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

1 / 9
A view of the seminary from the Quran Garden. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
2 / 9
A fountain in the midst of the Quran Garden. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
3 / 9
The Chinese Yin-Yang symbol representing peace used to decorate the garden. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
4 / 9
The walk leading up to the Quran Garden on the outskirts of Peshawar. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
5 / 9
Seminary students plucking grapes and other fruits from the various trees in the garden. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
6 / 9
A plant in the Quran Garden. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
7 / 9
A basket full of figs picked from the garden itself. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
8 / 9
An olive tree planted in the Quran Garden. (Photo courtesy: Zahoor Islam)
9 / 9
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.


Saudi Arabia’s NEOM attracts first Bollywood shoot with ‘Dunki’

‘Dunki’ stars Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2022

Saudi Arabia’s NEOM attracts first Bollywood shoot with ‘Dunki’

DUBAI: NEOM has attracted its first Bollywood shoot, with “Dunki,” starring Shah Rukh Khan, having filmed at the location.

The announcement was made at the second edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah on Sunday, with Wayne Borg, the managing director of NEOM, adding that 200-episode-a-year Saudi soap opera “Exceptional,” produced by MBC, would also be shot at one of the region’s new sound stages.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk)

Borg also addressed nearby competitor Abu Dhabi, which has turned into a hotspot for Hollywood shoots in recent years, saying: “I think our ambitions are much greater than theirs,” according to Variety.

Neom has hosted an estimated 26 productions over the past 18 months, including “Desert Warrior,” which stars US actor Anthony Mackie and is directed by Rupert Wyatt.


Take two: Eyes of the global film industry are on Jeddah for Red Sea festival

Updated 01 December 2022

Take two: Eyes of the global film industry are on Jeddah for Red Sea festival

  • The second Red Sea International Film Festival promises to be bigger and better than the first, with international stars flocking to the Kingdom’s cinematic spectacular

JEDDAH: The second Red Sea International Film Festival begins on Thursday in Jeddah and the red carpet has been rolled out at the glitzy Ritz Carlton hotel to welcome international movie stars and filmmakers from East and West.

Under the slogan “Film is Everything,” the event, which continues until Dec. 10, will showcase 131 feature films and shorts from 61 countries, in 41 languages, made by established and emerging talents, including seven feature films and 24 shorts from Saudi Arabia.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, RSIFF CEO Mohammed Al-Turki said: “This year, we have a very proud moment as we are closing the film festival with a Saudi film. This is a clear indicator of where Saudi cinema is at.

“Our programmers, especially Antoine Khalife, are very picky when it comes to films. So, for the Red Sea International Film Festival to accept a Saudi film means that it is of a quality to showcase at an international festival.

“So we are very proud and happy to show a home-bred film, “Valley Road” — with a Saudi cast, Saudi director and Saudi writer — as our closing film. It just tells you that Saudi cinema is booming at a fast pace.”

Al-Turki said that the popularity of film has soared in the Kingdom in the five years since a decades-long ban on cinemas was lifted.

“There is a hunger for film and you see that when you look at the numbers of the box office tickets — we have exceeded all neighboring countries,” he said. “We have a bigger box office revenue than the UAE, than Egypt, in just the short time since we lifted the cinema ban in 2017.”

Far from simply playing catch-up with the global cinema industry after the long ban, Saudi Arabia is already excelling in its own right, according to Al-Turki.

“I think we are on the right path … you see a lot of people trying to excel and we’re trying to catch up from the 35 years that cinema was not present,” he said.

“So everybody is trying their best and I’m sure in the next few years we will have Saudi films on a global scale and, hopefully, we can open our film festival in coming years with a Saudi film.”

This year’s opening film “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” is a cross-cultural British romantic comedy directed by Shekhar Kapur and starring Lily James, Emma Thompson, Shazad Latif, Rob Brydon, Shabana Azmi, Sajal Aly, and Asim Chaudhry. It won the Best Comedy award at the Rome Film Festival last month.

The festival schedule includes 34 international premieres, 17 Arab premieres, and 47 films from the Middle East and North Africa. It will also welcome many of the talents, on both sides of the camera, involved in the making of the films.

The festival also features an official competition, the Yusr Awards, in which 26 shorts and 16 features from Asia, Africa and the Arab world will compete in a number of categories, including Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress. The winners will be announced on Dec. 8.

The Saudi Film Commission has chosen the film “Raven Song” as the Kingdom’s entry for the Oscars in the Best International Feature Film category. It will have its world premiere at RSIFF on Dec. 3 and is one of the seven films competing for the Golden Yusr for Best Feature Film.

Last year, the Golden Yusr went to the drama “Brighton 4th” by Georgian director Levan Koguashvili, while the top short film award went to “Tala’Vision,” directed by Murad Abu Eisheh from Jordan.

This year, acclaimed US filmmaker Oliver Stone, the recipient of three Academy Awards and director of films such as “JFK,” “Platoon,” “Snowden” and “Born on the Fourth of July,” will head the awards jury.

The festival aims to help open the doors to the film industry for a generation of young Saudis by enriching their knowledge of the industry and providing access to expertise from around the world through a number of initiatives, including competitions that offer funding awards, and filmmaking masterclasses and workshops.

To support and help the fledgling local film industry flourish, RSIFF has its own educational program, Red Sea Labs, and has formed partnerships with TorinoFilmLab in Italy and US film institutions to teach filmmakers from Saudi Arabia and the wider region.

The RSIFF film fund also supports young Saudi and regional filmmakers during preproduction, production and postproduction, said Al-Turki, and “we have the platform, the film festival, to showcase their films. So it comes full circle.”

One of the most significant RSIFF initiatives is the Red Sea Souk, the festival’s industry market platform, which includes a wide-ranging program of curated events designed to foster agreements for coproductions and international distribution, and encourage new business opportunities.

Representatives from 46 countries will take part in the Souk, which runs from Dec. 3 to 6 and offers a chance to network and access key players in the emerging Saudi industry, along with some of the best from the wider Arab and African scenes.

This year, more than 350 distributors, producers, financiers, sales agents and festival representatives will take part in the Souk and participate in face-to-face meetings and sessions with project developers.

During last year’s festival, the Red Sea Souk hosted more than 560 meetings and welcomed more than 3,115 film and media professionals. It was credited with playing a significant role in connecting a new generation of emerging talent with established figures in the cinema industry.

Last year’s marketplace was managed by Saudi artist Zain Zedan, who told Arab News after the festival: “This year was a great first start and we are ready to work on the second edition. The energy is great and the possibilities are endless. We are creating history here.”

This year, cash awards will be provided by the Red Sea Fund and awarded by two juries. The Project Market jury will choose the recipients of Jury Special Mention awards for development ($35,000) and production ($100,000). All selected projects will be eligible for additional awards funded by Red Sea Souk sponsors and partners totaling $670,000.

Also as part of Red Sea Souk, the second Talent Days initiative will take place on Dec. 7 and 8. It will feature sessions designed to nurture the next generation of filmmakers and effectively offers an initiation into the cinema industry for aspiring filmmakers through inspirational talks and individual meetings. Acclaimed Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania will lead this year’s Talent Days.

The manager of the inaugural Talent Days last year was Rana Jarbou, a Saudi director who said that the aim was “to encourage up-and-coming young Saudi filmmakers and grow the local film industry.”

Alongside the Red Sea Souk, the competitions, the red-carpet galas, outdoor screenings, and other special presentations, the festival will also host a range of themed film programs such as Festival Favorites, New Saudi/New Cinema, Red Sea: Treasures, Red Sea: Arab and International Spectacular, Red Sea: Family and Children, Red Sea: Virtual Reality, and Red Sea: Series. In addition, Red Sea: New Vision is a new strand dedicated to filmmakers who push the boundaries of creativity with a style of genre-defining filmmaking that challenges audiences.

Kaleem Aftab, director of international programming for the festival, told Arab News about the vibrant scene within the Saudi film industry, especially after the success of the first RSIFF last year.

“The Saudi film industry is incredible, considering where it was just five years ago,” he said. “There's a lot of movement forward and a big shift in the right direction. We’re still at the beginning but it’s making a mark in the International Festival space.

“I think the success of the Red Sea Film Festival, the inaugural edition, really gave a positive feeling to Saudi people and I had the sense that cinema was being celebrated, cinema was a possibility as a career, cinema is something to be proud of rather than something to be scared of, to hide away. I think we’re seeing a change in the perception of the way people want to tell stories.”

Last week, RSIFF organizers announced that this year’s Yusr Honorary Awards would be presented to veteran Egyptian actor Yousra, acclaimed British director Guy Ritchie and Indian actor and producer Shah Rukh Khan, in recognition of their exceptional contributions to film.

Yousra was among the stars who attended the festival last year, during which she advised young Saudi filmmakers to “be patient. Do not rush to stardom, and love your career for what it is. Try and fail, and learn how to choose the right time and career circumstances. Remember, no one jumps to success.”

She added: “I want to see Saudi films that speak to the world, not to a certain region, so the world understands what and who you are.”


Government asks censor board to review Pakistani movie Joyland’s suitability for screening

Updated 16 November 2022

Government asks censor board to review Pakistani movie Joyland’s suitability for screening

  • Information minister says complaints received from parents, middle-class people
  • Special committee formed by PM suggests ‘full board review’ of Joyland

KARACHI: A government committee formed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to consider complaints against the Pakistani film Joyland on Tuesday tasked the country’s censor board to review whether the movie is suitable for screening or not.

Last week, the information ministry declared Joyland “repugnant to the norms of decency and morality” and ruled that it was an “uncertified film” for release in cinemas. Joyland celebrates “transgender culture” in Pakistan, with the film’s plot revolving around a family torn between modernity and tradition in contemporary Lahore.

Transgender people are considered outcasts by many in Pakistan, despite some progress with a law that protects their rights and a landmark Supreme Court ruling designating them as a third gender.

It has won the Cannes “Queer Palm” prize for the best feminist-themed movie as well as the Jury Prize in the “Un Certain Regard” competition, a segment focusing on young, innovative cinema talent. Joyland is Pakistan’s entry for next year’s Academy Awards.

The committee, headed by federal minister Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, held a meeting to review complaints against the film on Tuesday.

“The committee was directed to consider the complaints against the said film being contrary to social norms,” the information ministry’s press release said.

“After thorough deliberations, it [the committee] concluded that the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) should conduct a FULL BOARD REVIEW immediately to take final decision of its suitability for screening.”

Speaking on a private news channel, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the film had been “intensely censored” at first before it was certified by the censor board. She said once the movie was released at international festivals, the censor board received a flurry of complaints against it by people who had watched it abroad. 

“A surge of applications and petitions were received [against Joyland],” Aurangzeb said. “When petitions are received, it is binding to review them,” she added. 

“To my surprise, I was told by the censor board that they were [applications] received from middle-class people and parents,” the minister said. 

She said the censor board is an autonomous body as per Pakistani law, adding that the government had not interfered with the process. Aurangzeb said the decision by the censor board will be taken by Wednesday evening. 

Joyland writer and director, Saim Sadiq, also spoke on the channel, lamenting that Pakistan “is being made fun of” around the world. He said people were unable to comprehend why a movie that received critical acclaim was not being approved by the country’s own government. 

“If they [people who watched the film abroad] had an issue with the film that it shouldn’t be released in Pakistan, why did they watch it abroad,” Sadiq asked.

The information ministry’s decision to rule that the film was “uncertified” triggered outrage on social media, with many questioning the decision by the government.

“It is a story of our people told by our people for our people. Hoping for it to be made accessible to these very people #ReleaseJoyland,” Pakistani actor Humayun Saeed wrote on Twitter earlier this week.

“I personally do not believe in banning films that highlight issues faced by marginalized segments of our society,” Salman Sufi, the head of the prime minister’s strategic reforms unit, wrote on Twitter.

“People should be trusted to watch & make their own mind.”

Prominent Pakistani journalist, Aamna Isani, shared the definition of a transgender according to the constitution. “If you have a problem with that, appeal for an amendment to the constitution. Until then, #ReleaseJoyland,” she wrote on Twitter.


What We Are Reading Today: Life Is Hard by Kieran Setiya

Updated 12 November 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Life Is Hard by Kieran Setiya

This was a beautifully written book that everyone should have on their shelf.

This book invites thought, compassion, reflection, and consideration, both for one’s own life and the lives of those around us.

In this profound and personal book, Kieran Setiya shows how philosophy can help us find our way.

Setiya skillfully gives readers the information and context they need as he goes so they do not have to have a background in philosophy to understand and enjoy this book.

The way he ties it all together is poetry and his humor adds levity to some deceptively deep and heavy topics. He shares his own experience with chronic pain and the consolation that comes from making sense of it.

Drawing on ancient and modern philosophy, as well as fiction, comedy, social science and personal essay, Life is Hard is a book for this moment — a work of solace and compassion.

“This book makes no attempt to sugar coat life,” said a review on Goodreads.com.

“Once we accept the fact that we and others will always have troubles life will become more bearable and enjoyable.”

Related


Where We Are Going Today: Cyan Waterpark 

Updated 10 November 2022

Where We Are Going Today: Cyan Waterpark 

If you’re looking to enjoy a pleasant time with family or friends, Cyan Waterpark is sure to impress. The spacious waterpark has attractions for all ages, and you can easily spend long hours there getting great value for your admission. The family-friendly environment is accessible to all visitors, including those with special needs.

Not too far from midtown Jeddah and right at the start of Obhur, Cyan Waterpark is located on King Saud Road.

Plunge down on a single, double or multiple-person raft for a high-adrenaline adventure or take a relaxing ride and float along the lazy river.

There is an array of interactive water games for children including spouts, colorful slides and dumping buckets.

Cyan waterpark also offers two wave pools, one for children and the other for adults, which will make you feel like you are in the middle of the sea.

The park’s friendly staff enhances the experience with their excellent service and attention to detail.

With the highest safety standards and professionally trained lifeguards, the park is an outstanding leisure destination for the whole family.

in the near future, Cyan Waterpark is set to open other attractions such as event halls, a petting zoo, an educational farm and an activity center for kids.

Today, guests can get their Cyan Waterpark soft opening tickets by booking at www. cyanwp.com, or as walk-in customers. Admission for adults is sR299 ($80) and sR199 for children. 

As the waterpark has some dress code guidelines, ensure you bring suitable swimwear.

Related