Permaculture is a system for designing and establishing sustainable living systems. It is the effective stewardship of nature such that nature sustains us while we sustain it. A symbiosis between us and the rest of nature. It’s not that nature has need of us to sustain it. The design of nature is perfect. It was set in order by The Creator and just does its job: purifies water and air, cycles minerals and nutrients, and harvests all its energy needs from the sun. A forest, a coral reef, a savannah, a swamp, they don’t need people to look after the species that live within them. Each species in the system gets the sustenance it requires and passes that on in various ways to the other organisms that live around it.
The seven heavens and the earth, and all beings therein, declare His glory: there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; And yet ye understand not how they declare His glory! Verily He is Oft-Forbear, Most Forgiving! (Surat-ul Al Isra’: 44)
Our Creator, the Most High, created all in due proportion, in balance. And it simply does what it is designed to do. Then man comes into the picture.
And when thy Lord said to the angels, “we will place a khalifah (vice-regent or steward) in the earth.” They said “why do place there in that which will shed blood and cause corruption upon the earth, while we, we praise and glorify you.” He said, “verily I know that which you know not.” (Surat-ul Baqarah: 30)
So man trod upon the earth; a being given jurisdiction over the rest of creation. He could adapt and modify his means to colonize any place on the earth. He could use weapons and fire. He could kill the greatest beasts and fell the hugest, most ancient trees. He could exploit resources way beyond his physical size. And man greedily capitalised on the superior capacities he had been endowed with. We see the extinction of the mega-fauna, deforestation, desertification and erosion of soils even before the industrialisation and urbanisation of human populations. And yet the destruction has acceleration exponentially over the past few centuries. Now there has been an alteration of the balance of the atmosphere leading to climate destabilisation, as well as chemical and even nuclear pollution of the water and the air and also genetic pollution of the biosphere.
The industrial system based on usury-capitalism has become a hurtling juggernaut, addicted to “growth”. It needs to keep eating the resources of the earth to survive. It will not be brought down by “people power” because we live in age where whole cities can be wiped out at the touch of a button and those who control this system will do whatever it takes to maintain it. So right before our eyes we see today political turmoil widening and deepening around the world. Just as we see natural disasters increasing as climate extremes break records almost every season.
So what is Permaculture and what can it do for us?
Permaculture is a system for ecological design which allows us to take steps to reverse this degradation and live in synchrony with natural systems. Nature, like our own bodies has the capacity to heal itself, if we were to stop attacking it. We just have to respect how it works. But let’s not kid ourselves here, as Muslims we know that this world is doomed. We know it will not persist for ever. Just because a few of us woke up and realized that what humanity is doing to the planet is insane does not mean we can reverse the actions of the power elites or reform the entirety of human society. We know all kinds of calamities await us before the end.
So why bother with Permaculture if this World is Doomed Anyway?
Firstly, the stewardship of nature is our moral duty. Whether we are successful or not in our undertaking to preserve the natural world for the benefit of our children and all the wonderful creatures that live in it, the point is that we should try anyway. It does not matter if the whole of humanity is sinful, WE should still strive to be righteous:
The Prophet (SAWS) said, “(Even) if the Hour (of Judgement) comes and one of you holds a palm seedling in his hand and he can plant it, he should do so.
Secondly as the systems of usury-capitalism begin to fail – the oil wells run dry, the lands are flooded, droughts and storms multiply, the fish in the sea are exhausted, etc. – we need to be able to provide an alternative livelihood for ourselves, our families and our communities. We need to be able to survive without participating in that system. Permaculture offers us a tool-kit to escape from it before it fails, and to establish alternative, resilient and independent communities. Some Muslims see the need to fight the western-capitalist-colonialism head on, others have even tried to take it over and stick an “Islamic” logo on it.
Allah’s Apostle SAWS said, “A time will come that the best property of a Muslim will be sheep which he will take on the top of mountains and the places of rainfall (valleys) so as to flee with his religion from afflictions.” (Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri – Bukhari: Book 2; Hadith 18)
But what we really need to do is flee from it as we enter the fitnas of the end times and the age of the Dajjal, just as the people of The Cave fled and were protected from by their Lord. So the first 10 ayat of this surah are the prodection from the fitnah of the dajjal.
Permaculture allows us to get out of dodge, escape the city, get off grid, grow our own food, return to the land and build rural communities in which we are returning to our primal duty as stewards (khalifah) of the earth. We don’t need to pay bills, get a mortgage, have a credit card, consume useless junk and chemical laden plastic packaged food with intercontinental ingredients. We can return to a wholesome life where we provide for our needs and engage in what we were made to do: worship Our Lord Most High, the one who created all this wondrous earth and to whom we all shall return.
This blog is about my story of attempting, with the permission of Allah, to establish a resilient and prosperous family homestead in the South Ethiopian highlands among the nation of the Siltie, the tribe I have married into. I hope, insha Allah, this will be an inspiration for other Muslims to start engaging in Permaculture and building sustainable, resilient and independent communities, equipping themselves with the skills and knowledge we will need to meet the challenges of the turbulent times that lie ahead.
This article and image was originally posted on the Haqiqah Permaculture website.