By Pakeeza Riaz
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“Do you not see how Allah puts forth a parable? – A good word is as a good tree. Its root is firmly (fixed) and its branches reach to the sky.”
[Surah Ibrahim 14:24]
Allah SWT likens a believer to a good tree, the type of which becomes evident from this hadith:
Ibn ‘Umar reported: “The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘There is a kind of tree whose leaves do not fall and it is like the Muslim. Tell me what it is.’ The people mentioned different kinds of desert trees … and I said to myself, ‘It is the date palm tree,’ but I felt too shy to speak up. Then the people said, ‘Tell us what it is, O Messenger of Allah.’ He said: ‘It is the date palm tree.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 61)
To understand this analogy, let’s look into some of the traits of a palm tree and compare them with those of a believer.
Date-palm is very different from other trees. It is an exceptionally tall tree with a straight stem and long, outward leaning branches. After going to a certain length, branches of a palm tree start to bow down. A believer resembles these traits in that he is also straightforward and true in his matters. His dealings with others are free of corruption. Like the branches of this tree, he is humble, soft and flexible, in his manners, making things easy for others.
This tree is so tall that when seen from earth, it seems to be touching the sky; as if nothing separates it from the sky. A believer is perceived to be reaching the sky in terms of his connection with Allah SWT. Even though he is seen walking on the face of this earth, at heart he is constantly with his Creator.
One notable trait of tall trees is that they take their feed and essential nutrients not only from earth but also from the atmosphere. A believer’s matter is very similar; he also takes his nourishment from both sky and earth. His spiritual sustenance is the revelation of Allah, without which his soul cannot survive. And his material sustenance is earthly grain without which his body cannot survive.
Furthermore, its roots dig deep into the ground, making the tree stand tall and firm in all its grandeur. It is as much below the ground as it is above it. A believer is also firm in its belief. No doubts or desires shake him from his root belief. And he is as deeper in his faith and piety as is shown in his actions. He does not try to express himself more pious than the amount he actually is.
It’s an ever-green tree, tolerant of the impact of changing seasons. It brings fruit in harsh season and survives the desert weather. Same is the case of a believer who is always in charge of his behavior, keeping a constant check on it at all times. He bears the rude behaviors (“harsh seasons”) of others and still responds rightly. His behavior is not subject to his mood which is bound to change. He is not such unpredictable that someone should fear the way he will respond to them when going through a mood swing, or the way he will burst out and burn them with his sharp words. He is someone of whom others expect none but goodness. Anyone who draws closer to him knows very well that this person won’t harm them. Such is the composure and balance in his conduct! Note that these qualities are not necessarily innate. And it’s not that some people are born robots having a composure chip installed in their system from the beginning. Rather it’s a matter of self-control. This balance needs to be developed overtime while bracing oneself with faith.
Moving on to the next trait, the fruit of this tree is not only sweet but also energizing. Similarly, no matter how low someone spiritually feels, meeting a believer or talking to him acts as an instant energizer. Anyone coming to sit with him knows that he will not return deprived.
This tree is beneficial through and through. No part of it is useless, not even its seed. Be it a fresh date or a dried one, each has its own nutritional value. Its stem and leaves have been used as a substitute for paper and furniture for a long time. It has its fruit on all sides; whichever side you turn to, you get to gain something good. Likewise, a believer is not a miser with regards to any of his possessions and is always benefitting others. He pleases to distribute whatever blessing he receives. He benefits not only humans, but whatsoever is in his surrounding. And if, some time, he does not seem to benefit, he does not harm either. Peaceful to the core.
It’s out of the rules of this universe that if an object fails to fulfil the purpose of its creation, it’s replaced. Since it’s no longer useful, it’s thrown into garbage. Similarly, whoever is not beneficial, he is removed and replaced by the law of Allah SWT. One time, Muslims were benefitting the world in every field, be it Medicine, Astrology, or Mathematics. Since they were of benefit to others, they were revered and well-regarded. As soon as they stopped benefitting, they turned hateful. Once, they used to prefer others over themselves. They used to be more concerned about the benefit of others. But now, they adopted a selfish attitude. So they were always willing to receive, but never willing to give. At all times and places, they were found looking for ways of gaining every possible benefit. They forgot that someone who always wants to receive cannot go like this forever. They forgot this saying of their prophet that the upper (spending) hand is better than the lower (receiving) hand. They forgot that whosoever receives must also give. And that he who stops to give, he is stopped being given. Need of the hour is to recall and relearn all these lessons. To become beneficial for others. To become of the givers. To become like a date-palm tree!