أَلَمۡ تَرَ كَيۡفَ ضَرَبَ ٱللَّهُ مَثَلاً۬ كَلِمَةً۬
طَيِّبَةً۬ كَشَجَرَةٍ۬ طَيِّبَةٍ أَصۡلُهَا ثَابِتٌ۬ وَفَرۡعُهَا فِى
ٱلسَّمَآءِ تُؤۡتِىٓ أُڪُلَهَا كُلَّ حِينِۭ بِإِذۡنِ رَبِّهَاۗ وَيَضۡرِبُ
ٱللَّهُ ٱلۡأَمۡثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَتَذَڪَّرُونَ
“Seest thou not how Allah sets forth a parable (similitude)?― a goodly Word like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens― It brings forth its fruit at all times, by the leave of its Lord. So Allah sets forth parables (similitudes) for men, in order that they may receive admonition. ”
(Qur’an: Surah Ibrahim: 14: 24-25)
“Sub-HaanAllaah” When I reflect that the main message of al-Islam is Tawheed (“Laa-ilaaha-il-lalLaah”), the kalimah given to every Prophets being “a good word” (kalimah toy-yibah) from Allah, from thence its teachings bloom and grow – this parable (similitude) is most apparrent and profoundly apt.
Consider the SHAHADATAIN. It is like the seed, containing every potential to a tree, be it the foundational creed (like the root), and the potential edifice of a way of life exuding goodness and righteous deeds (like the branches and the manner how a good tree is bound to grow). This requires nurturing. The declaration of this SHAHADATAIN contains both, conviction of its truth, as well as the first act of commitment – a promise to always strive to uphold it as a ‘Witness’ unto all & every nation – that I am a Muslim. With my life I bear witness to all, that there is none to be worshipped except Allah alone, Who has no associate nor partner, and Muhammad s.a.w. is a servant and the Messenger of Allah.
Just as a seed when first nurtured in the ground must begin to grow, SHAHADATAIN is that growth, the impetus, motivation, the self-actualization that must be kept alive with striving and continual struggling, come what may. Just as the seedling grow in two directions, the root (hidden underneath the soil) as well the outward manifestation of its sprouts. Similarly, in SHAHADATAIN, it represents the underlying creed (belief system i.e. aqidah – “arkaan al-iiman,” of the unseen or al-ghayb) as well as the commitment, consciously declared, to fulfill the susequent practices in submission to the Will of our Creator (“arkaan al-Islam”-pillars of Islam). Just as a seed has the potential to split the hardest of rocks, so too the Shahadah of a true Muslim.
AQIDAH (the Islamic creed) enumerated by the Prophet s.a.w. as (“arkaan-al-iiman”)is an important aspect of the ‘growth’ of a Muslim. its acquisition requires development of conviction to the Truth and the meanings of life and Existence that it seek to inculcate, unto which we are to bind ourselves to them, as anchor – making us to remain firm and stable throughout the trials & tribulations of life. Thus, our believe in it cannot remain static but must be nurtured to continously grow ever deeper – our understanding of them ever profound and penetrative. As nobody else could see this growth, do not disregard its importance to our own selves. A tree with static or shallow roots would be in constant danger of collapse.
AS-SWOLAH , the 5 daily devotional prayers of a Muslim, is likened by the Prophet s.a.w. as the pillar, the column or upright superstructure, of our religion (“imad-du-al-Deen”). The likeness of it is as in the growth of a good tree, after the sprout, its growth would entail development of a solid and strong trunk. A tree would have to be differentiated from creepers and weeds. A tree would easily stand out amongst shrubs and bushes, and be in a class of its own. And the tree-trunk is that which links the roots to the other parts of the tree – distributing all the beneficials nutrients. Similarly, faith without outward performance of deeds is empty, outward performance without faith is mere rituals. It is when both are dynamically combined that a person becomes true inward and outward, his deeds strengthening his faith and his faith strengthening his deeds. Thus the Prophet s.a.w. asserts that difference between a believer and non-believer can be discerned from the performance or non-performance of “As-Swolah.”
The tree as it grow, it requires to produce its own food and nourishment. We learnt that the green leaves (chlorophyll) react in sunlight to produce its food, through a process called ‘photo-synthesis’. In this process, it significantly contributes in cleansing the atmosphere by taking in the carbon dioxide, and releasing oxygen back. Its leaves, stems, branches provides shades and helps to sustain the eco-system as it serves also food and nourishment for others.
This is amazingly similar with a Muslim. After As-Swolah, the next pillar to be fulfilled by Muslim is Az-Zakah. This is the compulsory tax upon wealth of a Muslim which is to be distributed to certain categories of poor and needy. In life we need to acquire wealth to sustain our life, yet in doing so we are expected to contribute towards others. Also the meaning of Zakah is both “to purify & make it grow.” It purifies a Muslim from greed, miserliness which material wealth and possession can affect our hearts, as well as teaches us that there are always surplus given to us in our wealth, which are meant for others. Unless and until we give to whom it is due, our wealth may not be regarded as pure, and the concept of growth is not in the amount, but rather in how much it benefitted others too. Indeed, a tree’s submission to the natural law can be a powerful lesson in that – for us to live, we must also contribute towards the welfare of those who need.
A good tree always protect itself from the extreme elements present in its environment. It grows layer of bark on its trunks and branches to sheild itself from the effect of harsh weather, parasites and other harmful elements. Stripped of its bark, it would be exposed to many parasites and be harmed. Thus without fail, each year a new layer would be formed, and thus a tree’s age can be known by measurement of its rings of bark which it had. When we consider te next pillar of Islam for Muslim is the SAUM (Daily Fasting of Ramadhan).
The purpose as commanded by Allah s.w.t. is for Muslim to learn self-restrain and attain to true consciousness of God (Taqwa), It is like a one month intense traing or exercise of self-restraint, that it strengthens a Muslims spiritual resolve to adhere only to Allah’s command and totally refrain from whatever He has forbidden. By the end of Ramadhan. Muslims would have attained to greater height of self-discipline and restrain through being conscious of Allah s.w.t.(Taqwa). Hopefully, after gaining it, it does not wane, but we are to maintain or increase it until the next Ramadhan. To liken SAUM (fasting) as a sheild, is also very true. It is only with our inward spiritual strength, based on Taqwa, that one can assure oneself of immunity from outward harm, as it is our greatest sheild in our journey in life. It is our ability to say “No!” and capacity to resist every temptation that really matters, because in life we cannot avoid coming into contact with them. Every year this sheild is renewed, and the true age of a Muslim can be determined by the number of Ramadhan he had gone through.
Observe how a tree grows. Although slow, almost undetected by man yet it patiently perservere towards its destiny – cm. by cm. upwards towards heaven, or towards light. When obstructed, it tries to overcome by pushing, if unable then to seek other path without forgetting to persistently continue to grow. It seem as though it possesses an in-built compass, and a determination to journey towards a certain end, although it is seen by us as remaining static. Also, trees seldom grow in solitude, but would be clustered together for strength and mutual dependency in jungle or forests. Each even assisting one another to continue growing towards heaven and sunlight.
Likewise, for a Muslim, the commandment to undertake the pilgrimage to Makkah or HAJJ, for those who are capable, contains a powerful and practical lesson on Jihaad (Striving with our utmost and sacrifice in Way of Allah). What Muslims can learn is that life is a sure journey towards our Maker, and thus we must always prepare ourselves to the Day of meeting with Him. It teaches us to patiently struggle, purify ourselves, perservere and to always be ready to make sacrifices, to emulate the prophet and compete in every righteousness, to battle evil and falsehood, to learn about steadfastness, compassion and unity of brotherhood amongst believers, and many other. Even those Muslim who are not able to, or yet to go, their faces are constantly made to turn towards the Ka’abah in Makkah daily. Just like a tree, our inner compass always guides us towards Heaven and the Light (Truth), for Muslims are certain that, “To God we belong and unto Him we shall be made to return.” Although we are in this world, but we are not of this world.
Another element that a good tree possess is its quality of “goodness.” A tree may be big, with thick foliage etc. but it may be rotten and diseased. It is when each and every elements (from roots, trunk, branches, leaves etc) grow well, that whole tree can be regarded as good. This reminds me of the question posed to the Prophet s.a.w. after he had explained both “Arkaan al-Islam” and “Arkaan al-iiman” : “Tell me what is ‘al-IHSAN’?” -To which the Prophet s.a.w, said “al-IHSAN (The Best conduct or excellence) is that you worship (serve) Allah as though you see Him, if not then, certainly He sees you.”
Here, our Prophet s.a.w. is emphasizing “Sincerity” as the crucial criteria in determining quality or goodness in our deeds. To be sincere is, to be doing a good act purely because of Allah s.w.t., as an offering to Him, seeking His Pleasure. Afterall, it is Allah, Whose acceptance or rejection that really counts, not others. So any deeds, no matter how small, if done sincerely for Allah would then be considered good. Great things done not for Allah, but instead for some ulterior motives, trying to please others or out of self-conceit does not qualify as Good by Allah.
The final aspect of my reflection is, when Allah s.w.t. says: – “It brings forth its fruit at all times, by the leave (permission) of its Lord!”
A good tree exists to produce and perpetuate other good trees through its fruits. If not, the fruit itself can be beneficial to everyone, as nourishment, or perhaps quenching thirst, or even as a cure etc. A good Muslim, growing like a good tree, would be granted by Allah s.w.t. the opportunity to touch others such that they too, receive the Guidance of Allah s.w.t. This is the promise of Allah; and those given are indeed most fortunate. Hopefully we can be like the Muslim, described and praised byAllah s.w.t.:
وَمَنۡ أَحۡسَنُ قَوۡلاً۬ مِّمَّن دَعَآ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ وَعَمِلَ صَـٰلِحً۬ا وَقَالَ إِنَّنِى مِنَ ٱلۡمُسۡلِمِينَ وَلَا تَسۡتَوِى ٱلۡحَسَنَةُ وَلَا ٱلسَّيِّئَةُۚ ٱدۡفَعۡ بِٱلَّتِى هِىَ أَحۡسَنُ فَإِذَا ٱلَّذِى بَيۡنَكَ وَبَيۡنَهُ ۥ عَدَٲوَةٌ۬ كَأَنَّهُ ۥ وَلِىٌّ حَمِيمٌ۬ وَمَا يُلَقَّٮٰهَآ إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ صَبَرُواْ وَمَا يُلَقَّٮٰهَآ إِلَّا ذُو حَظٍّ عَظِيمٍ۬
“Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to Allah, works righteousness, and says “I am of those who bow in Islam – (Muslims)”? Nor can Goodness and Evil be equal. Repel with what is better: then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate! And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint none but persons of the greatest good fortune.”
(Qur’an: Fussilat: 41: 33-35)
May Allah grant us the Taufiq (success) wal Hidaa-ya (Guidance)