'Plants of the Qur’ān' Project

Plants of the Qur’ān - History and Culture, upcoming book published by Kew Publishing, investigates the etymology and history of the plants mentioned in the Holy Qur’ān. It illustrates the historical and present cultural significance, traditional and present uses, and explores the context in which plants are mentioned in the text of the Qur’ān.

Watch this short 5-min video to discover the backstories, inspiration and journey behind the book.
Please note: book cover and pages design has been changed since the video was produced.

Several plants are mentioned in the Qur’ān that have a history of use as food, medicine or have value for a particular characteristic they hold. Most of the plants mentioned in the Qur’ān can be identified to present day plants. A few, however, are difficult to name with certainty, and suggestions to their identity have been put forward with reference to the context in which they have been mentioned.

All of the approximately 22 plants mentioned in the Qur’ān are significant not only in that they are useful to everyday life, but because they have a historical, cultural and religious connotation. The very mention of some plants in the Qur’ān signifies their importance and relevance as they are known either for their use (such as date, onion, garlic, olive, grape, fig, pomegranate, lentil, ginger, mustard) or as a reference to their character or what they might denote (such as tamarisk, henna, sidr). Following research on the book , some new plants have been introduced and the book discusses about 30 different species , like the Ethiopian banana , Castor oil and Myrtle.

Through global climate change and human impact on the environment, natural habitats of many plant communities and animals are being lost or have changed with the result that many plant species can no longer survive in their native areas of distribution. The loss of a species means that there is also a loss of history and culture that is associated with it in its native environment. It is true that plants can be cultivated and saved from extinction, but the cultural history which a plant carries with it in its native habitat cannot be carried on through cultivation in another place. Plants of the Qur’ān also advocates the conservation and sustainable use of plants and their habitats as much as it stresses their research and investigation.

Independently of each other two people had the same thought – as small as a mustard seed that through friendship has grown and resulted in a collaboration of minds and skills. Dr Shahina Ghazanfar of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Sue Wickison freelance Scientific Illustrator have pooled inspiration and resources to work together on a project to research and record in a book format the plant species that are mentioned in the Holy Qur’ān. There are several works written on the topic, but none that is a comprehensive illustrated collection of the plants.

This is a unique opportunity and a project that allows an historical document to be created. However small the plants are, it is a chance to highlight their valuable uses, whether as medicinal plants or food crops or just to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Please visit Plants of the Quran website to learn more.

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Plants of the Quran

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