Vegan meal, no waste and leftovers taken home from London’s ‘Green Deen Iftar’

Sajeda Momin

Published: Updated:

The holy month of Ramadan is meant for fasting. A time for exercising self control, shunning excess and detoxifying your body and soul, but if you look at any Iftar spread in most homes it is laden with rich and tasty treats.

In fact during Ramadan, people tend to consume more meat, fried goodies and sugary sweets every day than they would during the rest of the year.

A group of Muslims in London recently held an Iftar to prove that the meal to break the fast does not have to be meaty and laden in calories to be delicious. At the Green Deen Iftar, the devout were served soup made of foraged nettles growing wild in the area and home-grown vegetable stew, washed down with herbal teas.

The Iftar was not served in paper plates and plastic cups as is the norm in large communal gatherings, but all those who had come to partake in the meal were told to bring their own crockery and cutlery from home as well as containers to take away leftovers.

“This ethical Iftar is about looking particularly at key issues around meat consumption during Ramadan, food waste during Ramadan and plastic waste. We wanted to do an Iftar plan that had none of those things” said Jumana Moon, one of the organizers.

Rumi’s cave

The Green Deen Iftar, the first-of-its-kind was organized by two Muslim organizations called the Rabbani Project and Rumi’s Cave in north London. The Rabbani Project is a Sufi collective dedicated to “spiritual, creative expression and love”, which uses music, art and creative writing to teach and spread the message of Islam.

Rumi’s Cave was founded by Sheikh Babikir Ahmed Babikir, a Sudanese Islamic scholar, Sufi teacher and public speaker in 2014 as a community hub and a cultural arts and events space inspired by the legacy of the 13th century Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi.

“Our emphasis is on ethically-sourced, seasonal food – no meat and no dairy – while plastic forks and straws and disposable plates are nowhere to be seen. It is about trying to reconnect our responsibility to nature as part of our worship not as a separate hobby or interest,” explained Moon, who is a storyteller.

The event began with readings from the Qur’an that focused on the importance of caring for the environment. The three-course vegan meal served was made up of locally sourced and seasonal fruits, berries and vegetables.

Seeds of the fruit

No waste was allowed, all left-overs taken home, and even the seeds and pips of the fruits eaten were collected for replanting or composting. “Piles of left-over food and plastic plates often spill out of bins at the end of Iftar meals. We hope our event will raise awareness about limiting food waste” explained Moon.

Sohaib Elnahla, one of the participants at the event said the green Iftar showed the importance in Islam of eating food, which is both wholesome and sustainable. “If all mosques did a green Iftar it would have a massive impact on our Ramadan practices,” said Elnahla.

“We have thought of ourselves as human beings who can do whatever we want with creation when in fact, we are given God-given responsibilities to look after creation and not to abuse it,” said John Parry, a Christian minister who also attended the Iftar. He said the Green Iftar offered a vital message for people of all faiths.

Moon argued that it was time to bring back traditional practices like eating from shared plates with hands, using clay cups and wooden spoons. “I’d love to see us as individuals, families and organizations doing a kind of ‘green audit’ in our personal as well as our public lives,” she added.

Everyone who attended the event, left satisfied that they had eaten a healthy Iftar and done their bit for the environment.