Thursday, May 13, 2010

Muslims Go Green

Muslims across the world and in the United States have recently been getting into the green spirit. With the impending release of the book “Green Deen” this October, and deadly oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico serving as an environmental wake-up call, I thought it would be a fitting time to shine some light on what the Muslim community has been doing to ensure a sustainable future.

As mentioned briefly above, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is a Muslim environmentalist set to release his first book this Fall, “Green Deen- What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet.” The main inspiration and driving force behind Abdul-Matin’s book is the notion of the whole Earth being a place of prostration, therefore making the Earth a sacred place worth preserving. He relates in an excerpt from “Green Deen” that his love for the environment began as a child when he was on a hiking trip with his father. When it was time for the afternoon prayers, his father explained to him that the whole Earth is a Mosque; praying didn’t just have to confine to the mosque or the home. Throughout his adult life, Abdul-Matin has worked as an environmental policy consultant, has worked with Green for All, Green City Force, Interfaith Leaders for Environmental Justice, the Prospect Park Alliance, and the New York City Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. With his book he hopes to ignite his passion for environmental justice in the hearts of other Muslims.

Other American Muslims have also found their connection with nature and have become proactive in environmental sustainability. A movement called “Green Muslims” based in Washington DC is “a network of Muslims in the District of Columbia (and surrounding areas) working proactively to help our communities understand and implement sustainable and eco-conscious ways of living while relating it to our faith and a holistic world-view,” according to their website. One of Green Muslims’ first green initiatives was organizing sustainable iftars, meals which break fast, during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Green iftars meant three things: the food served had to be organic, local, and the people commuting to the iftar had to do so in an environmentally sustainable away.

One, however, doesn’t have to look as far as DC for examples of environmental stewardship in the Muslim community; even Chicago Muslims are starting to do their part. The Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview recently decided to go green when it came time to remodel their building. They’ve installed solar panels to heat water, use carpeting made from recycled materials, and maximize natural light to cut down on energy use. Additionally, the mosque has always discouraged waste and encouraged recycling, according to Connie Martin in an ABC7 interview.

The green Islam movement has become a worldwide one. This past April, the first ever Muslim Action on Climate Change conference was held in Jakarta, Indonesia. Over 200 delegates were in attendance echoing the same sentiments that there is no contradiction between being a faithful Muslim and a steward of the Earth. In fact, the two are intrinsically tied together. This conference was aimed at taking the sole focus off of the West and instead looking to reform the practices of oil-producing Muslim countries. In addition to discussing ways to decrease pollution, there was also an exciting discussion on how to make for a greener Hajj, the once in a lifetime Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. An estimated 100 million water bottles are left behind by pilgrims each year, so a potential ban on plastic bottles may be put in place for the Hajj seasons to come. There are also plans to provide workshops educating Muslims on the connection between faith and environmental protection.

And making the connection isn't very hard at all. “We did indeed offer the trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof. But man undertook it (the trust);...” ( Qur’an 33:72)

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