Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 967–978 | Cite as

The potential conflict between traditional perceptions and environmental behavior: compost use by Muslim farmers

  • Shlomit PazEmail author
  • Ofira Ayalon
  • Areej Haj


Although traditional societies often have a deep understanding of ecological relationships, traditional or religious values might be in conflict with current environmental values. According to Islamic Law, some compost sources used for agricultural purposes are impure, especially human and pig excreta. This study examined how Muslim farmers perceive the issue of impurity of compost sources and the extent to which the conflict between traditional and modern values affects compost use. Questionnaires were distributed to 77 Muslim and 11 Christian farmers in Israel, examining their personal characteristics, attitudes toward compost use, awareness of its sources and advantages, and the influence of traditional perceptions on the tendency to use compost. Interviews were conducted with agricultural consultants and Muslim clergy. Although the use of compost was limited, a higher level of awareness was found among the younger and/or more educated Muslim farmers. Varied attitudes were expressed regarding the degree of purity/impurity; 52 % of the respondents expressed willingness to use compost if derived from pure materials. The agricultural consultants were acquainted with Muslim farmers who recoiled from the use of compost. The Muslim religious leaders stated that impure substances can be purified through biochemical reactions during the composting process and noted that the use of compost is preferable if chemical fertilizers are harmful to the environment. Although Muslim farmers expressed willingness to use compost if it was proved to be pure according to Islam, this paper addresses how, in practical terms, universal environmental policies may give rise to value conflicts in traditional communities.


Compost Traditional perceptions Islam Purity and impurity 


  1. Alkaradawy, Y. (2006). Purification jurisprudence (pp. 87–89, 255). Cairo: Wahbe publishing house. (Arabic).Google Scholar
  2. Alshafeey, M. (1990). “Alom”, About the Shafeeiah School (pp. 111–112). Lebanon: Dar Alfeker. (Arabic).Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, E. N. (1996). Ecologies of the heart: Emotion, belief and the environment. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Annabi, M., Houot, S., Francou, C., Poitrenaud, M., & LeBissonnais, Y. (2007). Soil aggregate stability improvement with urban composts of different maturities. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 71, 413–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Annajar, A. (1999). Environmental issues from an Islamic perspective. Qatar: Research and Studies Center. (Arabic).Google Scholar
  6. Atran, S. (1993). Itza Maya tropical agro-forestry. Current Anthropology, 34, 633–689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Avnimelech, Y. (1997). Land application of composted municipal wastes. In P. N. Chremisinoff (Ed.), Ecological issues and environmental impact assessment (pp. 551–570)., Advances in environmental control technology Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  8. Ayalon, O., Avnimelech, Y., & Shechter, M. (2000). Alternative MSW treatment options to reduce global greenhouse gases emissions: The Israeli example. Waste Management and Research, 18, 538–544.Google Scholar
  9. Ayoob, H. (2002). The worship jurisprudence (pp. 25–50). Cairo: Dar a Slam. (Arabic).Google Scholar
  10. Beeman, R. S., & Pritchard, J. A. (2001). A green and permanent Land: Ecology and agriculture in the twentieth century. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  11. Berkes, F., Colding, J., & Folke, C. (2000). Rediscovery of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management. Ecological Applications, 10(5), 1251–1262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Berkes, F., Kislalioglu, M., Folke, C., & Gadgil, M. (1998). Exploring the basical ecological unit: Ecosystem-like concepts in traditional societies. Ecosystems, 1, 409–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Descola, P., & Pálsson, G. (1996). Introduction. In P. Descola & G. Pálsson (Eds.), Nature and society—Anthropological perspective (pp. 1–21). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ellis, S. C. (2005). Meaningful consideration? A review of traditional knowledge in environmental decision making. Arctic, 58(1), 66–77.Google Scholar
  15. Epstein, E. (1997). The science of composting. Technomic: Lancaster.Google Scholar
  16. Fischer, F. (1990). Technocracy and the politics of expertise. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  17. Foltz, R. C. (2003). Islamic environmentalism: A matter of interpretation. In C. R. Foltz, F. M. Denny, & A. Baharuddin (Eds.), Islam and ecology (pp. 249–279). Boston: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Foltz, R. C. (2006). Islam. In R. S. Gottlieb (Ed.), The oxford handbook of religion and ecology (pp. 207–219). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Haila, Y. (2000). Beyond the nature-culture dualism. Biology and Philosophy, 15, 155–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Halamish, N., Tal, A., Ben-Nun, G., Chen, Y., Hadar, Y., Chefetz, B., et al. (2000). Compost in Israel: Survey of sources and uses and a general analysis (pp. 1–29, 57–61, 99–100). Israel Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  21. He, Y., Inamori, Y., Mizuochi, M., Kong, H., Iwami, N., & Sun, T. (2001). Nitrous oxide emissions from aerated composting of organic waste. Environmental Science and Technology, 35(11), 2347–2351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hijab, M. (2002). Pollution and Environmental Protection (pp. 11–31). Egypt: Dar Alphajer. (Arabic).Google Scholar
  23. Hopkins, N. S., Sohair, R. M., & Salah, E. H. (2001). People and pollution: Cultural constructions and social action in Egypt. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huntington, H. P. (1998). Observations on the utility of the semi-directed interview for documenting traditional ecological knowledge. Arctic, 51(3), 237–242.Google Scholar
  25. Ibn Taymiyah, A. (1268–1328), In A. Hanbali (Ed.) (1997). The great legal Opinions, 21, 542–560, 578–587. (Arabic).Google Scholar
  26. Israel Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Green agriculture: The use of compost. Accessed 4 December 2011 (Hebrew).
  27. Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. (2008). Employed persons and employees, by industry, population groups and sex. Table # 2.1. Jerusalem.Google Scholar
  28. Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Statistical Abstract of Israel, no. 62, Jerusalem.Google Scholar
  29. Kamla, R., Gallhofer, S., & Haslam, J. (2006). Islam, nature and accounting: Islamic principles and the notion of accounting for the environment. Accounting Forum, 30, 245–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kan, I., Ayalon, O., & Federman, R. (2010). On the efficiency of composting organic wastes. Agricultural Economics, 41, 151–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Khalid, F. M. (2002). Islam and the environment. In P. Timmerman (Ed.), Social and economic dimensions of global environmental change (Vol. 5, pp 332–339). In T. Munn (Ed. In Chief), Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Change. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  32. Khamaisi, R. (2007). Between customs and laws: Land planning and management in Arab communities in Israel. Jerusalem: Florsheimer Institute for Policy Research. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  33. Kliot, N., & Hophmayer-Tokich, S. (2003). Environment pollution by waste water—Aspects of environmental justice. Jerusalem: The National Council for Environmental Quality, The Jerusalem Institute. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  34. Manzoor, S. P. (1984). Environment and values: The Islamic Perspective. In Z. Sardar (Ed.), The touch of Midas: Science, values and environment in Islam and the West (pp. 150–169). UK: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Namarne, A (2007). Status report of environmental living conditions in the Arab sector. In C. Lubnov (Ed.), Report on environmental (in) justice for 2007, Life and Environment (pp. 93–97). The Israeli Union of Environmental NGOs, Tel Aviv. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  36. Nawab, B., Ingrid, L. P., Nyborg, I. L. P., Esser, K. B., & Jenssen, P. D. (2006). Cultural preferences in designing ecological sanitation systems in North West Frontier Province, Pakistan. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 26(3), 236–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nunnaly, J. (1978). Psychometric theory. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  38. Özdemir, İ. (2003). Toward an understanding of environmental ethics from a Qur’anic perspective. In C. R. Foltz, F. M. Denny, & A. Baharuddin (Eds.), Islam and ecology (pp. 3–37). Boston: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Peters, S. J. (2002). Rousing the people on the land: The roots of the educational organizing tradition in extension work. Journal of Extension, 40(3), 3FEA1.Google Scholar
  40. Rahmani, M., Hodges, A., & Kiker, C. (1999). Analyzing compost economics. Biocycle, 40(7), 66–69.Google Scholar
  41. Rubin, U. (2005). The Quran. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University.Google Scholar
  42. Sabbah, I., Marzook, T., & Basheer, S. (2004). The effect of pretreatment on anaerobic activity of olive mill wastewater using batch and continuous systems. Process Biochemistry, 39(12), 1947–1951.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Santos J. R. A. (1999). Cronbach’s Alpha: A Tool for Assessing the Reliability of Scales. Journal of Extension, 37(2), Tools of the Trade, 2TOT3.Google Scholar
  44. Shmueli, D. (2005). Is Israel ready for participatory planning? Expectations and obstacles. Planning Theory and Practice, 6, 485–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Shmueli, D. (2008). Environmental justice in the Israeli context. Environment and Planning A, 40, 2384–2401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Slimak, M. W., & Dietz, T. (2006). Personal values, beliefs, and ecological risk perception. Risk Analysis, 26(6), 1689–1705.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. SPSS FAQ - What does Cronbach's alpha mean? Institute for Digital Research and Education, UCLA. Accessed 3 Sept 2012.
  48. Stewart, B. A., Robinson, C. A., & Parker, D. B. (2000). Examples and Case Studies of Beneficial Reuse of Beef Cattle By-products, In: Dick, W. A. (Ed.). Land application of agricultural, industrial, and municipal byproducts (pp. 387–407). Soil Science Society of America.Google Scholar
  49. Tarabeih, H. (2008). Environmental conflict management and resolution in split societies with a view to creating a culturally tailored model: Analyzing the case of conflicts in the Galilee (Doctoral dissertation). University of Haifa, Israel. (Hebrew).Google Scholar
  50. Unsal, T., & Ok, S. S. (2001). Description of characteristics of humic substances from different waste materials. Bioresource Technology, 78(3), 239–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Weiss, Bernard. G. (2002). Studies in Islamic legal theory. Boston: Brill Academic publishers.Google Scholar
  52. White, A. T. (1988). The effect of community-managed marine reserves in the Philippines on their associated coral reef fish populations. Asian Fisheries Science, 2, 27–41.Google Scholar
  53. WHO, UNICEF, 2000. Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000 Report. Accessed March 30, 2012.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, Graduate School of ManagementUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael

Personalised recommendations