Food Waste, Ramadan and the Middle East

With the holy month of Ramadan only a few days away, huge food wastage in the Middle East is again hogging limelight. It is a widely acccepted fact that almost half of the municipal solid waste stream in the Middle East is comprised of food wastes and associated matter. The increasing amount of food waste in the Middle East urgently demands a strong food waste management strategy to ensure its minimization and eco-friendly disposal. 

Food Waste in Ramadan

Middle East nations are acknowleded as being the world’s top food wasters, and during Ramadan the situation takes a turn for the worse. In 2012, the Dubai Municipality estimated that in Ramadan, around 55% of household waste (or approximately 1,850 tons is thrown away every day. In Bahrain, food waste generation in Bahrain exceeds 400 tons per day during the holy month, according to Rehan Ahmad, Head of Waste Disposal Unit (Bahrain). As far as Qatar is concerned, it is expected that almost half of the food prepared during Ramadan will find its way into garbage bins.

The amount of food waste generated in Ramadan is significantly higher than other months. There is a chronic inclination of Muslims towards over-indulgence and lavishness in the holy month, even though the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), asked Muslims to adopt moderation in all walks of life. Socio-cultural attitudes and lavish lifestyles also play a major role in more food waste generation in Ramadan in almost all Muslim countries.

Economic Implications

The greater the economic prosperity and the higher percentage of urban population, the greater the amount of waste produced. A good example is the case of oil‐rich GCC which figures among the world’s most prolific per capita waste generators. High-income groups usually generate more food waste per capita when compared to less-affluent groups. Hotels, cafeterias, restaurants etc are also a big contributor of food wastes in the Middle East.

Food waste generation is expected to steadily with the rapid growth of regional economies boom. The per capita production of solid waste in Arab cities such as Riyadh, Doha and Abu Dhabi is more than 1.5 kg per day, placing them among the highest per capita waste producers in the world. These statistics point to loss of billions of dollars each year in the form of food waste throughout the Arab world.

Parting Shot

The foremost steps to reduce food wastage are behavioral change, increased public awareness, strong legislations, recycling facilities (composting and biogas plants) and community participation. Effective laws and mass sensitation campaigns are required to compel the people to adopt waste mimization practices and implement sustainable lifestyles. During Ramadan, religious scholars and prayer-leaders can play a vital role in motivating Muslims to follow Islamic principles of sustainability, as mentioned in the Holy Quran and Ahadith The best way to reduce food waste is to feel solidarity towards millions and millions of people around the world who face enormous hardships in having a single meal each day.

 

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Concept of Garden in Islamic Culture

alhambra-gardenThe Arabic words Hadiqah, riyad, janna, raudah refer to the garden in its classical sense, with different nuances. The words bustan, munia, ruzafa, buhaira, 'ars refer to the large agricultural or leisure estates generally located on the periphery of towns. These terms and others go to show the diversity of meaning in the concept of garden in the Islamic culture.

In Islamic Culture, the garden is above all the essence of elements of Creation: Creation itself is a garden. This garden is at the heart of all the flowering Islamic civilization: beauty, mathematics, architecture, spirituality, poetry, botanic sensibility, hydraulics, biodiversity… But at the same time it also hides the secret of Islam, and all the gifts in this world and in the next: contemplation, peace, gratitude, conviviality, sensuality and including eternal rest.

Undeniably, the Islamic garden has been enriched by numerous influences over the centuries, especially those coming from the Nabatean and Persian civilisations. However, it is incorrect to think that the spiritual and conceptual nucleus of the Islamic garden is of foreign influence.

The Garden is above all the essence of elements of Creation

The Garden is above all the essence of elements of Creation

The presence of water, the fragrances, the shade, the fruits within reach of a hand and the pavilions of leisure offer more than just a charming visual spectacle. They transcend this: they offer a rich interpretation of The Sacred Book, the Prophetic traditions and the Sufi works.

There is no doubt that the idea of the garden as a representation of the spiritual garden or Paradise is not new. 2 700 AC the Babylonians described Paradise in the epic poem of Gilgamesh in this way: 'In these immortal gardens stands a tree… this tree is next to a sacred spring'.

It is also notable the symbolism of the garden in Genesis as synonymous with Paradise, although it was possibly the Persians who most nurtured spirituality in the garden, being as they were the forerunners of landscaping in the Islamic world. It is used in the same way in the Quran more than 120 times: 'Whoever obeys God and his Chosen One will be chosen to live in gardens beneath which flow rivers, and where they will live eternally' (Quran 4:13).

The Garden in capital letters is seen repeatedly in the Prophet's Sunnah. In a hadith the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) told: 'The greatest door to the Garden is the awareness of Allah and good character.'

However, the garden in its spiritual meaning is more than merely a recreation or imagination of the Garden of the Hereafter. It is associated with death, or eternal rest, as is apparent from the name given to a cemetery (rauda, one of the terms for garden). It also embodies the flowering of the human spirit, as seen in the word Raudiyah, or the discipline to educate the soul until it transforms into a fragrant garden which offers flowers and fruits.

For this reason it is not unusual for Muslims to use the term 'win the Garden' between themselves, referring to the spiritual wealth associated with seeking perfection in behaviour.

The Holy Quran: A New Ecological Paradigm

Among the world scriptures, the Holy Quran provides a unique resource for building a new ecological paradigm. Grounded in the Abrahamic tradition, it presents a harmonious view of nature reminiscent of the Far East. In the Quran, "whatsoever is the heavens and on the earth glorifies God" (59:1; 61:1; 62:1; 64:1). "The stars and the trees prostrate" (55:6), "the thunder hymns His praise" (13:13), and "unto God prostrates whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is on the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, and the beasts" (22:18). In these and many other verses, the whole of creation is presented as a Divine symphony, for "there is no thing, save that it hymns His praise, though you do not understand their praise. Truly He is Clement, Forgiving" (17:44).

Common Cause of Humanity

According to the latest results from the Pew Research Center, by 2050, over 60% of the world's population will be Christian or Muslim: 29.7% will be Muslim and 31.4% will be Christian. Muslims and Christians have no choice but to come together to work for the common cause of humanity in confronting this unprecedented challenge. Moreover, to take root in humanity any sustainable ecological worldview must incorporate and address the teachings that much of humanity seeks to follow. As Pope Francis observes, the solutions cannot come from science and technology alone.

The extinction of species and the eradication of pristine environments are like the removal of a section from this orchestra of which we are all a part. The Quran thus enjoins us to "walk not exultantly upon the earth" (17:63) and to view the whole of nature as "signs for a people who hear" (10:67; 16:65; 30:23), "signs for a people who reflect" (13:3; 30:21), and "signs for a people who understand" (2:164; 13:4; 16:12, 67; 30:24; 45:5). Yet, in our rapacious approach to nature, we have failed to reflect and thus become like those of whom the Quran says, "they have hearts with which they understand not; they have eyes with which they see not; and they have ears with which they hear not" (7:179). Unable to see, listen and understand, we have become like one of whom the Quran warns, "when he turns away [from God’s signs], he endeavors to work corruption upon the earth, and to destroy tillage and offspring" (2:205).

Relevance of the Papal Encyclical

Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si ("Praised Be"), is a clarion call to all of humanity. It also provides an important opportunity to expand the conversation regarding the relationship between religion and the environment. Many scientists maintain that we have reached "decade zero" for addressing climate change. We thus have no choice but to mine the riches of all the world's traditions to create new paradigms and new solutions to environmental degradation. As the encyclical states, "We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing and its human roots, concern and affect us all."

The Papal Encyclical provides an unprecedented opportunity for the people of the world's faith traditions to turn away from the corruption we have wrought and open our hearts to one another and to the plea of Mother Nature. For her fate will be determined by the decisions of our generation. By drawing upon the shared teachings of our traditions, humanity can again learn to honor the immutable rights of rivers, animals and trees, as well as human beings suffering inhumane working conditions. By bearing witness of our own transgressions, we can reverse our course and ensure that the rights of God's creation prevail over the transient interests of corporations. As Pope Francis observes, we have no choice but to take this direction and to work with one another.

For Muslims and Christians, the place of human beings is not to subdue the earth. It is to hear the patterns already established within nature and live in harmony with them, had we but eyes to see and ears to hear. In both Christianity and Islam, human beings are presented as stewards of the earth. In the Quran, this responsibility is both an honor and a trial.

Verse 6:165 states, God it is Who appointed you stewards upon the earth and raised some of you by degrees above others, that He may try you in that which He has given you. From this perspective, being stewards of nature is about our responsibility toward God, not our dominion over creation. Neither the Bible nor the Quran has any place for what Pope Francis calls "a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.

We will thus be held accountable for the degree to which we have carried out our function as stewards. As the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is reported to have said, "The world is a green and pleasant thing. God has made you stewards of it, and looks at how you behave."

Conclusion

Given the state of the environmental crisis and the alarming increase in environmental degradation, one cannot but conclude that contemporary humanity has failed this test. The world and our children can no longer afford the cost of our failures. It is thus time that people of all faiths unite and in the words of Martin Luther King, "rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world."

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Islam and Animal Rights

All living beings – humans, birds, animals, insects etc – are worthy of consideration and respect. Islam has always viewed animals as a special part of God's creation. Mankind is responsible for whatever it has at its disposal, including animals whose rights must be respected. The Holy Qur'an, the Hadith, and the history of Islamic civilization offer many examples of kindness, mercy, and compassion for animals. According to Islamic principles, animals have their own position in the creation hierarchy and humans are responsible for their well-being and food.

Islam strongly asks Muslims to treat animals with compassion and not to abuse them. The Holy Qur'an states that all creation praises God, even if this praise is not expressed in human language. Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) often chastised his Companions who mistreated animals, and spoke to them about the need for mercy and kindness. 

Holy Quran and Animal Welfare

The Holy Quran contains many examples and directives about how Muslims should treat animals. The Quran describes that animals form communities, just as humans do: 

"There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but they form communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they all shall be gathered to their Lord in the end"(Quran 6:38).

The Quran further describes animals, and all living things, as Muslim – in the sense that they live in the way that Allah created them to live, and obey Allah's laws in the natural world. 

“Seest thou not that it is Allah Whose praise all beings in the heavens and on earth do celebrate, and the birds (of the air) with wings outspread? Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise, and Allah knows well all that they do.” (Quran 24:41)

 "And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures" (Quran 55:10).

Animals are living creatures with feelings and connections to the larger spiritual and physical world. We must consider their lives as worthwhile and cherished. 

"And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures" (Quran 55:10).

These verses serve as a reminder to us that wildlife, like humans, are created with purpose. They have feelings and are part of the spiritual world. They too have a right to life, and protection from pain and suffering.

Ahadith and Rights of Animals

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) exhorted Muslims to show kindness and compassion towards animals and birds, and repeatedly forbade cruelty towards animals.

"Whoever is merciful even to a sparrow, Allah will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgment."

“A good deed done to an animal is like a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as cruelty to a human being."

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) once passed by a camel that was so emaciated that its back had almost reached its stomach. He said, "Fear Allah in these beasts who cannot speak." (Abu Dawud)

Humans were created by Allah, the Almighty, to be custodians and guardians of the Earth. Killing without need- that is killing for fun- is not permissible.

The Companions said,”O Allah’s Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He replied: “There is a reward for serving any living being.” (Bukhari)

A group of Companions were once on a journey with the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and he left them for a while. During his absence, they saw a bird with its two young, and they took the young ones from the nest. The mother bird was circling above in the air, beating its wings in grief, when the Prophet came back. He said, "Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its young? Return them to her." (Muslim)

In Islam, hunting for sport is prohibited. Muslims may only hunt as is needed to meet their requirements for food. This was common during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, and he condemned it at every opportunity.

Few Points to Ponder

We need to seriously ask ourselves – is the Muslim community upholding the rights of animal despite explicit orders from Allah (SWT) and the Prophet (SAW)? What should our role be, not only in the debate on such subjects, but in conservation and protection of animals and the environment as a whole? Have we disenfranchised wildlife? How do the laws of the country in which we live stand up to the Islamic principles? And finally, how does Islam help us to find solutions to the dilemmas we face?

It is not impossible to demand greater action and consideration for the natural world. Bolivia has gone as far as to legally grant nature equal rights with humans and has introduced the Law of Mother Earth which reportedly assigns 11 new rights to nature, including: ‘the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.’ Ecuador has also changed its constitution to give nature "the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution". 

These laws are considered radical, but what it enshrines does not ask for much, indeed only that animals, and nature are given equal respect and care- as much as is expected of us in Islam. Individuals and governments have an important role to play in educating the public animal welfare and establishing institutions to support animal well-being.

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Green Ahadith – Ecological Advice from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is one of the most, if not the only one who reached a pinnacle of success by not only verbally teaching, but stringently applying Islamic principles of ecological welfare. His concern for preserving nature was so consistent that history reports the only time he cut down plants were the palm trees in Madina to impede the Jewish tribe Banu Nadhir.

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, categorically taught people to live on less, to protect animal and plant life, and to worship the Creator by being merciful to the creation. What is also distinctive about Prophet Muhammad's advice is the connection between ethical practices and the eternal effects in the life after death, which represents a greater incentive for Muslims to care for the earth and its resources.

What makes a successful leader? Many world leaders and religious figures have advocated protection of planet Earth in their struggle to reach the top, but most have ultimately failed to create a long-lasting conservation plan. I wanted to share these Prophetic sayings (ahadith) which I believe are excellent indicators to reflect the Islamic faith as a relevant environmental 'movement'.

A believer is like a growing tree

"The example of a believer is that of a fresh tender plant; from whatever direction the wind comes, it bends it, but when the wind quietens down, the plant becomes straight again…" narrated by Abu Hurayra (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu), Bukhari

Prophet Muhammad was teaching new Muslims that their life on the path of faith must always progress and beware of climatic changes, just like a young tree. There will be tough times when the storm seems to never end. But patience and persistence in planting roots no matter what the trouble, will heal both one's own branches and protect the nearest plants.

Plant a tree even if it's your last deed

“If the Hour (the day of Resurrection) is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it."Al-Albani.

Renewable reward of planting trees

"If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him."Imam Bukhari.

Conservation of resources

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, happened to pass by a Companion, Sa’d (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu), as he was performing ablution (wudhu) next to a river. At this, the Prophet said, "Sa’d what is this squandering?"
Sa’d replied: "Can there be an idea of squandering (israf) in ablution?"
The Prophet ﷺ said: "Yes, even if you are by the side of a flowing river.” –
Ibn Majah.

Environmental sanitation

"Beware of the three acts that cause you to be cursed: [1] relieving yourselves in shaded places (that people utilise), in a walkway or in a watering place." – Narrated by Mu`adh, hasan, by Al-Albani

Hygiene and cleanliness (tahara) is so integral to Islam that it is actually a major sub-branch of Muslim belief. Without physical hygiene, prayers are broken. Without clean facilities pollution ruins cities, and without any effort to improve one's own purity, it becomes more difficult to prevent external corruptions like littering.

Significance of street clean-ups

"Removing harmful things from the road is an act of charity (sadaqah)." Narrated by Abu Dharr Al-Ghafari (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu)

Sustainable living 

Abdullah ibn `Abbas reported that the Prophet said, "The believer is not he who eats his fill while his neighbor is hungry." Authenticated by Al-Albani

Eat a little less every day

Excessive eating is abhorred in Islam. For the days of Ramadan, fasting is precisely a command in order to learn control and when to say 'no'. Prophet Muhammad did not encourage eating a three course meal nor a heavy meal. Every meal should be shared between two and choosing between take-outs and home-cooked, a healthier diet is always the better option (less meat, more greens). In the Islamic law system (Shariah), a person should stop eating as soon as the hunger pangs cease.

“Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: One-third for his food, one-third for his liquids, and one-third for his breath.” Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.

Waste minimization

When asked about how the Prophet of Islam used to live in his house, the Prophet's wife, `A'ishah (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anha), said that he used to repair his own shoes, sew his clothes and carry out all such household chores done without complaint or want for more. (Authenticated by Al-Albani).

The idea behind this was to show Muslims that menial tasks (mehna) were not degrading for God's Prophet (peace be upon him). Reusing and repairing things instead of always buying new is not a sign of poverty, they are a sign of power. By performing household duties, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was saying we can build foundations on less 'stuff', we are in control of what we consume and we don't need more.

Caring for animals

"A man felt very thirsty while he was on the way, there he came across a well. He went down the well, quenched his thirst and came out. Meanwhile he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. He said to himself, "This dog is suffering from thirst as I did." So, he went down the well again, filled his shoe with water, held it with his mouth and watered the dog. Allah appreciated him for that deed and forgave him." The Companions said, "O Allah's Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?" He replied: "There is a reward for serving any living being." Imam Bukhari.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, provided for animals, as did Abu Huraira (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu) who narrated this hadith. Abu Huraira's name translates as the 'father of kittens', named so because he was known to carry kittens in the draped sleeves of his robe.

Animals have a huge role in the ecological welfare system. The tenets of the Shariah law towards animal rights make it obligatory for any individual to take care of crippled animals, to rescue strays and to guard a bird's nest of eggs.

Key takeaway

Hopefully this will inspire everyone reading to follow through on the Eco-Sunnah. Adopt an animal, reuse your wudhu water, eat much less. Be a leader.

Note: The original article can be viewed on The Eco Muslim website at this link

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Significance of Rural Culture in Islam

Rural culture developed magnificently during medieval times in the Islamic Mediterranean countries. It has left its mark on many aspects of daily life in the countryside, from Sicily and the Spanish Levant to the Maghreb and the Eastern regions. Al-Andalus was a perfect example. Not only are Arabic words present in every movement, skill and tradition throughout much of Spain, but the actual rural landscape forms part of this heritage. And the same can be said about age-old customs for the distribution and use of water, for sowing, grafting, harvesting and storing, and many of today’s extensive, organic farming methods.

Alcorque, aceña, acequia, alberca, almatriche, almazara and aljofaina are just a few of the Spanish words of Arabic origin that refer to rural culture, and Arabic farming systems such as albuferas (lagoons), olive groves and terraces give the Mediterranean landscape its characteristic appearance.

But what is especially outstanding is the way in which the medieval Muslims managed common natural resources both fairly and sustainably, to use a word that is much in vogue today. This was based on Islamic tradition regarding justice and distribution of goods. The Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, as well as traditions attributed to the Prophet Mohammed, frequently mention the importance of equity and transparency in distribution and trade.

The following Quranic verse, posted at the entrance to Harvard University, lays the foundations for an unmistakable concept of social justice:

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted. (Qur’an, 4-134).

Although in short supply today, solidarity was much appreciated in the Muslim world during the early centuries. The second Caliph of Islam, Omar Ibn al-Khattab, stated that if a person died from poverty, the inhabitants of the town were required to make up for his death as if they had all been guilty of his murder.

Natural resources had to be fairly shared throughout the community. As the Hadith states, “Muslims share three things: water, pastures and fire”. And day labourers taken on for specific tasks had to be paid immediately, as stipulated by the Prophet of Islam, who ordered that their wage should be paid “before their sweat dries”. On the subject of food, it is of note that the famous Spanish saying, still in use today fortunately, “where three can eat, so can four”, comes in its literal form from a well-known hadith.

Also of interest is the close relationship our forebears had with nature. For Muslims, tending the land is an amanah, a responsibility, because during their time on earth they are mere khalifah (or vice-regent), and are obliged to use the land with moderation and balance. In Islam, work in itself is an act of adoration, and if the work involves cultivating the land, the benefit multiplies. There is a hadith that states, “No Muslim plants or sows something, so that a bird, a man or an animal can eat from it, without there being a benefit for him”.

A person who farmed land in the public domain or that belonged to no-one had a special right over it, as stipulated by the Prophet in the 7th century, many centuries before the famous sentence by Emiliano Zapata, “Land belongs to whoever works it”.

But, perhaps, where regulation and sharing were most important was in the use of water. Al-Andalus was again an example, though not the only one. There were public persons such as the sahib al-saqiya, the water sharer, or the qada al-miyah (water mayor), and the official al-amin al-maa. The term amin in Arabic, the person who is trustworthy, came to be used in irrigated farming in the Christian parts of Spain, in the form alamín in Castile, and alamí in Valencia.

This is just a brief outline, but it gives an idea of the moral and ethical values that, in general, governed the rural life of Muslims in medieval times.

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Tips for a Green Ramadan

Ramadan is quite different from other months in terms of activities, praying and eating habits. During this month, Muslims should abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset to boost physical and mental endurance and to understand the hardships faced by the poor and needy  who do not have enough resources to satisfy their basic necessities. The true meaning of Ramadan is purifying ourselves, taking care of our body, soul, people, surrounding and ecosystems which is supporting us.

The month of Ramadan is a golden opportunity to consider making a shift towards a ‘green lifestyle’ that is environmental friendly, non-polluting, non-wasteful and aim toward saving of natural resources. The green lifestyle means improving the quality of life and achieving sustainable development.

Like celebrating so many environmental days, Earth Day, World Environment Day etc., why not celebrate the Ramadan as a greening month. Let us create awareness on the subject, think and act positively towards our environment and change our unfriendly habits which are impacting our ecosystem. Let us seize this opportunity provided by Ramadan and offer a model for a green and responsible behavior that addresses the urgent environmental issues.

Go Green During Ramadan

Ramadan witness an overconsumption of meat, vegetables and fruits together with drinks, juices and syrups. We become more extravagant in terms of using food and resources. So, let us exercise moderation on these consumptions, eat healthy and organic food in manageable quantities. Let us grow vegetables and fruits at our available land. Use food items judiciously and avoid any wastage.

Let us be away from sins and habits that pollute our air, soil and water resources. Let us be aware of our wasteful habits which are affecting the environmental and our future generations. Any mismanagement of our precious resources will be having irreversible impacts on our ecology. Let us make concerted effort to encourage and embrace “green”  and ecofriendly practices, especially during Ramadan.

Ramadan presents the perfect opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries for the year. It is a time to seek forgiveness for our misgivings and to reflect upon the signs of creation from Allah. As Muslims, we have a duty as stewards over this planet, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the resources and environment are used in a sustainable manner.

Let this month not only harness our mental and physical ability but also be a turning point for respecting our resources and environment. Some basic tips for a green Ramadan are:

  • Support and utilize local produce.
  • Plan food intake with proper nutrition and at suitable timings.
  • Cut down and eliminate intake of fast food.
  • Reducing the water usage, especially during making ‘wadoo’/ ablution. Be vigilant that the tap is closed. Any dripping should be eliminated to conserve precious water.
  • Reducing our energy and carbon footprint.
  • Generating less quantity of waste. Emphasizing on recycling and reuse.
  • No littering at any places especially common areas, commercial and religious places and shopping areas.
  • Minimum or no use of plastic bags. Using less paper and stationery.
  • Switching off appliances after use like lights, ACs, fans, heaters, iron etc.
  • Using electrical appliances like washing machines, iron, vacuum cleaner and dishwashers in off peak hours.
  • Planting a tree and taking care of plantation.
  • Replacing lights blubs from incandescent to CFLs or LEDs and turning off lights when they are not in use.
  • Similarly, at the mosque, keeping outside doors closed when the air conditioning is on and dimming the lights also reduces energy consumption as well.
  • Eliminate disposables plates, cutlery, cups, containers etc.
  • Avoid using Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery.

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Food Waste and the Spirit of Ramadan

iftar-party-food-wasteIn recent years, enormous generation of food waste during the holy month of Ramadan has been a matter of big debate in Muslim countries and elsewhere. As per conservative estimates, around one-fifth of the food purchased or prepared during Ramadan finds its way to garbage bins or landfills. This translates into thousands of tons of precious food which could have been used for feeding tens of millions of hungry people in impoverished countries of Asia, Africa and elsewhere. The staggering amount of food waste generation during Ramadan urgently demands a strong strategy for its minimization, sustainable utilization and eco-friendly disposal. 

Gravity of the Situation

Middle East nations are acknowledged as being the world’s top food wasters, and during Ramadan the situation takes a turn for the worse. The holy city of Makkah witnessed the generation of 5,000 tons of food residuals during the first three days of Ramadan in 2014. Around 500 tons of food is wasted in the United Arab Emirates during the holy month of Ramadan. In Bahrain, food waste generation in Bahrain exceeds 400 tons per day during the holy month. Same is the case with Qatar where almost half of the food prepared during Ramadan finds its way into garbage bins. The scenario in less-affluent Muslim countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt and Pakistan is not different. According to Malaysia’s government agency Solid Waste And Public Cleansing Management Corporation, more than 270,000 tons of food in thrown into garbage bins during Ramadan.

Needless to say, the amount of food waste generated in Ramadan is significantly higher than other months, as much as 25%. There is a chronic inclination of Muslims towards over-indulgence and lavishness in the holy month, even though the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) asked Muslims to adopt moderation in all walks of life. Socio-cultural attitudes and lavish lifestyles also play a major role in more food waste generation in Ramadan in almost all Muslim countries. High-income groups usually generate more food waste per capita when compared to less-affluent groups. In Muslim countries, hotels and restaurants are a big contributor of food wastes during Ramadan due to super-lavish buffets and extravagant Iftar parties.

The Way Forward

The foremost steps to reduce food wastage in Ramadan are behavioral change, increased public awareness, strong legislations, creation of food banks and community participation. Effective laws and mass sensitization campaigns are required to persuade the people to adopt waste minimization practices and implement sustainable lifestyles. Establishment of food banks in residential as well as commercial areas can be a very good way to utilize surplus food in a humane and ethical manner. Infact, food banks in countries like Egypt, India and Pakistan have been operating successfully, however there is a real need to have such initiatives on a mass-scale to tackle the menace of food waste.

Dubai has laid down new guidelines to cut food wastage and streamline the donation of excess food prepared at banquets and buffets. The "Heafz Al Na'amah" is a notable initiative to ensure that surplus food from hotels, Iftar parties and households is not wasted and reach the needy in safe and hygienic conditions.

Super-lavish buffets and extravagant Iftar parties are big contributors of food waste in Ramadan

Super-lavish buffets and extravagant Iftar parties are big contributors of food waste in Ramadan

During Ramadan 2015, Dubai Municipality launched an initiative called 'Smart Homes,' which will continue this year. The initiative encourages Dubai residents to reduce waste during the holy month. Smart Homes is a waste gathering technique in electronic containers that measures the amount of waste produced by each home. The initiative mainly targets residential areas dominated by Emirati residents due to their large family gatherings," he said. Homes that produce the least amount of waste during the holy month are rewarded with cash prizes and certificates that encourage them to reduce waste.

In addition to such initiatives, religious scholars and prayer-leaders can play a vital role in motivating Muslims to follow Islamic principles of sustainability, as mentioned in the Holy Quran and Hadith. The best way to reduce food waste during Ramadan is to feel solidarity towards millions and millions of people around the world who face enormous hardships in having a single meal each day.

Islam and Environment Protection

Environment protection is an important aspect of Islam. Being stewards of the Earth, it is the responsibility of Muslims to care for the environment in a proactive manner. There is a definite purpose behind the creation of different species, be it plants or animals. Muslims are encouraged to reflect on the relationship between living organisms and their environment and to maintain the ecological balance created by Allah. Protection of the environment is essential to Islamic beliefs and mankind has the responsibility to ensure safe custody of the environment.

Environment Protection and Resource Conservation 

The Islamic perspective on environment protection reflects a positive image about Islam and how it embraces every single matter the humans face on earth. The Islamic attitude towards environment and natural resource conservation is not only based on prohibition of over-exploitation but also on sustainable development. The Holy Quran says:

"It is He who has appointed you viceroys in the earth … that He may try you in what He has given you." (Surah 6:165)

"O children of Adam! … eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters." (Surah 7:31)

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) encouraged the planting of trees and the cultivation of agriculture which are considered as good acts. This is illustrated in the following traditions: Narrated by Anas bin Malik (RA) that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said: "There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him."‏ (Bukhari).

Islam is against the cutting or destruction of plants and trees unnecessarily as is evident in the following Hadith: Abdullah ibn Habashi reported that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "He who cuts a lote-tree [without justification], Allah will send him to Hellfire." (Abu Dawud). The lote-tree grows in the desert and is very much needed in an area which has scarce vegetation. The devastation caused by deforestation in many countries causes soil erosion and kills many of the biodiversity of the earth.

The approach of Islam towards the use of natural resources was brilliantly put forward by the Fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali ibn Abi-Talib (RA) who said “Partake of it gladly so long as you are the benefactor, not a despoiler; a cultivator, not a destroyer. All human beings as well as animals and wildlife enjoy the right to share Earth’s resources. Man’s abuse of any resource is prohibited as the juristic principle says ‘What leads to the prohibited is itself prohibited”.

When Abu Musa (RA) was sent to Al-Basrah as the new governor, he addressed the people saying: "I was sent to you by 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RA) in order to teach you the Book of your Lord [i.e. the Qur’an], the Sunnah [of your Prophet], and to clean your streets." Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) forbade that a person relieve himself in a water source or on a path or in a place of shade or in the burrow of a leaving creature.  These values highlight Islam’s stress on avoiding pollution of critical resources and importance of cleanliness.

Spreading Environmental Awareness

There are various ways which you can raise environmental awareness in your personal and professional circles. The popularization of social networking among young generation makes it easier and attractive to spread environmental awareness using Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc. A simple and effective method which I use is the distribution of QR Codes (Quick Response Codes) in my college campus.

Another great idea would be to start your own school, college or workplace campaign for planting trees. Students, faculty members and co-workers can be motivated to donate a nominal amount of money towards plantation campaign. Keeping plants around your home, school or workplace is not only aesthetic and decorative but also keep you healthy and improve indoor air quality. According to Hazrat Jabir (RA) reported that Prophet Muhammad [S.A.W] said: “No Muslim, who plants a shoot, except that whatever is eaten or stolen from it, or anyone obtains the least thing from it, is considered [like paying] almsgiving on his behalf until the Day of Judgement." (Muslim)

Conclusions

Environmental awareness and protection of natural resource is an integral part of Islamic beliefs. As viceroys of Allah on this earth, we have to utilize natural resources in a sustainable manner in order to ensure that Allah’s Bounties to continue. The principle of conservation is beautifully illustrated by the rule which says that while making ablutions (wudu) we should be abstemious in the use of water even if we have a river at our disposal. As humans, we are keepers of all creation, including soil, air, water, animals and trees. A major objective of Islamic teachings and Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) traditions is to build and maintain a healthy and clean environment which is devoid of any source of pollution and misuse. 

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Food Waste in Ramadan: Trends and Counter-Measures

With the holy month of Ramadan starting, preparations are in full swing to make all necessary arrangements by the government, traders and commercial establishments to provide all utilities, goods and food that are required during Ramadan. Muslims countries, Arab nations in particular, generate huge quantities of food waste which increases substantially during the month of Ramadan and festivals whereby the consumption and wastage of food increase at an alarming level. As per conservative estimates, around 15-25% of all food purchased or prepared during Ramadan find its way to the garbage bin before even being used or consumed.

In Bahrain alone, more than 300 tons per day of organic food waste is being generated as domestic waste in the country which constitutes around 11% of the total municipal waste. The food waste is being discarded along with other domestic waste and is being collected by the local private contractors, which is transported and disposed at the Asker municipal landfill site located some 25 km away from the city center in a quarry area.

Food Waste Trends in Ramadan

The trend shows that during Ramadan, the demand for beef, mutton, chicken and related meat products increases by almost 50% of the normal demand, which in itself is very high. Similar is the fate of other related food items like vegetables, fruits and dairy products etc. which are out of shelves quickly in the super markets and cold stores during special religious occasions.

The enormous food waste generation can be witnessed at all socio-economic levels. It is environmentally and morally considered offensive that as a society we have become so casual about the basic raw materials of life. Over the period of years, the society and people have become more wasteful due to rise in income, living standards, consumerism and affordability. But affording does not mean that wastage should increase as it is contrary to the Islamic principles of sustainability.

During Ramadan, people tend to buy more than their normal requirements for self consumption plus for taking care of guests. Due to the limited quantity of food to be consumed by people this additional quantity of cooked or made food becomes waste as Fatoor is not usually eaten as midnight snacks or as sahoor the other day. The demand for fresh food increases as majority of people are willing to spend an extra amount for the better quality of food.

The rich also sympathize greatly in this month and donate more food for charity which at times is not consumed by the poor section of the society due to late delivery and evening prayers. This trend again leads to more wastage, as the food items bought are not being fully and efficiently utilized and ultimately end up in garbage bins.

Key Counter-Measures

We need to change our attitude of not laying the table with more food than people can eat. This is not hospitality and welcoming the guests.

  • People should not buy in excess to avoid another trip to the grocery store or super market.
  • We need to develop better food habits and respect for the Mother Nature. The problem of food wastage lies in socio-cultural sensitization and behavioral change.
  • Buying in actual quantities especially fruits and vegetables. Making a shopping list first before going to the market will be more useful.
  • Buying items with a longer expiry dates for ease in using it during a longer period.
  • Daily checking of the food items in our fridge/ deep freezer to ensure its utilization before it becomes waste.
  • Inculcating good food utilization and storage habits can also play a key role in waste minimization.

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Environmental Sustainability in Islam

Islamic beliefs, traditions and values provide an effective and comprehensive solution to the current environmental challenges faced by the human race. Islam has a rich tradition of highlighting the importance of environmental protection and conservation of natural resources. According to Islamic law, the basic elements of nature – land, water, fire, forest, and light – belong to all living things, not just human beings.

The Holy Qur’an and Sunnah are a guiding light to promote sustainable development in Islamic countries as well as around the world. Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) commands human beings to avoid doing mischief and wasting resources as these acts cause degradation of the environment. The privilege to exploit natural resources was given to the mankind on a guardianship basis, which implies the right to use another person’s property on the promise that it will not be damaged or destroyed.

The Holy Qur’an and Environment

The Holy Qur'an has a number of specific references to ecology and also contains some important principles for environmental conservation. The first principle which guides Islamic teaching on environmental sustainability is the concept of trusteeship. Being a khalifa (or guardian), a man should take all necessary steps to ensure that the entrusted property is passed on to the next generation in as pure a form as possible. According to Islam each man is the custodian of nature, and must live with harmony with other creatures. It is the duty of all Muslims to respect, nurture and care for the environment.

Corruption of all kinds, including environmental corruption, which includes industrial pollution, environmental damage, and reckless exploitation and mismanagement of natural resources are disliked by Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala)

Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) says in the Holy Qur'an:

“And Allah loveth not those who do mischief” (Surat Al Ma’eda, verse 64)

“And do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order: that will be best for you, if ye have Faith” (Surat Al A’raf, ‘the Heights’, verse 85)

Eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters (Surat Al-A’raf 7: 21).

“And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. Allah does not love the corrupters”, (Surat Al Qasas 28:77)

“Children of Adam, dress well whenever you are at worship, and eat and drink (as we have permitted) but do not be extravagant: God does not like extravagant people.” (Surat Al-A’raf 7:31)

According to the Holy Qur'an, environmental conservation is a religious duty as well as social obligation, and not an optional matter. The exploitation of a particular natural resource is directly related to accountability and maintenance of the resource.

Hadiths and Environment

Hadiths or the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) also deal extensively with various aspects of environment including resource conservation, land reclamation and environmental hygiene. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) discouraged overconsumption, luxury and lavishness and encouraged moderation in all walks of life. The most popular Hadith on environment states "The earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it" which reiterates Quran teaching that human beings have been given the responsibility of guardianship over the natural environment.

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) clearly forbade destruction of trees and crops even during war times as long as their existence remains advantageous to the enemy.  The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) gave high degree of importance towards sustainable cultivation of land, humane treatment of animals, preservation of natural resources and protection of wildlife. Some of the sayings of Prophet bless and Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) on environmental sustainability are:

“The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, be He exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves.” (Muslim)

"If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him." (Bukhari)

 “Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded,” (Musnad) 

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) recognized that natural resources should not be overexploited or abused. In order to protect land, forests and wildlife, the Prophet created inviolable zones, known as Haram and Hima, in which resources were to be left untouched. Haram areas were drawn up around wells and water sources to protect the groundwater from overpumping. Hima applied to wildlife and forestry and designated an area of land where grazing and woodcutting was restricted, or where certain animal species (such as camels) were protected.

Prophet Muhammed (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) established a hima to the south of Madina and forbade hunting within a four mile radius and destruction of trees or plants within a twelve mile radius. The creation of inviolable zones shows the importance placed by Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) on sustainable use of natural resources and protection of wildlife and agricultural land. 

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Natural Toothbrush Tree of Arabia

Miswaak is an organic toothbrush which is readily available, inexpensive, easy-to-use and inherently natural. It is can be easily adopted by Muslims as well as people from other faiths as an attractive green alternative to the modern toothbrush for maintaining oral hygiene. Miswaak or Siwak is the Arabic common name for twigs of Aarak trees (botanical name Salvadora persica). The use of the Miswaak can be traced back to the pre-Islamic times; hence, the influence of Islam on the usage and spread of Miswaak in the world is significant.

Muslim Miswaak users have taken it as a device that should be used as a part of their religious ritual regimen for more than 1400 years. According to Hadith, Miswaak is a valuable tool for the maintenance of mouth cleanliness and good oral health. Many other health benefits including memory and eye sight enhancement, digestion aid, headache relief, and molar pain elimination have been attributed to Miswaak.

Health Benefits

The therapeutic and pharmacological aspect of Miswaak has been well documented. Several scientific research have shown that Miswaak, if properly used, is an excellent antimicrobial toothbrush for oral hygiene and gum inflammation treatment, reducing plaque and gingivitis, whitening teeth and eliminating bad breath, whilst providing a pleasant mouth smell. It has proven that the Miswaak has beneficial ingredients which are not normally found in toothpastes with anticariogenic and anti-inflammatory hypoglycemic activities. Miswak offers a unique combination of chemical active material and mechanical techniques.

The Miswaak method has received global acceptance. World Health Organization encourages and recommends the use of chewing sticks as an effective oral hygiene tool in areas where it is customary .Commercially speaking, some countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Swiss, India, Pakistan and Malaysia have produced toothpaste containing Salvadora Persica extracts.

Surprisingly, despite the widespread use of Miswaak since ancient times, the environmental aspect of Miswaak has never been examined. As a result of the long-existing tradition for Miswaak use as an oral hygiene instrument in Muslims countries, Miswaak offers a unique environmental friendly technique for performing oral health and hygiene.

Environmental Benefits

Miswaak is an environmental friendly, organic and economic method in marinating mouth hygiene due to the fact that it is readily available, and it does not need expertise or any extra resources to manufacture it. Hence, it generates zero wastes, consumes the least amount of water, and uses the natural solar energy solely during the production process. Same is applicable during the utilizing and discarding processes after consumption due to its organic nature.

S. persica is a widespread highly salt tolerant plant. The tree is able to tolerate a very arid environment with mean annual rainfall of less than 200 mm. S. persica is a multipurpose plant; various parts of the plant are used as: fruits, food, fodder, and lipids source, gum as well as resins. Additionally, it is also used as a honey bee rearing plant.

S. persica is planted in several parts of the Arabian Peninsula not only for using its branches as a natural toothbrush, but also for consuming the plant itself as shelterbelts and windbreaks to protect farm horticultural crops and habitation. In the same way, the S. Persica plantation can help in the reclamation of sand dune habitat; it is functional for reclaiming saline soils as well.