Tag Archives: islam

A Call for Action: Muslims and Jews Find Community in Nature

A Call for Action: Muslims and Jews Find Community in Nature

A Convergence of Islamic and Jewish Perspectives on the Environment

By Emily Maremont, age 17, California.

In my fifth grade gardening class, I shared a shovel with a girl who had recently immigrated to the United States from Yemen. Here we were—me a Jew, her a Muslim—passing that rusty shovel back and forth across a row of red clay pots. Little did I know at the time, the act of cultivating that rooftop garden followed what our ancestors had done for thousands of years. Ancient teachings from both Islam and Judaism stress the importance of caring for the natural world. In America, the birthplace of the modern interfaith and environmentalist movements, the fight to combat climate change has the potential to foster deeper cultural understanding between Muslims and Jews.

Environmentalist narratives are prominent throughout the Quran. According to Islamic teachings, the essential elements of nature—earth, water, fire, forests, light—belong to all living organisms, not just to the human race. Humans, the guardians of nature, are discouraged from abusing or destroying natural resources: “He is the One Who produces gardens…Eat of the fruit they bear and pay the dues at harvest, but do not waste. Surely, He does not like the wasteful.” Planting trees, purifying rivers, and digging wells are also considered charitable deeds. Preventing water pollution is particularly significant given the role of water in daily worship. In the performance of ablution before prayer, Muslims are expected to exercise moderation as they wash themselves. In Mecca and Medina, The Prophet established the first protected areas in history, known in Arabic as hima. Within the bounds of protected areas, natural resources considered sacred were off limits during certain periods, and logging and grazing were prohibited.

Similarly, the Hebrew principles of bal tashchit (“do not destroy” or “do not waste”) and tikkun olam (“repair the world”) connect to the values of moderation and the sacredness of natural resources found in Islam. Themes of guardianship over nature are also woven into Jewish holidays. During Sukkot, Jews dwell in temporary structures called sukkot (it is a plural of the word Sukkah). Jewish law commands that a sukkah must have a thatched roof made of organic material while allowing a view of the sky and for rain to penetrate. This practice allows Jews to appreciate their relationship to nature more directly. Tu BiShvat, another holiday nicknamed “the new year of the trees,” coincides with the blooming of almond trees after dormancy during winter. Sixteenth century Kabbalists began the tradition of a seder (ritual meal) for Tu BiShvat, in which symbolic nuts, fruits, juices, and wines are featured. In the Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah, G-d says: “Do not corrupt or desolate my world; for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you.’” This line resembles the foreboding of many contemporary environmental activists and scientists.

Historically, the natural world has played a major role in the relationships between Muslims and Jews. The Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula resulted in the introduction of new agricultural practices from the Middle East and ushered in an era of general religious tolerance. New crops such as sugarcane and rice became parts of the culture of all who lived there: Arabs, Jews, other Europeans, etc. Sustainable irrigation practices involving the noria (waterwheel) and qanat (underground water channel) increased water supply. Historians call this agricultural transformation the “Islamic Green Revolution.” Córdoba, the capital of the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate (c. 711-1031), became the center of Sephardic Jewish life. Jews from all over Europe migrated to Spain, where the land supported their growing population. There was widespread transculturation of Jewish and Arab cultures in the sciences, philology, and literature. Against the backdrop of a shared, flourishing natural environment, Muslims and Jews coexisted peacefully.

In recent years, many Muslim and Jewish grassroots organizations and individuals have moved to the forefront of environmental activism. Green Muslims uses solar water heaters to heat water for ablution that thousands of worshipers perform in Washington, DC. Other organizations, including Eco-Halal, Green Ramadan, and Green Haj, are working to make Muslim traditions more sustainable. In 2022, twenty major Jewish organizations formed the Jewish Climate Leadership Coalition, which is committed to taking action against the urgent threat of climate change.

Youth are also prominent voices in this movement. Muslim American climate activists like Saad Amer and Zahra Biabani are spreading their message through social media, leading protests at the White House, and speaking at the United Nations. The Jewish Youth Climate Movement has chapters across the United States. Young Jews for a Green New Deal incorporates Jewish music, poetry, and celebration into their activism to engage more people. In a variety of ways, American Muslims and Jews of every age are taking up their traditional mantles as stewards of the earth.

Meanwhile, when I am walking through my neighborhood, I never see Muslims and Jews interacting with each other. While there are annual interfaith events between Jews and Christians at my synagogue, I never see similar events between Muslims and Jews. As someone who from a young age has strived to learn and appreciate other faiths, I cannot sit with the prospect that tensions always have to exist between our communities—no more than I can fathom the idea that our efforts to stop climate change are futile. I believe that multicultural understanding springs from having hard conversations about the complex world we live in. What better way to have hard conversations than out in nature, which we all value and enjoy? Yet as the Earth continues to suffer from carbon emissions, pollution, and other issues created by humans, such opportunities for connection are lost before we even realize they exist.

Through climate-focused interfaith partnerships, Muslims and Jews can find common ground. By developing community projects, organizing protests, and lobbying the government, Muslims and Jews can learn about each other’s values and traditions. In the process, they can become more comfortable with being in the same place—passing shovels back and forth underneath the leaves we all pray will change color come autumn, as centipedes march past on the ground and eagles circle overhead.

By Emily Maremont, age 17, California. Emily adds: “I enjoy writing and learning about history in order to gain new perspectives on the world. In my essay, I use a memory from my childhood as a starting place to look at climate activism through an interfaith and multicultural lens.”








1. Bsoul, Labeeb, Amani Omer, Lejla Kucukalic, and Ricardo H. Archbold. “Islam’s Perspective on Environmental Sustainability: A Conceptual Analysis.” Social Sciences 11, no. 6 (May 24, 2022): 228. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11060228.

2. Fitzwilliam-Hall, A.H. “An Introductory Survey of the Arabic Books of Filāḥa and Farming Almanacs.” The Filāha Texts. Last modified October 2010.

3. Islam, Md Saidul. “Old Philosophy, New Movement: The Rise of the Islamic Ecological Paradigm in the Discourse of Environmentalism.” Nature and Culture 7, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 72-94. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43303917.

4. Jackson, Joelle. “Repairing Our World: Jewish Environmentalism through Text, Tradition, and Activism.” Folklife Magazine, January 12, 2022. https://folklife.si.edu/magazine/jewish-environmentalism-text-tradition-activism.

5. O’Brien, Becky. “Major Jewish Organizations Form Coalition to Act on Climate Crisis; Issue Open Call for Jewish Organizations Everywhere to Join.” Boulder Jewish News (Boulder, CO), September 15, 2022. https://boulderjewishnews.org/2022/major-jewish-organizations-form-coalition-to-act-on-climate-crisis-issue-open-call-for-jewish-organizations-everywhere-to-join/.

6. “Spain Virtual History Tour.” Jewish Virtual Library. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/spain-virtual-jewish-history-tour.

7. Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. “Nature in the Sources of Judaism.” Daedalus 130, no. 4 (Fall 2001): 99-124. https://www.jstor.org/stable/20027720.

8. Venkatraman, Sakshi. “As Eid and Earth Day coincide, young Muslims are driving the modern climate movement.” NBC News. Last modified April 23, 2023. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/eid-earth-day-coincide-young-muslims-are-driving-modern-climate-moveme-rcna80485

Ramadan For All

Ramadan for All

By Zanjabila Khadija, age 8, Indonesia.

Asif was going to fast in Ramadan month for the first time tomorrow. He was still five years old. Eating was usually fun for him, so the first fast was a tough challenge for him. That night, he was restless. He wondered what would happen if he didn’t eat his favorite food. Too tired to think about it, he fell asleep at 8 p.m., even though he usually went to bed at 9 p.m. He was too flustered, so he fell asleep early.

In his dream, he found himself in the land of giants. On that land, a lot of giant-sized foods can be enjoyed, such as candy, ice cream, vegetables, fish, fruit, chocolate, and so on. He was full after eating many different food dishes. He laid down when someone’s voice startled him. It turned out that it was not a human voice, but a giant talking candy!

When Asif fell asleep, his mom and dad discussed Asif’s fasting. They tried to find a way so that Asif could fast comfortably without feeling too hungry or bored. His dad said, “What if we bring him a new toy that he can play with and thus get distracted?”

However, his mom said, “No! Asif was bored with toys. What about a pet? Chickens, cats, or fish. Let him choose it by himself!”

Asif’s dad agreed. The next day, Asif woke up very early to eat his pre-fast meal because he was so excited about his first Ramadan. After finishing his meal, his mom and dad asked Asif to pray at dawn. Later in the morning, Asif and his dad went to Nana’s house, a short walk from their house. Nana was his aunt. Nana had eight cats. Some of them were Persian cats, and the others were domestic short-haired cats. Asif was amazed to see those cats. He wanted three cats. He asked Nana, “Aunty, can I keep these three cats?”

“Oh, sure,” said Nana without hesitation.

Asif was allowed to bring one Persian cat and two domestic cats. He forgot his hunger during the month of fasting. He loved them when they jumped around and chased his toys. Also, they did not find any mice at home anymore. Asif named his first domestic cat “Mimi the Nimble” because he was the most agile at catching mice. The second domestic cat was called “Mike the Great Climber.” He loved to climb all the trees in their backyard and bask for hours on the rooftop. The Persian cat was named “Lulu the Groomer.” Almost all day long, she combed her fur with her tongue.

One evening, Asif went to the mosque. The mosque committee would hold an iftar. All people who wanted to break the fast were invited to come. Arriving at the mosque, he saw many people gathered there. He sat in the mosque next to an old man he had never met. The old man told Asif that he was a traveler and was going to the next town by bike. Asif felt very happy every time he broke the fast together with other people at the mosque. He felt warmth even though he didn’t know those people. He saw that rich people would sit on the same floor as the poor. He also saw that all people got the same food. No matter what their ethnicity. He then remembered what his dad had once told him: “All people are equal before God, except for the good deeds they have done.”

When he ate his Iftar meal, he remembered his cats. He thought they should feel the joy of breaking the fast as well. He set aside his empal, a traditional meat dish, for his three cats. After breaking the fast and doing maghrib prayer—an evening prayer, Asif ran home carrying that large piece of empal. As he opened the door, all his cats ran toward him. Lulu and Mimi rubbed their bodies against his legs, while Mike climbed onto Asif’s shoulders. The three cats then partied happily with that meat!

Zanjabila Khadija, age 8, Indonesia. She writes: “I love writing poetry and short stories.” She has won several literary competitions for young writers in Indonesia. In 2024, the Ramadan will begin on Sunday evening, March 10th and end on Tuesday, April 9, 2024 with the festival of Eid al-Fitr. The festival lasts for three days.
Editor’s Note: Islam follows a lunar calendar and hence the Ramadan dates fall on different dates each year. Did you know that in 2030, there will be two Ramadans? The first Ramadan will be in January 2030, and the second one will be observed in the month of December. Also, on Dec. 25, as the Christians celebrate Christmas, the Muslims will be celebrating the festival of Eid!

Ibn Battuta: The Marco Polo of Islam

By Sahil Prasad, Indian American, Grade 4, Maryland.

Wasn’t Marco Polo an amazing explorer? If you agree, you’ll be excited to learn about his Islamic counterpart, the 14th century explorer Ibn Battuta, who traveled 75,000 miles on foot from Timbuktu, Mali to Guangzhou, China (with that distance, you could circumnavigate the globe three times). Impressive, isn’t it, considering that’s how many miles some cars travel in their entire lifetime!

Ibn Battuta was an Islamic explorer whose mission was to travel to every Muslim city in the known world at the time.[1] His legendary taste for adventure started when he took the Hajj (a pilgrimage that Muslims take to Mecca, Saudi Arabia) because after he finished, he really wanted to explore more. Ibn Battuta was born on February 24, 1304 in Tangier, Morocco and he died in 1377[2] in Marrakesh, Morocco after 24 years of exploration! This extraordinary explorer met many fascinating people in his travels like:  a mad sultan in India who tried to kill him, mystics who ate their snakes’ heads of, or jumped in fires to try to put them out, and he met many different followers of Islam, mainly in Asia. He traveled all over the world through continents like Africa, Oceana, and Europe (North and South America were not discovered yet). When he visited some Islamic cities in Europe, the rulers there flooded him with gold and camels because they had a liking for travelers. That’s how Ibn Battuta supported himself on his travels.

Ibn Battuta chronicled his travels in a book called Rilah (The Travels, in English) and because of that, we know so much about Islamic cultures of his time. He gave so much information in his autobiography that it feels like you’re living in an Islamic world of the 14th century.

Marco Polo was a Venetian explorer who traveled all around the Mongol empire under the supervision of the ruler Kublai Khan. Marco Polo was born on September 15, 1254 and he died on January 8, 1324. Kublai Khan developed a very big liking for him and he sent Marco Polo on a series of diplomatic missions throughout the Mongol Empire.

I decided to compare Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta because they have a lot of similarities. Both explorers’ journeys were completely unexpected. For example, Marco Polo just wanted to travel to the Mongol Empire with his father and uncle because they wanted to trade European goods for Asian ones. Who knew that the same young Marco Polo would travel across Asia on tons of missions. Ibn Battuta had a similar series of events that led him to travel.

Ibn Battuta went on the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) because it was one of the Five Pillars of Islam—five duties that Muslims have to perform during their lifetime, and he was a devout Muslim. That one pilgrimage led to 50 other adventures all around Asia, Europe, and Oceana! That’s the last thing one would expect, isn’t it? Given that the Age of Exploration—where Europeans began to make voyages into the Americas—started a hundred years later.

Another similarity is that both explorers suffered some hard times on their travels. Ibn Battuta crossed a lot of dangerous areas. For example, in Africa, Ibn Battuta had to cross the Mamluks’ [3] territory and they were one of the most feared warriors at the time. Also, Ibn Battuta got sick with fever numerous times, and he had to often take breaks from his travels because of that. Marco Polo also encountered some problems in the desert on the way to the Mongol Empire. For example, he couldn’t find any modes of transportation so he just had to walk the whole way. Marco Polo was robbed by bandits and lost a lot of essential supplies including his diary, which was very important to him.

Lastly, both explorers traveled very long distances. Marco Polo traveled almost everywhere in the Mongol Empire which spanned almost the whole length of Asia! The Mongol Empire was the largest empire in history, so while traveling all over that big empire, he must have covered a very long distance. Ibn Battuta traveled very long distances as well. He traveled more than half of the known world at that time, covering over fifty thousand miles. Also, Ibn Battuta’s average miles per year were 3,000. So if you multiply that by the 24 years of his travels, you get 72,000 miles (his total miles were actually around 75,000)! Didn’t he travel a whole lot?

Ibn Battuta might seem like a superhuman, but like us, he was just an ordinary person. If we dedicate ourselves to a goal with determination and perseverance, we too can be successful like him.


1. David Angus Great Explorers, Naxos Audiobooks, 2003

2. The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th century by Ross E. Dunn, University of California Press, 1989

3. Ibn Battuta: The Journey of a Medieval Muslim by Edoardo Albert, Kube Publishing, 2019

4. Extra History by Daniel Floyd, 2008

[1] There are more Islamic cities currently in the world than at the time of Ibn Battuta.

[2] His death day and month are unknown.

[3] A group of slave warriors who lived between the 9th and 19th century in the Islamic world.