Tales: Being Sustainably Muslim


Environmentally-minded volunteer group Sustainably Muslim walked through East London while having conversations about community, nature and Islam

Sustainably Muslim came together to create a brand new community garden in Canning Town in the summer of 2022. For our Tales From a Slow Way series, founder Nazia Sultana and the team worked with a videographer to capture the conversations they had while walking through East London, identifying different plants and trees along the way.

Exploring parts of East London we don’t usually access

For our project, we took the Plaistow to North Woolwich Planor two route while having conversations about our three guiding interests: community, nature and Islam. Volunteers identified different plants and trees along the way and created a plant ID book. 

Walking through East London provided us with an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations: catching up, sharing stories, and discussing various topics while enjoying each other’s company. Taking pictures of the plants, trees and of each other using our polaroid was really fun, especially for those who hadn’t used one before or in a really long time.

Some of the volunteers had previously heard of Slow Ways and used the routes before but for others, it was their first time. Everyone enjoyed exploring parts of East London we normally don’t access. It was nice to walk through residential areas, some busy roads and quieter parts on the Greenway. 

“I’ve got a better understanding of where nature intersects with Islam”

Sustainably Muslim is a Community Interest Company that inspires Muslims to serve the environment and their community through events, workshops, volunteering opportunities and Two Billion Strong. Our work is anchored by teachings of the Quran and by the life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

How did the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) walk?

During the planning for our Tales of a Slow Way project, I took time to reflect and research the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) relationship with walking. Although he took various forms of transportation, he is regularly narrated walking to many places whether it was to visit his friends or members of his community, or going to the mosque. 

In one narration, Abu Hurayra, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “[…] I never saw anyone who walked faster than the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). It was as if the earth folded itself up for him. We would tire ourselves out in exertion (walking with him) but for him it was effortless.” In the book Muhammad His Character and Beauty, Shaykh Yusuf b. Ismail al-Nabahani reports that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) walked with “vigor, strong of limbs, and without languor”. While he “would walk in such a way that it was known that he was neither weak nor lazy” he would bring his footsteps together “without swaggering”. It was understood that he walked in a way that exuded humility, embodying the words of the Quran which entreats Muslims to “not strut arrogantly about the earth: you cannot break it open, nor match the mountains in height.” (17:37) 

“I never saw anyone who walked faster than the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). It was as if the earth folded itself up for him. We would tire ourselves out in exertion (walking with him) but for him it was effortless”

The life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is extremely fascinating to me and I’m grateful that through this project, I’ve been able to look more closely into everyday aspects of his life, such as walking. I know that for future walks I go on, I’ll be thinking more about the walks he took in his own life. 

Top tips for similar community groups wanting to do a similar project

  • Brainstorm different ideas/ concepts for your video before finalising which one you’re going to explore
  • Get feedback from others as to which idea they think would be most fun or interesting to watch 
  • Do a trial walk to test out the route you’d like to eventually film 
  • Design mood/story boards to give structure to your video 
  • Work with a communicative videographer that you feel comfortable with 

Will the project have a legacy?

Yes! We will continue to fill our ID book with plants, trees, and also memories of each of our gardening sessions. We’ve already added in more since filming for this project. We are looking forward to taking another Slow Ways route after one of our gardening sessions soon. 

Coming up with the concept for this project and then seeing the final delivery left me feeling incredibly proud, and I’m really excited to deliver more projects and videos.

Sustainably Muslim aims to inspire & empower Muslims to serve the environment & their community through education & social action.

Last year we launched “Tales from a Slow Way,” a community stories initiative that enabled us to commission creatives and community groups to work together to produce original stories and content situated around Slow Ways walking routes. Each award included a donation to the organisation as well as a project fee to the creative. Together, the awarded projects map the sheer diversity of walkers across the UK and highlight the importance of forging new paths.