Self-sufficiency, or as close as we can come to it, has long been something that my family and I have worked towards. We’ve planted vegetables on balconies in Boulder, Colorado, in our backyard in Liberty New York, and on our rooftop in Ma’bar, Yemen, among other places. We strive to live a simple life in every way possible, focusing on minimalizing materialism while stressing the importance of family and community and all that they encompass. It seems clear that with many of the issues facing the world today we all have to be aware and do what we can to live in a manner that accommodates some large changes that could, insh’Allaah, be coming our way.
Sharon Astyk does not spend a lot of time in Making Home convincing us of the realities of Peak Oil or climate change, or that change will likely come to our society sooner rather than later. Instead, she works on the assumption that the reader already has some knowledge of this, and is looking for ideas on what to do to get through whatever this future may hold. After a brief first chapter discussing why’s of what is happening, she gets down to the nitty gritty of planning and preparing, right now, for a future without many of the conveniences that many people hold to be necessities, like electricity and flush toilets.
Astyk understands the need for people to make fundamental changes in their lives in order to adapt and be content in the places in which they choose to live. It goes deeper than actions such as buying a certain type of lightbulb or a hybrid car. Indeed it settles into the very core and essence of our existence, an existence in which we must learn to celebrate simplicity and learn to live without many of the extras we take for granted. Instead of looking for different ways to do all of the things we are now capable of doing, we must instead question why we do those things, and, in many cases, choose to not do them at all. An example of this is in her discussion of heating. Instead of coming up with an elaborate alternative energy scheme that makes it possible for every room in one’s house to be 80 degrees all winter long, Astyk tells us that we have to learn to think of cold and heat differently, focusing instead on wearing layered clothing, drinking warm beverages, rising and sleeping with the sun, and utilizing localized heating in rooms as necessary.
This is also a part of Islaam, Alhamdulillah. Sheikh Muqbil, may Allaah have mercy upon him, once said, The matter is simple, insh’Allaah- it is not necessary to restrict or oppress ourselves, but az-zuhd is better, and the state upon which the Prophet, may Allaah’s praise and salutations be upon him and his family, was upon is best. It has been narrated from ‘Umar, may Allaah be pleased with him, and look at its truthfulness, “Prepare yourself for a rough life, as indeed the blessings do not endure.” (Narrated by Ibn Abi Shaybah in “Kitaab al-Aadaab”, Its chain of narrations is weak, however it has other narrations which support and strengthen it)
It is necessary that we prepare for rough times, and prepare for hunger, so that when the matter occurs we do not remain as though we are young chickens- it is necessary that we become accustomed to deprivation. And Allaah knows best.” (“Fataawa al-Mar’at al-Muslimah” Pages 368-369))
In Astyk’s descriptions of the ways her family has already made so many changes and are living happy and fulfilled lives on their small farm, I see many of the same adaptations we made when we lived in a mountain village in Yemen with no power or running water. I once explained to someone that it was like cutting the static out of our lives so we could really live, really experience the world in a more immediate manner. Since returning to the States we have striven to retain and continue to practice what we learned there in as many ways as are possible, so that our family of nine has a carbon footprint that is less than most American couples have. It is a conscious choice to do what is right for ourselves as individuals, as a family, and as a part of a larger community and society as a whole. Astyk’s Making Home is full of practical, sound advice on how to live in a simpler, more immediate manner, and weather whatever storms the future may hold. And the success is only with Allaah.
(NOTE: As with all of our reviews concerning books that are not directly related to religious issues, please remember that we do not wholly endorse all and everything that is in the book, and that, since these books are written by non-Muslims with a different world-view from our own, you will find content in them that may not be sound within our own Islamic ‘Aqeedah. We review them keeping this in mind, and hope that you will understand them in the same light, insh’Allaah. If you find any statements of scholars that discuss or give more detail about a practice discussed, we advise you to take it from that reliable source.)