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Haram means (is Arabic for) "inviolate zones", an important aspect of urban planning in Muslim civilization[?]. Towns were usually built near a river which provided drinking and domestic water (upstream) and carried away waste and sewage (downstream, usually underground, unlike most cities in Europe in medieval times). Muslims claim to have introduced the idea of carrying capacity, and clearly did limit the number of families in any given town. The haram were typically positioned to ensure access to parkland and nature (which were given another name, hima), to restrict urban sprawl, protect water-courses and watersheds[?] and oases[?]. In this respect the rules strongly resembled modern zoning laws[?], with the same purposes.

The distinction between haram and hima is thought by some modern scholars to have been necessary due to a different means of deciding which regions were to have restrictions - the selection of haram was considered to be more up to the community while the selection of hima had more to do with natural characteristics of the region, which were considered to be best respected by jurists[?]. This idea probably arises from two different obligations of the Muslim to respect ijma (consensus of neighbors within Islam) and practice khalifa (stewardship of nature under Allah). It may or may not reflect actual means of decision making historically.

See also: hima, carrying capacity, watershed, bioregional planning[?]

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