The Qur’an on Paradise
About This Resource
The Qur’an guides Muslims in belief and practice but rarely describes the physical form of a building or object of art. For this reason, it is a problematic source for art history. The following verses would appear to be an exception because they depict paradise in enticing terms as a garden with four flowing rivers and ripe fruit. These and similar verses have been used by historians to explain the typological source of the four-part, cross-axial garden plan, although the theory that the heavenly place of rest and reward gave rise to actual built form has never been demonstrated. Rather than the sacred text providing a precise blueprint, it is more likely that the Qur’anic attribution was made in a general sense: to compare a garden (including one that did not have a four-part plan) with paradise was to laud its beauty and perfection.
Annotation by D. Fairchild Ruggles.
The photograph shows a Persian carpet from the early 17th century. Named the Wagner Garden Carpet, it resembles a four-part Islamic garden.
Announce to those who believe and have done good deeds,
glad tidings of gardens under which rivers flow,
and where, when they eat the fruits that grow
they will say, “Indeed they are the same as we were given before,”
so alike in semblance the food would be.
And they shall have fair spouses there, and live there abidingly.
(Surat al-Baqarah, 2:25)
The semblance of Paradise promised the pious and devout
(is that of a garden) with streams of water that will not go rank,
and rivers of milk whose taste will not undergo a change,
and rivers of wine delectable to drinkers,
and streams of purified honey,
and fruits of every kind in them, and forgiveness of their Lord.
(Surat Muhammad, 47:15)
Translation: Ahmed, Ali, Al-Qur’an: A Contemporary Translation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.
Ruggles, D. Fairchild, ed. Islamic Art and Visual Culture: An Anthology of Sources. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, pp. 6-7. Image credit:
The Wagner Garden Carpet, early 17th century, Persian School, (17th century) / Burrell Collection, Glasgow, Scotland / © Culture and Sport Glasgow (Museums) / The Bridgeman Art Library GLS 224038 and © Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio, USA / Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Emery / The Bridgeman Art Library CIN 403053.
How to Cite This Page
"Muslim Journeys | Item #205: The Qur’an on Paradise", September 22, 2017 http://bridgingcultures.neh.gov/muslimjourneys/items/show/205.
afterlife, calligraphy, gardens, Islam, paradise, Qur’an, religion, ritual