The Islamic Open Circle for Climate and Environmental Justice

A circle represents greater power and energy, as well as perfection

By ISNA Green Initiative Team

September/October 2022

 The ISNA Green Initiative Team is forming a big, open and welcoming circle for climate and environmental justice. This circle, which can be virtual and/or in-person, is devoted to Islam’s environmental spirit. 

A gathering of people in a circle is powerful, for circles are found repeatedly throughout the natural world. In fact, it is a symbol of perfection. We recreate this perfect shape whenever we form one, for doing so allows us to experience each other as equals and facilitates collaboration and dialogue. Because a circle has no beginning and no end, agreeing to connect in such a way allows energy to circulate from one person to the next. In Islam, the circle represents the unity of God, with the Ka‘bah serving as its geographical center.

With the vivid images of the umra and the hajj, the tawaf, regardless of the Covid-19 pandemic, is central to this particular Islamic ritual. More than just a beautiful open and welcoming circle for pilgrims and the direction of prayer, those physically performing this ritual form circles in spirit by standing shoulder to shoulder in brotherhood and sisterhood together as they pray for climate and environmental justice for everyone.

Our team has organized and hosted several virtual convenings with Muslim environmentalists in North America and plans to continue doing so. We are building our asset map and power map to include the Muslim voices involved in these critical undertakings.

Some of the invited and/or participating Muslim organizations in these virtual convenings are:

Chicago Muslims Green Team (CMGT): “CMGT inspires Chicago Muslims to lead in building an environmentally friendly city that restores balance and connection between nature and people. CMGT connects Chicago Muslims and the greater community to issues of environmental justice and spreads awareness about an Eco-friendly lifestyle based on Islamic teachings.”

CMGT, part of the City of Chicago’s Roots Chicago Project and member of the Tree Equity Project’s community since August 2021, plans to engage in more activities for tree planting projects in the near future. 

EnviroMuslims (Canada): “At EnviroMuslims, our mission is to engage with, educate and empower the Canadian Muslim community to embed sustainability in our everyday lives. Whether it’s where you live, work, play or pray, our goal is to reconnect Muslims with nature and embed a sense of love and responsibility for caring for the natural environment and the health and well-being of our communities.”

Faithfully Sustainable (N.Y.): “We are an environmental justice community + resource hub led by young Black and Brown Muslims. We equip young Muslims and allies with a strong community, and the educational and financial resources necessary for them to create just and sustainable solutions.” 

Green Muslims (Washington, D.C.): “Muslims living in the environmental spirit of Islam, striving towards connection with nature and environmental stewardship. To serve as a source in the Muslim community for spiritually-inspired environmental education, action, and reflection. We engage locally while serving as a national resource.”

Green Muslims of New Jersey: “The Green Muslims of New Jersey is a community organization created by a group of Muslims in central Jersey who were concerned about the negative impacts to the environment during Ramadan. We aim to educate people about the importance of environmental stewardship, or ‘going green,’ in Islam and implement ideas and strategies to solve problems regarding waste and overconsumption.”

Green Ummah (Canada): “The Muslim community has a responsibility to a healthy planet. With over one million Muslims living across Canada, we believe that mobilizing our communities to think about sustainable solutions will have a huge positive impact in Canadian households, mosques, community centers, workplaces, and civil society. Green Ummah is a non-profit organization with the goal of creating a green movement in the Canadian Muslim community.”

Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) (Ga. and Ill.): “Go Green on Racine is an equitable development neighborhood initiative. It will introduce three capital assets: a Fresh Market; an innovative repurposing of a former Chicago Public School as a hub for supportive housing, reentry services and green enterprise; as well as a mixed-use development with housing, a business incubator, and a fine-dining restaurant all inside. Green ReEntry provides transitional housing, life skills education, and sustainable construction training for returning citizens and high-risk youth.”

Khaleafa (Canada): “Awakening our stewardship responsibility through action. The goal of Khaleafa is to reignite the discourse surrounding the Islamic approach to environmentalism and to draw upon the essence of these teachings, emphasizing the movement from a Canadian perspective.”

Wisconsin Green Muslims: “Wisconsin Green Muslims (formerly known as the Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin), a grassroots environmental justice group formed in 2005, intends to educate the Muslim community and the public about the Islamic environmental justice teachings, to apply these teachings in daily life and to form coalitions with others working toward a just, healthy, peaceful and sustainable future.

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The following model of diverse monthly themes is an example of an open circle that works for Wisconsin Green Muslims:

“A theme is designated each month with a focus on it with participants from different Islamic Centers, formal and informal Islamic schools and institutions. The results are quantified, and we celebrate the outcomes, then move to a new theme in the next month. This diverse approach enables us to connect with a variety of constituents who join our open circle at the point of entry that matches their interest, whether it is water equity with lead issues that affect vulnerable populations, community vegetable gardens with families participating and intergenerational exchange of knowledge that takes place, solar energy and energy efficiency with engineers and facility managers coming into the fold, friendly recycling competitions with robust youth participation, or transit equity issues with seniors, students and people of disability concerned about transportation access and affordability,” says Huda Alkaff, founder and director of Wisconsin Green Muslims.

People who take part in a circle find that their power increases exponentially while they are with the group. Like a drop of water rippling on the surface of a pond, the waves of energy produced in a circle radiate outward in a circular motion. May our collective healing circle emanate ripples of energy, power and light that can transform and heal ourselves and the world. 

One of the great benefits of joining this circle will be to learn from each group’s experiences. Please connect with us and join this open circle for climate and environmental justice. We will be announcing about upcoming convenings soon.

The ISNA Green Initiative Team: Huda Alkaff, Saffet Catovic, Nana Firman, Uzma Mirza and Saiyid Masroor Shah (chair) —

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