IslamExpo has commissioned the charity REEP (The Religious Education and Environment Programme) which specialises in education through gardens, to create our Islamic Garden for the exhibition. They are working with the eminent garden designer Emma Clark to create a haven of peace in the centre of IslamExpo.
The Islamic garden is fundamentally a reflection and foretaste of the Gardens of Paradise as described in the Qur’an: here at the centre of IslamExpo at Olympia, we have attempted to create – albeit in a limited way – a little taste of these Gardens.
Islamic Gardens are recognised as some of the most beautiful in the world. They are famous for their order and geometry, their close relationship with architecture, their blossoming fruit trees and large shade-giving trees, as well as brightly coloured scented flowers amongst a profusion of shrubs in all shades of green – green being the colour of Islam.
However, above all, Islamic gardens – whether the smaller, secluded enclosed ones or the magnificent wide-open ones – are famous for their water: gently flowing in fountains and rills or rushing down from mountains, or still and serene in pools and raised tanks. The water is the heart and soul of the traditional Islamic garden providing the single most important unifying element – reflecting the words of the Qur’an: Jannat tajri min tahtiha al-anhar, ‘gardens underneath which rivers flow’.
The Islamic garden has been explored in a variety of ways across the world – from the beautiful secluded courtyard gardens of Damascus in Syria and the Moorish gardens of North Africa and Spain to the wide open spaces, geometric patterns and rushing water of the great Persian, Mughal and Kashmiri gardens. All these gardens are, as it were, variations on a theme of the quintessential Paradise gardens, jannat al-firdaws, the four gardens as described most fully in Surat al-Rahman (Sura 55, The Chapter of the All-Merciful).
The traditional Islamic courtyard garden is quiet and intimate, offering space for contemplation – whether it be in the midst of a noisy city or here in the middle of IslamExpo.
We hope visitors will take a little time out from the main exhibition to wander into one of the four gardens and perhaps sit a while surrounded by the lush planting, under one of the trees of Paradise (pomegranate, fig, date-palm or olive), collecting thoughts or listening to Qur’an recitation or a story by the winner of the Muslim Writers Award, Aliya Vaughan.
You could even listen to some poetry readings whilst simply enjoying the fresher air and peaceful atmosphere created by the presence of nature. Or watch a storytelling performance by Alia Alzougbi of Silk Roads. Or even listen to Oud playing by Attab Haddad.
A small exhibition about the history and different interpretations of the Islamic garden will accompany the experience of the garden itself. We look forward very much to seeing you, God willing, in the Islamic garden at the very heart of IslamExpo 2008.