As part of its work to encourage green religious pilgrimages worldwide, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation have just launched a ‘Green Guide to Hajj’. Co-authored by Dr Husna Ahmed OBE, the guide looks at practical ways that Muslims can embrace a green Hajj and adopt more environmentally friendly habits. We caught up Dr Husna Ahmed, who is an international speaker on climate change with a PhD in Environmental Law, to discuss the harmful aspects of religious pilgrimage and what can be done about them.
Getting The Green Message To Muslims
“What we want to do is use a theological grounding- the Qur’an and hadith– to encourage people to think more carefully about protecting their environment,” says Dr Husna over the phone. It’s officially her day off and although she’s busy shopping with her daughter who is off to college she’s decided to have a quick chat with me anyway. “I mean people are now more and more aware of their carbon footprint and what they can do to limit their impact but Muslims are not really hearing it. So this guide is about encouraging them to do their bit.”
It is estimated that around 2.5 million Muslims go to hajj each year and whilst the impact of this mass religious pilgrimage is hard to measure, it is believed that 10 million plastic bottles get left behind every year. What’s more, according to my calculations, a pilgrimage to Mecca from the UK releases more tonnes of carbon than the average French person does in a year. So given the fact that many Muslims aspire to go on Hajj, which is the fifth pillar of Islam, it makes perfect sense to try and make it more environmentally friendly.
Hajj As A Time of Eco-Awareness
During the research into the Green Guide, Dr Husna states that the main issues that emerged were transport, waste and consumption. A lot of the pilgrims fly to Mecca, travel by private transport and are careless about the energy they use and the waste they create. “We want people to be cutting their waste, re-using items like water bottles and also thinking about what they can do beyond their hajj,” says Dr Husna.
“Hajj is a time for embracing good habits and reconsidering moral behaviours, so it’s the ideal time to change our outlook on the environment,” she added. Dr Husna is also keen to point out that Hajj is meant to be a once in a lifetime experience and states that those who have been on the pilgrimage several times need to think carefully about the impact of their travel.
Also Available In Arabic
The Guide is full of tips and bits of information to help the Muslim pilgrim plan their hajj with care. And in a bid to spread these green words of wisdom, the guide will also be translated into Indonesian, Urdu, Malay, Hausa (for Nigeria) and Arabic. So keep an eye out for them and I will post the Arabic guide for the Muslim community in the Middle East and North Africa when it’s available.
You can download the ‘Green Guide To Hajj’ here.
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