God has presented a time to learn and it should be utilized to help our planted too
By ISNA GREEN INITIATIVE TEAM
Ramadan presents the perfect opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries by seeking forgiveness for our shortcomings and reflecting upon God’s signs in creation. As stewards of this planet, we’re responsible to ensure a sustainable environment.
Record heatwaves, wildfires, drought, storms and flooding have shown that climate change is here and getting worse. The extreme weather we faced last year should serve as a warning sign of what will happen if we ignore another public health crisis.
Scientists have been warning for years that extreme weather is going to become more frequent and severe. This past summer alone, 1 in 3 Americans personally suffered its impact.
Since 2015, the ISNA Green Initiative Team (https://isna.net/isna-green-initiative/) has organized “Greening Our Ramadan” campaigns to encourage environmentally friendly practices wherever we are in order to reduce our carbon footprint and become responsible stewards.
This month of merciful divine blessings, when the Quran’s revelation began, is a month of submission for spiritual uplifting, balance and control of physical desires; of fasting and remembering the less fortunate; of focusing on charity and self-control so we can better reflect upon our stewardship and ask: “What are we doing to our environment and ourselves? Where are we going? And why?”
According to 6:165, “And it is He who has made you successors upon Earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees (of rank) that He may try you through what He has given you…” Simply stated, 6:38 proclaims the humanity is responsible for safeguarding the environment — all of its resources, ecosystems and communities, and a hadith reminds us, “Earth has been made a mosque for me, and a thing to purify (to perform tayammum)” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” book 8, hadith no. 87).
Therefore, we must preserve our planet and learn to live with all non-human communities in a balanced way so that we can become an eco-friendly umma.
We introduced an ISNA Green Home Guide rubric as a tool for establishing a baraka-based (praising of God) rating system that quantifies your “greening of Ramadan” through various types of praise (e.g., tasbih, tahmid, tahlil and takbir).
We plan to release informational updates on www.isna.net. All participants will receive a certificate, and the environmental advocacy Pen and Inkpot Foundation will plant a tree on behalf of your mosque, Islamic center, or home. As the hadith says: “Every Muslim who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, a person or an animal eats from it, is regarded as having performed a charitable deed” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” book 41, hadith no. 1).
Unfortunately, Muslims still waste a considerable amount of food and water during Ramadan because recycling has not yet become a habit. And yet despite this, a new global Muslim tradition is slowly arising, one that aligns with the well-known verse:
“For it is He who has brought into being gardens — [both] the cultivated ones and those growing wild — the date-palm, fields bearing multiform produce, the olive tree and the pomegranate: [all] resembling one another and yet so different! Eat of their fruit when it comes to fruition and give [the poor] their due on harvest day. Do not waste [God’s bounties]: Verily, He does not love the wasteful!” (6:141).
Abdullah ibn Amr reported that one day the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) passed by Sa‘d while he was performing ablution and asked, “What is this excess?” Sa‘d asked, “Is there excessive use of water in ablution?” The Prophet replied, “Yes, even if you were on the banks of a flowing river” (“Sunan Ibn Majah,” hadith no. 425). Therefore, let’s be more environmentally conscious, socially responsible and compassionate while fasting.
Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost 248 million tons, the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (254 million tons) (http://www.fao.org/; May 11, 2011). Feeding America reports that 72 billion pounds of food is wasted, while 50 million people may have been hungry in 2020 and that a further 52 billion pounds from manufacturers, grocery stores and restaurants end up in landfills (https://www.feedingamerica.org/).
The total generation of municipal solid waste in 2018 was 292.4 million tons. Of this, plastics amounted to 35 million tons (12.2%), reported the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov). As we fast, let’s reaffirm our sense of self-restraint and accountability to the Creator, the Provider of Sustenance, and adopt green practices by engaging in some of the following actions.
• Reduce food waste and overconsumption. Eat more fruit and vegetables and less meat. Remember that the Prophet ate mostly grains, dates, water, milk, honey, vegetables, and fruits. Take only what you can finish, eat moderately and don’t waste food, for the Prophet advised us that one “cannot fill a vessel worse than his/her stomach” and that he/she should fill one-third of it with food, one-third with drink and one-third with air (“Sunan al-Tirmidhi,” hadith no. 2380).
• Recycle material, especially plastic water bottles. Plastics now take up 25-30% of our landfills. In the U.S., 1,500 plastic water bottles are used every second; of these, 70% never make it to a recycling bin (https://drinkopenwater.com/). Minimize the use of plastics, most of which have a long decomposition life, by replacing them with rapidly biodegradable or paper products. Avoid all Styrofoam, which can remain intact for over a thousand of years (https://sciencing.com/longstyrofoam-break-down-5407877.html).
• Bring your own reusable water bottles and mugs to iftar and tarawih events, because 80% of plastic bottles are not recycled.
• Replace light bulbs with energy-saver LED bulbs. Consider working toward an Energy Star certification for your facility, installing solar panels and using light sensors. Reduce your use of water, even when making wudu’. Use low flow, Energy Star plumbing fixtures and sensors. Think about planting a garden or a potted plant. Maybe try growing some of your own food. Plant a tree, which is considered a charitable act. Read about the Prophet’s medicine and natural herbal remedies (https://www.ncbi. nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3447072/).
• Buy fair-trade products. Get a daily dose of vitamin D by walking during the day. Join civic activities and/or community social projects, volunteer at homeless shelters, collect food for food pantries, invite non-Muslims to community and home dinners, and take care of Muslim inmates in nearby jails. Involve children and youth in age-appropriate Ramadan activities, such as serving as Green ambassadors during community dinners.
• Ask your khateeb to deliver at least one Friday khutba on the Quranic imperative to conserve and protect the environment and its social good. Conduct Energy Star training and appoint/elect a community green coordinator.
Team members recently collaborated with the Environmental Protection Agency and compiled the “First Energy Star Booklet for Muslim Communities” (www.energystar.gov/) to explain how to make buildings more energy efficient. Over the years, we have conducted many webinars; given awards for community participation; participated in Earth Week; and worked with IMANA, MANA, Interfaith Power & Light, GreenFaith, Wisconsin Green Muslims and similar organizations. We have also made presentations at ISNA conventions, conferences and forums. ISNA encourages all communities to form a local Green Initiative Team and have a Green Ramadan.
Ramadan is a roadmap to achieving balance with the environment. Let’s use it to reflect and act upon our stewardship, refresh our tawakkul and make our outward actions reflect the envisioned balance. Let’s save Earth’s resources and communities from the waste, mass pollution, global climate change, species extinction, habitat loss, ecosystem degradation, unsustainable farming and rising zoonotic diseases caused by our negligent actions. Let’s do our best to reduce the negative impacts that fall on the most vulnerable, many of whom live in the inner cities. Although they are the least responsible, they pay a disproportionate price in terms of the ensuing harm and negative health impacts. May God help us celebrate a greener Ramadan this year.
We ask you to join us and thank all mosques and households who have participated in previous Green Ramadan campaigns.
To receive your ISNA Home and/or Masjid Rubric, please register at www.isna.net.
ISNA Green Initiative Team: Huda Alkaff, Saffet Catovic, Nana Firman, Uzma Mirza and Saiyid Masroor Shah (chair)