We are blessed to welcome Ramadan again this year. It is a time for fasting, spiritual fulfillment, emotional rebalancing, mental reflection and physical purification.
Ramadan is the ideal time for balancing the spirit, the mind and the body. Fasting is a universal exercise of patience, self-control and altruism, but it is only one among many important aspects of Ramadan. Traditionally, Muslims consider Ramadan the ultimate month of charity, prayer, Quran, family, community and often very rich cuisine.
Our lives are becoming more complex and our challenges are numerous. Climate changes, global warming, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, poverty, hunger, war and global diseases are realities of our modern lives. These challenges are becoming beyond the reach of international institutions and national governments. It is about time to reconsider our approach, have a Ramadan paradigm shift and think of our roles as individuals and communities of faith in tackling these global problems. Muslims believe that man is the custodian of the earth:
"Now, behold! Your Lord said to the angels: I am placing upon the earth a human successor to steward it" (Quran 2:30).
Men and women are accountable to their Lord on the Day of Judgment for what they have done during their lifetime to others and to the creation and for the legacy they have left after their death.
"We will record "in the book what they have done and what footprints they have left, and everything we have accounted for in great details in a detailed book" (Quran 36:12)
Every person will leave an ecological and a spiritual footprint. Your ecological footprint is the total amount of carbon dioxide that you produce in life by using energy, especially fossil fuel, through transportation, use of electricity, consumption of certain food that require transportation and industrial fertilizers, waste and pollution. As Americans, our average ecological footprint is five to ten times that of a person living in other areas in the developing world. We use fasting in Ramadan to cap our eating, our drinking and our impulses, so why do we not use it to shrink our ecological footprint?
Why don't we advance the concept of the Muslim footprint and educate our community to work collectively to shrink it?
Ramadan can be transformed to be a truly green month, and Muslims, with all people of faith, can live up to their responsibility to be the true stewards on earth and use Ramadan to help us reach that goal:
Eat less, not more: Food is becoming scarcer and more expensive because of the shrinking size of agricultural land. Our obesity epidemic dwarfs the much-publicized "swine flu." More than 60 percent of our adults and one third of our children are overweight. We should utilize the fasting in Ramadan to cut down on our total consumption of food and drink, and to change our dietary habits. So instead of overeating, eat one regular meal in iftar and one small meal in the predawn snack, suhoor. Select balanced food with lower calorie intake and avoid too many sweets. If you cut your total daily calorie consumption by 500 calories, you should lose four pounds by the end of the month.
Eat true Halal: There is a huge growth in the demand for Halal food. We now need to advance toconcepts like Green Halal and Organic Halal as the real meaning of Halal is much more than slaughtering certain animals in certain ways and avoiding pork products and alcohol. It should mean eating in moderation foods that are grown locally, have minimal impact on carbon emission, and selecting meats that are obtained from "Halal" animals that are fed organically and treated humanely throughout their lives.
Eat a balanced diet: Fruit and vegetables should make up at least one third of the food you eat every day. Eat at least five portions of different, fresh, locally grown and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Eat less fat, meat and less simple carbohydrates and sweets.
Eat local: Food that is grown locally produces less carbon by curbing energy use related to transportation and refrigeration.
Eat less beef and cheese: Cows belch methane gas that is a strong contributor to the greenhouse effect as it traps 25 times more of the sun's heat than carbon dioxide does and is responsible for one third of the current greenhouse effect causing the global warming. Our daily diet should alternate between vegetarian dishes, chicken, seafood, lamb and beef.
Drink tap water: There is no advantage of bottled water over tap water and too many plastic bottles are not good for the environment. Drink six to eight glasses of water between iftar and suhoor.
Grow your food: Planting a vegetable garden is an inexpensive way to obtain fresh, pesticide-free food that has not traveled hundreds of miles to reach your plate.
Educate yourself about climate change and global warming and our role to save our planet.
Calculate your household ecological footprint and find ways to reduce it by 25 percent this Ramadan. Take out a few minutes to visit carbonfootprint.com and http://www.earthday.net/
Recycle and promote recycling in your masjid: Recycling conserves our natural resources, saves energy, protects our health and the environment, reduces the use of landfills and incinerators and saves money.
Walk more: Use public transportation, carpool and think of getting a hybrid or electric car instead of your SUV.
Use clean energy: Invest in solar panels , LED for lighting, and efficient appliances in your homes and masjids.
Form an "Green" committee in your masjid: Join environmental organizations like Faith in Place (http://www.faithinplace.org/).
Lobby your local and national representatives to support environmentally friendly legislation. Spend a few minutes every week to call your representative to tell him/her that you are American Muslim fasting to save the earth and you expect them to do their part to save our planet.
Building on Earth Day, we should advocate to designate Ramadan to be the green month every year where all individuals, congregations and communities work to reduce their footprints and save our planet? With the grace of God, Illinois General Assembly passed this year following the Illinois Muslim Action Day collective advocacy by Illinois's Muslims resolution recognizing "the month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, as a Green Month in the State of Illinois in order to promote awareness among faith communities about environmental issues, the reduction of carbon production, and the reduction of wasted water" http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/97/HR/09700HR0402.htm
It is not enough anymore to think of Ramadan as a month of abstaining from food and drink for a part of the day and binge eat the rest of the day. Ramadan is a once a year opportunity to tackle global issues like overconsumption, materialism, poverty, hunger, wars and yes, global warming.
Have a blessed Green Ramadan and smaller Carbon footprint!