Halal Food, Farm, and Family
Formerly, if I ever set a vegetarian entrée as our main course, I’d get a lot of grief from my tribe. We have always had the blessing of being able to afford halal meat and poultry. And with being somewhat landlocked, relative to the oceans, by Chicago, and concerned about pollution, I prepare limited amounts of wild caught fish and seafood. However, my nest is nearly empty now and my last residing child often eats out, so my husband has become more open-minded about choosing lighter fare.
Additionally, recent years’ marketing campaigns have pushed consuming protein into consumers’ minds. We’ve convinced ourselves that with more protein, we would magically transform into muscle abundant, toned, and tanned models of physical perfection. Not. True. Overconsumption seems to promote aging and cancers, and through reading Dr. Steven R. Gundry’s book, The Plant Paradox, that I only require a mere 21 grams of protein on average per day. That may be found in a can of sardines, not at each meal.
I’d first learned of Dr. Gundry and his position on lectins through a YouTube video, and his work is also mentioned by Dr. Mercola. Lectins are large proteins (gluten is one of them) which are described by him as “sticky” in that they bind with other sugars, acids, viruses, and fungi, and may create inflammation and weight gain. I’ll admit that I’m having some aches indicative of leaky gut, and although avoiding lectins entails many restrictions initially in food choices, at least his protocol is temporary. Phase 1 is merely three days to jump-start a break from lectins, and the science seems to back it up. He also wrote of things that resonated with my own attitudes about eating foods in season and ideally local.
Did you know that many over the counter painkillers destroy the gut lining and the microbiome? Fortunately, I try hard to avoid any medication, unless the suffering warrants it. At first, the Plant Paradox Protocol seemed very restrictive, but I’d learned which foods are high in lectins and decided that although I tend to eat many of them regularly, I could listen to my body to determine if it was able to take the risk. Apparently, cooking lectin-foods greatly reduces the impact of them, so I can still enjoy eating legumes and vegetables with lectins weakened through cooking. There is a wealth of information in his book, but let it suffice that it makes sense to me.
Also, I realized that in the autumn we tend to carb-load; and in the winter, we should deplete these extra fat stores. Like bears, when the first dreary, cloudy, cold weather struck, I felt like hibernating and I told my family to wake me in April. Yes, I just want to crawl under a heavy, warm comforter-unless escaping to California or Arizona-until spring.
Of course, I can’t do that because there is much work to do; I work every day and rarely take time off. Be it something for pay, or something to help friends, family, organizations I volunteer to assist, or my house (old houses need work!), I always have things to do. Last week though was an adventure to visit an Organic Valley coop member’s dairy farm in Reedsburg, Wisconsin with my friend Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen. Organic Valley was so kind to put us up for the night in the hilly terrain of La Farge, Wisconsin at the Qi House, designed by local legend Theresa Marquez, and she has thought of every detail. Even the kitchen chairs had seat cushions with bees embroidered on them! Theresa is a leading activist in the organic movement and is committed to connecting research to our health. That was what we’d talked extensively about in a previous visit for which she was so generous to share her time and insights.
I’ve been blessed to have lived many lives, in a sense, because I have lived in urban Chicago as a young child, was raised in an affluent suburb of Chicago, moved to the city’s Gold Coast after earning my bachelor’s degree, lived in the Middle East at one point, and returned to suburban living while raising children, working full-time, and earning a graduate degree, but I’ve longed to experience what life on a rural farm would be like—at least for a while. I wish to have spent more time, but Amy and Marques of Jumping Jersey Dairy Farm were inspiring to me.
They have both Holstein and Jersey cows, but in reading Dr. Gundry’s book and from other sources, I have learned that although Holstein cows offer the most (7-8 gallons) milk per day, and are preferred by dairy farmers for this reason, they have the A-1 casein protein that seems related to allergic symptoms in people who have such sensitivities. I have noticed some joint pain at times when I’ve had dairy products, but perhaps foolishly still indulge in them. Jersey cows, the brown ones whose origins are from southern Europe, tend to have A-2. But don’t be fooled because some brown cows may not be pure bred and have both A-1 and A-2 genes. Remember biology class genetics? A-2, A-2 is what these farmers are testing for and would like to raise because they know the science.
In our discussions, we also realized that meat from their organic, grass-fed cattle could easily be certified Halal with a bit of guidance.
I’m looking forward to returning to their area for a conference early next year, and hope to acquire more knowledge and insights on organic farming and farming culture. Apparently, the Sociology major I was in my youth is still studying subcultures.
And now, time to cook broccoli and sautéed onions.
Plenty of olive oil, halal meat and poultry, gentle exercise, sleep, and I try to use organic produce. Joy of joys! I’m back from my annual physical with great news that my C-reactive protein (CRP), which indicates systemic inflammation, is the lowest the doctor had ever seen!
These results are a gift of good genes, but I also attribute them to my lifestyle. As I am self-employed, I have the ability to design my day. Not many people enjoy that luxury, but it certainly can be done with planning. I feel like Superwoman and am charged up!
Another mainstay of my habits is to indulge in quality organic coffee, served black, and I typically keep a filtered water bottle close by. And I share this with you so that you can check your own habits because although the body can compensate for some assaults in dietary choices, it is best not to drive it toward too much acidity. Now that the autumn clouds are rolling in and we are less likely to process vitamin D from sunshine, our immunity typically pulls back. Sweets, processed junk, and too much food take a heavier toll.
Let’s face it, life gets more stressful in these months too, but I have effectively mitigated that with prayer and reading Qur’an. Also, it is important to like what you do, for how you spend your days is how you spend your life. Make it grand! Learn, love, share, and remember the special people in your life.
Yes, I started with “So.” Every day, for weeks now, I’ve been itching to write with funny thoughts, literary lines, and odd ramblings flowing from my brain. I’m the only one who gets to enjoy them.
I’ve struggled to settle on a single topic, and the possibilities range from humorous, reminiscent poetic, didactic, and even exasperated vents. Yet, I rarely sit with nothing to do, as I manage my household of 6, each day slips by without a word etched to my blog.
Want to Be Part of an Experiment? –in a few days I’ll tell you why
While starting my day with the usual morning bathroom routine (ahem), I contrived a strategy for keeping the writing skills juiced, as well as a potential method for those who think they can’t write or have writer’s block. Instead of formally composing, why not simply journal my odd observations and mental tangents to see what would be the result…?
…Looking at my face in the mirror, why do I have creases on both brow bones? I’m a side-sleeper, but should it really take 15 minutes to dissipate that evidence?!
…Why do I have grown children who leave their clothes, even after I remind them countless times, for a week on our bathroom floor (sigh)!?
…Breakfast is my favorite meal. Today, we have tea, bread, olive oil with zaatar (Greek oregano, sesame seeds, sumac), scrambled eggs, and fried sheep cheese from Palestine, which I share with my husband, Riad. Over breakfast, we review happenings on the stock market, the 60-some degree weather this morning, the fact that one of our adult children is leaving for college in one week, and the bank account. Oh, and the prospects of going to a water park, as Riad has never been initiated.
Over a robust cup of freshly ground coffee while enjoying my view from the patio, I calculate and negotiate the options for my schedule. Among them are the following:
Capture the chance for a morning bike ride
Grocery shop because it must be done today
Tackle the long “to do” list for developing my professional work
Visit a relative whose mother came recently and deliver to her my Eid gift
Pack a box of books from my basement and run them to the Book Rescue
As a former assistant principal, I’m trained to prioritize, constantly reevaluate and prioritize again. However, first I’ll choose to read two pages from Qur’an. It’s better than vitamins, and keeps my Arabic skills intact.
Decided. Pack a box of books, drive in a loop to the next town to drop off, after a bank deposit, and pick up groceries at 3 stores en route before returning home. I have an appointment with my Dad at a wound clinic in 2 hours. The race is on!
…On 2nd thought, the van is still a mess from the Eid weekend camping trip and needs a wash and vacuum. With Dad about 40 minutes away, who am I kidding?! Pack books, jump in van and plan to shop after Dad’s appointment.
While power washing the van to blast off the sticky residue of blackberries—or was it raccoon scat with blackberries?—I recollected the monumental blackberry tree we had in our village in the occupied West Bank. One of the nephews cleared it in order to build some market stalls on the property, which enraged the family, but that led my mind (incredible what thoughts come while washing your car for 3 minutes) to a little flashback.
I had baby #3 in Jerusalem and lived with my sister-in-law and my other two youngsters in the West Bank, while my husband went to explore business prospects in Saudi Arabia, staying with his brother for 6 months. One night, Israeli soldiers came banging on our porch door wanting to take a population survey, a sort of census. In our nighties, we covered in prayer dresses and felt vulnerable because they had rifles, but my sister-in-law stayed calm. She said that the “man of the house” was on a business trip. There was tension in the air. Even the soldier interviewing us seemed a bit uptight. Just then, my 4 year old daughter came to the door, sleepy-eyed; I spoke to her in English to go back inside the house.
The soldier asked in Arabic, “Do you have a car?” At that, my dearly clever sister-in-law covered her mouth with the hem of her headcovering and giggled, Wallah ciara, walla tiara!” (Not a car, not an airplane!). The rhyme gave ease to the situation and the soldier smiled and ended his intrusion, but the realization of potential alternative outcomes stayed with me.
Done with the bank; going to Dad’s– a 30 minute trip from here. The books are in the back of the van. I’m not planning on bringing the wheel chair. He uses a walker now, but we may opt to dose him with a bit of hydrocodone after debriding his heel and Achilles wounds. Today marks 3 months since the tumbling incident that started this.
Waiting at the Wound Clinic for the doctor, Dad came early and is ahead of schedule. After this, he wants to shop for produce; I may shoot two birds with one stone and do some of my own errands this way! His spirits are good and he said that sometimes he forgets his walker when moving about the kitchen. I can tell how active he’s been by how many sticky spots I clean off the floor each visit. Previously, I had to attend to change his bandages each day, except when his home health care nurse would come. Now, my sisters can also schedule in time using a Google Doc we share for that purpose.
The Wound Clinic doctor and main nurse are Irish-American; Dad chose to don his kelly green St. Pat’s sweatshirt. Tick Tock…even though we came twenty minutes early for our 1:00 p.m. appointment, it is 1:05…thinking of all the other things I could be doing. Surprisingly, Dad is not cantankerous yet at the delay. Perhaps he is listening to the court update on Jesse Jackson, Jr. and wife, or the chit chat between an elderly Chinese lady and her attending son, in Chinese. The world has changed a lot since he was a boy in Brighton Park, a neighborhood in Chicago.
1:10 Dad is funny. We have a new nurse today, Elizabeth, who is not Irish. He asked about Kelly, the Irish one, and mentions that he wore his sweatshirt just for her. Kelly is at lunch and may not see him today. For the millionth time over 3 months, he is asked about if he has pain, on a scale of 1-10… He looks at me and rolls his eyes at this point.
Alright, wound doc was optimistic and cited progress. That is only in millimeters, but still positive. He pulled the perimeter scabbing, hurting Dad. Better him than me doing it. Wound dressed and ready to go grocery shopping with hopes to get him back on the golf course by the end of September, if even only on the practice putting green. I had my own first foray of the year on Monday; 9 holes and wishing for more, but the short game killed me. Practice…
2:00 We are on the road again toward the produce market.
3:10 I’m running a tune-up on Dad’s computer because he complained that it was horribly slow. While waiting, knowing he has eaten nothing but a banana, coffee, and orange juice all day, I offer to make him lunch. What does he choose? Corn! “Where’s the wound healing, body building protein in that?” I ask him. We agreed he add some Greek yogurt to that order. Sugar/carb addiction runs in my genes, but fortunately we have no diabetes.
Two of my kids and a friend send texts to me about dinner, my whereabouts, and evening plans. I’d check in with Riad, but assume he is busy now.
Decide to email my siblings about Dad’s doctor visit. We will go to every other day bandaging since his drainage is decreasing. Computer is still in tune-up mode.
3:45 Done! Need to run to buy my Halal chicken and specialty items from the Mediterranean Market close to home and get cooking. Checked in with Riad; business was good today. Whew!
Remembering the books in the back of the van and the folding chairs we packed to see Perseid meteorites a couple days ago by our relatives in the boondocks, exurbs of Chicago.
4:05 Very sleepy, I have 2 more miles till the next tollway exit.
Yay! The Book Rescue was still open to take my donation. Next, I’m going to the health food store to buy some Redmond (UT) salt and coconut oil, then to the Mediterranean Market.
Upon exiting the health food store, I saw a man I recognized as a parent from my former school. “Assalamu alaikum,” he greeted me kindly. It’s nice to see people in my town that recognize each other. We have a rather large population of Muslims of diverse backgrounds. This man I recalled worked at McDonald’s headquarters nearby.
If you’ve been following this blog, you might ask, “What happened to California?” Well, we would still love to relocate, but the reality is that 3 kids in college and their still unstable, dependent statuses have us pigeonholed here awhile. We also have a teenager who has decent friends, and is still at an impressionable age. It is sensible to keep that support for him. Truth be known, there are many positive aspects to living near Chicago, but I do take exception to the weather, especially the long cold season that inhibits our love of doing things outdoors. For now, if we can afford to escape a few times during that long spell, I would be satisfied. However, I do hold visions of relocating in the future when parental obligations lighten.
Also, this past Ramadan, a segment of my community started a new mosque. Lacking a building for worship though, they contracted the local high school gym during the month long evening Taraweeh prayers and hired a wonderful reciter (Qari) of the Qur’an. There, I saw many former students and teachers that just made me feel wonderful to be in their company. Even a former teacher is First Violin of the DuPage Symphony Orchestra; she was so kind to offer me tickets to their October Tchaikovsy concert. I have invited my nephew, a young cellist, to join me, and I am so much looking forward to that!
At the Mediterranean Market, I saw another lady who referred me to her brother-in-law in Ohio. He was my expert consultant on an article I wrote about keeping fit in Ramadan last year. I noticed through Facebook that he has been having some health issues requiring surgeries, so we had a chance to catch up and I learned more details on his struggles.
I thought about squeezing in a bike ride as I drove home, but Riad greeted me and did not feel like biking. Quickly, I pray the last few minutes possible for Thuhr, the mid-day prayer, and also catch the starting time for Asr, the mid-afternoon prayer. Finding the best way to acquire good habits is to tag on to existing habits, I do 15 push-ups and 30 squats for exercise. We have yet to return to the gym schedule after Ramadan.
Throw the folding chairs from the van into the garage and replace 3 broken slabs of jalousie glass panes before making dinner.
5:00 Time to Cook!
Cooking time usually is when my kids know that they can get my ear when I’m in the kitchen. I really don’t love cooking, to tell the truth, but sometimes I can get into it. During Ramadan, it was not unusual to be stuck there for 5 hours at a time, but my family is spoiled to an extent. The kids generally don’t eat breakfast, but they do want a hearty dinner. That is where I put effort and often about 3 hours of my day, but I have plans for 7:00 p.m. so I have to rush.
Why did the recipe state that 3-4 minutes on each side would brown chicken thighs?! It took 30 minutes! I had Moroccan Chicken Stew (magazine recipe) and a steamed kale, turkey bacon, and apple combo as a side dish. Sure enough, two of my sons take time to brief me on their day while I cook, and one acquiesced to take the picture of me cooking for a new Facebook profile pic.
Wolfing down dinner, it is 6:50 and I have to race to mid-town to see my friend, Yvonne of My Halal Kitchen, present at 7:00 at our local library. My daughter, her friend, and fiancé will attend too.
Presented by Yvonne Maffei, she outlined the basics of Islam, the wide array of Muslims representing many cultures and nations, aspects of the lunar month of Ramadan, understandings of Halal and Tayeb (Wholesomeness), fasting rituals in a typical day, the growth of fusion cuisine in America, Eid traditions, and my favorite…dessert demo: Stuffed Dates with Crème Fraish!
Back Home Again and Still Crankin’
9:00 Home again after Yvonne’s presentation, and I have to perform the sunset prayer. The kitchen needs post-dinner clean up, since I ran out the door with my husband still eating.
9:45 It’s time for a 4 mile walk with Riad, whereby we talk and listen to background tunes on Pandora via our phones.
11:00 Back from our walk; one of my sisters calls with news of a conference she recently attended for promotional products professionals, and we trade opinions on Dad’s care. I’m snacking on grape tomatoes and Gouda cheese. My eldest son comes home from a camping and fishing trip, and he debriefs with me by the kitchen table.
12:15 Time to pray, shower, and then my daughter visits us in the bedroom to re-cap on Yvonne’s presentation and how pictures of samosas inspired her and her fiancé to go to an Indian restaurant for late dinner. I’m really tired, but now everyone has touched base with “Mom” and one kid is still out running a nighttime neighborhood blitz type of game with friends. I decide to finally check in on Facebook, as I’d not had a chance to do so yet in the day.
12:50 My last kid is in and I’m signing off with plans to be up at 4:00 for my thyroid medicine, 5:00 for fajr, the dawn prayer, and start a new day by 8:30. Love the summer schedule!
There never was time to write a formal blog, per se, but time to write throughout the day. Somehow it gave me relief to purge out the extension I wished to make and document what seems like a crazed existence, but a happy one. Would you consider this a valid exercise for getting students/writers to express themselves and practice editing?
Several dignitaries from the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and food scientists, export agency representatives, entrepreneurs, and consultants, from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Belgium, Switzerland, Kuwait, U.A. E., Pakistan and India rounded out the program.
The theme of Unity was iterated by several presenters who acknowledged that the former stance of protectionism and competition needs to be cast away in exchange for transparency, mutual support and cooperation. Attending the IFANCA conference were other Halal certifying agencies, and ISNA’s Ahmed El-Hattab called for a unification of Standards and formation of an ISNA Accreditation Board.
IFANCA’s founder and president, Dr. M. Munir Chaudry, stated the objectives of the gathering included import/export requirements; introducing Halal entrepreneurship opportunities; presentations on animal welfare; and advice of food safety and security. Naming brands of their certified products, Cabot Cheese; Baskin Robbins; and Tom’s of Maine, he expressed that although there are 8 million Muslims in the U.S. and 1 million in Canada they are not visible, even though they represent $18 billion in purchasing power.
Adnan Durrani, Chief Halal Officer of American Halal Company, and spokesperson for the hugely successful Saffron Road presented a video with grocery industry magnate Errol Schweizer, senior global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market, who sees “Saffron Road is the fastest growing brand in the frozen category.”
The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASFT) president, Ann Daw, noted in the video that “Halal should be a mainstream concept.” Durrani explained that “70% of our [Saffron Road] customers are not even Muslim.” He has consistently presented Halal as an aspect of Ethical Consumerism, and further explains “It’s about how we conduct our business…how we conduct ourselves in the world.”
Of the $8-9 billion in Kosher food sales, nearly $3.5 is bought by Muslims, and in Whole Foods supermarkets the Saffron Road line is first in frozen entrée sales. Within the larger sphere of grocery stores, the brand is 6th as it enjoys 250% growth. Success has been achieved through synchronized social media with print, online, retail merchandising, and extending to the blogger community.
In the realm of Halal foods, 35% of sales are processed foods and 10% in meats, according to Mian Riaz, PhD., director of food and protein at Texas A&M University. He stated that this is not a niche market anymore, and that 1.5 billion people eat ritually butchered food each day.
Abdalhamid Evans, founder and senior analyst of Imarat Consultants, further defined the scope of the Halal industries as finding shared values beyond religion. “They see Halal as lawful, safe, nutritious, healthy, humane, demonstrating awareness, and equitable,” Evans declared. “These values have commercial worth, and are described as eco-ethical and moral.”
Evans, a global Halal expert knows, “Halal has different connotations in different parts of the world. There are very nuanced contexts that corporations need to be aware of. Certification as a ‘cottage industry’ is going to end. Halal is big business and on the verge of becoming irrevocably sophisticated and complex. Certification is going through changes. Industry is looking for clear standards so there is a checks and balance. They want to see an accreditation industry with transparency.”
A new development is the application of the term to the Finance industry. Evans explained, “What Islamic Finance needs to do is get more involved in the real economy.” His message was that investment and financing should not be sought for gain, but more for building the strength, education, and solid economic stability for all. Halal then becomes an asset class with indexed funds, venture capital, and micro finance.
Emphasizing the need for unity, Hani Al-Mazeedi, Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research, expert in Halal quality, safety, and services, cited that the initial standards will be guidelines. Mark Overland, director of global certification at Cargill, Inc.— IFANCA’s Company of the Year—mentioned that his company has about 200 Halal certified plants out of their 800, based on consumer demand. None are in the U.S. His view is “We should recognize what consumers want, and then deliver that with integrity,” and he has echoed the sentiment for unity by advocating a council.
Underscoring many speakers was the impression that business people, researchers, and religious scholars often have no concept of the realities of each other’s constraints. The current challenge is to establish trusting relationships, communication with good will, and efforts to find equitable solutions.
Susan Labadi is project coordinator of the American Halal Association, president of Genius School, Inc.~A Professional Development Company, consultant for the ISNA Education Forum, and VP of ActionNet Trade, Inc.
Nature can elicit the calm comfort of a mosque, or other holy site of worship, but some may confuse their appreciation of nature for an object of worship, rather than nature’s Creator. Ancient people were noted for idolizing the sun, moon, stars, elements of water and fire, and even some modern day folks choose similarly without the logical conclusion that the Creator is responsible for the genesis of the universe and its contents.
We, having some of the attributes of that Divine Being, also have responsibility to honor our unique status among those created. We can differentiate ourselves from haughtily claiming ourselves to be the Divine because we cannot only revel in the wonders of nature, we can also fear and be overwhelmed by it. Recent reminders are the effects of hurricane Sandy, our frustrated feeling of helplessness when we are ill, or when we wish well for someone struggling but lack the power to help them. In all these situations though, it can assuage the soul to know that the Earth is a mosque, any place is amenable to worshiping and connecting to one’s Creator.
As nasty, cold weather has curtailed my golf, biking, and general activities in exchange for lifting weights, running indoors, and getting belly laughs when my husband and I attempt yoga, I miss “playing outside,” and have taken to reading a backlog of books about the environment and Green careers. There was even two seasons on DVD of “Living With Ed,” featuring Ed Begley, Jr., an actor who is a zealous environmental activist. The show featured several other celebrities, including Larry Hagman, Jay Leno, and Bill Nye the Science Guy, who share his passion for taking strides toward a “Greener” lifestyle. I wish my kids watched the programs, but they managed to disappear when their nerdy mom tried to ambush them into watching for some cool ideas.
Now I have a ton of websites collected in my notebook that I intend to check out from “Green Careers for Dummies.” With the Obama administration in the saddle for the next term, I hope to see more Green Job growth, and am considering what opportunities we may explore for high school aged children and ourselves for the next few decades. One must always be ready to adapt; that is how survivors manage.
How did all this Green reading start? Well, it’s a little embarrassing because it was over a month ago that I saw Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, author of “Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet” when he presented to students at Elmhurst College. I’ve been intending to blog about his message since that time, but felt that I was not informed enough to do justice to the wider scope of it. That is what prompted my inquiry and extended reading in subjects related. It is from him that I cite the concept that “The Earth is a Mosque.” He writes, threading references from the Qur’an, to help the reader fathom that we are intimately connected with nature; and he substantiates Islam’s compatibility with science through several references, among them are oceans meeting and not mixing (Holy Qur’an 25:53 and 55:19-20), and development of a fetus (Holy Qur’an 23:12-14). He describes Light (Noor), which has repeated references in many religions. Looking at subatomic particles, with the strongest magnification, they look like small flashes of light. On the opposite side of the spectrum, zooming from our moon to the limits of the universe, we see Light. Abdul-Matin expresses that light is an expression of the Oneness of Allah and His creation (Tawhid), “the universe is aglow with continuity.”
As humans, we are created from clay, water, and a divine spirit. The Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, helped us realize “The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily Allah, be He exalted, has made you his stewards in it, as He sees how you acquit yourselves,” from Sahih Muslim, book 10, hadith 10. This gift of life also has a trust (amana) associated with it for us to freely make decisions, decisions that we will be accountable for about this sacred creation and how we chose to interact with it. Abdul-Matin puts it beautifully, “Our mandate from God dictates that we must praise the Creator, take care of the planet, and take care of one another.”
Sharing deeper enlightenment at our Elmhurst College presentation, he brilliantly sized up colonialism’s subjugation of people who lacked political and economic power by those who did not view the Earth like a mosque. They exploited the people and resources for their own greedy gain, without regard to Justice (adl), and humans became defined as “units of production.” Taking natural resources and raw goods, they manufactured and marketed to create hunger for materialism. The contagion of this artificially induced addiction to “stuff” has had a detrimental effect on the planet. We buy, throw, and buy some more. Manufacturers deliberately design products now with intent that one day the consumer will need to replace items again. Meanwhile, we are not living in harmony with the Earth. This pattern simply cannot be sustained.
The way to find balance (mizan) is found through the rite of prayer. Through it, we find ourselves in synch with the rest of Creation and the Creator. The author writes of his recollections praying in many awesome natural settings. It brought back to my mind memories of praying the sunset (maghrib) prayer beside a lonely strip of highway about 20 years ago in Saudi Arabia, praying close to the Grand Canyon, by a mountain in Colorado, and in Glacier National Park in Montana. All of these were so peaceful, deep, and fulfilling, like an ideal mosque.
Then, in a wonderful connection, he binds prayer as the means to heal our hearts. Our hearts mirror how we treat ourselves and the planet. We need Allah to mend our injuries and open our hearts to live in accordance to a just and balanced relationship within Creation. The culmination of this is to take action to advance a Green Deen Movement. Deen refers to a way of living with reference to the holistic teachings of Islam.
Four points summarize the contents of the book which target Waste, Energy, Water, and Food.
• Sharing stories to inspire and illustrate
• Getting educated about environmental issues and solutions
• Connecting with people of other faiths as we live together and work to serve
• Taking responsibility to make the world better, and not succumb to fear of failure
One such story was related about Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, who was speaking in 2008 at the Anacostia Green Jobs Now rally around Washington, DC. He said, “We need to get our energy from Heaven–wind, solar, and waves, instead of from Hell—the stuff in the ground like coal, oil, and gas.”
Other interesting initiatives were how Chicago-based IMAN has connected training energy auditors to help people in poor neighborhoods get energy saving improvements that can help them spend less money on utility bills, and the Ecuadorian Amazon Pachamama people who linked up with American environmentalists to effectively spare their homeland from oil companies threatening to encroach and change their habitat. They have improved their economy and initiated ecotourism successfully.
Abdul-Matin introduced readers to sources of Halal, humanely raised foods from ethical purveyors Whole Earth Meats, who also brought fresh organic produce to a farmer’s market they initiated in the urban desert of Chicago’s inner-city, and Green Zabiha, from which consumers can purchase Halal, grass-fed, and organic products online. These companies were started by entrepreneurs who sought a better way to feed their families in line with their values. It seems to have been a struggle, but they found like-minded people who will pay more and make do with less to live in congruence with their conscience.
Many of our students are wasteful with water, but the ADAMS Center in Virginia has checked the meter to calculate how they can achieve the goal of reducing water consumption by 10 percent. Reminding people that their ablutions (wudu) need not be like a shower, a Malaysian company has invented machines to ration water for it. Waste-free Ramadan dinners (iftars) have been initiated in several mosques whereby people bring their own plates and eating utensils from home instead of using disposables. Food scraps are then composted. Many examples of novel ideas coming from humble people with genuine concern for the Earth are illustrated.
I truly recommend reading this book, and would consider its benefit for students who can reference many Islamic vocabulary terms defined in its glossary, numerous websites cited, as well as it is indexed. The examples cited offer guidance to all who hope to realize the power of even a single person that can make significant strides to better lives for many.
Prompting my curiosity further on the subject, I delved into another interesting read, “The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s are One” by Sylvia A. Earle. It was not as dense as the previous books mentioned, but it did raise consciousness as Earle has had many diverse experiences over a lifetime with the National Geographic Society. She has traveled distant places of the globe, above and below into the deep, and has even started two companies to help resource efforts to learn more and explore the wonderous oceans. What resonates from her writing is, “The big question is what can we do to take care of the blue world that takes care of us?” (p. 14). She documents man’s wasteful presence in the most remote areas, and shares stories of mishaps that give us concern. She serves to warn as did Rachel Carson in Silent Spring, that our lives are intricately balanced with the ocean, and we are vulnerable if we continue to pollute.
From the macro to the micro, I’d read “The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today, by Rob Dunn. This was different from everything else in that the writer analyzed many angles of how we have changed our internal as well as external habitats over time, and ironically our changes have perhaps been more detrimental than we realize with ultimately unbalancing our existence. One of the most bizarre, yet seemingly cathartic remedies for Celiac disease may be to actually inoculate patients with hookworms, parasites, to relieve their symptoms. It was a strange symbiotic proposition that was suggested after realization that Celiac disease only happens in cultures that have used antibiotics and have a modern world (i.e. clean) existence. On another note, the eradication of native mammal species to the western United States over the past one hundred years or so has tipped the balance of predator-prey in nature, and even the history of shaving body areas has been tracked as thwarting the spread of disease historically, particularly due to the avoidance of lice and venereal crabs. One never knows what tidbits reading can gain for trivia freaks!
However, the best part of Dunn’s book was toward its conclusion, “We do not always dream or decide consciously, many days we are rather like the ants pushed this way and that by our urges and conditions. Collectively though, we have the ability to learn and extend beyond our individual limits. We have the ability to develop a plan and on the basis of that plan to enact change that affects not just our own lives, or even those of our own species, but instead all of our lives and all species. We have the ability to pick up the drawing pad on which the future will be laid out and sketch the streets, the houses, and the people, our descendants, moving back and forth, and to decide whether they walk or drive, but also how they interact with each other and the rest of life (p. 236).
News came today that the Israelis have started another incursion into Gaza, and I’ve seen on Twitter posts of four children under the age of five who have been killed within the first hours. On one hand, I take Dunn’s message of empowerment to heart, and Abdul-Matin’s vision to personally connect my raised consciousness into action, but what impact can even a group of environmentally conscious individuals have to thwart the carbon footprint of a nation inciting incendiary violence? What justice can we hope for? President Obama: Please stop this insanity.