Lately I’ve been doing a lot of talking about ethics and I’ve been hearing some people questioning how I marry my spiritual beliefs with my everyday practices.
It had not occurred to me that many people use religion as an excuse to toss common sense out of the window, or to use it as an excuse to be apathetic. For the sake of not sounding bias, or speaking of a religion that is not my own, I’m happy to present my religion as an example. I apologize in advance if this post comes across as pushing my religious beliefs, as that is NOT the case. My goal is to use my faith as an example of how to investigate deep questions about green living and marry them with ideas of a greater purpose/meaning.
I am Muslim. You probably guessed that by now. I’m pretty straightforward with my thinking about my faith, and for the most part I follow a middle path.
This week alone, when other Muslims learned of my lifestyle, these are the comments that they have about green living:
- The world is going to end eventually anyway, it doesn’t really matter that much.
- Allah swt (God) gave us animals to eat.
- We can’t be extreme in our thinking, if animals were dangerous to eat, the government wouldn’t allow it.
- Not all meat comes from factory farms, there are many halal (similar to kosher) farms that treat animals right.
- I don’t feel the need to be mindful of everything I do. I’m only responsible for the impact that I see or experience.
- Educating myself in Islam is more important than learning about all of these extraneous details.
- We are all going to die, you can’t possibly eliminate all of the toxins from your life.
- One’s time could be better spent contributing to society.
Its hard to not take these comments to heart. When others don’t see the validity in the struggle that you endure every day to positively impact the world around you, it makes you feel very small. The green movement has been very slow in the Muslim world, and it is not something that I’m proud of. It startles me when my friends, who are doctors and pharmacists, dentists and healthcare workers- don’t see the validity in small acts, such as minimizing chemical exposure. When searching the web, I found two links, and I want to share them here.
The first link is from a site called The Eco Muslim. It is a site dedicated to green and sustainable living in Islam. I urge everyone to make a spiritual quest to find out what their religion says about living green. The Buddhist and Hindu connection is very easy to make, but if I were Christian, would I know what God/Jesus said about treasuring the earth? I’ve heard from fellow Christians that there is plenty in the bible. This link here lists 10 Hadith that pertain to green living in Islam.
The second link is to a site of a person who wrote a book called The Green Deen book. Ironically enough, it appeals to American Muslims, who seem to be the at the forefront of the green movement in Islam. The book addresses topics like waste, energy consumption, water consumption, and food. I’m interested to add it to my read list. The link to check it out is here.
Now to confront those pesky accusations. I feel that my answers could be universal to all faiths.
- While the world may be coming to an end, the answer isn’t to just say “screw it” and waste away with abandon. We have to endure this life, and so do our children and their children- until the end of days. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to have water at the end of my life cycle, and I’d like my progeny to live in a place that is not toxic. We don’t know when the world is going to end, but that’s not an excuse to quicken anyone’s suffering. Additionally, Allah swt (God) gave us this world to live in- what does it say about us if we trash it or take it for granted, which causes suffering of animals and other people? Consider that when you act wastefully or greedily, you are hurting people in the third world…many of whom, are Muslim.
- Allah swt said we COULD eat animals- He didn’t say torture them, stuff them full of chemicals and eat them, shoot them in the head, or eat them three times a day. It’s not obligatory to eat animals, and its permissible in Islam to not want to eat animals if your reasoning is because you don’t like them, if they’re contaminated, or if you are doubtful about them being mistreated/not halal. Zabiha is a concept in Islam for meat…look it up. No factory farmed meat is zabiha.
- An example of extreme thinking is that we only get sufficient nutrients from a meat filled diet… and the government food legislation is a joke- that’s why children die of deadly bacterial strains as a result of factory farmed meat consumption. In fact, if you examine the sunnah (way of life in Islam), meat consumption was limited to times of festivities, and often most people were too poor to eat it. The favorite food of the Prophet Muhammad sws was pumpkin. I’m also pretty sure he died of poisoning…in meat.
- There sure ARE halal farms that treat animals correctly and slaughter them correctly. But they’re few and far between and costly. I respect anyone’s choice to eat meat from these places, but urge them to visit themselves and attend a slaughtering.
- The problem with not being mindful of how your choices impact the globe is that it comes back to bite you. You might not care that your bottled water bottle gets dumped in India- but you will care when you are diagnosed from cancer because of the chemical leaching from that bottle. Again, in Islam, if something is doubtful, you should avoid it. So infrequently we use these types of excuses to excuse waste or innecessity. Get a darn water bottle and don’t be so wasteful.
- Educating ones self in Islam is indeed a priority- but so is living. It would be totally different if learning about green living was a cultural thing, that although valuable, had little necessity to living, but many green issues can be a matter of life and death. I recently watched a simple documentary called Chemerical, in which a family home was measured for toxic fumes just from their cleaning chemicals. They were literally breathing cancerous polluted air, just because the mother cleaned with chemicals. This is an example of how educating ones self becomes a life skill.
- For sure we are all going to die- but we don’t have to die a horrible painful untimely death, and in Islam we “tie our camel”. Tying our camel refers to taking care of those matters we have control over. If you can prevent cancer in yourself, or illness, you should do it. And maybe we cannot eliminate things like air pollution or water pollution, but that doesn’t mean we should live on frozen pizza and never exercise. We should strive to eliminate the unhealthy things in our lives.
- The easiest way to contribute to society is to start with ourselves by minimizing our consumption and carbon footprint. In the words of No Impact Man, if I drive a car, I’m not just polluting MY air, I’m polluting my children’s air, my neighbor’s air, and the air of everyone else. If we all just put a little less garbage in the earth or water, a little less pollution in the air, and do positive things like support local business, buy food without harmful pesticides, and teach our children how to recycle, we ARE making an impact on society that is a positive one. These things don’t necessarily take away time from things like cleaning the mosque or working in a soup kitchen.
There’s my holy roller rant. I hope this raises questions in us all, and please feel free to comment below!