The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the model of highest ethical behaviour. He encouraged Muslims to live in harmony with others and our environment.
He lived simply, ate modestly, shared generously and served his community. The Prophet (pbuh) also established some of the world’s first nature sanctuaries where trees couldn’t be cut or animals killed.
According to Islamic belief, God has charged humankind with the responsibility of being guardians on Earth. However, human beings have become exploiters. Environmentally-destructive behaviour – waste, pollution, deforestation, over-fishing and using food as biofuel – are all symptoms of the greed within.
Ramadan is an opportunity to re-evaluate our lives and review the impact our actions have on our planet and other people. We live in a consumerist society, but we can make positive changes today.
Here are six tips on how to live simply and ethically this Ramadan, and beyond.
1) Cut waste
In some countries, a third of all food goes to waste. This has a negative impact on the environment and also goes against the teachings of Islam.
God advises Muslims to avoid waste – “Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not those who waste,” (Qur’an, 7:31). The Prophet (pbuh) encouraged people to avoid leaving leftovers, saying, “You do not know which part of your food carries the blessings.”
Avoid food waste in Ramadan by planning meals, freezing excess, and keeping an eye on ‘use by’ dates. Re-use leftovers in ‘makeover’ recipes. Overripe fruit can be blended with yoghurt or milk to make smoothies for suhur. Excess vegetables can be made into soup for iftar.
Also aim to reduce the amount of water you use. When asked whether waste was an issue even for wudhu, the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Yes, even if you are by a flowing river.”
2) Eat less
There is more than enough food in the world, but some overeat while others go hungry. Practice moderate eating this Ramadan. As the Prophet (pbuh) said, a Muslim should eat and drink in moderation, reserving “one third [of the stomach] for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” (Hadith, Tirmidhi)
Ramadan allows you to exercise more control over your meals, which can help you regulate your diet and reduce your grocery bills.
The Prophet (pbuh) also advised us to share, saying: “Food for two suffices three, and food for three suffices four.”
3) Reduce your carbon footprint
Find out what produce is in season this Ramadan and plan iftars around them. You can buy seasonal produce from local shops or farmer’s markets. Local farms may do food deliveries in your area, and by shopping locally you will support your community and the families around you.
Check supermarket labels for country of origin, and select local produce which is often fresher and supports local food producers while causing less pollution via transportation.
Also, cut back on processed foods – they are often packaged in intensive ways that cost the planet.
In addition, you can reduce your CO2 contribution by choosing to walk or cycle instead of using the car. Not only will this help the environment, healthy exercise will boost your wellbeing too.
4) Switch to free range meat
The meat industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and it takes many thousands of litres of water to produce. In addition, cheap meat is often produced at the expense of animal welfare – with cruel practices such as battery farming seeing chickens confined to small cages and given growth hormones to make them gain weight quickly.
Inhumane treatment of animals is against the spirit of Islam. “Eat and drink all that is halal (lawful) and tayyab (wholesome and pure),” (Qur’an, 2: 68).
Eat less meat this Ramadan: you will appreciate it more, it will help you to empathise with those who cannot afford meat, while practising the Islamic value of moderation: “Eat of the good things We have provided for your sustenance, but commit no excess therein,” (Qur’an, 20: 81).
Make sure the meat that you do consume is free-range or organic. The ‘free-range’ industry allows animals to roam freely, eat a natural vegetarian diet and produces good quality, ethically-produced meat.
Halal organic meat is a young, growing market, but there are a number of independent farms run by Muslims that are easy to find online. Free-range eggs and responsibly-farmed fish are also widely available in supermarkets.
5) Buy fair trade
Islam encourages justice in all economic transactions. Fair trade addresses the injustices of the food trade through trading partnerships that give farmers a better price for their produce. It also ensures decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fairer terms of trade.
Fair trade products include tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar, cocoa, olive oil and bananas. Look out for the Fairtrade logo on products. Buying products from local suppliers – such as dates from Palestinian farmers – is another great way to support fair trade.
6) Unplug and de-clutter
In Ramadan, our spiritual needs take priority over our physical ones. This appetite can equally apply to desires other than food. Islam encourages a level of restraint from material things to allow us to reach our spiritual goals. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t own things, but we should tame our desire for them.
The concept of waste and extravagance extends to material possessions such as clothing and household items, as well as how we spend our time. They are all part of our sustenance from God and should be used responsibly.
Why not try ‘unplugging’ from the television, laptop, console games and all gadgets this Ramadan? Think about reining-in your materialist impulses by buying nothing but essential food and clothing this month. Instead, de-clutter and donate your excess stuff to charity or people who could make better use of it.