Last week, I read Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet, a book that calls you to open your heart and care deeply about yourself, your community, city, country, continent and our shared planet. I started the book after reading In the Footsteps of the Prophet, a book in which Tariq Ramadan writes:
“This relationship with nature was so present in the Prophet’s life from his earliest childhood that one can easily come to the conclusion that living close to nature, observing, understanding and respecting it, is imperative of deep faith. […]Being close to nature, respecting what it is, and observing and meditating on what it shows us, offers us or takes (back) from us requirements of a faith, in its quest, attempts to feed, deepen and renew itself. Nature is the primary guide and intimate companion of faith” (Tariq Ramadan, In the Footsteps of the Prophet, p.13)
This insistence that nature is needed for faith intrigued me, because I love the natural environment, but I am my most energetic and passionate when I’m in a beautiful city. I love the gleam of skyscrapers, the chatter of coffeeshops, the bustle of a crowd, and the feeling you get in a large city that you could meet a wonderful new friend just around the corner. This book however, asks us to think about the world that our city hides from us. It asks us to think about where food comes from beyond the grocery store, the scarcity of water beyond our (Western) household taps, how polluting energy sources adversely impact the planet, and where waste goes beyond the ‘chutes’ in our apartment building or the garbage can outside our house. It acknowledges it is hard to be mindful of these things, but emphasizes that understanding chains of consequence is a key component of living an ethical life.