A traditional iftar, or fast-breaking, meal in Iran. Photo by Hamed Saber via Flickr.
To the casual observer, Ramadan time in Turkey means hearing drums echoing through the streets before dawn, seeing especially tasty flat bread and the light, milky dessert güllaç advertised everywhere, and experiencing a somewhat subdued and slower pace of life -- except during the pre-iftar rush, when those observing the holiday race home for their fast-breaking feast.
But for the millions worldwide who spend Islam's holiest month of the year abstaining from food and drink between sunrise and sunset, Ramadan is a time to discipline the body and mind, focus on faith, and make a fresh start -- goals that a growing number of Muslims are tying to life changes that are "green" in more ways than one."Ramadan is the month where you change your lifestyle, so it makes a lot of sense to use the month to change our behavior in terms of consumption, environmental consciousness, and stewardship," says Zaher Sahloul, the chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago and the president of the eco-friendly Bridgeview Mosque Foundation, which has installed a solar hot-water system and put in carpeting made of recycled materials.
Becoming Better Environmental Stewards
The suburban Chicago paper the Daily Herald reports that the council, which represents 50 area mosques with 400,000 members, has launched a "green Ramadan" initiative to encourage Muslims to use the holiday as a time to reduce their carbon footprints and become better environmental stewards by, for example, eating more local, organic food and less red meat; drinking tap water instead of bottled; planting a vegetable garden; recycling at home and promoting recycling at their mosques; carpooling to prayers, walking and using public transportation more often; and investing in clean energy.
"We want them to go beyond the fasting, go beyond just looking at Ramadan as something that is for Muslims and to really look at the broader implications of Muslim responsibilities toward humanity," says Junaid Afeef, the council's executive director.
Five mosques in the Chicago area have reportedly signed on to the idea, agreeing to use Ramadan events to educate people about environmental issues, to make increasingly lavish iftar meals simpler and more healthy, and to set up environmental committees that will continue with eco-friendly efforts throughout the year.
Encouraging Healthy Eating in Jordan
This isn't an only-in-America trend, either. In Jordan, the government is subsidizing local farmers and low-cost vegetable markets for Ramadan to encourage healthy eating, reports Green Prophet, which also tipped us off to the Chicago-area program.
An English-language newspaper serving the Persian Gulf published an editorial this week calling for green, the color of Islam, to also "be the color of Ramadan," citing verses of the Koran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad that seem to call for environmental protection ("...do not act corruptly, making mischief on the earth"), maintaining ecological balance, even living a low-impact life ("We will register 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").
Creating a Global Green Ramadan Movement
There's also a Facebook-based Green Ramadan movement seeking "to bring people from all over the world together, regardless of their faith, nationality or color, for one month every year, to care about our environment, the earth, animals and our health, practice positive and healthy habits, to make a positive impact and make a difference."
In Turkey, the organic-food company Atlas Ekolojik, which makes regular deliveries of organic fruits and vegetables on Saturdays and Wednesdays, is expanding its home-delivery service to include a special "Organic Ramadan Box" of foodstuffs used in traditional iftar and suhur (pre-dawn) meals. The boxes include certified-organic olive oil, olives, dried fruit, flour, broad beans, and other products for those "wanting to sweeten Ramadan pleasures with organic tastes."
More about Islam and the environment:
A Young Muslim Diver's Passion for the Sea (Video)
British Charity Launches Climate Change Green Guide for Muslims
Green Your Mosque, Learn Imams in Israel
Evangelical and Muslim Youth Find Common Ground On Earth Day