Marrakech: The Secret Garden
Morocco as a whole is a treasure chest waiting to be opened. After visiting Tangier, Fes and Rabat, I still have a soft spot for Marrakech even though it’s not known to be the best place for a spiritual getaway as it is increasingly commercialised. Strange how my heart is drawn to this place—I first visited Marrakech in 2016 and it was a short trip with my girlfriends from uni. I didn’t cover as many places as I wanted to and each year that passed by, I kept itching to go back.
On the first day we arrived in Marrakech last year, after we have just settled in our riad, we decided to walk around the Medina and just by chance, we stumbled upon Le Jardin Secret aka The Secret Garden. For 2 years now, I’ve been eyeing the place on the internet and thought it would be wonderful if I could visit the next time I was in Marrakech. As fate would have it, we found the place without even trying. We must have been walking for less than 10 minutes before we found the place.
That’s the funny thing about wanting something. Sometimes, the things you really WANT slip right through your fingers but the things you don’t work as hard on, land right onto the palms of your hands. What I’ve learned from this is that sometimes when we really want something, we are blinded by our own efforts that we often forget One crucial thing: Allāh. We see our efforts, we see our sweat and tears, but we don’t see Him: the Force that says kun (be) and it comes into existence. We become so focused on our wants. Ever realised that when you DON’T want something as much, we say things like ‘If it’s meant to be, it’ll be’ and we are more accepting of Allah’s Will?
It’s one of the ironies of life. It’s easy to be in a state of redha (contentment and acceptance in Allāh’s Decree) when the circumstances are in our favour—it’s much harder to do so when the circumstances are against our desires. The much bigger test is being at peace as we hold onto the knowledge that both the good and the bad that happens to us still have its roots in Allāh’s infinite Wisdom. In the end, He chooses what is best for us, and He knows what we don’t.
Believing in Qadha’ and Qadr (Divine Will and Destiny) is no excuse to not work hard for what you want—just know that what’s meant for you will always find its way to you.
Le Jardin Secret has a very interesting history that dates back to the second half of the 16th century, during the rule of the Saadian Sultan, Moulay ‘Abd-Allah. Although it’s known for its garden, Le Jardin Secret (LJS) is essentially a riad which means it’s a traditional Moroccan house with a courtyard in the centre. LJS had many owners over the centuries and was abandoned since the death of its last owner, in 1934. Restoration works only took place in 2008 and in 2016, LJS was finally re-opened to the public.
A piece of heaven
To quote the Islamic philosopher, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the purpose of Islamic art is to reflect “the heavenly realities on Earth.” This world, although perishable unlike its Creator, is still a manifestation of His Divine Attributes. Virgin nature, as in natural landscapes that have been untouched by man, is a manifestation of His Beauty, even though it is only on a microscopic scale.
I consider gardening and landscaping to be a part of Islamic art and it is crucial to distinguish it as Islamic art due to the philosophy behind it. Although art throughout the Muslim world is expressed differently, shaped by each region’s unique culture and history, the philosophy behind it is the same. Traditional Islamic art is not mindless and the artist is often not seeking fame but instead, Allāh’s Pleasure.
I find peace in art during troubling times, either by appreciating it or creating art of my own. The right combination of colours soothe the eyes the way some music soothe the ears.
I’m very much a dreamer and nothing excites me more than being in a place that mimics what I can only imagine to be what a piece of Jannah might be like. I was told once that there are as many paths to Allāh as the number of breaths we take because every one of us has been fashioned differently. What speaks to your heart is different from what speaks to mine so don’t compare your spiritual journey to someone else’s.
I’m not an ‘ālim therefore I’m not in a position to guide anyone but I can say this: if you keep an open heart, Allāh is ever so keen to teach His servant. His Lessons are found in both the mundane and the exciting. His Lessons are not confined to the pieces of a broken heart, the aftermath of bad decisions or the fabric of your sejadah (prayer mat). His Lessons are also found in moments of pure joy, in the scent of roses and in the gentle warmth of the morning sun.
Maturity doesn’t have to take place only by undergoing extreme situations: great wisdom can still be drawn from the smaller events in our lives that we often overlook but has gems within it. Life is a masterpiece and living is an art-form. سُـبْـحَـانَ ٱلله