From: Arwa Aburawa, Green Prophet
Published September 20, 2010 07:28 AM

The Middle East’s Tradition of Environmental Protection

Hima, practised for over 14,000 years in the Arabian Peninsula, is believed to be the most widespread system of traditional conservation in the Middle East, and perhaps the entire earth.

In these modern times, it's easy to think of environmental protection as a new concept which has emerged in response to modern problems linked to industrialisation and globalisation. In reality, the need to protect the environment from abuse has been a constant concern for humans since the beginning of time- especially for people who were living directly of the earth's resources.

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Even the Middle East,which many assume is new to environmental concerns, had a system to help protect nature called "Hima". Hima which roughly translates as "protected or preserved place" has been practised for over 14,000 years in the Arabian Peninsula and is believed to be the most widespread system of traditional conservation in the Middle East, and perhaps the entire earth.

Hima is a system of resource protection in which pastures, trees or grazing lands are declared as forbidden and access to them and their use is denied by the owner. Types of Himas included reserves for bee-keeping, forest trees, reserving woodland to stop desertification as well as the seasonal regeneration of fields. Hima pre-dates the emergence of Islam in Arabia, and according to Lutfallah Gari who has charted the rise and fall of the Hima system, Hima was sometimes placed under the protection of tribal deity.

He notes that; "Fauna and flora were protected; and [Hima areas] enjoyed the right of asylum” The animals consecrated to them grazed there safely, and no on dared to kill or steal them. The straying animals that crossed over the boundary were lost to their owner”" Despite this, the system was subject to some abuse. The rich took advantage of it to protect their interests by  pastures for their flocks and protecting themselves against the effects of future droughts.

Image credit: MuslimHeritage.com

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