In 610 CE, atop Mecca’s Mount Nur, Angel Jibril (Gabriel) commanded Prophet Muhammad (SAW) with one word: Iqra (recite or read). The event which became known as Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power), sparked the beginning of a prophecy that would reveal the Holy Qu’ran over a twenty-three year period, sealing the Abrahamic prophecy. Muslims honor this event not only with a remembrance of that sacred night which occurred sometime during the final ten days of Ramadan but with an entire month of fasting that begins today.
The holy season is a time to burn away transgressions, remember the less fortunate, and realign oneself with Allah (SWT), inshAllah. It means long nights spent in the Masjid (Mosque) praying Taraweeh (extra prayers for Ramadan) and even longer days abstaining from food and water. A friend once expressed to me during his fast that never has something so abundant as water remained so close to his heart. In a world enduring climate-induced droughts, access to potable water has nuanced the holy month for many Muslims, bringing Islamic organizations to think deeply about climate change; its impact on the world's poorest communities; and the migration it produces. Organizations like Islamic Relief have directed their efforts toward providing resources for refugees fleeing conflict and climate change this Ramadan, raising awareness on issues regarding rising sea levels, droughts, and famines.
“No one wants to be a refugee. This is a crisis that isn't going away anytime soon and we must act now for a solution.” – Islamic Relief Canada
Last month, in Istanbul, the World Humanitarian Summit heightened the issue of climate inequality around the world, citing the disproportionate impact climate change has on women. Joined by a myriad of faith leaders representing a diverse body of traditions, actress Ashley Judd encouraged the community to rethink the way they approach climate change, claiming, the "way we respond to the crisis is itself a crisis." She continued, "the intersection of gender inequality and climate change powerfully dramatizes the perils of being female in our unequal world…"
Climate Outreach suggested a similar reconsideration of how we view climate migration. In a collaborative report with The Climate and Migration Coalition, Climate Outreach examined the narrative surrounding climate change in regions like Syria. As the New York Times reported in 2015, Syria's current mass migration is due in large part to climate-related droughts which not only impacted the livelihood of millions but acted as a primary cause of the conflict which began in 2011. So why aren't Americans making the connection between climate change and mass migration?
The media's misleading coverage of the systemic issue is neglectful at best. In the rare instances in which they discussed the refugee crisis, the mass migration was presented as a threat to European and American cities. A blatant disregard for the refugees was palpable and one that redirected the narrative surrounding climate migration altogether.
Muslim organizations are addressing this misinformation head-on with local and national campaigns to educate America's diverse Muslim community, forging climate solutions at the local level. Blessed Tomorrow's partner organization ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) has launched their “Greening Ramadan” campaign in response to climate impacts happening here in the U.S. Encouraging Imam (community leaders) across the country to deliver Khutbahs (sermons) that inspire climate solutions within their respective communities, ISNA is empowering local level faith leaders to speak on the issue of climate change. Blessed Tomorrow leader and former ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid has led this charge for years, forging solutions both nationally and globally as the Executive Director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Virginia.
Last September, in response to The Islamic Declaration on Climate Change, released the previous month, ISNA's conference promoted climate leadership as a key theme. With ISNA's 53rd annual conference just around the corner (Sept. 2-5), we encourage Islamic leaders to continue the discussion on climate change and to forge new solutions through open and honest dialogue.
For leaders unable to attend the annual conference, we urge you to begin a discussion on climate change in your community this Ramadan. If you are uncertain how to foster a healthy dialogue and promote climate advocacy, you may find motivation in this climate Khutbah from Dr. Hamid Mavani. The campaign Green Khutbah also offers a motivating sermon delivered this past Earth Day.
With strong leadership, America's tremendous Muslim community can change the tone and approach to the issue of climate migration, inshAllah, and it starts with you.
Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside. Click here to email Ryan.