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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 râdâh 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 of the Jordan).

Muslims also have a specific obligation to practice khalifa ("stewardship") for each species of animals is said to be "its own nation". The selection of ḥimás was thus a religious rather than community obligation, and was often undertaken by the community.

There are five types of ḥimá:

  • areas where grazing of domestic animals is prohibited
  • areas where grazing is restricted to certain seasons
  • beekeeping reserves where grazing is restricted during flowering
  • forest areas where cutting of trees is forbidden
  • reserves managed for the welfare of a particular village, town or tribe (see also ḥaram, although that term usually refers more to water protection measures)


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