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Permaculture in the Islamic World: The Dire Need to Get Involved!


A Dead Sea Valley family home with their typical front ‘lawn’
(Photo © Craig Mackintosh)

Looking at the state of the Islamic World these days, it seems like Muslims don’t really care much about the environment. Canals which carry Nile water to irrigate farmlands in Egypt are so full of rubbish they frequently get blocked up, stagnate and spread disease. The once-mighty river Jordan has been so diminished in these dark days it is down to a muddy trickle you could probably jump over if you wouldn’t be shot before you landed on the other side. Saudi Arabia has pumped its aquifers dry to such depths that they may take thousands of years to replenish.

Ironically, Saudi was hit with flooding in November, with deforestation stripping the land of the capacity to regulate the water cycle. In Pakistan this problem has been far worse in recent years, with wide-scale deforestation magnifying the effect of the Himalayan snow-melt to devastating proportions. In Indonesia, meanwhile, rampant deforestation has made way for oil palm plantations, which grow and burn off an oil palm mono-crop on a 20-year cycle. Carelessness with this technique, which is destructive anyway, has lead to the spread of massive forest fires, wiping out much of the remaining rainforests and causing severe air pollution in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Muslim world, in West Africa, deforestation in the Sahel of West Africa pushes the encroachment of desertification south year on year, causing repeated famines through Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Deforestation, desertification, droughts, floods, pollution, mass consumption, obesity, poverty and hunger, are all ailments which affect (though not by any means uniquely) the Muslim world in these times.


Centre pivot farming in Saudi Arabia (Photo © Craig Mackintosh)

Of course Permaculture presents a tool-kit to deal with all these issues, and the PRI, lead by Geoff Lawton, have been working hard on addressing them from Jordan, to Morocco, to Afghanistan. The Al-Bayda project in Saudi Arabia is a great example of a wide-scale, community-based effort to tackle land degradation and reverse deforestation. It takes inspiration from the FMNR project which also had great success in the Sahel of Niger in the previous decade. However, we need to keep pushing forwards, train more people, create more projects and raise awareness amongst the locals. When I say locals, I don’t just mean local farmers. I mean the local educated middle class who form the investors, bureaucrats, NGO staff and policymakers of the region. If these people ‘get’ the picture it will be passed on to the farmers in the dialect of the area in ways they can understand — which westerners are not well equipped to do.

Now, as a Muslim myself, I just want to highlight some of the things that the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) had to say about sustainability. I know we are not supposed to mix Permaculture knowledge with “metaphysical” concepts, however, using important cultural principles which are relevant to a large part of the world to emphasize the need for a sustainable and ethical lifestyle is not conflating science with mystical notions, enlightenment or magic. Mollison actually refers to Islam, albeit in passing, in the Designers’ Manual as one of “the religions of dogma” and implicitly blames the religion for land degradation in Pakistan and Iran. We’ve since seen, through Geoff’s consultancy report the massive positive strides the Iranian government has taken to address land degradation in recent decades. It’s lucky they didn’t take Bill’s comment to heart, but continued reading the whole book. But not-withstanding this, all of the previously mentioned problems are still going on in the Muslim world. But is this really because of Islam as a religion, or because Muslims are not actually following what the Prophet of Islam taught?:

“If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him.” — Bukhari

“There is none amongst the believers who plants a tree, or sows a seed and then a bird, or a person, or an animal eats thereof, but it is regarded as having a charitable gift (for which there is great recompense).” — Al-Bukhari: 513

“Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit, Allah will count as charity for him anything for which its fruits are used.” — Ahmad

“One day, Abu Darda, one of the reputed companions, was planting trees in Damascus. A man who was passing by thought this was strange and asked: “O Abu Darda, you are a Companion of the Prophet, why are you planting trees?” Abu Darda replied: “I heard the Prophet say, ‘If a person plants a tree, the fruits eaten by any human or any of God’s creatures will be recorded as charity for the one who planted it.” — Tajrid-i Sarih

In terms of sustainable land management, The Prophet Mohammed (SAWS) established the institutions of the Haram and the Hima:

“A Haram is a ‘sacred territory, inviolable zone [or] a sanctuary’ used to promote the welfare of all inhabitants. They are similar to a green-belt surrounding each Islamic settlement and natural and developed water sources. Harim (plural) around settlements were used for forage and firewood but could also be used to preserve species intentionally, cleanse air, and provide green space for recreation or asthetic purposes. Harim around water also prevent water pollution, facilitate the maintenance of the water sources, and, by prohibiting new wells within their boundaries, preserve the water supply of the existing wells.” — Sarah E. Fredericks: Measuring and Evaluating Sustainability: Ethics in Sustainability Indexes

“A himā (to be pronounced ħimā) is a reserved pasture, where trees and grazing lands are protected from indiscriminate harvest on a temporary or permanent basis… The system sets aside an area as a grazing reserve for restricted use by a village community, clan or tribe as a part of a grazing management strategy.

“The studies about himā show that the following types existed since earlier times in Arabia:

1. Grazing is prohibited, cutting is permitted during specific periods. This is when plants reach to a certain height of growth, after they flower and bear fruit. The cut branches are taken outside the himā to feed the livestock. The tribe council specifies the number of people from each family allowed to do the cutting. Certain trails are specified for the workers, to prevent destruction of soil fertility. Certain days are allocated for men; others for women.

2. Grazing and cutting is allowed only after flowers and fruits are produced. This allows natural seeding of the soil for the next year or season.

3. Grazing is allowed all year, the number and type of animals are specified. No restriction on grass-cutting.

4. Reserve for bee-keeping. Grazing is allowed only after the flowering season. These reserves are closed for five months of the year, including the Spring months.

5. Reserve for forest trees, e.g. Juniperus procera, Acacias spp., Haloxlon persicum. Cutting is only allowed for great emergencies or acute needs.

6. Reserving a woodland to stop desertification of an area or sand dune encroachment.”
Lutfallah Gari: Ecology in Muslim Heritage — A History of the Hima Conservation System

So The Prophet (PBUH) set a great precedent in terms of demonstrating sustainable management of natural capital. And his example was well followed in his land even up until recent times:

“The system enjoyed a long life throughout the Middle Ages… some traditional himā were the best managed rangelands in the Arabian Peninsula; they have been grazed correctly since early Islamic times and are among the most long-standing examples of rangeland conservation known. As mentioned by Llewellyn ‘few established systems of protected areas are known that have a history comparable in length with traditional himā’

But today, the Muslim nation-states, even those which claim to “uphold Islam”, have, like with so many other things, let the institution slip into distant memory:

“In Saudi Arabia the government wanted the tribes to be unified under one umbrella; hence it took the responsibility of management and security of the rural lands through governmental agencies. In 1954 a decree was issued designating the Ministry of Agriculture and Water as the custodian of the rural lands in this country. This created a new statute for the himā-s that became public lands. There was no immediate alternative conservation system. The first national park in the country (i.e. Asīr National Park) was established in 1980. The National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD) was established in 1986. The period between the banning of the himī system and the start of constructing national parks and protected areas was a period characterized by severe destruction of the plant cover through overgrazing and felling of trees as well as over-hunting of wild animals.

An estimated three thousand himā-s existed in Saudi Arabia in the 1950s… But a report issued by the NCWCD in 2003 mentions only four that are called “old himā-s” that are managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, in addition to a few dozen himā-s that are still managed by local communities in “isolated” rural areas.”

Anybody with knowledge of Permaculture can see the similarities in these institutions to the concepts of the zone system, holistic land management and water resource management that we use in Permaculture. Quite clearly it is not Islam, rather the modern nation state and the post colonial systems with its corrupt co-opted elites lining their pockets, shoring up their power bases and doing the bidding of their western pay-masters in their misguided attempts to enforce “modernity” to the detriment of the “backwards” traditional (Islamic) systems of regulation which have really cost the environment. It seems beyond co-incidental that Iran, the supposed nemesis of the west, is ironically one of the very few contemporary governments to have actually taken some significant positive action to redress the environmental situation, and they don’t harp on about it — they just got on with it!

Anyway, what can we little people do about all this? Well the answer is obvious — learn about and begin implementing Permaculture at the personal and social level. The more people get trained, the greater the effect. Myself and Sidi Salah Hammad are running a PDC in Jordan in April 2014 with full Arabic translation. If you can’t make that, I will also be running another PDC in Morocco in May 2014 (in English only). If you can’t make it, but would still like to help, there is a man from Somalia raising funds to help him attend the PDC in Jordan — maybe you could chip in. Of course there are PDCs going on all the time with trainers like Rhamis Kent and Mustafa Bakir who have also been running PDCs in Malaysia recently, hosted by Marujan, an organization established by Giovanni Galluzo to promote PC in the region. As people are working, awareness is slowly growing. Do your part and get involved (and may you be rewarded for it).

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45 Comments

  1. Thanks for this article. It is good to see the recent articles published on this site that expand the ideas of permaculture beyond farming techniques, as important as they are. I too have listened to Bill Mollison’s lectures and they are full of religious metaphors. I find them generally inspiring and think that the ocasional venom he spouts at churches and universities is because they promise so much and deliver so little that is actually spiritual. I suspect that, most people who live close to nature see God in the woods, they just call it something different. Once I described to a Muslim man the sense of peace and joy that comes over me when I am outside, really quiet and thinking of nothing and he told me it was the sound of the land which is very soothing. Feeling a little uncomfortable with this crazy guy who can ‘hear the land’ I asked what he meant be that and replied that when people walk, they must thread softly because the earth under our feet is singing God his praise. I was floored. After all, what is a light carbon footprint but threading softly. I am both a Catholic and an environmentalist and despite what people may think, there is no conflict between the guiding principles of most religions and those of permaculture. I don’t think God (I believe all gods are one god and all gods are real) will be very pleased with humans thrashing Creation, so Earth care is covered. People care is one of the central pillars of our religions and fair shares are, at least implict. One of my favourite lessons in the Bible is that if you have two shirts, give one to a naked person. Maybe even more important is the one that Muslims alone, out the Abrahamic group, still adhere to: do not lend money with interest.
    On a more practical level, religious institutions have long been centres for education, health and social care which service billions of poor people. With hardly any budget and more than willing to find local solutions for problems, missionaries and clergy are prime candidates for permaculture training. They have huge audiences and tremendous influence over them. Whatever the local priest/imam/monk tells his/her congreagtion carries the added weight of being equated with the word of God. Don’t till, says father John, and then pulls out some scripture to back it up, like after seven years the land must be left to rest…Once it shows results, people will think it is in fact the will of God and they are being rewarded. Now, before anyone says that this is an abuse of faith, think, God the Creator of the Garden, almost certainly desires His Garden to remain a lush Eden, not a rubbish tip. So because permaculture is about making connections to bring into existence a beneficial ecosystem, I say join the green and religious dots, and while you’re at it, why not join it to the feminist dot as well? I am a religious, feminist, anarchist permaculturist and weave all the people I know from multiple circles, until they all see each other and can work together.

    1. Suzana, thank you for a beautiful comment, i totally agree with you, there is no abuse of faith, indeed that is what faith is about. The verse of the Quran this brother was referring to is: “And the slaves of the Most Merciful are those who tread lightly upon the earth…” (Chapter: al-Furqan, v63) For more beautiful quotes from the Quran relating to environmental conscience please see here: https://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/environment_ecology/

    2. hi Suzana, I also agree with some of what you say. The bible says that we were put here as stewards of this earth. We were created in Gods image and God is the designer of the earth and I believe that we are created to be designers in His nature. Its a shame that so many people who confess to be religious are not willing to give up the rat race to stop the degredation of this world

  2. Great Article. Unfortunately, due to the rat race in many of these countries there is no real knowledge of sustainability. Maybe the oil wells running dry in some of these areas will raise awareness because survival will depend on it

  3. These are desperate times. Trying to twist a little bit of sustainability out of the Q’uran or the Bible is not really fruitful. In my opinion we really need to adopt The Permaculture Black Book as the new bible, accept Permaculture (or similar) principles as the new guide for the world and get on with trying to feed all the inhabitants. The old religions are great for the spirit but the earth is in a terrible state and we need to take a different view of what is really important.

    1. Any kind of sustinability initiatives are not about race, gender, creed, religion, or any other human differences. It doesn’t matter weather you’re left-wing, moderate, or right-wing. We all breathe the same air, drink the same water, and eat the same food. Sustainability has nothing to do with that it’s all about embracing nature that works to the benefit of everyone and everything on earth!

    2. Josie Jardine,
      Your proposal to replace the scriptures of the world religions with the DM is not a good idea, I am afraid. Permaculture does not prescribe a “way of living” for us. It is a system of design we can apply to develop sustainable systems that fit with any particular life-style, culture or traditional belief system. Bill is not a Prophet and Permacutlure, although it is founded on Ethics, does not tell us what social norms and values we should adhere to – it is not a religion, or value system, nor does it offer spiritual or moral discipline. However it is compatible with most of the major world religions in their more enlightened forms, and can help us design sustainable living systems in tune with the norms and values of any particular culture – be they religious or not. The notion that we could persuade the adherents of any religion to abandon their faith in favor of the “Black Book” distinctly rings of the madness of people like Mao and Gaddafi, and it would frankly be a waste of effort to even try. Indeed there is no need to “replace” anything – I am quoting the Quran and Hadiths here to show that Muslims need to embrace Permaculture and sustainability urgently and indeed there is no conflict between the two. BTW there is no “religious” content in the PDC, it’s all based on the DM and related ecological and scientific theory.
      However, regarding the Quran, “trying to twist a little bit of sustainability” out of it is not a difficult undertaking – as The Book is replete with suitable references to natural phenomena as signs of the generosity and wisdom of the creator, and the role of man, not as the owner, but the steward of the earth bound to fulfill his duty, not only to The Creator, but also those placed in his care, which includes the earth and all that inhabit it. As such The Quran, a book which already guides many millions of people in their world view, is a very effective means to highlight the need for sustainable living. It is true that the scholars of the Muslim world have broadly failed to adequately draw this forth, but have focused their efforts on attempts to either drape Islamic insignia on the post colonial institutions of the state – either through preaching armed struggle or trying to “islamicize” capitalist/democratic institutions –neither of which address the core issue of our role as stewards of this creation, as if just sticking our fore-head on the ground 5 times a day would be enough to compensate for messing it up in our quest for a “modern” lifestyle. All these “satellite-dish sheikhs” are serving the interests of BIG OIL and want to keep the masses embroiled in sectarian hatred and endless hair splitting over petty semantics.
      Hence I feel it’s time to bring forth a new Islamic paradigm, firmly rooted in the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammed – a struggle (jihad) to protect and preserve the great wealth of the natural world – that which – you may call it “Mother Nature” or just “God” – the creator and sustainer of the universe has bestowed upon us.
      https://www.theecomuslim.com/2011/10/islam-environment-ethic-assisi.html

    3. If our faith and belief in God motivates us to adopt permiculture principles in addition to important other moral and ethical principles I believe we can do both together. Islam and Permaculture are not mutually exclusive. As the article explained, permaculture is very much the way God intended us to live in harmony with natural systems. As the appointed visregents of the earth Muslims need only learn their religion in order to understand this.

  4. Interesting article. I as a muslim too have been feeling the same thing, that we have detached from the nature. We were nature people and always will be. We look at the sun’s position to determine time of prayer. We look at the moon to see the start of the month. We look at the stars for direction. Most of the prophets were shepherds. Here in Indonesia, many people were looking for short cut. Instead of growing their plants or taking care of their own animals, some choose to steal other people’s property. Which is pretty much against the law. This short cut mentality is holding us back.

    Enough of my rant and thanks for the article.

  5. I’m a Christian woman. I’m afraid I would not survive in such a harsh land. I hope this will inspire: Ran into this little Namib Beetle some years ago. People who garden and farm in arid/drought areas might want to consider how nature deals with drought. Michael Pawlyn: Using nature’s genius in architecture and farming (Check it out at 7:47)
    How can architects build a new world of sustainable beauty? By learning from nature.
    https://pmnlive.wpengine.com/2011/02/28/michael-pawlyn-using-natures-genius-in-architecture/

  6. An interesting article, but one whose approach I find myself fundamentally at odds with. Faith in any religion, to quote R Dawkins (atheist or not he has a point), can be described as ‘unquestioning belief in something without the existence of any evidence’. I like Dawkins’ ideas and tend to agree with many of them, although I do believe that science cannot explain or deny the existence of some things that we are simply don’t know about.

    However, permaculture principles are based on observation of real things, evident in their existence; they do not incorporate systems or beliefs based on ‘faith’ and ‘lack of evidence’.

    I find it absolutely appalling to resort to numerous religious quotes and sayings (hadith) by the prophet Mohammed. Is this to appease the very few religious Muslims who may read the article, or for the writer to demonstrate his religious zeal?

    If permaculture has to be served up to Muslims in this manner then it is betraying the integrity that forms its most essential foundations.

    Of these foundations, perhaps the underlying elements that holds it all together are learning and education, observation and application. Religion is the antithesis of this, teaching us to believe without questioning anything! Certainly this is the case with Islam, I know, I had to study it for years at school in the Middle East.

    I write this article from Jordan’s international airport, where I have been visiting family and friends who live here, on my way back to the homestead I share with my wife in the Alpujarra area of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucia, Spain. Part of the reason we wished to escape this part of the world was due to increasing religious ideas imposed on other people, and the fundamentalism that comes with such things.

    Perhaps it is good that this article has been written, now we can have a real discussion about why the ‘Islamic world’ (such a silly categorisation or different countries gathered under the banner of religion) is in such an environmental mess.

    1. Regular readers will know my stand, which is also the PRI stand, about mixing religion with permaculture:

      https://pmnlive.wpengine.com/2011/12/08/permaculture-and-metaphysics/

      As my just-linked article tries to express, however, I see no problem with showing how permaculture fits seamlessly within any religion and culture. The problems arise when we go the other way, and try to get a religion to fit into (or become part of) permaculture — i.e. including subjective religious elements in permaculture education.

      What Alex has done is fine, in my opinion, in that he has set about showing Muslims (a huge proportion of the world population by the way…) how permaculture fits harmoniously within their own established culture and belief-set. In doing so, it can set the stage for many people who desperately need to study permaculture concepts — the design science — to embrace it faster and more fully than they otherwise might.

      In short, the PRI stand is to remove barriers to uptake, not create them.

  7. I would like to add that I thoroughly approve of reaching out to everybody and introducing them to the philosophy of permaculture and its ideas, but NOT by using ‘non-empirical evidence’ (two words which point to the same thing – bad English but the meaning is clear) and religion certainly is totally at odds with true science based on empiricism and evidence.

  8. If leaders and followers in “?Islamic?” countries can be won over converted to Permaculture principles by using what they believe in ie the Qoran and the Hadiths isn’t that better – a long way better than not being able to influence them because they may see “permaculture” as a Western concept a concept coming from “christianity along withmany other concepts that may diminish their islamic culture. much better to relable it an Islamic environmental sustainability development concept and swallow our pride – better to have Permaculture even if under another name. The way to influence cultures is to use their subliminal believes to achieve your goals so obviously the way to go is Haram & Hima . Thanks for your great article don’t take any notice of the carping criticisms – they come from peasant thinkers that don’t live in “Islamic ” countries – I for one will be researching more deeply into Haram & Hima so we can apply it in Aceh Indonesia where recent adherance to western zoning for development is in the process of stripping decades old traditional protection from one of the three great remaining tropical ecosystems in the world. haram & hima here we go -thanks to Bill M also.

    1. Abrahim: don’t take any notice of the carping criticisms – they come from peasant thinkers that don’t live in “Islamic ” countries

      Please see my reply below.

  9. Tariq D,

    It’s a shame you were given such an un-inspirational education in Islam.

    But The simple answer to your assertion that science holds the answers is: science can only tell us the “how to” of an issue. It is a blind troll that serves who-ever will feed it and it eats money. What science lacks is the “why?” – it has no ethical guiding framework, but is subject to the whims of the society it serves, and in the current status quo that is capitalism, which is guided by the quest for a fast cash return on investment (funded by interest bearing loans) and neither science nor capitalism care about “externalities” like social and ecological effects. Permaculture is based on the same broad ETHICS as all the religions and traditional systems – people care, earth care and fair share – only once we have a guiding ethical framework can we get down to meaningful action. As Muslims we believe all the world religions have their origin with the guidance of Prophets – hence this common heritage of universal guiding ethics is no surprise. And this is what “materialism” has sacrificed to the god of profit– ethics. Hence it is ideologies like Dawkins’ materialism, but also the blithe and ignorant religious interpretations such as salafism (similar to evangelical Christianity) – which have sought to “purify” Islam of traditional influences and “return” it to an impoverished textual literalism – which are problematic for effective earth stewardship – in Arabic khalifah. You see Tariq the progress of knowledge does not come from the replacement of one reductionist paradigm with another. For a thesis there is an antithesis.But from them both proceeds synthesis from which we gain a richer and fuller world view.

    Synthesis is exactly what Permaculture is, a synthesis of traditional knowledge and ethics with modern understanding of science and design. Hence to posit that Islam is just a “set of unsubstantiated dogmas” is pretty much as useless as saying we can’t prove GM is bad. It just overlooks the point. We know GM is bad, we don’t have to prove it! And Islam is the guiding moral framework for a significant portion of humanity, so if you just try to push it out of the picture you are alienating Muslims – which conflicts with the ethic of people care. You need to appeal to them, you need to appeal to their ethics and guess what their ethics are not different from the three ethics of PC.

    Anyway, if you really want “a real discussion about why the ‘Islamic world’ (such a silly categorisation or different countries gathered under the banner of religion) is in such an environmental mess”. Can you explain how is it that the “Islamic bogeyman” of Iran has achieved this: https://pmnlive.wpengine.com/2009/02/24/report-on-our-iranian-consultancy-trip-of-december-2008/ Iran puts all the so called “secular/democracies” of the region to shame – they are the ones who have actually taken real steps to address environmental degradation. While Jordan does what? Pump more aquifers and spray more chemicals. The real reason why the ummah of Islam is degrading the rizq with which Allah bestowed us is our submission to the western system of interest-based capitalist consumption – in a word riba (usery).

  10. This is an interesting discussion. Any practice such as Permaculture that seeks to make a difference in the real world is required to respect and deal with different belief systems that exist. But that is not the same as being in accordance with these belief systems.

    Islam is one of the three main patriarchal religions (with Judaism and Christianity) all of which traditionally depict God as male and located in the sky, hell as being under the earth, and place men above women in a hierarchy. Implicitly, then, these religions are anti-earth and anti-women. It’s easy to blame elites and capitalism for anything, but these are fundamental aspects of the patriarchal religions.

    For a definition of the word “patriarchy”, I can’t find a better example than the film “Wadjda” about a ten year old girl in Saudi Arabia who wants a bicycle. But lest we in the West think ourselves superior, we need only look at the issues of domestic abuse, sexism and the lack of rights for women until very recently in most western countries.

    Naturally, there are sensible people and dolts in any culture, but that doesn’t make the culture itself sensible.

    I think most people do have a religious or spiritual urge, but it’s one that has been twisted through time by hierarchies to serve their own ends. If the divine is anywhere, it is everywhere. But I think that the permaculture ethic has far more in common with traditional earth-centred religions like animism, paganism and shintoism than with those of the sky-father gods.

    1. Ok Robert, come and teach a PDC to portuguese farmers (who by and large are hardcore catholics) and then wait for the following mass, where the priest will tell them that these ideas come from some foreign tree hugging pagans…and see how far your word will hold against his. Or, you could invite the priest to the course, you would be surprised at how educated those men are (the nuns too), let him absorb all the info. Next monday you will have the whole village knocking on your door, wanting to hear about this wonderful new way of doing things that father has told them about.

    2. I agree with much if not all of your post, Robert. But even if I didn’t, there would have to be some substantial reasons for not doing so. Strange how some who regard themselves as morally or spiritually ‘higher’ find they need to be so dismissive of your views, not for any ‘moral’ reasons but simply because they do not agree with theirs.

      I believe that identifying with one group and not another, or at the expense of another, is one of the fundamental causes of polarisation of communities, whether Muslim/Christian, black/white, Republican/Democrat, Barcelona/Real Madrid, etc. Until we are all able to identify with all people as people, and not because they belong or don’t belong, we will continue along the road of alienation of the other, or worst still wage wars.

      I would welcome permaculture or any other educational/inspirational articles for people in general, and not only for those who belong to a certain community.

  11. How about we look at this as a form of marketing/recruitment? It always helps to lobby the trend setters and powers that be in a community we are looking to influence. Like it or not, in large parts of the world, those people are clergy and they only serve one master. One we must ensure them, can also be served by permaculture which is in no way looking to distabilise the religious/cultural status quo. Even if you do. Best no tell them that and let time take its course.

  12. I have no wish to denigrade anybody’s religion, nor them to rudely comment on my opposition to the fundamental teachings of the main religions.

    Shame on you Abrahim for your comment about the ‘carping criticisms’ from ‘peasant thinkers who don’t live in Islamic countries’. This is the very sort of lack of tolerance that exposes the attitudes of many believers, and really has no place in a forum for, hopefully, intelligent and constructive discussions.

    I would like to point out, however, that Alex very neatly ignored my points about faith in religion being ‘unquestioning belief without evidence’. This ‘unquestioning belief without evidence’ one of the fundamental things I hold against all main religions: that it is not allowed to question, ask why or disagree!

    Nothing is sacred in this world, to my mind, and it should not be a taboo to question anything. Full stop. Yet it is precisely those who wish to maintain power over people, who do not allow their ‘sacred’ values to be questioned, such as the teachings of Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

    Religion and the science of our planet are incompatible: if a god created man and woman and all the other creatures and plants, where does evolution fit into this? Evolution is fact, the proof is there. Adam and Eve, etc, are not fact, they are ‘stories’ that believers hold to be the incontrovertible truth. If one believes in Adam and Eve, one cannot believe in evolution, and vice versa.

    There is much that I can say about Islam as I grew up in Muslim countries, but I will not. Nor will I nit pick your reply to my initial comment Alex with its inaccuracies and assumptions. But please refrain from patronising comments: “It’s a shame you were given such an un-inspirational education in Islam.” You know nothing about my education so please stick to what we are discussing.

    You are correct Craig that it is better to have more people thinking in a positive way about the environment, the planet, its inhabitants and our interacting with all of that. But I do not welcome bringing in religion. If it can be shown that permaculture fits into ways of thinking that people already have, then perhaps, with time, it might get those people to start thinking about life in other ways than the scriptures.

    But, why single out Muslims in the ‘Islamic World’ and try to illustrate that permaculture is in line with their beliefs? Other religions are also represented in Arab countries, is that what you mean by the ‘Islamic World’? Where exactly is this ‘Islamic World’?

    There are 313.8million in the USA, 248m in Indonesia, 142m in Russia, 67m in Thailand, 22m in Madagascar, 43m in Kenya… ()

    So where exactly is this ‘Islamic World’?

    Should there also be an article for Jews in, where, the ‘Jewish World’? Israel? Christians in the ‘Christian World’, Hindus in the ‘Hindu World’? And so on? What about expanding this approach to other groupings of people: socialists, communists, liberals, conservatives, anarchists? Articles for them too?

    People of any religious persuasion or political belief are people who require the same essential things for healthy living: food, water, air, environment. Would it not be better to bring good ideas to all people regardless of their faiths or beliefs, and without pandering to any faiths and beliefs?

    If Iran has put to use some permaculture principles and turned around the destruction of a small part of their environment, that has nothing to do with Shia Islam nor any other strand of Islam: Sunni, Wahabi, Salafi, etc.

    Alex you compare ‘good’ Iran to ‘bad’ Jordan: “While Jordan does what? Pump more aquifers and spray more chemicals. The real reason why the ummah of Islam is degrading the rizq with which Allah bestowed us is our submission to the western system of interest-based capitalist consumption – in a word riba (usury).”

    Translated for those who may not understand, you are saying that god is punishing the Muslim community because of it is not adhering to interest-free money-loan systems and the like.

    Really? Such religious gobbledygook! What’s the point of permaculture or anything else we humans can do, if everything is given and taken by the gods? There should be no place for this stuff on this forum.

    If I publicly declared such things in any country where Islamic law (Sharia) operates, I would be struck down as a heretic (kafir), and probably be executed. There is nowhere in your Ummah of Islam, Alex, where my views would be tolerated.

    I do not agree with promoting permaculture ideas in the manner of this article and I certainly would not welcome any further writings in this vein.

    1. Tariq,
      You begin your latest post with the statement “I have no wish to denigrade anybody’s religion”, and you finish it off with a diatribe accusing me of “religious gobbledygook!” then try to shout me down and bully me into silence with statements like “There should be no place for this stuff on this forum.” It just seems very odd that you get so worked up about this, as though you are actually just as intolerant as the people you claim to oppose. Such an attitude seems typical of middle-eastern intolerance in general, where apparently no party, be it the secularists of the Egyptian Military (who have shot thousands in the streets), or the Zionists (who do likewise on an ongoing basis), or the shamelessly nepotistic and corrupt Saudi monarchy, or the various Islamist factions, can tolerate a view which differs to their own, without having to declare war on it. We in the west are able to agree to disagree, at least in Britain we are anyway. This is a hall-mark of civilization, and one laid down very clearly by the Prophet of Islam who established one of the most diverse, progressive and forward thinking cultures in history, which remained so for a thousand years, until the middle-east dug itself into its own version of the dark ages, and from which it has still to emerge. So, if you want to have a rational, enlightened and adult discussion on these issues, why don’t you just keep calm and focus on the facts, which, you claim, support you.

      Regarding your statement: “Translated for those who may not understand, you are saying that god is punishing the Muslim community because of it is not adhering to interest-free money-loan systems and the like.” Evidently you are among those who do not understand what I said. You are interjecting an ugly prejudice based on a very backwards understanding of Islam here. My statement was: “The real reason why the ummah of Islam [i.e. the community of Muslims] is degrading the rizq [resources] with which Allah bestowed us is our submission to the western system of interest-based capitalist consumption – in a word riba (usery).”

      I never said anything about “god punishing” us. The clear and indisputable fact is that an economy based on interest requires continual growth, or else it collapses. And perpetual growth needs unlimited resources. This world has finite resources. Hence the capitalist system of production, based on interest bearing financial assets, is inherently unsustainable. By getting us all into debt (at interest), the banking elites keep everybody working to pay off interest on mortgages, credit card bills, insurance, loans etc. and the interest actually ends up being much more than the original sums borrowed. This way people never have time to consider ethics and plan wise use of resources for the benefit of all – resources are being frantically consumed in a mad rush to pay off interest on debts. That is why ALL RELIGIONS and cultures prohibited usury up until the Protestant reformation: usury is a tool for concentrating economic power into the hands of a very few at the expense of the majority; it causes inflation and allows greedy people to earn huge sums of money without actually ever creating any wealth. What’s more, it’s unsustainable. So you can call that “Gob punishing us,” if you like, or you can call it us suffering for our own stupidity, as a direct result of failing to honor the ethics of people care, earth care and fair share. Either way, my statement stands: engaging in riba is causes the destruction of the natural wealth with which we are bestowed.

      It is interesting that you quote Dawkins to support your ideas. In fact I once studied in the very institution he teaches at. I spent three years there dissecting, sterilizing, desiccating, controlling, analyzing, mathematically modeling, fragmenting and compartmentalizing living things into diagrams, models, data sets and trends in data sets, resolving analytical features which empirically would prove X, Y or Z to be the case. The problem is that to identify a single beetle, you have to kill it. Setting out to study the wondrous life habits of the giant ground beetle (Carrabus clathratus) in Irish oceanic blanket bog, I massacred nothing short of ten thousand and the pour wee creatures, just to get my dissertation done. In the end what did I prove? What I knew all the time anyway. The beetles don’t like it when people dig up the bog. And this is the problem with analytical science. You can’t Apply Ockham’s razor to the wondrous complexity of holistic natural systems. Science is reductionism – it sucks the life out of life. It makes everything mundane, mechanical, and dead: A bunch of variables to be controlled or eliminated. To the scientist nothing is sacred. Just as you say. That is why commercial science-based agriculture is destroying the earth.

      Permaculture on the other hand is based on ETHICS – which are not “empirically provable” facts. Ethics are subjective values we hold because we are human beings with souls, feelings and beliefs. We believe in people care, earth care and return of surplus. And if we don’t hold those ethics to be sacred, we are not doing Permaculture.

      So you could say, Tariq, my story is somewhat opposite to yours. I studied evolutionary biology (and hold a masters degree in Biological Sciences from Oxford University). I was a scientist who got bored of the soul-less reductionism and looked for a deeper meaning in life. I found that in both Islam and Permaculture. One deals with the spiritual “metaphysical” and social aspects of living, the other with the physical “practical” side. I find no conflict between them. The reason I question your understanding of the religion and your education in it, is because an educated Muslim should be able to see beyond the childish and obtuse reductionism espoused by ignorant clerics, which is barely as sophisticated as Dawkins’ rubbish. But you have apparently failed to do so. Indeed you seem to have taken shallow textual literalism as the “essence” of Islam itself.

      So regarding your/Dawkin’s assertion that religion is ‘unquestioning belief in something without the existence of any evidence’; many clerics would agree with you and Dawkins on that. And indeed if your understanding of the faith is no deeper than that, I am not surprised you have left it, such an impoverished world view would stifle me too. But fortunately Islam is far deeper than that. Do you think a westerner like me, who chose their religion from all the assembled possibilities of different faiths around the world, could enter a religion without having questioned and questioned every aspect of it? I found in it a boundless depth and wealth of wisdom.

      Regarding “Questioning” and “Evolution”: if as you posit, there is no debate in Islam, why are there such a wide range of views on almost every issue? Let’s take the issue you raise; evolution. The Muslim historian and jurist Ibn Khaldun first posed the theory of evolution in the 14th century, some five hundred years before Darwin. So nowadays due the backwards mentality of salafis and other poorly educated Muslims, most of them reject the notion of human evolution flat out because it superficially seems to conflict with the Quranic narrative – but are you going to tell me that Ibn Khaldun was a kafir and should have been executed for making bida’a? In fact evolution is not necessarily incompatible with the Quranic discourse at all and there are many Muslims who accept the idea (https://www.19.org/books/islamic-theory-of-evolution-shanavas/). You are spuriously over-simplifying things, again just like the people you claim to oppose.

      What’s more if you are talking about getting “people to start thinking about life in other ways”, my approach is to help them to see the deeper and more holistic dimensions of their faith and show how that fits with a world view based on systems-thinking. Your approach is apparently to tell people that their world view is stupid and backwards and all that they hold to be sacred is nonsense. You then have nothing to replace their current world view with but another reductionist dogma called “science”. I don’t think you’ll ever achieve anything with that.

      Regarding “The Islamic world” – yes this is a poor term, I guess I rushed it out. Don’t get too caught up on it. We are waiting for Jews, Hindus, Communists etc. to rally to the Permaculture cause – and many of them are. Any good Permaculturalist works in the context of his community’s culture and life-style. So when a guy running a PDC in India points out that some of the concepts of PC accord with certain principles of Hinduism, does he expect to be attacked by an angry atheist demanding to know why he has “excluded” all the other religions and world views?

      My objective in posting this article was simply to show that Islam is inherently compatible with PC, as a way of life, and the two are synergistically supportive, in order to motivate Muslims to get involved with Permaculture. I am teaching a PDC in a Muslim country, in a Muslim community, and this is how I chose to promote it. Now if you want to discuss it any further, please try and maintain some decorum, you are not debating with some ignoramus or sectarian fanatic. Oh and by the way, there is no religious content in my PDC at all. It’s all based on ecological theory and the science of design. It’s a standard certificated PRI PDC with no metaphysical content at all.

      1. Thank you for your reply Alex, and for expressing many of your thoughts.
        I will try to keep this short and to the point, I hope not to alienate any of the readers who are persevering with this thread.

        You are correct in reprimanding me for using such a silly word as gobbledygook. That was insensitive and I apologise. To my defence, although I do not mean it to excuse me, I wrote my reply in between one plane journey, an airport cafeteria, a waiting lounge and another plane journey. I should have been more careful in what and how I wrote, but I was distracted.

        Nonetheless I stand by the gist of my message.

        You are wrong about me being intolerant though. I am tolerant of others, whatever religious, political, sexual or whatever beliefs they may have. They can think and do whatever they like and I will not be offended as long as they cause no harm in action, words or thought.

        Unfortunately I do not see the religions of the world as being harmless, nor do I see them as being forces for good. I also think it is incorrect to try to appeal to any groupings using their limited perspectives on matters (limited because they are identified under one banner which has a specific perspectives on things which excludes other perspectives), as was done in this original article.

        I grew up in several Muslim countries in the Middle East and have seen beliefs that range from ‘accepting’ and ‘tolerating’ (tolerate is not a nice word really, as it implies that whatever is tolerated is wrong, not the norm, but allowed to be – the best it gets), to beliefs where people who are different should be put to the sword. The human rights records of every Muslim country in the Middle East and northern African are appalling; where brutal wars and daily killings are/were the norm; where the bloody actions of one group or another, the government or the opposition are indistinguishable… all done under the banner of religion.

        It’s not just Islam either of course: there is the bloodshed and oppression in Israel/Palestine, Muslim and Christian Palestinians battling the Jews, God’s so-called chosen people.

        Which God? Whose God? Why is God always for one side but not the other? He allows my friend who was born as a Christian to drink wine and eat pork, but condemns me born a Muslim to hell for doing the same.

        For conflict and atrocities under the banner of religion we can look all over the world to former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Chechnya… all the way back to the Spanish Inquisition, and much further back. There is also bloodletting under other groupings, political, tribal, ethnic, etc, of course.

        I think that trying to appeal to people in any particular group through their beliefs, which differ from others, is a negative thing that excludes people from other groups. I think permaculture should be presented in the same way to people of all religious faiths, political beliefs, sexual orientations, ethnic origins, etc. I think permaculture should be presented in ways that unite us, not divide us – religious teachings and groupings have proven throughout history to divide not unite.

        I know that we will not agree on this, which is fine, of course: we are allowed to have different viewpoints on this forum – unlike other places in the world.

        You may find it bizarre Alex that I actually regard myself as a Muslim in a non-religious way. I grew up in a predominantly Muslim environment from my childhood. Even my most recent memories of ‘community’ were immediately after my father’s death, when we had the obligatory funeral prayers in a mosque, the burial and three days of mourning and condolences. People came up to me to comfort me with the Muslim saying: inna l’illah, wa inna illay’he raji’oun (we belong to God, and to Him we return). Silently I substituted this with the thought that we belong to this earth and to it we return.

        In a none-religious way I will wish you well and would be delighted should our paths ever cross. Wa aleik al-salaam.

        1. A quick addendum Alex: re-reading your post I would say that if one were to remove references to religious faiths or scriptures, our beliefs in many things may not differ much if at all. One more reason to remove any issues to differ on!

          1. Tariq,
            Thankyou, I appreciate your position and I understand where you are coming from.
            You mention tolerance. Well I think tolerance is fine and it is really the best we can expect in a world where people’s perspectives differ so much. A society which tolerates is a society which is open to diversity and a range of views and perspectives. That was exactly the society of the early Islamic period in which Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians all lived together and thrived in peace. (Look at the achievements in Islamic Spain, which was the most advanced society of its time!) Somewhat ironically, there were so many Christian sects around the ME, up until recent times (Jews too), because the Muslims actually protected them from Persecution by the Roman Catholic Church. A civilized society will tolerate diversity and not impose uniform values on all its members. The French may not agree with niqab, but they are completely wrong to restrict women’s right to decide how they should dress. Hence in my opinion, France is not civilized. The same goes for Saudi, forcing women to cover themselves. The value of any action lies in the intention behind it. If a woman wants to wear hijab, there is value in that for her. If she is forced to wear it, then there is no value in wearing it. The Quran sais there is to be no compulsion in religion, so forcing religious observance is actually not only a hypocrisy in itself but it promotes hypocrisy among the people.
            As you say there are many problems in Muslim countries – but are these really the result of religion, or just problems of power politics and people? If we want to talk about human rights and wars we should look at both sides of the story.
            The biggest and most brutal wars in history were fought in the 20th century. None of them had any religious overtones at all. Hitler was not religious. Stalin was explicity anti-religious and so was Mao. The genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur were not conducted in the name of religion, indeed in the latter case it was despite of it. The Europeans, who established and ran the transatlantic slave trade did not do so in the name of their religion. Vietnam was not fought over religion, neither was Korea, nor were World War I or II. Gengiz Khan was not religious, neither was Alexander the Great. Rome was not religious, neither were the Vikiings, the Goughs or the Vandals, the Gaels, the Normans, the Saxons, or the Zulus. But all engaged in wars to subjugate, conquer and expropriate the resources of other tribes and peoples.
            Even when we look at so called religious wars, the power politics at play behind them are motivated by wider geo-strategic and economic interests. The “jihadists” are usually just being used as cannon fodder in the service of bigger powers – look at Syria for example: Russia and Iran back Assad, while Saudi, Qatar and the West back the rebels. The Saudis are ostensibly motivated by sectarian hatred of Assad’s heretical sect. However what’s really interesting is that they and the Qataris plan to build a big gas pipe-line through Syria to Europe. The Russians on the other hand are determined never to see that happen. Why? They currently have a monopoly on gas supply to Europe! Hence the Qaida and the Hezbollah foot-soldiers are really just fighting in the service of the infidels they claim to hate – Russia and the West.
            Conflict, racism and tyranny are just aspects of the imperfect human condition. Religion, in its proper form, actually opposes these. Religion can be used as a tool for social influence, which may be creative or destructive. I see this as being just like a bulldozer which can be used either to destroy or to repair a landscape. If we use a bull-dozer properly, we can dig dams, swales and implement keyline systems. Or we can use it to wipe out whole ecosystems. Religion may be a social tool we can use to promote charity, social activism and civil service as well as giving moral rigor and spiritual significance to our lives. Or it can be use as a tool to foment hatred and violence. Marx referred to it as “the opium of the people”. But look what he inadvertently caused when that “opium” was taken away – Stalin. It’s this conceptual over-simplification of the picture which leads to even bigger problems. It’s just like when Mao told the people to kill all the sparrows because they eat grain. The next year there was a plague of insects which made the grain harvest fail.
            Tariq, do I appreciate your perspective, I have also thought in such terms myself at some points in my life. However, even if you do not feel the need for a spiritual life, or you cannot see the positive aspects of Islam, one of the principles of Permaculture is that every problem holds its own solution. You are from the Middle East. Like it or not religion is going to continue to play a major role in the region. Why not think about how that could be harnessed as a positive force. As Bill sais; we don’t need to approach problems with karate, rather with Aikido; we use our opponent’s own energy against him. And remember – Everything gardens.

            1. Thank you for your interesting and wide-ranging reply Alex. Other than ‘faith matters’ it would appear that our views are the same on everything you mention. I think we could talk about such matters until the cows come home! Or chickens, as that is my latest project on our homestead in the Alpujarra mountains of Spain, the last stronghold of the Moors after the fall of Granada – where my wife has gone today for the monthly provisions shopping :)
              We have strayed off the subject of permaculture so I’ll say little more on this thread. If you wish to continue with discussions, you can contact me directly. And if you ever find yourself in Andalucia, do get in touch. Other than talking gardens, we can visit the Alhambra, the most spiritual place I have been to, and the gardens there are beautiful too!

              1. Thanks very much Tariq. I appreciate your invitation. I was in Granada some years back. Spain is one of my favourist countries in Europe – with its rich history and diversity. I did my first PDC there actually, in Catalunya, near Taragona. I also visited Alpujara in fact! Its the coldest part of the country, very cold in winter! But beautiful. Yes anyway, i hope we can meet some day (excuse me if i say insha’Allah!). Why not come and do the PDC with us?!

    2. Can we focus on the task at hand instead of arguing Atheism vs. Theism? Those debates rarely get anywhere, but we CAN all agree to get along well enough to work towards exposing new people to permaculture principles in whatever way/language/rethoric/dogma it needs to happen right? If Muslims need to hear how their Prophet, peace be upon him, and the religion itself promotes permaculture, then I don’t see any problem with letting other Muslim advocates handle speaking to that community in order to get the message to them in the best way. Whatever works to get the job done.

      1. Thanks Janet, yes i think we have reached agreement on that. BTW I don’t see a problem with debating ideology as long as the debate is conducted in a level headed manner without insulting each other. If it bores you, you can always just not read it. But yes, i think we have succeeded on agreeing with what say. Thanks, alex

  13. Hmm, I think I might have touched a nerve there! Alex, like I said, we need to respect and deal with existing belief systems. But that’s not the same as subscribing to those belief systems when they conflict with our basic morals. That is the distinction I was making. I respect your choice to follow Islam — I would be happy to work with you in Permaculture — but you also should respect my refusal to believe.

    Suzana, I expect the area in Portugal you describe is not dissimilar to where I live in northern Spain. I wouldn’t say the people here are “hard-core” catholics — there are certainly some — but far more who pay it lip service. People here also mostly believe in planting/harvesting/etc. by the moon — a very common traditional belief and one espoused enthusiastically by the local new age alternative crowd — which if you think about it in the same terms is a “sky goddess” form of belief that predates Christianity in these parts. No scientific evidence for it, in my view! As for “earth” based beliefs, they’re pretty rare around here — though coming back with interest in traditional culture around witches, etc. You can’t choose who you work with, you have to take what you’re given.

    If you ask me the most dangerous and widespread form of superstitious belief nowadays is the belief in consumerism, that money will make you happy. Worse, if anything, than patriarchy!

    I’d be happy to come and teach in Portugal (or anywhere!), though not a PDC since I’m not a qualified instructor…

    1. Robert, I do respect your right not to believe. However i dont think talking about earth godesses will get you far with Muslims. Hence my suggestion that you work amongst the communities you specify… nothing to do with touching a nerve. I apologize if i appeared terse, i was just in a rush when i replied to you!

  14. Oh, by the way: I have taught students from “Muslim countries”, including Pakistan, Iraq, Jordan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan… as well as people from “Buddhist and Hindu countries” (Bhutan, Nepal, India, Thailand), and of course, “Christian countries” (Europe, Latin America), as part of a European Masters on Sustainable Regional Health Systems, for which I taught a module on Health, Sustainability and Ecology. Most of the students are already sensitive to environmental issues and open to ecological points of view. And no, I don’t teach them about “earth goddesses” — though I do expose them to the beauty of working with earth!

  15. Hi Alex –

    Thanks for the article. Very interesting information which you quoted regarding the harim and himas. In Mollison’s Design Manual he mentions a kind of “Taboo Forest” when talking about pacific islands traditional land management, referring to the forest on the top of the hill which should never be intervened lest the rest of the hillside ecosystem collapse. The traditional islamic “sacred territory” categories which you mentioned are quite similar and great examples to aspire to.

    One of the projects I’m currently working on with my urban permaculture workshop is a neighborhood park (vacant lot) in which we are planting fruit trees, making garden beds, protecting and embellishing the trees by making circular borders using bricks that have been discarded in the park (illegally as garbage) from nearby construction projects. I like the definition of Haram as “sacred territory” and would like to try to integrated this with the work that we are doing in the park and perhaps as a word/concept to paint on a mural, etc… We have been working under the concepts of ‘neighborhood food forest’, ‘community garden’, and would like to add the idea of haram/’sacred territory’ into the mix.

    The park is located in a working class neighborhood with various shantytowns across the train tracks. Most of the people who live around the park don’t use it or value it that much because they see it is overrun by teenage troublemakers/vandals who live in the villas (shanties). We are precisely trying to activate the ecological and esthetic character of the park, and I think the haram concept is a great way to define the project further for everyone’s benefit.

    Thanks!!!

    Scott

    some pictures of the project in the park:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/gnognosdejardin/sets/72157641084543453/

    1. Hi Scott,
      You wrote: “I like the definition of Haram as “sacred territory”. Not sure what you are suggesting… ‘haram’ in Arabic and Islam means forbidden, not sacred. For example pork is ‘haram’ in Islam.
      Just in case you’ve misunderstood and use the term incorrectly… wouldn’t want permies to get it wrong!

      1. Dear Scott,

        Thanks very much for your response. By the way I have been working in an area of Ethiopia with similar concepts for the last 7 years, called Konso. It is not a Muslim area. Nowadays it is mostly pentacostal, however the traditional social/spiritual system was of the Konso people was fascinating and very complex. Being a Kushitic people (like the Somalis) they have a clan system based on patri-lineages, where by you inherit your father’s clan. However, being sedentary farmers, rather than pastoralist nomads, the clans do not hold territory and vie with one-another for it. In fact all the clans are represented in every village and live together, so that “clan” identity cuts across “village” identity. There are 9 clans. When you go to another village, you seek out your own clan members who receive you and look after you. When a new village is set up members of all clans settle the area together. You take your father’s clan, but you are also forbidden to marry from your own clan. That is like marrying your sister. The oldest male in the clan line is the clan chief, “poqala”, who lived in a sacred hill top forest. These hill top forests were cultural nature reserves in which animals were not allowed to graze, fire-wood could not be cut etc. The clan chiefs were responsible to mediate between the sky god “waqq” and the society – praying for rain, a good harvest etc. and he was not allowed out to interact with the society like a normal person – somewhat like the Chinese emperor he was a prisoner in his own forest. These hill top forests protected the watershed, maintained spring in the valleys below, helped maintain fertility, acted as wild life refuges etc. all the kind of functions we accredit to a Zone 5. It was a great system.

        Anyway, your own project sounds very interesting. Where are you working? Here is some more info on the Haram and Hima concepts. Where are you working? If it is a Muslim area and you want legitimacy in implementing this concept you are best to get the local religious authorities to approve the idea and have them announce it to the people themselves. If you can get their approval and blessing it should be very effective (insha Allah).

        https://www.greenprophet.com/2010/09/hima-environmental-protection/
        https://www.greenprophet.com/2010/09/examples-of-hima/
        https://muslimheritage.biz/topics/default.cfm?ArticleID=916
        https://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/200806/a.tradition.of.conservation.htm
        https://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/199206/the.academy.of.the.rain.forest.htm

      2. Hi Tariq, I just got this from Wikipedia: The Arabic language has two separate words, حرم ḥaram and حرام ḥarām, both derived from the same triliteral Semitic root Ḥ-R-M. Both of these words can mean “forbidden” and/or “sacred” in a general way, but each has also developed some specialized meanings. A third related word derived from the same root, حريم ḥarīm, most directly corresponds to English “harem”. This article covers the word ḥaram (with short vowels in the singular form).
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haram_%28site%29

      3. Salam/Peace to all! There is an easy way to understand the meaning of “haram” – the word has both meanings, sacred and forbidden, when viewed in english, as no clear distinction is made as to pronunciation in the english spelling. “Haraam” (with the second “a” being longer) means forbidden, while “Haram” (with no difference in pronunciation of the two “a”s) means sacred.

        If you think about it, the relationship is interesting, because sacred places have rules prohibiting or forbidding certain activities within them.

        This is not exclusively applicable to religious territory, by the way, and hence the term haram for a “preserve” or “refuge” is equally applicable. Even public easements are legally restricted places imposed contractually on practically every deed of ownership for every piece of private property in the U.S., notably setbacks from public roads and utility company rights-of-way, where propery owner development is forbidden – as well as legally protected buffer zones alongside bodies of water, like lakeshores where the property owner is prohibited from, for example, building a dock without a legal permit. “Haram” places have legally prohibited “Haraam” activites.

        The article here is excellent, and the subsequent dialogue is truly inspiring. Without first respecting the other, regardless of who/what/how they are, we have no right to complain about disrespect as a result of our original faulty behavior. Good manners and habitual courtesy can save humans a great deal of painful back-pedaling to the place of respectful dialogue between divergent viewpoints.

        Nevertheless, returning to the courteous exchange of opinions and ideas as you all have done here is really heartwarming and encouraging. I learned a lot from all of your views, thank you!

        Permaculture is a topic I’ve only just learned about, but I’m hooked! I live in the middle of the rural egyptian nile delta region, and love to see the ancient and remarkable farming methods of the farmers here – i feel there is a strong relationship between many of their traditional practices and the principles of permaculture.

        Peace and thanks and deep respect!
        Aisha Abdelhamid

          1. Thank you very much, Geoff and my greetings to Nadia! I will follow on fb, definitely! I’ve really enjoyed reading about your latest PDC – the site in Jordan sounds, and looks, awesome. I admire everyone’s hard work there very much, and will keep up with future progress.
            Best wishes for excellent success!

  16. I live in Tunisia with my wife and daughters, and we are beginning our farming project. We are running a PDC this automn, in our farm (with a french teacher), the first in the country and i hope not the last! What you say is so true and we need help to improve the situation. Here in Tunisia land is verry damaged and gets salted and water is getting scarce and mis-used. I’m so glad to hear you’ll be with our friend in Morocco, and our friend from Algeria and us would be thrilled to have you too; How about a Maghreb tour?
    All the best

  17. Assalam aalaykum Aisha, thanks for your response, you know, mashaAllah. Hey i am living at the other end of the Nile, in Ethiopia, so we know all about pointless arguments! shukran

    1. Wa alaykum salam, ya Alex, yes, lol, you are right about that! Best wishes and du’as for your success in Ethiopia – and barak Allah fikum for an excellent article. My review is almost done, and insha’Allah will go live tomorrow or thurs. I’ll link back to it in a comment here. Allah’s best to you and my brothers and sisters in Ethiopia!

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