There are three aspects to the Celestial Garden which make it resonate as a beautiful symbol of hope.

There is something about planting and tending a vegetable plant, then eating the crop you raised yourself.  The process allows us to play an active, inside role in the cycle of life.

There is the knowledge that all of us, and every thing in the universe, are vitally and inextricably connected.

The garden is also a metaphor for abundance and fecundity in the Celestial realm.  Mortal life is temporary and fleeting, but life in Paradise is lush and vibrant.  In Islam this imagery is especially significant considering the area in which the Revelation was received.

The Arabian peninsula is one of the largest inhabited areas on the planet in which no significant natural bodies of water survive all year round, and the extreme rarity of life-giving oases were tangible miracles of Providence.  Lush and succulent plants, cool flowing water, and similar vibrant imagery helped propound the concept that Paradise is a world of beauty and abundance, profoundly removed from the everyday, ordinary life of the desert-dwelling nomad.

Poets described the growth of these preternatural Platonic gardens and artists showed it – the mosaic scenes of the Great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus are imaginal windows into wonderful vistas of the eternal oases in Heaven.  The Dome of the Rock – built as a reverent shelter for a stone spiritual significant to all the Children of the Book – holds stylized vines and flowers, celebrating vibrant growth.  Plates and carpets, homes and mosques, were decorated with the delicate, intricate, colorful designs of fantastic plants, trees, and flowers.

As we move towards the hot and sticky parts of summer, it is a wonderful image to hold in one’s heart.

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Images of Umayyad Mosque of Damascus and Dome of the Rock courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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