Our Deen is Green: Green Eating

deen is green

Being green is not a trendy choice, a temporary fashion or an eccentric hobby. Being green is our duty as Muslims, because we are Allah’s (swt) representatives on the Earth – His Khalifa – and we have a responsibility over the planet He has entrusted us with. Our Deen Islam is green, as several verses from the Quran and numerous Ahadeeth of our Prophet (sa) remind us. But what does it mean to be green? How can we make our lives more eco-friendly? And does it mean that we have to give up all comforts and become ascetics? Actually, making wise, environment-friendly choices can enrich our lives and positively affect our health. So where shall we start?

“And eat of the things which Allah has provided for you, lawful and good, and fear Allah in Whom you believe.” (Al-Maidah 5:88)

Modern food is visually appealing, relatively cheap and does not spoil easily, but is it good? Not really. A majority of convenience foods are packed with artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. Their production pollutes the environment and packaging litters our streets, lawns and forests. What is more, with so much food readily available, a lot gets wasted, while there are people, who go hungry on a daily basis. Even more, processed food is not good for our health either! It might be easy to reach for packed snacks to satisfy our hunger, but just think of the hidden consequences of your choice. Let’s eat green, first of all, for the pleasure of Allah (swt), and also for the cleaner greener planet, for less wastage, more equal food distribution and for our own health and satisfaction. Here are a few tips how:

Cook from scratch

This way you will always be sure to know what is on your plate. Cooking at home is healthier, more environment-friendly and cheaper, too! Why? First of all, cooking all your food yourself from simple ingredients means that you are avoiding most of the artificial additives found in ready-to-eat foods. You can make sure all the ingredients are good and fresh by choosing them yourself. When baking biscuits at home, you are more likely to use better quality butter, than the one used in the cookies produced commercially. Cooking at home, instead of buying food from outside, also means less packaging and less rubbish, and as we all know, in most Pakistani cities there is no proper arrangement for rubbish collection or recycling; thus, the less waste, the better. And all the wrappers and packaging come with a price, too. So if you cook at home, you will get better quality food at lower overall cost.

Do not waste

Cooking just the right amount of food each time may be a bit tricky, but there are ways to make sure nothing gets wasted. You can store your food in fridge or freezer for later or transform it into an altogether another dish, like making egg-fried rice from leftover cooked white rice. Also, you will find plenty of people in need, so if you are sure no one will fancy today’s dinner tomorrow, give it away, while it is still fresh! When eating out, it is always a better idea to place an order for your meal, instead of going for a buffet. We are more likely to waste the content of our plates, if there is too much food available. And the restaurants, which offer buffet lunches and dinners, waste huge amounts of food! For an eco-Muslim, it is a no-no! Better order what you really feel like having. Two people can usually share one large helping. If you are unable to finish, ask to have it packed for home. Leftovers can be given to the hungry on the road, too.

Do not buy ready-made snacks

When I first came to Pakistan, I was astonished by the natural beauty of its Northern territories. However, at the same time, I was very disappointed that much of this beauty was spoiled by the litter. Walking around the parks or hiking in the mountains and seeing countless wrappers scattered on the ground made me think how beautiful these places must have been, before people started producing packed snacks. Out of these musings came a resolution not to buy wrapped snacks at all or at least seriously reduce their consumption. Chips, jellies and candies are full of artificial flavours and colours, have no real nutritional value and produce huge amounts of waste. I was convinced, but what about my children? What is a trip to a park without a snack? Alhumdulillah, in Pakistan, we can actually find healthy snacks like roasted or spiced corn on the cob, popcorn, roasted chickpeas and dry fruit. Dates are great replacement for candies, and my children are already used to having them instead. They also love nibbling on raisins and figs. I am happy that I can give them something healthy, which at the same time reduces my negative impact on the environment.

Avoid anything artificial

If you look at the warnings about artificial additives in foods, you get seriously concerned. For example, artificial yellow food colour carries the message: “Excessive use of this additive may have adverse effect on children’s behaviour.” And this warning is actually printed on the packets of yellow jellies and some candies! For me, it is enough of a reason not to buy them. I looked up the most dangerous artificial additives and the ones to avoid are aspartame (artificial sweetener), which can actually cause damage to brain; monosodium glutamate also known as Chinese salt, can possibly cause depression, eye damage, and headaches. Common food colours have been found to reduce intelligence and have been banned in certain countries! Let us go back to basics and eat good natural food that Allah (swt) has blessed us with, instead of going for harmful, man-made inventions.

Pack your lunch and do not forget the water-bottle

Do you know that producing bottled water takes twice the amount of water in production? This means that for every litre of bottled water, two litres are wasted. Huge producers take over public water supplies, and plastic bottles end up on the ground, leaving a negative impact on the environment. Besides, tap water in most of our homes is actually perfectly safe to drink. If you are not convinced, take a sample of your tap water to laboratory for check-up. In Islamabad, the most comprehensive analysis is offered by Prime Minister’s National Health Complex. So instead of buying a bottle of water every time we are out, it is better to invest in a reusable water bottle and a nice lunchbox for our home-cooked food to take along on the trips! For other cities, filtered tap water can be used, which is more environment friendly and an economical choice, too.

Eat less meat

Sacrificing an animal is a serious business! Excessive consumption of meat drives industrial breeding, which for the sake of quantity often compromises the quality of meat. Chickens bred on industrial farms do not know any life outside the cage, and their meat is notorious for containing drugs. We do not really need meat every day. It is better to eat it occasionally, but to have good quality meat. It will be better for our health and better for the environment. We are told that the Prophet (sa) had meat for flavouring as today we eat pickles (Achar) – in less quantity and less frequently. But some of us cannot begin and end our day if we do not serve and consume meat at every mealtime on a daily basis.

Wasted Blessings

Wasted blessingsAllah (swt) has granted us many blessings, for which we should be thankful to Him. We show gratitude to Allah (swt) by saying ‘Alhumdulillah.’ Another way to thank Allah (swt) is to use those blessings in the most appropriate manner. This includes using them for the right purpose, in the optimum amount, and at the right time and place. We should try not to waste these blessings neither by over-using nor under-using, as Islam teaches us moderation.

Our blessings might be tangible, such as food and water, or intangible, such as our health and youth. We must take guidance from the Quran and the Sunnah on how to use them wisely. If we do so, we will benefit from these blessings in this world and in the Hereafter.

1. Water

Water is a precious blessing of Allah (swt), which we often use in excess.

“… eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not Al-Musrifun (those who waste by extravagance).” (Al-Araf 7:31)

Wudu is a great Ibadah. However, the wasting of water is not allowed even during its performance.

Once the Prophet (sa) asked a person, who was performing Wudu: “Why are you wasting water?” The person enquired: “Is there waste even in Wudu?” Rasulullah (sa) replied: “Yes indeed, (do not waste) even if you are at the bank of a river.” (Ibn Majah)

Anas (rta) has narrated: “The Prophet used to take a bath with one Sa or up to five Mudds of water and used to perform ablution with one Mudd of water.” (Bukhari)

Aisha (rta) reports: “The Prophet (sa) used one Mudd of water for Wudu and one Sa for Ghusl.” (Abu Dawood)

On the average, most people use more than six litres of water for one Wudu and about 100 litres for a shower. One Mudd is approximately 1.03 litres, and one Sa is approximately 4.1 litres. In other words, we generally use much more water for Wudu and bathing than Rasulullah (sa).

Allah (swt) has made water for sustaining and nurturing life. He has given water for all of His living creation. As Muslims, we must not spoil the water for others by polluting it, nor deprive others by using more than our share.

Tips

  • During Wudu, don’t let the tap run continuously.  Don’t talk while performing Wudu, as you’ll be wasting water while conversing. Moreover, talking of worldly matters during Wudu is inappropriate.
  • Don’t use water excessively, while washing the car or watering the lawn.
  • Mend all leaking flushes, taps, and pipes, as this can lead to a substantial saving of water.
  • Use the shower sensibly. While waiting for the hot water to come in the shower, gather the running cold water in a bucket. You can use it to clean the bathroom.
  • Do not throw garbage, chemicals, industrial waste, and other hazardous waste in any water body.

2. Food

After mentioning all the different fruits and crops that He has given to the humankind, Allah says: “… and waste not by extravagance. Verily, He likes not Al-Musrifun (those who waste by extravagance).” (Al-Anam 6:141)

On the Day of Judgement, each one of us will be asked about what we had used and misused, including the food that we consume and waste.

Tips

Smaller portions.  Don’t stack your plate. Take a little food and finish that before taking the second helping. Restaurants also promote bigger servings, which often cannot be finished in one go, especially by children. Take the leftovers home. Two people can even share one serving of an entrée or a dessert. By your own example, encourage your children to finish all the food on the plate.

Donate food.  A social worker once told about extremely poor women, who asked for bones that people left on their plates, so that they could clean them and cook food for their children. Sends shudders down your spine! There are people, who are desperate to make a meal out of throw-aways, and there are people, who are careless enough to throw palatable food in the garbage.

Give away the excess food to the poor in your area or to charity organizations. For instance, Alamgir Welfare Trust Karachi (contact numbers: 0333-315-5369, 0303-729-8052, 493-2283, 493-5824) offers to collect food from your function venue, which saves you the time and effort to arrange the delivery of food.

Recycling. Leftovers and excess food can be turned into a new dish! How about making Parathas with leftover Aloo Bhurta or Qeema! Leftover Salan can be re-cooked with rice to make a quick Biryani.

Food for Plants. Rotting leftovers, stale food, and even kitchen ‘garbage,’ such as vegetable and fruit peels, can be stashed at the back of the lawn in containers, along with leaves, some soil, and cut grass to make homemade fertilizer (or compost), which is excellent for your plants.

Feed animals. Another way to avoid wasting of food is to feed it to pets or birds. I have often observed elders crumbling old bread to feed the birds. Encourage kids to do the same.

3. Talent and Knowledge

Allah (swt) has blessed each one of us with special skills. Some are great at writing, while others at teaching; some are good at listening and giving consolation to the sick and the elderly, while others excel at cooking and sewing. However, many either are not aware of these God-given talents or do not consider them important. Some take these talents for granted, while others might be using them for purposes that are not dear to Allah (swt).

Tips

  • Do a self-appraisal by making a list of things you are skilled at, have a natural flair for or would like to learn or improve upon.
  • Utilize these talents at home and outside, according to the Quran and the Sunnah. Write meaningful articles or books, teach Tajweed or crafts, form a group to visit the sick in a hospital or cook for some elderly relatives on weekly basis.
  • Join organizations, groups or individuals, who are already involved in doing work to please Allah (swt).

4. Wealth

The Quran states: “But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift. Verily, the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shaitans, and the Shaitan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.” (Al-Isra 17:26-27)

Tips

  • Buy only when you need and not to hoard or splurge. Avoid impulse buying. Make a list of things you need and stick to it.
  • Don’t be tempted by advertisements.
  • Put a Sadaqa box or envelope in your house and encourage your family to contribute.
  • We hoard clothes, shoes, decorative items, cutlery, dinner-sets, linen… – most of these just lie in cupboards, hardly used. Keep a check on such spending as well.

5. Youth

The Prophet (sa) said: “The feet of a human being will not depart on the Day of Judgment from his standing before his Lord, until he is questioned about five things: his lifetime – how he passed it, his youth – how he used it, his wealth – where he earned it and how he spent it, and how he followed what he knew.” (Tirmidhi)

Youth is the age for high aspirations, productive work, and achievement. Its value is fully realized only when the limbs become less agile, you get tired easily, and start losing that sharp memory. Before that happens, why not strive to achieve Allah’s (swt) pleasure by leaning towards all that He has recommended and staying away from what He has forbidden?

6. Time and Health

The Prophet (sa) said: “There are two blessings, which many people lose. (They are) health and free time for doing good.” (Bukhari)

Each moment passes, never to return. Are we doing all we can to make the most of it or are we busy in the matters, which will have scant or no value in the Hereafter? We might think slouching in front of the TV or gossiping over the phone is a good way to pass our free time. Of course, we need to relax, catch a nap, and call up friends. Nevertheless, some of our free time can be devoted on a regular basis to gaining or spreading knowledge, doing Nafl Ibadah or listening to Islamic lectures.

Tips

  • We can make a to-do list of our daily activities, set the priorities, and try our best to finish these tasks.
  • We can analyze our daily, weekly, and monthly achievements. This can slowly become a habit, which will save a lot of misappropriated time and energy, Insha’ Allah.
  • Our health is a blessing, without which we would not be able to enjoy any of the other blessings. When we are in good health, why waste it on frivolous acts, such as non-stop shopping sprees or hours in the beauty salon?

Tips

  • Use the perfect vision to read the Quran, Tafseer, and books of Hadeeth.
  • Use the sharp hearing to listen to the cries of the needy.
  • Use the agile limbs to go to the Masjid for Salah in Jamat and run errands for relatives and community.

In conclusion, let us take inspiration from these words of the Prophet (sa): “Allah will give shade to seven on the Day, when there will be no shade but His. (These seven persons are) (1) a just ruler, (2) a youth, who has been brought up in the worship of Allah (swt)  (i.e., worships Allah (swt) sincerely from childhood), (3) a man, whose heart is attached to the mosques (i.e., to pray the compulsory prayers in the mosque in congregation), (4) two persons, who love each other only for Allah’s (swt) sake and they meet and part in Allah’s (swt) cause only, (5) a man, who refuses the call of a charming woman of noble birth for illicit intercourse with her and says: ‘I am afraid of Allah (swt),’ (6) a man who gives charitable gifts so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given (i.e., nobody knows, how much he has given in charity), and (7) a person, who remembers Allah (swt) in seclusion and his eyes are then flooded with tears.”  (Bukhari)

Preventing Wastage at Home

Vol 2 -Issue 4 Preventing Wastage at Home

Reduce

  • Don’t waste electricity by leaving unnecessary lights and other electrical appliances on.
  • Try to utilize daylight as much as possible during the daytime and do not keep curtains closed, so that you have to switch on lights.
  • In summer nights, if you have to keep the air conditioner running, try to sleep in one room to cut down on electricity consumption.
  • If you plan to buy an air conditioner for the next summer, go for split AC because it consumes less electricity as compared to its counterparts, i.e., window AC.
  • Use energy saver bulbs to reduce energy consumption.
  • When using the e-mail, stop junk mail and faxes through the mailing preference service to save electricity, paper and your time.
  • Cancel delivery of unwanted newspapers, donate old magazines to libraries and doctor’s waiting rooms.
  • Use your own cloth shopping bags, when visiting the supermarket, Sunday Bazar, etc.
  • Grow your own vegetables. Many varieties can be grown in small gardens.
  • Save up washing water for your garden or plant pots.
  • Don’t throw away food. Feed to a poor. Crumbs and leftovers can also be given to pets or animals.

 

Reuse

  • Reuse scrap paper for writing notes, etc.
  • Reuse envelopes – stick labels over the address.
  • Donate old computer and audio-visual equipment to community groups or schools.
  • Buy rechargeable items instead of disposable ones e.g. batteries and cameras.
  • Take old clothes and books to charity shops or donate them to the poor.
  • Reuse aluminum foil and cling film to cover food.

Recycle

  • Some retailers take back old electrical items, when delivering a new one.
  • Local charity shops, schools, and community groups can sometimes use unwanted furniture.
  • Set your printer to print paper double sided.
  • Old greeting cards or paper cartons of tea, biscuits, etc., can be cut up in thin strips to light stove instead of using match sticks for each burner.
  • Give away old newspapers to the Raddi Wala for recycling.
  • Reuse fabric cuttings left over from stitched materials for stuffing cushions and pillows.

Some organizations in Karachi that accept donated household items for re-use:

Alamgir Trust

Edhi Trust