Profile: Wisdom in Nature

The Birth of Wisdom In Nature

by Muzammal Hussain, Founder of WIN

Several months later in early 2004, I used an Islamic environmental elist I had developed over the years (later called Ecobites) as a vehicle to publicise my intention to form a network in London, which is where I felt there would be greatest potential, even though I was then living in Brighton. The first meeting of just three people took place on January 10th 2004 in my parents home, and with sustained effort the group became established. Eight months later on September 5th 2004, this new group decided on an official name: the London Islamic Network for the Environment, or LINE.

It should be added that whilst I was working with IFEES when I started LINE, LINE has always been autonomous. At the same time, with experience in local group activism lacking within IFEES, the foundation and soul of the group were instead inspired and nurtured by a diverse range of other sources without which I do not feel that the project would have stood much chance of success. For instance, the idea to set up a local environmental group at all was influenced by my experience with the highly competent ‘World Development Movement’ (WDM) in Brighton, an impressive group that I was actively involved with. I also discussed ideas and drew on the experience of other activists mostly from Brighton, in an attempt to consider what might work and what wouldn’t, in the context of a group comprising of mostly Muslims. The lengthy conversations with these and other individuals continue to this day, as part of the ongoing process of drawing on expertise and sharing experiences from a wide range of sources for a constantly evolving network.

For a group to be empowered and established within a grassroots ideological basis, it is necessary for as many voices as possible to be heard within it, the quieter ones as well as the louder ones, and from the beginning, I had always felt it important for the committed members of LINE to also develop their awareness of group processes and thus be in a better position to facilitate the input and integration of these voices. This led me to look at group psychology and development as well as meeting facilitation skills and consensus decision making. I attended workshops and looked into literature on the web, such as on the Seeds for Change website, which offers resources that continue to benefit the group as it evolves. Also particularly useful was the Gaia Education book ‘Beyond You and Me’. As recogniition of the need for a healthy process seeped into the group, in the summer of 2005, we particpated in our first formal group development trainingwhich was organised with ‘Seeds for Change’.

In terms of my personal influences, awareness of social movmements and social change particularly through Mandela’s inspiring autobiography, Gandhi’s ‘The Story of my Experiments with Truth’, and the life of Abdul Ghaffar Khan influenced my early vision, as did Islamic teachings and Islamic history through reflection on their relevance to effective ecolgoical activism and social change now.

Despite the low priority given to the environment amongst Muslims and the low level of experience in local activism amongst many newcomers to the network, LINE nonetheless beat the odds and established itself as a competent, creative and self-aware activist group which has demonstrated that it can deliver.

Whilst LINE was succesful in its aims, we were aware that our emphasis on process, our holistic approach that was wider than the environment and included the social and spiritual, and our inclusion of those who were not Muslim meant that our name was not quite congruent with our focus and means even though these had not changed. We were also finding that in describing our work, we began to use the term ‘ecological’ (which implies interconnectedness and gives value to relationship ) more, and the term ‘environmental’ less. In November 2009, after discussions that included a consensus-decision-making process, we unanimously agreed on a change of name and became Wisdom In Nature . We continue as an Islamic group and hope that our new name captures more of the essence of our work.

Many thanks must go to all the sources mentioned above, for their invaluable support which helped WIN to become established in the solid form that it now takes as well as early members who helped support the group to get off the ground. Also, people of other faiths and beliefs gradually began to join in our forums, some of whom have now become regular, and too, have given valuable support and encouragement.

The journey for WIN has been challenging but fun, and truly rewarding. Its success has shown what is possible, and shortly after it’s formation, it inspired effort from other individuals to also get together to form other local Islamic environmental networks in their own areas in the UK.

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