The first guide to an environmentally sustainable Hajj was launched at ARC's Assisi event in November 2011 to encourage Muslim pilgrims to reduce their impact on the Earth. It was part of the Green Pilgrimage Network initiative and the first English version was soon followed in 2012 by Arabic and Bahasa Indonesian editions, with a further Hausa version under development. In 2013 a Green Hajj Facebook page was launched from Indonesia to further spread the influence of the book.
As well as practical tips for pilgrims, the Guide invites Muslims to use their Hajj experience as an opportunity to reflect on their own lives and move away from material culture and the waste it leaves behind. Nearly 1000 copies of the Bahasa Indonesian version were distributed among pilgrims departing from Sumatra for the 2013 Hajj and more use of the guide in South East Asia was planned for 2014.
The first International conference on greening the Hajj took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 20-21 February. Supported by ARC, it was organized by ARC’s Islamic Programmes advisor, Dr Husna Ahmad, author of “The Green Guide for Hajj” and the Islamic Education Foundation in Malaysia. The conference heard of impressive steps already achieved, including reducing the number of days people stay in the desert, cutting pilgrim numbers overall and recommending a new Muslim tradition of going on Hajj ONLY ONCE in your life to show how devout you are.
Islam and Water
The Green Guide to Hajj is supported by another booklet Islam and Water - The Hajjar (r.a.) Story created for women and families, which is accompanied by a delightful cartoon, telling the story of Hajjar, second wife of the Prophet Ibrahim, and her search for water in the desert, which is commemorated every year in the Hajj.
Two pages from the Hajj Guide
Dr Husna Ahmad said it was very important for people of faith to address the problem of environmental destruction and degradation: “In times of climate change, threats to the environment are the biggest threats to us all, and if the religions can come together, we think they can do anything.”
The Hajj - one of the five pillars of Islam - is the biggest annual pilgrimage in the world. In 2010 some 2.5 million pilgrims attended the Hajj and for each it will have been a profoundly important individual experience.
Environmental impact of Hajj
However, such massive human activity inevitably has an impact on the environment, said Dr Husna, with over 100 million plastic bottles as well as many tons of other rubbish left behind every year after the pilgrimage.
The Green Guide for Hajj offers pilgrims the chance to be mindful of the potential environmental impact of their journey and to make choices to limit any damage. This includes:
considering the transport choices they make and avoiding or off-setting the impact of air travel;
choosing travel companies with environmentally conscious policies regarding travel and accommodation for pilgrims;
Avoiding the use of plastic bags and bottles, especially for traditional items such as misbahah (Dhikr beads) and sajjadah (prayer mats);
Clearing up your own and other people’s litter and rubbish.
The Guide contains relevant theology clarifying the responsibilities of all Muslims as Khalifas – vice-regents – to take care of the natural world and urges pilgrims to become advocates for green living amongst their families and communities on their return.
While individual actions and awareness are vitally important The Green Guide for Hajj recognises that governments and institutions are needed if all pilgrimages are to become green.
The book concludes with recommendations to governments of the Muslim world including preventing non-degradable rubbish, avoiding water wastage, use of sustainable energy and encouraging the use of green transport.
The Guide was originally written in English, with a translation into Arabic, with support from the Imam of Ka’abah, published in June 2013.
A version in Hausa, aimed at Nigeria’s large Muslim population with suitable messages from Nigerian Muslim clergy was completed in June 2013 and is being made available to people running workshops throughout Nigeria. A PDF version of this translation is available, sized 25mb. Contact ARC to find out how to access this.
Haji Ramah Lingkungan - a version in Bahasa Indonesian - was completed in June 2012. There are some 220 million Indonesian Muslims, who each year fulfil the quota, set by Saudi Arabia, of 220,000 Indonesian places on Hajj.
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