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.

‘Magical, light-hearted’: Three Pakistani TV dramas to watch out for this Ramadan

Updated 21 March 2023

‘Magical, light-hearted’: Three Pakistani TV dramas to watch out for this Ramadan

  • Ramadan shows have a huge audience, all eyes are set on them, says Pakistani actor Hamza Sohail
  • One of the shows, ‘Chand Tara’, features real-life celebrity couple Ayeza Khan, Danish Taimoor in leading roles

KARACHI: With only a couple of days left till the holy month of Ramadan kicks off, Pakistani writers and actors said on Monday that viewers will be enthralled by “light-hearted” TV dramas that are produced specially for the holy month.

Muslims in Pakistan and around the world fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food and drink. Over the past couple of years, Pakistan’s showbiz industry has provided millions of viewers across the country with entertainment in the form of avidly watched television game shows and Ramadan-themed TV shows.

This year is no different, as at least three projects, particularly produced for the holy month, are going to be aired on TV to give the audience a break from the regular TV dramas that revolve around tragic topics such as family disputes, extra-marital affairs, divorce, and others.

Arab News spoke to a few writers and actors to find out more about these dramas.

‘Chand Tara’


A post shared by Ayeza Khan (@ayezakhan.ak)

Starring real-life celebrity couple Ayeza Khan and Danish Taimoor, Chand Tara is written by Saima Akram Chaudhry, a seasoned writer who has written critically acclaimed Ramadan TV dramas such as Suno Chanda, Suno Chanda 2, Hum Tum, and Ishq Jalebi.

“My Ramadan plays are family-oriented, feature family members of all age groups, and encourage a joint family system,” Chaudhry told Arab News.

Chaudhry said she watched dramas on Pakistan Television (PTV) with her family, hence she ensures her dramas can be enjoyed by families and are filled with messages at the same time.

“The joint family system has its pros and cons. The system isn’t bad but we need to give space to people,” she said. “This is the central theme of Chand Tara in addition to small messages in every episode.”

Light-hearted plays aired during Ramadan get more traction compared to the rest of the year, Chaudhry said, adding that viewers follow them regularly as they air each day.

“It’s easier to convey messages in a light-hearted way,” she explained.

Chaudhry revealed that she has tweaked a few things in the narrative of Chand Tara after she was criticized for her past projects. The male and female lead in the play are not related to each other, Chaudhry said, and their love story doesn’t start with fights.

Directed by Danish Nawaz and produced by Momina Duraid, Chand Tara also stars Rehan Sheikh and Saba Faisal in prominent roles.

Fairy Tale

One of the much-anticipated comedy plays to be aired this Ramazan is Fairy Tale, written by Saira Majeed and directed by Ali Hassan.

“It’s a beautifully written story on how destiny plays its cards not just in love, but in every aspect of your life. The idea here is to take viewers on a magical, dreamy, light-hearted, and entertaining ride. Hence, a ‘fairy tale’,” actor Hamza Sohail, who stars as entrepreneur Farjaad Khan in the play, told Arab News on Monday.

“There’s no denying the fact that Ramadan shows have a huge audience and all eyes are set on them.”

Sohail, who plays the role of the male lead in Fairy Tale, told Arab News he is “excited” to showcase his work, hoping to deliver good family entertainment to viewers.

Sohail stars opposite actress Sehar Khan, while the drama has an ensemble cast that includes actors Ali Safina, Saleem Sheikh, Adnan Raza Mir, and Salma Hasan.

Rukh Ma Roshan


A post shared by Muneeb Butt (@muneeb_butt)

Adding to the list of Ramadan-special plays is also Rukh Ma Roshan, a story that revolves around a couple and stars Pakistani actors Muneeb Butt and Komal Meer.

“The play is about a couple who keep fighting with each other. They have funny chemistry with each other. It’s romantic, sweet, and innocent,” Butt told Arab News on Tuesday.

“It’s a situational comedy that will run during Ramadan. Its content is enjoyable for viewers since it is not the typical saas-bahu (daughter-in-law, mother-in-law) misery. It has very light content that people usually like to watch during Ramadan. Audiences will really like the fresh feel it [offers].”

The plot of Rukh Ma Roshan incorporates some issues that the two lead characters resolve together, which brings them closer to each other.

In addition to Butt and Meer, the play also features veteran actresses Shamim Hilaly and Zainab Qayyum in key roles.

Series featuring top Pakistani actors premieres at Series Mania Festival 2023

Updated 19 March 2023

Series featuring top Pakistani actors premieres at Series Mania Festival 2023

  • “Barzakh” (meaning barrier) has been helmed by producers from India and Pakistan
  • Top Pakistani actors Fawad Khan and Sanam Saeed star in the series’ leading roles

KARACHI: A series by producers from India and Pakistan that also feature top Pakistani actors Fawad Khan and Sanam Saeed, had its world premiere on Saturday at the prestigious Series Mania Festival 2023 in France.

Series Mania is a festival that spotlights international TV series since 2010. Titled “Barzakh” the series has been produced by Pakistani producer Waqas Hassan and his Indian counterpart, Shailja Kejriwal, for Zindagi, a subcontinent focused programming block on OTT platform ZEE5.

It has been written and directed by Asim Abbasi, a critically acclaimed director who also directed Zindagi’s first Pakistani original “Churails” and the feature film “Cake.”


A post shared by Asim Abbasi (@a_abbasi)

The first two episodes of the series premiered under the International Panorama section at the Series Mania Festival 2023 on Saturday evening, with Saeed, Abbasi and Kejriwal in attendance. Barzakh’s screening took place at the UGC Cine-City in Lille, France, followed by a question-and-answer session.

The series was the only work of art from South Asia selected for screening at the prestigious festival this year. Barzakh is competing among 12 titles for the best series, director, actress, actor, student jury and audience awards.

“[Barzakh is] a project that brings together India and Pakistan, shot in Karachi and the sublime landscapes of the Hunza Valley,” reads the information on Series Mania Festival’s official website.

“Combining realism and fantasy, Barzakh gives us a family story that looks like a fairy tale, in which spirits rub shoulders with the living, and the reunion of a family is marked by the crazy decision of a patriarch who has never been able to recover from the loss of his first love.”

Series Mania opened on March 17 and will run through till March 23. Barzakh will be screened again on March 20 at Le Majestic, Cine-City, Lille in France.

“World premiere of the first two episodes of our series #barzakh a @zindagiofficial original,” Saeed wrote on Instagram. “It was such a privilege and honor to be representing South Asia here at the incredible @seriesmania festival. A melting pot of talent, creativity and inclusion,” she added.

Khan, who according to media reports is playing the role of a single father in the series, shared the official poster of Barzakh prior to its screening at the international festival.


A post shared by Fawad A Khan (@fawadkhan81)

Saeed and Khan both starred in leading roles in the 2012 Pakistani drama series “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” which became a critical and commercial success in Pakistan. The series was also one of several drama serials that gained popularity and enthralled viewers in neighboring India as well.

Will Smith jets to Saudi Arabia to attend AlUla Camel Cup

Updated 19 March 2023

Will Smith jets to Saudi Arabia to attend AlUla Camel Cup

  • Smith was snapped with Beatz who attended race to watch competitors from his Saudi Bronx team
  • Will Smith and Beatz were seen sipping the Arabic coffee, which is an essential in the Saudi culture

DUBAI: Hollywood actor Will Smith was spotted in Saudi Arabia this week attending the inaugural AlUla Camel Cup. 

The star was spotted watching the race with Grammy-winning record producer Swizz Beatz, the first American to own a camel racing team in the Kingdom. 


A post shared by Swizz Beatz (@therealswizzz)

Smith was snapped with Beatz who attended the race to watch competitors from his Saudi Bronx team in action at the venue.

In the series of pictures posted on Saudi Bronx’s Instagram, Smith and Beatz were seen sipping Arabic coffee, which is an essential in Saudi culture.

“Today at the first annual Alula Camel Cup, I had some surprise guest that came to support my team,” Beatz captioned his posts with Smith on Instagram. 

Aiming to bridge divides, Karachi art exhibition brings together 100 painters from across Pakistan

Updated 19 March 2023

Aiming to bridge divides, Karachi art exhibition brings together 100 painters from across Pakistan

  • The exhibition is taking place at the Ahmed Parvez art gallery at the Arts Council of Pakistan 
  • It features artworks of a diverse lineup, including Anwar Maqsood, Ijazul Hassan, Zulfiqar Zulfi 

KARACHI: As the National Art Exhibition 2023 kicked off at the Arts Council of Pakistan (ACP) in Karachi this week, its organizer shared the exhibition aimed to bridge the ethnic, political, and sectarian divides by bringing together painters from all over Pakistan. 

The three-day exhibition is being held at the Ahmed Parvez art gallery and is a collaboration between the ACP and the National Artists Association of Pakistan. 

The exhibition features artworks of a diverse lineup, including Anwar Maqsood, Ijazul Hassan, Zulfiqar Zulfi, Farrukh Shahab, AS Rand, Moin Farooqui, Shahid Rasam and Abbas Kamangar. 

“Despite cultural diversity, there is a lot of ethnic, political, and sectarian divide across Pakistan,” ACP President Mohammad Ahmed Shah told Arab News on Saturday. 

“To bridge that, we are holding National Arts Exhibition that features works of prominent painters from all four provinces.” 

Paintings made by artists from all four provinces of Pakistan on display during the National Art Exhibition 2023 at the Ahmed Parvez Art Gallery at Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi, on March 17, 2023. (Photo courtesy: ACP)

While Punjab was the hub, Shah informed, the ACP received artworks from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Balochistan and Sindh. 

“The purpose is to create national integrity through culture and art,” he said. “All these colors [in the paintings] are depicting their respective cultures.” 

The exhibition first took place in Lahore over a month ago after which it is being organized in the southern port city of Karachi, according to the organizer. 

Those who weren’t part of the Lahore exhibition are also showcasing their work at the Karachi show. 

“Artists can make an effort to work toward reducing the ethnic divide,” Quddus Mirza, an art critic, told Arab News. “Any creative act brings people together irrespective of their differences.” 

Veteran artist Ajab Khan said art had never had boundaries. 

“The field of art is associated with love,” he told Arab News. “An artist is only able to produce colors on the canvas with love.” 

Shah said the gallery is often visited by art collectors. 

“The art exhibition is a welcome change,” Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori said as he inaugurated the exhibition on Friday. “Social evils were born in the country when poets, intellectuals and painters had been silenced in the past.” 

Lance Reddick, ‘The Wire’ and ‘John Wick’ star, dies at 60

Updated 18 March 2023

Lance Reddick, ‘The Wire’ and ‘John Wick’ star, dies at 60

  • Reddick died “suddenly” Friday morning

NEW YORK: Lance Reddick, a character actor who specialized in intense, icy and possibly sinister authority figures on TV and film, including “The Wire,” “Fringe” and the “John Wick” franchise, has died. He was 60.
Reddick died “suddenly” Friday morning, his publicist Mia Hansen said in a statement, attributing his death to natural causes.
Wendell Pierce, Reddick’s co-star on “The Wire” paid tribute on Twitter. “A man of great strength and grace,” he wrote. “As talented a musician as he was an actor. The epitome of class.” “John Wick — Chapter Four” director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves said they dedicating the upcoming film to Reddick and were “deeply saddened and heartbroken at the loss.”
Reddick was often put in a suit or a crisp uniform during his career, playing tall, taciturn and elegant men of distinction. He was best known for his role as strait-laced Lt. Cedric Daniels on the hit HBO series “The Wire,” where his character was agonizingly trapped in the messy politics of the Baltimore police department.
“The Wire” creator David Simon praised Reddick on Twitter: “Consummate professional, devoted collaborator, lovely and gentle man, loyal friend. Could go on, but no, I can’t go on. This is gutting. And way, way, way too soon.”
“I’m an artist at heart. I feel that I’m very good at what I do. When I went to drama school, I knew I was at least as talented as other students, but because I was a Black man and I wasn’t pretty, I knew I would have to work my butt off to be the best that I would be, and to be noticed,” Reddick told the Los Angeles Times in 2009.
Reddick also starred on the Fox series “Fringe” as a special agent Phillip Broyles, the smartly-dressed Matthew Abaddon on “Lost” and played the multi-skilled Continental Hotel concierge Charon in Lionsgate’s “John Wick” movies, including the fourth in the series that releases later this month.
“The world of Wick would not be what it is without Lance Reddick and the unparalleled depth he brought to Charon’s humanity and unflappable charisma. Lance leaves behind an indelible legacy and hugely impressive body of work, but we will remember him as our lovely, joyful friend and Concierge,” Lionsgate said in a statement.
Reddick earned a SAG Award nomination in 2021 as part of the ensemble for Regina King’s film “One Night in Miami.” He played recurring roles on “Intelligence” and “American Horror Story” and was on the show “Bosch” for its seven-year run.
His upcoming projects include 20th Century’s remake of “White Men Can’t Jump” and “Shirley,” Netflix’s biopic of former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. He was also slated to appear in the “John Wick” spinoff “Ballerina,” as well as “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.”
The Baltimore-born-and-raised Reddick was a Yale University drama school graduate who enjoyed some success after school by landing guest or recurring roles “CSI: Miami” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” He also appeared in several movies, including “I Dreamed of Africa,” “The Siege” and “Great Expectations.”
It was on season four of “Oz,” playing a doomed undercover officer sent to prison who becomes an addict, that Reddick had a career breakthrough.
“I was never interested in television. I always saw it as a means to an end. Like so many actors, I was only interested in doing theater and film. But ‘Oz’ changed television. It was the beginning of HBO’s reign on quality, edgy, artistic stuff. Stuff that harkens back to great cinema of the ‘60s and ‘70s,” he told The Associated Press in 2011.
“When the opportunity for ‘Oz’ came up, I jumped. And when I read the pilot for ‘The Wire,’ as a guy that never wanted to be on television, I realized I had to be on this show.”
Reddick attended the prestigious Eastman School of Music, where he studied classical composition, and he played piano. His first album, the jazzy “Contemplations and Remembrances,” came out in 2011.
He had a recurring role as Jeffrey Tetazoo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, on the CBS series “Intelligence.” On “American Horror Story: Coven,” he portrayed Papa Legba, the go-between between humanity and the spirit world.
Reddick is survived by his wife, Stephanie Reddick, and children, Yvonne Nicole Reddick and Christopher Reddick.
His death was first reported by celebrity website