MANY PEOPLE ASSOCIATE the color green with Islam. The flags of Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia all include the color green. According to the Quran, the people of paradise will wear garments of green silk.[i] And some say the Prophet’s ﷺ favorite color was green. I have yet to find a reliable hadith to support this favorite color claim. But I think it is safe to think of Islam as a green hued faith for another reason: The Environment.
Embedded in the tenets of Islam is an ecological imperative. “The Earth is a mosque, and everything in it is sacred. I learned this basic tenet of Islam from my father,” notes Ibrahim Abdul-Matîn, environmentalist and author, who begins his book Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet with these wise words.
We as human beings were placed on this earth as caretakers of it, as stewards.
Now, behold! Your Lord said to the angels: I am placing upon the earth a human successor to steward it. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:30]
As stewards on this earth, we have been entrusted with its care, and we will be held accountable for our actions towards it.
We will register “in the book” what they have done and what footprints they have left, and everything we have accounted for in great details in a detailed book. [Sûrah Yâ-Sîn, 36:12] (emphasis added)
Ramadan is a time for self-examination, a time to come nearer to Allah, and to become better versions of ourselves. So as we contemplate how we can become better to ourselves and to each other, let us also contemplate how we can become better stewards to our home. Let us take this opportunity to be more cognizant of the footprint we leave, and have a greener Ramadan.
Many of us don’t realize that what we eat has an impact on the environment. We are over-farming, over-fishing, genetically modifying, polluting with pesticides, and wasting the world out of resources. The more we consume ecologically demanding products like meat, dairy, and produce that has to be shipped from the other side of the world, (which we often turn around and toss out), the more the earth –and consequently we– will suffer in the future.
However, we can use Ramadan as a chance to examine what we eat, what we toss, and how we can do better.
Being Mindful of What we Eat
What we eat has always been of much concern for the Muslim. What we put into our bodies becomes fuel to worship our Creator. Putting the impure into a vessel meant for worship makes little sense. But there is more to eating consciously than just avoiding certain things.
The Mosque Foundation recommends eating the truly ḥalâl:
There is a huge growth in the demand for ḥalâl food. We now need to advance to concepts like Green Ḥalâl and Organic Ḥalâl as the real meaning of ḥalâl is much more than slaughtering certain animals in certain ways and avoiding pork products and alcohol. It should mean eating in moderation foods that are grown locally, have minimal impact on carbon emission, and selecting meats that are obtained from “Ḥalâl” animals that are fed organically and treated humanely throughout their lives.[ii]
When we go to the market this Ramadan, we can be more mindful of where our food is coming from. We can buy less, buy local, waste less, incorporate more fruits and vegetables than meat and dairy, and steer clear of products that are grown with pesticides or are genetically modified.
Conserve Food at Ifṭâr (the time of breaking fast in the evening)
Cooking less can avoid waste. We really don’t need as much as we eat. And fasting for a month is a great way to adjust our systems to eating less. The Prophet ﷺ taught us that we really shouldn’t fill our stomachs, and in fact we need very little to sustain us.
The worst vessel that the son (or daughter) of Adam ever fills is his (or her) stomach. It is enough for the son of Adam to eat a few morsels that will maintain his back’s uprightness. But if he must add more to his stomach, then let it be one third for food, one third for water, and one third for air. (Ibn Mâjah)
Make small meals for ifṭâr to reduce waste in our stomach and in the trash. And when we break our fast this Ramadan, we can pay closer attention to what our stomach is telling us by slowing down, taking deep breaths as we eat and drink, and stopping when our stomachs no longer feel empty.
It takes around 20 minutes for the brain to receive the signal that the stomach is full.[iii] So eating a little at ifṭâr time, making wudu (ablution), and going to pray maghrib (the evening prayer) can be just enough time to let us know where our stomach stands and can lead to greener eating habits.
During Ramadan, we are praying more and sometimes this added worship can lead to added waste.
And waste not by extravagance […]. [Sûrat Al-Anʿâm, 6:141]
Conserve Water in Wuḍû (ablution)
The Prophet ﷺ used to take a bath with one ṣâʿ up to five mudds of water and used to perform ablution with one mudd of water. (Bukhâri)
For those of us who are not used to these ancient measurements, 1 ṣâʿ = 3 Liters and 1 mudd = 750mL[iv], or a personal sized (recyclable) bottle of soft drink.
Those of us who leave the water on, running full force as we wash our hands, mouth, nose, face, arms, head, and feet for wudu, we are wasting gallons of water. Instead we can all try the prophetic method of water conservation when we do our wudu. Try filling up an empty 750 mL bottle or a small bowl and use it to make wudu instead of running the tap and wasting too much water.
Conserve Electricity in Ṭarâwîḥ (night prayer during Ramadan)
Late night prayers during Ramadan can lead to extra electricity use. If we are awake, for those of us who are used to electricity, our lights are on. But that doesn’t have to be the case. For centuries, Muslims would congregate for iftar (evening meal during Ramadan) and ṭarâwîḥ using fânûs or lanterns to light their way.[v]
This practice of using fânûs is why we see lanterns used as a symbol of or decorations for Ramadan. Why not try turning off the lights to pray ṭarâwîḥ? Instead turn back to a time when fânûs were used to see by during night time worship.
Ramadan is a time when Muslims come together as a community. Unfortunately, sometimes that means extra waste.
Greening Our Ramadan
Because many Muslims spend more time at the masjid during Ramadan, ISNA (The Islamic Society of North America) and ISNA’s Green Masjid Task Group are inviting masajid and/or Islamic centers around the world to join their “Greening Our Ramadan” campaign.[vi]
ISNA invites every community to begin using degradable paper products for ifṭârs instead of non-degradable Styrofoam, begin or continue to recycle materials, and -among other suggestions- host a khuṭba (sermon) about our Islamic duty to protect the environment. ISNA even asks that every masjid and/or Islamic center pledge to implement the “Greening Our Ramadan” campaign.
Host a Green Ifṭâr
We all know that parties lead to extra trash. Throwing an ifṭâr during Ramadan doesn’t have to mean throwing more away.
Fortunately, Green Muslims has a solution to the iftar waste we sometimes amass. They published an online pamphlet in 2010 entitled, “Green Iftars: A How-To Guide.” The Green Guide “seeks to help the Muslim community contribute to a greener, cleaner, healthier ifṭâr. In the form of a Zero Trash, No Waste ‘Green Ifṭâr! This guide seeks to give you just that help, with tips and strategies for a Zero Trash Ifṭâr!” [vii]
Keep these initiatives going. It can be easy to be green when you are cognizant of the alternative. Allah says in the Quran:
Corruption has appeared on the land and in the sea because of what the hands of humans have wrought. This is in order that we have given them a taste of the consequences of their misdeeds that perhaps they will turn to the path of right guidance. [Sûrat Al-Rûm, 30:41]
We have to do our part to put an end to the corruption of pollution, genetic engineering, deforestation, and much more. Not only is it our religious imperative, it is also an imperative to sustain life because we are tasting some of the consequences with climate change, ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, natural resource depletion, and much more.
Let’s learn how to live in balance with nature. We may not be able to change or reverse the effects of everyone on earth, but we can be the best stewards we can be this Ramadan and beyond.