The Pleasure Garden: A universal pathway to Heaven.

The ‘Pleasure Garden’ described by Muhammad as written in the Quran is used to describe the role of nature in terms of religion within artistic and cultural expression. A brief historical overview of the origin of the date palm and its trade by Arab nomads, and the celestial value of the ‘Tree of Life’, demonstrates the unity of empires that show ancient roots and a genealogical connection to the central ‘baraka’, the sacred ‘Black Stone’ housed in the Ka’ba. The universal symbol of the four quarter garden brings us to recognise that the Islamic religion reflects universal sustenance and wellbeing for a human pathway to perfection and Heaven via the ‘Pleasure Garden’.
Professor Simo Parpola (Danialli 2010) demonstrates in esoteric work that the ‘Tree generally represents the nature of the forces behind Creation on all levels, from microscopic to macrocosmic’ and dates back to the second millennium BC., and Bazin (1990) states that the role of nature in Islamic art pre-dates Islam and finds its roots in Asia Minor on the edge of the desert where a civilization developed on the Nile valley. The date palm pictured in figure one in Neo-lithic rock painting was said to have been the chief agricultural product in south-eastern Arabia as early as 2500 BC (Olson, 2015), the beginning of the Assyrian age, or the first Golden age (BetBasoo 2013), but Potts (1999) argues that the date palm was domesticated in South eastern Arabia as early as 3100 BC which was demonstrated by palaeobotanical evidence found at Hili 8 in the Al Ain oasis. He also argues that trade between Arabia and those in the North dated back to 4500 BC because of pottery found in the United Arab Emirates that probably were made in Ur, a Samarian state in ancient Mesopotamia that sometimes included nature motifs and geometric design. Therefore the role of nature in terms of religion is demonstrated earlier than the word of Muhammad the prophet of Islam though Muhammad preaches the word of God in terms of the garden of paradise or the ‘Pleasure Gardens’.
Figure 1. Date Palm: Phoenix dactylifera http://saudi-archaeology.com/subjects/date-palm/

date palm 1

It is said that the date palm provides everything necessary for life’s sustenance, and aside from dates there is the palm cabbage, palm wine, building materials and brooms. The date kernels are ground for camel fodder while also providing fuel for metal work (Bazin, 1990). The geographic range of the date palm is said to have expanded during the spread of Islam in the eighth century, two centuries following Muhammad (570-632) the prophet of Allah with his promise of paradise instructed in the Quran (Olsen, 2010-15), but the preoccupation with gardens in Islamic religion predates Muhammad and in Assyrian art, particularly its depictions of The Sacred Assyrian Tree of Life, pictured in figure two, nature and in particular trees are universally sacred. It is said to be the ‘Tree of ancient wisdom and is a path for humans to become a perfect man’ (Parpola cited in Danialli 2010). ‘The tree is a bridge between the world and God and His Heaven, it is a ladder to be climbed through ascetic life and device to receive divine powers and knowledge’ (Danialli 2010). In Assyrian Religion Ashur was seen as God the father of Assyria, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Istar represents mother, love, spirit and energy. And in Assyrian daily life the idea of balance and perfection in art, religion, literature, music and mathematics was prevalent to avoiding chaos, destruction and rejection (BetBasoo, 2013). Therefore by building symmetrical perfection in gardens and architecture one attempts to receive divine power and knowledge by providing a path for humans to become perfect and provide a bridge between the world and God.
Figure 2. Assyrian Tree of Life. Slab B-23 of the throneroom of Ashumasirpal II Palace at Calah.
http://www.assyriatimes.com /assyrian/knowledge/the-fascinating-balanced-sacred-assyrian-tree-of-life/3426 Retrieved 16th of Murch 2015.

datepalm 2
The ninety nine attributes of God are derived from the Ninety Nine Names of God and if one meditates upon the names of God then they may acquire the attributes of those names of God, one of those names of God is ‘life’ (Dickie, 1995), and in Islamic art the symbol of life is the tree of life, therefore the garden is a place one is invited to invocatory prayer.
The written word of the prophet Muhammad and the promise of paradise, as with Assyrian religion, Islamic Arabs believed in their genealogical linage to Abraham. The focus of Islam was mathematical perfection in all things which included the promotion of the perfect paradise in Islamic gardens of pleasure. Mecca where it is said that Muhammad was born, was where Abraham built the first house of God, ‘The Ka’ba’, it is built in the shape of a cube and the square represents the earthly order of things in Islamic art (Adams, 1991) . When Abraham and his son Ishmael were looking for stones to build the Ka’ba they found what is thought to be a meteor that is currently housed within the Ka’ba and is now known as the ‘Black Stone’, which contains the ‘baraka’, the spiritual force that emulates from any sacred object (Smart, 1992), so all other mosques are built to face Mecca the birth place of Muhammad, the Ka’ba and the ‘Black Stone’, and it is the ‘baraka’ the spirit of Abraham that drives the Islamic forces along with the influences of the Assyrian belief that nature is the bridge to Allah and his Heaven.
In the late seventh century, an Ishmaelite Jewish merchant and refugee from Edessa called Mahmet is said to have presented himself as a preacher of God to the Arab tribes. He taught only to love the God of Abraham and convinced the twelve tribes of Israel to take back the country that God had given to their father Abraham, from which Muhammad had been exiled (Crones and Cook, 1977). In the late seventh century the Arabs over ran the Old Persian Empire that was centred on the plateau of Iran, and as early as the sixth century B.C., an ancient garden tradition is recorded to have survived which is reflected in that of the new Islamic religion (Moynihan, pp3, Adams, 1991). In 550 B.C. Medes was conquered by Cyrus the Great (580-529 BC) whom established the first world empire and became the first Achaemenid Emperor by uniting the Medes and the Persians. Crones and Cook (1977) argue that the Persian occupation of Palestine was a more likely source of Jewish refugees than Edessa,
Figure 3. Persians and Medes on a relief from Persepolis. where Mahmet is said to have come from and that the Jewish tribes are mentioned in the Constitution of Medina as forming one community pictured in figure three, note the holding of hands by the two differing nations symbolising unity.

~The Persians were cylindrical hats and the Medes wear rounded hats. https://classconnection.s3.amazonaws.com/473/flashcards/6015473/png/b49631a67d1170bb949606f9af5dede2-1485CB498436A029CF1.png

persians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 4. Cyrus the Greats Tomb. http://www.snipview.com/q/Pasargadaecyrus tomb
Cyrus the Great built his capital of the Acháemenid Empire, Pasargadae in ancient Persia located near the city of Shiraz. Evidence is still observable today of his tomb and extravagant walled gardens. Elizabeth Moynihan (Adam, 1991) states that ‘Arabs lack of cultural tradition may have encouraged his genius by absorbing the cultures of the people he conquered’ but Moynihan fails to recognise earlier influences from ancient Mesopotamia and the Assyrian empire from whom they traded. Though the influence of the Persian Empire was it seems to be that of the walled gardens and pavilions that incorporated the sacred ‘Tree of Life’. As Dr David Stronach of the British Institute of Persian Studies wrote (Adams, 1991), ‘care was taken to place them in well watered grounds, where each inner palace had stately colonnades with deep shadowed porticoes amidst a profusion of trees, shrubs and grasses’, and Adams suggests that the open viewing platforms for the ruler of the day were to reflect the imperial ambitions of power, over nature as well as of the people, where it can be said that the Islamic viewing pavilions and gardens seem to replicate this ideology, but the Islamic pavilions always face mecca in order to receive celestial eminence from the sacred ‘Black Rock’ and the gardens were nature is the bridge to Heaven.
For the Persian garden the defining characteristic would be the relationship between the garden setting and the viewing pavilion. For the Islamic Arab conquers the Persian gardens would have looked like the Paradise promised, which the Prophet Muhammad described in the Quran, “green pastures, fountains of gushing water, fruits, palm trees and pomegranates, and maidens good and comely in cool pavilions reclining on green cushions”(Adams, 1991.pp 61-2). Although there was no green pasture the Quran expresses a ‘Heavenly Paradise that reinforced the importance of gardens in earthly and celestial manifestations,’ so wherever the new religion was forced the conquered had to learn Arabic and the religion was reinforced by the importance of building pleasure gardens ordained with the, ‘sacred wisdom of the Quran’ (Smart, 1992).
Figure 5. El Menara at sun Set 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menara_gardens#/media/File:MD.BOUALAM_Sunset_El_Menara.jpg

Meneara
The gardens became the universal life-symbol which was enforced by nature’s hostile reality that was so apparent in the nomadic Arab life style. ‘The dry unrelenting trackless desert was an everyday fact of life and death’. Therefor ‘The Prophets words describing the pleasure of Paradise were used to decorate the walls of mosques and courtyards throughout Islam’, but the sultans where also practical and by the ninth century traditional Islamic gardens first appeared in North Africa where they created orchards of fruit for the market place. The garden orchards were called aguedal and were irrigated by channels laid out in geometrical squares (Adams, 1991). Pictured in figure four is El Menara gardens, which presents the platform pavilion and aguedal featuring the sacred ‘Tree of Life’, the date palm.
Symmetry in Islamic gardens represents purity and perfection compared to nature’s imperfection. Though it may seem contradictory to the worship of God threw nature, that Islamic art, architecture, gardens carpets and ceramic tiles are all symbolic reflection of Gods imposed perfection, it is the control of nature within these art forms that reflect Islamic religion. The fear of idolatry was also a main concern in Islamic art so the use of plant motifs, geometric shape and the word of God in calligraphy is used to translate to celestial perfection. The circle in Islamic art represents Gods celestial perfection of eternity, the square is the earthly order of things, and the octagon signifies the earthly human struggle to achieve everlasting unity (Adams,1991).
Figure 8. The Court of Lions in the Alhambra, Grenada in Spain
http://www.gardenhistorymatters.com/2012/02/c-is-for-chahar-bagh.html.

court of lions
Another important feature in Islamic gardens is the four quarter garden. The ‘Chahar bagh’, the four square garden signifies the four quarters of the universe with the four rivers of life intersecting in the garden centre, which reflects the square and the earthly order of things. An Akkadian scribe wrote: ’Naram-Sin (2254-2218 BC) the mighty King of the four quarters (Potts, 1999), and ‘The Book of Genesis’ 2:10 describes its ideal: “a river went out of Eden to water the gardens and from hence it was parted and became into four heads” (Adams, 1991). The Court of the Lions in the Alhambra pictured in figure eight is good example of the four square symmetry of Islamic gardens, but it also bares the addition of Catholicism with the addition of the lions, therefore incorporating world unity and the meaning of the four quarters of the Universe and the coming together of the four rivers.

 

Figure 9.Babur Supervising the Laying Out of the Garden of Fidelity (Manuscript c. 1590). Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland. http://www.gardenhistorymatters.com/2012/02/c-is-for-chahar-bagh.html

fidelity garden
The Babur Supervising the Laying Out of the Garden of Fidelity pictured in figure nine shows well the four square garden and a practical irrigation system. So in considering the origins of the Islamic garden and the original trade and domestication of the date palm, the celestial value of the tree, and the significance of the four quarter universe, we discover that the religion of Islam is universal sustenance and wellbeing for a human pathway to perfection and Heaven described by Muhammad as the ‘Pleasure Garden’.

 

 

 

 

 

2.1 Mb – 8 megapixel
tiles mosaic palm tree http://www.mayang.com/textures/Architectural/html/Tiles/index.html Retrieved 18th of March 2015.

palm tree mosaic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference:

Bazin, G. (1990) In Beginning in Paradeisos: The Art of the Garden (pp.9-13). Cassell, London.

Dickie, James, (1995). Allah and Eternity: Mosques, Madrasas and Tomb pp.15-16s. Michell, G. Architecture of the Islamic World its History and social Meaning. Thames and Hudson, London.

Potts DT ‎(1999) Redefining South-eastern Arabia’s role in Ancient Western Asia : Professorial Inaugural Address. Australian Archaeology.https://www.library.uq.edu.au/ojs/index.php/aa/article/viewFile/…/871
http://www.aina.org/brief.html Retrieved 16th of March 2015.
Crones , Patricia and Cook, Michael (1977). Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World. Cambridge University Press. https://archive.org/stream/Hagarism/Hagarism%3B%20The%20Making%20of%20the%20Islamic%20World-Crone,%20Cook_djvu.txt Retrieved 16th of March 2015.
Peter BetBasoo. Brief History of Assyrians.Assyrian International News Agency.
Revised on November 1, 2013 http://www.aina.org/brief.html Retrieved 22nd of March 2015.

Sandra L. Olsen 2010-2015. Rock art provides unique window into early human, animal life in Saudi Arabia. Published 12/21/ 2014. University of Kansas – Layan Cultural Foundation Project. http://news.ku.edu/rock-art-provides-unique-window-early-human-animal-life-saudi-arabia#sthash.6qk6qqUz.dpuf Retrieved 16th of March 2015.
Schamma, Simon (1996) Introduction: Landscape and Memory.Vintage Books, Random House, Inc, New York
Smart, Ninian (1992) The world’s Religion. ‘Classical and Medieval Islam’. Chapter 12. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 277-296.
Daniali, Benjamin (2010) The Fascinating Balanced Sacred Assyrian Tree of Life. AssyriaTimes. .http://www.assyriatimes.com/assyrian/knowledge/the-fascinating-balanced-sacred-assyrian-tree-of-life/3426 RETRIEVED 16TH OF March 2015.

Bibliography:

Author Unknown Is Petra the Holy City of Islam? Amazing new evidence startles Islamic scholars! The search for Mecca
Author unknown, 2014 Mecca: Kaaba. http://www.mecca.net/Masjid-al-Haram-Mecca-Kaaba.html Retrieved 17th of March 2015.
Author unknown. History of Iran :Cyrus The Great.Cyrus II, Kourosh in Persian, Kouros in Greek –published Friday, March 13, 2015 by Iran Chamber Society http://www.iranchamber.com/history/cyrus/cyrus.php#sthash.RvwIKf7Y.dpuf Retrieved 17th of March 2015.
Author unknown. Persepolis, Susa, and Ecbatana: Ancient World History. The Ancient World Prehistoric Eras to 600 c.e. http://earlyworldhistory.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/persepolis-susa-and-ecbatana.html Retrieved 19th of March2015.
Author unknown. What are the Five Pillars of Islam? http://www.islam-guide.com/ch3-16.htm Retrieved 17th of March 2015.
Christopher Jones (2011-2014). “Magi from the East”. December 24, 2011 https://gatesofnineveh.wordpress.com/2011/12/24/magi-from-the-east/ retrieved 13th of March 2015
Duyzer, Peter (2014) Legend Of The Fall. The Independent Press. http://indipress.ca/feature.html Retrieved 16th of March 2015.
Gray, Angela and Mei, Alessio (2013). Gardens of Marrakesh. Frances Lincoln Limited. http://www.franceslincoln.com/gardens-of-marrakesh Retrieved 17th of March 2015.
http://searchformecca.com/ Retrieved 19th of March 2015.
MOA Islamic Academy. Introduction to Holy Qurán: Holy Qurán http://www.al-adaab.org/home/index.php/en/ilm-ul-qur-an Retieved 17th of March 2015.
Wescoat, James L. and Wolschke-Bulmahn, Joachim (1996). Mughal Gardens: Sources, Places, Representations, and Prospects Dubarton Oaks Trusiy for Harvard University Washington D.C.

Images:
Figure 1. Date Palm: Phoenix dactylifera http://saudi-archaeology.com/subjects/date-palm/
Figure 2. Assyrian Tree of Life. Slab B-23 of the throneroom of Ashumasirpal II Palace at Calah. http://www.assyriatimes.com /assyrian/knowledge/the-fascinating-balanced-sacred-assyrian-tree-of-life/3426 Retrieved 16th of Murch 2015.
Figure 3. Persians and Medes on a relief from Persepolis. The Persians were cylindrical hats and the Medes wear rounded hats. https://classconnection.s3.amazonaws.com/473/flashcards/6015473/png/b49631a67d1170bb949606f9af5dede2-1485CB498436A029CF1.png
Figure 4. Cyrus the Greats Tomb. http://www.snipview.com/q/Pasargadae
Figure 5. El Menara at sun Set 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menara_gardens#/media/File:MD.BOUALAM_Sunset_El_Menara.jpg
Figure 8. The Court of Lions in the Alhambra, Grenada in Spain http://www.gardenhistorymatters.com/2012/02/c-is-for-chahar-bagh.html.
Figure 9.Babur Supervising the Laying Out of the Garden of Fidelity (Manuscript c. 1590). Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland. http://www.gardenhistorymatters.com/2012/02/c-is-for-chahar-bagh.html
Figure 10. Ceramic tiles mosaic palm tree http://www.mayang.com/textures/Architectural/html/Tiles/index.html Retrieved 18th of March 2015.

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