The Strange Two

glad tidings to the strangers

Giovanni Galluzzo: “Why Materialism Doesn’t Cut It: Muslims and Permaculture Design”

The Stage is Set

Humanity has collectively submitted to the idea that the highest aims are material wealth and technological advancement.

This philosophy of economic materialism is what shapes the infrastructure and technology of our societies and such infrastructure and technology set the boundaries within which we must operate.

Furthermore, the means or methodology for developing technology has been firmly established as competitive and adversarial.

With the undercurrent of economic materialism guiding the activity of humanity, the results are imbalance and chaos between people and the environment as well as between people themselves. The consequences can be easily seen through the increasing number of warnings the natural world is revealing to us.

As Muslims, we must confront the fact that many of us are participating in this mindless pursuit with little resistance.

We attempt to drown out the glaring contradiction with our oft-repeated rhetoric of advocating a pure wholesome way of life, but our actual lifestyles easily betray the sad truth.

We Muslims clearly know that economic materialism is not the proper philosophy to guide human activity as we constantly denounce it quite vocally. The problem is that despite our knowledge and our vocal opposition, we are nonetheless conducting our daily lives using the technical solutions developed by the very same philosophy we denounce!

We do not need to devise a new philosophy as we already have it in Islam, but rather we need to use a methodology of developing technology and improving material life in our daily lives that is not based on a destructive philosophy. Of course, we can always improve our collective and individual dedication to Islam and that is also a vitally important undertaking, although that discussion is just not within the scope of this article. And regardless of how high our iman (faith) can reach, if the system upon which our lives depend is corrupted, it makes it that much harder to fulfill our duties as Muslims. Thus, it is incumbent on us to become independent of such systems as much as possible.

Enter Permaculture Design

The term ‘permaculture’ in its broadest sense describes what may be divided into three distinct components:

An ethical component
A methodological component
A technical component
– the resultant body of accumulated solutions and knowledge derived from the other two components
The ethical component is simple and often referred to by the three-part phrase of “earth care,” “people care,” and “fair share.” The permaculture design methodology component is the robust set of design concepts and techniques which are derived from observing nature. Traditional and modern methods are used together in a comprehensive and holistic way. The technical solutions that have emerged from the adherence to ethical component and the methodology of design are vast and growing exponentially.

The conventional technology and life systems that dominate the world currently may also be divided along a similar framework.

By using a set of methodologies that have their roots in the philosophy of economic materialism which are clearly contradictory to the foundational principles of Islam, the infrastructure for a society that excels at worshiping Allah will never be realized beyond a superficial depth.

Because the permaculture methodology is rooted in an ethic that is not essentially in conflict with the principles of Islam, it can be used to create technical solutions that truly work for Muslims. We simply need to supplement the existing ethical component of permaculture or just swap it out with the Islamic framework of ethics and then use the permaculture design methodology to create solutions tailored for Muslims. We can also take of the existing body of solutions and knowledge since they were derived from the ethical framework and simply adopt them completely or alter them as necessary. The claim being made is not that all modern technology derived from economic materialism and its associated methodologies is intrinsically evil, but rather that the overall impact of these technologies and especially the way in which they are produced and used is clearly detrimental at a macro-level. The simple suggestion of this article is not self-righteous zealotry demanding a return to the pre-industrial era but rather should be taken as sincere advice for us to begin making a transition in a reasonable and wise manner.


The Balance

“And the heaven He raised and imposed the balance / That you not transgress within the balance […]” (Qur’an, 55:7-8)

Imam Dawood Yasin of Zaytuna College describes permaculture as a balanced methodology:

“Islam and permaculture are about restoring and maintaining balance, both inwardly and outwardly. The elements in the natural world were created in balance, which represent outward harmony and unison. Similarly, in the Islamic tradition we find the concept that the inherent state of humans is that of balance and unison. Unfortunately, we are constantly witnessing detrimental practices when the human spirit is devoid of harmony and unison. Therefore, the relationship between Islam and permaculture is symbiotic. Our conscious decision as Muslims is to heal and repair our souls, which represents the required foundation upon which Permaculture and earth repair work will flourish.

Muslims using Permaculture Design

It is not surprising that Muslims are attracted to permaculture design. The methodology and resulting solutions are superior to the materialist approach and obviously in line with Islam. A number of Muslims are already involved in Islam and we can only expect this to increase.

Some Notable Muslims Utilizing Permaculture Design Include:

Geoff Lawton
Mustafa Fatih Bakir
Rhamis Kent
AbdurRahman McCausland
H.S. Wong
Pak Iskandar
Summary & Action Plan

The design methodology of permaculture should be adopted by Muslims at a theoretical and practical level as opposed to the prevailing methodologies based on economic materialism.

The design methodology of permaculture can be easily adapted to provide technical solutions as the three core ethics it was based on already exist within Islam.

The design methodology of permaculture enables the development of technology and processes that allow Muslims to live a lifestyle in accordance with the ethics and justice demanded in Islam.

We don’t tolerate desecration of the Qur’an or insults to the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him), as we shouldn’t, but yet we not only tolerate, but we are actively participating in the desecration, pollution and corruption of the natural world that Allah has created for our benefit. A robust methodology exists that we can make use of to remove ourselves from the participation in this project of madness and so there is no excuse to continue following methods that lead to lifestyles that conflict with core Islamic values.

A suggested strategy that we should join is two-pronged:

The existence of permaculture design and its compatibility with Islam must be communicated to Muslims so that more and more of us are aware that such a methodology exists.
Muslims must adopt technical solutions developed through permaculture design and using the methodology also innovate new solutions especially where solutions specifically tailored for Muslim communities can be developed.
While it may be unrealistic to expect all of humanity or even all Muslims to adopt the technical solutions derived from permaculture design in their daily lives, it is very feasible and expedient to join with like-minded individuals and form resilient local communities that are independent but not isolated.

These communities can share the knowledge and demonstrate the solutions to the greater population of Muslims and other fellow human beings thus embodying the full portrait of those who do good deeds on the Earth.

Photo: Paul Chapman

For the full article by Giovanni Galluzzo visit Suheib Webb.


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