Kristiane Backer has undergone various transformations in her life but none as big as the move from a rock and roll lifestyle as MTV reporter, interviewing the Rolling Stones and Lenny Kravitz, to an Eco-Muslimah promoting the green message of Islam.
A fateful meeting with famous cricketer Imran Khan at the pinnacle of her success in the late ’90s, drew her attention to Islam and also the realization that something was missing in her life. Inspired by the message of the Qur’an, travel to Muslim countries and the beauty of Sufi poetry, she decided to become a Muslim. Kristiane, who recently launched a campaign which highlights the Prophet’s respect for the environment, took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about what it means to be an Eco-Muslimah.
You recently launched the ‘Inspired by Muhammed’ campaign, how do you feel that Islam’s green message will encourage a more positive and balanced understanding of Islam?
KB: Islam’s message is so strong and clear when it comes to preserving the environment and respecting nature, these are inherent values of our faith. I think knowing this will at least make people think because the ecological crisis affects everyone. And any set of ethical principles that encourage green living, has to not only be respected but also looked into and encouraged for the common cause of saving the planet or living a life pleasing to God.
Tell us some of the core green principles inspired by Islam.
KB: Nature is God’s creation and a sacred space so respecting it is akin to charity- it is a way of remembering God. There are hundreds of verses in the Qur’an that speak about the earth, nature and its resources which tells us that the earth is a trust and we are its stewards which is a role we must fulfill responsibly.
The Prophet Muhammad was sent as a mercy to all creation, including animals and plants. He had a very close relationship with nature. He taught us to observe the elements, to marvel and draw teachings from the nature around us. And he emphasized that we must be careful in using its resources, not to waste water even if standing next to a running stream and if the last hour comes and we have a sapling in our hand that we should plant it.
That means till the very last moment we need to have hope and be involved in the renewal of life.
People’s relationship with nature are governed by an ethical and spiritual understanding of nature as God’s Creation and must be based on contemplation and respect. Even in war he taught us to respect nature.
How does Islam influence your personal environmental-awareness and day-to-day lifestyle?
KB: I try to live as environmentally conscious as much as possible- I recycle, hang my washing out weather permitting and cycle around my area. For me green living is part and parcel of being a good Muslim- it’s a spiritual requirement.
Do you think that environmental awareness in the Muslim world is lagging in comparison with the rest of the world? What could be done to change this?
KB: Yes! I think there are many more efforts to develop renewable energy in Germany for example than in the Muslim world. I think Muslims are largely ignoring this part of our faith. I went to the gulf the other day and was shocked to see many empty sky rises with all the lights on.
I think we need to realize that a green consciousness is equivalent to God consciousness. Living green is living according to God’s commands. Once we realize this, insha Allah (god willing) the rest will follow.
There are certain environmental activists who argue that the practice of Hajj (air travel) and the Muslim world’s dependence on oil is incompatible with green principles. Would you agree?
KB: Well, the whole world is dependent on oil and urgently needs to develop sustainable energy as well as cutting it’s use of oil and other natural resources because it will run out. We are all in the same boat and need to collaborate for the common good, according to the Qur’anic principle: compete with one another in good deeds. I am sure ways could be developed to make the Hajj more environmentally conscious.
Finally, If you could get all Muslims to do one thing for the planet what would it be?
KB: Several things: Less pollution, more clean energy and much more respect and care for nature and animals.
Okay, so Kristiane slightly cheated and got more than one wish but who could blame her! Green Prophet want to thank her for taking part and hopefully we’ll be hearing from more Eco-Muslims across the world in future.