The tiny house movement has been getting bigger and bigger. Photo credit: Nicolás Boullosa
By Mus’ab Abdalla and Sumaya Mehai
There’s a saying that goes,
“If there is room in your heart there will be room in your home.”
Today we’re going to take you on a journey into our tiny yet nurturing home in Berkeley, California. You may have heard of the growing tiny home movement where people are downsizing for not only financial reasons but also more importantly environmental and sustainable ones.
The average American home is about 2600 square feet and the average hotel room is 450 square feet while the average tiny home is 200 square feet.
For seven months, my wife and I lived in a 12 x 20 foot cottage, which is just shy of 250 square ft. We came looking for a learning experience, and we found one.
Sometimes we tend to forget that our Prophet lived in a tiny home with his family and had people over, and was the best of hosts. Over the months we’ve had several people stay with us for a few days at a time as guests, comfortably.
Qur’an (7:31) “And eat and drink but not to extravagance, for God does not love those who waste.”
A big part of living small is that you reduce your carbon footprint.
During our time here, we learned how to get more out of less. For example, from our five-foot kitchen, we were able to store a month’s worth of groceries on hand-made shelves and a mini fridge; and do all our cooking and baking on a two-burner stovetop and a toaster oven. That taking up less space and using less was not a matter of depravity but a lesson in value, and quality. The cottage taught us about the necessities and essentials and we could be more focused on the important aspects of life, our relationship with God, with each other, and with people.
There’s a beautiful verse in the Qur’an (25:63) that says, “And the servants of the Gracious are those who walk lightly upon the Earth (you could say they have a small carbon footprint) … and they ask God, make us a good example to the righteous.”
It was this that made us decide to drive down from Ohio, a three thousand mile plus journey, instead of flying. There were weeks where we gladly did not have any trash to throw away. The herb garden right outside had a section for compost that turned into healthy reusable soil, and we recycled all of our plastics, papers and cardboard if we had any. We also made sure to shop ethically and smart, using our own shopping bags and containers and checking the better world buying guide which you can find online. What we throw away into the world, what we release will have an impact on us metaphysically, and thus the importance of sustainable living.
Sustainable living is a reduction of one’s use of resources, especially natural ones and being more efficient with our use of what we have. Even when water was not as scarce as it is now, the community of the Prophet used little water. And the Prophet is quoted to have said,
“Use little water even if you are by a gushing stream.”
It was an added blessing that we lived in a communal-like setting. The cottage had been around since the 1920’s when Berkeley was less inhabited, so the two homes in front and behind the cottage are one part of what used to be a farm. We had seven distinctive and aspiring neighbors. Josh Halpern, who had been there the longest, was working on a project called Eco-courageous dedicated to preparing the upcoming generation with the right skills to face the challenges of climate change.
Last week they invited us over for an Iftar (Ramadan dinner); everyone brought something to the table both literally and figuratively. We brought a vegetable soup to share, since all of our neighbors are vegetarian and we told stories and connected. Religion was not talked about that night in this interfaith gathering but lived. Everyone brought their own plates and silverware, and recycled jars were used as drinking cups, and instead of paper towels we used reusable cloth napkins.
So, living in a tiny home means less stuff. Everything we own fits in the back of this car we’re borrowing. The wise Imam Shaf’i, says, “Contentment is an unending treasure.” So whether you have 2000 square feet or 200 square feet to live in if you’re not gratified it will mean nothing.
Editor’s note: Follow Mus’ab Abdalla and Sumaya Mehai on Facebook at The Prophet Smiled. This article originally appeared on Ummah Wide.