– 29 March 2016, written by Faizal Essop, edited by the @GreenDeenSA team
While overall everything seems to be in good shape, the ijtima grounds still have have a fair amount of litter. Cans, glass, plastic packets, plastic bottles and food polystyrene containers dot the grounds. Over the weekend, the ijtima grounds hosted the Benoni (Gauteng) Ijtima 2016 – a blessed mubaarak congregation of brothers from various different parts of the country. Brothers of different races and cultures sacrificed their time and wealth to come out and gain spiritual enlightenment and knowledge of Islam. The Ijtima, among other efforts and gatherings, is a symbol of Islam in South Africa. It is a representation of what a large sector of Muslims in South Africa are, and how they are working to serve the All Mighty.
The ijtima is no simple affair with estimates of 20 000 – 30 000 brothers attending, of various backgrounds, from South Africa and aboard. The ijtima runs mainly on the work of volunteers – planning, setup, running, cleaning up and packing away. During the ijtima and afterwards – the physical structures need to be cleaned and dismantled, including the wudu khanas and toilets. Electricity and lighting, plumbing, bedding, the list goes on and on.
The rubbish and waste produced at the ijtima is a serious issue. On the Sunday afternoon after the ijtima, walking through the littered battlefield, I had the honour of meeting brothers who were involved in cleaning up the grounds. At this year’s Benoni Ijtima, they worked continuously, day and night, clearing bins, picking up dirt and carting waste to designated areas. There were no dedicated shifts as the large workload usually required everyone present to work. At night, when the ijtima attendees slept, most of the cleanup work was done.
This year a brother from one of the large, local companies collected all the waste and sorted it out. What material could have been recycled was dealt with as such. He highlighted to me that the amount of wasted food found in the bins is disgraceful. Walking through the littered grounds, seeing the rubbish strewn on the earth of Allah SWT, I can’t help but wonder “Is this the message of dawah we leaving for non-Muslims who pass the site? What are we teaching our youth who are growing up? Will our Allah and Prophet Muhammad SAW be pleased with how we act as attendees of the is blessed gathering and how we left it?”
What happens on the ijtima grounds is the responsibility of the organisers, the ulemah and attendees. While we eat, sleep, wash, pray and attend the lectures, we need to be continuously aware of how we are affecting the earth and how we are making it more difficult for those brothers that clean up after us.
Some suggestions going forth:
- We need to remind the brothers that attend the ijtima that as Muslims we cannot compromise on cleanliness and we need to be self-less in our dedication to serving our Creator by serving his Creation. We need to inform and remind our brothers how to reduce their waste produced and dispose of it correctly. No wasting. No littering.
- Reminders and information should be done before hand – on radio, in the masaajid, in mashweras, etc. During the ijtima, announcers and ulemah need to remind our brothers via the loudspeakers. Additionally, we, as attendees need to remind each other not to waste, not to litter, and to help cleanup.
- We need to ask those that serve and sell food and other goods to think of ways to reduce waste and look at food-packaging that is more eco-friendly, especially bio-degradable (compostable) alternatives to plastic and polystyrene (fact is, long after we have passed away, these containers will still be sitting in our landfills and bearing testament that we did not try to be better green-Muslims, scary).
- To waste food is sinful. We need to drill that in to our brothers. While some of it can be given for charity, a lot has to be thrown away. Buy less and waste less! (Or take it home with you to give to family, friends or the needy).
- We need to up our waste-infrastructure. It will take a bit of resources, but we need bins that separate waste. Plastic, glass, paper, cans, etc.
- When the Ijtima grounds are not being used through, they need to be kept free of litter.
I strongly believe that as Muslims we are an ummah of excellence. Wherever we go and whatever we do, we need to be conscious of our Creator and how we can do the best to serve Him and His Creations. I make dua that we all can serve Him, humbly and efficiently. And I trust Allah that he will guide us to success in serving him on this earth so we can be successful in the hereafter.
And, inshaAllah, I will see you next year at the ijtima, resting in the shade of a tree, next to a recycling bin, with a piece of litter that you picked up of the ground! May Allah SWT reward all involved in the Ijtima – organisers, volunteers, ulemah and attendees. May Allah SWT strengthen their ikhlaas (sincerity) and keep them in the humble service of all of His creation.
Faizal Essop is an accountant by trade, a field guide for SANParks and is also pursuing Islamic Studies part-time at Jāmi`ah al-`Ulūm al-Islāmiyyah (Jamiatul Ulama South Africa). Faizal speaks weekly on “Nature and Wildlife 360“, every Thursday from 11am to 12pm on Salaamedia. He also give Islam-and-Nature talks at schools, madressahs and masaajid on occasion.