The Earth & Community strand comprises an intention to move:
Away from corporate domination and consumerism;
Towards simplicity, sharing and a deeper connection to the earth & its diverse communities.
Introduction: What Do We Love?
The Qur’an succinctly draws attention to one of the trappings of the world:
“And you love wealth with boundless love!” (Qur’ an: 89: 20)
One of the patterns of the human ego, or the self that needs transforming – is a compulsion for unbounded wealth and power. This can trap us into seeking the infinite from a finite outer world, resulting in a disturbance of the mizan or balance in both eco- and social systems.
And yet, this compulsion does not end at us humans. Indeed, the expression of this pattern, of this drive or love for power and wealth, can be magnified through corporations.
Corporations: Power, Profit, and Privileges
As corporations gain more wealth and power, their increasing influence on socio-political structures gives them privileges otherwise unavailable.
From the relationship of commercial banks with government, to yet another supermarket invading a local community, fossil fuel companies influencing climate politics, and pharmaceutical companies leveraging the medical profession, examples of corporate privilege are visible almost everywhere.
Yet, the greater a corporation’s power, the easier it can be for a corporation to override and take action against the interest of people, local communities, and the planet.
The potential outcome of corporate greed is the use of wealth to exploit the earth, trample over human rights, consume energy producing and transporting goods we don’t need, spend millions on advertising so we believe we need to buy them, and the repeating of the same cycle endlessly. The obsession for more and more (takathur) becomes cyclical, and we become a part of it – we devolve from being human beings to becoming robotic consumers.
The Power Shift
At WIN, we would like a power shift – away from large power-hungry corporations, and towards community; Away from consumerism towards sharing and simplicity; Away from corporate power and privilege, towards corporate constraints, accountability and grassroot cooperative-type movements.
Actualising this reality challenges us along a path that is less travelled. It challenges us to consider how we do things ourselves. WIN does not, for example, believe that a better world is something that can simply be purchased. Securing finances for a project may be part of the solution – or part of the problem – depending for example on how and from whom those finances were received. In this regard, WIN does not accept financial donations from governments or corporations. This means that outwardly things may seem to move slower, but inwardly it gives us a freedom we would otherwise not have – it gives us an independent voice, encourages us to develop relationships and social wealth, and to be financially supported by and accountable to the people.
Valuing Real Wealth: Spiritual, Earth & Community
As the power shifts from corporations to people, there is a need to untap our own potential, the potential of human beings and communities; and as the Qur’an reveals, true change is down to each and every one of us:
Truly, God does not change the condition of a people unless they change it themselves (within their own souls). (Qur’ an 13:11)
As elements in this world strive to compete for our attention, there is an essential need to prioritise our spiritual development, purifying our souls of the compulsions within, reducing mental noise & clutter, enabling us to discover stillness and our true needs. We can support this by consciously connecting to the earth, appreciating its diversity, contemplating its principles, its patterns, and its tendency towards balance.
“On the earth there are Signs for those of inner certainty, as also within your own selves..” (Qur’ an 51: 20-21)
Contemporary frameworks such as permaculture can enable us to better appreciate the earth and principles within natural, sustainable systems. In so doing, they can support the application of Islam – which in essence is a natural way (i.e. in accordance to the fitrah); At the same time, Islam, as an authentic spiritual tradition, can make permaculture more powerful.
As well as the earth, at WIN, we give value to activities through which we can simultaneously connect with one another, with our diverse communities – sharing our gifts, speaking & listening from the heart, sharing our stories, and learning to draw out and integrate our diverse voices so that through a deeper, more direct democracy we can develop a consensual vision for a more wholesome world. This requires qualities such as patience (sabr), and humility.
“We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.” (Qur’ an: 49:13)
The Place of Trade in a Wholesome World
This movement towards simplicity and meaningful relationship with the earth and its diverse people – across ethnicity, class, gender, religious affiliation, and so forth – can create conditions contributing to the satisfying of needs, a deeper fulfillment, and more resilient, empowered communities.
“Let there be amongst you traffic and trade by mutual good will.” (Qur’ an: 4:29)
From this place, trade and business can find their rightful place – not as master, but as servant – serving all of creation.
Corporate Watch: “a small not-for-profit group which undertakes research on the social and environmental impact of large corporations, particularly multinationals. Aims to expose the mechanisms by which corporations function and the detrimental effects they have on society and the environment as an inevitable result of their current legal structure.”
Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens: supports, represents and promotes community-managed farms and gardens across the United Kingdom.
Permaculture Association (Britain) : “Creating sustainable human habitats by following nature’s patterns”. At WIN we’ve benefitted considerably from exploring and applying permaculture – both in terms of developing sustainable natural systems ‘out there’, and also in terms of social organising i.e. developing sustainability in social systems (social permaculture). We’ve found a beneficial relationship between permaculture and Islam.
The Story of Stuff: “A 20-minute animation of the consumerist society, narrated by Anne Leonard, to view online or download. Includes footnoted script, credits, blog, and resources.” At WIN, we feel this gives a clear and easy to watch intro to consumerism, advertising and all that stuff!
Willowbrook Organic Farm: Farm run by dedicated Muslim family in Oxfordshire. The land is organically farmed. WIN has organised hands-on-practical days at the farm over the years and also run the first permaculture course there.