The Latest: 22.2 | Utopias

Bruce Wannell explores the Gardens of Paradise; Medina Whiteman’s parents escape to Andalucía; Yasmin Khan reads contemporary Muslim utopian fiction; Noor Iskandar photographs utopian landscapes; Sarah Pickthall discovers her uncle Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall; an extract from Rehan Khan’s fantasy novel Last of the Tasburai; and Reem Kelani’s list of Top Ten Palestinian Inspirations.

Dark shapes leapt off longboats, swiftly moving from the edge of the water up the pebbled beach. His heart pounded as he swung his gaze right then left; he knew these were soldiers coming ashore.

On a sweltering hot day in August 1982, in an apartment in the heart of the Albaicín, the Moorish quarter of Granada, with my mum looking up at the Alhambra with ice cubes in her mouth – as she tells me every year on the same date – I was born.

It is ironic how the term ‘Utopia’ was coined. Greek for ‘No-place’. There is that dissolution of anchors and stability. Utopia: the abode of desires should shake your ground but holds you in place.

There has always been a thin line between utopia and dystopia; If utopia is an imagined perfect place or ideal state of affairs in the social, legal and political sphere, dystopia would be its counterpart.

There is very little trace of Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall in my family. During my childhood that branch of our family tree was somewhat overshadowed by the other side of the family, which had an element of scandal about it.

Without doubt, the gardens of paradise are the ultimate utopias of Muslim consciousness. But what does the Qur’an say about gardens, landscapes and the promise of paradise?

Where does one start, though, to uncover and celebrate the numerous examples of art and culture that capture the complexity of Palestine? We asked singer-composer and musicologist Reem Kelani if she would compile a list of her own inspirations.