islamic garden

What is the islamic GARDEN?

Traditionally, an Islamic garden is an excellent place for rest and reflection and a reminder of paradise. The Arab or Islamic green (Rawda) represents the symbol of heaven, or the site created by Allah to reward the righteous.

In traditional Islamic architecture, buildings never dominate the natural environment, aiming to harmonize nature and the designed environment. In the sense of continuity, the element that most combines architecture with nature is the decoration (floral, geometric, and calligraphic), an essential component of Islamic art in all its expressions.

The model of the Islamic garden was the Persian quadruple garden, the caharbagh: in the center of this park-garden stood a pavilion that sheltered a throne; from this square structure departed four large basins orthogonal to each other – a symbol of the four rivers that in the Bible and the Koran come out of the Earthly Paradise – which radiated towards the four cardinal points; the four spaces thus delimited were cut by a network of minor canals which alternated with flower beds and fruit trees. From these canals came the favvâre, jets of water that irrigated the gardens; the Arabic term Farah, like the Persian one fav is, means precisely source.
The definition of the term garden in Islamic countries is very complex. This is because there are many Islams for as many nations and populations whose cultures are often different, if not foreign.
Firdaws and bustân are, for example, two words of Persian origin; the first means, at the same time, garden and paradise, understood as a closed and quadripartite structure with a tub or a fountain in the center. Bustân is instead a word formed by bu, smell, or perfume, and stan indicates a perfumed place where aromatic herbs and flowers were grown.

In the Koran, the garden is described as a sensual metaphor of Paradise. The two terms are defined with the same term, Jenna, which identifies the place of delights and, more generally, everything opposed to the desert. The Arabic term al-Sahra – the desert – expresses, in fact, a negative concept, a lack, such as blindness, and more generally a defect of the senses; contrasts with the jinna, or the vegetation opposite the desert, the garden-oasis metaphor of the Koranic paradise that Allah gave to his faithful to delight them aesthetically, in which the wise man will recline on soft cushions and will derive pleasure from the flow of fresh water.

In the Islamic garden, the ancient symbolism of the four elements is reinterpreted: fire, air, water, and earth. The Bible, in Genesis, mentions a garden that divides into four branches. In Buddhist iconography, the representation of a river that branches into four parts is used, symbolizing fertility and eternity. In ancient Persia, where the Islamic garden was born and took shape, the subdivision of the world was in four parts. An example of this is the garden of Pasargades, commissioned by Ciro in the mid-sixth century. BC, crossed by canals bordered by flower beds with aromatic essences.

The typology of the Islamic garden, delimited by an enclosed space with water flowing to its center, is found both in private homes and in mosques, caravanserais, madrasas, and bazaars.
Islamic gardens were also created in Europe, starting from the seventh century. An example of this is Spain’s gardens from Seville to Cordoba to Granada.

But let’s get to the symbol. In the Koran, the garden is a metaphor for paradise, a place of delight and refuge from all fear. God loves beauty, and the park is a form of art for expressing beauty and doing, in this way, something pleasing to God.

Following Laleh Bakhtiar, let us try to grasp the main symbols in Sufism. The garden and the courtyard are two critical symbols concerning the conception of paradise. The architectural construction of the park represents a mandala whose elements, water and nature (plants, trees), refer to each other. The fountain, in the center of the garden (spiritual center), with its concentric waves, evokes the cycle of expansion and contraction of consciousness (what the initiate feels on the Way, subject to the illuminating jets of the teaching. God’s very act of creation is an act of “expansion and contraction” along the side of time).
The garden is accessed by four entrances: the four cardinal points. The perimeter, square, recalls the phenomenal world. So the garden is symbolically delimited by a space that, crossed over, leads to spiritual intimacy, to inner paradise.

The harmony of the traditional Islamic house makes space a symbol superimposed on man’s spiritual needs. In man, the body contains the soul that has the spirit. Likewise, the house encloses places, the center of which is the garden. The courtyard, surrounded by the walls, constitutes the sacred place (makân). “The interaction of form and surface must create a serene environment, emptied of tensions” and ready for meditation and descent into the Self. The courtyard walls form a cube that includes a perfect shape, symbolizing man’s stability and earthly paradise. In the cube, the horizontality is connected to the verticality, so man summarizes the totality of the cosmos by these dimensions. Therefore, the garden and the courtyard represent the ethereal plane, the other the symbolic-phenomenal one.
This is why, ultimately, in Islamic culture, from the Maghreb to Iran, from Uzbekistan to Muslim India, great importance was given to the conception of the garden, the courtyard, and other living places. Their harmony reminded the Muslim that the earthly world was a reflected creation of the spiritual world and that his very presence was a symbol of the spiritual one, near which is the natural and authentic life of the human being.
Therefore, the beauty, the care, and the attention dedicated to the construction, to the rhythmic ordering of the environments, constituted the overcoming of the world and phenomenal reality in the effort of Sufi architects and thinkers to assimilate the symbol as a means for overcoming of the transitory world in the archetypal dimension.

The Quran has many references to gardens, and the garden is used as an earthly analog for life in paradise that is promised to believers:

Allah has promised believing men and the gardens of believing women, under which rivers flow, to abide in them, and suitable abodes in gardens of perpetual residence; and the best of all is the good pleasure of Allah; this is the excellent result (Quran 9.72)
There are surviving formal Islamic gardens in a large area extending from Spain and Morocco in the west to India in the east. Famous Islamic gardens include the Taj Mahal in India and the Generalife and Alhambra in Spain.
The general theme of a traditional Islamic garden is water and shade, not surprisingly since Islam came and has generally spread in a hot and arid climate. Unlike English gardens, which are often designed for walking, Islamic gardens are meant for rest and contemplation. For this reason, Islamic gardens usually include places to sit.


Fairchild Ruggles refers to the universal nature of gardening and the basic human needs it satisfies; cultivating, dominating the wild landscape, and ordering it. The spiritual aspects of gardening, according to this view, were a later development. He further indicates that the classic formal garden, known as Charbagh (or Chahar Bagh), is a form in Islamic civilization. This civilization has traditionally included peoples of many faiths and cultures.
Muslims had different types of gardens which served other purposes. The bust was the garden of the inner courtyard of a house, a formal garden with swimming pools and water channels. The Jannah was an orchard with palms, oranges, and vines irrigated by canals. Rawdah referred in particular to the park that produced food for the cooks.

Persian, Arab, and Byzantine influence

After the Arab invasions of the 7th century AD, the traditional Persian garden design was used in the Islamic garden. Persian gardens after that time were traditionally enclosed by walls and designed to represent paradise; the Persian word for enclosed space is “pair-data.” In the Charbagh, or paradise garden, four water channels generally carry water into a central pool or fountain, interpreted as the four rivers in paradise, filled with milk, honey, wine, and water. Hellenistic influences are also evident; the plan’s western use of straight lines is mixed with Sassanian plantations and ornamental fountains.

Stylistic characters

The multi-level garden

The gardens of Islam had to adapt to the challenging climatic conditions to create natural spaces embellished with southern plants. Open spaces are rare, as are open roads, which are very exposed. The lack of water and permanent sunlight has led to a particular garden development inspired by oases: the garden at different levels “.

The level of shade: a tree plantation offers protection from the sun. They are often palm trees, cypresses, and cedars, which combine an elevated form and permanent shade.
The level of flowering plants: This intermediate level is dedicated to flowering shrubs: the daturas, whose heavy flowers of hanging calyxes appear in the engravings, oleander, hibiscus, jasmine, rose, honeysuckle, lemon, or orange. The shrubs are chosen for their exuberant flowering and fragrance, attracting birds and butterflies.

The water level: a lower level is occupied by the sources and canals that distribute the water, saving and recycling it. Boxwood hedges are used for their simplicity and exceptional durability. The sidewalks are designed to take advantage of the rays of light that pass through the foliage. The emphasis is on various materials and textures; glazed ceramics and marble are combined with brick and stone.



To protect it from the dry effects of the wind, the garden is surrounded by a wall. Therefore, it can have the appearance of a patio planted in the heart of a palace or building.
When you have a perspective on the landscape, the garden ends in a wall of arches that control the passage of the wind. The hooks are partially obscured by mashrabiya, perforated walls that accelerate the wind, concentrating it in a pond or a large plate full of water, which helps to cool the atmosphere.
In all cases, the garden adapts to the inequalities of the terrain to produce shaded areas and protected fences. The terraces occur and allow the natural flow of water.

Water in the Islamic garden

The scarcity of water in the countries of the South makes it a very precious commodity that must be collected, stored, and distributed most efficiently and economically. 2 Qanat and noria were perfect and widespread. Witness to the hydraulic knowledge of the Arabs is the exact drop of water that winds through the impressive water ramps of the Generalife Palace of the Alhambra in Granada, which flows into the fountains, slides through the canals, and waters the orchards of a lower level.

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