Experiential Environmental Education in Islamic Schools

Islamic educational institutions in America have frequently been the subject of scrutiny by researchers in terms of political and security considerations. However, scant attention has been paid to the important role that they can play in community outreach and service learning on issues of humanistic importance such as the environment that are of salience across Faith traditions.  This one-week environmental service-learning program, initiated by IEDS founding director Dr. Saleem H. Ali, is aimed at training key Muslim educational leaders in these tools, who would in turn set up long-term environmental educational modules within their Islamic schools and allow for positive systemic awareness of ecological ethics and motivate environmental consciousness in their communities.

OBJECTIVE The infusion of environmental themes in communities has been widely documented in the literature on ecological psychology to help in community peace-building. An overarching objective of this program is to utilize a common humanistic issue such as environmental conservation, which is of urgent practical relevance, to diverse ethno-religious communities in America, as a means of creating social resilience.

Program dates: January 1 to 5, 2013.

PARTNERS The University of Vermont’s Institute for Environmental Diplomacy and Security that is initiating this program has a core competency in environmental education. We are partnering with a center for Islamic learning in Berkeley, California, Zaytuna College which is the first Muslim liberal arts college in America whose mission is "to educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders."  Zaytuna has tapped into its network to help recruit the best participants for the program from across North America. Imam Dawood Yasin, who has served as adjunct faculty at Zaytuna in past years and who is presently Dartmouth College in New Hampshire coordinated the outreach and curricular development. As a follow-up to the training, we are also partnering with Leadership in Environment and Development (LEAD) in Pakistan – that will help to take the learning modules to other countries, particularly in Pakistan where a liaison office for youth education in Islamic schools has already been established.


Jan 1, 2013 which will include a welcome to the College by Dr. Mahan Mirza, introduction to the workshop and participants by Imam Dawood Yasin, keynote by Imam Zaid Shakir, and round table discussion with audience participation among our distinguished guests: Imam Afroz Ali (Seeker's Guidance), Ibrahim Abdul-Matin (author of Green Deen), Dr. Marion Grau (GTU), Joy Moore (KPFA, Berkeley Ecology Center),  Ameena Jandali(ING), Rhamis Kent (Permaculture Research Intitute) and Nana Freeman (Environmental educator in Islamic scchols of Southeast Asia). 

Place:  Easton Hall, 2451 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA

Time:  January 1, 2013 at 7pm

Light refreshments will be served.  Please RSVP.  Space is limited.

RSVP by clicking the link below and filling in the form.



Program Director: Imam Dawood Yasin

Dawood Yasin is currently the Muslim Life and Service Trips Coordinator at the Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College. In his role Dawood provides spiritual and religious support, offers educational seminars, and leads congregational prayers for Muslim students at Dartmouth College and residents of the greater Hanover area. Dawood also works to foster understanding and dialogue among diverse campus groups by building and maintaining interfaith relations. In addition he advises students in the Service and Education Program (SEP) by coordinating six alternative spring break trips and the Cross Cultural Education and Service Program in Siuna, Nicaragua (CCESP-Nicaragua). During his residence in South Africa Dawood converted to Islam and then spent five years in Damascus studying Arabic, Islam, and spirituality. Upon completion of his studies he relocated to New Haven CT where he served as an Imam. While in New Haven he also worked as a teaching assistant and engaged in research at Yale University. Most recently, Dawood served as Director of Outreach at the Zayed Center for Islamic Culture in the United Arab Emirates, engaging in public speaking within U.A.E. and abroad, emphasizing ethics and tolerance between Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

Stephanie Mirza, Co-chair of program, Zaytuna College: Stephanie Mirza is a co-director for the Berkeley Masjid Sunday School and teaches English as a Second Language at Language Studies International (LSI) in Berkeley, California. She holds an MA in Liberal Studies from Wesleyan University where her thesis explored the Emerging Genre of Muslim American Authors of Fiction.

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is the author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet and contributor to All-American: 45 American Men On Being Muslim. He is a former Outward Bound instructor and helped to found the Brooklyn Academy for Science and the Environment in 2002. A 2008 National Urban Fellow, Ibrahim is a former sustainability policy advisor to Mayor Bloomberg, a regular contributor on WNYC radio’s nationally syndicated news show The Takeaway and is currently a consultant at The Frontier Project. 

Nuri Friedlander

Nuri Friedlander is a PhD candidate in Study of Religion at Harvard University where he is also a chaplain for the Harvard Islamic Society. Nuri studies Islamic law and ethics with a focus on the treatment of animals in the Islamic tradition. As a chaplain his sermons have covered topics such as litter on Hajj and the social justice message of Hip Hop. Nuri’s search for ethically raised halal meat led him to start the website beyondhalal.com where he and his wife Krystina write about Islam, ethics, food, and spirituality.

Anna M. Gade

Dr. Anna M. Gade is an Associate Professor in the Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, Southeast Asian Studies, and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she is also a member of the Center for Culture, History and Environment. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School and has held teaching positions at Oberlin College (USA) and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She is author of the recent book, The Qur'an: An Introduction (Oxford, UK: Oneworld, 2010). Her current research is on global Islamic religious responses to environmental change in Muslim Asia, especially Indonesia (www.vimeo.com/hijau).

Khalid Kadir

Khalid received his PhD in 2010 from the University of California at Berkeley in Civil and Environmental Engineering. The focus of his dissertation was pathogen removal in natural water and wastewater treatment systems. In addition to the technical focus of his work, Khalid studies the broader implications of water and wastewater treatment and how these relate to international development and poverty alleviation. In this vein his work focuses on the role of expertise in water related development projects and how "expert" knowledge plays a role in the politics of development. In 2005 and 2006, Khalid served as the Projects Director for the UC Berkeley chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World. As Projects Director, he oversaw five projects focused on providing technical solutions to social and environmental problems. In 2007 Khalid was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study water and wastewater treatment in Morocco. Khalid is currently a Lecturer at UC Berkeley, teaching in the International and Area Studies Teaching Program as well as the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Dr. Mahan Mirza

Mahan Mirza completed his doctorate in Religious Studies from Yale University in 2010. His dissertation was on the relationship between reason and revelation in the works of the Muslim polymath al-Biruni. He has edited two special issues of The Muslim World on topics related to contemporary Islam in America. He is also assistant editor for the forthcoming Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought. With a Master's degree in the study of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations from Hartford Seminary, work as a university Muslim chaplain, and training in a traditional Muslim setting in Lahore, Dr. Mirza engages in the study of Islam from multiple perspectives. He has taught a range of courses over the years including introductory Arabic, Islamic religious thought, western religious traditions, the life of Muhammad, and the Qur’an at Yale (summer 2005-6), the Department of Religious Studies at California State University, Chico (2007-2009), and the University of Notre Dame (2009-2011). At Notre Dame, Dr. Mirza served as assistant professor of Arabic and Islamic studies in the Department of Classics, while concurrently on the faculty of the Program for the History and Philosophy of Science and the Medieval Institute. He was also a fellow at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He currently resides in Berkeley with his family.

Munjed Murad 

Munjed Murad developed a strong interest in the intersection of religion and the natural environment during his undergraduate education at the George Washington University through the teachings of the Islamic scholar, Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr. In the spirit of this, he soon thereafter pursued studies at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and graduated with a Master of Environmental Management. Aside from the professional training he acquired at the school, he submitted a master's thesis on nature symbolism in the texts of sacred traditions. Munjed is a lover of nature as a sacred entity and is especially interested in the spiritual significances of natural phenomena. He also has a history of participation in different environmentally-focused initiatives, such as the Green Muslims in Washington, DC. He aspires to study under many learned figures, and of his greatest teachers is the natural world itself.

Imam Zaid Shakir Imam Zaid Shakir is amongst the most respected and influential Islamic scholars in the West. As an American Muslim who came of age during the civil rights struggles, he has brought both sensitivity about race and poverty issues and scholarly discipline to his faith-based work. Born in Berkeley, California, he accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force. He obtained a BA with honors in International Relations at American University in Washington D.C. and later earned his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University. While at Rutgers, he led a successful campaign for divestment from South Africa, and co-founded New Brunswick Islamic Center formerly Masjid al-Huda.After a year of studying Arabic in Cairo, Egypt, he settled in New Haven, Connecticut and continued his community activism, co-founding Masjid Al-Islam, the Tri-State Muslim Education Initiative, and the Connecticut Muslim Coordinating Committee. As Imam of Masjid Al-Islam from 1988 to 1994 he spear-headed a community renewal and grassroots anti-drug effort, and also taught political science and Arabic at Southern Connecticut State University. He served as an interfaith council Chaplain at Yale Universityand developed the Chaplaincy Sensitivity Training for physicians at Yale New Haven Hospital. He then left for Syria to pursue his studies in the traditional Islamic sciences. In 2003, he moved to Hayward, California to serve as a scholar-in-residence and lecturer at Zaytuna Institute. In 2009, he co-founded Zaytuna College, where he now teaches Islamic law and history.

Imam Zaid has also authored numerous articles on a wide range of topics. In 2005, Zaytuna Institute published, Scattered Pictures: Reflections of An American Muslim, an anthology of diverse essays penned by Zaid Shakir. In 2008, he authored an award-winning text, Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance, a translation and commentary on Imam Harith al-Muhasibi’s work, Risala al-Mustarshideen. His most recent work is Where I'm Coming From: The Year In Review, a new collection of his essays from 2010. He is a frequent speaker at local and national Muslim events and has emerged as one of the nation’s top Islamic scholars and a voice of conscience for American Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Imam Zaid has served as an advisor to many organizations, and influential leaders. Recently, Imam Zaid was ranked as “one of America’s most influential Scholars” in the West; by The 500 Most Influential Muslims, edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, (2009).

IMPACT METRICS FOR PROGRAM The primary impact metric for this program will be the dissemination of the curriculum in as many schools as possible after the training of the imams and school leaders has been established. We will seek a commitment from participants before they are funded to attend that they will implement such a program in their home institutions. We will have a program of follow-up after the training to get feedback from the implementation phase in centers of learning and strive for continuous improvement for future programs of this kind. Since environmental education can also be measured in terms of on-the-ground impact in behavioral change, we will strive to get data on how specific projects and student behavioral changes occurred through survey tools which are also included in the budget. Metrics in this regard would include: a) improvement in recycling rates on sites; b) changes in student consumer behavior in terms of food product choice decisions; c) Water and energy conservation metrics.


Day 1: Lectures and discussion by scholars on theological roots of environmentalism in Islam

Day 2: Field experience in a natural area around Bay Area on techniques to involve students in natural history education

Day 3: Joint learning program with students from other religious communities in Berkeley area focused on ecumenical environmentalism

Day 4: Joint service learning and urban environmentalism training. Visit to urban ecology programs in Oakland and San Francisco

Day 5: Focused program development day: Scholars will work in tutorial session with training staff to develop initial structure of training programs in their own communities