Features in Islamic Gardens

"Marvel a garden among the flames. My heart has become receptive of every form. It is a meadow."

~ Ibn 'Arabi (1165 - 1240 AD)

Features in Islamic Gardens

Overview

Shade & Shadow

"We shall admit them to shades, cool and ever deepening." (Holy Qu'ran)

Water

Water is the central element in Islamic garden design.

Seclusion

Paradise, however large or small it may be, is surrounded by gated walls.

Features in Islamic Gardens

Introduction

Shade and Shadow

In hot, arid climates the promise of water is a design imperative, but so too is the concomitant requirement for shade. The Holy Quran promises that in paradise: “we shall admit them to shades, cool and ever deepening.” Who can not relate to the joy of a lush, green, shady place on a hot day.

Beyond the actual functioning and pleasure of shade, Islamic gardening architecture was also very fond of the drama of light and shadow, reflecting about the drama of the soul, battling with shadow and seeking the light.

Pavilions, Walls and Gates

Paradise, however large or small it may be, is surrounded by gated walls. The Persian word, Pairidaeeza, is a combination of two words that mean ‘surrounding wall’, thus the concept of paradise is of a garden or gardens, surrounded by a wall, isolating those within and enabling them to enjoy the features established within the wall.

From an architectural point of view, the typical enclosure of Islamic gardens has a series of facets to it:

Walls protect from noise, heat and dust, as well as from all kinds of other unfriendly forces. An enclosed area concentrates the mind on the area and activities within. Thick and high stone walls create plenty of shade and help to foster a cool miniature climate and environment.

From a spiritual point of view, privacy enables the Muslim to pray and meditate in a sacred safe space filled with beauty, without being disturbed. In public gardens pavilions enable visitors to find seclusion.

Gates are gateways, and have high esoterical meaning in all cultures. In Islamic gardens we do not only find gates that keep the garden itself locked and private away from outsiders, but also hidden gates within walls that symbolize esoterical gateways and secrets.

I found such gateways also at the walls and in the gardens of Roman and Gothic churches. Last year I found such a gateway in St Marien in Dahme, Brandenburg (Germany). I was amazed how many features this old church had which I know from Islam.

Water (and the Sound of Water)

The four streams that surround the four squares of land in the Islamic garden tend to be brought together at a central fountain or pool, the central focus of the garden. Water is the central element in Islamic garden design and has both a physical and metaphysical importance.

Islam was established and grew in a part of the world which has a hot, harsh climate and where water brings life to the desert and those who live in it. Beyond the irrigating function if the water in the garden, is water also a very intriguing reflecting element. The water’s surface reflects like a mirror and can act like a veil to remind us of the multiple realms and the worlds beyond our immediate grasp.

In Persian garden design the interaction with water becomes particularly playful: The Chador (a Persian word meaning ‘veil’) is like a small waterfall, the water falling over carved stone, breaking up the image reflected in it and thereby reminding us of the transient nature of this world. The Chini-Khanah, or rows of carved niches set behind a waterfall creating a lovely flowing spectacle when water, light and shadow interact.

The fountain in the centre of the garden or courtyard, representing one of the fountains in paradise, is often set within an Octagon. The Octagon is the transitional geometric form between the circle, representing heaven, and the square representing earth; frequently, the dome of a mosque is supported by an octagonal drum – the gateway, as it were, between earth and heaven.

Islamic Garden Design Tutorials

Plants in Islamic Gardens, Introduction

In the earthly Islamic paradises we find Fig, Cherry, Peach, Citrus, Pomegranate trees, and Almond, with their abundant blossom...

Features in Islamic Gardens, Introduction

In hot, arid climates the promise of water is a design imperative, but so too is the concomitant requirement for shade...

Geometry in Islamic Gardens, Introduction

In Islam exist sacred numbers that are incorporated in architecture, art and design and in the landscape design of gardens...