I’ve recently been reading a book about Islamic gardens. Before doing so, I’d not realised what a key part water plays within this tradition. On one level, this may be because of its origins within relatively arid areas. However, there is probably more to it than that. Certainly, Emma Clark, the author of the book which I’ve been reading thinks so:
“on a more profound level, water flowing underneath suggests the nurturing of the ‘garden within’, the ‘Garden of the Heart’, by the ever-flowing waters of the spirit, which serve to purify the soul of those on the spiritual path.” The Art of the Islamic Garden pp. 27-8
The phrase used in the Koran is “gardens underneath which rivers flow”. I’m reminded of some Bible passages which also talk about flowing waters. The following is an extract from the prophets:
“your light will rise in the darkness, and your thick darkness will be as the daylight; ... you will be like a watered garden, like a spring of waters whose waters fail not.” Isaiah 58.10-11
Reading about gardens which have such a strong need for the coolness which comes from shade and running water has given me a deepened sense of the vitality which arises from this.
I’ll leave the last word to Emma Clark again:
“Water is symbolic of the soul in many sacred traditions, its fluidity and constantly purifying aspect is a reflection of the soul’s ability to renew itself, yet always remain true to its source.” The Art of the Islamic Garden p. 28