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Author Connects Islam to Environmental Preservation

Source:www.america.gov
Author:M. Scott Bortot
Date:18/11-2010

Close-up of Ibrahim Abdul-Matin (State Dept.)

Environmental activist Ibrahim Abdul-Matin discusses Green Deen in Washington

By M. Scott Bortot
Staff Writer

Washington — For Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, working to protect the environment is a way of life.

The 33-year-old New York City native was recently in Washington to talk about his upcoming book, Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet.

“Every step through my career, there has been some relationship to what is our relationship to the Earth,” Abdul-Matin told America.gov at a reading for the book at Busboys and Poets café in Washington.

Abdul-Matin’s interest in protecting nature started as a young boy when his father would take the family to visit their ancestral homestead in southern Virginia.

“Growing up in New York City, he would bring us out into the woods. … He would bring us anywhere we could go so we would have a better relationship with nature,” Abdul-Matin said. “His understanding of the natural world was through being connected to the farm on his trips to where our family is from in Virginia. He loved bringing us to nature and that was instilled in me.”

With Green Deen, Abdul-Matin brings his love of the natural world to the reader. He said the book is written not only with the Muslim reader in mind, but for anyone interested in learning more about Islam’s connection to the environment and Islam in general.

After two years in the writing, Green Deen is a timely work for a couple of reasons.

“We are re-examining our relationship to water, waste, energy and food, and there is a Muslim ethic that has been in place for generations. … For example, we are told to eat from the plate that is closest to you, so you don’t eat over somebody, so that could be understood to be ‘buy local,’ get food that is locally grown,” Abdul-Matin said.

On another level, the book may help dispel misperceptions of Islam held by many people.

“There is a lot of misunderstandings about Muslim civilization. … The height of Muslim civilization was very technologically advanced,” Abdul-Matin said.

He said his understanding of religion guides his life choices and how he helps others. Calling Islam a “natural religion,” Abdul-Matin said the first law of such a religion is self-preservation.

“From that perspective, I want to preserve human beings and the natural world. My being a Muslim is my pathway to doing that,” he said.

Shortly after graduating from the University of Rhode Island in 1999, Abdul-Matin worked in Massachusetts for Outward Bound, a nonprofit organization that encourages personal growth through experiences and challenges in the wilderness. He used his love of people and the environment to help at-risk youth develop greater self-understanding.

Outward Bound, it turns out, also had a profound effect on him. One of the creeds the program emphasizes is to leave a place in a better condition than you found it.

“It was that Outward Bound principle that reminded me of my Islamic framework,” Abdul-Matin said. “As an Outward Bound instructor … I started to understand that leaving a place better than you found it also applies to my role as the khalifa, or steward, of the planet Earth.”

After returning to New York, he directed youth programs at the Prospect Park Alliance in Brooklyn. While at the alliance, he helped establish the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment, which today is a secondary school with several hundred students.

In addition to being the author of Green Deen, Abdul-Matin writes for numerous publications on the environment and issues important to the Muslim community. In October, he appeared on an ABC panel hosted by Christiane Amanpour to discuss American perceptions of Islam and Muslims.

One of the biggest challenges in writing the book was the editorial process. Fortunately for Abdul-Matin, his wife, Fatima Ashraf, helped make it more reader-friendly while Imam Zaid Shakir of Zaytuna College advised him on the writing process.

Abdul-Matin is humble in describing the possible impact of his first book. He hopes that others, more steeped in environmental science, might be inspired to expand on the ideas presented in Green Deen.

“Hopefully this will be a message to some of these scholars who are much more qualified than I am to write on this topic,” he said. “That they can take it and make the definitive book on Islam and the environment.”

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)