Who Said that Muslims can’t be Green?
Every morning, Wasi Ahmed Yousaf, 37, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., puts on his sneakers and helmet and commutes to work on his bicycle. Yousaf ditched his car two months ago in favor of a more eco-friendly mode of transportation.
“I realized that global warming, pollution and other environmental issues are something that everyone has to pitch in [and do something about], and it’s a serious issue, but we can still resolve it” Yousaf said.
Yousaf has also made many other changes in his life. This includes no longer using those little, white, seemingly harmless Styrofoam cups to drink coffee or water at work. “Styrofoam is one of those materials that doesn’t get decomposed even if you leave it in the ground for 50 years” Yousaf said. “It is a non-biodegradable product. So, why are we simply wasting it? I stopped wasting it and took a ceramic cup from home.“
He’s also stopped drinking bottled water. Bottled water wastes fossil fuels and water in production and transport, and when bottled water is used, its disposal becomes a major source of waste, according to Food and Water Watch. The group said it requires more than 47 million gallons of oil to produce plastic water bottles for Americans each year.
Instead, Yousaf has switched to Nalgene bottles, and even his kids are using them. Nalgene bottles are inexpensive and can be used over and over, and are recyclable. Yousaf has also switched to energy-efficient light bulbs and is more energy conscious in general. For example, he won’t do half loads of laundry or run a half-filled dishwasher. And standing by the faucet as the water runs in the sink or taking long showers is a no-no in the Yousaf household.
“I’m trying to teach my kids. I am trying to influence them to take responsibility. The big question is what type of a world are we going to leave for our kids? I want to teach them so they can have an example.“
Going Green = Islam
Caring about the environment is a large part of the Islamic faith. Sadullah Khan, director of the Islamic Center of Irvine, said there are more than 500 verses in the Qur’an dealing directly with nature, the environment and natural phenomena. Many “surahs” or Qur’anic chapters are titled after animals or natural phenomena. “These references to the natural world around us aim at making us conscious of the Creator of creations, making us cognizant of our inextricable relationship with, and instilling in us a sense of respect for, Allah’s creation, nature” Khan said.
“Do you not observe that God sends down rain from the sky, so that in the morning the earth becomes green?” [Surah 22:63].
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is reported to have said, “Whoever plants trees, God will give him reward to the extent of their fruit.” (Musnad)
“The Prophet is quoted as saying, ‘When doomsday comes, if someone has a plant seed in his hand, he should plant it’ suggesting that even when all hope is lost for mankind, one should sustain nature’s growth” Khan said. “He believed nature remains a good in itself, even if man does not benefit from it.“
Muzammal Hussain, founder of the London Islamic Network for the Environment (LINE), described creation as existing as “one interlocking system, with human beings a part of it.” He said the concept of creation reflects the principle of oneness or tawhid, which is at the center of the Islamic faith.
“By ‘going green’ and living in harmony with the wider creation, we are honoring this principle, whereas if we live as though we are separate from the rest of creation, we would be going against what Islam teaches us” Hussain said. “Being ‘green’ is thus at the very heart of Islam. Effort is, however, needed for it to be in the heart of many more Muslims, as well as more Muslim organizations.“
It is easy being green
Yousaf believes every little step counts. He also recycles soda cans and tries to reduce waste in general.
Paper or plastic? Yousaf carries his own canvas bag for his grocery shopping. For produce, he steers clear of supermarkets. “I routinely go to the Farmer’s Market” Yousaf said. “I’m getting produce fresh from the field, and, somehow, I feel satisfied helping those smaller guys who are not chain stores.“
By choosing local and organic products, World Watch’s spokesperson Chafe said, fewer chemicals and pesticides will be consumed and kept from entering the ecosystems, local economies will be supported, and the carbon emissions associated with the transport of food minimized.
Chafe said “going green” can take many forms, and each person should consider what is appropriate for his or her life and interests. “The great news is that these decisions often have positive impacts that ripple far wider than our immediate communities and local environment” Chafe said.
For Yousaf, living green has not required making drastic changes to his lifestyle. He now feels healthier and has a more positive outlook because he knows that for every small change he has made, he is contributing to the greater good of saving the planet.
“I believe this is exactly what my religion wants me to do, to take care of everybody, myself, my surroundings. This world, that Allah created so beautiful, how can we mess it up?“