27 Mar 2011

Greening the Hajj

'but waste not by excess:for ALLAH loves not the wasters.

Quraan Chapter 6 v.141

Islam expresses great concern for the environment. A number of verses in the Quran and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad have addressed this issue. Islam’s solution to environmental problems lies in man’s adaptation of its guidance. Allaah has stated that He made all the material objects on earth for man’s use, not for his abuse.

Eco Islam is dear to my heart, wrote about it here.

I have really excellent Muslim comrades, well and Christians, etc....religion in non fundamentalist forms is a force for good including social justice and ecology.

According to the Quran, humans are entrusted to be the maintainers of the earth and the only species able to burden this responsibility. If there is any place on the planet to which Muslims should offer this protection, surely it should be their holiest sites of Mecca and Medina?

However, during the Islamic pilgrimage, Hajj, most Muslims have to sidestep plastic bottles, used diapers and food packaging in order to complete their pilgrimage.

Kristiane Backer, a television presenter, author and eco-Muslim, explains that "most Muslims are not aware of the innate nature of environmentalism within Islam, just as, generally, most people aren't aware of the importance of protecting the environment".

According to Backer, shedding cultural attitudes and ecological indifference is vital in developing a sustainable Hajj.

In order for pilgrims to fulfil their religious obligation, without jeopardising their responsibility to the environment, local Saudi authorities might consider offering recycling points for food containers and installing drinking fountains in key areas.

But litter is not the only obstacle to a more sustainable Hajj. Nearly three million Muslims perform Hajj each year, a pilgrimage which is required once of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford it. Many Muslims complete Hajj several times, travelling thousands of miles by airplane in order to duplicate an experience that is required only once.

Excessive pilgrimages

Rianne ten Veen, a Muslim environmentalist, is concerned about the number of times that people complete Hajj.

"Several of the people I met there asked, 'How many times have you been? Only once?… This is my fifteenth time'." She adds, "But this is supposed to be a journey of a lifetime."

A century ago, when more eco-friendly transport was still widely used and the number of pilgrims was far lower, repeat trips might have been understandable, if less practical.

But today, pilgrims – particularly those who live far from Saudi Arabia – should consider the ecological damage caused every time they fly several thousand miles to Mecca. The Muslim Prophet only completed Hajj once and if a single trip was adequate for him, it should be sufficient to those who wish to mirror him.

Multiple pilgrimages are excessive and unnecessary, particularly if pilgrims stay in five-star lodgings. This is often considered the ultimate Hajj experience, coupling spirituality with luxury.

But money wasted on penthouse suites and yearly pilgrimages could be better spent on helping people who have yet to complete the pilgrimage to fulfil the fifth pillar of Islam



bharat said...

good post ...well explained

Anonymous said...

Sad also that those who are not muslim may not visit mecca. Would an ethical green approach include challenging this discrimination - at the same time as asking all travellers to consider their impact on the earth and its inhabitants when they select their mode of travel?

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