Believe and Do No Harm


Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Apostle (may the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said, “Anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should not harm his neighbor, and anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should entertain his guest generously, and anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should talk what is good or keep quiet.”


On the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour: Liberty Village

Next stop on the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus tour was Liberty Village in Libertytown, MD, a hop, skip and a jump (about 10 miles) outside of Frederick.

Liberty Village began when a few of the community initiators invited Chuck & Katie (as architects Charles Durrett and Katie McCamant are called in cohousing circles) to speak. Much to everyone’s delight, about 30 people showed up! That meeting led to the construction of a self-developed, multi-generational cohousing community with mostly duplexes and a couple of single family homes.

The Common House

You’re almost guaranteed to have a quick chat with the neighbors in these common spaces: mailbox and play area.

Where are all the cars? Tucked away in the parking lot for a more walkable neighborhood.

Liberty Village boasts a more sophisticated community because of the duration its development. What’s the key to this community’s longevity? They make guidelines instead of rules. They take time to have discussions, getting concerns out ahead of time, and talk, talk, talk to work things out as opposed to avoiding conflict. When the decision has be made and it’s time to get things done, no one formally keeps track of who is doing how much, but everyone contributes in their own way. For example, some people like cooking meals and avoid outside work like the plague, but those who like to play in the dirt have free range to work knowing that they’ve got a scrumptious meal waiting in the community kitchen. Speaking of the kitchen, the folks in Liberty Village make time to eat together 1 – 2 times a week with four people on the cooking team for just one week a year. For those who like to eat, but not cook, those are some nice odds.

The footpaths are wide enough to drive to the front door when necessary, but even better for children to bicycle and play safely.

When cars are corralled to the periphery, carts make it easy to lug shopping to the doorstep.

An inviting invitation to eat alfresco.

If lively discussion and consensus decision-making in the setting of a charming, rural, sustainable community sounds enticing to you, contact Liberty Village because they are ready to add 10 more homes to the 18 already clustered on 8-acres. An additional 15 sprawling acres are set aside for wetlands, meadows and woods for man, woman, child and nature to share. The geothermal heating — which means low energy bills — are a definite added bonus. Other green benefits include community-wide recycling and composting, rain gardens and riparian buffers for natural water filtration, a warm season grass meadow that provides wildlife shelter and food, a 2.8 acre reforestation area of native trees and shrubs, a Chesapeake Bay-Wise Certification, and the Chicken Palace next to a community vegetable garden.

Community Garden and the Chicken Palace

The white poles indicate lots available for building,

From my quick visit there I got the feeling that a short and sweet mantra for Liberty Village might be to listen, contribute, and support your neighbor. When you move in and you see old Waldo waddling down those pedestrian-friendly footpaths, make sure you give him a gentle scratch behind the ears for me.

Using the wisdom of the group, Liberty Village Cohousing residents brought this model into reality.

Neighborhood children take a break from the kiddie pool in front of a spacious duplex.

We visited many of the DC metro area’s cohousing communities on the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour. Up next is part three in this four-part series: Blueberry Hill Cohousing in Vienna, VA.

Part 1: Eastern Village Cohousing, Silver Spring, MD
Part 2: Liberty Village Cohousing, Libertytown, MD
Part 3: Blueberry Hill Cohousing, Vienna VA
Part 4: Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington, DC

What about this rural, sustainable cohousing community appeals to you? What would you do differently?

Good Tree Village Ramadan Challenge 2012

Food! It’s a big part of Ramadan. After fasting from food and drink from the onset of sunrise, we all look forward to the sunset when we can eat together at a community iftar. Somewhere between saying “Bismillah” and that first bite, let’s infuse some perspective and mindfulness into our worship. Let’s rectify our stomachs with the Sunnah.

As Muslims our interactions with nature should be grounded in the principles of rahmah (mercy), shukr (gratitude) and mizan (moderation). The blessings of eating in community should be balanced with how we eat in community. Surely our attitudes and appetites would change for the better if at the start of each iftar we see a picture of the mounds of garbage created by unchecked cravings and thoughtless actions from the previous iftar. Ramadan is the perfect time of the year to actively address issues of wastefulness, over-consumption, hunger and global warming.



  • Let us know who you are and where you’re from. Add your first name, last initial, and location as a comment to this blog post.
  • Try at least one Ramadan Challenge. Start when you want. Stop when you want. Start again.
  • Share the Ramadan Challenge with your friends.
  • We said vegetarian, but go ahead and keep eggs, milk and other dairy products in your diet. Just try to keep away from anything that has a face until the weekend.
  • Already vegan or vegetarian? Welcome! But please share at least one of your favorite recipes.

Illustration by Sam Kerr for TIME

Illustration by Sam Kerr

What are the benefits of WEEKDAY VEGETARIAN IFTARS?

  • Eating less meat is healthier for our bodies.
  • It takes a lot of resources (water, feed, land) to put meat on our tables.
  • Eating less meat is easier on our wallets.
  • Experience the challenges of being vegan / vegetarian in a “carnivorous” religion.

What are the benefits of NO TRASH IFTARS?

  • Save your iftar host (your masjid, your fellow Muslim, yourself) money on all the disposable dinnerware they must purchase to feed others.
  • Reduce the waste added to landfills after feeding family, friends and community. Let’s feed our communities without trashing our planet.
  • Get in the Ramadan spirit. Reusable dishware is more durable and often more attractive than disposables. You can use what you already have, but eating on special reusable dishware used just for Ramadan, for every Ramadan, adds a touch of beauty and tradition to iftar celebrations.


Treehugger has a rack of easy vegetarian recipes. Browse the recipes at Moosewood Restaurant or go to your local library and check out vegetarian cookbooks.

The Preserve On the Go Tableware Party Pack is pretty much one-stop shopping. They are made from recycled plastic and post-consumer paper; lightweight but sturdy and can withstand hundreds of uses; dishwasher safe; and BPA- and melamine-free. Find them at My Organic Market (MOMs), Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

For those with more adventurous tastes, check out this colorful, eclectic, durable No Trash Iftar Kit which contains:

  • a BPA-free tumbler
  • a SnackTAXI Organic Twice-as-Nice Napkin
  • a bamboo To-Go Ware CONSERVE Utensil Set
  • a stainless steel divided food tray and double-walled bowl from The Tickle Trunk, and
  • a collapsible market tote

Take the Good Tree Village Ramadan Challenge and reap even more spiritual, economic and physical benefits of fasting this Ramadan, inshaAllah. For additional opportunities to green your Ramadan, check out 10 Ways to Green Your Ramadan.

Tell us how it goes: What’s been the reaction of people in your community? What’s your favorite vegetarian recipe? Does your meat taste more delectable on the weekend or has it lost a bit of its luster?

Didn’t Make it to Oakland for the 2012 National Cohousing Conference?

Interested in forming a cohousing group? Building a cohousing community? Living in cohousing?

We heard that the 2012 National Cohousing Conference in Oakland, CA this past June was a smashing success! For those not able to attend, Mid-Atlantic Cohousing is sponsoring a follow-up to the conference. Those who attended the conference will share what they learned. Those who didn’t attend can learn more about forming, building and living in cohousing communities.

Join Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Sunday, 22 July, 2 – 4 p.m. at Takoma Village Cohousing in NW Washington, DC.

Let them know you’re coming by registering here:

On the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour: Eastern Village

Last May I spent the better part of a perfect, cloudless, spring Saturday on a bus with a bunch of strangers learning about community by walking through it and asking a slew of probing and thoughtful questions.

Ann Zabaldo, the DC metro area’s cohousing guru and Takoma Village Cohousing resident, set us off with some words of wisdom: Yeah, there will be lots of cool buildings — LEED-this and geothermal-that — but don’t forget to ask the really important questions: How often does the community break bread together? How do these unique personalities manage to get along? How do they make decisions as a community? How do they govern themselves? Leave it to Ann to help you put your focus on the pulse of community life.

Though the jumping-off point of the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour was Takoma Village in northwest DC, the first cohousing community we explored was Eastern Village just a short bus ride away in Silver Spring. For those sprung on green buildings, Eastern Village’s Silver LEED status definitely sparkled the eyes. The lush courtyard and climbing plants on the street facade almost foretold of the building’s green sedum roof also shared by a play set, covered patio, bicycle storage and sand play area.

on the roof: playground and patio

green roof and a grand view

We toured several compact apartments and others that were double-height or the roomy result of combining adjacent apartments. Every level of the plant-lined courtyard seemed to allow each unit to get their fair share of natural light. Each condo also gets its economical far share of the geothermal HV/AC. While most of the condos weren’t expansive — right-sized, rather — all of them were graciously complemented by extensive shared space like a kitchen, dining and living room, workout room, children’s playroom, library, workshop, and three guest rooms. So what if your condo doesn’t have a spare guest room. I can think of a few situations (in-laws) where it would be better to have your company visit without necessarily having to share the same space for the whole live-long day.

common living room

a shared hallway library

getting things done: Eastern Village Cohousing’s task card system

sunlight from the courtyard

While consensus seemed to be a challenge with the community of more than 100 people (around 30 were in high school or below), our hosts at Eastern Village described themselves spontaneously social. Because they are so close to tons of great restaurants they tend to eat out a lot. When they do come together it’s during a weekly potluck.

common kitchen and dining room

children’s room

a lush courtyard to share

Having the vision to see this community in what was once upon a time a decrepit office building and parking lot in a blighted area takes quite a lot of faith, imagination and guts.

If Eastern Village Cohousing sounds compelling to you, last time I checked there were a few units for sale. Urban Living? Downtown Silver Spring? LEED? and Cohousing? They won’t be on the market for long.

We visited many of the DC metro area’s cohousing communities on the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Cohousing Bus Tour. Up next in this four-part series: Liberty Village.

Part 1: Eastern Village Cohousing, Silver Spring, MD
Part 2: Liberty Village Cohousing, Libertytown, MD
Part 3: Blueberry Hill Cohousing, Vienna VA
Part 4: Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington, DC

Have you visited Eastern Village or walked by thinking it was just another urban apartment building? What did you think about it?