Muslims are not only concerned about the environment but actively working to protect it all around the world.
Today is World Environment Day, a day designated by the United Nations to celebrate nature by creating awareness of environmental concerns. In an era when President Trump has declared his decision to pull out of the historic Paris Climate Accord, when sea levels are rising and global warming is only too real, World Environment Day offers an opportunity to take a deep breath and think about what each one of us can do for the earth every day.
Muslims are similarly concerned about environmental issues, a fact that many outside those communities do not realize. There is a stereotype of faithful Muslims praying and fasting, but not engaged or involved in social issues. However, the reality is that Muslims are not only concerned about the environment but actively working to protect it all around the world.
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Green Muslims (USA)
Green Muslims is perhaps the most widely known Muslim Environmental Group in the United States. Created after the success of zero-trash potluck dinners in 2007 in the Washington D.C. area, Green Muslims has become a vocal and visible representation of earth-friendly Islamic practices in action. Through tool-kits and guides, community programs like river clean ups, and consulting for religious leaders, Green Muslims is at the forefront of shaping the discussion around environmental issues in the American Muslim community.
The biggest challenge is a lack of awareness regarding Islamic guidance related to the environment. Like their Christian counterparts, many traditionalists of the older generations scoff at the idea of climate change or the expectation to take care of the planet as being a religious duty. Green Muslims, based in Washington D.C. aims to remove these barriers by educating directly from scripture. According to some, more than 700 verses in the Quran deal with nature and the earth. Two of the most popular ones are:
And We granted you dominion on Earth, and made for you in it a habitat; little do you give thanks (7:10).
Corruption has appeared on the land and in the sea because of what the hands of humans have wrought (30:41).
Green Muslims have created guides for the Muslim layperson as well as for religious leaders with countless scriptural and other religious textual readings. These include ideas for sermons, tools for organizing community programs and volunteer opportunities – all very practical ways for Muslims and people of other faiths to save the planet, a blessing from God.
A similar effort in Canada is named Khaleafa, derived from the Arabic khalifa or steward. The organization derives its mission from the urge of God in the Quran that human beings are stewards of the earth and everything in it:
And it is He who has made you successors (khalifa) upon the earth (6:165).
A prime aspect of Khaleafa is the Green Khutba (Arabic for sermon) campaign which aims to provide resources for religious leaders to train their congregations about environmentally friendly practices. Started in 2016, the campaign is now gearing up for new activities in 2018.
Wisdom in Nature (UK)
Going a step further is Wisdom in Nature, a British organization offering curriculum and trainings to teach ecology from an Islamic perspective. The team members of WIN provide talks, lectures and guidelines for schools, civic agencies, mosques, interfaith groups and much more. The group claims to “draw on the practicality of permaculture, the richness of a spiritual tradition – Islam – and wonderful contemporary approaches to conscious group work that draw on diversity as a strength.”
The challenges are well understood by online and print resources catering to Muslims as well. Green Prophet is a website dedicated to showcasing eco-friendly efforts in the Middle East, whether in the field of business or education or lifestyle. Created by blogger and environmental activist Karin Kloosterman, it is a space to bring environmental ideas and news to the consciousness of a Middle Eastern audience.
The website The EcoMuslim by British Muslim British Muslim Zaufishan Iqbal is chock-full of news, tips and advice. Iqbal re-imagines jihad (an Arabic word meaning struggle for the sake of God) as an eco-jihad or environmental struggle, and therefore an intrinsic part of the Islamic faith.
The book Green Deen, written by American author Ibrahim Abdul-Matin provides a much-needed text for current environmental issues from a faith perspective. Lauded as the only major text about Islamic teachings relating to the environment, Green Deen has become the go-to reference guide for ecologically concerned Muslims everywhere.
Featured Image: The Eco Muslim