Descriptions of Places in the Qur'an
The Qur'an provides detailed information about several prophets, their people, and the places in which they lived. Allah also draws our attention to areas that are suitable for settlement, environments that are beneficial for human health, and climates that are convenient for life.
Places of Shelter
While informing believers of the place where the Prophet 'Isa (as) and his mother Maryam lived, the Qur'an provides signs about the qualities of a sheltered place:
And We made the son of Maryam and his mother a Sign, and gave them shelter on a mountainside where there was a meadow and a flowing spring. Surat al-Mu'minun: 50
Following the Prophet 'Isa (as)'s birth, Maryam settled with him in such a district. One benefit of the place was that a river flowed through it. Before all else, such a location contains an abundant supply of water, which is essential for life. A river also facilitates physical and environmental cleanliness, as well as ensures the proper functioning of all bodily organs. Remaining without water for a prolonged period of time may cause very serious consequences, including death. Living in a place where there is a source of water allows people to have a ready supply of water to meet their bodily, hygienic, and other needs.
A settled area with a rich supply of water surely provides many other benefits. History shows that civilizations established alongside rivers made extensive use of these benefits.
As the verse maintains, a river whose water flows down a mountainside or a hill deposits fertile sediments in the river bed and, at the point where it leaves these sediments, gradually forms a mineral-rich and nourishing alluvial plane. Such an area is of great benefit to the quality and productivity of agriculture. Rivers facilitate irrigation and contribute to the fertility and growth of plantations. A copious supply of flowing water also promotes stockbreeding alongside the river.
Another reason why rivers have been a key element for all civilizations is that they promote such commercial and social activities as navigation, transportation, and fishing. For example, using the Nile river's benefits enabled the Egyptians to attain an advanced culture and civilization.
Besides these very important social and commercial benefits, the beautiful sight of a river is surely another blessing for the human soul. These sources of water, which are pleasing to both the eye and the ear, provide a beautiful view and make such settled areas quite valuable.
These benefits, of which we have mentioned only a few, are enough to show that places with an abundant supply of water are the most suitable places for settlement. Allah also points to this fact by describing the place in which Maryam and the Prophet 'Isa (as) lived.
In those verses about Paradise, Allah points to beautiful places and environments. Gardens are among such places, as we read:
As well as those two there will be two other Gardens. So which of your Lord's blessings do you both then deny? Of deep viridian green. Surat ar-Rahman: 62-64
Allah created humanity and knows what gives the most pleasure to one's soul. The pleasure a person derives from green lands is a manifestation of this fact.
But those who have fear of their Lord will have high-ceilinged halls, and more such halls built one above the other, and rivers flowing under them. That is Allah's promise. Allah does not break His promise. Surat az-Zumar: 20
Places with "rivers flowing under them" are mentioned in verses that describe Paradise. Residences and mansions in Paradise are said to be constructed on such places. Allah's promise to reward His true servants with places that have rivers flowing under them is a clear sign of the favorable nature of such places also in this world.
Gardens of fruits are also mentioned in the Qur'an as beautiful places. Allah makes fruits with different and striking smells, tastes, and colors grow out of dry soil. Tree branches laden with these fruits and gardens of such trees are obviously among the most beautiful places on earth. Again, from the Qur'an we learn how wonderful and admirable the gardens of Paradise will be in the eternal life.
A verse refers to gardens and fruits as follows:
He sends down water from the sky, from which We bring forth growth of every kind, and from that We bring forth the green shoots. And from them We bring forth close-packed seeds, and from the spathes of the date-palm date clusters hanging down, and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates, both similar and dissimilar. Look at their fruits as they bear fruit and ripen. There are Signs in that for people who have faith. Surat al-An'am: 99
Date palms from which "date clusters hang down" are striking both in appearance and taste. Besides, gardens of grapes, olives, and pomegranates, which vary in taste and color, have an impressive view once they start to bear their fruits and reach their full maturity.