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.

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

Updated 18 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

In March 1946, some of the greatest minds of the 20th century — among them John von Neumann, Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, and Walter Pitts — gathered at the Beekman Hotel in New York City with the aim of constructing a science of mental behavior that would resolve at last the ancient philosophical problem of mind and matter. The legacy of their collaboration is known today as cognitive science.
Jean-Pierre Dupuy, one of the principal architects of cognitive science in France, reconstructs the early days of the field here in a provocative and engaging combination of philosophy, science, and historical detective work.
He shows us how the ambitious and innovative ideas developed in the wake of that New York meeting prefigured some of the most important developments of late-20th-century thought. Many scholars, however, shunned the ideas as crude and resented them for being overpromoted.
This rejection, Dupuy reveals, was a tragic mistake and a lost opportunity.

Artists, critics join Riyadh Art Memento Exhibition discussion panels

Updated 18 October 2021

Artists, critics join Riyadh Art Memento Exhibition discussion panels

  • Exhibition showcases artworks and paintings of Saudi artists over the past five decades

RIYADH: Saudi artists, academics and critics will take part in five discussion sessions as part of the Art Memento Exhibition being held at the National Museum in Riyadh until Nov. 6.

The dialogue sessions, organized by the Saudi Ministry of Culture, will focus on the history of visual arts in the Kingdom and the factors that influence artistic development, along with the role of what was previously known as the General Presidency of Youth Welfare in supporting art and artists over five decades.

The first of the dialogue sessions will be held on Monday under the title “The Journey of Art Collections from Youth Welfare to the Ministry of Culture.” Dr. Suzan Al-Yahya and Dr. Hanan Al-Ahmed will take part in this session as panelists, while Dr. Maha Al-Senan will be the facilitator.

The second session, “Towards a Better Organization of the Acquisition of Artworks,” will be held on Tuesday, with visual artists Mohammed Al-Saawi, Sara Al-Omran and Abdulrahman Al-Sulaiman as panelists and Hafsa Al-Khudairi as facilitator.

The third session will be held next Sunday under the title “The Features of Saudi Visual Arts from Modern to Contemporary,” and will feature Dr. Mohammed Al-Resayes, Dr. Eiman Elgibreen and Faisal Al-Khudaidi as panelists and Dr. Khulood Al-Bugami as facilitator.

“Fostering Arts and the Extent of their Cultural Impact on Society,” the fourth session, will be held next Tuesday, with Ehab Ellaban as panelist and Dr. Hanan Al-Hazza as facilitator.

The fifth and final session will take place on Nov. 2 under the title “The Journey of a Saudi Artist Between the Local and International Scenes.” It will feature Dr. Ahmed Mater, Bakr Shaikhoun and Maha Malluh as panelists and Dr. Noura Shuqair as facilitator.

The Art Memento Exhibition showcases artworks and paintings of Saudi artists over the past five decades, documenting the history of the Kingdom’s visual arts for public display.

Saudi artistic development is highlighted in terms of form, subject and ideas, while the exhibition also celebrates the efforts of leading artists and founders, preserves their history and presents their work to a new generation.


What Are We Browsing Today: Beeto app

Updated 18 October 2021

What Are We Browsing Today: Beeto app

Beeto is a new multi-diverse content social media platform dedicated to Arab users.

Under the slogan, “express freely,” the app allows users to speak their mind on any topic via text or visually, and have their information secured.

Launched last year, the platform claims to be different from many others in not having a word count limit. Users with quality content can be verified if they bring original material to the table, and the app encourages feedback to help meet user expectations.

One example was the introduction of a desktop version of the app after a user requested it.

Another feature of the app is its categorization of topics including comedy, fashion, lifestyle, culture, sport, and books, with users picking what they like to see.

Three days after its official launch, Beeto ranked first in app stores in many countries, and it has proved popular with Saudis and Iraqis in particular.

With offices in Riyadh and Beijing, Beeto is looking to expand into other Arab countries.

What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion

Updated 16 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion

Author: Elizabeth Carolyn Miller

The 1830s to the 1930s saw the rise of large-scale industrial mining in the British imperial world. Elizabeth Carolyn Miller examines how literature of this era reckoned with a new vision of civilization where humans are dependent on finite, nonrenewable stores of earthly resources, and traces how the threatening horizon of resource exhaustion worked its way into narrative form.
Britain was the first nation to transition to industry based on fossil fuels, which put its novelists and other writers in the remarkable position of mediating the emergence of extraction-based life.
Miller looks at works like Hard Times, The Mill on the Floss, and Sons and Lovers, showing how the provincial realist novel’s longstanding reliance on marriage and inheritance plots transforms against the backdrop of exhaustion to withhold the promise of reproductive futurity. She explores how adventure stories like Treasure Island and Heart of Darkness reorient fictional space toward the resource frontier.

What We Are Eating Today: Lazy Masoub in Jeddah

Updated 15 October 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Lazy Masoub in Jeddah

Lazy Masoub is a newly opened restaurant in Jeddah offering Saudi street food with a contemporary twist.
Inspired by the banana carts found in downtown Jeddah, the eatery’s name refers to a traditional dish made of mashed banana and chopped saj pie, topped with honey or cream and usually eaten as a dessert.
The restaurant’s signature masoub dish is served with a variety of toppings and extra banana, mango, strawberry, avocado, and nuts, and the outlet also offers a range of authentic Saudi recipes with international and Middle Eastern touches including masoub konafa, foul baba, mutabbaq trio pepperoni, and liver tacos.
The food is served in Korean stone and pottery bowls and on plates with dried ice fog adding to the presentation.
The restaurant opens at 8 a.m. and further information is available on Instagram at @lazymasoub.