Ramadan is the month when a Muslim can change his or her lifestyle. Fasting during Ramadan involves not just refraining from food, liquid and sex, and avoiding harmful emotions such as anger or greed. Ramadan also offers a real chance to inculcate a positive change in our attitude towards the environment.
Thus one must seize the opportunity to change one's lifestyle to a more environment-friendly one which will be beneficial for him, his family and the whole world as the world is facing numerous challenges such as economic crisis, climate change crisis, poverty, food shortage and disease.
In fact, abstaining from food and liquid is the easiest part. The responsible attitude of a Muslim during Ramadan is very crucial for the correctness and acceptance, InshaAllah, of his fast. Without doubt, adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle in general and especially during Ramadan is not only a social responsibility, but also a religious duty as man's existence and well being is dependent upon a healthy environment.
Thus, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) observed "Allah almighty says, ‘All deeds of any son of Adam are for him, and good deeds are rewarded up to ten-fold, except fasting, it is mine, and I shall reward for it." (mentioned in Ibn Khuzaymah's book on fasting). This shows the importance of fasting and that rewards for fasting can be limitless.
True fasting should extend to avoid the extravagance in consumption. "O Children of Adam! Take your adornment [by wearing your clean clothes], while praying and going round [the Tawaf of] the Kaaba, and eat and drink but waste not by extravagance, certainly He [Allah] likes not Al Musrifun [those who waste by extravagance]" (Alaraf: 31). Nowadays, in an era of climate change crisis and mounting concerns about energy security where all countries are struggling to cut down green house gases and looking for new, clean sources of energy, it is very important to expand the concept of fasting to cover energy consumption, for instance.
By engaging in ‘energy fasting', one can send a message to younger generations and other colleagues about the importance of conserving our rare resources. Energy fasting is very similar to food fasting. All what you need to do is to be less dependent on man-made energy sources.
One must try to use renewable energy which is and will be very useful for mankind in the near future. However, the greatest goal during fasting should be reducing and rationalising energy consumption. Energy saving instruments are also another important way of saving energy.
Also a special attention should be given to water resources as we live in a water-scare region. This is especially so, given that the teachings of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) tell us not to waste water during wudu (the cleaning exercise before prayers) even if we are sitting in a running river. All natural resources on earth, like the human body, need some rest and fasting is a golden opportunity to enable natural resources and environment to revive, restore, purify and renew.
Harmony with nature
It is worth mentioning that conserving energy natural resources such as water saves money too and adds to an individual's income.
There are many other ways to show environmental stewardship, whether for individuals or corporates, such as using energy-saving lighting, putting off lights and computers when not in use, using dish and clothes washing machines only when they are full, making the best use of daylight, using public transport such as metro and becoming less dependent on private cars.
Only by changing behaviour towards an environmental-friendly one, can man live in harmony with nature, achieve sustainable development, enrich life on earth and make the best use of resources.
Since Islam is integrated and comprehensive, it ties the norms of obedience to Allah to various other human life activities and dealings. So, understanding the relationship of man with the environment and the impact of his deeds on natural resources is an integral part of being a true Muslim. Since a true Muslim should adhere to the values of Islam, which serve all mankind and aim for a better quality of life, fasting is a practical translation of these values and helps purify the soul, the body as well as surrounding environment.
Let us seize the opportunity that Ramadan offers and adopt exemplary behaviour to tackle environmental problems and let us hope that this responsible pro-environmental lifestyle will continue all year round. Thus there is is a real opportunity for real change, not only in Ramadan, but also afterwards.
Last but not least, religious authorities should seize the opportunity provided by Ramadan gatherings during taraweeh prayers (which follow Isha prayers) and Friday prayers to educate Muslims about adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle.
Dr Mohamed Abdel Raouf is an independent environmental researcher.