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Islam and Ecology: Reflections on the Qur’anic Way

i May 8th 2 Comments by

Guest Blog: Guest blogger Mouna Mana reflects on the wisdom shared by Dr. Fred Denny at a guest lecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the topic of environmental protection and Islam.

By Mouna Mana

A few weeks ago on April 10, Dr. Fred Denny, professor emeritus from University of Colorado-Boulder spoke at UW-Madison’s campus as a guest on the topic of environmental protection and Islam. The title of the talk drew me in, “Ecology and Islam.” I cannot pretend to know much about ecology, but I care enough to want to know more. Was he going to explain how ecology appears in Islamic texts, or was he going to talk about Muslims’ work (or lack thereof) in ecology? Was he going to raise any critiques or questions? Would I discover something new and insightful about the topic?

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In the News: Green Muslims Presents at Environmental Education Workshop

In January 2013, Rizwaan Akhtar of Green Muslims presented at an environmental service-learning program hosted at Zaytuna College. Read the complete story on the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Zaytuna College Hosts Historic Workshop on Environmental Education in Islamic Schools

By Elaine Pasquini
Participants and guests gather at the Berkeley Independent Studies outdoor oven during a tour of the garden as part of the Experiential Environmental Education in Islamic Schools program. (Staff photo Phil Pasquini)

Participants and guests gather at the Berkeley Independent Studies outdoor oven during a tour of the garden as part of the Experiential Environmental Education in Islamic Schools program. (Staff photo Phil Pasquini)

AN HISTORIC environmental service-learning program, initiated by Saleem H. Ali, founding director of the University of Vermont’s In­stitute for Environmental Diplomacy and Security (IEDS), was held Jan. 1 through 5 at Berkeley’s Zaytuna College, the first Muslim liberal arts college in the U.S. Imam Dawood Yasin of Dartmouth College served as program director of the multi-day event, which was co-sponsored by Zaytuna College, the IEDS, and the Center for Islamic Studies at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union. Read more…

A Brief Introduction to Permaculture: Sustaining Our Future

A Brief Introduction to Permaculture: Sustaining Our Future and Why It Matters to Muslims 

By Tara Tariq and Sakina Grome

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

– Albert Einstein

In 2005, the United States Department of Energy published a report titled Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management, (also known as the Hirsch report). The report predicts that the production of oil that fuels today’s economy and our lifestyle will peak and decline in the coming years. According to some industry analysts, it has already peaked. The report also underscores the inevitable and “unprecedented risk management problem” that Peak-Oil will present to the world.

Today we have reached a moment, a status quo that is characterized by extreme imbalance of resource depletion and consumption and it did not happen overnight: The famines in East Africa, riots in Indonesia, warfare in the Middle East, and tight-fisted policies regulating under- developed regions and their precious resources all share the common denominator of natural- resource and food insecurity. (more…)

Think Green Khutbah Campaign, Friday April 20th

Our friends at Khaleafa.com have launched a campaign to commemorate Earth Day on April 22, 2012 and we are joining them. Mark your calendars for April 20th and ask your religious leaders to celebrate Earth Day by reminding us of our role to protect this Earth, a trust given to mankind. We hope this is an opportunity to deepen our role as protectors of the planet.

This year’s Think Green Khutbah Campaign’ challenge is to request all Muslims to live according to the S plan:

a)    live a simple life

b)     live a sustainable life

c)     live as stewards of the environment

Please sign up online if your organization will join the campaign and if you will be delivering a Khutbah on the environment on Friday, April 20th, 2012.

Also, if you need specific verses from the Quran, check out the resources here as well as Green Muslims Ramadan toolkit from 2011. There are wonderful ideas of what to do on Earth day in there as well.

And with Him are the keys of the Ghaib (all that is hidden), none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in (or on) the earth and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but he knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record. Qur'an 6/59

Our Prayer: Oh Most Merciful, Oh Lord of the Worlds, Oh Creator of the Universe, protect our homes, protect our land, protect our water, protect our air.

Oh Sustainer, Oh Most Powerful, Oh Inspirer, help us maintain good habits, help us be agents for change, help us inspire our communities to action.

Mission: Green Muslims seek to reemphasize the unique role and responsibility entrusted upon humanity by God: environmental stewardship. We hope to serve as a bridge between American Muslim communities as well as partner with a wide spectrum of organizations accomplishing great work. Additionally, Green Muslims seek to provide a unique and organic source of environmental leadership, inspiration, awareness, and direct action within Muslim communities.

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!

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.

Ecology of the Heart & Mind

I was born on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, where I grew up playing on the western shore of the Persian Gulf. My father, a Syrian civil engineer, would take me to a resort town he was building on the western coast of the Peninsula, on the eastern shore of the Red Sea.

When I was eight, my family and I moved to America. There, on the East Coast, I played on the edges of eastern forests and grew entangled in an ecology that wove existing memories of a dry land and warm waters into seamless, intricate webs in my middle-childhood mind.

There is no gulf between the ecology and culture of East and West for a child whose heart and mind encompasses both.

They say smell is the most powerful trigger of memory. The first time I smelled diesel exhaust on the streets of Washington, DC – the City of Trees – it transported me to my mother’s native Damascus. In that city inhabited for over 4,000 years, the waft from diesel-powered engines that first entered my lungs and imprinted itself upon my memory unfortunately still fills the urban air.

Somewhere between DC and Damascus I learned that there need not be a gulf between the ecology and culture of city and nature for someone whose heart and mind could encompass both.

As an undergraduate student in biology and religion in Washington, DC, my mind started to lay the first intellectual strands of an ecology of science and spirituality that was already reflected in my heart. All this came together for me as a Student Conservation Associate in Tucson Arizona’s Saguaro National Park.

There was something about the Sonoran Desert, so foreign yet so familiar, that spoke to me deeply. Perhaps it was the American West’s reflection of the dry Middle Eastern landscape that I carried within.

An ecology of the heart and mind, my own, was starting to reveal itself.

Beyond that first impression, I busied myself with acquiring the skills in botanical field research that our project (PDF) entailed. I was awash in statistics and scientific data collection, the object of which was the saguaro cactus. But to the Tohono O’odham, the native peoples of that part of the Sonoran Desert, the saguaros are no mere object. They are ancestors.

One late afternoon, as the shadows grew long, another intern and I were walking ahead on the trail when we saw something that forced us stop. We were in the shadow of a giant saguaro. Much larger, much older and much grander than us, we stood in awe of this Tohono O’odham elder.

It was no different than many of the other saguaros we measured, plotted and photographed that day, yet no number, no picture and no words could capture what we saw. So we stood there in silence, enchanted and humbled by the elder’s presence.

How can there be a gulf between science and the spiritual for people whose hearts and minds encompass both?

Mosaic Landscape

I was born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles County, 40 minutes from the mountains and 40 minutes from the beach. It was a wonderful place to explore and reflect on nature.

On the other hand, I felt the sprawling nature of Southern California negatively impact my inner landscape. Los Angeles County is compartmentalized, just as my psyche was fragmented and disjointed. Entertainment hubs, friends, work, and home are miles apart, taking hours in traffic to get from one place to another, both in public transit or auto. The lack of unity and harmony felt within me reflected the disharmony in my surroundings.

Less happens in a day when you are spending hours on end sitting in a parking lot, more commonly known as the 405 freeway. It is hard to feel collected and stable when your daily activities are so heavily determined by externalities like commute time and distance from work to home, etc. The daunting thought of getting from one place to another usually meant I stayed home on my couch. This took a toll on my sense of community and place. I felt little ownership for my surroundings/inner-self and frankly, was not equipped with the right tools to fix my predicament.

Seeing as how I was so clearly affected by my built environment, I decided I wanted to learn the tools. I wanted to understand the spatial composition of cities. Who decides where buildings go?… Who decides where the roadway network is constructed?… Who doesn’t have a voice in these types of discussions?… How do we create a sense of community?… How can we lessen the burden the environment experiences because of us?… How can we make public transit a viable transportation option by lessening door-to-door transit time?…

As I try to equip myself with the right tools to help influence the external world, my internal world is on its way to becoming more centered and rooted in a framework of thought that encourages reflection, growth and acceptance of change—paying special attention to how externalities/built environment affect(s) me.

Sometimes our past issues/mistakes can seem as immovable as a 10-story skyscraper, casting its shadow over our future pursuits.I am starting to realize now that we have the ability, the strength from within, to create buildings we deem worthy and raze structures that impede our processes of growth on our respective journeys.

I finally recognize the harmony of my inner landscape comes from an alignment/unification of my soul, mind, and heart—-making every part of me ready to hear God’s presence in my life.