The Blog

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.

Keep going green

I hope this isn’t preaching to the choir, since I know many of you are very aware. But in case it is helpful to any readers, I wanted to post a small list of tips to further help us make better use of our resources.
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We’ve all heard the common “go green!” tips of changing your light bulbs and shopping local. Here are a few others for your consideration, most of which are based on our own Islamic principles which were given to us well before the start of the Green Movement. Insha’Allah they can be used to remind us of the things that really matter in this life, strengthen our connection to each other, the land, and ultimately our Creator. Lets reduce wasteful consumption, green our ibada and our everyday in the path of Allah, and maybe even save some money along the way! 🙂

1.) Don’t leave the water running while you make wudhu
It only takes a quick second to turn off the faucet between strokes. Think of the impact if millions of Muslims used 1 cup’s worth of water less…We all know that less than 1% of the world’s water supply is fresh, and even less than that is readily available. If millions of Muslims use reduce their water consumption for wudhu 3-5 times a day, the impact is sure to be significant!

2.) Fast Mondays and Thursdays
You’ve already heard that it can earn you blessings to fast on these days. But it can also help reach out to our hungrier brothers and sisters, and lower food prices. Just think if 10% of the population in developed countries fasted 2 of every 7 days, consistently. Not convinced of that our fasting will significantly help alleviate the hunger and hardship of others? Try donating the money you would spend on your own food to world food organizations instead. If a minimum of 10% of the population practiced, this could add up to billions of dollars each year.

3.) Ditch the artificial llights for Salah
When you can, try keeping the artificial lights off when you pray on your own. Use whatever natural light you can instead: use moonlight or (beeswax) candles. Not only are you reducing electricity use, but enhancing your atmosphere with a soft light that reminds you of the intimacy that exists between Allah and His worshiper. Praying outside, directly on the grass also prevents the need for artificial lights, and gives you a direct connection with the nature that Allah keeps commanding us to contemplate in the Qur’an, and the earth from which we were created.

4.) Support Muslim businesses for craftsmanship you can see…
The next time you’re visiting relatives oversees (or wherever), purchase clothes and items that you can see being made. Not only are you supporting a craftsman, you can be sure you are NOT supporting sweatshop labor. Have your clothes sewn, jewelry custom-made, ‘atr prepared, etc…

5.) Reduce your meat consumption
Relax, I didn’t say not to eat it at all! But reducing meat consumption has huge consequences for global land use, climate change, and indigenous communities who are food insecure. More acres of land (and food) are needed to keep up with world meat demand, which means more soil erosion, more methane, and less food available to humans. Even if you switch to fish from red meat, you should keep in mind that over-fishing is depleting fish supplies worldwide. So try the veggie wrap the next time you go to Roma’s, its not that bad, promise…
“Do not make your stomach the graveyard of animals” is a common hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

6.) (Re-)connect with your source of food
The Qur’an asks repeatedly if we stop and ponder the miracle of growth and creation, and the blessing of rain that is necessary for crops to grow. Try to connect with a local community garden, farm, or orchard so that you can see where your food is coming from: get on your hands and knees to gather the bluberries, reach up high for the apples and cherries, blow off the dirt and shuck the corn yourself! This is especially important once you have children: they can see that food is grown from the land, not the sterile packages of the grocery store display counters. Harvesting the plants from the earth humbles us, and gives us a more realistic and aware appreciation for our source of nutrition and nourishment (as well as what it takes for all the elements to come together for the food to grow).

7.) Reconsider gifts
Generosity and hospitality are important characteristics of Islamic culture, regardless of region. However, they can be interpreted in different ways. Sometimes, a good intention of kindness can nevertheless be lost in wasteful gifts. The next time you want to give a gift, consider what your friend actually needs. If what your female friend really needs is help setting up for a big party, offer cooking help instead of a bath set. If what your male friend really needs is Qur’an lessons, offer him tutoring lessons instead of a flashy gadget. Does the sick friend really need a teddy bear, or your grandmother’s killer soup recipe, made by your own hands? Give of your time and experience before you have to turn to your wallet. A bottle of lotion or a new tool never strengthened a community the same way good companionship did!

Blog Action Day: Homeless Muslims

As part of blog action day, I’d like briefly highlight the work of an amazing community organization — Muslimat Al-Nisaa — tackling both poverty AND homelessness within the Baltimore-DC area Muslim community. Lest you think that this is just a small, isolated problem, the Washington Post recently ran an article on homelessness among Muslim women. Some estimate that there are several hundred homeless Muslim women in the DC area. Driven out of their homes after losing their jobs or by abusive spouses, these women have few places to turn to for help. The services that Muslimat al-Nisaa provide are part of our communal obligation to support those in need and essential to building a healthy community. Donating our money or time is the least we can do to help them.

The organization, run by Sister Asma Hanif, recently opened the first Muslim Women’s Center (MWC) that has space for 15-25 women and provides training, counseling and medical services to homeless women and their children. “It is not just a place for them to sleep comfortably. Our goal is to get them prepared to stand up on their own feet,” said Sister Asma Hanif, in a recent interview with the Muslim Link. I had a chance to talk to Sister Asma at ISNA this year. She mentioned that they need about $5000 per month for BASIC shelter operations (with some additional food and donations), so even your $10-20 per month can make a big difference insha’Allah.

To donate, please send a check to the address below or visit the website to set-up a recurring donation.

Muslimat Al Nisaa
5115 Liberty Heights Ave, Baltimore, MD 21207
phone (410) 466-8686
fax (410) 466-5949
www.mnisaa.org

And if you want further proof that your small donation can make a difference: with your help, DC Green Muslims ranked in the TOP FIVE organizations in the Capital Area Food Bank’s “Skip a Lunch, Feed a Bunch” program. THANK YOU to all who contributed!

What are you doing for Earth Day?

Heralded as the birth of the “modern environmental movement,” Earth Day is a worldwide event to promote good environmental citizenship and encourage action to sustain a healthy planet.

DC Green Muslims, I’d like to encourage YOU to take this time to renew your commitment to creating more sustainable and eco-conscious (and thereby, insha’Allah, a more God-conscious) existence. Think of it as your “Environmental New Years” resolution. Make a pledge – for the month or a year or however long – to change something about your relationship to the earth and its natural resources.

Some (random) suggestions to get you started:

  1. Act: call your senator or representative and tell them to enact fair and immediate action on global warming.
  2. Grow: plant something. This is part of my pledge – I’m attempting to grow my own herb garden (indoors), with some Michael Pollan for inspiration. If you’re doing something outside, consult local botantists, tree planting organizations, or biologists to know what plants are best for your area.
  3. Organize: plan an outdoor activity because nature inspires us.
  4. Recycle: Dispose of hazardous wastes properly: find recycling centers in your area here. You can drop off old batteries at My Organic Market locations (College Park and Alexandria, among others).
  5. Reduce: Limit the use of disposable products – paper plates, cups, napkins, take out containers. (The second part of my pledge.) And watch the Human Footprint for a visual representation of an average American’s lifetime consumption (trailer).
  6. Connect: Tell a friend about your pledge and encourage them to make a change in their lives.

Let us know in the comments what you plan to do. Click here for a listing of Earth Day events in the area.

Everyday is Earth Day