Gardens of Peace
Issue 100 January 2013
Whilst a Hadith Qudsi informs the believer that paradise is what “no eye has seen and no ear has heard, nor has it occurred to the human heart”, the Qur’an propounds the beautiful metaphor of “gardens beneath which rivers flow.”
Whilst a Hadith Qudsi informs the believer that paradise is what “no eye has seen and no ear has heard, nor has it occurred to the human heart”, the Qur’an propounds the beautiful metaphor of “gardens beneath which rivers flow.” (4:57) Such a description resonated with the deserts Arabs living in dry and harsh conditions, and as such they attempted to create on earth such gardens as a reminder of the life to come. Water features were thus a central part of garden design and can be found in gardens across the Muslim world.
There were other pertinent reminders of a spiritual life. Cedar trees were a reminder of death. Other trees gave shade to remind the grateful recipient of the transience of life for the Prophet said, “I and this worldly life are but like a traveller who stopped for a little while under a tree to get some shade and then moved on.” Shade is also a reminder of the “Day when there is no shade except God’s Shade.” Fruit trees were also planted, providing nourishment for birds, animals, and humans. Such trees were regarded as a source of Sadaqah Jariyah, ceaseless charity, that would benefit the planter even after their death.
Scented and coloured blooms enlivened the senses, potentially evoking primordial memories, and caused a yearning within the heart and soul for a permanent garden in which to abide.
Structurally, gardens were of inner beauty, often held within a walled courtyard. As with so much within Muslim design, the inner is to take precedence over the outer, to give life to the idea that the inner soul has to take precedence over the outer form. Pavillions were also built again as a reminder of the Qur’an’s metaphors of paradise where the righteous will reside in lofty pavilions under which rivers flow. (39:20) Mosaic, motif, and calligraphy adorned structures, echoing the designs of great Islamic architecture with all the relevant symbolism of God’s transcendence, natural order, and the Word of God.