This Is What A Muslim Vegetarian Looks Like

Arwa meets three Muslim vegetarians from around the world whose views, lifestyles and paths to vegetarianism couldn’t be more diverse and distinct

When I was 16, I discovered the horror of factory farming and decided to become a vegetarian. That was 8 years ago and I have been a vegetarian ever since. Thankfully, I no longer have to explain why I- as a Muslim- have chosen to become a vegetarian amongst my family and friends or face a barrage of questions before I tuck into my veggie dinner. However, for many people the concept of a Muslim vegetarian is still confusing. So I wanted to introduce you a few – an eco-warrior, one of faith, and one vegetarian for animal rights.

“Are Muslims allowed to be vegetarians?” and “Why would any Muslim want to be a vegetarian?” usually follows the polite explanation that I don’t eat meat. Over the years my responses to these questions changed but I now usually respond with a rather non-committal ‘well, it depends on the person’. I have been asked to speak as a Muslim vegetarian on a couple of occasion and whilst I was more than happy to do it, I often felt uneasy ‘representing’ Muslim vegetarians due to the diverse views and opinions we hold.

For some Muslims, the decision to become a vegetarian has been a truly personal experience with no relation to their religion whilst for others it stems directly from their Islam faith. Caring for the environment may have been a root concern whilst for others protecting animals was the primary motivation. In the spirit of showcasing this diversity, I have asked three Muslim to answer set questions about their vegetarianism and I hope you find their responses as fascinating as I did!



Islam, Climate Change and Frat-boy Elites…

Unbalanced scales

Image via Wikipedia

The Qur’an reminds us that the earth does not belong to us, but the problem is not that we are living as if it did. No sane proporty owner would rip out the walls and floors of his own house merely to satisfy his craving for bonfires. Our global elites today are behaving like drunken frat-boys trashing someone else’s property with no concern for the reckoning to follow. The ever-increasing masses of poor, meanwhile, are like an oversized herd of stampeding elephants  driven mad by hunger and desperation, trampling everything in sight. Neither group has any vision of the consequences, and nowhere is the Islamic principles of Mizan (balance) being maintained.

Quote from fascinating and highly recommended book I’m reading by Richard Foltz called ‘Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Cultures.’  It’s been a while since I read anything of this quality looking at Islam, nature, the environment and animals. Just brilliant stuff packed into a (tiny) 200-page gem-of-a-book. My adivce? Read it.

Finding Interfaith Potential in Environmentalism

Many saw President Obama’s speech in Indonesia last month as a second attempt to improve America’s relationship with Muslim communities around the world, after his first attempt in Cairo in June 2009. He addressed issues such as development, democracy, and religion — complimenting Indonesia’s ability to move development, establish one of the world’s largest democracies and function as a religiously pluralistic society.

However, his words elucidate our domestic need to reframe our understanding of interfaith work. Diversity is a fact, not an achievement. As a plural nation, we must not see tolerance as a destination, but as the first step of engaging faith communities in tacking our must fundamental issues. Rather than rehashing our differences in creed and theology, we must focus on the problems that we all face in America: need for more jobs, economic and financial reform and a clean environment.

Our environmental problem is one place where the religion, democracy and development trifecta has a clear potential for success. Communities of faith around the country are joining the “green” conversation and the environmental movement. Groups like Green Faith and Interfaith Leaders for Environmental Justice are bringing people together around protecting planet, not destroying it. An Amazon Environmentalism bestselling book is Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet, a book that encourages people of faith — specifically Muslims — to see themselves as stewards of the Earth with a divine responsibility to leave the planet better than we found it. Faith communities can set aside their differences and work towards solutions to common problems.


Interview With America’s Leading Green Muslim- Ibrahim Abdul Matin

 Ibrahim Abdul-MatinArwa speaks to Ibrahim Abdul-Matin about his latest book ‘Green Deen’ and why he believes that Muslims need be compelled spiritually to make dramatic changes in their lives for the sake of the planet

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is a man of many talents. As well as working as a regular sports commentator and youth organiser, he is a policy adviser for NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s office of sustainability and author of ‘Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet’. He has been making waves on the US green scene for a decade now and his latest book, which connects his Muslim faith with his love of nature hopes to spark greater environmental awareness amongst the Muslim community. I caught up with him to speak about the influence of his father on his green ethic, what the life of an Eco-Muslim would look like, ideas for a green hajj and why Muslims need to become ambassadors for clean water.


Mosque in Turkey Goes Solar

green mosque turkey
Another mosque has taken up the battle against climate change and gone Eco- this time in Turkey

When a nuclear plant was proposed for the Turkish village of Buyukeceli, the residents decided to demonstrate their resistance not through protest and petitions but by highlighting the viability of renewable energy. Using the support of Greenpeace, they decided to show the power of solar energy and installed photovoltaic panels on the local mosque.

Whilst this may sound like a new and novel concept, back in July Green Prophet revealed plans for Europe’s first completely eco-friendly Mosque in the English city of Cambridge.

Using skylights to limited the need for light bulbs, energy-efficient technologies and a green-roof, the project hoped to minimize it’s carbon footprint and also become the first ‘Eco-Mosque’ in Europe. Well, the idea spread far and wide since then there has been the announcements that the controversial‘Ground-Zero Mosque’ would be green, accolades for Green mosque designs and now this Turkish Solar Mosque.


Jordan Prays For Rain

pray-rain-jordanAn unprecedented absence of rain in the Middle East has Jordanians praying in Amman

As the water crisis in Jordan deepens, the country’s ministry of religious affairs is urging citizens to hold special prayers for rain. The move comes after a significant delay in the rainy season and five successive years of limited rainfall which threatens the country’s water supplies.

Jordan has no significant rivers or lakes of it own and so relies on rainfall to replenish underground aquifers and reservoirs for water. The special Muslim prayer called Salat al-Istisqa, which has been practised since the time of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) who would pray for rain in Mecca whenever the rainy season was late, is being carried out in the water-dry country.


Arabic Children’s Books That Tackle Environmental Issues

In today’s Al Masry Al Youm, I have a piece about Arabic children’s books that tackle environmental issues in both a fun and educational way.

I shan’t repeat here what I wrote over there, but instead wanted to share the full version of an email Q&A I did with the award-winning author of the Farhana series, Rania Hussein Amin, (who will be appearing at Cairo’s Al-Balsam Books this Saturday) about her forays into environmentally themed literature for children.


One Muslim’s Mission To Make Africa Green Again


Muslim starts sustainable tree planting operation to make Ethiopia green once again.

Visiting Ethiopia after a thirty year absence, Geshaw Tahir an Ethiopian-born Muslim was struck by one thing. The green landscapes and trees that once surrounded his home had all but disappeared and were replaced with dry fields, eroded and ruined after years of deforestation.

Mountain rivers had dried up, temperatures were rising, malaria was spreading and untold destruction had been done to the environment.

Tahir was so shocked by this sight that he vowed to take action.


Shelina Zahra Janmohamed on why it’s not easy being green!

It is a terrible thing to admit, but I’m going to come clean: although I aspire to be “eco-friendly”, and “green”, I don’t think I’m doing enough about it. And I have a suspicion that I’m not the only one.

We are constantly told how important it is to reverse the tide towards climate change, to reduce our carbon footprint and to ensure we don’t ignore inconvenient truths. Aside from the climate change sceptics, everybody worthily agrees that it’s the right thing to do, but how many of us actually do anything about it? 

According to Suzanne Shelton of the Shelton Group, who conducts annual surveys of consumer attitudes towards environmental issues, consumers like me are “armchair environmentalists”. We can see lots of things other people should do, but don’t want to do much ourselves, unless it’s easy and saves money.


“Green Deen” Ibrahim Abdul-Matin Connects Environmentalism With Islam

feature_ibrahim_abdul-matin_0Ibrahim Abdul-Matin’s acclaimed book educates American believers, “Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet.”

For the past ten years, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin has been a passionate voice for transforming our pollution based way of life to one that prioritises our planet and its people. His book Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet is a voice for educating us on greening our lives and faith, and here, Ibrahim explains how we can do that.


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