A Khalifah of the Earth Bettering Herself In Quarantine — Filsan Ibrahim

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By: L. Nur, Freelance Journalist

Filsan Ibrahim’s instagram bio reads “Khalifah (steward) of the earth, aficionado of waste and lover of BLACKness.” That statement is partly in reference to the Qur’an chapter two, verse 30, in which God creates Adam (and later Hawwa — or Eve) to become khalifahs — caretakers of the earth and its inhabitants. 

An activist and organizer on climate justice, waste and sustainability issues in the Somali and Muslim communities, Ibrahim said she is using the time she has this Ramadan in quarantine to reflect on being mindful of her time, becoming a better person and a more impactful khalifah.

“This is more free time than I can remember. I have so much time, and I want to use it wisely,” she explained. “I could become a hafidh (memorizer of Qur’an), learn hadith (sayings of the Prophet), be a better daughter and sister.” 

“I’m trying to get my nafs (lower-self) where it needs to be,” she continued. “To create more habits and systems useful to my being, and having a disciplined soul.”

Environmental Justice and Sustainability as an Act of Worship

To Ibrahim, becoming more disciplined looks like making her five daily prayers on time, but it also means thinking through new sustainable ideas and projects relevant to her and her community. So far, this has meant encouraging loved ones to eat healthy and produce less waste. 


Iftar spread at Filsan Ibrahim’s house this Ramadan. Dinner includes quinoa, roasted broccoli, red onions, peppers, sweet potato, and beets. Credit to Filsan Ibrahim.

For example, she’s trying to get her family to stop eating meat, cooking iftars with root vegetables like beets and sweet potatoes, quinoa bowls with roasted veggies, and fresh fruit, instead of the typical fried and carb-heavy foods in her culture. 

Breaking bad habits that negatively impact the environment is also important to Ibrahim during Ramadan, while incorporating habits that are good for the earth.

“I love to snack. I’m a snacker and [almost all snacks] are packaged,” Ibrahim said, admitting  that the packaging on most snacks ends up being trash (not compostable or recyclable). “So I’ve always wanted to think of other ways to snack… [by] finding healthy and whole food snacks that are low waste and incorporating that into my life.” 

Another example Ibrahim brought up is weaning herself off single-use items. 

“A lot of the things I do to create trash is out of convenience, so [I’ve been] pushing myself to use a handkerchief instead of tissues, or being careful with new purchases,” she explained. “[I’m thinking about] making the things I want to consume, thinking of alternative ways to eat and changing my creation of waste.”

Recognizing Somali American Privilege, Seeking Wisdom from Somali Elders

Ibrahim, who is connected to her extended family in Somalia, said she also thinks about people in warzones, in certain “eastern countries” who have limited access to resources, and restricted movement as their daily lived reality. 

“I’ve been more empathic to how others live, especially in Somalia and other Muslim countries which have been going through war for so many years, for as long as I can remember,” she said. “They don’t always get Ramadan or Eid like how we get Ramadan or Eid (in America). In certain situations, they don’t work but they still have to survive, eat and be a human, so I think a lot about them.”  

When Ibrahim experiences anxiety about the coronavirus, she said she talks to her elders in the community, who reassure her the pandemic is only temporary and things will get better.

“Our elders are very pious, their piety is on a different level than us younger folks, so when I talk to elders in our community they’re so sure ilahi (God) got us,” she said. “[They say] there isn’t a thing out of ilahi’s control, and this is a path we all have to walk down because it’s here to teach us something, so we have to learn from it and see where it takes us.” 

“InshaAllah (God willing) we’ll all get better,” she said. “Ilahi is the ultimate planner.” 
Connect with Filsan Ibrahim

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