18 December 2009

Green Muslims greening our Mosques

The notes I used for the Jumah (Friday) lecture I gave at Musjidul Islam in Brixton on Friday 18 December 2009. Good response from the congregation and more thought/discussion definitely needed on the idea of 'greening' our Musjids! And just to be clear - that does not mean painting the domes and minarets green...
There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end. (HQ 6:38)

O ye who believe! Make not unlawful the good things, which Allah hath made lawful for you, but commit no excess: for Allah loveth not those given to excess.” (Al-Maa’idah: 87)

The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is attempting to secure a new international deal to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases, which most scientists blame for causing climate change. It ends today and from what the media is reporting, things don’t look that great for us and the planet.

Since the industrial revolution, humans have been putting ever more carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, through burning fossil fuels in power plants and cars, boats and planes, as well as by cutting down forests, growing crops and rearing livestock. These gases trap more of the sun’s heat and prevent it escaping into space. It’s a totally natural process which has remained balanced for hundreds of thousands of years - but scientists argue that humans are now upsetting that balance by putting more such gases in the atmosphere, trapping more energy and pushing temperatures up.

On the direst predictions, temperatures could rise by an average of 4C (7.2F) as soon as 2060, transforming the landscape of Britain. It would be possible to grow Mediterranean fruits in the South West, while melting polar icecaps would cause the sea level to rise, leading to flooding along the low-lying east coast.

If all this happened, many parts of the world would become uninhabitable. The sea could indundate the large deltas in areas of South East Asia like Bangladesh, displacing millions of people. Droughts would cause famine and floods destroy homes. Many species of animals and plants could die out as forests die back and fertile lands become deserts.

Sounds bad. What can we possibly do about it?

Most scientists - though not all - say we have to cut emissions, and fast. The IPCC reckons that the world must cut carbon emissions by half by 2050 to stand a chance of keeping temperature rise within a “safe” limit of 2C (3.6F). To achieve that, the developed world would need to make cuts of 80 per cent - and at least 25 per cent by 2020, says the IPCC. Poor countries would also be expected to take action.

The developing countries want money to help them switch from dirty fossil fuels, like coal, to clean technologies like wind and solar. They also want cash to prepare for the problems that climate change will bring, by measures like building sea defences against floods.

Is there anything I can do to help?

You don’t have to wear a hair shirt and move to a cave. There are relatively simple things people can do, such as switching off lights, turning down the heating and driving less. Eating less meat, which can cause global warming because of the methane produced by cows, is another.

Would cutting carbon emissions change my life?

Yes. Carbon taxes would increase the cost of electricity, and flying anywhere would become more expensive. However, on the plus side, pollution would be reduced, electric cars would be quieter and you might even discover a taste for tofu.

Islam is a beautiful religion that has always viewed animals as a special part of Allah’ creation. The Qur'an, the Hadith, and the history of Islamic civilization offer many examples of kindness, mercy, and compassion for animals.

Thanks to modern factory-farming methods, animals suffer hideously in the industries that kill them to produce meat, milk, and eggs. These products not only bring pain and suffering to the animals themselves, they are also implicated in a variety of human diseases, including cancer, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The intensive production of animals for food is also extremely damaging to the environment.

How many of us eat meat three times a day – for breakfast, lunch and supper – and thing nothing of it.

There is no suggestion in the Quran or in any other of the Islamic sources that eating meat is good for physical or spiritual health. Islam's approach to the eating of meat is neutral. While it has left the choice to the individual, the Quran does urge those that do choose to eat meat, to do so in moderation.

Muslims in the past were semi-vegetarians. The Prophet was, technically, in that category. He was not a meat-eater. Most of his meals did not have meat in them.

And the proof of that is in the Muwatta—when Sayyidina Umar says, 'Beware of meat, because it has an addiction like the addiction of wine.'

And the other hadith in the Muwatta—there is a chapter called 'Bab al-Laham,' the chapter of laham, the chapter of meat. Both are from Sayyidina Umar. And Umar, during his khilafa, prohibited people from eating meat two days in a row. He only allowed them to eat [it] every other day. He saw one man eating meat every day, and he said to him, 'Every time you get hungry you go out and buy meat? Right? In other words, every time your nafs wants meat, you go out and buy it?' He said, 'Yeah, Amir al-Mumineen, ana qaram,' which in Arabic, 'qaram' means 'I love meat'—he's a carnivore, he loves meat. And Sayyidina Umar said, 'It would be better for you to roll up your tummy a little bit so that other people can eat.'"

As a Muslim, I often need to explain why I promote the curbing of meat consumption.

The hadith of the Prophet Muhammad caution against the pollution of rivers and seas. He also promoted planting of trees to curb deforestation and a hadith records that he kept an area a forest by saying: “Whoever cuts a tree here should plant a new tree instead.”

The Prophet was a man of the earth, totally against any form of wastage, over-consumption or cruelty. He expressed love for the earth and all its inhabitants – even the mountains. He said of the Mount Uhud near the city of Madina: “This is a mount which likes us; we also love it.”

If you study the modern meat industry, you will find out that a lot of the famine in the world is a direct result of the over-consumption of meat, because the amount of grain needed to produce 1 pound of meat, is 8 times greater.

Recycling – the amount of waste we generate that ends up in landfills is huge. Just making a conscious effort to reduce this will have a number of positive effects.

Mosques – our Musjids need to be green. But that I mean that the Musjid should take the lead in encouraging people to live more responsible lives.