Islamic garden design is dictated by the words of the Quran which vividly describe a lush, enclosed space defined by an axial format. The crossing axis of Islamic gardens are created by the use of canals, or in limited spaces, smaller irrigation channels which converge at an intersection.
At the meeting point resides a fountain or basin which may be covered with a pavilion when space allows. The waterways are symbolic of four rivers described in the Quranic paradise, one river of purified water, one of milk, one of honey, and one of wine. The quadripartite layout lends itself to it’s name, Chahar Bagh, which means “four gardens” in Farsi.
The waterways in an Islamic garden serve multiple purposes. They are a source of water for those who reside there, provide irrigation to the surrounding gardens in what is a typically arid climate, and simultaneously introduce sound and movement to the space. Trees contribute to the formality of the axis. Planted in straight lines, traditional choices such as cypress or poplar accentuate the linear divisions of the garden and provide shady relief from high temperatures. The trees aligned with the axis symbolize death and eternity according to Quranic texts.
Within the quadrants of the garden are lush plantings of fruit trees and flowers, symbolic of life and fertility, designated to supply food to the people and animals alike that inhabit the garden. The plantings and canals induce a coolness and beauty to the micro environment that make up jannaatal-firdaws, two words when put together mean “gardens of paradise” in Arabic. Flower beds were often sunken lower than the waterways to facilitate irrigation in a climate where water is scarce, duly to emphasize the patterns of the garden which appear more beautiful from a higher vantage.