In Memory of an Environmental Warrior

إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ

‘Verily we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return’

– Al-Baqarah 2:156 – 

News spread through Facebook of the recent passing of Allahyarham Haji Ayman Ahwal – A “chilli padi” environmentalist with a humble and kind heart. One of his many achievements has been the Uprivers Project in Aceh, which under the auspices of the Islamic Foundation of Ecological and Environmental Sciences was to encourage reforestation in Aceh, a region recuperating from not just years of conflict, but also one of the major natural disasters in recent history.

I had the esteemed pleasure of meeting the man himself during the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in Kuala Lumpur last year. After participating on the Going Green panel of the WIEF Young Leaders Forum (as a speaker) and answering the varied questions and exchanging contacts details with folks who were actually interested in what I had to say, I slowly made my way down to the designated lunch venue. Lunch proceedings had already started with some welcome remarks by a distinguished member of  WIEF. My dad had saved me a seat and I tried to discreetly make my way to the table.

Aside from smiles and nods from around the table, I was greeted with an exchange of words between a couple of men – one working for an oil palm company and the other being the “chilli padi” environmentalist 🙂 . It was indeed amusing and inspiring at the same time to see Haji Ayman’s passion when discussing ethical issues related to deforestation and the transboundary haze is Southeast Asia. The conversation went deeper as he delved into issues of ethics and overall consumption and development. I couldn’t help but think to myself “Man, this guy has as much energy and gusto as a college student from Greenpeace!” It was a “happening” lunch table to say the least. Way more fun that the ongoing keynote speech that stood in the way of our lunch.

When the heated discussion finally simmered down 15 minutes later, Haji Ayman looked at me and said “Oh, Hello! That was a great presentation that you delivered just now”. And there the small talk began 🙂

I certainly cannot do justice in describing the immense knowledge, experience, love and passion that Haji Ayman had for the environment. I can only leave you with a sample of his ideals in this video clip, courtesy of the Radical Middle Way.

The world needs more Ayman Ahwals. A LOT more. God Bless his Soul.


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