Beyond Ramadan, Let’s Work Toward Saving the Planet


Pollution has appeared in the land and the sea by the hands of humankind for what they earned. He will make them taste some of what they have done, perhaps they will revert (from corruption).

Al-Ruum 30:41

If ever humankind has tasted ”some of what they have done” in terms of corruption and pollution, it would be now. The word ”pollution” has also frequently been translated ”corruption,” but the Arabic word fasad can mean either or both. ”What they earned” shows us that greed and corruption in the sense of short-term greed for long-term harm played a major part in this. Most people now know that plastics, toxic chemicals, an imbalance of nutrients, and other products of modern human development have corrupted earth’s precious resources that sustain us, without which we cannot survive. But to take effective action, even to save the planet for our children’s future, is the hard part, left to political leaders whose power depends on the very corporations who produce and thrive on the pollution-producing systems in place. The solution? Faith-based cooperative activism such as the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change. Nothing motivates people to take action like faith; cooperation between religions has been shown to create a grassroots movement that in turn can affect how corporations conduct themselves. And the beneficiary? Humanity itself. Solutions and Faith-based organizations working on them are linked below.

With strong incentives toward economic and climate justice in the Quran, Islam is uniquely positioned to be part of the solution to climate change and environmental destruction, in partnership with people of faith worldwide. Because what pollutes one part of the world affects the whole world, even Antarctica, this kind of cooperation is really the only effective way to save the future of our planet. Many such efforts are already underway, such as the Global Muslim Climate Network, Green Faith, UmmahforEarth, the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, the ISNA Green Initiative, the UN Faith for Earth Initiative whose Muslim section is called Mizan for ”balance,” or this extensive List of Faith-Based Climate Solutions Organizations.

This document shows the Quranic basis for climate justice and anti-pollution efforts.

Indonesia Leads the Way

The Indonesian government has announced it will join forces with the country’s two largest Islamic organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, using their extensive networks across the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation to encourage consumers to reduce plastic waste and reuse their plastic bags. Together the two Islamic institutions have more than 100 million followers. Indonesia has committed to cut its plastic waste by 70% by 2025.

Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), together with Greenpeace and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and Environment are cooperating on an awareness campaign during Ramadan to solve the problem of plastic waste in Indonesia.

However, Indonesia also needs to do more despite the above efforts, experts say, but like other major contributors to the climate crisis, the government is unwilling to make necessary changes that they say will negatively affect economic growth, much of which is fueled by burning coal. And they cite major developed countries not meeting their own goals in a game of ”follow the leader.” Will the country with the largest Muslim population be able to influence their government’s policies where citizens of such major polluters as the US and China could not?

The Case for Faith-Based Climate Activism

This article argues that religious leaders make ideal candidates for climate activism:

We’ve seen faith-based beliefs, as well as prejudices, change the psychology of how people think on a large scale—both for better and for worse. Why not put that influence to use to solve one of the most urgent crises we face as a civilization today?

If the 2.3 million Muslims who travel to Mecca for Hajj each year did not use plastic products during their pilgrimage, it would be equivalent to the entire population of Houston cutting out plastic use for a week.

If religious leaders around the world enacted policies to ban plastic at holy sites, major celebrations, pilgrimages, and other mass gatherings, we might stand a chance to significantly reduce the billions of tons of waste we’ve generated on Earth.

If Mecca were to up the ante and adopt a permanent plastic-free policy, the ripple-effect throughout the global Muslim community—about a quarter of the world’s population—would be astounding.

In the South Indian state of Kerala 1,058 temples have pledged to abolish plastic on temple grounds. The Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar has prevented 26.5 tons of plastic bag waste every year by switching to compostable bags.

The Hindu festival Kumbh Mela is classified as the “world’s largest gathering of humans,” famously amassing 120 million devotees in Allahabad, India, over a two-month period in 2014. If plastic bottles alone were banned during the festival, with an expected consumption of 100 million bottles at 13 grams each, an astonishing 1,300 tons of plastic would be diverted from landfills in just a two-month window.

Other Initiatives

Other efforts have come from such diverse sources as Pope Francis, the UN, and Morocco. The UN initiative for the Muslim world is discussed here:

Earlier this year, the Faith for Earth Initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a global push to bring together Islamic institutions from around the world in a bid to combat pollution, climate change and other threats to the planet. Called Mizan, Arabic for “balance”, the charter is designed to showcase Islam’s teachings on the environment and spur the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims to embrace sustainability as part of their everyday lives.

Iyad Abumoghli, the director of Mizan and the Faith for Earth Initiative, says:

Since its launch in 2017, Faith for Earth has collaborated with representatives of more than 15 religions, highlighting how these faiths can mobilize the power of their followers and address some of the gravest threats to the planet. Along with organizing major conferences, we help religious leaders develop practical steps their followers can take to fight air pollution, protect biodiversity and limit plastic pollution. We also work with religious institutions, who are often major investors, to green their assets and reduce their environmental footprint.

In Morocco, the government has pledged to get more than half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and has also spearheaded a program to retrofit all of 15,000 of their government-owned mosques with solar panels and energy efficient technology.

First eco-mosque in Europe, in Cambridge, England.

“For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation, for humans to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands, for humans to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air and its life with poisonous substances, these are sins.”

Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of 300,000,000 Orthodox Christians

Women are the missing key to tackling climate change in the Muslim World

Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, Secretary-General of the world’s largest Islamic non-governmental organisation, the Muslim World League (MWL), says:

For too long Muslim women have been relegated to domestic roles, with little say in the future of their homes and children. All legitimised by distorted readings of scripture and outdated cultural practices.

In the WEF’s 2021 Gender Gap report, an astounding 24 of the bottom 30 countries with the widest gender gaps are Muslim-majority.

This, to me, is outrageous. Not only as Secretary-General of the world’s largest Islamic NGO but as a Muslim. When I think of the environmental calamity that will inevitably befall our ummah should we fail to relinquish such destructive doctrines, it is even more troubling.

Women, after all, are critical to the region’s food supply, accounting for 50%-70% of the agricultural workforce. Their extensive knowledge of agricultural infrastructure enables them to navigate and guide environmental policymaking. In addition, Global South women have proven to make more efficient use of resources like water, food, and fuel – key components of climate action.

UN Studies on climate action have proven that women in the Global South address climate related issues by focusing on holistic community engagement which “results in greater responsiveness to citizens’ needs and often increases in cooperation across party and ethnic lines, generally resulting in sustainable outcomes.”

It’s encouraging to hear, but of course changing the minds and hearts of those with opposing opinions is not so easy. We can start with great role models such as Nana Firman, a one-woman powerhouse who is also involved with many eco-activist organizations, such as the Global Muslim Climate Network, which she co-founded, and even the White House. There are many more projects and activists working on this issue. And in fact, we need everyone to help with this survival issue — before it’s too late.

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