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For the past ten years, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin has been a passionate voice for transforming our pollution based way of life to one that prioritises our planet and its people. His book Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet is a voice for educating us on greening our lives and faith, and here, Ibrahim explains how we can do that.
The book “Green Deen” has a spiritual and ethical form of environmentalism rooted from the Qur’an. Deen is an Arabic word that means a religion, lifestyle or path. So Christianity is a deenand Buddhism is a deen and atheism is a deen. There are many deens. In the English speaking Muslim communities it has become a slang term in our speech. The title ‘Green Deen’ follows this meaning by linking the Muslim lifestyle with environmental responsibilities. “It has a cool ring to it,” says Ibrahim.
Journalist Justin Vogt from One Earth recently interviewed Ibrahim where the eco-Muslim talked about how his Brooklyn upbringing during the ’80s affected his views. He explained, “during my senior year of college, I started to look at the environment and over-consumption and [targeted] corporate abuse as the problem. Both capitalism and socialism define your value as a human being on what you can make or create or destroy or waste or consume.” From a young age Ibrahim connected his faith to his passion for reducing consumption, “the beauty of Islam is that it provides a framework [as] an antidote to that. I would argue that Islam shares this perspective with Christianity, Judaism and other great faiths. If I claim to love God, then I should all love His creations.”
After graduating, Ibrahim worked as an Outward Bound instructor, training young people to understand their relationship with the planet and to leave the place better than they found it. He continued a string of eco-related professions including working for a group called the Active Element Foundation in New York City. It was here that Ibrahim was to meet Van Jones (who later became an adviser to President Barack Obama on green jobs).
Ibrahim currently works on Mayor Bloomberg’s sustainability agenda, which is called PlaNYC and is his vision for how people can green New York City. PlaNYC covers land use, housing, transportation, energy; a whole multitude of things. Meetings and idea-sharing is part of the development, “at (one meeting) we met with a group of faith leaders and talked about water,” said Ibrhaim. “All faith traditions use water in some way: for Muslims, it’s for wudhu, the ablutions we make before praying. So maintaining our water system is important for these communities.”
When asked about how Islam works in harmony with environmentalism, Ibrahim focused on a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that “the earth is a mosque”. In this perspective, everything on the planet is sacred. Islam also lays out a framework to explain why human beings can have a negative effect on the environment. “There’s a passage in the Qur’an that says: ‘Corruption has appeared on the land and in the sea because of what the hands of humans have wrought. This is in order that [Allah] give them a taste of the consequences of their misdeeds that perhaps they will return to the path of right guidance’.” (Qur’an, 30:41).
So how will his book help in this universal hope? “[Green Deen] was designed to be the first step in this conversation, and my hope is that much more qualified scholars will join in and take this further. To see if we can be a force for good – an example to ourselves first and foremost.”
The question that Ibrahim puts forward to all people and particularly those who have faith is how do we actively live in that framework?