Considerations about Green
There are things that are mere things, and others that are also signs. Among these signs, some are only signals, others markings or attributes, others symbols
Color is not only a physical and perceptive phenomenon, it is also a complex cultural construction, resistant to any generalization. For the historian, color is first and foremost a fact of society. Society entails an intercultural truth of color. Talking about green in the Islamic societies will therefore mean reflecting on the basis of exemplifications in various fields, from vocabulary, to literature, to science, to the relationship with nature.
Parlare di verde nelle società islamiche significherà, dunque, riflettere sulla base di esemplificazioni in diversi ambiti, dal lessico alla letteratura, alle scienze, alla relazione con la natura.
Green is synonymous with nature. It is at the origin of life. The usual term is Akhdar أخضر adjective also attached to the dark concept, meaning sometimes black, dark, gray.
Reference is made of al-khaḍrā’ as the name of the sky: an additional illustration of the tie between blue and green, often confused in antiquity. The Greeks, the Chinese, the Melanesians, the Neo-Caledonians, the Latins, and others had the same term to designate these two colors. Even without having the extraordinary richness of those of white and black, the terminology of the green is quite extensive. al-khaḍrā’ come nome del cielo: illustrazione supplementare del legame tra il blu e il verde, spesso confusi nell’antichità. I Greci, i Cinesi, i Melanesiani, i Neo-caledoniani, i Latini, tra gli altri, avevano uno stesso termine per designare questi due colori. Pur senza avere la straordinaria ricchezza di quelle del bianco e del nero, la terminologia del verde è abbastanza estesa.
With an adequate distance from infernal red and sky blue, green has a median value of balance, dear to Islam. With the Arabs, as with many other populations, it is a symbol of nature, prodigy, youth, water. For Islam, the banner of the Prophet ﷺ became emblematic of the religion. The green color is naturally in the popular spirit of the Arabs to the extent that the spoken language is imbued with expressions in which this color expresses joy, wit, success.
In the Quran it is written that the inhabitants of the Paradise
"will have garments of fine and stunned silk, and will be adorned with silver bracelets ... ". Quran LXXVI, 21:
فِضَّةٍۢ وَسَقَىٰهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ شَرَابًا طَهُورًا
In symbolism and in the occult sciences the emerald has been attributed an esoteric sense and a regenerating power. The Emerald tablet is the name of an opera, which appeared in the Middle Ages, containing all the laws of occultism and the Kabala attributed to Ermete Trismegisto. The Emerald Tablet was translated from Arabic into Latin in 1250.
Recipes were found, before the Christian era, inscribed on an emerald tablet..
Ermete Trismegisto or Mercurio Ter massimo
meaning - “Ermes the great - thrice, and derives from the Greek” ΕρμηςοΤρισμεγιστος. Ερμης οΤρισμεγιστος.
According to Athanasius Kircher:
The Arabs call him Idris, from Hebrew Hadores;
and the Greeks Ermete Trismegisto" (Obeliscus Pamphilius: 91).
the Egyptians Thot but also call him Ptha
Tens of thousands of works of great antiquity and immense importance were credited to Hermes, Trismegist.
"The green color, Sim nānī (traditionalist, jurist and theologist ash'arita iraqee, XXI Cc.) – used to say, is the most appropriate secret mystery of all mysteries ". In Muslim cosmology, Mount Qāf جبل قاف, the mountain that surrounds the terrestrial world, is made of green emerald, whose celestial vault would derive the color from it.
Regardless of its origins, the green color was for the past centuries considered to be associated with Islam. The Crusaders, for example, avoided using the green in their coat-of-arms in order not to be confused with their opposing men in the impetus of battle. The Omayyad caliphs of Damascus, great constructors as they were, endowed a splendid caliphal palace, located in the immediate vicinity of the Great Mosque:
the "green palace" (al-Khaḍrā’) for which historians, geographers and travelers witnessed the wonders. Unfortunately, no any trace seems to have remained. The Islamic architecture has a very wide use of green in ceramic and wall decorations, in domes, particularly of the religious buildings, in the areas of the Near East and Central Asia.
In the Quran and in the Muslim tradition Identifying the motivations for which certain symbols and metaphors are produced within a culture / civilization, and the paths through which they have maintained a recognizable persistence in it, inevitably involves taking a trip back in time in which this culture is structured. To clarify the sense of the preferent date of the green, it could be useful to study B. Scarcia, that starts from the examining of two texts:
The first text: Quran. XXXVI, 79-80; Say: “He who brought them into being in the first instance will give them life [once again], seeing that He has full knowledge of every act of creation: He who produces for you fire out of the green tree, so that, lo! you kindle [your fires] therewith.”
قُلْ يُحْيِيهَا الَّذِي أَنشَأَهَا أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ ۖ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ خَلْقٍ عَلِيمٌ ٱلَّذِى جَعَلَ لَكُم مِّنَ ٱلشَّجَرِ ٱلْأَخْضَرِ نَارًا فَإِذَآ أَنتُم مِّنْهُ تُوقِدُونَ
Here the "green" attribute is the word which becomes primarily meaningful; and the word that identifies the context. And the context is expressed in verses 32-33 and 26 that have something to do with the creative quality of God (Allah ﷻ) through the normal paradoxes used in religious texts, that is, the expression of implied interconnectedness within concepts apparently unrelated by means of logical displacements: in this case, (in relation to) pertaining to the green tree and the creation of humanity, of "other men" by Allah ﷻ who intervenes, as a super-creator, to transform the inanimate / dead materiality of the elements evoked by fire, from the tree, earth, through (from) the green.
The second text: is a tradition referring to a woman (Um Haram, wife of Ubada Bin As-Samit) Hadith reported by al-Bukhari, which talks about the credentials that will be part of the group of elect:
“One day, - narrates the woman – the Prophet ﷺ was asleep beside me. He woke up smiling and I asked: "Why are you smiling?"
The prophet ﷺ replied by narrating what he was dreaming: "I saw among my community people advancing on this green sea, like kings on the throne"
The woman said to the prophet ﷺ: “Oh Messenger of Allah, call upon Allah to make me one of them”.
"May Allah ﷻ put you among them! ...". said the prophet ﷺ - "you will be among the first groups"
If in the Quranic text, the central point is the creative power of Allah ﷻ, here it is the salvation force of Islam. The green sea is the path to travel victoriously in order to reach a new existence, beyond the daily traits and qualities of human events.
These two texts limit the space in which the concept of green works: material and spiritual birth. Obvious is the connection between the first type of birth and nature, the vegetation, the ground: is the reason for fertility. However, this motive finds an ideal parallel in the celestial world, at least judging from the literature of tradition, according to which green is the color of the gentle and angels, and in green are the clothes of the elect.
But we are not in a context of solar liveliness, rather a resurgence of a new life through death that leads to the cancellation of self. In general, the earth is green in so far as it pertains to the sphere of life, however corresponds to a moment of "internalization", while it is the red that sends again to the vital energy. What Henri Corbin calls the symbolism of colors in the Islamic theosophy, the degradation of light which passes from white to green, in descending progression towards the underworld, meaning un regressus ad uterum: is equivalent to admitting the presence of the female element as a "pole" which presupposes, as its opposite, the shining of the epiphany centered on the Throne, the first element of the Being. This is an esoteric reading.
A unique character: al-Khidr Other reflections, other suggestions are induced by the Quranic figure of al-Khiḍr, "the green man, the verdant prophet " who possessed the secret of the water of life and represents, in Islamic tradition, the guide for excellence. This character is the subject of a widespread veneration in the Muslim world and very many are the symbols that involve him. A recent important study (Franke, Begegnung mit Khidr: Quellenstudien zum Imaginären im traditionellen Islam) provided a global historical phenomenology of loyalty for him. The stories and the legend of the al-Khiḍr are related to the story in the Quran XVIII, 59-81, in these essential features: Moses (عليه الصلات و اللسلام) undertakes with his servant a trip in the direction of Majma'al-bahrayn, but as they are reaching their destination, they realize that they have forgotten, for the work of Satan, about the fish they carried with them.
The fish had slipped into water and disappeared. While on their way back looking for it, the two travelers found a servant of Allah ﷻ.
Moses (عليه الصلات و اللسلام) tells him that he will follow him so that he teaches him the right way.
They agreed to this point, however, the servant of Allah ﷻ said to Moses (عليه الصلات و اللسلام) that he would not understand his actions, and which actions he must not ask him for explanations, consequently, he would not be able to remain with him. He and the servant of Allah ﷻ set off, and walking along, complete a series of reprehensible actions that apparently cause Moses (عليه الصلات و اللسلام) to lose patience to a point that fails to stop him from asking for explanations. Allah's servant repeated: "Did I not predict that you would lack patience?" Finally, he moves away from him and, on leaving, he gives him the explanation of his reactions, which had sufficient motivations. Most of the commentators call this “Al-Khadir” the servant of Allah ﷻ.
Others identify him as the servant of Moses (عليه الصلات و اللسلام). The two opinions have their roots in the eastern legend. In fact, the Quranic passage goes back to three main sources:
L’epopeadi Gilgamesh, il romanzo di Alessandro e la leggenda ebraica del rabbino Josua ben Levi.
La destinazione del viaggio resta misteriosa, è stato ipotizzato che sia il punto estremo del mondo dove si toccano i due oceani, quello celeste e quello terrestre;
altri hanno suggerito che si tratti di un luogo situato all’estremo ovest del mondo alloraconosciuto dove si trovano le sorgenti di ogni acqua corrente, di fatto le colonne d’Ercole, incontro del mare romano con l’Oceano; secondo altri sarebbe invece il luogo dove l’oceano persiano e il mare romano si incontrano, cioè Suez. Il pesce indica simbolicamente il cammino; nel luogo dove lo si perderà, o meglio dove esso ritroverà la vita a contatto con l’acqua, lì si trova la fonte di vita dove al-Khadir abita. Il contatto con quell’acqua gli ha dato il colore verde.
This character appears in the Traditions, in the commentaries of the Quran, in the Sufi handbooks, in the biographical languages, as well as in the legends of the characters, in the travel stories and in the popular narrative. Generally, the texts speak of al-Khadir as a man whom Allah ﷻ granted a long life and who suddenly appeared in the lives of humans. His interventions were intended to help and bring rescue when needed.
To this feature is connected the fact that today's ambulance service in Turkey is called "Khidr service". Far from being in rivalry with the prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the figure of al-Khadir it was developed in tradition as his support and helper. At the end of the course, the majority of Muslim scholars rejected the idea of his eternal life, as non-Islamic, (Sura XVIII of the Koran) and, consequently, they do not consider him a religious figure with a post in the Islamic history of salvation, but only a mythical creature that must be returned to the kingdom of superstition.
Green = Nature The most common associations are, however, located to landscape: green is associated with regeneration, fertility, rebirth, the paradise is a place full of luxuriant green. In medieval Islam there is a double approach of man to nature: on the one hand, his tension is reduced by the abstract categories; on the other hand, his sense of quiet domain and the right to intervene that comes from Allah ﷻ, when He declares him His vicar on earth.
Quran II, 30-31:
وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَٰٓئِكَةِ إِنِّى جَاعِلٌ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً ۖ قَالُوٓاْ أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ ٱلدِّمَآءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّىٓ أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
The love for the garden is part of the first approach, a symbol and prefiguration of Paradise. It is constrained within a predetermined order, by which the randomness is eliminated and the excess that nature has left itself can put on stage, flowers, trees and water. The garden is, of course, the mark of a rich residence or the escape place of the prince. It can aspire to be a microcosm. Maybe this is the sense of the zoological garden of Samarra which lay on a surface of 50km2 furrowed by channels that surrounded the spaces intended for wild beasts, while the harmless animals circulated freely between visitors. (The miniatures can tell a lot): An enclosure that surrounds an orchard, which is the most frequent case, a pomegranate that embellishes a courtyard with a fountain in the center, are poor, daily transcriptions of the early garden, but always a microcosm.
Of course, it is not as easy as in Egypt… (text from Nasir-i Khusraw), or in the oases of Syria. Complementary, rather than contrasting, is the other approach to nature. This is interesting, however, only when there are far-sighted signatories. What is extraordinary confirms God’s free creative power, although it could be revealed as hostile. Man cannot make himself more other than an attentive witness. The habit to cataloging, to encyclopedism, to the analysis of the details that connote the Islamic medieval production does not translate, if not occasionally, into methodical investigation about nature. There is no geology or botany in its own right.
The modernity of the medieval Islam is in the interest of the experimentation, which justifies such attention to the case, even if it is limited to the search for the general law that presides not only over that case, but over all the other cases of the same type.
Lo sguardo sulla natura è antropocentrico. La vita umana ne è la misura. Il risvolto della cosa è la preoccupazione di utilizzare al meglio quanto Allahﷻ ha messo a disposizione dell’uomo.
Il segno che l’uomo deve lasciare su questa natura, dono divino, deve essere positivo, metterne in evidenza le potenzialità senza alterarne la fisionomia a dimostrazione della gratitudine verso il Creatore e della consapevolezza della centralità dell’uomo nel progetto divino.
Il Corano afferma, infatti, senza ambiguità che Allah ﷻ dedica all’uomo l’esistenza del Creato, di cui per altro l’uomo stesso fa parte, chiamando l’universo tutto a fungere da prova lampante del suo essere Dio (Allahﷻ.)
إِنَّ فِى خَلْقِ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ وَٱخْتِلَٰفِ ٱلَّيْلِ وَٱلنَّهَارِ وَٱلْفُلْكِ ٱلَّتِى تَجْرِى فِى ٱلْبَحْرِ بِمَا يَنفَعُ ٱلنَّاسَ وَمَآ أَنزَلَ ٱللَّهُ مِنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ مِن مَّآءٍۢ فَأَحْيَا بِهِ ٱلْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا وَبَثَّ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ دَآبَّةٍۢ وَتَصْرِيفِ ٱلرِّيَٰحِ وَٱلسَّحَابِ ٱلْمُسَخَّرِ بَيْنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ لَءَايَٰتٍۢ لِّقَوْمٍۢ يَعْقِلُونَ
In altri termini, la libertà dell’atto creativo di Allah ﷻ può non tradursi in arbitro assoluto.
L’uomo può, anzi deve, decodificare il creato, cogliere il senso della sua struttura (Corano. XXI, 30-32). La verità/realtà che l’atto creativo di Allah ﷻ realizza nell’universo va, dunque, portata al livello della comprensione umana. Riconoscere l’ordine, da Allah ﷻ liberamente impresso al creato, presuppone la capacità umana di postulare le leggi che regolano, secondo ragione, l’universo.
La ricaduta più immediata di un simile atteggiamento è la spinta alla ricerca.
Investigating involves naming, verifying, experimenting, manipulating what surrounds us.
It does not fascinate to look for science where it is found, in classical Greece, as it took place from the 8th century onwards, or, as the solicitation of the prophet ﷺ, perhaps in China.
Quran. XXI, 79-80. However, the subordination to man of the created things, which is manifested in his ability to unfold them, does not give him the right to diverge in its nature and function.
Things have an intrinsic value; although they are also useful to man. For example, the life cycle of plants or water is particularly a recurring subject:
(Cor(Quran LXXX. 24-32) LXXX, 24- 32).
فَلْيَنظُرِ الْإِنسَانُ إلى طَعَامِهِ، أَنَّا صَبَبْنَا الْمَاء صَبًّا، ثُمَّ شَقَقْنَا الْأَرْضَ شَقًّا، فَأَنبَتْنَا فِيهَا حَبًّا، وَعِنَبًا وَقَضْبًا، وَزَيْتُونًا وَنَخْلًا، وَحَدَائِقَ غُلْبًا، وَفَاكِهَةً وَأَبًّا، مَّتَاعًا لَّكُمْ وَلِأَنْعَامِكُمْ
L’universo tutto va rispettato, l’uomo ha il divieto di abusare di quanto la terra gli offre e di corromperla: “Quest’ultima dimora noi la serbiamo per coloro che non cercano elevazione superba sulla terra né la corrompono”.
لْكَ ٱلدَّارُ ٱلْءَاخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُرِيدُونَ عُلُوًّا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ وَلَا فَسَادًا ۚ وَٱلْعَٰقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
… Tanto più che le risorse possono non essere illimitate:
(Corano. XXIII, 17-19.)
وَأَنزَلْنَا مِنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ مَآءًۢ بِقَدَرٍۢ فَأَسْكَنَّٰهُ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ ۖ وَإِنَّا عَلَىٰ ذَهَابٍ بِهِۦ لَقَٰدِرُونَ
Certe norme del diritto islamico illustrano un simile atteggiamento. Cogliere un frutto maturo che sporge da un frutteto, se chi passa ha fame, non costituisce un furto. Infatti, Allah ﷻ fa fruttificare le piante, non per una singola persona, ma per l’intera umanità. Azione meritoria è bonificare la terra morta, che diventa proprietà di colui che l’ha resa fertile. Così scavare un pozzo. Chi lo fa ha la garanzia di poter utilizzare un terreno circostante di 40 cubiti per far riposare i suoi armenti se ne possiede.
Per converso, severe sanzioni sono prescritte per chi inquina l’acqua, elemento vitale che il profeta ﷺ sostiene non si possa negare a nessuno, e il cui utilizzo va regolamentato in maniera puntuale ma diversificata a seconda delle esigenze e dei contesti ambientali. La libertà umana, che spinge e, paradossalmente obbliga all’azione il musulmano medievale, si fonda e si iscrive nell’ordine divino. Tutto, natura compresa, trova la sua
ragion d’essere partendo dal principio che Allah ﷻ “ha dato forma alle creature senza che la loro creazione gli fosse necessaria”, ma soltanto perché queste “sappiano di avere un Creatore e non riconoscano e adorino altro che Lui”
(Ṭabarī nella versione di Balʿamī, La Chronique. Histoire des Prophètes et des Rois, vol.I, De la création à David, ed. Sindbad, 2001).
The whole universe exists, therefore, in function of human being. But it is only in a limited space where it is distinct, plus, be it symbolically, that which is wild and unknown, which means natural from what is civil and familiar, in other words it’s human, - that the medieval Muslim tunes in with nature and environment. The garden, a paradise-like image of the garden.
(Quran) LV, 51-52).
فِيهِمَا مِن كُلِّ فَٰكِهَةٍۢ زَوْجَانِ فَبِأَيِّ آلَاءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ