28 May 2013

Post Woolwich: WIN Statement: 'The Essential Need for an Islamic Nonviolence'

"Today's world is traveling in some strange direction. You see that the world is going toward destruction and violence. And the specialty of violence is to create hatred among people and to create fear. I am a believer in nonviolence and I say that no peace or tranquility will descend upon the people of the world until nonviolence is practiced, because nonviolence is love and it stirs courage in people."
Abdul Ghaffar Khan (a.k.a. Badshah Khan: 'Nonviolent Soldier of Islam')

"But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs."
(Qur' an 42:43)

As an organisation guided by core Islamic principles, we acknowledge that there have been disturbing acts of violence which have taken place, that have been voiced, explicitly or otherwise, to be under the umbrella of Islam. The recent killing in Woolwich, London is one such act.

While we believe these acts to be contrary to Islamic teachings, and planned and carried out by individuals or groups that do not represent the vast majority of Muslims - in our view nonetheless, it is clear that there is an essential need for a conscious, nonviolent movement in the Muslim world that captures dissatisfaction, frustration and anger that may be present. Such a movement would support the transformation of such feelings into energy  that can be channelled into actions that heal, rather than fracture - actions that are ultimately motivated by love for all, as opposed to, at the other extreme, by hatred and vengeance.

Simultaneously, real peace is built on the foundation of justice for all, and the healing of wounds. In this spirit, there is a collective responsibility, and qualities such as fairness, non-exploitation of humans and the wider natural order, coupled with self-determination, lie at its heart.

Wisdom In Nature
condemns the attack that took place in Woolwich last week, and we keep Drummer Lee Rigby's family and loved ones in our heart and prayers.  Pain is never isolated, especially in a globalised world. Pain is ultimately shared, just as we ultimately are all as one.

In this spirit of unity and compassion, WIN is open to, and invites collaboration with other parties wishing to raise awareness of the tradition of nonviolence in Islam, and within our respective capacities, to co-learn and co-develop holistic programs in this key area.

Abdul Ghaffar Khan
With Islamic contemporary history having figures of nonviolence, perhaps most notably and best documented, being Abdul Ghaffar Khan (a.k.a. Badshah Khan: see photo) [1] who in the last century raised an 'army' of 100, 000 'soldiers' of active nonviolence, we thus have inspiration and material in our own tradition, as well as material and inspiration from that of others - indeed all authentic traditions point to the same essential Truth.

From near the beginnings of WIN, we have felt the need to give importance to 'process' i.e. the belief that how we achieve our goals is as important as the goal itself. Our process-oriented approach remains integral to our work, and an active nonviolence is central to our core strand of 'Engaged Surrender'[2], which underlies our activities.

Closely related to this is the need to create spaces that invite authentic listening to a diverse range of voices, including those of the marginalised who may not otherwise easily get heard. The current state of the world re-affirms to us the immense importance these principles hold, and the need to stay firmly and explicitly with them.  At its best, it is easier said than done. Yet, it is our prayer that we can develop and actualise this concept further, embodying it further ourselves, and with the wider community.

If you have any questions, please get in touch. 

Wisdom In Nature
Tel. 0845 456 3960 (local rate)

[1] Abdul Ghaffar Khan (a.k.a. Badshah Khan), a friend of Gandhi, was a Muslim Pathan who in the 20th century lived by principles of active non-violence, rooted in Islam. Badshah Khan raised a non-violent army of 100, 000 Khudai Khidmatgar ("Servants of God") that resisted British rule over India.

[2] Engaged Surrender is one of Wisdom In Nature's core strands. i.e. WIN's work is underpinned by a nonviolent, process-oriented activism, expressed through a contemplative dimension within the framework of Islam (Surrender to the Divine). More info about Engaged Surrender and WIN's core strands can be found by clicking here.

[3] Wisdom In Nature (WIN) was originally called LINE (London Islamic Network for the Environment). WIN offers workshops and training in Islamic ecology, Permaculture and Facilitation Skills, and engages in a transformative approach. It is open to people of all faiths and beliefs, and is based in the UK. More info:

16 May 2013

GM and the Ummah: Should Muslims be eating genetically modified (GM) food?

When readiness of a meal coincides with the time for salah (compulsory ritual prayer), the eating of the meal comes first:

Narrated Nafi': Ibn 'Umar said, "Allah's Apostle (SAW) said, 'If the supper is served for anyone of you and the Iqama is pronounced, start with the supper and don't be in haste till you finish it." If food was served for Ibn 'Umar and Iqama was pronounced, he never came to the prayer till he finished it (i.e. food) in spite of the fact that he heard the recitation (of the Qur'an) by the Imam (in the prayer). Narrated Ibn 'Umar: The Prophet (SAW) said, "If anyone of you is having his meals, he should not hurry up till he is satisfied even if the prayer has been started." (Bukhari Book 11, Hadith 642)

With this in mind, I invite you to reflect upon the importance of eating Allah’s gift of food in its best condition. Specifically, I ask you to consider that there may be something wrong with foods that are genetically modified (GM).

Whenever Allah SWT applies the description 'halal’ (lawful; legal) to food in the Qur’an, He also uses the description ‘tayyib’, meaning ‘pure’ or ‘good’. As Muslims, we need to know about the purity of our food. This includes GM food.

"Allah created the heavens and the earth in true (proportions): verily in that is a Sign for those who believe." The Qur'an (29:44)

Does GM corrupt Allah SWT's 'true proportions'? To begin addressing this question, let us (briefly) consider what the process of making GM crops entails and what this means for the earth …

To genetically modify the cells of a plant, a gene is usually taken from another plant or other organism and inserted into the plant. All of the plant's cells are then affected by the new gene and take on its characteristics. This includes the reproductive cells, meaning that subsequent generations will inherently carry the GM trait. The inserted gene will be chosen for a particular characteristic, but the insertion process can also lead to impacts on neighbouring genes.

GM can lead to changes that go beyond those that can occur through traditional cross breeding. When GM crops are grown in open land, the spread of GM from them cannot be contained since plants are pollenated by wind and insects. We must question whether impacts upon the food chain and the environment surrounding GM crops can be comprehensively predicted or controlled. These impacts include effects upon the people who eat the products of animals fed with GM crops, for example meat, dairy products or eggs.

As Muslims, we need to consider whether or not the open growing of GM crops, that lead to changes that cannot be contained, transgresses the balance in Allah SWT's creation.

“The sun and the moon follow courses (exactly) computed;
And the herbs and the trees – both (alike) bow in adoration.
And the Firmanent has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice),
In order that ye may not transgress (due) balance.”
The Qur'an (55:5-8)

Do we know whether or not GM food products are tayyib?

“Eat and drink of the sustenance provided by Allah, and do no evil nor mischief on the (face of the) earth.”
The Qur'an (2:60)

The more that GM crops are grown in the environment, the more crops around them can become (and already have become) contaminated through wind and insect pollenation. If GM crops are modified with cells from unlawful organisms, will we be able to eat them? Will we even know whether or not our food contains GM? In our endeavours to eat food in the best and most wholesome condition, don’t we need to consider the entire food production process as well as taking care over the slaughtering of meat, the cooking of meals and the serving?

“It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth.” (Other translations of agents include 'viceroys' and 'successors')
The Qur'an (6:165)

As an agent of the earth, appointed by Allah SWT, have you made an informed decision about GM food yet?

“So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. [Adhere to] the fitrah of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know.” (Other translations of Allah SWT's fitrah include 'original' and 'nature')
The Qur'an (30:30)

We choose, every moment, to make intentions, provisions and actions as Muslims. As Muslims, we must uphold Allah's balance in the earth, and avoid spreading mischief. I ask you to make a decision about how you, as a Muslim in this interconnected earth, need to behave regarding GM foods.

Jabir reported that Allah's Messenger (may Peace be upon him) commanded the licking of fingers and the dish, saying: “You do not know in what portion the blessing lies."
(Sahih Muslim Book 23, Hadith 5043)

I pray that you will not neglect any small actions that would deny you Allah SWT’s blessings through His gift of food, including the blessings of truth, purity and goodness. May you succeed in achieving the best conditions for every morsel of food that you serve and eat.

Useful webpages:

GM and Islam by Wisdom in Nature

GM Watch

Non GMO Project

Food Sovereignty

Organic halal food to buy (UK)

Beyond Halal

This article was published in SISTERS Magazine in April 2013

14 May 2013

The tools we use to achieve the ends we seek

The concerns voiced in this post have been disturbing me for a long time, but it took me a while to articulate them here - probably because of the somewhat contradictory nature of doing so.  I've been thinking about the means we use to achieve the end desired - social justice, ecological health, better health and well-being for people and planet in the form of wholeness, not one of these goals at the expense of others.  They are, after all, interconnected.  In recent years, the internet, and in particular social media has become a nearly essential tool to this end.  And although there are examples of cooperative social media structures, these have not attained the mass usage necessary that have rendered big-business run entities such as Facebook nearly essential for individuals and organizations to communicate and share information.  Unfortunately, big businesses are not conducive to the end desired for those who seek a more peaceful and whole world; they undermine this, even if simultaneously engaging in 'corporate social/environmental responsibility' activities.  

A recent case illustrates the point.   Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, was one of several technology giants that recently started a political organization called, which focuses on progressive immigration reform in the United States.   Its tagline is "moving the knowledge economy forward", and other technology leaders involved with it hail from Dropbox, Linkedin, and Microsoft.   While pushing for pro-immigration reform, has financially supported two groups airing television ads of lawmakers who opposive healthcare reform, support drilling in the Arctic, and support the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  Tar sands development in Canada is what James Hansen, NASA scientist, has said would mean "game over for the climate".    The actions of have resulted in a boycott of Facebook by a coalition of environmental, immigration, and progressive change groups; to their credit, they reject the strategy of pursuing support for one issue at the expense of others.   But back to the underlying problem - these companies make have made enormous profits through mass use of their products or services, and like all big businesses, use their power to influence policy via lobbying groups.    Sometimes, as with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, their philanthropic organizations invest in other corporations such as Monsanto and Cargill, while also promoting schemes undermining social and/or ecological justice - e.g. GM crops in Africa. 

There is also a dark side to internet use in general.  The ever-increasing amounts of information, communication, and entertainment that exist in cyberspace rely on data centers or 'server farms' that use vast amounts of electrical power.   As the New York Times reports, "The inefficient use of power is largely driven by a symbiotic relationship between users who demand an instantaneous response to the click of a mouse and companies that put their business at risk if they fail to meet that expectation."   Or, as stated by a technology expert quoted in the same article, “We’re what’s causing the problem.”   

The questions that run through my mind are:   What is our role in causing some of these problems?  Or is it that corporations create demand and feed it?   Should we resign ourselves to the notion that there is no way to pursue our goals without corporate conduits?  Or is there another way?

So returning to why it took me so long to voice these concerns; here I am sharing this on a blog on the internet.   I've realized It's worth sharing these thoughts, and that's the reason WIN and countless other organizations and individuals use the internet and social media - to reach and connect with people.  However, I feel that it is important to acknowledge that all the stuff that we share and store online has costs- much more than the ones raised here.  Only through awareness can solutions emerge.

8 May 2013

Workday on Permaculture Plot (Surrey): Mon 27th May 2013 - In Solidarity with 'Worldwide March against Monsanto'

Wisdom In Nature invites you to:

ALLOTMENT WORKDAY ON PERMACULTURE PLOT (SURREY) - In Solidarity with 'Worldwide March against Monsanto'

Registration info below>>

Date: ***Change of Date*** (due to illness)  to Monday 27th May (i.e. Monday of Bank holiday weekend - it was originally planned for the 25th)
Time: 12pm-3pm.
Location: Reigate, Surrey. (Just outside M25, a couple of miles from Reigate train station. Reigate is within an hour from London on the train. Car parking available).

This is a volunteering day on a Saturday in Reigate (an hour's train ride from London). The plot is relatively new and in its beginnings as a permaculture project. The day would be of particular interest to anyone who would like to spend a few hours working on the land, and would like to see some permaculture principles being tried out on a land-based project.

Open to people of all faiths and beliefs, and all gardening abilities. No experience is necessary.

This workday was originally planned on the same day as the 'Worldwide March against Monsanto', with hundreds of protests being planned across the world. More info: The workday is being held in solidarity with these protests (even though the date of the workday has changed to Monday 27th May).

On Islam & GM: 

I'm interested - What to do?

To find out more/register your interest:  email us on: volunteer[AT] with your full name and contact number. Once registered, we will then send you email updates in the lead-up.

If you would like to speak with us, call 0845 456 3960 (local rate).   

If we have alot of interest, we may have to put a hold on further registrations.

Things to bring

Gardening gloves (if you have any, but not essential)
Rough footwear.
Waterproofs in case.
A packed lunch.
Fluids & perhaps a hot drink in a flask for yourself

Tel. 0845 456 3960 (local rate)