“It is Allah who causes the seed grain and the date stone to split and sprout. He causes the living to issue from the dead. And He is the One to cause the dead to issue from the living. That is Allah: then how are you deluded away from the truth?” (Qur’an 6:96).
In this physical universe, nothing is ever lost. It all gets recycled. Allah provides for the new generation from the elements of the previous generations. Decomposition, or composting, is the natural process of returning fiber to the soil, which turns lifeless sand and clay into a nutrient-rich substance that can sustain life, with the help of Allah and the sun and the rain.
The book, Back to Basics, defines composting as: a method of converting garden trash, kitchen scraps, and other organic waste into humus – a partly decayed form of organic matter that is an important ingredient of rich soils (Readers Digest. p.132).
This humus is Allah’s way of providing us with more rizq. By nature, everything biodegrades. It is a continuous process. Every moment, our cells are dying and are being replaced by new cells. Allah creates again and again throughout the life cycle. Someday, even our bodies will be returned to the earth.
Soil is nothing more than small pieces of rock mixed with decomposed plants and animals, which have been eaten by microscopic bacteria (Barnes-Svarney, p. 386). From this soil grow fruit trees, vegetables and grains, which humans and animals eat. If it were not for this ongoing life exchange process, we would not be here today.
By participating in this natural process of decay, we stop thinking of the by-products of our food as garbage. Instead, we increase our awareness of the natural elements that make up our daily lives. There are some resources, such as plants or animals that are renewable, and others, like minerals, which have a fixed destiny. Some things are biodegradable, and other things are not. Items like plastics will remain as solid waste until they are incinerated into dust and wind up in the air we breathe.
Starting a compost pile is one of the best things a Muslim can do to help clean up the environment and to honor and participate in the natural cycle of life. Family household refuse in North America consists primarily of paper products, glass, plastic, Styrofoam, metal, and animal and vegetable waste. Along with recycling our newspapers, bottles and cans, composting the vegetable waste is the next step in reducing the bulk of our weekly garbage haul.
Composting is simply a process of returning food scraps to the earth, rather than adding them to garbage landfills.
Kitchen and garden refuse such as egg shells, peanut shells, leftover bread, wilted lettuce, orange peels, grass clippings, branches, leaves, coffee grounds, tea leaves, carrot peels, banana peels, avocado pit, grape seeds, and many other leftovers can all be tossed onto a pile in the garden.
This pile is then left for a year and turned in with the existing soil. This produces a rich, non-contaminated soil. Detailed instructions on composting are available in the books or online resources listed below.
Composting, besides being an Islamically sound activity, also protects our food chain from chemicals and protects humans from diseases caused by these chemicals. A tree or vegetable plant growing in moist, nutrient-rich soil produces stronger plants that don’t attract insects. However, people are more likely to use commercial fertilizers instead of composting to create an attractive garden.
Furthermore, by spending a lot of money on chemical pesticides and fertilizers to keep lawns green and gardens lush, people expose their children to cancer-causing agents, greatly increasing their risk of leukemia. Even so-called natural fertilizers can have hidden risks. Recent news articles reported that toxic ash containing high levels of industrial waste is mixed with commercial fertilizers without any labeling on the package. These heavy metals get “recycled” into gardens and farms around the United States.
Then heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, zinc, copper and arsenic are added to the soil These are all known to cause cancer, kidney and liver dysfunction, mental retardation and birth defects (Barnes-Svarney). Likewise common pesticides leave harmful residues in food, drinking water and households (Reader’s Digest).
However, many people do not realize that naturally rich, composted and healthy soil has a natural capability to ward off attacking pests and disease just as a strong, healthy person does. The best way you can ensure that your garden is truly healthy is to provide your own organic fertilizer from your family compost pile.
By allowing last fall’s leaves to be run over with a lawn mower before the first snow, the leaves will be decomposed by spring and ready to give body to the soil, help it hold in moisture, and give the grass stable roots. Excess leaves can be combined with vegetable scraps from the kitchen on the compost pile. The alkaline features of the leaves balance out the acidic nature of the food waste and make a great all-purpose garden soil fertilizer.
A pile of leaves left to decompose separately for about a year will make a nice, clean mulch to spread over the flower beds and around hedges to protect the roots before winter.
However, one should not add meat or dairy products to the compost, as they will attract rodents.
If one already has a large backyard, they can simply throw everything in a pile in a corner of the yard. But if a person has nearby neighbors, it is less smelly to use a composting container. An inexpensive compost bin can be made by wiring together four wooden pallets standing up in a square to make a box shape. One can also buy ready-made compost bins.
Serious gardeners may wish to mix this compost with peat moss when they till the soil before planting.
Even if a gardener does not have time or space to plant a garden, the simple act of composting has its benefits. By separating out the vegetable scraps from the rest of the trash, a person can reduce the amount of waste collected from their house every week to be land-filled or incinerated into toxic ash. Those who are unable to keep a compost pile should still make sure to recycle, metal cans and newspapers especially, as these items have heavy lead and metal contents, which will eventually get into the groundwater or air (Emery, p. 69).
There is no way for humans to escape the increasing need for organically grown foods. Whatever is in the air, water or soil end up in the food chain. Scientists realize that the higher up in the food chain, the more concentrated are the levels of poisons in the food (Whelan, p. 56). A cow has to eat several pounds of grass to produce one pound of meat (Vara, p. 31).
That means that beef and milk from this contaminated area will have a much higher concentration of toxic residue per pound than the concentration of toxins per pound of the wheat. This toxic waste is stored in human fat cells, usually for the rest of their life. To protect us from this poisoning Allah has advised us, in Surat Al-Araf to “Eat of the good foods We have provided for you (7:160).
This article was first published in 2001 and is currently republished for its uniqueness.
- Barnes-Svarney, Patricia, Ed. Science Desk Reference. USA: Macmillan. 1995.
- Emery, Carla. The Encyclopedia of Country Living. Seattle, Washington: Sasquatch Books. 1994.
- Readers Digest. Back to Basics. USA: Readers Digest. 1991.
- Whelan, Elizabeth and Stare, Fredrick. Panic in the Pantry. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. 1992. Vara, Jon. Home Wisdom from the Old Farmers Almanac. USA: Time Life Books. 1997.