As part of a collaboration between the Qur’anic Botanic Garden (QBG) and the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies’ (QFIS’) Public Policy in Islam program, a public seminar titled ‘Botanic Preservation in Islam’ took place at Qatar Foundation’s Liberal Arts and Science Building on 28 January.
To open, a packed house enjoyed a short documentary film about QBG, introducing the vision and mission for their entity. It was explained that the aim was to build a garden that promotes “a complete understanding of the plants, botanic terms, and conservation principles mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, Hadith, and Sunnah by applying scientific innovations, building appreciation of cultural traditions, and by creating a garden that will provide unique opportunities for learning”.
Dr Evren Tok, Assistant Professor, Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU), Public Policy in Islam program, QFIS, thanked QBG for initiating this special collaboration. He spoke about their mutual need for an Islamic perspective in discussing issues about the environment, sustainable development, and the management of natural resources.
Dr Tok is involved in many project grants in the area of governance of natural resources, especially in Africa, and he went on to detail several topics that need addressing, such as rising food prices, population growth, the mismanagement of natural resources, climate change, inequality, and poverty. For example, access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation continues to be a major issue for billions of people globally, and more species are at risk of extinction despite an increase in protected areas.
The need for ensuring environmental sustainability while creating viable and equitable outcomes for society and the economy is paramount, and this is where the importance of collaborating across disciplines becomes key. The outcome for both planet and people will benefit from the continued partnership among scientists, policy advisors, and ethics counselors.
Addressing the assembled audience, Fatma Al Khulaifi, Project Manager, Green Projects, QBG, explained that, “the principles outlined in the Holy Qur’an in relation to the environment are relevant for people of all faiths, and are important for current and future generations given the threat of climate change.” Highlighting the practical uses of certain plants, both historically and currently, Al Khulaifi provided familiar examples for the audience.
Black seeds and kust root are used as medicine for a variety of ailments, and aromatics include oudh, basil, and camphor. The impact of losing these plants is therefore clear, but there are other lesser-known plants in the QBG collection that benefit from their attention and preservation. Al Khulaifi also drew distinctions among different types of gardens.
An Islamic garden is intended for rest, contemplation, and relaxation, often incorporating the general themes of water, shade, and a place to sit and rest. A botanical garden displays a wide range of plants from different parts of the world, with scientific and educational purposes.
She explained that a Qur’anic Garden has many of the qualities of Islamic and botanical gardens, but offers more than both, with QBG serving to fulfill five distinct roles: educational, scientific, cultural, environmental, and entertainment purposes.
QBG will be a place of peace and reflection, but also a space to emphasize the importance of preservation for sustainability. Dr Jasser Auda, Associate Professor of Public Policy in Islam, QFIS, added an ethical perspective on conservation and preservation to the ‘Botanic Preservation in Islam’ seminar, discussing themes of consciousness, diversity, and natural cycles.
He explained how looking at the wisdom of plants, not just their function, uncovers part of a plant’s value. Dr Auda outlined how diversity is not an accident, and said that we need to preserve the natural balance of creation, and not interfere through our own acts.
Regarding the benefits of such multi-disciplinary discussions, Dr Auda told The Foundation: “I think the co-operation of QBG with QFIS will break new ground in the areas discussed at the seminar. Because QBG has a lot of interesting technical information from a botanic perspective, we have a different perspective, especially through the ethical lens of Islamic studies.
“We focus a lot on Islamic ethics in our college, so I think bringing attention to the ethical side of the botanic garden project would help environmental reform in Qatar. Because we think the main problem of the environment is an ethical one, we are trying to contribute to the ethics of the environment through the project.
I also think the project itself is great in terms of spreading the green message in Qatar.” Ahmed El Gharib, Assistant Researcher, Green Projects, QBG, injected a botanical perspective into the evening’s conversation. El Gharib explained that there is wealth of botanical references to examine, including 82 terms in the Holy Qur’an, not including the names of various plants.
He went on to say that each of these terms will be represented in the QBG. Explaining why it is important to study these botanical terms, El Gharib said that such knowledge provides an “accurate and profound understanding of the meanings of the verses of the Holy Qur’an and Hadith” but it can also provide a “good entrance to study botany, especially for students and non-specialists in botany.”
In addition to plant names, such botanical terminology may refer to the growth forms and models of plant lifecycles, plant parts or organs, genetic or physiological phenomena, spatial terminology, or environmental elements.
El Gharib said that in addition to such scientifically based insight, “the studying of such terms has a major role in highlighting ethics and behaviors for the individual and society” and that these terms are often associated with specific parables that identify behaviors which are desirable for humanity.
The seminar ended with a lively question and answer session that demonstrated the high level of interest in the subject under discussion, and showed that there was great potential for further collaboration between QBG and QFIS on botanical preservation issues in the future.