Generosity and hospitality are important characteristics of Islamic culture, regardless of region. However, they can be interpreted in different ways. Sometimes, a good intention of kindness can nevertheless be lost in wasteful gifts.
Don’t leave the water running while you make Wudhu
It only takes a quick second to turn off the faucet between strokes. Think of the impact if millions of Muslims used one cup’s worth of water less. We all know that less than 1 percent of the world’s water supply is fresh, and even less than that is readily available. If millions of Muslims reduce their water consumption for Wudhu 3-5 times a day, the impact is sure to be significant!
Fast Mondays and Thursdays
You’ve already heard that it can earn you blessings to fast on these days. But it can also help reach out to our hungrier brothers and sisters and lower food prices. Just think if 10 percent of the population in developed countries fasted two of every seven days, consistently. Not convinced of that our fasting will significantly help alleviate the hunger and hardship of others? Try donating the money you would spend on your own food to world food organizations instead. If a minimum of 10 percent of the population practiced, this could add up to millions of dollars each year.
Ditch the artificial lights for Salat
When you can, try keeping the artificial lights off when you pray on your own. Use whatever natural light you can instead: use moonlight or (beeswax) candles. Not only are you reducing electricity use but are also enhancing your atmosphere with a soft light that reminds you of the intimacy that exists between Allah and His worshiper. Praying outside directly on the grass also prevents the need for artificial lights and gives you a direct connection with the nature that Allah keeps commanding us to contemplate in the Qur’an, and the earth from which we were created.
Support Muslim businesses for craftsmanship you can see
The next time you’re visiting relatives oversees (or wherever), purchase clothes and items that you can see being made. Not only are you supporting a craftsman, you can be sure you are NOT supporting sweatshop labor. Have your clothes sewn, jewelry custom-made, Attar prepared, etc.
Reduce your meat consumption
Relax, I didn’t say not to eat it at all! But reducing meat consumption has huge consequences for global land use, climate change, and indigenous communities who are food insecure. Huge acres of land (and food) are needed to keep up with world meat demand, which means more soil erosion, more methane, and less food available to humans. Even if you switch to fish from red meat, you should keep in mind that over-fishing is depleting fish supplies worldwide. So try the veggie wrap the next time you go to Roma’s; it’s not that bad, I promise.
“Do not make your stomach the graveyard of animals,” is a common hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny).
(Re-)connect with your source of food
The Qur’an asks repeatedly if we stop and ponder the miracle of growth and creation and the blessing of rain that is necessary for crops to grow. Try to connect with a local community garden, farm, or orchard so that you can see where your food is coming from: get on your hands and knees to gather the blueberries, reach up high for the apples and cherries, blow off the dirt, and shuck the corn yourself! This is especially important once you have children: they can see that food is grown from the land, not the sterile packages of the grocery store display counters. Harvesting the plants from the earth humbles us and gives us a more realistic and aware appreciation for our source of nutrition and nourishment (as well as what it takes for all the elements to come together for the food to grow).
Generosity and hospitality are important characteristics of Islamic culture, regardless of region. However, they can be interpreted in different ways. Sometimes, a good intention of kindness can nevertheless be lost in wasteful gifts. Next time you want to give a gift, consider what your friend actually needs. If what your female friend really needs is help setting up for a big party, offer cooking help instead of a bath set. If what your male friend really needs is Qur’an lessons, offer him tutoring lessons instead of a flashy gadget. Does the sick friend really need a teddy bear, or your grandmother’s killer soup recipe made by your own hands? Give of your time and experience before you have to turn to your wallet. A bottle of lotion or a new tool never strengthened a community the same way good companionship did! Check out Alternative Gift Registry – we tried it for my wedding and received some of the best gifts, including hand-made pottery by a friend’s mother and excellent cookbooks!
This article originally appeared on DC Green Muslims, a network of Muslims in the District of Columbia (and surrounding areas) working proactively to help our communities understand and implement sustainable and eco-conscious ways of living while relating it to our faith and a holistic world-view.