An Afternoon With Emma Clark – Islamic Gardens Expert & Designer

Islamic Art is essentially a taste of the infinite in the finite; seeing what is invisible in the world.” This is the statement from Emma Clark’s event which resonated with me the most. For a long time now I’ve been yearning for a meaningful definition of Islamic Art and it was at this event it all made sense to me. When a garden is designed Islamically, it is done so to spiritually uplift a person as well as present to the visitors a very minute glimpse of what is ultimately hidden in paradise.

On the very last day of the Bradford Literature Festival (Sunday 7th July), I decided to attend Emma Clark’s special event on Islamic Gardens. Emma is an expert on the topic and delivered a great presentation discussing what makes an Islamic Garden and why they are different to the rest. Starting off with Bismillah and the Islamic greeting (Assalamualaikum), she went onto mention that whilst other civilisations attempt to leave their mark and legacy in history through art and garden designs, Islamic Art and gardens intends to show that there is more to this world than what we witness as well as providing a foundation for spiritual nourishment.

Genaralife – Alhambra Palace, Granada

Throughout the event, Emma showed us photographs of Islamic Gardens from around the world and then further explained nine such elements that make up an Islamic Garden.

  1. Trees & Shade
  2. Water
  3. Geometry – 4 Fold Form
  4. Enclosure
  5. Relationship With Architecture
  6. Flowers
  7. Scent
  8. Importance of Balance & Proportion
  9. Peace

Emma mentioned, ‘water is not only there for practical reasons, but also as a symbol of the soul and purity as purity is next to Godliness. The Qur’an reminds us to remember God’s name to purify ourselves just as water purifies when it comes from the source.’

Everyone naturally yearns for water and greenery. They are two things that provide peace and purity. With only 15% of the world remaining as being unspoilt land, it is now more than ever that retreating to a well-designed Islamic Garden will spiritually uplift us. As Emma mentioned, ‘When you’ve been in the desert for too long, you long for greenery and water which provides coolness for the eyes.’

Water Fountain at Jame’ Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, Brunei

If anyone is interested in Islamic Gardens, I suggest you have a look at some of Emma’s work on her website. You can also buy her book by clicking here.

After meeting with the former keeper of Oriental Manuscripts at the British Museum, the late Dr. Martin Lings in 1990, Emma became a Muslim. Her meeting and study of Islamic art and gardens were both major contributing factors towards her conversion.


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