By Omar Mahfoudhi
Ramadan is upon us, Alhamdulillah (thanks be to Allah).
We have entered into this blessed month with its many treasures,
Individuals have prepared their dua lists.
Muslim grocers have stocked up with the regular Ramadan delights.
Mosques, centers, and organizations are hosting iftars for the masses.
And groups are planning their nightly devotions at their favourite masjids (mosques).
All are abuzz in this Month of Quran.
Yet, something remains amiss.
The culture surrounding Ramadan, as far back as I can remember, is very much the same attitude many of us hold for most quasi-religious and secular holidays and festivities; materialistic consumerism.
In order to taste the sweetness of Ramadan, it seems we must indulge in the taste of sweets of every kind, from kulfi to baklawa, gulab jamun to knafa.
In this month that is supposed to teach us simplicity and humility, we often lose the very essence of minimalism and conservation.
There are a number of areas in which we can make our Ramadan have the same healing effect on the Earth as it would on our souls.
Here are a few tips to make our Ramadan a little more earth-friendly.
Quran: After all it is the Month of Quran.
Take a few minutes to renew your commitment to the responsibility Allah has entrusted you with; the trust and weight of being managers of this Earth.
Pay heed to verses reminding you of your place on this earth and your duty towards it and its inhabitants, from people to animals, plants to the inanimate: all natural bounties from Allah.
Furthermore, I can’t imagine a better way to implement the command of Allah to ponder His creation than by going out into the natural environment that so abundantly surrounds our city to explore the beauty of Allah’s creation and the might of His design, glory be to Him.
It would be a beautiful habit to develop this Ramadan, that would also be following of a practice of the Prophet Mohammed’s tradition of seeking solitude in the outskirts of Makkah to worship and ponder upon Allah’s miracles.
Take a copy of the Quran with you, and sit on the grass, or under a tree.
You may enjoy your surroundings more without a picnic in tow.
Food: The wonderful ethnic diversity of our community is reflected in the beautiful and colourful array of deserts, and foods on the iftar spread.
This I’m not about to criticize, since I certainly enjoy my occasional laddu (Indian sweet).
I do suggest that we not make Ramadan the Month of Food, but that’s a whole other discussion.
What I’m proposing is to try to use local ingredients in your embarrassingly named “Ramadan Recipes”.
Instead of using imported chickpea flour, use local produce.
Instead of imported –and incredibly expensive– dairy products, consider Ontario dairy.
This will help reduce your ecological footprint, and, insha Allah (God willing), with the proper intention perhaps help you increase your foot print in Jannah (paradise).
Water: The same applies to our use of water.
We could do with the revival of some of the forgotten sunnan (traditions) of the Prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him, such as the use of very little water in our ablution.
Consider the reminder the Beloved of Allah, may peace be upon him, gave his companion to conserve water even if at a flowing river.
I believe that advice is particularly appropriate for Canadians who have one of the most abundant freshwater resources at our hands.
Waste: Quite frankly a very pressing concern associated with modern Ramadan traditions is waste.
Whether it be wasting the food we can’t finish on our plates, or the waste generated from using disposable plates, cutlery, and cups.
This must stop.
It is an illness that plagues our Ramadans.
The entire month should be reminding us of the plight and distress of others, except that when that daily opportunity to ward off hunger arrives, it’s as if we forgot all about it, and are feasting with our eyes.
Again, lets not make this the Month of Wasting Food.
Furthermore, with all the iftars around town and the huge numbers of people in i’tikaf (spiritual retreat) in the mosques, imagine the amount of waste produced from disposable plates, cups and cutlery, not to mention the enormous pile of PETE water bottles.
I don’t imagine it would be very difficult for mosques to invest in reusable plates and cutlery.
We did it at our MSA at the University of Ottawa, and we all pitched in cleaning up afterwards.
In fact, this investment may save them a lot of money in the long run.
You can even rent dinnerware froim your favourite party store at less than $0.50 per dozen, and they will handle the cleaning.
Also, all you brothers and sisters heading to the mosques should take reusable bottles for water.
Think about how much easier that would be than constantly running back and forth to the water cooler, waiting in line, and then hunching over a fountain that barely produces enough water to keep its pipes moist.
Energy: While devoting our nights to prayer, and our days in the remembrance of Allah and the study of the Quran we needn’t help the fat cats at the energy company milk more money out of our mosques, schools and centers.
Use the light of the Sun shining through the windows to read the Quran and try praying in the dark or at least in low light.
You would be surprised what that can do for you in terms of increased tranquility and concentration (khushou’).
Praying in the dark can increase your sense of privacy with your Creator.
Maybe this Ramadan climate change watchers may see a dent in emissions because Muslims around the world have lowered their energy use.
I can dream, can’t I?
Perhaps, with these tips we may not only be able to give our bodies a rest from all the food, as well as the toxins we inadvertently consume, we may give our Mother Earth the rest she well deserves from all the toxic, hurtful, wasteful habits we’ve plagued her with.
This way she may leave us with more places to pray upon that will vouch for us on the Day of Recompense.
*Omar Mahfoudhi has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Ottawa. He is known amongst friends and colleagues as Green Kufi because of the green prayer cap he often sports and because he’s a Muslim Environmentalist.
Originally published in the August 2009 issue of the Ottawa newspaper, Muslim Link (Muslimlink.ca).