out the two formidable, untamed, and pathless, peaks we were going to scale, my heart fell as I realized I was in too deep. For the first time, I took in my surroundings and the seemingly impossible task ahead of me. As we hiked higher, and any chance of turning around disappeared, I fell further and further behind from the group. It then hit me that this was the closest to nature in its truest and most isolated form than I had ever been before. The stress of reaching the peak in one piece, and the anxiety of being the slowest person in the group melted away as I took in the glorious universe of the mountainside where I was nothing but a visitor and silence had a sound of its own. In that moment I realized my success would not come from successfully making it up the peak. Rather, it but would come from connecting to the Earth in a spiritual sense by recognizing the blessings and presence of the Divine around me. The profundity of this realization was overwhelming and breathtaking. The beautiful environment was so connected and in harmony within a perfect symbiotic cycle that I had failed previously to connect with. When I finally had the cathartic and triumphant experience of reaching the summit, the landscape that greeted me as I stood above the clouds was awe-inspiringly indescribable and moved me to tears. I realized then by recognizing God’s signs in the beauty around me how much a rich and spiritual life inadvertently depended on a deeper connection to the Earth. The lesson I gained from that moment and the walk was that the lack of a direct experiential connection to nature has inhibited our potential to act as true stewards of the Earth.

It is through this one experience and subsequent epiphany that I finding great meaning and hope in understanding ourselves as connected to nature thereby realizing the need to act as caretakers of the Earth. The issue lies with the tendency to see our relationship to the Earth as one of ownership and treat nature through the mediums of neglect, disconnect, and destruction. As a community caught up in the routine and the ritual, we often lack the consciousness as individuals to find a connection and relevance to each other much less to nature. Yet, through connections with nature, we can not only understand the significance of our own actions (or inactions) and their consequences, but better understand our relationship and potential together. Henry David Thoreau once said, “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” My foray into the wild taught me the significance of those words. Now, with the exciting opportunity to be a part of Green Muslims I hope to find ways to reach out to people and find ways we can build greater connections to nature and with each other.  Seeing each other and ourselves as part of a whole can result in impactful and tangible action plans while also building community where we live with a heightened sense of connection and civic engagement towards a greener future together.

 

Sarina Bajwa just recently moved to DC and is excited to be a part of Green Muslims. She is also excited for more inspirational outdoor adventures and seeks to find more ways to connect with nature. 

Introducing the Ramadan Tool-Kit!

Ramadan
Enhance your Ramadan experience this year, by following along with the Green Muslim’s as they practice “greener” habits. Each day we contemplate an inspirational ayah, quote, or hadith and incorporate the teachings of our tradition into our practice with a daily challenge and reflection. Follow along!

Whether as a community, a family or an individual, the Ramadan tool-kit is a powerful way to green your deen during this holy month. Join us and our friends and partners all over the world in incorporating the eco-conscious teachings of our tradition into our practice with a daily challenge and reflection.

Download the Toolkit Here!

Simple Steps

Yesterday, my brother and I went on a lengthy bike ride, weaving through the buildings of DC proper and passing by the national monuments only to arrive at a secluded area on the edges of the Georgetown Waterfront. I sat upon the stone cliffs overlooking the Washington Harbor and couldn’t help but smile looking down at the purity of the blue water and the fresh green in the surrounding trees, listening to the laughs and cheers from the kayaking locals.

For a brief few moments I was able to think beyond the work I was behind in, the emails I was yet to respond to and the general reality that I didn’t have time to sit here. I began to reflect on how essential it is that we, as the DC community, do our best to preserve that natural beauty and build a stronger relationship with it.

As part of Green Muslims, I would love to discuss topics of conversations that can range from things as simple as ways we can work to green our daily lives to things a bit more complicated like expanding the ways we get our daily supply of energy and how we can raise awareness about how to lower energy consumption. I feel that Green Muslims will be a great opportunity to establish an open dialogue on these issues and a great opportunity to grow in understanding as to the relationship we should be having as Muslims with the environment.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgDJ_H-BzFo

Faizan Tahir is in his second year of undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he is studying Political Science and Legal Studies.

Urban Environmentalism?

As human beings living in almost every corner of the globe we have learned how to adapt to the differing climates and spaces that we inhabit. Because of our God-given ingenuity and expertise we have mastered much of the natural space around us, forging ahead through discovery and science and finding new ways to both tame Mother Nature and leave a lasting dominant impression on the land we inhabit. However this leads to new interconnected ideas that are somewhat at odds with each other. The first is that our expertise at adaptation and where and how we live leads us to live increasingly disconnected life from the natural world around us. The second is that through our living choices, which are ever-increasingly urban, we actually can have a drastically positive impact on our natural space.

For me it wasn’t until college when I fell in love with bicycling that I realized how disconnected from nature we really are. Starting my first semester at Michigan State University, I was heartbroken at the thought of having to walk or take a bus to class. My car’s transmission had failed one week before I was to make the 50 mile move, and I couldn’t be more upset. “My life was over,” I thought. How would I get to class, get groceries, hang out with friends? Without enough money to get a new one I instead decided to pack up my old bicycle to buzz around from class to class. But I was not happy about it.

Almost immediately though I realized how disconnected from my immediate surroundings I had been while driving. It wasn’t just my waistline that changed, but how I saw the world! Hearing passing peoples voices, feeling and seeing the street, experiencing the changing of the seasons. Bicycling connected me back to the outdoors in a way that I hadn’t experienced since I was a little kid.

While my transition to college propelled me to bicycling and fed my burgeoning interest in environmentalism, it’s something I never could have experienced in my hometown of Flint, MI, where traffic moves at 45mph and where public transit and alternative forms of transit are almost nonexistent. Now living in D.C., I see the same type of opportunity as when I first moved to  Michigan State. Where before it was thousands of college students and buildings packed together that induced easy mobility, now it is density, a streetgrid  system, and a city designed to accommodate alternative forms of transportation: metro, buses, zipcars, bicycles-  all things which owe their existence to our density and the multitudes of people.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3nMnr8ZirI

On the surface, living in an urban area may seem to inevitably decrease environmental awareness because of the disconnect from the natural world, yet there are many opportunities unique to an urban setting which allow individuals to decrease their impact on the natural world and live in a more harmonious way with it.

Ryan Strom is a DC resident and native of Flint, MI. He currently works with the DC Government as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in addition to being the Green Muslims Communication Manager. He can often be spotted darting in and out of traffic on his bicycle.

Doing Things

“I should have been a plumber, or a handyman,” a friend of mine reflected as he set forth fresh from school with his law degree. His rationale was not the prestige of the career path or the glory of the work, but the simple fact that people just don’t know how to fix things, and he thought he could make bank on just having a skill or two.  I think he has a point.

I’ve always valued skills. There’s something beautiful about working with your hands.I would spend summers watching my grandfather in the “shop,” as they called it, fixing trucks and mending various pieces of farm equipment. He’d lean down to explain what he was doing as he hammered something here, or added oil to something there and thus began my understanding of the importance of fixing rather than tossing, of mending rather than replacing.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5wmParkppw

I value people who have skills, who can teach their skills, and who are more self-sufficient beings because of their skills. Talents, like cooking, sewing, building, making things, and fixing things are like money in your pocket in this day and age. I’m sure every person has a skill or two that has remained untapped because of the lack of importance that was placed upon it.

The lack of value we have for practical skills goes hand-in-hand with how throw-away our culture has become. As soon as something breaks, we replace it.Yes, perhaps this is more a problem of quality.  I believe though, that with a little development of talent, and perhaps self-confidence, we could drastically reduce our consumerism.

It is my goal, inshaAllah, in the next few months, to develop a new skill set. Though ambitious, I’d really love to apprentice with someone who knows how to refurbish a house. Those talents would be not only useful, but priceless for the rest of my life. To be able to count on my own two hands to build and mend the place I call home would be of such use to not only me, but to those around me.

I also intend, inshaAllah, to teach what few skills I have already. Just as my grandfather did so patiently, I hope to pass along what I do know, to someone who doesn’t. It is important for us to recognize what knowledge we already have, and develop those untapped innate abilities to help those around us. Not only are we being resourceful, practicing the teachings of our Beloved, but we are also taking one step towards living a more sustainable life.

As I go forward to find my home refurbishing mentor, let me know if you’d like to learn how to sew on a button…or change a tire!

SarrahAbuLughod is a DC resident who works at a youth development non-profit that serves low-income students in the DC area. She is also the Educational Programming Manager with Green Muslims.

Sarrah grew up in Wisconsin and spent many summers on her grandparent’s farm, developing skills.

Connecting the Built Environment to Nature

On a warm summer day in July on vacation, I had spent the early hours of the morning waiting in line to visit the Sistina Chapel, the famous ceiling mural painted by Michelangelo. Despite my enthusiasm to digest this beautiful artifact of history that holds religious significance to many around the world, I needed to quickly find a place to pray dhur. I was reminded of the prophet pbuh, who said, the entire Earth is a mosque, but at the moment, I wanted a dedicated and intentional space to connect with the Creator. I wanted familiarity in a foreign land where I could feel the presence of Muslims before and after me, who knelt to the ground and placed their mind on the same dedicated carpet and whispered the same intentional prayers. After asking locals, I found the Mosque of Rome a little outside of the center city. The structure was typically Roman with ornate pillars made of like travertino and cotto. But it wasn’t just the architecture that grabbed me; it was the proximity to the rest of the city that carved this experience as memorable. I was able to be a worshipper within the framework of my day, making it an organic part of my experience and reminding me that the way we design our cities and proximity to places of worship directly impact how we experience our faith.

Spaces can be sacred. Our external world has the power to elicit a spiritual connection with our creator when we are in an environment where we feel safe and open to seeing God’s signs around us. I am reminded of a park near my home, where I often walk to feel connected to a world outside my head, and end up feeling like I am walking in the verses of the Quran. God says, “We shall show them our signs within the furthest horizons and inside their own souls until it becomes clear to them that God is Truth.” [41:53] When I see the trees, the running streams, and wildlife, I see signs from God, just as the verses (ayah) of the Quran and souls of humanity are signs guiding us to His path.

In addition to the natural world, a well-designed building in a well-chosen part of town can also bring forth a feeling of connectedness to the Creator. The way a city is planned, and the relationship the different parts have to each other, such as the location of the school to our work place or our place of worship to our homes, directly influence our day to day. As an urban planner, I feel a heightened sense of awareness on the intentionality of how and why our spaces come to be. Aside from the practical planning process of bringing together various stakeholders in community meetings or collecting data, the resulting spaces reflect the values we hold dear and the thoughts that regularly cross our minds.

When I reflect on worsening environmental degradation and the continued disharmony of the built environment with the natural world, I ache for the spiritual turmoil within our collective hearts. Questions like these fill my mind: Why aren’t we better able to connect the built environment with the natural world? Who makes the decisions and what is their reasoning? Who is left out of the equation? How can we bring them to the table? Why is the environment not a priority to many of our leaders? How can we mitigate disproportionate environmental degradation in the most vulnerable populations? How can we ensure that children are growing up in affordable, healthy and sustainable housing?

As part of Green Muslims, I hope to create a space to have these conversations. Perhaps by becoming more intentional, we can demand a place in our community membrane that begs the question, “How can we embrace Islam if we can’t embrace the Earth that God bestowed as a covenant to us?”

Sarah Jawaid is an urban planner and artist originally from Southern California and now, residing in Washington, DC. She currently works on affordable housing advocacy issues.

Join Green Muslims this Summer and Onward!

Salaams everyone!

I’m excited to announce that Green Muslims is back! We have some exciting developments to share with you and new events planned for this summer and onward.

New Website!
We have launched a brand new Green Muslims web site where we hope to rally and organize around environmental issues, especially during the month of Ramadan. In the future, we will be soliciting writers for our blog so please stay tuned and let us know now if you are interested in our survey (below)!

New Name!
As Green Muslims looks to expand its reach, we decided to drop the DC. While all of the leadership is based in DC, we will be engaging in activities that reach beyond the DC area, including pamphlets for Ramadan and potentially Sunday school curriculum.

Survey to Get Involved
If you are interested in getting involved with Green Muslims, please complete this survey that asks about: 1) Specific ways you would like to get active and 2) How Green Muslims activities can suit your interests and availability. Please complete the survey by Tuesday, July 5th. We look forward to working with you!

New Leadership
I’d also like to introduce the Green Muslim leadership for 2011-2012. To read more about the staff and how they got involved, click here.

  • Director: Sarah Jawaid
  • Volunteer Manager: Rizwaan Akhtar
  • Public Relations Manager: Ryan Strom
  • Educational Programming Manager: Sarrah AbuLughod
  • Partnerships Manager: Kevin G. Barrow

Our Vision and Objectives
We have worked on refining our vision and objectives in order to move Green Muslims forward with a stronger and more organized vigor. Please go to our web site for more information.

Sincerely,

Sarah Jawaid

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