In the Muslim world, gardens are seen as places of peace, an escape from the noise outside, and perhaps the best place on earth to feel close to God. Indeed, the Holy Qur’an offers several references to the idea of jannat al-firdaus or gardens of paradise, ranging from blissful retreat to secure refuge. These images have fed centuries of Muslim art, narrative, and design. Along with being an integral feature of Islamic architectural design, particularly for palaces, gardens have also served as final resting places for the dead.
Gardens were incorporated in several of the Umayyad (first major ruling Muslim dynasty (661–750)) palaces, as well as the palatial designs in Islamic Spain. The development of formal gardens became an art form in Iran from at least the fourteenth century as can be seen from their frequent depiction in miniature paintings of the period. Under the Timurids (Muslim dynasty founded by Timur Lang (Tamerlane) which ruled Persia and Transoxiana (1370–1507)), gardens became a priority for royal residences. The Mughals of India acquired their interest in gardens from the Timurids and developed the concept of a memorial garden surrounding a tomb.
In the year 2000, Professor Azim Nanji, Director of The Institute of Ismaili Studies, was interviewed on the theme of “Paradise as a Garden” by the BBC in the roof garden of the Ismaili Centre in London.
To listen to this interview, log on to the website of The Institute of Ismaili Studies and follow the link.