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Observing Ramadan the Green Way

Muslim boys pray as they wait to end their fast of Ramadan in Srinagar.

By Abdul Rashid Agwan, Muslim Mirror

Green Ramadan is an emerging concept among Muslim communities the world over. It got spawned as an environmental concern and then has grown as the fourth key dimension of the holy month. As is widely known, Ramadan connects believers to Allah, self and society. However, it also connects them with environment as an important aspect of the teachings of the Quran. The revelation of the Quran began during this month and Muslims ritually refurbish their understanding of its verses through its full recitation or listening in the month. During this whole process, inter alia other precepts, believers also come across more than two hundred verses guiding man towards an environment-friendly life or what is popularly called as the green life.

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One macro view that comes out in the fore after going through the whole Quran is that Allah has created everything in the universe and governs all processes therein including the earth and its atmosphere, rains, vegetation, animals, mountains, rivers, oceans and the like and He guides man to be thankful to Him while enjoying benefits of the ecosystems created by Him. The Quran (7:10) says, “And We have certainly made the earth your home and made for you therein ways of livelihood. Little are you grateful.”

The green teachings of the Quran, more relevant to Ramadan, appertain to the sustainable consumption. The fasting strictly regulates consumption patterns. Eating and drinking is entirely prohibited during the day time. May be dinner is routine for many but the early morning Suhur is generally a light food. Even in the evening, it is water that occupies the stomach more than the meals. The intake of fruits in common families is generally increased during the month. However, the Quran reminds that this consumption should be guided by certain injunctions, more so in the veneration of Ramadan.

The major rulings of the Quran which should be generally followed by the believers and more so during Ramadan when the Quran becomes refreshed in their memory are to take lawful and pure food and avoid wastage of food and drinks. It is instructed in the Quran (2:168), “O People! Eat of what is lawful and good on the Earth.” Another verse (7:31) very relevant here is the one which commands, “…eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He (Allah) likes not those who commit excess.”

The Quran insists to consume what is both permissible and pure. The environmental disregard has generally left most things impure. The agriculture, poultry and dairy products based on the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, synthetic intakes and certain growth hormones may be taken as permissible but not salubrious – tayyab, what the Quran ordains for. This and similar verses make it essential for a true believer to go for organic foods or to make them commonplace in the most possible way.  However, the situation today is very unbecoming. The available food items are generally both polluted and adulterated and their packaging make them even more toxic. For instance bisphenol A (BPA), used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins for packaging of food and beverages, is found to have low-dose health risks. It binds to estrogen receptors and thus disrupts endocrine function. The increasing use of oxytocin in ripening of fruits and vegetables and in easy milching of livestock, poses a grave public health issue in many developing countries. Such kinds of foods and beverages can hardly qualify the rider of ‘pure’ as desired by the Quran.

The concept of Tayyab food also requires a balanced diet and the eatables that do not harm human body in any way. It should also be interpreted to denote besides quality, the quantity of food intake. One should eat according to one’s own metabolic capacity. Eating too much is not a healthy thing. One should eat as much as one can digest and fulfill the body need. Development of obesity due to overeating in not appreciated in Islam. Hence, this should be taken into account more earnestly during this month.

The concept of Israf – wasting of food – is very vital. Allah does not like people who waste His bounties. One should know that for the production of a single grain how many processes, energies and resources are required in the given ecosystem.  For instance, on average, about 2,500 liters of water is consumed in a rice field (from rainfall and/or irrigation) for the production of 1 kg of rough rice. Yet, almost one third of the food produced in the world is wasted. This is a huge loss in itself. This food wastage is visible in the Muslim societies as well, and also during the month of Ramadan.

Iman Zayat informs in an article that the National Consumer Institute (INC) recorded that Tunisians waste bread (46%), fruit (32%), pastries (20%), meat (19%), milk and its derivatives (18%), vegetables (14%) and beverages (13%) during this holy month. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, UAE reports that “food waste doubles during Ramadan and contributes to an estimated $4 billion in yearly food waste.” In Bahrain, the food waste exceeds 400 tons per day during the holy month and so is in Qatar where almost 50% of the food prepared during Ramadan reaches to garbage dumps.  These are but a few examples which show that the food wastage significantly increases in Muslim societies during the month, though they should have been rather more careful not to do so while taking cue from the concept of Israf which calls for a sustainable consumption.

The consumption of water during Ramadan also increases many folds due to increased number of Muslims offering prayers. For Wudu, ablution, a common performer uses 15-25 liters of water.  Hence, addition of non-regular worshippers during Ramadan increases water consumption in Muslim communities by manifolds. The Prophet (peace be upon him) has famously instructed not to waste water even on the bank of a flowing river and that too for ablution. He also guided Muslims to use only one Mudd of water for each ablution, which is less than a liter.  This calls for an extra care by those attentively worshipping during Ramadan to consume only the permissible quantity of water for ablution. For bath, the maximum water consumption is capped at five times that of the ablution, i.e. one Sa‘a or approximately 5 liters. If Ramadan could be used to practice sustainable consumption of water for washing and domestic use, this may become a believer’s normal habit during other days of the year.

The concept of pure or Tayyab also applies to breathing air. An average human being inhales around 11,000 liters of air per day, which should contain 21% oxygen for good physiological functions. However, the modern life has forced us to inhale impure ambient air with less oxygen and more of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Our body cannot remain pure while inhaling polluted air.  Ramadan gives us an opportunity to think whether we are consuming ‘pure’ air. We should identify role of individuals in making the local air pure and wholesome and act accordingly. For instance, in order to reduce the impact of vehicular pollution, a devotee should take care that he uses his vehicle only when necessary. One should also check that his vehicle is in a perfect condition of minimizing pollution. One should make the engine dead at red lights and in case of being caught in a jam. Plantation during the month should also be appreciated. Plants can be given as Eid gifts. This way one can contribute in making the ambient air somewhat pure.

The sustainability of consumption of food, water, air, energy and other natural resources is crucial for belief in Islam and there can be no better occasion other than Ramadan to express and practice it. In fact, our sensitivity towards the holy guidance should be internalized during Ramadan in the form of our sensitivity towards environment.  This is what Green Ramadan denotes for.

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