‘The Gardens of Al Andalus’ exhibition: A lesson in coexistence and ecology

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Brought to Doha by the Qatar Foundation (QF) through the Qur’anic Botanic Garden, together with the Islamic Culture Foundation (FUNCI), based in Madrid, under the patronage of SE Sheikh Hind, a visit to the exhibition during the month of Ramadan invites us to an ecological awareness inspired by the values of Islam.

A place to meet and find peace

The Islamic Culture Foundation, creator of the exhibition, chose the Hispano-Arabic garden as a symbol of understanding and a place for peace and dialogue. During the exhibition’s inauguration last April, the FUNCI’s President, Dr Cherif Abderrahman Jah, declared that “The message of peace which is intrinsic to this exhibition is the same message spread by Islam from the Arabian Peninsula, uniting hearts without prejudice or borders, and to which today the Islamic Culture Foundation wishes to appeal here in Doha”. He added: “It is also important that this message be disseminated during the month of Ramadan, which represents the obligation to promote peace not only among Muslims, but among all of humanity.”

In this holy month, a visit to the ‘The Gardens of Al Andalus’ can be seen as a trip back in time to a lost paradise, thanks to the objects on display and the accompanying texts. The quadripartite Islamic garden and, therefore, the gardens of Al Andalus are a metaphor for the garden to which every good Muslim aspires, Jannah. Its flowerbeds, separated by four channels, representing the four rivers of Paradise, are planted with some of the species mentioned in the Quran: pomegranates, fig trees, olive trees, palm trees, jujube (sidrat) and so on.

The sound of water, the refreshing shade and the fragrances of the flowers invite reflection and recollection. Who does not love the peace offered by nature at the service of human beings?

Respect and protection of the environment

Following its journey through various countries in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, this emblematic exhibition shows a civilisation that loved and respected nature. According to Dr Jah, The Gardens of Al-Andalus records one of the brightest periods in the history of humanity and a civilisation that can provide answers to the environmental challenges that future generations will have to face”.

One of its achievements was a rational, moderate use of water, through the essential infrastructure and numerous institutions which distributed this precious element that is so scarce in certain regions of the planet. According to Dr Abderrahman Jah, “the appreciation of water in the Islamic tradition gave rise to a highly developed irrigation system in Al Andalus. We can see that Al Andalus was truly a culture of water, which managed this precious resource in an exemplary manner. Moreover, the number of works on agronomy written at the time, as well as the multitude of agricultural techniques that were developed, many of them still in use today, make this type of garden a practical example of sustainable development”.

Such well applied knowledge forms the basis of any model of rational development, since according to the Quran: “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?”

The Qur’anic Botanic Garden (QBG), led by Fatima S Al Khulaifi, is very aware of this in their constant preoccupation for food security and the conservation of plant biodiversity. The QBG is a member of the FUNCI conservation platform, “Med-O-Med, Cultural Landscapes of the Mediterranean and the Middle East”, which covers 23 countries in the region.

A ‘Green Revolution’

The botanical and scientific development of Muslim Spain from the eighth to the fifteenth century led to what specialists have called an authentic “green revolution” that would eventually transform the fields of medicine, pharmacopoeia, gastronomy and economics. Thus, the green spaces of the time, besides being places of rest and spiritual calm, would become gardens of botanical acclimatisation in which hundreds of new plant species were introduced. As a result, for FUNCI, The Gardens of Al Andalus remind us of the values that Islam teaches us in relation to nature, as an example of divine generosity and the development of civilisations.

Visits during Ramadan

The exhibition has been warmly received by the Qatari public since its inauguration in Doha. The exhibition can be visited until May 31 at Hamad bin Khalifa University’s College of Islamic Studies, located in Education City. It is open every day from 9am till the evening, accompanying the Isha and Tarawih prayers, and surrounded by activities around the Holy Book.