Bangladesh is one of the most affected countries by climate change. It is also a muslim majority country. So people’s beliefs crossing paths with their problems are very common. Same happens to me as I was taught to not waste water, don’t hurt any animal or plant, take care of the Earth. When I started to see climate catastrophes, and other social injustices, I wanted to connect the dots where my faith may differ from social movement or science. It was challenging sometimes, as Western social values don’t necessarily match with the priorities or realities here. But in my journey I found out that religion and activism can be parallel, and that the Islam also supports you fighting for your rights and standing against oppression. As a way to celebrate my faith and my activism, this Ramadan I’d like to invite you to explore some of the principles that have been guiding me through my fight for climate justice.
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, during which 1.6 billion Muslims consider fasting as their spiritual duty. Commonly, fasting is referred to as refraining from eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual activity from sunrise to sunset. But it also refrains us from harmful activities, teaches us empathy, and works to close the gap between the rich and the poor. The month is special because, in Islam belief, the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him: PBUH) in this month.
The Qur’an has guided us to love the environment.
“…And do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” Qur’an, 2:60
In this verse, corruption is not only bribery, manipulation, or systemic abuse, it also refers to the destruction of crops and animals, industrial pollution, environmental damage, and reckless exploitation and mismanagement of natural resources. So fossil fuel extraction for profit, which causes harm to the environment, is frowned upon in Islam.
The Qur’an also mentioned our skies as protected ceiling,
“And We made the sky a protected ceiling, but they, from its signs, are turning away.” Qur’an, 21:32
And again, the greed of people is causing destruction. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR6 has mentioned that human action is the biggest contributor to the climate crisis, where rich countries are mainly responsible.
Ramadan is a gift to human beings to help face our challenges, including climate injustice. In Ramadan, sadaqah (charity) is sunnah or “suggested by Prophet Muhammad” (PBUH) and rewarded. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “If any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal eats of it, he will be rewarded as if he had given that much in charity.” (Sahih Bukhari Vol. 8, Book 73, No. 41). He had always encouraged planting trees as Sadaqah Jariya (continuous charity) even after the person who planted them passed. Another way of Sadaqah is obligatory tax (Zakat) which the rich people have to pay before Ramadan ends. With the word’s literal meaning, ‘to cleanse,’ Muslims believe that paying zakat purifies, increases, and blesses the remainder of their wealth. It is a way to radically reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.
Ramadan and Islam have taught Muslims the necessity of activism as Allah (the Almighty) has created us as stewards of the Earth.
“Remember when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am going to place a successive human authority on earth.’” Qur’an, 2:30. It is our duty to take care of the planet.
The climate crisis is everywhere, but in Global South countries in South and Southeast Asia and North Africa, people live with it every day. While having to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, we are also experiencing extreme heat, water scarcity, and flooding. Global North countries are responsible for the climate crisis, and we, living in the most vulnerable nations, are suffering. As a Muslim, it is my duty to fight for my planet and my right to a safe and liveable future. To me, activism is my spiritual journey.
This Ramadan, we all can work together for global peace, where no country is attacking another because of greed and bigotry. We can learn a lot from Islam about environmentalism and leave a better world for the generations to come. With the idea of Zakat, we must demand reparations from the countries who are exploiting global south countries for their own gains. This Ramadan, we can work to minimise inequalities and show solidarity to every human on Earth.