Monday, September 15, 2008
My name is Sarah and this is my niyyah: Being a Green Muslim, to me, means recognizing and reflecting on my presence in the moment and my direct impact on everything around me. Despite negative externalities, which may seek to unsettle my state of equilibrium, I take time to get lost in the simple miracles of nature, the streams, sycamores, pocket parks in an urban jungle and the like. This is where I feel at peace with myself. I am reminded of a Rumi poem:
"to enjoy this conversation…make everything in you an ear, each atom of your being, and you will hear at every moment what the Source is whispering to you, just to you and for you, without any need for my words or anyone else's. you are—we all are—the beloved of the Beloved, and in every moment, in every event of your life, the Beloved is whispering to you exactly what you need to hear and know. who can ever explain this miracle? it simply is. listen and you will discover it every passing moment. listen, and your whole life will become a conversation in thought and act between you and Him, directly, wordlessly, now and always. it was to enjoy this conversation that you and i were created."
For me, my presence in nature is a deep conversation between me and my Creator. I realize this feeling of general health/wellness that nature provides is often times a luxury and can be seen as intellectual elitism, a sentiment I do not share. Everyone should have the right to reach their greatest human potential and this is certainly true in our interactions with something as ubiquitous as the built environment and the natural world. Many of our urban centers are concrete sterile shells void of a meaningful exchange between the built environment and nature. We are unequivocally changed by our surroundings, public spaces can empower us or be a part of our detriment.
My involvement with Green Muslims stems from my desire to help others see the inequalities that exist between those who have access to affordable housing in safe neighborhoods, equitable transportation uses, healthy foods, and accessible green public space, and those who unfortunately do not. My hope is that we can foster greater opportunities for bottom-up community building, thereby directly addressing these inequalities. Simultaneously, engaging in dialogue with the other Green Muslims will help me grow into a more reflective person, in hopes of discovering sustainable ways to preserve the environment for future generations. In many ways, my interest in urban planning is motivated by these factors.
I am humbled to be in the presence of my Green Muslim peers. I have spent much of my academic profession, having to explain what I do to the older generation, qualifying it to careers comparable to those typical of South Asian second-generation Americans. To be in the presence of other Green Muslims, people who just get it, is a very empowering feeling. They have taken the initiative to demand change and I want to be a part of this movement.
Picture: Garden in Pasadena, CA