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Haqiqah, The Big Jihad: Restoring Permaculture Stewardship In Islam

Abdurrahman McCausland, founder of Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge and farm which is Ethiopia's first permaculture training centre ( www.per...

Abdurrahman McCausland, founder of Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge and farm which is Ethiopia's first permaculture training centre (www.permalodge.org), shares with us wonderful freedom from Islam of becoming self-sustaining without damaging the land.

We live in an age when the Dunya (this world) is unraveling fast. As Muslims we know for sure this will happen. But that does not mean we should sit idly by and ignore what is happening. We believe Allah made us the Khalifah, steward (plural: Khala'if) of the creation. Thus we have a responsibility and duty to fulfill this role to the best of our abilities.

Living in the modern world we are trapped in a system which relies on oil. The same system funds wars that conquer more oil and other resources for exploitation. The same system consumes them and turns them into junk to sell to us, which we then chuck into land-fill sites or burn to pollute the air and the ground water. But there is a way to break free. It’s called Permaculture.

What Is Permaculture?

Permaculture is a system that allows us to design sustainability into our own lives. How, and what do we mean by sustainability? Well, living sustainably, literally means living in a way we can continue to live – a way of life which does not destroy the means of its own sustenance. The means of our sustenance are the soil in which we grow our food, the clean water which we drink, wash and grow our food and clean air which we and everything else breathes. If we produce our food in a way that destroys soil, poisons the water and pollutes the air we cannot be living sustainably – we will eventually no longer be able to produce food.
Modern industrial agriculture is a case in point of an industry deeply enslaved to the corporate-state-debt machine.
The way we currently farm, with massive gas guzzling machines and huge amounts of chemical inputs, is so inefficient that about ten times the energy goes into producing a kilo of wheat as the actual calorific value of that wheat itself. If you think of a subsistence farmer trying to live like that, he’d be dead in a week. That huge (90%) energy debt is based on what? Fossil fuels of course – cheap energy: fuels that are heavily subsidized. Without those subsidies all the farmers in the UK would go bankrupt overnight. And some do anyway. But why does the government pay farmers to farm so inefficiently? Well, it’s not for the farmers’ sakes, but to further the interests of big business and the financial institutions – the people who fund their election campaigns.

Governments subsidize farmers to purchase inputs; industrially produced fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, animal vaccines, food supplements and medicines all of which are produced in massive industries consuming huge amounts of cheap oil energy and generating lots of cash profits. These profits they stick in the banks. The banks then need to lend that money out, like a hot potato, at interest. So what the governments do is make farmer’s’ subsidies conditional on the continually shifting goal post of “best practice”. Thus they force continual machinery and infrastructure upgrades from the farmers; things like overhauling drainage systems, fencing, animal housings, grain storage, new types of machines etc. all of which the farmer will need to take loans to finance, because he hasn't got any money!

Hence they system traps the modern farmer in a condition of debt slavery. He is working to pay off his debts, which he ran up to get handouts to finance a system he was told was going to be more productive than “the old fashioned” way of doing thing, but is actually far less efficient – due to the huge amounts of energy it consumes. Not to mention all those chemicals continually leaching to the rivers, lakes, seas and ground-water, or the continual compaction and erosion raping the top soil, so that if you didn’t drench it in chemicals it wouldn’t grow anything anyway.

What’s more, you, as the man or woman buying the loaf of bread off the supermarket shelf, you don’t know this, but you are perpetuating that system. That loaf of bread is made with the heavy gas guzzling machinery and industrial chemicals which are trashing the soils, air and water which sustain us.
To really be a steward “khalifah” of this earth you have to get out of that corporate system.

The Big Jihad

But how do we get out of that system? When the corporate machine has enslaved the modern nation state and it is has at its disposal the full arsenal of the military-industrial complex – what can we, the little people, as Muslims do about it? We make Jihad (struggle) of course! “What?” you say,“Pick up an RPG and go off and start a war?! Now you’re talking!” No, don’t be an idiot!

We make the great jihad the struggle to be a better person, to overcome our own Nafs (ego). It always starts with no. 1. Also, it’s not about fighting the existing reality head on. That’s just wasting our energy and our potential. It’s about establishing the better alternative that will take over when the current system crashes and burns. And it will! So take personal responsibility. Each of us will be judged by what our own hands send forth! OK, you may say, I am ready to take responsibility. But how?

Yes well, as I said before, there is a system called Permaculture – not wanting to patronize, you’ve probably heard the word before, but what actually is it? Well the one sentence definition is: “A design system for sustainable human settlements and productive landscapes.” It’s kind of a conceptual tool-kit for how we can establish productive systems to support our own needs without destroying the ecological processes that support us. Indeed, while re-generating them. And it can be done at the domestic, community or commercial scales, as we need.

The thing about ecological systems is that everything is inter-connected. They are the full integrated expression of the un-fathomable genius of our creator, Allah subhanahu wa taala , (God, the glorious, most high) and there is nothing in nature which has not got some purpose or serves some role in the functioning of the whole system. All of it worships our Lord!
“The seven heavens and the earth and whatever is in them exalt Him. And there is not a thing except that it exalts [Allah] by His praise, but you do not understand their [way of] exalting. Indeed, He is ever Forbearing and Forgiving..” (Qur'an, Surah al-Isra': 44)
We as stewards of the system have to respect this! So Permaculture starts from Ethics. We need to deliver an ecological benefit (Earth Care), a social benefit (People Care) and an economic benefit (Return of Surplus) from our system of living. In order to manage an ecosystem effectively we have employ sub-systems and design to integrate them effectively. All wastes are used as inputs for other parts of the system. Thus materials and energy cycle within the system, just as they do in nature. We compost our rubbish or feed it to worm farms. This way we build soil. But we also generate food for poultry (worms) which give us eggs. The manure of the poultry we compost too.

We also partition our land between intensity of use – we leave out-lying areas more to nature and manage the areas closest to us very intensively – this way we make best use of our own energy in operating the system and don’t e have to rely on machines to operate very extensive systems. Nearby, we site intensive gardens, tree nurseries, small animals, “aqua-ponics”, seed and tool storage (Zone I). Further away fruit orchard and poultry forage systems (Zone II). Beyond this larger systems (if we have the space) for crops and farm animals (Zone III), beyond this again forestry systems (Zone IV) and finally we leave any land we don’t need to nature – wilderness (Zone V).

Islam & Permaculture
Now, myself, I’ve been living in Ethiopia for the past 7 years where I’ve set up a Permaculture demonstration site and training center (www.permalodge.org) and I’ve developed my own Permacutlure Design Course (PDC) syllabus, working with different trainers such as Rhamis Kent and of course Jamal-ud-Din (Geoff) Lawton from the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI).

Over that time I’ve made a couple of trips to study and help out at the “Greening the Dessert Sequel Site” II site (video) in the Jordan Valley. I was there in November 2012, when I met our good brother Salah Hammad, who is a Palestinian-Jordanian who’s been working for a while with the PRI in Jordan and in Australia at their main site, Zaytuna Farm for the past few years. Salah has been developing a syllabus too, in Arabic language. And we are planning to team up to deliver a PDC at the PRI site in the Jordan Valley in April 2014, which is going to be bi-lingual – English-Arabic.

I call my own Permaculture training service Haqiqah Permaculture . Not that it’s really anything different from the standard 72-hour PDC syllabus, but the iconography has significance for Muslims, so I’ll briefly expain, if I may.
Haqiqa (الحقيقۃ) is an Arabic word meaning “the truth of a matter”. The root of al-Haqiqah (الحقيقۃ) is “haq” (حق) meaning “truth” or “right” as in “a person’s rights”.
The Arabic Roots of Hadiqah

Another word Hadiqah (الحديقۃ) meanwhile means “a garden” – It recalls the image of the trellised gardens of The Levant, in which vine-arbors provide coolness and shade, not only a pleasant microclimate for human habitation, even in the midst of a harsh desert climate, but also producing abundant sustenance.

What is interesting, is that the root of the word Hadiqa contains “Had” (حد) which is also indicative of Unity (or “Ikhlas”), being the backbone of the words “ahad - أحد” and “wahid – وَحِد” meaning “One”– (قل هو الله أحد). Hence the word Hadiqah contains at its root the notion of Unity (or ikhlas) which implies interconnectedness and wholeness.

Haqiqah is formed by placing the letter “qaf” (ق) over the letter “dal” (د) hence we can still find the “د “within the “ق “. Hence the word Haqiqah also contains the word Haqiqah. I have expressed this in our permaculture logo by adding a single line across the first leaf in the logo dividing it in half so that half of the leaf forms a “د “.

The symbolism and connectedness of these two words are referred to in Sufi poetry such as Al-Hadiqah Al-Haqiqah by Sana’i. Thus the significance of the Haqiqah icon is that when the garden (Hadiqah - الحديقۃ) is conferred its rights (Haq -حق) it will be treated as an entity of unity or wholeness (Had - حد), this is the truth of the matter (Haqiqah - الحقيقۃ) implemented in the system of the Permaculture design: We take care to confer the rights of the creation, of which we are stewards (خلفۃ - khalifah), upon the creation. It is a reflection of the fact that we are bound to confer the rights of the Creator, of which we are slaves, upon the Creator, the reward for which is the Haqiqat al-Jannah (the true garden). It also indicates the fact that we cannot truly fulfil the latter without fulfilling the former.

So the obligation of stewardship of this creation lies upon us all as Muslims and human beings. All of us working with the PRI are working hard to spread the wisdom of Permaculture all over the world to every culture and race. As I say, Salah and myself are planning to run a PDC in the Dead Sea Valley, Jordan in second half of April 2014. However with this up-coming course Salah and myself and in this course we are putting the focus on training people from the Arab world and the wider Ummah.

UPCOMING COURSE: Permaculture Design Course at the Greening the Desert Sequel Site, Jordan

If you want to support this please come along and get involved where-ever you are from. If you don’t speak Arabic it will be a great way to learn some or improve what you do know! The syllabus we teach is a standard PRI syllabus that will teach you to how to design Permaculture systems in any climate, cultural or technological setting. It will be a mixed group of local and international students from all over the Middle East and beyond. Hope to see you there, insha’Allah!

+ Permaculture Design Training Centre (Strawberry Field Eco-Lodge and farm, Ethiopia)

Article by + Abdurrahman McCausland. originally from the UK lives in Ethiopia where he has established the country’s first Permaculture training and demonstration site, in Konso, south Ethiopia.

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