by Caroline Ugbo
On Sunday 10th August 2009 I went to a meeting of the London Islamic Network for the Environment (LINE) - now named Wisdom In Nature. The founder of the group, a medical doctor, Muzammal Hussain, was giving a talk for group discussion about the Earth Activist Training he had recently been on. He had been under canvas for two weeks in a very wet West Country camp, and that had been an experience in itself, but he persevered because he found the content of the seminars and the mix of people so fascinating.
I had met Muzammal, his wife and several other members of LINE at a weekend at the Franciscan Friary at Hilfield in Dorset, where there is a growing environmental project making use of the land and resources they have to produce organic vegetables and experiment with sustainable projects. They have speakers for weekends to explore environmental and peace initiatives. The weekend we met we discussed Islamic and Christian approaches to the environment and did some practical work together on the site.
It was good to meet them all again and be part of their discussion.
We started the meeting with a welcome and then the first Surah of the Quran was recited in Arabic followed by a short time of silent prayer and reflection. After that Muzammal talked to us about what he had learnt at the camp about permaculture and sustainable communities.
Permaculture was just a word to me, but as Muzammal explained it, it is the organizing of human habitats, mirroring nature where (as in organic gardening or forest gardening) things are grown together and live together in fruitful harmony. The aim is earth care, human care and fair shares, things we would all like to see. What fascinated me was that you start by observing what is already there, and don’t just plunge in with your own ideas to impose on the environment and people. After observing ‘the land’ you make the least change for maximum effect and using biological solutions to problems wherever possible. I can’t see myself at this stage in my life starting even an organic garden, but I can learn from the reasoning behind this to incorporate these principles into my everyday life: to observe first, patiently, and to work with what is there and what is natural to the environment.
He also spoke about sustainable communities and non-hierarchical and consensus organization. We discussed quite extensively the idea that a sustainable community is best with four generations living together. There was some debate about the conservative element in this for good and bad.
There followed plans for activities and meetings to come. Once more the first Surah of the Quran was recited followed by silent prayer. Then we all went out to a café for further sharing of ideas and stories.
If I tell you that people had come from Bath, Dorset, Brighton and Reading for the meeting, and that all but two of us were under forty I hope you will be surprised and impressed. I was. There were at least six nationalities there. It occurred to me afterwards, that many of those who formed the Muslim communities in our cities must have come from rural or semi-rural communities in their own country and had to adapt to city life as well as a new culture. Here are the next generation taking their place in concern for the environment, not now just for their own survival, but for the survival of all people.
Workshop: Sat 27th March 2010: Islam & Permaculture Introduction Day