|Running for the Hills|
|Health & Family - Health & Family|
|Written by Jann McClary, Muslim Link Contributing Writer|
|Saturday, 08 February 2014 19:04|
Dispatches from Muslim Homesteaders
This is the first in a series from Sister Jann McClary, a longtime Washington DC area resident who – along with her husband -- moved to an undeveloped parcel of land in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. The couple is building a new life with their bare hands. Sister Jann agreed to give the city dwelling Muslim community an insight into her new life. – TML
No TV. No microwave popcorn. No malls. Hmmm.
Well, no utility bills. No rent. No traffic jams.
Jannah? Not quite, but it'll suffice for this dunya. You see, I'm building a tree house. Let me rephrase that. My husband and I are building a house out of trees. Well yes, you say, my suburban 2,100 sq. ft. house with 2-car garage and walk-out basement is made of trees. No, no, no. 2x4 framed houses are tree by-products. I'm talking about 18 foot long, 11 inch diameter, un-milled, raw Ponderosa pine logs. Think Lincoln Log playsets from childhood. The whole tree is there except the roots and branches. We even left the bark on in a few places just for the “looks cool” factor.
So why are we, two AARP-eligible Muslims with more aches and pains and negligible building experience, attempting this feat? Three reasons. My mom told me years ago to never be daunted in the kitchen – if you can read you can cook. Turns out that's true with construction, too, for the most part. Second reason? No mortgage, no riba. But the main reason is this hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari:
Narrated Sa'id al-Khudri: “Rasulullah (saw) said 'There will come a time when the best property of a Muslim will be the sheep which he will take to the tops of mountains and the places of rainfall so as to flee with his religion from the afflictions.'
Seems to me that if you watch the evening news, or better yet, the alternative new media, there's a growing trend of government and corporate hijinks and shenanigans going on all over the place these days. Not to mention the genetic hank-panky ensuing in the nation's agricultural sector. By actually heading to the hills we're attempting to lessen our exposure to said afflictions by establishing ourselves in a more natural, self-reliant atmosphere, with the help of Allah. Are we alarmists? No, dude. We're tying the camel. The sheep, goats and chickens will come later, insha Allah.
We saw that the cities are the worst places to be when the aforementioned corruption, abuses and manipulations become less covert and more in-your-face. So we figured we'd mosey out the country, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to be exact, and try our hand at homesteading. -30- Turns out that homesteading is a lot more than it's cracked up to be. Forget about those idyllic pictures of happy farm wives cradling hand-woven baskets of shiny, blemish-free vegetables, standing in front of a cozy cottage with smoke curling lazily from the chimney. Have you any idea of the amount of labor, trial and error and abysmal crop failure that farm wife endured to get to the point of having a basketful of food?! No one tells you about the back-breaking amount of soil that needs to be re-arranged and fortified with compost to make those pretty beds for seeds, only a third of which will actually sprout, and of those, more than half will be munched by insanely-cute deer certain that you've grown these precious seedlings for their spring dining pleasure.
Can you even image how that cottage came to be situated among a grove of trees at the end of a lovely winding road? Think the country road fairy snapped her fingers for that road and then called her friends at HGTV to whip up a house in a half-hour episode? Not. Homesteading is not for the faint-of-heart nor weak-of-back. But it is for those Muslims who wish for a life closer to the earth, stronger on the sunnah, deeper in tawakkul and further away from dunya.
Don't get me wrong, a little halal dunya here and there isn't necessarily a bad thing. Case in point. A few weeks ago the small town about 15 miles from where we live had a power outage. We were headed into town to the Walmart to pick up some dry goods. (Yes, even homesteaders occasionally patronize that merchandise behemoth.) The parking lot was looking really empty, but the doors were wide open. Sensing a disconnect in the purchase-space continuum we approached a Walmart employee stationed at the doors congenially turning people away. Their power was out, registers wouldn't operate, so everybody had to leave the store before some would-be shopper got wise and tried for the non-Muslim version of the fisibilillah discount. Because we're off-grid we didn't succumb to the outage, but my little trip for some pantry items and little bit of dunya cleverly disguised as a box of Raisinets was thwarted by the downing of the town's energy trap, er, grid.
So, will we grow our own grapes for raisins and try to get in a crop of cocoa beans this spring? I doubt it. Before we get to that degree of do-it-yourself we still have to finish our infrastructure. The county road stops a mile and a half before our property so we built our own roads on our homestead with the help of neighbors. We bring our water in from town for now, and we intend to install a cistern and gravity-fed plumbing in the spring, insha Allah. Solar lights make a cozy glow for us a night, but solar panels and batteries are on our du'ah list. Our last two winters have been heated, by the grace of Allah, with a homemade cast iron wood-burning stove that rocks the heat like you -30-
wouldn't believe. We laugh in the face of the grid!
We know we can't escape dunya entirely. That would be called Jannah. But we've left behind the city filled with anonymous neighbors, escalating utility bills, ransom notes masquerading as mortgage payments and GMO-laced foods that make it mighty hard to 'eat of that which is lawful and good on the earth'. This won't be an easy endeavor, but boy will it be worth it: Power from the sun, organic food from our garden and animals, and heat from our wood, insha Allah. So...which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
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