Good Word Like A Good Tree 97 2003


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Good Word Like A Good Tree 97 2003

  1. 1. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008 PARABLE: “A Good Word is like a Good Tree” Reflection by Ustaz Zhulkeflee Hj Ismail on Qur’an: Surah Ibrahim: 14: ayat 24-25 [] ً۬‫أَلَمۡ تَرَ كَيۡفَ ضَرَبَ ٱللّهُمَثَل۬ كَلِمَةً۬ طَيّبَة‬ ً ٍ‫كَشَجرَةٍ۬ طَيّبَة‬ َ ‫أَصۡلُهَا ثَابِتٌ۬ وَفَرۡعُهفِى ٱلسمَاءء‬ ٓ ّ ِ ‫َا‬ ۗ‫تُؤۡتِى ٓأءُڪُلَهَا كُلّحِينِۭ بإِذۡنِرَبّه‬ ‫َا‬ ِ ِ‫وَيَضۡرِبُ ٱللّهُ ٱل َۡمۡثَالَ لِلنّاس‬ َ‫لَعَلّهُمۡ يَتَذَڪّرُون‬ quot;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 (similitude) for men, in order that they may receive admonition. quot; (Qur'an: Surah Ibrahim: 14: 24-25) REFLECTION All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 1 For permission to reprint –
  2. 2. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008 quot;Sub-HaanAllaahquot; (Glory be to Allah) When I reflect that the main message of al-Islam is Tawheed (quot;Laa-ilaaha-il-lalLaahquot; – there is no god except Allah), the kalimah (statement) given to every Prophets being quot;a good wordquot; (kalimah toy-yibah) from Allah, from thence its teachings bloom and grow - this parable (similitude) is most apparent and profoundly apt. Consider the SHAHADATAIN (declaration as a witness to the 2 kalimah – “there is no god except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”). This is the first pillar of Islam, the way to becoming a Muslim. It is like the seed, containing every potential to a tree, be it the foundational creed (like the root), and the covenant to uphold the edifice of a way of life of submission to Allah, exuding goodness and righteous deeds (like the branches and the manner how a good tree is bound to grow). This requires continuous nurturing through affirmation with right knowledge and practice (‘ilm wa ‘amal). 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 neither 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 - quot;arkaan al- iiman,quot; of the unseen or ‘al-ghayb’) as well as the commitment, consciously declared without being coerced, to fulfil the subsequent practices in submission to the Will of our Creator (quot;arkaan al-Islamquot;-pillars of Islam). Just as a seed has the potential to split the hardest of rocks, so too the Shahadah of a true Muslim has the life-giving propensity that motivate a Muslim to sincerely strive in God’s way, giving him the determination in overcoming every obstacle along the pathway towards gaining proximity to His Creator. For his life is but this reality: to live-up to being a witness to this Truth: That to Allah he belongs, and unto Allah All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 2 For permission to reprint –
  3. 3. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008 shall be his return; his entire servitude, worship, devotion, sacrifices, life and death are all sincerely meant only for Allah, Lord Sustainer of all the worlds. AQIDAH (the Islamic creed) enumerated by the Prophet s.a.w. as (quot;arkaan-al-iimanquot;) 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. The creed covers a spectrum which is necessary to understand the true meaning and Reality and existence comprising belief in Allah, His angels, His Revealed Books, His Prophets, Judgement Day and life in Hereafter and the Decree and knowledge of Allah (Qada’ wa Qadr). Thus as Muslims, our belief concerning these cannot remain static but must be nurtured to continuously 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,1 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 (quot;imad-du-al-Deenquot;). 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 1 Specific devotional prayers comprising standing, bowing and prostrations, with supplications to be performed in ritual purity and modestly attired, according to the prescribed five times in the day (the obligatory), facing the direction of the Ka’bah (Holy Sanctuary rebuilt by Abraham in Makkah). Compare – Ref. 1 K viii 46-49 - “ ... and pray to thee toward their land which thou gavest to their fathers, the city which thou has chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name”; Psalm xxviii 2 – “Hear the voice of my supplication, as I cry to Thee for help, as I lift up my hands toward Thy most Holy Sanctuary.”; Acts iii 1 – “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour..”; Ephesians iii 14- “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named...” All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 3 For permission to reprint –
  4. 4. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008 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 beneficial 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 quot;As-Swolah.quot; The tree as it grows; it requires producing 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 provide 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-Zakah2. 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 quot;to purify & make it grow.quot; 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 2 Compare - Ref. Genesis xiv 20 – “And Abram gave him a tenth of everything..”; Hebrew vii 2 – “... and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything...”, and in verse 6 – “And the descendent of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brethren, though these also are descended from Abraham...” ; Deuteronomy xiv 22 – “.. You shall tithe all the yield of your seed, which comes forth from the field year by year...”; Mathew xxiii 23 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”; All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 4 For permission to reprint –
  5. 5. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008 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 protects itself from the extreme elements present in its environment. It grows layer of bark on its trunks and branches to shield 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. We shall see similarity when we consider the next pillar of Islam for Muslim, which is the SAUM (Daily Fasting3 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 training 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 shield 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 shield in our journey in life. It is our ability to say quot;No!quot; and capacity to resist every temptation that really matters, because in life we cannot avoid coming into contact with them. Every year this shield is renewed, and the true age of a Muslim can be determined by the number of Ramadhan he had gone through. 3 Compare – Ref. Esther iv 16 – “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day...”; Mathew ix 14 – “Then the disciples of John came to him, saying: “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast..”; Similarly in Mark ii 18; Luke v 33; All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 5 For permission to reprint –
  6. 6. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008 Observe how a tree grows. Although slow, almost undetected by man yet it patiently perseveres 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 tree even is seen as assisting one another to continue growing towards heaven and sunlight. Likewise, for a Muslim, the commandment to undertake the pilgrimage to Makkah or HAJJ4, 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, persevere and to always be ready to make sacrifices, to emulate the prophet and to compete in every forms of righteousness, to battle evil and falsehood, to learn about steadfastness, compassion and unity of brotherhood amongst believers, and many others. Even those Muslim who are not able to, or yet to go, their faces are constantly made to turn towards the Ka'bah in Makkah daily. Just like a tree, our inner compass always guides us towards Heaven and the Light (Truth), for Muslims are certain that, quot;To God we belong and unto Him we shall be made to return.quot; This life is but a journey and although we are in this world, but we are not of this world. 4 Original rites of pilgrimage to the Ka’bah instituted since the time of Patriarch Abraham (Ibrahim), known also as Khalee-lullah (Friend of God), regarded as the rebuilder of the Ka’bah after its destruction by the great Flood, the propagator of the original pure monotheism, which Prophet Muhammad came to restore - the rites of Hajj being one of them, which also consist of re-enactments of past events at the various sites around Makkah – Arafah, Mina and Muzdfalifah. All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 6 For permission to reprint –
  7. 7. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008 Another element that a good tree possesses is its quality of quot;goodness.quot; 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 quot;Arkaan al-Islamquot; and quot;Arkaan al-iiman”: quot;Tell me what ‘al-IHSAN’ is?quot; -To which the Prophet s.a.w, said quot;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.quot; (Hadith reported by Muslim) Here, our Prophet s.a.w. is emphasizing quot;Sincerityquot; 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. After all, it is Allah, Whose acceptance or rejection that really counts, not others. So any deeds, no matter how small, if it were done sincerely for Allah would then be considered good. On the hand, 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 FRUIT5 The final aspect of my reflection is, when Allah s.w.t. says: - quot;It brings forth its fruit at all times, by the leave (permission) of its Lord!quot; 5 We are reminded of Jesus Christ son of Mary (peace and blessings be upon them both) who is reported to have said: “By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes from the thorns, or figs from the thistles? Every good tree will bear good fruit and every evil tree will bear evil fruit.... by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7: 16-20) “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12: 33-34) All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 7 For permission to reprint –
  8. 8. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008 - SUB-HAA-NALLAAH! (Glorious and Most Exalted is Allah,) A good tree exists to produce and perpetuate other good trees through regeneration from its seeds within its fruits that it produces. 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 by Allah s.w.t.: َ‫ٱللّهِ وَعمِل‬ َ ِ ‫َإ‬ ‫وَمَنۡ أَحۡسَنُقَوۡ ً مّمّن دَعاءٓلَى‬ ۬‫ل‬ ّ‫إِن‬ َ‫صَءٰلِحً۬ا وَقَالَنِى مِنَ ٱلۡمُسۡلِمِين‬ ُ‫ة‬ ۚ َ‫وَ تََسۡتَوِى ٱلۡحَسَنَةُ وَل ٱلسّيّئ‬ َ ‫ل‬ ُ‫هِىَ أَحۡسَن‬ ‫ٱدۡفَعۡبِٱلّتِى‬ ٌ۬‫فَإِذَالّذِى بَيۡنَكَ وَبَيۡنَهُۥ عَدَٲوَةٌ۬ كَأَنّهُ ۥ وَلِىّحَمِيم‬ ‫ٱ‬ ّ‫وَمَيلّءءءء ٰهَا إءِل ٱلّذِينَ صَبَرُواْوَ يَاَق ٰه ٓٓ إءِلّذُو حَظ‬ ‫َا‬ ‫مُلّءءءء‬ ّ ‫اُ َق‬ ٍ۬‫عَظِيم‬ quot;Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to Allah, works righteousness, and says quot;I am of those who bow in Islam - (Muslims)quot;? 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.quot; (Qur'an: Surah Fussilat: 41: 33-35) May Allah grant us the Taufiq (success) wal Hidaa-ya (Guidance) All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 8 For permission to reprint –
  9. 9. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008 WaAllaahu a'lam ------------------------------------------------------------------------- All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 9 For permission to reprint –