Amid growing international calls to limit our carbon footprint and to commit ourselves to save the environment, it is only fitting that we examine the Islamic perspective on greening and its relationship to Islam and Charity
Recently, a Green Deen initiative was introduced by a local Muslim Students' Organisation in which awareness is raised with regard to how environmentally friendly we as Muslims are (or ought to be).This initiative aims to inform everyone about the truly Green Deen we have. But a perfect example can be seen in the Prophet (PBUH), where he is reported to have said, “Do not waste water even if you are alongside a stream." These words indicate that the most exalted amongst man had the environment at heart some 1400 years ago, as he understood the need for its conservation for the generations to follow. The relationship between the concept of waqf (charitable endowments) and the environment is well documented in the annuls of history.
A classical example of this interlinking is the well of Rumah, which Sayyidinah Uthman bought from a local businessman. The well was then donated to the community and served the inhabitants of Madina with sweet drinking water for many decades. This charitable endowment, and others like it, have been shown to be key in terms of interacting the religious with the economic spheres of early Muslims (Decobert, 1984). It was also the vehicle of choice for financing gardens, water wells, fountains and other communal services (Benthall and Bellion-Jourdan,2009). These smaller awqaf were the ones which stood the test of time, especially in parts of Istanbul (Baer, 1984).
It has been shown in recent times the drilling of water wells across Africa and the impoverished world has exponentially increased. Multiple aid organisations have sunk well points and boreholes in these mainly arid regions the world over where groundwater is of the utmost importance due to limited (or no) surface water supplies. The work completed by these organisations has to be commended as this aid relief is critical for water supply. In most cases these activities are funded by waqf and the rewards stemming from these awqaf will continue to benefit the donor as long as the well supplies water.
Therefore it is important that the landscape is not turned into swiss cheese, but instead, effective groundwater management should be practiced in order to sustainably utilise the subsurface water supply (Mahed and Xu, 2009).In line with this, AWQAFSA has also embarked on a green mosque initiative. The pilot, which has been introduced at the Kalksteenfontein Mosque, in association with Youth Engineering the Future, has been a roaring success. This is evident from the multiple awards and acknowledgements this project has won, one of which was from the Mail and Guardian newspaper.
Recent research has shown that the principle of the Green Mosque is simple in its application (Mahed et al, 2013). Ablution (wudhu) water undergoes a filtration process and is then channelled into a garden in order for it to be used for the irrigation of crops. In certain cases, the water supply could be augmented with harvested rainwater. These agricultural goods are sold and the profits are used in the maintenance of the mosque. Alternatively, the agricultural goods are used in a soup kitchen in order to feed the poor. Visionary projects, like the Kalksteenfontein one, create jobs, feed the community and make the mosque self-sufficient. History has shown that 75% of the Agricultural land at the time of the Ottoman Empire was waqf property (Singer, 2009) and this aided in food security, the lowering of prices and the feeding of the impoverished. The Kalksteenfontein Project is truly a modern application of waqf and sustainable development at a grass-roots level. As this entire pilot project is funded by waqf endowments, similar initiatives have been introduced at various other throughout the Western Cape. It is envisaged that all mosques in the future should utilise rainwater harvesting and water re-use in order to contribute to “greening” buildings (Mahed et al., 2013).
Future applications where the mosque acts as the central collection point could include the re-use of fish oil for ethanol production, as well as metal, glass and newspaper recycling. Recycle bins should find their rightful places on mosque grounds and the use of solar power for the heating of water should be encouraged. Architects and mosque committees should adopt green designs in order to maximise sunlight for building heating and lighting. The possibilities of greening projects are endless if we apply our minds correctly and invest waqf funds effectively. Ideas of this nature could easily be transferred to apply to Corporate Social Investment (CSI) that companies undertake thereby making them even more “green” than before. It is envisaged that waqf could also aid in a “mixed economy of charity” as stated by Singer (2009). This means that the state would be aided by returns from the charitable endowment funds in order for it to function effectively and deliver services to its people.
The link between waqf and the environment is clearly evident. Waqf is able to act as a financing tool in order to accelerate the growth of sustainable development. This is critical in the time we find ourselves due to dwindling resources, stricter environment legislation, increasing unemployment rates and an ever-growing population. Thus the judicious management of our resources and in turn care for the environment, is important. Projects which look at sustainability and benefit the community through job creation are of the utmost importance.
The original article was published in Muslim Views