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Khalifa

In common use, Khalifa is the Arabic word translated into English as Caliph. See the latter entry for a discussion of the leadership post.


Khalifa is Arabic for "stewardship" of nature and family, a key obligation of a Muslim (one accepting Islam). By contrast, in Judeo-Christian tradition, the term "dominion over nature " is the usual translation of the Hebrew word rdh in Genesis.

While Sunni and Shia Islam differ sharply on the conduct of a caliph and the right relations between a leader and a community, they do not differ on the underlying theory of stewardship. Both abhor waste of natural resources in particular to show off or demonstrate power. Many consider this conservation urge a necessity of any desert culture, where oases are precious and natural capital must be preserved, in particular clean water sources.

Three specific ways in which khalifa is manifested in Muslim practice are the creation of haram to protect water, hima to protect other species (including those useful to man), and by resisting infidel domination over Muslim lands, in jihad (which can only be declared legitimately after a number of serious abuses, including cutting down olive trees, a major source of contention in the West Bank).

Note that Jews and Christians are not always considered infidels (kaffir) as such by Islam, and are permitted freedom of religion, but, as dhimmi not to be allowed control of Muslim lands, thought to be in part because of this differing obligation of man towards nature, theoretical though it may be.

The modern theory of khalifa as ecological stewardship has developed as part of Islamic science - notably in the work of Seyyed Hossein Nasr. This development parallels similar trends in many religions, e.g. Henry David Thoreau the Protestant, Thomas Berry the Catholic, and Mohandas Gandhi the Hindu, all of which deplored consumerism and elevate respect for nature to a good in itself.


See also

  • jihad
  • religion and ecology
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