I have always liked to be out in nature and in the garden, to grow things and to feel full of fresh air as I scrub the dirt out of my nails after a session in the garden. It started as a child, having a little patch in my parent’s garden. I would pop radish seeds into the ground and be amazed at how they turned into pink and white balls that my dad would enthusiastically eat.
Bringing it to another level
Time passed and changes in my accommodation meant that cultivation was restricted to a few pots of herbs, some cress, or maybe some tomatoes on the balcony. Then, a year ago, I realised it could be worth putting my name down on the allotment list, and within a few months I was offered one. Allotments are available here in Sweden and in other countries and are small plots of land for rent on which you can grow flowers, fruits and vegetables. The amount of land on the allotment is much more substantial than my balcony, and so began my journey into mini-farmhood, much to the bemusement of my husband. To want to get your hands covered in soil, dig out weeds and walk endlessly around with a watering can may seem mad to some. But once you try it, you can become hooked.
Nourishment for the soul
So to add to this, I was really pleased one day to come across this hadith as I was flicking through one of my children’s colouring books:
‘When a man plants a tree or cultivates a farm which provides food for birds, men and animals, the eating of it will be counted as charity for him.’ (Ahmed, At-Tirmidhi)
To see a barren patch of soil change to a crop full of vegetables that you can actually eat and not have to buy from the supermarket feels amazing. To think a tiny seed can become something as huge as a pumpkin is a miracle, which can only increase your iman and humbleness in front of Allah (SWT). Surah Ar-Rahman springs to mind: ‘Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?’
I am not alone in seeing the benefits of gardening. The allotment scene was once the domain of retired men, but now you are just as likely to see families, students and Muslim women digging a trench or harvesting potatoes.
Find your inner-snail!
But it is not just the results of the harvest that are beneficial, but also the process of creating a little green space. There is a ‘Rehab-garden’ in Alnarp in Sweden where I live, which mostly takes women who are suffering from ‘burn-out syndrome’. Many of these women have been carrying out a role similar to men, having a full-time career and being a bread-winner, but are still also expected to take care of everyone else’s needs. It’s something I’m sure many can relate to, and unsurprisingly, it can all get too much and affect your health. A therapist working with patients in the garden expressed ‘The garden’s part in the treatment is powerful.’ It brings an environment without stress, and instead forms a calm, safe bubble. They work with sensory-stimulation – sight, hearing, taste and smell – as they say people have often lost contact between the mind and body. One patient remarked ‘I’ve learnt time for my own relaxation is as important as anything else’.
Burn those calories
For those of you, like me, who are not particularly sporty, gardening is good form of gentle exercise. The vegetables you may be growing will be giving you a good source of nutrition, and the energy expended in doing so will help burn off any unwanted calories you might have nibbled from those less healthy foods in your cupboards!
Do what suits you best
For me, having a small farm that provides enough food for me and my family would be ideal – but for now, not possible. Alhamdulillah, I have my patch that I can call my own, where I can forget the domestic hustle and bustle for a couple of hours, I can give my body a mini-workout and give my iman a boost. Whatever you can manage, be it an orchid on the windowsill or some herbs on your balcony, it can only be life-enriching.
Umm Suhayb is a writer and editor at Mint Writing, originally from the UK but now based in Sweden.