In Memoriam: Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

1977 – 2023

By Nana Firman

Sept/Oct 2023

I first met Ibrahim in New York City. Back then, I didn’t even know that I was going to move to the U.S. in the future. I still remember what he said when I was getting married.  “You know that it’s a double whammy to be Black and Muslim, right?” Perhaps he was referring to my husband, Jamal. Back then I didn’t know what it meant, but I am forever grateful for his words.

Ibrahim and I attended and spoke at many environment and climate gatherings organized by Muslims, multi-faith, or conventional non-religious groups. We collaborated at the local, national, as well as international level. In 2012, we were invited to the World Islamic Economic Forum in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. I remember he texted me, “What should we wear to dinner with the Sultan?” I replied “Batik!” Apparently, he loved the batik shirt that I had given him, and even wore it in his TV interview. I promised that I would get more batik shirts for him when I visited my family in Jakarta.

The funniest moment we had was when we were invited to speak at the 2019 Zero Waste International Summit in Istanbul, Türkiye. Ibrahim insisted that we could go in the same car. However, the organizer was firm that we had to ride in our assigned cars. Little that we knew, it was for security reasons. We were the guests of First Lady Emine Erdoğan, so each of us got our own guard. We laughed every time we thought about that trip.

Ibrahim and his wife, Fatima, along with their sons, Ismael and Yousuf, also participated in the 2014 Climate March in New York City. He agreed to be the keynote speaker when I told him that I was going to launch a Global Muslim Climate Network back in 2016. He even brought his amazing mother to that event.

Last year, he was diagnosed with a rare cancer. I cried the whole day when I found out. Al hamdu lillah, the treatment worked well. So, in October 2022, Ibrahim and I were able to share our journeys at the Green Festival in Kocaeli, Türkiye. He looked healthy and even extended his stay to visit some friends in Istanbul afterward.

In early June, my husband and I visited him and the family in their house near Pasadena, Calif. Fatima served us a delicious dinner. We ate and prayed together. We talked about so many things from the bear coming to their backyard to the green movement and world politics. Then my husband said, “You guys should come to our house before you leave for New York. I’ll cook, you’ll see!” We were so looking forward to their visit and I kept reminding myself to get halal marshmallows for their 3 boys so we could make smores in our firepit. Perhaps we could discuss GreenDeen, the book he wrote in 2010 that has inspired so many Muslims around the globe, including the Muslim youth in Indonesia. Every time I brought up the need for a sequel to his book, he kept telling me, “You’ll do it!” but I didn’t take it seriously. Instead, I was exploring any possibility to invite him to Indonesia this year.

On June 21, I was shocked and speechless when I found out that Ibrahim left this world. Innalillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’uun. As much as we love Ibrahim, Allah loves him more. Farewell, dear brother, and comrade. May Allah grant you among the highest levels of Jannah. Ibrahim’s legacy won’t end here. I and many Muslims will continue the GreenDeen journey and shape our strategies for a faithfully sustainable world, inshaAllah.

 Nana Firman has about two decades of experience working with advocacy and raising awareness about environmental degradation and climate crisis, advocating urban sustainability for a better future, and developing green economy concepts and strategies. She is a native Indonesian and resides in Southern California.

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