Running for the Hills: Dispatches from Muslim Homesteaders: Makin' Do

"Use it up!...Wear it out!...Make do!...Or do without!"


"Use it up!...Wear it out!...Make do!...Or do without!"



Now there's a mantra every conscientious, tree-loving, cash-flow restricted, "green" Muslim can relate to. Didn't we grow up hearing our grandmothers, in whatever language, basically say the same thing? Admonishing us to be thrifty, not wasteful, and appreciative of what little we had? It made perfect sense for our grandmothers then, and it's right on target now. Besides, it's the sunnah.

A big part of the homesteading lifestyle is taken up with not being wasteful. In Arabiy, the word is ?israaf.? Allah says in both Surat-ul An'am and Surat-ul Araaf ?Verily, Allah likes not al musrifun (those who waste by extravagance).? Homesteaders? Extravagant? That's practically impossible given that a homesteader has scrimped and saved and gone without to buy a piece of land. Patched and re-patched clothes, tires and who-knows-what-else to avoid spending non-renewable cash on a brand new anything. For many people, success is about acquiring the most, the prettiest, the newest, the best. But we already have the Best: Allah ?azza wa Jal. And He sent down the best, the Noble Qur'an, in the best month, Ramadhaan. So this is not the month of extravagance. No six-course iftaars or wallet-zapping 'Eid outfits. The nafs-a-rama is not happening!



So, use it up! Make that 3 dollar-bottle of dish soap last you three months: take an empty bottle and fill it with water. Then add a few tablespoons of the soap to it. Now wash your dishes and you'll see you don't need a sinkful of suds to get your dishes clean. Do this each time until the original soap is all gone. Presto. You've saved yourself some cash. Turn those last dregs of tomato ketchup into a base for that scrumptious fajita sauce. Simmer up a serious soup with all those leftover veggies. Add some daal. Kick it up a notch. Make wudhu with your spouse from one container of water instead of blasting the faucet and making a mini ghusl.

You can wear it out! Umm ul-Mu'mineen 'Aisha used to mend and patch, and re-patch a garment before buying a new one. There was none of this ?I can't-wear-the-same-abaya-two-'Eids-in-a-row business going on. Thinking of trading in your old car for a new Hundtoyssanda, yeah? How about you keep up the basic maintenance and drive it until it becomes a hoop-dee. Oh, it's a hoop-dee, now? Umm, okay. Out here, when your truck or tractor no longer runs, and repairing it takes a back seat to basics, like, eating, folks just park it off to the side of the barn and call it yard art. (Let me know how that works out with your home owners' association.) So your khimar is just so ravaged with pinholes and snags that you're ready to give it a janaazah? Cut it into squares and sew little sachets filled with fragrant herbs and hang them in your closet. Or cut it to fit a frame to become a background for a treasured photograph. Get creative. Think outside the shopping bag.

Take what you have and make do! Take broken tools and gadgets and re-purpose them into practical new uses. They may look weird, but hey, it keeps money in your pocket. A milk jug with the bottom cut off becomes a mini greenhouse to shelter a delicate plant. An old tent stake and a piece of cedar branch morph into a woodstove poker. A broken-off shovel gets resurrected for a new life scraping mud off your boots. While these reincarnations won't win you an innovation-of-the-year award, they show an ability to utilize Allah's blessings in as many beneficial ways as possible, and with that you begin the ?manifestation of gratefulness.

So, what can you do without? The sixth pair of black shoes? The newest 5G Geniusphone? The house with so many extra rooms you can be sure that shayaateen are living in most of them? That pint of Hagen Daz Dolce de Leche? (Nope. Need that.) For me, what I thought I couldn't do without was a simple square of virgin-white, quilted and oh-so-soft 2-ply paper towel, conveniently perforated to encourage me to neatly rip off as many as my cleaning-frenzied mind believed I needed.  I confess. I was an addict. I reached for that roll umpteen times a day. A spill here, a wipe there. I reached for the roll. A crumb, a drip, a spot of grease, all got the entire 11? square towel. Cooking pan still wet? Drinking glass not shiny enough? Mopping up after wudhu? I snatched a towel. Talk about extravagance! We were handing over $32 a month on ?the quicker-picker-upper.? So we staged an intervention. Went cold-turkey. We purchased re-usable, washable cloth shop towels, red ones and white ones, 60 in a pack. Red for spills and white for drying dishes. I had an easier time giving up my Bob Marley cd collection when I became Muslim than doing without paper towels. But all told, I adjusted successfully in less than a week, especially once we broke the Pavlovian stimulus by taking the paper towel holder down.

Homesteading is about getting back to basics, conserving and not wasting, sustaining over consuming, practicing the sunnah. Use it up. Wear it out. Make do. And do without...israaf.