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Wednesday, 20 April 2022 09:00

Caring for the environment during Ramadan and beyond

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Caring for the environment during Ramadan and beyond -Pic credit to greeniftar.com

The environment is currently in a dire situation. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report published on Feb 28, this year, highlighted that humanity might witness further environmental catastrophes in the coming decades as the world is expected to hit the global warming tipping point of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In other words, the world is already in a state of planetary emergency.

In the backdrop of these developments, the fasting month once again invites Muslims to not only rejuvenate their spiritual commitment toward God in terms of fasting and praying, but also enjoins them to improve their interaction with others, including the environment.

Renowned Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in his seminal work entitled Riayah al-Biah fi Shariah al-Islam (Preservation of the environment from the Shariah perspective), highlights the cardinal Islamic adage of "al-Din Muamalah" which roughly means "religion is (primarily concerned with) the treatment of others".

Although the phrase has not referred to a specific verse of the Quran or a saying of Prophet Muhammad, its spirit could be identified in many Islamic injunctions.

The hadith clearly conveys the message that merely fulfilling ritualistic obligations would not be sufficient if one is not duly observant of maintaining decent interaction with others.

Interestingly, al-Qaradawi also noted that the same applies to human interactions with nature and its elements.

Preservation of nature in all of its forms, including greening the earth by planting trees, nurturing and developing lands and prudent use of natural resources should be recognised as acts that lead a person closer to God.

Without due observance of these instructions, al-Qaradawi argues, the quality of their ritualistic deeds would remain questionable.

Reflecting on the purpose of these instructions, it should be noted with concern that during Ramadan, 10,000 tonnes of food is wasted on a daily basis.

It is estimated that around 15 to 25 per cent of all food purchased or prepared during Ramadan finds its way to the garbage bin.

This adds to the volume of food wasted every day, which comprises one-third of the overall amount of food produced daily.

Unfortunately, such a phenomenon takes place in spite of the stress on our food supply chains that has led to price hikes of food items such as chicken, vegetables and wheat flour.

While mountains of this food waste might rot away in landfills where they release methane gases and contribute to global warming, single-use plastic waste from food wrappers also exacerbate the environmental problem.

Internationally, some movements have started promoting "Green Iftar" campaigns.

Their primary aim is to educate Muslim communities in opting for sustainable and effectivebreaking-of-fast choices that are in line with Islamic ethics.

This includes using local or seasonal ingredients in food preparation in order to reduce carbon emission, judicious water usage, preparing simple meals with fewer animal products, avoiding unnecessary plastic bags or packaging by bringing one's own bag while buying meals for iftar, and making early arrangement to donate extra iftar food, especially to those in need.

Local governments and religious authorities in Malaysia may need to consider the possibility of adopting some of these instructions into policy guidelines for mosques, hotels and institutions that organise iftar throughout Ramadan.

It is critical to ensure that the spiritual month of Ramadan does not exacerbate the dire environmental crisis the world is currently facing.

The writer is acting deputy CEO, International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.

Published in: The New Straits Times, Monday 18 April 2022

Source : https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2022/04/789564/caring-environment-during-ramadan-and-beyond

In the past, fasting was attributed to human spiritual belief in worshiping God for meditation reasons. It has been practised for thousands of years in serving various purposes of life. It is still a practice today. Generally, the practitioners are subjected to certain dietary procedure which trains them to be better disciplined to gain better self-control.

Fasting to Muslims is a practice of abstaining from food and drinks, sexual contact, arguments and unkind language or acts from dawn to sunset. It is the fourth pillar of Islam.