Meet The Mexican Muslim Tree Huggers

Giving Life

Beginning as a meeting once upon a time in Mexico, Trees Give Life is the co-effort of Arif Malik and performing artist Mohammed Yahya. Green Prophet talks to the organisation founders about why they are planting trees for religion. Less than a year old, the Trees Give Life campaign began with a trip to Latin America, one of the latest parts of the underprivileged world to embrace the Muslim faith. Founder of the campaign, Arif Malik was inspired by Islam’s environmental principles to reach out and make a difference.

He says, “As Muslims need to be more aware of our planet as we have been entrusted to take care of the planet and that includes you as an individual, as a society and community and state. So I decided that If I was to make a difference then I would not rely on anybody apart from myself and the Creator and that this was my small contribution… in trying to save the planet.”

Trees Give Life stems from an Islamic concept called ‘sadaqah‘ (sadh-ah-ka) which literally means charity. Unlike traditional Muslim charities that focus on mosque renovations or installing new water pumps, Trees Give Life has plants trees to heal the natural environment.

“We really don’t know the true value of a tree and (the value of) its effect on the environment; if all the Muslims just planted one tree, can you imagine what the would mean to the world?” – Arif Malik

According to their website, Trees Give Life aims to provide basic training “in the use of planting trees and other vegetation” to the poverty-stricken communities who can go on to share this knowledge with local communities. Such empowering skills are hoped to assist the newly-recruited tree planters to generate an income and “improve their quality of lives”.

And what about the environment? In the pursuit of protecting and serving all forms of life, the campaign hopes to “conserve the local environment of Latin, America, and other parts of the world including the UK which is affected by Natural and man made disasters by ensuring that certain species of trees and vegetation do not become extinct.” By planting more vegetation in derelict farmlands, this ensures that trees are grown specifically to regenerate the eco system and thus reduce the effects of global warming, CO2 emissions and reducing carbon footprints.

Muslim Mexican communities plant trees
Young plumoso palm trees ready to be planted in their new homes in South America

Green Prophet: Environmentalism in a majority of the Muslim world is seen as a novelty. Do you believe that Muslims have an important role to play in keeping the earth ‘green’?

Trees Give Life: ‘Muslims must stand up… and lead the way forward. If we do not and sit back then we will also suffer and our future generations will suffer. We are all accountable and will be held accountable for our actions, [even] towards our plants.

We have a social obligation, a moral obligation, a religious obligation and a spiritual obligation. The birds and plants and the eco systems are dying because of our actions. Muslims believe that God created everything in due measure and without flaws, but if we ignore the planet’s laws and neglect it, we may not have a future.’

Green Prophet: What do you think is holding back Muslims from doing more for the planet?

Trees Give Life: ‘My personal opinion is that many of us have lost what a it means to be an active Muslim. A Muslim must have an active connection with:
1. God,
2. The communities that we live in, and
3. The environment.

We cannot just pick one of these three and say “I will only concentrate on this one”. These are a must for all of us to be involved they are all intrinsically linked. Mankind is the caretaker of the planet and [Muslims believe] the first caretaker of the planet was Adam. All the prophets [in Islamic history] cared for the environment too.

If there are constraints to your activism then I would advise do the next best thing and remember that anything positive you do will have an effect on the earth – it’s like the ripple effect when you throw a stone in water – just like any negative thing you do will affect your surroundings.’

Green Prophet: Does Trees Give Life have any Middle Eastern projects in helping communities protecting their own environment?

Trees Give Life: ‘At this stage do not have any trees that we can plant in the Middle East, however if are able to establish and get contacts then we would be glad to assist. We are an organization that is based on a need and not to get politically driven to any one particular area or region.’

Green Prophet: How can we support Trees Give Life?
Trees Give Life: ‘Buy a tree through our website and assist us through donations. If you cannot afford a one-off payment, then at the least offer your support by raising awareness, and if you cannot do that then pray the Trees Give Life project is successful.’

:: www.treesgivelife.org

Images:: Trees Give Life ©, flickr

More on Green Muslems:
Trees That Don’t Stand a Chance Against Climate Change
Interview With America’s Leading Green Muslim – Ibrahim Abdul Matin
“Muslim For A Month” Project In Turkey Grows Interfaith Seeds
The Green Mosque Puts Faith In Its Eco-Friendly Place

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