Do you know the name of your next-door neighbour? What about what they do for a living? Do you know what their favourite pastime is?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, you shouldn’t feel bad because the reality is most people don’t know who their neighbours are, never mind whether they prefer to read a good book or go shopping on a Saturday afternoon. Living in busy towns and cities means that most people don’t go beyond the polite ‘hello’ to their neighbours over the garden fence, but are disconnected neighbourhoods good for the planet?
Green Muslims in the DC area of Washington argue that they are not and state that the key to sustainable living is sharing facilities and working together to improve our sense of community.
A couple of weeks ago, the ‘Good Tree Village’ arranged a meeting with the wider Muslim community in the DC- metro area to promote their aim of starting a physical community of around 20-25 families in a “co-housing” type of neighbourhood. Co-housing is the simple notion that people get together to create and maintain their own neighbourhood; encourage interaction amongst neighbours through shared facilities whilst retaining a sense of privacy in self-contained homes.
Basically, co-housing is about reviving a sense of neighbourhood and community which enables us to share our resources- be they time, cars or food- and live more sustainably. It is also something that is not so alien to Muslims and Islamic culture. In fact, the Good Tree Villlage is a close-knit co-housing community based on Islamic values but open to all.
As Syed Hassan who reported on the meeting remarks, “what we see exemplified by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a frugal lifestyle is in fact the best example of ‘sustainable living’… We must understand that sustainable living, where everyone in the world could afford to live fairly without going hungry or lacking shelter – is a core Islamic virtue.”
Even so, it seems that many Muslims living in the US need to tackle their increasingly consumerist perspectives before they embrace a more green lifestyle. Syed Hassan writing in the Muslim Link notes that many Muslims still associate success with huge houses and large cars- something which he insists is “Islamically invalid, and certainly not sustainable in the United States beyond a few future generations”. The meeting did, however, spark a debate on the importance of environmental sustainability and the need to bring the topic to the heart of the Muslim community by engaging with Imams and community leaders.
Those who attended the event also remarked that there are steps we can all take right now to improve our neighbourhood’s sense of community and its sustainability. Whether it’s making a greater effort to reduce our waste and recycle, talking about environmental issues at the local school and community centre or even starting a community garden- there is something we can all do to create greener neighbourhoods.
: Image via arkland_swe/flickr.
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