What does it mean to be Khalifah? A ruler? And what’s the job of a Khalifah? To rule the earth? The word Khalifah is mentioned several times in the Quran. One time that is noticeable regarding the idea of our responsibility to care for the well-being of the planet is this verse from the Quran:
ۚهُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَكُمْ خَلَائِفَ فِي ٱلْأَرْضِ
Khalifah is translated as inheritors, successors, vicegerents, rulers, and heirs in a variety of translations. This concept is also in the Hadith.
إِنَّ الدُّنْيَا حُلْوَةٌ خَضِرَةٌ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ مُسْتَخْلِفُكُمْ فِيهَا فَيَنْظُرُ كَيْفَ تَعْمَلُونَ
The world is sweet and green (alluring) and verily Allah is going to install you as vicegerent in it in order to see how you act.— Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as quoted by Abu Sa’id Khudri (Sahih Muslim 2742)
There are also multiple commands in the Quran to not spread corruption on the earth, including in this verse.
وَلَا تُفْسِدُوا۟ فِي ٱلْأَرْضِ بَعْدَ إِصْلَـٰحِهَا ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌۭ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
And cause no corruption in the land after it has been set in order. This is for your own good, if you are ˹truly˺ believers.Quran — Chapter 7 Verse 85
These ideas go together as if we are given a vicegerency, we have an obligation to pass it on in good condition.
وَلَا تَبْغِ الْفَسَادَ فِي ٱلْأَرْضِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُفْسِدِينَ
[A]nd do not corrupt in the land, Allah does not love those who corrupt.Quran — Chapter 28 Verse 77
It is widely believed that these commands require us to make an effort to be eco-friendly in our lives and that waste, carelessness with environmental resources, and general neglect of our duties to the environment are sinful and prohibited in a variety of ways both in the Quran and the Hadith.
Ramadan is a time when of course we are more attentive to our behavior, attempting to stop as many of our sins as we can. Thus, it is logical to make an effort to both be green in Ramadan and make the intention to have the best habits we can as regards being eco-friendly. Here are a few easy-to-implement tips on how to have a Green Ramadan.
Reduce or Eliminate Waste
I am sure we have all heard the problems of plastic water bottles, Styrofoam, and plastics generally. How about you bring your fork and spoon to the masjid with you this Ramadan? Bring a napkin as well while you are at it. If you want to be zealous, bring a Tupperware or bento box to put your food in if it is possible instead of throwing out a box or container. You can grab a fork, spoon, cloth napkin, and Tupperware from what you already have, or get something new.
It is also a good idea to bring a travel mug for tea to save the paper cup. It is a great idea in general to carry a travel mug instead of using a new cup every time. A reusable water bottle makes a lot of sense, in some ways, but I always find that I lose them and that they are hard to drink out of. So, I have comprised by reducing the use of plastic bottles by buying one that I like to drink out of, and using it for as long as I can.
Reduce Energy Use
Again, this is a good intention to make year-round. Did you know your plugged-in toaster, coffee pot, phone charger, and blender all take energy by being plugged in even if they aren’t turned on? Make an intention to unplug things when they are not in use, not just in Ramadan, but year-round. That’s just wasteful. Install more green light bulbs.
Reduce Meat Consumption
So, I know that there is reason to think that Muslims can’t be vegetarian, according to the sunnah due to the fact that the Prophet ﷺ ate meat and declared it clean, and saying something he gave us is wrong is a big sin. However, the sunnah was not to eat meat three times a day, or even every day. Meat industries make a huge negative environmental impact. You don’t have to make an iron-clad decision to never eat meat or dairy again.
To be responsible as Muslims, we need to reduce our meat consumption. The water waste from beef, deforestation, and multiple other impacts of meat really add up and contribute to the environmental crisis. Fish is no solution. Did you know some tuna are endangered species? The orcas are starving in the Pacific Northwest because their food supply has been decimated by salmon fishing. They are going extinct, so soon, tragically, probably no more orcas. We must take the impact of our dietary choices more seriously.
There are a lot of other ways to reduce consumption. There are theories, non-Muslim in origin, like degrowth, which holds great promise as a theory, proposing that the goal of economics should be to shrink production, economies, and consumption.
There are a number of organized resources on the web for a green Ramadan, including:
You can even register your efforts with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) depending on your location here:
To see a complete list made with green activist Nana Firman, you can also visit a past blog post on Muslim Girl from a few years ago:
Let’s stop falling for the whispers of the devil, wasting, consuming, and harming the planet, and make the intention that we will bring the light of our deen to the environmental crisis.
If you want to hear more from a scholar on permaculture, there is a great video from Zaytuna Institute here: