Go green, inshallah

The Birmingham Islamic Society is holding a “green” community dinner tonight: Everyone who brings their own plate and utensils will get a free meal. The idea is to reduce waste from discarded paper and plastic products — and not least important, to dispel any idea that environmental concerns are just another form of Western secularism, and nothing for believers in God to be concerned with.

Friday prayers were unusually free from the noise of mobile phones and pagers. The etiquette of jumma (Friday prayer) requires that everyone listen silently and attentively to the sermon, whether or not one finds it entertaining. Muhammad taught that even whispering “be quiet” to your neighbor will cause you to lose all the benefit of attending Friday prayer; in other words, there is no excuse for talking. And it turns out that, even when the speaker fails to deliver a message of profound spiritual insight, well, there is no lasting harm in listening patiently to thoughts that are not your own. It’s a discipline akin to courtesy, and one well worth cultivating.

Today, though, our imam had to call attention to the fact that people have been texting during the Friday sermons. This, he said, is tantamount to talking, and it really must stop. Those who cannot control the urge to thumb-type had better leave their phones in their cars.

And so it goes, the perennial negotiations between timeless forms of worship and the demands of the day.

I might as well mention that the Islamic center has a wireless router.

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