Islamic Gardens in the UK

Dynamics of Conservation Culture and Communities

There is a long tradition within the Islamic world of creating gardens.  These are often designed as a reflection of the heavenly realm as described in the Qur’an. Such ‘paradise gardens’ incorporate elements of shade and water within an enclosed space, attesting to the desert environment from where Islam emerged and where such elements hold a particular significance. As Islam spread, Islamic garden design began to incorporate elements which reflected the cultural diversity of the Muslim world.  This project aims to explore how and to what extent Islamic gardening traditions might develop to actively encourage biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability, drawing upon the sources of Islam.

The Qur’an states that human beings have been chosen as ‘stewards’ of the earth and that we have a duty to manage and care for our environment.

Thus We have made you to succeed one another as stewards on the earth, that we might behold how you acquit yourselves. (Qur’an 10:14)

Corruption has flourished on land and sea as a result of people’s actions and He will make them taste the consequences of some of their own actions so that they may turn back .  (Qur’an 30:41)

This duty of environmental care is further emphasised by sayings of the Prophet Mohammed which clearly encourage sharing of the earth’s resources and discourage activities which are wasteful. For example he is reported to have said:

“If anyone plants a tree or sows a field and humans, beasts or birds eat from it, he should consider it a charity on his part”.  “Whoever plants a tree and looks after it with care until it matures and becomes productive, will be rewarded in the hereafter”.

Botanic Gardens Conservation International represents over 700 botanic gardens worldwide in 118 countries. Through policy, publications, training, education and on-the-ground conservation work, BGCI supports and empowers its members and the wider conservation community to reverse the threat of the extinction crisis, that faces one third of all plants.  BGCI has been established for over 20 years and has its head office in London.  It has worked with partners in the Middle East for many years and has developed an interest in the question of whether and how Islamic gardens which have sustainability and biodiversity conservation at their heart, could be developed within the UK.

Aims

The aim of this project was to investigate the need, value and viability of establishing Islamic Gardens in the UK, based on Islamic ecological principles.

The research offered offer recommendations for ways in which these gardens could incorporate ideas of environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation.

We hoped to assess how, and to what extent Islamic gardens that reflect these principles might engage the attention and engagement of British Muslims.

As a result of the project, we aimed to provide evidence for ways in which gardens built on Islamic principles can enhance integration and inter-faith co-operation within communities.

 Methods

This study Employed a range of qualitative research methods to gather data from a variety of perspectives.

Methods included:

Interviews:  with members of British Muslim environmental groups, directors of botanic gardens, and local authority officers responsible for parks and gardens.

Online Survey: distributed to members of British Muslim environmental groups, contacts of the Islam.-UK Centre, and BGCI contacts, such as Botanic Gardens Education Network (BGEN) and Plant Network.

Focus Groups: with British Muslim environmental groups .

Consultation: with key specialists in Islamic Gardens and Islamic environmentalism.

Outcomes:

Key Findings:

  • Islamic gardens have significant educative potential in relation to Muslim heritage and planting traditions
  • Many Islamic gardens are aesthetically beautiful but don’t take biodiversity conservation into account
  • Successful British Muslim gardening projects are local, grassroots, community-orientated initiatives
  • Success is reinforced when gardening and conservation are ‘sacralised’ through references to the Qur’an and Hadith

Report:

Full report→

Short report→

Papers:

“Are British Muslims Green?” – Journal for the study of religion nature and culture→

The Research Team

Sophie Gilliat-Ray – Project Director

E-mail: Gilliat-RayS@cardiff.ac.uk
Tel. 07702 345 342

Mark Bryant – Research Assistant

E-mail: BryantMW@cardiff.ac.uk
Tel. 07738932376

For more information

about BGCI and its work  please visit

www.bgci.org