Being eco-friendly in the holy month | Arab News
FASTING during Ramadan involves refraining from food, liquids and sex from dawn to sunset as well as focusing on prayers, charity, helping others, and on good deeds. However, this is the easiest part of fasting. The responsible attitude of a Muslim during Ramadan is very crucial for the correctness and acceptance of his fast, Insha Allah.
In fact, Ramadan offers a real chance to inculcate a positive change in our attitude toward the environment. Without doubt, adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle in general and especially during Ramadan is not only a social responsibility, but also a religious duty as man’s existence and well-being is dependent upon a healthy environment.
In Islam, man’s relation to the earth is seen as that of a custodian mainly responsible for improving the quality of life and guaranteeing a healthy environment. “Now, behold! Your Lord said to the angels: I am placing upon the earth a human successor to steward it” (Qur’an, 2:30).
It is required that man should work toward the conservation of earth, ensuring sustainability of natural resources for future generations. In short, to be a Muslim is to pray (worship) and to be a custodian (to develop earth). This is very clear in the literature on the fundamentals of Islamic religion.
Recently, in environmental science, the concept of “ecological footprint” is used frequently as a metaphor to depict the amount of land and water area a human population would hypothetically need to provide the resources required to support itself and to absorb its wastes and emissions, given prevailing technology.
Footprinting is now widely used around the globe as an indicator of environmental sustainability. It can be used to measure and manage the use of resources throughout the economy. It is commonly used to explore the sustainability of individual lifestyles, goods and services, organizations, industry, regions and nations.
The idea of footprint is already rooted in Islamic culture and values and there are many examples and verses in the Qur’an and Sunnah that urge Muslims to reduce their footprint and ask them to live lightly on earth. The Qur’an describes believers of Allah as those who “walk on the Earth in humility” (Qur'an, 25:63).
When asked about how the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to live in his house, the Prophet’s wife, Ayeshah, said that he used to repair his shoes, sew his clothes, and carry out all such household tasks without complaint or want for more (authenticated by Al-Albani).
The idea behind this was to show Muslims that menial tasks were not degrading for Allah’s Prophet (peace be upon him). Reusing and repairing things instead of always buying new is not a sign of poverty, they are a sign of power. By performing household duties, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was saying we can build foundations on less ‘stuff,’ we are in control of what we consume, and we do not need more.
Of course, every individual is in control of what he uses, what he eats, what he does, and where he goes. Every person will leave an ecological footprint.
Your ecological footprint, in simple words, is related to your consumption and the total amount of pollution and emissions that you produce in life by using energy, especially fossil fuel, through transportation, use of electricity, consumption of certain food, clothes that require transportation and industrial fertilizers and so on.
Muslims should seize the opportunity of the holy month of Ramadan as a time to reduce, for instance, their carbon footprints by recycling, carpooling, using public transportation more often, reducing energy and water consumption, and investing in clean energy.
Also, we need to re-think many of our current consumption patterns from a sustainability point of view. In other words, our consumption has to be “green” and that means doing something that protects and supports the environment and doing things that take into consideration the carrying capacity and ecological footprint. That, in turn, means that natural resources should be able to support current as well as future generations.
Muslims should go beyond fasting and really look at the broader consequences of responsibilities toward earth and humanity. The month of Ramadan is a golden opportunity to consider reducing their footprint through deeds that are non-polluting, non-wasteful, and are not damaging to natural resources. Reducing footprint will simply mean achieving sustainable development and ensuring better quality of life for future generations as well.
Let us seize the opportunity that Ramadan offers and adopt exemplary behavior that really reduces our footprint and hope that this responsible pro-environmental lifestyle will continue all year round. There is an opportunity for real change, not only in Ramadan, but also afterward.
The writer is a research fellow in the Environmental Research Program of the Gulf Research Center.