Whether date palms, spices, flowers, or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, plants play an important role in the holy books of Christians and Muslims. Bible and Quran display surprising similarities – including in their call to preserve nature. Academics at the University of Bonn are now releasing the first extensive publication in German on this topic. The publisher of the impressively illustrated volume is the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation.
It is something that not only natural scientists usually forget: even today religion plays a key role in everyday politics. More than 80 percent of our global population is religiously oriented, of which five billion people are guided by the Bible and Quran. The similarities between the texts are astounding – such as the over 4,000-year-old story of Noah (Bible) or Nuh (Quran), which calls on us to preserve creation.
The ark to save animals and plants was possibly made from cedar wood. Cedar is only one of around one hundred species that are mentioned in the Bible and Quran. The present volume offers an overview: the religious, botanical, and cultural-geographic background is shown for thirty selected plants. This is preceded by relevant quotations from the Bible and Quran. A thoroughly researched list of the plants mentioned in both texts rounds off the book. The text is illustrated on 106 pages by 54 color illustrations – for instance, of the Boswellia trees from the kingdom of the Queen of Sheba, now Yemen and Ethiopia. The overview is also explicitly oriented towards non-botanists.
The authors of the volume are from the University of Bonn: Professor Wilhelm Barthlott was for many years Head of the Nees Institute and the Botanical Gardens, Dr. Mohammad Daud Rafiqpoor is a geographer and Jasmin Obholzer a biologist. The volume also contains contributions by the President of the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), Professor Beate Jessel, by Andreas Mues (also BfN), as well as the leading Quran plant expert Fatima Al-Khulaifi from Qatar and the world-renowned Bible and Quran plant researcher Prof. Lytton J. Musselman from the USA.
Although biologically motivated, besides an importance for politics in general, the book also has a high importance for politics relating to nature conservation. “The depiction of the plants in the ethical context of religions can stimulate a value-based discussion of one’s own relationship between man and nature,” emphasizes Professor Beate Jessel, President of the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN). “I consider this to be a key element in promoting more eco-friendly social development.”
“In many areas – not only in their assessment of the importance of nature – the parallels between the Quran and Bible are astounding,” explains Professor Wilhelm Barthlott. “To use the words of Nicholas of Cusa: ‘We all see the same stars’. Nevertheless, we sadly only look in particular for differences.”
The publication appears as No. 448 of the BfN scripts and can be accessed on the Internet at http://www.bfn.de/religionen_und_natur.html
Prof. Wilhelm Barthlott
Nees Institute for Biodiversity in Plants, University of Bonn
Telephone: +49 (0)228/73-2271
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