Ruby and Lutfi are a married British Muslim couple who dreamt of a simple life that is close to nature. They wanted to create a pure and wholesome environment for their children, and to live in harmony with their beliefs and principles.
In 2002 Allah (SWT) answered their prayers. They sold their family’s house in Oxford and bought a farmland and some chicken. For the first year they worked hard keeping their teaching jobs in Oxford, while maintaining their land and animals and living in a caravan in the middle of a muddy field.
None of them had any previous experience or knowledge of running a farm; they had to learn everything from the beginning. Ruby remembers this time as physically and mentally draining as they didn’t even have consent from the council to build a house to live in.
Finally after a year, the permission was released and they were able to start transforming the acres of empty fields into a home. This is how Willowbrook Organic Farm started. Today much of the farm is a growing woodland, as they have planted some five thousand trees.
They have dredged a pond to create a water-spot for the local wild birds as well as for their own geese. There are sheep and chickens living organically in Willowbrook and there is a vegetable patch where Ruby is growing some courgettes, tomatoes, cucumbers, beetroots and basil.
Meanwhile, Lutfi is busy constructing a house and he uses cob, which is a mixture of mud, straw and clay, for building. There are already two cob buildings and seven wooden constructions on the farm to accommodate the animals. The traditional methods of building are combined with modern designs, such as solar panels and wind turbines producing much of the electricity used on the farm.
The pride of Willowbrook is the production of organic, home-grown and halal meat and eggs, with customers all over the country willing to pay a bit more than the supermarket rate to get top-quality tayyib poultry, beef and mutton.
Pride of Willowbrook
Willowbrook is a family business, Ruby and Lutfi’s five children are all helping around the farm. The eldest offspring are managing the meat and eggs’ sales and customer service, as well as helping in the construction of the cob house.
There is no TV on the farm, and the use of computer games is restricted to evenings. But it is no issue for the kids as they are all too busy outdoors.
The recent unusual birth of two lambs last October, much ahead of the lambing season, has given them reason to visit the barn more often and they are all happy with their new lifestyle, even though Ruby admits that the first year of life on the farm was a shock to the children.
There are also volunteers coming to work around the farm, fixing fences, helping raising the walls of the cob house and timber. The farm receives lots of visitors, not only Muslims, but also other people interested in an eco-friendly lifestyle and organic farming as well as the events being held in Willowbrook.
Coming in November is the concert by Dawud Wharnsby, but I’ve learnt that the tickets are already all sold out!
Growing their own food and keeping their own livestock seemed like the only logical choice for Ruby and Lutfi, who were so appalled by the poor quality of the meat available in the halal shops that they preferred to go vegetarian at first.
‘All people, including Muslims, have been fully aware of the state of our halal meat. We felt that we had to take responsibility and do what we could ourselves. It’s easy to criticize and complain, but not so easy to get up and do it yourself!’ says Ruby.
Green lifestyle is a part of Islamic faith; after all, Muslims are Allah’s vice-regents on Earth and they are responsible for the natural resources that they’ve been given.
Also, living close to nature, in harmony with the changing seasons helps you realize Allah’s signs and blessings and connect you to your Creator.
‘It was non-Muslims, who have set off the green movement, and shame on us – Muslims, for not starting it.’ says Ruby. ‘They have reminded us of our responsibility, so we should continue the good work and come together with all the people who want to do good, regardless of their religion’.
She explains that only Allah (SWT) knows what is in the hearts of people and we are meant to seek the good company and avoid the bad. It is also a trial for us to share this world with the non-Muslims, and keep our faith and not become arrogant.
Living in isolation from the mainstream community might be helpful, as it protects you from much of the fitnah, frees you from the compulsion to act upon other people’s expectations and lets you find your own connection with Allah (SWT) and realize your own responsibility to Him.
Green living seems to be much in fashion recently among Muslim communities and I asked Ruby whether she thinks it’s the beginning of a more profound change or just a temporary trend. ‘Well, it depends on my mood. If I’m feeling optimistic I tend to believe that things may change for good’ says Ruby.
Her dream for the future is to create in her farm a good place for her family and for all the visitors, to inspire others to live more green lives.
The best place to start, she says, is to grow your own vegetables. It might be just a small patch in the back-garden or even better an allotment rented together with other families. ‘Planting and watching your vegetables grow really connects you with your food and helps you appreciate the time and effort it takes to produce it.’
Not all of us can run a farm, although Ruby and Lutfi’s example shows that you don’t have to be born on the farm to live on the farm, but we can all make small changes towards more environment-friendly lifestyle. After all, it’s part of our Islamic faith.
Willowbrook Organic Farm welcomes visitors, but please contact them before you arrive. More information as well as contact details are available on their website: willowbrookorganic.org
This article was first published in 2003 and is currently republished for its importance.