Author: Ibrahim Abdul-Matin; Keith Ellison (foreword)
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers (November 11 2010)
Pages: 232 Binding: Paperback
Description from the publisher:
"Deen" means belief, creed, path or way in Arabic. Christianity is a Deen. Judaism is a Deen. Buddhism is a Deen. A "Green Deen" is the choice to practice your religion while affirming the synergies between faith and the environment.
Goals of "Green Deen"
-To build a movement that brings together spiritual practice with protection of the environment.
-To create a conversation that doesn’t have people of faith debating the intricacies of theology but, rather, finding common ground. We all live on this planet and must live together in harmony as a means to protect it.
-To shed light on the significant contributions of people of faith to the environmental movement.
"Green Deen" is organized into 4 parts: Waste, Watts, Water, and Food. Civilizations have been defined by how they manage these 4 things. Waste management and energy delivery is essential to the every day functioning of a city or society. Water and food is vital to the survival of humanity.
“Corruption has appeared on the land and in the sea because of what the hands of humans have wrought. This is in order that we give them a taste of the consequences of their misdeeds that perhaps they will turn to the path of right guidance.” (30:41) Many scholars concerned about the environment have cited this particular verse. They say that “corruption” in this verse can also mean pollution.
“Among His Signs is this, that He sends the Winds, as heralds of Glad Tidings, Giving you a taste of His (Grace and) Mercy...” (30:46) Wind is like a gift, or good news, from God. Scholars have also interpreted this verse to mean that wind is the messenger of rain and rain is the blessing that gives us our crops. The same verse continues, “...That the ships may sail (Majestically) by His command and that you may seek of His Bounty: in order that you may be grateful.” (30:46) Here God is noting that the wind is powerful enough to push ships through the ocean and that this force is a part of His bounty for humanity. Islam seems tailor made to harness the power of wind energy.
In Islam, water sources including, springs, wells, rivers, lakes, etc., belong only to Allah and are meant for everyone. God says, “And We sent the winds fertilizing, then send down water from the cloud so We give it to you to drink of, nor is it you who store it up.” (15:22) God controls water. It is not ours. Like everything else, we have been given responsibility to cherish it as the gift that it is, and take care of it. “Is it you that send it down from the clouds, or are We the senders? If We pleased, We would have made it salty; why do you not then give thanks?” (56:69)
Allah allows us to eat heartily, but warns us against excess. “O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink; But waste not by excess, For Allah loveth not the wasters.” (7:31) It’s amazing how much food is wasted each day while millions around the globe are starving. There is also a saying of Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) that while eating, take the food out from the side and not the middle. Eat from the food which is closest to you. While this is about serving oneself food, could it also mean to buy locally grown food?
Islamic Teachings for a living a Green Deen
Living a Green Deen means understanding that everything comes from Allah. We recognize that Allah is the Creator of everything. Allah says in the Qur’an: “He is the First and the Last, the Evident and the Hidden: and He has full knowledge of all things.” (57:3) If you look at the smallest particle using the most powerful magnification, you see the building blocks of atoms: protons, neutrons, and electrons. They look like small flashes of light. Now, if you turn your gaze into the furthest reaches of the universe, you see the most distant objects - quasars. They too look like small flashes of light. This light is an expression of the Oneness of Allah. The universe is aglow with continuity.
Living a Green Deen means seeing everything in the natural world as a sign from our Creator. “Signs for those who reflect” is a constant refrain in the Qur’an. Signs from the Creator are all around us. To treat the natural world poorly means to deny the signs of our Creator. In Arabic, ayat can refer to one of the 6236 verses of the Qur’an, or ayat can mean the signs around us – the mountains, the trees, the seas. When we stand on a mountaintop, or at the edge of a great sea, or watch a glorious sunrise, we are immersed in the amazement of the signs Allah has spread out before us – these experiences can lead us into a state of awe. Our awe is a sense that we are part of the amazing beauty of those signs.
Living a Green Deen means understanding that God created us directly from the Earth and that we must do all that we can to take care of it, protect it, and manage all of its bounty in a sustainable way. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), declared, “The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily Allah, be He exalted, has made you His stewards in it, as He sees how you acquit yourselves." When we die, we will be resurrected in both body and spirit and will be held to account for all that we’ve done for ourselves, others, and the planet.
Living a Green Deen means knowing that we are entrusted by God to act as stewards, or “Khalifas” of the Earth. God has given us the ability to make decisions over the land and the animals, and He trusts us to be responsible with this gift. We can choose to cooperate with nature -- or not. Either way, we will be held accountable for our actions. Some have taken the solemn trust with God to mean that we can do whatever we want without consequence. Islam teaches otherwise. Islam teaches that the Earth is sacred. Our trust from God is not a license to pillage and destroy or to take from others, be they animals, plants, the ground or the sky, without a just return. Our mandate from God dictates that we must praise the Creator, take care of the planet, and take care of one another.
Living a Green Deen means treating the world with justice. The first step is to recognize that humans can have a negative impact on the Earth. The second step is to reduce and stop that negative impact. “Corruption has appeared on the land and in the sea because of what the hands of humans have wrought. This is in order that we give them a taste of the consequences of their misdeeds that perhaps they will turn to the path of right guidance.” (30:41) American born Muslim scholar, Imam Zaid Shakir observes of this verse, “The earliest commentators on the Qur’an have described this corruption as the drying up of the rains, the disappearance of the harvest of the sea, and other ecologically relevant meanings.” By moving towards a just economy and a just way of life, we move away from the wanton exploitation of land and people, and turn instead towards a way of life that affirms the abundance in creation.
Living a Green Deen means to understand that the world exists in a perfectly divine balance. God asserts His balance in the Qu’ran: “He has created man: He has taught him speech and intelligence. The sun and the moon follow courses (exactly) computed. And the herbs and the trees- both (alike) bow in adoration. And the Firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance of (Justice). In order that you may not transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance. It is He who has spread out the earth for (His) creatures.” (55:3-10) Pollution, consumption, exploitation all destroy this balance. Restoration of the balance is restoring justice to the planet.
Preview of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet
“The Earth is a Mosque,” and everything in it is sacred – I learned this basic tenet of Islam from my father. He was raised in Queens, spent summers in Virginia, and always loved and respected the natural world. He took it upon himself to share this appreciation with his own children. I spent my early childhood in Queens and Brooklyn. My brother and I used to think the entire world was a sea of concrete buildings. My father upended that reality the day he took us to Bear Mountain. Just north of New York City, Bear Mountain is known as a hiker’s paradise. On that trip, we were Black Muslim city kids hiking in “the country” for the first time. What I recall from that day was moss growing on rocks, mushrooms on rotting wood, and drinking my first juice box - the kind you poke a straw into.
When it was time for the afternoon prayer, my father stopped to pray. My brother and I asked him where he was going to pray. He pointed to the ground, to a small area that he had brushed free of twigs and leaves. Until that day, prayer for us had always been something done at home or in the mosque. Our mosque, Masjid At-Taqwa, was an oasis of Islam in the heart of struggling Bedford-Stuyvesant (better known as Bed-Stuy), Brooklyn. The Imam of Masjid At-Taqwa, the respected Siraj Wahaj, later became the first Muslim to ever recite a prayer in a session of Congress. My father was one of the first 25 brothers involved in establishing Masjid At-Taqwa. To us, the mosque meant proud black families creating community and praying together.
On Bear Mountain, as we prepared to kneel down in prayer, my father related a Hadith, a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), “Wherever you may be at the time of prayer, you may pray, for it (the Earth) is all a mosque.”1 At that instant, I understood for the first time: the Earth is a mosque; a mosque is sacred; therefore, the Earth is sacred. That moment of prayer on the mountain, thanks to the Hadith my father relayed, transformed the way that I would see the world forever.
As an adult, my contemplation of the notion that “the Earth is a mosque” led to my discovery of the core message of this book – that Islam, the world’s second largest religion, provides a helpful lens to prompt action among Muslims and anyone else concerned about saving the Earth. This lens encompasses a variety of principles – the Oneness of creation, stewardship of the planet and the trust that comes with it, justice, balance, and the signs of God. All of these principles point to the same well-kept secret: that Islam teaches a deep love of the planet, because loving the planet means loving ourselves and loving our Creator. That is to say, Islam teaches that we are all one. “The Earth is a mosque” is another way of saying we are all part of the wonderful fabric of creation.