Gratitude for Allah
By Tom Verde,
originally posted on Earth Island Journal.
Allah Commands: Protect Fragile Lands
Early in the 7th century, soon after Muslims established themselves in what is now the holy city of Medina, the Prophet Muhammad surveyed the natural resources in the region – the riverbeds (called wadis), the rich, black volcanic soil, the high rangelands – and decreed that they be preserved and set aside as a hima, a “protected place.”
“Verily Abraham declared Makkah a sanctuary and I declare Al-Madinah, that which lies between its two lava flows, to be a sanctuary; its trees shall not be cut and its game shall not be hunted,” he told his followers.
This uniquely Middle Eastern nature conservancy plan, with roots in antiquity, is a locally managed preserve in which the members of surrounding communities control use of the land to conserve water, flora, and fauna. Dating to pre-Islamic times, the hima is considered among the world’s oldest conservation systems. There were at one time thousands of himas across the Arabian Peninsula, owned by tribal chiefs who used them for hunting, for the exclusive grazing of their personal flocks, or to oppress locals by cutting them off from resources. According to one medieval Arab jurist, the boundaries of a hima were determined by how far away the tribal leader’s dog could be heard barking from a centrally located high point.
“We’ve seen the return of endangered species to areas where we’d given up hope of seeing them again – places that had become dump sites.”
With the coming of Islam, the socially-conscious Muhammad transformed the hima from a private enclave into a public asset, in which all community members had a share and a stake, in accordance with their duty as stewards (khalifa) of Allah’s natural world. As Islam expanded, so did the concept of the hima, as rehabilitated by the Prophet.
To read the rest of this article, go to: "Traditional Himas are helping protect fragile areas in Muslim nations."