August 03, 2017
Muslims find their faith in nature
“And we have sent down blessed rain from the sky and made grow thereby gardens and grain from the harvest / and lofty palm trees having fruit arranged in layers / as provision for the servants, and we have given life thereby to a dead land. Thus is the resurrection.”
- Quran, 50: 9-11
The Quran calls it “resurrection.” Environmentalists call it “restoration.” Conservation, then, might be considered an act of faith. That is the idea behind the organization Green Muslims, a Washington, D.C.-based group focused on “spiritually-inspired environmental education, reflection and action.” Green Muslims’ executive director, Asma Mahdi, explains the intimate connection with water and the importance of its purity. “It serves as a constant reminder of how precious the resource for both the human spirit and that of the Earth,” says Mahdi. The practice of wudu is a ritual washing performed prior to prayers, designed to cleanse not only the body but the heart and soul and to draw the faithful closer to Allah.
Green Muslims began in 2007 with a zero-trash iftar, the evening meal used to break a fast at the time of prayer. They continued to hold more, each event drawing more individuals until attendance had increased five-fold. The combination of community, faith and environment seemed to be hitting a chord with Muslims in D.C.
Now ten years in, Green Muslims is going strong and reaching a whole new generation. “Our Deen is Green” is an annual youth outdoor education program that teaches children about the connection between deen, or faith, and their role as environmental stewards. Children gathered for this year’s event on July 22 at Hard Bargain Farm, a demonstration farm run by the Alice Ferguson Foundation in Accokeek, Maryland.
Conserving water, restoring water quality and preventing pollution were the focus of interactive sessions throughout the day, all interwoven with the importance of faith and the connection of the spirit to the natural world. Past events have focused on other aspects of environmentalism, such as renewable energy. Sarah Jawaid, one of the founding board members of Green Muslims, describes these connections in a video available on the Green Muslims website. Muslims are to be khalifahs—stewards of the earth—in a covenant between Allah and mankind. “Nature is referred to as one of the signs in the Quran,” says Jawaid in the video. “When you are walking in nature, you are walking in verses of the Quran.”
Alice Ferguson Foundation provided a walk through nature that day, cleaning up litter with children along the riverbank. The beauty of nature can be used as a source of reflection, providing healing at the same time that it instills a desire to protect and nurture it. With Our Deen is Green, children used art to reflect on this connection with scripture and nature by creating litter prevention signs.
Collaboration and connection is a large part of what makes environmental stewardship effective, and this year was no different. Without the help of an environmental education grant through the Chesapeake Bay Trust, transportation for the event would not have been possible. The Chesapeake Bay Program and Green Muslims joined together in the weeks leading up to the day at the farm, visiting and engaging with communities in D.C. to speak about the importance of environmental stewardship. Event volunteers at Hard Bargain Farm were adult members of those same communities, providing the children with familiar faces and a sense of security as they explored their faith through nature and cleaned up the shoreline.