The Blog

Wanna Help in Ramadan?

With Ramadan upon us in a blink of an eye, we have high hopes for Green Muslims to have an active presence in our community and beyond. I am writing to reach out to people who have a little extra time this coming month to get a head-start on the blessings! We are looking for 5-7 people who can help with our Green Muslim Ramadan Initiative.
What this entails:
  • Project 1: It is our hope, inshaAllah, to sponsor (via biodegradable plates, cups, and utensils) 5-10 Iftars at 5-10 different mosques and community centers in the DC-MD-VA area. We hope to solicit enough donations of money and biodegradable products to host a week-long initiative of low-impact iftars where we will have a presentation highlighting the importance of more environmentally conscious methods as well as focusing on how these mosques and community centers should invest further in organizations that provide these biodegradable products. We have already started soliciting donations of both money, and biodegradable products, and just need a few extra hands to take this effort forward.
  • Project 2: We are in the midst of creating a Ramadan Page-a-day tool-kit in order to help people develop and uphold environmentally conscious and spiritually connected habits. We need 1-2 people to help us come to a finished product by the first week of Ramadan.
If you are interested in either of these projects, more details are to follow. Please contact sarrah.abulughod (at) gmail.com.

Makin’ it a day on, not a day off!

A group of Green Muslims signed up for City Year’s day of service last MLK Jr. day of service. City Year put together projects to give a major make-over to the Ron Brown Middle School in Northeast, DC. The projects ranged from painting inspirational quotes such as Shakespeare’s “All the World’s a Stage and all the Men and Women, Merely Players,” in the huge theater, to outdoor clean-up work to patching holes in the roof, to making and painting benches to decorating the school’s mascot (a rocket ship) up and down the halls of the school.

 

Our service group was first put on bench painting and we worked together with others to coat a brand new future on their newly refurbished outdoor space. The benches were going to be used in the school’s courtyard and inshaAllah will help others enjoy the fresh outdoor space for years to come. While we worked together, other service groups hauled years worth of rubble from the courtyard, while others raked away the rotting leaves and uncovered the treasure that was to become the students of Ron Brown Middle School’s new play area. 

It was a blessing being able to help beautify this space. When we think of service projects, often we think of hard manual labor, such as planting trees, or building a house with Habitat for Humanity. Beautification of space can be just as important. As I painted the school’s halls with the rocket ship mascot, I thought about how these simple strokes of paint created a new, brighter, shinier environment for the children who attended this school.

 

 

Thanks to all those who came out, and special thanks to Rizwaan Akhtar for setting up this  Green Muslims service event.

 

Day 6 and 7-Community

Salams,

Welcome to days 6&7 of No Impact Week, Sat & Sun Oct 24th & 25th! The last two days are all about how we interact with our community, friends and family.

Please use the information below in addition to the No Impact Project’s Manual (alongside the DC Green Muslims No Impact Manual).

Remember each day builds upon the previous one, so keep up what you have been doing today and previous days and add to it with what you do tomorrow as well.

Notes
Community and enjoining friends and neighbors to good are keystones of the Islamic faith. God speaks of knowing your neighbors, of serving others, of building a community together. These are basic tenants of our faith, and there are multiple hadith regarding how even our daily personal prayers can be heightened in reward by joining together with a fellow friend.

God speaks of the best of people being the ones who invite others to “all that is good.” In Surah Al‐Emraan this is seen clearly:

“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity.” (3:104)

We as Muslims are not asked to practice our faith in a vacuum. We clearly are told that what we do on a daily basis has effects on the larger society in which we live. There are countless chapters in the Quran that speak about helping others less fortunate than ourselves. These are clear calls to action to better the communities we are a part of.

Islamic Inspiration:

“O mankind! Lo! We have created you from male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.” (49:13)

Allah’s Messenger said, “The reward of the prayer offered by a person in congregation is twenty five times greater than that of the prayer offered in one’s house or in the market (alone).” ‐ Narrated by Abu Hurairah

“And worship God [alone], and do not ascribe divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him. And do good unto your parents, and near of kin, and unto orphans, and the needy, and the neighbor from among your own people, and the neighbor who is a stranger, and the friend by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom you rightfully possess. Verily, God does not love any of those who, full of self‐conceit, act in a boastful manner” (4:36)

“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity.” (3:104)

Dont forget to relate your experiences and thoughts and comment on the appropriate days blog post at our blog, dcgreenmuslims.blogspot.com, for a chance to win organic soaps from Mosaic Soaps (http://mosaic.azam.org/)

Farm of Peace

Over Labor Day weekend, a group of Green Muslims drove up to south-central Pennsylvania to the Farm of Peace. The Farm of Peace is a Sufi-run free range farm that raises chickens, donkeys, and sheep, and keeps a small orchard. Its rolling pastures, tucked between cerulean tree covered hills, are a bucolic treasure. The visual gem of the farm reflects the ideology that drives it – all animals are raised halal. Nowhere is this more evident than with the chickens, who make up the part of the farm called Sumayah’s Peaceful Poultry. It is second

nature for us to block out where the drumstick at dinner or breakfast eggs come from, but most of the chicken we ingest, including chicken slaughtered according to Zabiha standards, comes from hormone-injected birds who often have their beaks removed and are kept in cages too cramped to move around or flap their wings. On the other end of the spectrum is Peaceful Poultry, where the chickens are true free range and given the opportunity to live and grow naturally. You can learn more about Peaceful Poultry and its philosophy at their website.
Sumayah herself is an inspirational character
who kept us captivated as she spoke about her efforts. She helped us look deeper into the ethics of where our food comes from, reminding us of the great privilege mankind is given to take another creature’s life, and the responsibility that comes with that. We rarely think of the dignity and God-given purpose that is so often robbed from creation to supply our own sustenance. Sumayah helped bring our place in nature’s order to focus.
She made sure we gave back to the land as well, and had us clean the manure from the donkey stalls and lay it on one of their pastures. Though a small effort, it felt good to reconnect with the land and take part in its natural renewal. DC can leave one wanting for a stronger connection to nature, and the work was therapeutic. It also made the potluck iftar with some members of the local Sufi community that much more satisfying.
At some point, it would be great to bring more members of Green Muslims to the Farm of Peace. They would greatly appreciate the help, and there is reward to be found in it by anyone. Sumayah would certainly be thrilled to meet more members of our group as well, and we all have much to learn from her insight and experiences.

Community spaces

A slightly edited version of my presentation from Saturday’s green dinner…

As we were going through the process of organizing this dinner, one of the most challenging things was: how do you define space? For the purposes of my discussion, I’m going to build on the idea that spaces and public places define communities; communities can either be limited by them or empowered by them.

So say you lived in a neighborhood where every other building had burned down? Because of a policy of divestment by banks and local developers, landlords in your neighbor found it more profitable to torch their buildings and collect insurance on it, rather than selling them.

In addition to these creepy, burned shells of buildings, what if you also had a sewage treatment plants that processed more than 40 percent of the entire city’s waste, four electric power plants, and thousands of diesel trucks coming through every day to service these facilities?

What sort of community spaces would this neighborhood have? Probably not many, with poor air quality caused by the power plants and toxic waste facilities, limited green space, and few economic opportunities.

The picture I just described is the Bronx in New York City but might be true of many inner-city urban areas. One of the recurring themes in our understanding of community space is the impact of environmental injustices. Some communities bear a disproportionate burden of environmental problems and receive little environmental benefit. The South Bronx neighborhood that I described has suffered from many years of economic and environmental degradation, which has recently been brought to the attention of the environmental community by Majora Carter and the Sustainable South Bronx.

Through their work, which you can find out more about in detail at www.ssbx.org, the plan is to revitalize the neighborhood through a project to provide safe, walkable streets; green spaces – a park and access to the waterfront; better traffic management to redirect trucks away from the neighborhoods; small businesses opportunities; job training; and ecological restoration projects.

Before After

A little closer to home, many of us are familiar with the amazing work done by the folks at Washington Parks and People, our hosts for tonight. Washington Parks has worked to revitalize some of the most beautiful but long neglected areas of the city. Watts Branch or Marvin Gaye Park, which stretches through Ward 7 of the District, is located in one of the longest inhabited black communities in the country; some records indicate that there were black landowners as far back as the 1700s. In more recent history, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a rally in the park to get people to begin a sit-in at a downtown lunch counter. Local residents would gather for music, picnics, fishing, baptisms, and more in the park.

The park was originally established in the 1920s and 30s and managed through the Federal parks system up to the 1970s. Later when it was turned over to the District, the area fell into neglect because of internal squabbles within the government as to who was responsible for maintenance. The park became a haven for drug dealers and users; the stream, because of the trash, illegal dumping, and chemical run-off, was polluted and unsafe to drink from or swim in 100 percent of the time.

Despite the bad conditions, here was something about this place – this community space – that attracted people. What if that negative use could be transformed into something positive?

The folks at Washington Parks had the idea of taking the “marketplace” concept of the park and using it to start a small fruit and vegetable stand, supplied by a nearby community garden. This created a positive, safe place for people to come get fresh produce – which is normally several bus rides away.

As part of the park revitalization process, Washington Parks also brought in local school-aged children to discuss what they thought the park really needed. I’d like to highlight this as the second important theme in our discussion: you need participation to create the right kinds of public spaces for the community. Whether it’s a mosque, a park, or another type of public place, the space won’t serve the needs of the community unless it’s designed with input from the community.

So what did the kids want? They said, “trash cans.”

The coordinators thought, “What trash cans, that’s it??”

“Yes, because if you don’t have somewhere to throw your trash, you’ll just leave it on the ground and the park will end up dirty again.”

So with trash cans and a produce stand – small changes to start with – and input from the community, WPP with hundreds of volunteers have begun a comprehensive plan to change the community using the park as an entry point. To learn more about the parks history and future development, I encourage you to come when we have our next service day…you’ll learn a lot and feel more connected to the community you live in and the public spaces around us.

stumped?

carbon footprints and calculators got you stumped? check out ambreen’s post and reflections on her carbon footprint and our outing to marvin gaye park last weekend!

thanks a ton ambreen! 😉

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!

Our Second Service Day at Marvin Gaye Park

Jazzakum Allah khair for all your hard work folks! Here’s a recap:
1. Getting to know each other at the Riverside Center

2. Taking the tools over to the work site

3. Smiling and full of energy as we await instructions

4. Our work: digging holes for a guardrail around the stage

5. Making progress…

6. This was much harder than it looks!

7. Getting started on the guardrail (cutting and welding)

8. Almost there!

9. Mixing concrete for the foundation

10. Ahhh… admiring the guardrail.

(thanks to Rama and Ambreen for the photos!)

Are there Ayaat in the Hardscape?

The Qur’an states that there are ayaat on earth, and in ourselves, if we could only see them (51:20-21). Ayaat on earth are signs in the landscape, if you will. But last weekend, at Marvin Gaye Park, we were working on the hardscape not the landscape. So are there ayaat in the hardscape, as well? i.e. lessons for us to learn about ourselves and about life.

My blisters are healing now. Making it that much easier to type this blog post, to say nothing of my other daily chores. And though my muscles are still a little sore, it’s a gratifying kind of pain. It reminds me of the good work we were doing and the good people we were doing it with last weekend.

What does that word, work, mean for those of us who are more used to wielding pens and pencils than pickaxes? Or more used to prying open laptops with a quick click and flip, than prying through asphalt with crow bars and digging holes in what seemed like impenetrable urban soil…

Physical labor is hard but satisfying work. Our minds and our bodies crave it when we don’t get enough. Both for the respite it gives us from the cognitive gymnastics of the work or school week and for the subtle lessons learned in the process.

Here are the lessons I learned from last weekend’s hardscaping. Foundations take time to lay. The first step is the hardest. Teamwork makes it easier and more fun. The work happens largely “underground.” Inconspicuous at first, as it moves slow and digs deep. But it sets the stage for more rapid and upward progress, insha’Allah.

Mercy Mercy Me

Pictures from Green Muslim service trip to Marvin Gaye Park



Oh, mercy, mercy me.*
Ah, things ain’t what they used to be.
What about this over crowded land?

How much more abuse from man can she stand?

*Lyrics from Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)