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Protecting our sacred planet: 6 ways to be a mindful Muslim

We are currently living in strange and unfamiliar times. One thing’s for certain though is just how much the Covid-19 pandemic has affected each and every one of us.

One way or another, most of our plans have either been postponed or cancelled altogether. Most things are now pencilled-in as TBC in our calendars as uncertainty remains and most things remain on hold.

However, it’s not all negative…

With, lockdown comes a slower pace of life and a change of routine, so what we have gained in the pandemic is the time to stop, reflect and take stock of our relationship with the earth, its creatures and each other.

The one thing that immediately comes to mind is our chaotic coexistence with the earth and the imbalance humans are creating through our actions. This is glaringly obvious when we consider the impact of our rate of CO₂ emissions on the planet and the increasing detrimental impacts of climate change.From climate-induced disasters such as floods, tsunamis and drought to the animals and creatures becoming extinct as their habitats are destroyed: we are killing the planet.

The planet is Allah’s beautiful creation. One created in perfect harmony and a blessing to humankind. As Allah (SWT) tells us in the Holy Qur’an:

“He has raised up the sky. He has set the balance so that you may not exceed in the balance: weigh with justice and do not fall short in the balance.

He set down the Earth for His creatures, with its fruits, its palm trees with sheathed clusters, its husked grain, its fragrant plants. Which, then, of your Lord’s blessings do you both deny?” (55:7-13)

However,  because of our greed, selfishness and disregard for animals, we have neglected our Islamic responsibilities as the khalifs (guardians) of the earth.

With the deadly impact of climate change upon Allah’s beautiful creation, as Muslims we need to ask ourselves:

What can we do to restore this sacred “mizan” (balance)? How can we be mindful of our actions and their impact on the planet? How can we fulfil our obligation to Allah (SWT)?

Well, the good news is that it’s not too late! There are many things we can do to help the planet and our Islamic faith has plenty of great examples to share – subhanAllah!

Here are six simple yet super-impactful ways of being more mindful to help restore that sacred balance!

1. Go green-fingered and plant a tree

If there is one thing we’ve all valued during lockdown, it’s definitely our local green spaces. From taking a breath of fresh air in our back garden, to going for a daily walk in the park – these luscious, natural green spaces have provided a source of relief for individuals and families alike.

We’ve all grown to appreciate (more) the physical and psychological benefits that these outdoor spaces provide for us. However, the benefits don’t end here!

As we all know, trees and plants produce oxygen and this is fundamental to improving air quality. What’s more, plants are also essential in reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This drop in CO₂ therefore helps to reduce the effects of climate change caused by this harmful gas.

However, with when farming became a big business, rather than the use of small landholdings, we lost a lot of our trees, forests and hedges. This means that we’re now losing these critical oxygen-giving blessings. And not to mention, destroying the habitat of hundreds of animals in the process…

If we look back at our faith, one of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that comes to mind is this beautiful hadith:

“If the Hour (the Day of Resurrection) is about to be established and one of you were holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it.” (Ahmad)

This clearly demonstrates the importance that Islam gives to ecology and the responsibility of humans in sustaining the balance of the earth.

So why not do your bit by growing a tree in your back garden or local green area? Plant your own fruit and vegetables, maintain your green spaces and engage in more gardening: you could even get involved in a community gardening project – you’ll find it’s therapeutic for both yourself and the planet!

2. Cut down on food waste

Did you know that today, a third of all food is wasted, equating to around 11% of the world’s carbon emissions? Sadly, our waste is draining natural resources and harming the planet during an ongoing climate crisis.

Every year, consumers in high-income countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa. This is alarming for several reasons.

How does food wastage impact climate change you may ask?

Well, firstly, let’s consider the amount of carbon emissions emitted in producing such food. We need energy and water to grow and harvest food, before then packaging items and transporting them locally – or even internationally – food comes at a carbon cost.

If we’re talking about meat and dairy in particular, this includes deforestation…

Secondly, it’s hocking to think that this much food is being wasted when so many people continue to live in severe food poverty. If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s vulnerable communities in developing countries that are facing the brunt of the climate crisis.

This has to change. Of course, this behaviour completely contradicts Islamic teachings. In the Holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) tells us to: “eat and drink however not to waste as verily Allah does not love those who waste” (7:31).

It’s therefore absolutely vital we:

  • Don’t purchase more food than we need
  • Store food correctly to keep fresh for as long as possible
  • Get creative with our leftovers – store spare food in the freezer, use peelings to create stocks and create new dishes (check out some recipes here)
  • Compost whatever must be thrown out to “give it back to the earth”

By adopting these simple yet super-efficient habits, we can ensure that we waste as little as possible and help the Earth as much as we can, insha’Allah!

3. Pick up – and of course never drop – litter!

When we drop litter, we’re not only causing the environment around us to look messy and out of place: we’re actually harming the planet.

Chemicals which leak out of rubbish can pollute soil and nearby water sources, whilst animals can also get hurt as they end up caught in plastic casing or eating hazardous waste.

From cigarette butts, to bits of plastic wrapping or even a coffee cup: it all harms the environment.

For example, did you know that it can take anything from 18 months to 10 years for a single cigarette filter to decompose? Now imagine if an animal eats such waste?

Every year, the RSPCA receives around 5,000 calls relating to litter and animal welfare. From plastic bags, balloons, glass and elastic bands, these items are harming Allah’s creatures, in particular wild birds. Sadly this has worsened since lockdown: a recent study found that one-third of Britain’s beaches were polluted with disposable face masks and gloves.

In Islam, we’re taught to look after other creatures and to care for the environment. This includes picking up objects that can harm us or other creatures.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “Remove harmful things from the roads of the Muslims” (Muslim).

So when you’re out and about, make sure you:

  • Always dispose of your litter in nearby bins – using recycling bins where possible
  • Pick up any litter you may see (avoiding harmful objects such as needles)
  • Carry around a few paper bags to collect your own rubbish in case there are no rubbish facilities available and then dispose of it when you get home or see a bin

Don’t leave a physical imprint of your time out and about. Bin it, bag it or take it home with you!

4. Reuse, recycle, repair or refuse

As the saying goes: “Waste not want not”. But: what does this mean?

Well quite simply: making the most of what we have and not buying to excess!

In simple terms: it’s something I call the four “R”s. Here’s all you need to know:

  • Re-use what you have: Upcycling is great fun – especially during lockdown when we’re spending a lot more time at home. So why not give that unwanted cabinet a new lease of life with a new colour and some stencilling? Or you could turn a pair of trousers you no longer like into a skirt? Or what about simply keeping empty glass jars and using them for storing food or items such as nails, screws or elastic bands?

Crucially, please use re-usable face masks and gloves, rather than disposable ones (unless you work in healthcare).

There are a ton of options! From the simple to the creative, it’s super easy to re-use and waste less at home!

  • Recycle whatever is no longer usable: From glass, paper, plastic and even organic waste: recycling is a must! Set up your own recycling bin at home and be sure that you’re using your local outdoor recycling bins and collections.

We also recommend setting up a mini compost bin in your garden to “recycle” green waste such as vegetable and fruit leftovers. Many councils collect compost and green waste: take advantage of these services.

But remember, carrot, potato and onion peel/skin (like many items in your kitchen) can be recycled and made into a great stock! Likewise, by boiling up apple cores and orange skins with some cloves and cinnamon, served with a dash of honey, you can make a great homemade tea! The possibilities are endless!

  • Repair whatever you can: A needle and thread, a lick of paint, an extra bit of fabric – whatever it takes, it’s important to fix what we can rather than buying new items – which cost the planet in resources and energy.

So, the next time a few buttons fall off your blouse, order a few buttons and get out that needle and thread, rather than popping to your favourite clothes shop!

  • Refuse whatever you don’t need (or really want!): Stop and think before you buy that next item of clothing, piece of furniture or large shoulder of lamb for a simple dinner for two. Do you really need it? Are you going to use it all? Can you make do with what you have at home instead?

Increasing amounts of sales may be tempting, but try and reflect on what you’re buying, using and consuming. It’ll not only help your bank balance but the planet too!

By using the four “R” method, we can really cut down our waste, the exploitation of the planet’s resources and our carbon footprint. Let’s look after Allah Almighty’s beautiful planet!

5. Become a climate advocate

We create change not just in the way we change our own behaviour, but by influencing others to do the same. And right now, we planet needs all the help it can get!

We’re all responsible for being a khalif (caretaker) of the Earth. In the Holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) tells us: “It is He who has appointed you vicegerent on the Earth…” (6:165).

So be part of the change! Join us here at Islamic Relief and stand up against climate injustice. Allah’s beautiful planet needs us and every single action really does count!

We’re calling on you to sign the Climate Declaration calling on the Prime Minister to lead the UK towards a healthier, greener, fairer future.

Ahead of hosting the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow in 2021, we can build back better together if we:

  • Unleash a clean energy revolution: This will boost jobs across the UK, making our transport, power and housing fit for the future
  • Protect, restore and expand our green and wild spaces: Allowing nature to thrive, taking carbon from the air and boosting the nation’s health
  • Leave no one behind: Let’s increase support to those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change at home and abroad

The UK must lead the world in creating change. We need to ensure that our recovery gets us on track to net-zero emissions and limits the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C.

Become an advocate for change and sign and share the declaration today!

6. Pray for the Earth

As Muslims, we need to do the very best we can to combat the rise in climate change. Prayer alone isn’t enough, however it is a powerful tool.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) told us of the importance of doing our best by “tying our camel” and then trusting in The Almighty.

When a Bedouin man wanted to leave his camel without tying it, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) asked him:

“Why don’t you tie down your camel?” The Bedouin answered: “I put my trust in Allah.” The Prophet then replied: “Tie your camel first, and then put your trust in Allah.”

So let’s ensure we all “tie our camel” by doing as much as we can! Try your hardest to follow the tips in this blog. Share your work. Inspire others and speak out to help create positive change.

Every action counts. Then, let us all kneel down to Allah (SWT) and reach out to Him to help us on this spiritual quest to care for His wonderful Creation. SubhanAllah…

Pray to Allah (SWT) to:

  • Give us strength and patience to educate those who resist change and enable us to inspire change within our communities
  • Fill our hearts with wisdom and understanding to ensure that we make healthier more environmentally-conscious decisions
  • Increase our humility to we better understand the importance of all his creatures and respect his beautiful Creation

Allah (SWT) has blessed us all with life on this beautiful planet. Let’s respect his Creation and worship Him by protecting it as much as possible.

Let’s all strive to be mindful Muslims and protect this sacred planet, insha’Allah.

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