Gardens, Nature and Conservation in Islam

The notion, repeated in the Quran, of Paradise as a garden (al-janna, "The Garden") is symbolized in the form of Andalusi gardens, a few of which survive physically and some of which are described in literary sources.

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The Quran says:

"Surely the God-fearing shall be among gardens and fountains."
(Sura 51: 15)

"And those on the right hand;
what of those on the right hand?
Among thornless lote trees,
And clustered plantains,
And spreading shade,
And water gushing,
And fruit in plenty.
Neither out of reach nor yet forbidden,
And raised couches."
(Sura 56: 27-34)

Quotes from I.R.and L.L. Al-Faruqi in The Cultural Atlas of Islam; Mc Millan Publishing Company; New York; 1986 p.322:

For the Muslim, nature is a ni'mah, a blessed gift of God's bounty, granted to man to use and to enjoy, to transform in any way with the aim of achieving ethical value. Nature is not man's to possess or to destroy, or to use in any way detrimental to himself and to humanity, or to itself as God's creation. Since nature is God's work, his ayah, or sign, and the instrument of His purpose which is the absolute good, nature enjoys in the Muslim's eye a tremendous dignity. The Muslim treats nature with respect and deep gratitude to its beneficial Creator and Bestower. Any transformation of it must have a purpose clearly beneficial to all before it can be declared legitimate.

Quotes from T. Glick in Islamic and Christian Spain in the early Middle Ages, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1979. p. 54:

The notion, repeated in the Koran, of Paradise as a garden (al-janna, "The Garden") is symbolized in the form of Andalusi gardens, a few of which survive physically and some of which are described in literary sources.

The form of these gardens, quadripartite rectangles with fruit trees arranged in rows parallel to an axial watercourse, was of direct Persian (though ultimately, perhaps, of Roman) inspiration. Such an arrangement is apparent in an eleventh-century description of the Hair al-Zajjali, a renowned Cordoban garden, and is confirmed by the pattern of gardens, such as the Generalife of Granada, surviving from a later era. The symbolic value of the formal Islamic garden was as an earthly anticipation of paradise. In this sense, its contents of water, shade trees, and flowers were dictated by a generalized reaction to the desert environment, the traditional environment of Arabs, one that is dominated, of course, by aridity and conditioned by associations of the desert with fear and evil.

It is striking, indeed, that desert images, a traditional theme in Arabic poetry, are almost completely lacking in Andalusi poetry, except as a device to introduce, for example, the paradisiacal, watery freshness of a place like Valencia, and this in spite of the fact that wide stretches of the southern peninsula (e.g., the Almerian hinterland) already resembled the face of the moon, having been deforested by the Romans.

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