For me, the term “green Muslim” has always stirred up a love-hate sort of feeling. On the one hand, it makes me feel able to identify the noble environment-conscious attitude I should be trying to adopt as a Muslim. But on the other, to say that adopting this attitude and striving to live harmoniously with nature is only for those people that see themselves as being “green” is a big disservice to the principles of our religion.
When we imagine the seerah (life of the Prophet pbuh), do we think of a desert with tents, people riding camels and a random trash can in the middle of the scene? Indeed, if we imagine any setting from more than one hundred years ago, we cannot see any community of people throwing away as much as we do now. Before the invention of plastic and all things disposable, how did people survive?
Allah has created the earth in a natural state of balance. He Created materials needed for our lives, which are produced, used, metabolised by other organisms, and then broken down – and so the cycle of life continues. Yet our modern society has turned this delicate system upside down, and the consequences goes against the teachings of our Prophet pbuh. He taught us that we should not waste water, even by a running stream, that we should continue to plant a seed, even if the Day of Judgement is about to begin, and that a reward lies in something as small as removing anything harmful from the road.
To be a Muslim is to be green. We should see environmental activism (just as activism in many other areas), as part and parcel of our religion. However, that’s not to say it’s easy. Our modern society of convenience and consumption has made it almost impossible to live in a non-polluting way. Most of our foods are wrapped in plastic, and we have become a species dependent on electricity, which mostly comes from finite resources. Most of us have truly lost touch with nature, staring at our smartphone screens late into the night, unable to remember the last time we saw a sunset over the horizon.
As homemakers, we are truly at the forefront of environmentalism. “Really?!” I hear you question. Yes, really. Going out to marches about climate change or sailing on a Greenpeace ship to stop whaling, is not what I’m talking about. Ask yourself, where do we make most of our trash? Where do we prepare and consume most of our food? Many of the most impactful decisions on an individual’s green footprint stem from the home. The one running the household, has a pivotal position to steer the course of her family’s attitude towards the environment. There are many steps that can be taken to move forward on this path of striving to live a more ethical and environmentally-friendly life, a life that is more in keeping with our Islamic principles. The main thing is to adopt an attitude of green living as being an important part of our faith – remember this is a green deen!
I know the process can seem very overwhelming, especially when we begin to look at our lives compared to people who live “zero-waste” lives, or have homesteads and whatever else. The solution is to take baby-steps. We often see blogs and social media accounts of people who seemingly live amazing lives, do things we wish we could, but what is not apparent on the surface, is that these images are just the highlights of many months and years of trial and error and continuing, concerted effort. Just as in any area of our lives in which we wish to improve, we should have a vision of where we want to be heading and then establish intermediate goals to achieve that.
“So how do I start?” I hear you ask. There are so many things one could improve that it can seem like an impossible task. The first baby steps involve gaining a better understanding of green issues and to start acting on the six “Rs” of environmentalism:
Refuse – Reduce – Reuse – Repurpose – Rot – Recycle
Don’t buy unnecessary items, refuse to let those things enter your life in the first place, like individually wrapped sweets, superfluous clutter, unnecessary freebies etc. This is not only beneficial for the environment, but for your pocket too.
Decrease your consumption by buying less food, using less water, less electricity, fewer clothes etc. You’d be surprised how much you can do without.
Always opt for reusable options, whether it be mugs and glasses instead of disposable cups, using cloth grocery bags instead of plastic bags which you can take shopping again and again.
When you are done with something, don’t simply toss it in the trash – there could be a number of other uses for it. Aluminium cans become pencil pots, glass food jars become spice containers, worn-out clothes become sewing practice scraps for your children or cleaning rags for the house. The limit is only your imagination.
Rot (i.e. compost)
Invest in a composting bin to get rid of food scraps. This has numerous benefits: reduced waste to landfill, your trash doesn’t smell, free compost for your garden – what’s not to like?! Even egg shells, tea bags, cardboard and rancid flour can be composted.
Try to ensure as much of the other waste you generate can be recycled, whether it be the waste you put out for collection, or items you donate to thrift stores, electrical repair shops and junk yards.
InshaAllah this will serve as a source of motivation to start making changes in your homemaking to act on this vital aspect of our faith. It takes commitment and it doesn’t happen overnight, but with the right intentions these small actions may be the deeds accepted by Allah to grant us a place in Jannah!