The Shy Activist- Attain that Taqwa

If you don’t know already, Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for muslims as it’s the month that the Quran was revealed. One of the pillars of Islam is fasting and this is what we do for the whole month of Ramadan, from dawn to sunset. Fasting makes us understand the physical pain of hunger, it encourages us to carry out more good deeds, it improves our will power by abstaining from our physical wants and it is a month that helps us to attain Taqwa.

If you are muslim you will know that familiar feeling in Ramadan when you think about how you are hungry but realise that is how millions of people in poverty feel. Or when you are about to get super angry but don’t want that to jeopardise your fast being accepted. This is because we are very aware of our actions during Ramadan.

Last year I went to the light upon light conference just before Ramadan and I really enjoyed one particular lecture about how the purpose of Ramadan is to attain Taqwa.

“O You who believe! Fasting is prescribed upon you as it was prescribed on those before you so that you may attain Taqwa” Quran – [2:183]

Taqwa means to become closer to Allah and being constantly aware of the presence of Allah. 

“Taqwa is not about performing religious obligations such as prayer and fasting: it is about living a pious life. A person possessing taqwa …chooses to live a moral life.“ 

“It strengthens a Muslim’s belief and enables him to become a better human being and an even better follower of the Islamic faith.”

This lecture particularly interested me because the focus was on our actions as consumers and how we need to be more aware of the presence of Allah in everything we do. 

The speaker was Ustadh Asim Khan who discussed how in the UK we waste 200k tons of food per year and we waste a whole load of clothes too (we’ve had a blog post on this before). The next speaker Zahir Mahmoud lectured about the the Prophet (peace be upon him) and how he hardly had any possessions or money and his home was very modest. This shows the contrast between the lifestyle we’re all so used to and the one we know would be should live as close as possible to.

I think there is a very strong connection between remembering our faith in everything we do and consumerism. Because consumerism and capitalism does not encourage us to think about other people. It encourages us to think about ourselves and what we need. “The love of this world, greed, hatred or enmity towards a fellow human, pride, etc. are all examples of such traits that hurt a believer’s Taqwa.”

One of my favourite quotes from the Prophet (PBUH) is:

“The best of people are those who are most beneficial to people”

We can be beneficial to others in many ways. But we can accidentally be detrimental to people in many ways too. By remembering our faith in everything we do we know we should consider how our choices affect the planet and everything in it. Hopefully this weekly blog helps to consider the bad impact some of the most seemingly harmless things have on our environment and other people.

I hope we all attain the fruits of Ramadan and attain taqwa. Not just by doing the things we are obviously obligated to do like praying, paying zakat, being good to our family and friends etc but being honest in everything that we do. More importantly being more honest with ourselves that we are doing the best we can because that’s all we can do, the best that we can do as individuals. 

O mankind, indeed We have…made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.(49:13)

SO I will leave you with a very Oh So Ethical quote from the Quran.

“…Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…” (Qur’an, 13:11)

BE THE CHANGE. Attain that taqwa people.

FAIR FAVOURITES

So since we break our fast everyday with dates we should definitely get dates that are the most ethical they can be!

MEDJOUL DATES

Palestinian Medjoul Dates

sources and further reading

http://www.idealmuslim.com/how-to-gain-taqwa-in-ramadan/

https://www.muslimaid.org/media-centre/blog/ramadan-and-taqwa/

https://www.al-islam.org/message-thaqalayn/vol11-n4-2011/taqwa-part-1-ayatullah-murtadha-mutahhari/taqwa-part-i#term-taqwa

Soomaiya Saturday- Every Penny Counts

Note- This is not a money saving guide

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We all like to give to charity regularly. We might have a monthly direct debit set up or give to the homeless. In Islam we give 2.5% of our wealth as it is a pillar of our faith. 

We do this because we want to help people who are less fortunate. We want to make a difference to someone’s life. We want to improve someone’s situation. In Islam we believe that you can’t lose anything from giving.

But what if every penny you spent had a positive impact on someone’s life. What if you offered Trade and not Aid. (I’m not suggesting we stop giving to charity).

At Oh So Ethical we believe that one of the biggest powers individuals have is their consumer power. We have to spend to survive- housing, food, clothes, other essentials.

What if every time you needed something you looked into the best option. Not just the best option for you as the customer but the best option for it’s impact on everything behind the item. Think about the environment, the person who made the goods, what the company believes in. Become a conscious shopper and not a zombie-like consumer.

When I started to think about spending ethically I started with the basics that I would always buy. Items such as soap, shower gels, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste (find them in the OSE directory). It feels good to know I am regularly contributing to businesses that are having a good impact on the world.

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I always think of it this way- if your friend and your enemy were selling the same thing, who would you buy it from?

In Islam we believe in attaching blessings to everything we do- “And spend of your substance in the cause of Allah, and make not your own hands contribute to destruction; but do good; for Allah loveth those who do good.” (2:195) It’s our mission to have a positive impact with every choice we make. Let’s use our choices to make people happy!

New Year New Ethical You- Be Effortlessly Ethical

So lot’s of people make fun of the idea that you should become a different person in the new year. It is true that we should always strive to become better people but hey sometimes we need starting point. If new years is yours then that’s fine! Just take that first step!

So we have put together a few extremely easy ethical lifestyle tips. These are designed to make your soul and the planet better. The best thing? It’s not difficult and you feel the great results.

So here goes…

1. Animal Welfare

Animal welfare is very important. The effects of fast food, supermarkets, cheap meals are bad for the planet and for animals. We are stewards of Earth. We have power but that power is being abused. Factory farming is churning out chemical ridden produce while billions of people are consuming it, without giving a second thought to what they are actually doing. Before it was food, it was a living creature. Why don’t we have the same compassion for them as we do with pets? They feel pain too. Our planet is also suffering. You can click here to find out 11 facts about factory farming and the environment.

So how do we combat this?

Becoming a vegetarian could be a way to show your stance against factory farming and unethical practices. You may find that becoming a vegetarian isn’t your thing. But cutting down on the amount of meat you eat still has an effect. You will definitely come to realise that you do not need to have meat for up to 3 meals a day. You’ll feel lighter and healthier. Once you realise that you don’t need to eat meat you won’t miss it! I think it’s a psychological thing- if there is a rule, you’re more inclined to want to break it! So don’t limit yourself completely but treat yourself here and there. Just keep in mind where the animal came from. A factory farm, pumped with drugs, filled with illnesses, killed within weeks and living in unsanitary conditions. Take this quote-

Devote thyself single-mindedly to the Faith, and thus follow the nature designed by Allah, the nature according to which He has fashioned mankind. There is no altering the creation of Allah.
(Surah 30:30)

Are we not altering nature to suit our greedy consumerist society? 

Just because we are human and they are animals, doesn’t mean they do not deserve respect. There are places that produce ethically raised meats and this is what we need to see more of.

“Eat and drink from the provision of Allaah, and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.“ (Qur’an, 2:60)

Everything we have should be in moderation. The Prophet PBUH lived in a time when meat was a luxury and emphasised the importance of caring for our animals with great compassion.

So maybe this year you can only purchase ethically raised meat and cut down on it too. Let us know how it goes!

2. Shopping ethically- Fashion

We tirelessly post pictures of all the beautiful clothes we find in second hand shops and swapshops.

Behind all the cheap and even expensive clothes is a person struggling to pay for food and a home. Garment workers spend most of their time at work and have little to show for it. 

“And give full measure when you measure out, and weigh with a true balance; this is fair and better in the end.” (Quran 17:35)

Maybe next time you go shopping you can really take a look at the item of clothing you want to buy and see that perhaps the person who made this was involved in the Rana Plaza collapse. Try not to contribute to fast fashion culture and venture out to all the alternatives! So many wonderful fair trade products that benefit society. So many second hand clothes that have plenty of wear left in them. And your own clothes. Make the most of them! Get creative. Or share it with your family. We don’t need to be in fashion, what do we have to prove?

Give a charity shop or a fair trade shop a chance. 

3. Shopping ethically- Groceries

It might seem impossible but you can be a more ethical consumer when it comes to food. There are some supermarkets to avoid that support injustice. If you give them your money you are telling them that their behaviour is okay. You will be part of their immoral profit making scheme. Make shopping more fun by scouting out ethical alternatives! Learn where your food comes from and appreciate the work that goes into making it. We have advanced so far that we don’t care where anything came from! 

Going to the local supermarket is easy. Doing the right thing, and finding an ethical alternative is hard. But what a small change it would be in your life and what a great impact it would have. We need less Kardashian information and more where did this milk come from, where did this meat come from, where did these vegetables come from. 

These tips are so simple. All it requires is giving a second thought to every choice your make. This is a great place to start- with the basics. 

Not only will you benefitting your own health and wellbeing but can also contribute to a society and stand up against injustice.

We’ll leave you with a few quotes to remind you that we all are compassionate beings. We’re all brothers and sisters and we need to care for each other and all the things we have in our posession. Somehow we have forgotten that but it’s never too late to love.

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

If there is but one tree of flowers and fruit within a village, that place is worthy of your respect.
(Mahabharata)

“When God created the first human beings, God led them around the Garden of Eden and said: “Look at my works! See how beautiful they are—how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” (Midrash Kohelet Rabbah, 1 on Ecclesiastes 7:13)