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For the last three centuries, the industrial economies of the world have been using up every primary good that can be converted into secondary goods, and doing so at extravagant and steadily increasing rates. Schumacher's insight that goods produced by Nature are the primary goods in any economy, and those produced by human labour are secondary goods, can thus usefully be extended further. There is also a primary and secondary economy. The cycles of Nature that produce goods needed by human beings constitute the primary economy, while the process by which human beings produce goods is the secondary economy. Thus a farm and the crops grown on it are part of the secondary economy, while the soil, water, sun and genetic potential in the seed stock that make the farm and its crops possible are part of the primary economy.



We[1] now approach the culmination of our "centred" integral polity, that is from our grounding, in Sardar's recent Reading the Qur'an to its emergence, via Ancient Egypt, the Ancient Greeks, the Golden Age of Islam, and modern Europe, through Prince Charles' Grammar of Harmony that serves to link them all (Figure 22.1). The Arab Spring subsequently and navigation-wise, through its socio-political orientation towards the people's revolution, not only left nature and culture, but also economics and enterprise, substantively behind, and has thereby so far thwarted fully-fledged emancipation. Moreover, the approach to religion and humanity has been all too often reactive, rather than proactive, thereby only going a limited way towards integral navigation. Notwithstanding such, and drawing on prior Islamic grounding, and its own emerging grammar of harmony, and thereafter a fourfold means of navigation (see Sustainability Flower below) at an enterprise level, Sekem, and, potentially if not yet actually, its recently established Heliopolis University (HU) for Sustainable Development, have made a more thoroughgoing attempt to effect a transformation. For, in its case this has arisen out of a:

John Greer, The Wealth of Nature (1)

Centred Integral Polity

Figure 22.1 Centred Integral Polity

prior origination in Islam (grounding), foundation through the grammar of harmony (emergence) and emancipation via the concept of a Sustainability Flower (navigation), thereafter effecting integral sustainable development, via Sekem/HU.

We will now revisit the Sekem Group – leading to – Heliopolis University for their Sustainable Development journey, over the course of the past three decades, towards an integral approach to sustainable development, actively (Sekem enterprise) and reflectively (Heliopolis University), the one serving to complement and co-evolve the other.


Drawing substantively from Ibrahim Abouleish's (2) book Sekem: A Sustainable Community in the Egyptian Desert, and indeed the many years with which we have been working with him and the Sekem Group – now also Heliopolis University – we begin in his childhood, and follow his formative – reformative – newly normative and ultimately transformative journey, from prior grounding to ultimate effect. Of course we recognize that such an integral journey, for both Abouleish and for Sekem, is both cyclical and linear, thereby an overall spiralling process:

I carry a vision deep within myself: in the midst of sand and desert I see myself standing as a well drawing water. Carefully I plant trees, herbs and flowers and wet their roots with the precious drops. The cool well water attracts human beings and animals to refresh and quicken themselves. Trees give shade, the land turns green, fragrant flowers bloom, insects, birds and butterflies show their devotion to God, the creator, as if they were citing the first Sura of the Qu'ran. The human, perceiving the hidden praise of God, care for and see all that is created as a reflection of paradise on earth. For me this idea of an oasis in the middle of a hostile environment is like an image of the resurrection at dawn, after a long journey through the nightly desert. I saw it in front of me like a model before the actual work in the desert started. And yet in reality I desired even more: I wanted the whole world to develop.

We can see then that, in his childhood Ibrahim was well grounded in his Muslim faith, in general, and in the relevant sura form the Qur'an, specifically. During Ramadan his mother told Ibrahim all the stories about the Prophet. He listened reverently and in admiration to accounts of the Prophet's suffering and endurance, to how intelligently he answered questions, and to how much confidence Prophet Mohammed had in people's ability to attain freedom. The image of an admirable man was created in Ibrahim's soul: very gentle and wise, very strong and resolute.

  • [1] This chapter and Chapter 21 were co-authored with Maximilian Abouleish, Sustainable Development Manager at Sekem Holding and co-founding member of the Heliopolis University Social Innovation Center.
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