Consumption and Ramadan: The Power of Less

By Sheikh Abdul Aziz al Nuaimi

Last Friday over 1.6 billion Muslims around the world celebrated the beginning of the holiest of times: Ramadan.

During Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown (dawn to dusk), abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations. The sick, elderly and travelers, as well as pregnant or nursing women, are permitted to break the fast and make it up later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast from puberty, although many start earlier.

Fasting is an essential component of the faith for any Muslim and the third pillar of Islam. Muslims can fast at any time during the year in order to purify themselves. 

There are many reasons to fast. The primary reasons are self-discipline and to draw closer to God, to purify the heart/soul, to improve one’s character, and to prepare to do praiseworthy acts, e.g. charity, kindness, generosity, patience and forgiveness.

There are also physical benefits. A fasting person experiences physiological effects such as lowering of blood sugar, cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, and improved strength, endurance and self-discipline through physical abstentions.

The Qur’an celebrates food and drink but strongly discourages excess. “Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” 7:31.

The “barakah” or blessing of Ramadan is to be appreciative of real wealth in our lives: our faith, family and friends, and not material things. Ramadan is a time for reflection on small changes with great impact in our lives, the “power of less.” It is a time to remember the words of the Prophet Muhammad: "What fills any vessel more than his stomach is to overcome the human himself: one third of the food, a third for drink and one third for the same.”

The average per capita carbon footprint in the United Arab Emirates is roughly 55.5 tons and is gradually increasing. My own carbon footprint is about 1/3 of that of my peers from the royal family, or 37 tons per year. I have achieved this in part by a series of small changes to my lifestyle. For example, by reducing my consumption of rice, bread, and candies, and sharing food with others, I have not only cut down on my carbon footprint and have 20 percent less fat bodyweight; I also have access to better health, vigor and vitality. 

Now, I also focus on reducing my plastic footprint. By considering each plastic purchase I plan to reduce my overall contribution to plastic pollution on the planet. Simple steps like reusing glass bottles, reusable cloth bags, or carrying stainless steel straws are ways to stop purchasing new disposable plastic and rely on long-lasting products. The Plastic Pollution Coalition’s web site has many excellent resources on how to reduce or eliminate plastic from your daily lives.

Small changes are also choosing energy efficient appliances, replacing a regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, moving the air conditioning thermostat up to two degrees, taking a shower instead of bath and in less than four minutes (my challenge is two minutes), avoiding hot water as often as possible, and recycling. 

Holistic living through changing habits is essential, and education and awareness programs to change our attitudes about consumption can increase our impact. One great example is Nadoona with their focus on personal fitness and health for women and children.

God has given us as “amanah,” a wealth of resources. Let us be conscious of the environment, and let us take responsibility for others who are still learning about the importance of being more compassionate towards other living creatures and using resources more wisely.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali Al Nuaimi is a member of one of the ruling royal families in the United Arab Emirates and is known fondly as the “Green Sheikh.” He is an environmental campaigner and currently serves as environmental advisor to the Ajman Government. He is the General Secretary of Al Ihsan Charity Association, where he is the Goodwill Ambassador for many sustainable projects. He is a Notable Supporter of the Plastic Pollution Coalition and passionate about empowering youth.

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