Ramadhan is a time of the year when we strive to be better Muslims. Increased prayers, charity, Qur’an recitation, khutbahs, kindness towards neighbours – the list is endless. But where do we all get our inspiration from? How well do we connect to Allah (SWT) during this period? Isn’t ‘being green’ also a form of ibadah or appreciation of Allah’s (SWT) generosity? Don’t we think that it may be a better Ramadhan if we all made it green? Ensuring a green Ramadhan does not only demonstrate our green Islamic heritage but also helps to inspire us to take more practical steps towards more positive change. I had a chat with a few sisters concerning how they intend to green up their Ramadhan and, masha Allah, they offered up some wonderful tips to keeping things on the green side.
Concerning food management, not wasting was the major concern for several families. Umm Huraira says: “Foodwise, it’s pretty same for us all year round except that we eat more dates in Ramadhan and I try to make soup! Otherwise, no fried stuff except occasionally – just like normal. Suhoor is the same as our non–Ramadhan breakfast – homemade bread, cereal or egg – and we always have our leftovers next day or I freeze and reheat or, if I feel like they need it, I give something to our cats and chickens.” Samar Asamoah also embraces a simple Ramadhan menu: “I only cook very little as food always comes from every direction and there is only so much one can eat.”
Andini Gallivan is excited about her Ramadhan menu but she is also very careful not to exceed the green limits: “I use a blender to reuse veggies left over and turn them into quiche, patties or soups. It’s been ages now since I made frittatas. The kids are sick of them because I made them one too many times! One other great reuse idea is to make fillings for empanadas or spring rolls.”
Budding permaculture ambassador Elizabeth Lymer ties together the connections between personal relationships, community and, of course, food for greener Ramadhans: “As a beginner in permaculture, I choose to focus on the core ethic of people care and to incorporate the ethics of earth care and fair share slowly and simply along the way. Here are some examples of how you can focus on people care to achieve green action this Ramadhan:
• Provide your auntie, who needs to exercise, with your encouraging companionship on her walks to and from the masjid and inadvertently move away from causing pollution by driving.
• Give one vegetable to your young child to take charge of during food preparation, preferably organic. This can foster confidence and responsibility in your young child and also inadvertently contribute to the organic market and green economy.
• Give your neighbour iftar on a plate from your cupboard so that you have reason to visit and spread salam to her by collecting the plate and inadvertently avoiding using plastic containers that cause rubbish and require significantly more resources to recycle than are required for washing up plates.
As you can see, small acts of food–related taking care of people can lead to earth care and fair share. You do not have to be an expert in green issues to act green. Rather, your expert knowledge of your friends and family and your dedication to the Qur’an and Sunnah are your assets. Each time you find out more about green issues, you can add a layer to your intentions to please Allah I through your small consistent acts of people care.”
Brooke Benoit also finds the month of Ramadhan to be a good place to begin a new habit. She suggests that, “Maybe not during this month for you, but I have committed to not using disposable dishware except for when truly necessary. Ramadhan may be the month that you really need it, but then reconsider: do you really need it at other times? I generally only use disposables when I am post–partum, home alone with newborn and small children. For me, it is counter to the spirit of austerity during Ramadhan, so I don’t use plastic and paper dishware during the month.”
My ‘Live Green’ co-writer, Klaudia Khan, has long been trying to green up her Ramadhans and had plenty of ideas to share. Living green is obviously a fun–filled experience for her which she has really come to appreciate. “Ramadhan is a time of the year when we slow down and have a better chance to look at our lifestyle and improve. In this holy month, people make resolutions to be more charitable, to recite the Qur’an more often, etc. and then try to be better Muslims. Last Ramadhan, I made a resolution to stop buying and eating processed foods and to cut on the amount of waste I produce in my household. I haven’t switched completely yet, but I made some progress, alhamdulillah. I stopped buying ready-made cakes and sweets (except chocolates – I cannot really make them at home but I look out for the ethical brands!). I stopped buying canned fruits and vegetables and learned to cook pulses and beans from scratch. When I do shopping now, I really take note of the packaging, which previously I didn’t, and I feel I am a more conscious consumer now. I don’t shop for fun anymore and I read the labels thoroughly.
When you try to buy only basics and cook everything at home, your diet also becomes healthier and, for me at least, the weight control issue is not a problem anymore. There are some things that come with heavy packaging that I haven’t yet been able to give up – like smoked fish. I remember, when I was a child, my mother used to bring mackerel wrapped in brown paper, but in UK supermarkets the fish is only available on non–recyclable trays in non–recyclable foil wrapper – I can’t give it up.
This Ramadhan, my new green resolution is about cosmetics and health products. I want to try and go no poo, which means I will start using baking soda instead of shampoo to wash my hair. The impact it would have on the environment is massive if we all gave up shampoo. So, inshaAllah, I’ll do a bathroom-based green revolution. I already ditched face creams and I’m using almond oil instead. It really feels great on my skin. Ramadhan is not the beginning of the year but so many of us count years by Ramadhan because this month is the most memorable, so I pray to Allah that I, as an individual, and we, as an ummah, can become greener and greener with every Ramadhan.”
Thanau Abbas has only just started considering going green and for her start she has resolved to avoid excess in all things during this month including food, “I want to have total control of my food portions this month. As a student of agriculture, I want to support farmers by buying locally grown food that is in season. Mum has a mini-vegetable farm, so we both will find a way of eating more of vegetables and less of meats as the latter produces twenty times more greenhouse gases than the former.”
Speaking with my green sisters has really spurred me into action and I now feel more at ease to share my own green resolution with you. My eco weak point has always been my inability to cut my water usage to the minimum. So now, I’m all set for action insha Allah. What about you? What steps are you willing to take towards a greener Ramadhan and beyond?
Wardah Abbas is a twenty-something year old self-proclaimed eco–Muslimah based in Nigeria. She is a budding writer and a law student at the Nigerian Law School. When Wardah is not writing, volunteering at an event or hanging out with friends, she can be found in front of the mirror trying out greener facial make–up techniques. Catch up with her on therosespen.wordpress.com.