How Peshawar’s Qur’an Garden is saving the environment, one tree at a time

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A view of the seminary from the Quran Garden. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
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A fountain in the midst of the Quran Garden. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
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The Chinese Yin-Yang symbol representing peace used to decorate the garden. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
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The walk leading up to the Quran Garden on the outskirts of Peshawar. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
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Seminary students plucking grapes and other fruits from the various trees in the garden. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
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A plant in the Quran Garden. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
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A basket full of figs picked from the garden itself. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
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An olive tree planted in the Quran Garden. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
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Pomegranates growing in the Quran Garden. Picture Courtesy: Zahoor Islam. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
Updated 18 July 2018

How Peshawar’s Qur’an Garden is saving the environment, one tree at a time

  • Students at a religious seminary in Peshawar have been volunteering to plant fig and pomegranate trees in a plot on site, taking a break from their studies by working outdoors
  • “This is an excellent example of community participation for which no grant has been allocated. It’s the effort of ordinary people that makes it such a unique garden”

PESHAWAR: A decade ago, Mufti Ghulam al Rehman tried to do a rare thing— produce a project that was fulfilling and awe-inspiring all at once. This desire, in 2009, finally led to him establishing what is today referred to as the ‘Qur’an Garden’ or the ‘Hadeeqatul Qur’an.’

Conceptually unique, no one in Pakistan had ever before heard of anything like it. “It was a huge challenge for us,” said Hussain Ahmad, “especially with no precedent, of that nature, available in our country.”

Explaining the concept, Ahmad said: “Every year the government introduces plantation drives and campaigns in our country; we just extended that idea with a different approach.

“In 2009, the first meeting of our body was conducted where we decided to set up a garden in which all the plants and trees named in the Holy Qur’an were to be planted,” he told Arab News.

Rehman has always enjoyed a good challenge. In the Nineties he established a huge religious complex, the Jamia Uthmania, in the center of Peshawar.

“The seminary is built upon four kanals and has 60 teaching staff,” added Ahmad. When it began, the institute was just a couple of rooms and three teachers. Now, after 26 years, the seminary hosts around 2,000 people and has 60 members of teaching staff delivering religious education.

By August 21, 2009 Rehman’s vision, to make religious education easily accessible for people in the more suburban and rural areas of Peshawar and to bring to Pakistan its first ever Qur’an Garden, translated itself into a 64-kanal mansion dubbed the Gulshan-e-Omer.

The seminary entails a research department, where groundwork done by students is printed in ‘Al-Asar’, a magazine published by the institute. “We also set up four kanals of land for the Qur’anic garden here,” he said.

“The names of 21 plants and trees have been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. The number of trees planted in the garden is according to the tally mentioned in the Qur’an,” said Ahmad. Aiming to spread the message of the Holy Qur’an, trees planted in the garden include pomegranates, figs, dates, grapes and bananas.

While some claim that the Dubai Holy Qur’an garden has 51 of the 54 varieties of plants and trees mentioned in the Qur’an, Ahmad disagrees with that data. “They might have planted some additional plants and trees mentioned in hadith. But we went for those only mentioned in the Qur’an,” added Ahmed. “We have planted high-quality plants and brought them over from across the world.”

While dates are brought in from Dera Ismail Khan, grapes are acquired from Afghanistan. “We are trying to bring in ‘Kafoor’ but it isn’t available in Pakistan due to unfavorable weather conditions.” He added that the team was negotiating with environmentalists over this as it would be a great addition to the garden.

The seminary has been looking after the Qur’an garden itself, said coordinator of the seminary, Muhammad Sirajul Hasan while speaking to Arab News.

“We aren’t receiving any additional funds from the government or the private sector.” The staff and students, added Hasan, offer their services voluntarily.

“At the moment we have allocated four kanals of land to this garden. Our aim here was to bring awareness among the people and we are happy that it is yielding results.” He added that the garden also offered students a short reprieve from studying the whole day. “The greenery of the garden has a very soothing effect on the students and gives them peace of mind,” he said.

Beaming with pride, Hasan explained to Arab News that the garden attracts people from far-flung areas and the lush greenery has added beauty to the seminary and the area around it. But there are no plans for follow-up to this initiative. “We took the first step. Now, it is the responsibility of others to invest in such projects within their areas,” said Hasan.

Visitor Farhan Khan described the garden to Arab News as “utterly unique”. “It is a valuable lesson and experience to see all the plants and trees, mentioned in our religious book, in one place.” Khan admitted he had read about fig and seen dried figs in the market, but had never hanging on a tree.

The students have been looking after the garden — planting, watering, preparing soil for the plants.

Fazal Khaliq, who has been studying at the seminary for the past two years, told Arab News he is learning Arabic and English here, but also plantation. “Basically I am studying religion, however, we are also learning contemporary education at the seminary,” he said. “What I feel most proud about is caring for the plants, and studying their growth.”

Maintaining the Qur’anic garden has been no easy feat, especially with global warming and other environmental challenges to its survival. Doctor Abdur Rashid, a retired professor and chairman of Hadeeqa tul Qur’an garden, told Arab News that the Peshawar Agriculture University extended its support, and has given an award to the seminary in recognition for its efforts in making the environment green and healthy.

“This is an excellent example of community service for which no grant has been allocated. It is due to the struggle of common people that such a unique garden was possible,” said Rashid. “We make visits to the garden. We observe the atmosphere, land and issue necessary instructions and also suggest medicines for the plants if they are required.”

Different universities have different botanical gardens for their students, explained Rashid. Peshawar University has its own botanical garden and similarly Islamia College and University also has its own. “This garden is a living laboratory for students to explore,” said Rashid.

Rashid added that small gardens such as this one are important as they could prevent big floods like those that took place 2010 and damaged agriculture and infrastructure across the country.

“Our message is to make our country green, plant more trees, stop people from cutting trees and to work to improve the environment. This is the need of the day,” said the chairman of the garden.


Italian fashion pioneer Nino Cerruti dies

Updated 15 January 2022

Italian fashion pioneer Nino Cerruti dies

  • Cerruti, who dressed many a Hollywood star in his heyday, introduced “casual chic” into men’s fashion when he created the first deconstructed jacket in the 1970s
  • He was one of the leading figures in men’s ready-to-wear fashion in the 20th century

ROME: Pioneering Italian fashion designer Nino Cerruti has died at the age of 91, it was on reported Saturday.
Cerruti, who dressed many a Hollywood star in his heyday, introduced “casual chic” into men’s fashion when he created the first deconstructed jacket in the 1970s.
He died at the Vercelli hospital in the northwest region of Piedmont, where he had been admitted for a hip operation, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported on its website.
Cerruti was one of the leading figures in men’s ready-to-wear fashion in the 20th century, with a style that was at once elegant and relaxed.
“A giant among Italian entrepreneurs has left us,” said Gilberto Pichetto, deputy minister for economic development.
Tall and slim, he always insisted he be the first to try on his creations, many of which were kept at the textile factory his grandfather founded in the northern town of Biella in 1881.
“I have always dressed the same person, myself,” he once said.
Born in 1930 in Biella, Cerruti dreamt of becoming a journalist.
But after his father died when he was 20, he was forced to give up his philosophy studies to take over the family textile factory.
In the 1960s, he met Giorgio Armani and hired him as a creator of men’s fashion.
The duo made a profound mark on the world of fashion, before Armani branched out on his own with his own fashion house in 1975.
Cerruti opened his first shop in Paris in 1967, launching his luxury brand into global fame.
“Clothes only exist from the moment someone puts them on. I would like these clothes to continue to live, to soak up life,” he said.
While French students protested in 1968, he revolutionized fashion by asking male and female models to walk down the catwalk in the same clothes.
“Trousers have given women freedom,” said the designer, who in the 1970s created his first line of women’s clothing.
The man nicknamed the “philosopher of clothing” dressed American actors Richard Gere and Robert Redford as well as French star Jean-Paul Belmondo.
He also made cameo appearances in Hollywood films “Cannes Man” (1996) and “Holy Man” (1998).

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Lionel Richie to receive Gershwin Prize for pop music

Updated 14 January 2022

Lionel Richie to receive Gershwin Prize for pop music

  • The Library of Congress said Thursday that Richie will receive the national library's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song
  • “This is truly an honor of a lifetime, and I am so grateful,” Richie said

LOS ANGELES: Lionel Richie will be honored all night long for his musical achievements.
The Library of Congress said Thursday that Richie will receive the national library’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. He will be bestowed the prize at an all-star tribute in Washington, D.C., on March 9.
PBS stations will broadcast the concert on May 17.
“This is truly an honor of a lifetime, and I am so grateful to be receiving the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song,” Richie said in a statement. “I am proud to be joining all the other previous artists, who I also admire and am a fan of their music.”
Past recipients include Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Emilio and Gloria Estefan and Garth Brooks.
Richie is known for his catalog of hits including “All Night Long,” “Endless Love,” “Lady,” “Penny Lover,” “Truly” and “Stuck on You.” He co-wrote the historically popular song “We Are the World” with Michael Jackson.
Before his superstar solo career, Richie was a founding member of the Commodores, a funk and soul band that made waves in the 1970s. The group had tremendous success backed by chart-climbing hits such as “Three Times a Lady,” “Still” and “Easy.”
The singer has won four Grammys, an Oscar and the distinction of MusicCares Person of the Year in 2016. He was a Kennedy Center honoree in 2017.
Richie mentored aspiring music artists as a judge on ABC’s “American Idol” for the past four seasons. He expects to return for the show’s 20th season.
Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, said Richie has been an inspiring entertainer who helped “strengthen our global connections.”
“Lionel Richie’s unforgettable work has shown us that music can bring us together,” Hayden said. “Even when we face problems and disagree on issues, songs can show us what we have in common.”

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This year’s Oscars show will go on, with a host

Updated 11 January 2022

This year’s Oscars show will go on, with a host

  • Walt Disney Co’s ABC said plans remain in place to hold the Oscars on March 27 in Los Angeles
  • This year’s ceremony will have a host, ABC Entertainment President Craig Erwich said at a Television Critics Association event

LOS ANGELES: The Academy Awards will have a host for the first time since 2018 and return to their longtime home at the Dolby Theatre, broadcaster ABC said on Tuesday.
While other awards shows have been postponed because of a surge in COVID-19 cases, Walt Disney Co’s ABC said plans remain in place to hold the Oscars, the highest film honors, on March 27 in Los Angeles.
This year’s ceremony will have a host, ABC Entertainment President Craig Erwich said at a Television Critics Association event. He provided no details. “It might be me,” he joked.
The Oscars were handed out by celebrity presenters but had no host in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Ratings for the telecast have fallen in recent years, dropping to a record low of 10.4 million people in the United States in 2021. Viewership of other awards shows also has declined.
Fans of British actor Tom Holland have suggested he should host this year’s Oscars after the smash success of his movie “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” possibly with his co-star Zendaya.
Holland told The Hollywood Reporter in December that he would “love” to host the awards. “If they ask me to, I would, and it would be very fun,” he said.
Previous hosts have included late-night host Jimmy Kimmel and comedians Chris Rock and Ellen DeGeneres.
ABC said in a statement that the 2022 Oscars will take place again at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Last year, the awards moved to the historic Union Station train station in downtown Los Angeles with a small crowd of nominees and guests to protect against COVID.
Nominations for the Oscars will be announced on Feb. 8.

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Women’s periods may be slightly late after Covid vaccine: study

Updated 07 January 2022

Women’s periods may be slightly late after Covid vaccine: study

  • The slight increase in menstrual cycle length is not clinically significant

WASHINGTON: Women vaccinated against Covid-19 saw a slight delay in their period of almost a day compared to those who were unvaccinated, a US government-funded study said Thursday.
But the number of days of bleeding was not affected, according to the research carried out on nearly 4,000 individuals and published in “Obstetrics & Gynecology.”
Lead author Alison Edelman of the Oregon Health & Science University told AFP the effects are small and expected to be temporary, a finding that is “very reassuring” as well as validating for those who experienced changes.
The study can also help counter anti-vaccine misinformation on the topic, which is rampant on social media.
The slight increase in menstrual cycle length is not clinically significant. Any change of fewer than eight days is classified as normal by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.
Period cycles generally last about 28 days, but the precise amount varies from one woman to another, as well as within an individual’s lifetime. It can also change during times of stress.
For their study, the scientists analyzed anonymized data from a fertility tracking app, among women aged 18 to 45 who were not using hormonal contraception.
Some 2,400 participants were vaccinated — the majority with Pfizer (55 percent), followed by Moderna (35 percent) and Johnson & Johnson (seven percent).
About 1,500 unvaccinated women were also included as a comparison.
Among the vaccinated group, data was collected from three consecutive cycles before vaccination and from three more consecutive cycles, including the cycle or cycles in which vaccination took place.
For unvaccinated individuals, data was collected for six consecutive cycles.
On average, the first vaccine dose was associated with a 0.64-day increase in cycle length and the second dose with a 0.79-day increase, when comparing the vaccinated to unvaccinated group.
The immune system’s response to the vaccine could be behind the change.
“We know that the immune system and the reproductive system are interlinked,” said Edelman.
A revved-up immune system might have an impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis — what Edelman calls the “highway of how your brain talks to your ovaries, talks to your uterus,” or simply the “body clock.”
Specifically, the production of inflammatory proteins called cytokines appears to disrupt the way this axis regulates the timing of menstrual cycles.
The changes seem most pronounced when vaccination takes place early in the follicular phase, which starts on the first day of the menstrual period (bleeding) and ends when ovulation begins.
In fact, a subgroup of people who received two injections of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines during the same cycle, as opposed to two different cycles, saw an average increase in cycle length of two days — but the effect again appears temporary.
The team now hopes to gather more data on subsequent cycles among vaccinated women to confirm a long-term return to baseline, and expand the study globally so they can differentiate the effects between vaccine brands.


Grammys postpone ceremony, citing omicron variant risks

Updated 06 January 2022

Grammys postpone ceremony, citing omicron variant risks

  • The attempt at a back-to-normal show had been scheduled for Jan. 31st at the newly renamed Crypto.com Arena
  • Last year, like most major awards shows in early 2021, the Grammys were postponed due to coronavirus concerns

LOS ANGELES: The Grammy Awards were postponed Wednesday weeks before the planned Los Angeles ceremony over what organizers called “too many risks” from the omicron variant.
This came as a signal of what could be the start of another year of pandemic upheaval for awards season.
The attempt at a back-to-normal show had been scheduled for Jan. 31st at the newly renamed Crypto.com Arena with a live audience and performances, but no new date is on the books. The Recording Academy said it made the decision to postpone the ceremony “after careful consideration and analysis with city and state officials, health and safety experts, the artist community and our many partners.
“Given the uncertainty surrounding the omicron variant, holding the show on January 31st simply contains too many risks,” the academy said in a statement.
Last year, like most major awards shows in early 2021, the Grammys were postponed due to coronavirus concerns. The show was moved from late January to mid-March and held with a spare audience made up of mostly nominees and their guests in and around the Los Angeles Convention Center, next door to its usual home, the arena then known as Staples Center.
It was a big night for Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, but the live performances that set the Grammys apart from other awards shows were set separately with no significant crowds, many of them pre-taped.
“We look forward to celebrating Music’s Biggest Night on a future date, which will be announced soon,” the academy statement said.
Finding that date could be complicated, with two professional basketball teams and a hockey team occupying the arena. The Recording Academy made no mention of a possible venue change in its statement.
The move was announced around the same time the Sundance Film Festival canceled its in-person programming set to begin on Jan. 20 and shifted to an online format.
The multitalented Jon Batiste is the leading nominee for this year’s honors, grabbing 11 nods in a variety of genres including R&B, jazz, American roots music, classical and music video.
Justin Bieber, Doja Cat and H.E.R. are tied for the second-most nominations with eight apiece.
The Grammys’ move could be the beginning of another round of award-show rescheduling after another winter coronavirus surge, with the Screen Actors Guild Awards planned for February and the Academy Awards for March.