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Good word like a good tree 97 2003(amended)


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PARABLE: “A Good Word is like a Good Tree”
Reflection by Ustaz Zhulkeflee Hj Ismail on Qur’an: Surah Ibrahim: 14: ayat 24-25

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Good word like a good tree 97 2003(amended)

  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 [] ‫أَل َ ۡم ح َ َر لَ ۡي َف َضب ٱَّلل َمثَل ََِك َم ً۬اة ط ِّي َب ً۬اة‬ َ ‫َ َ َ َّ ُ ً۬ ا‬ ‫لَشج َر ً۬ة ط ِّي َبة‬ َ َ َ َّ ُ ً۬ ‫أَصلُهَا ََثبِت َوف َ ۡرغهَا ِِف ٱلس َما ٓ ِء‬ ۡ ‫ث ُۡؤ ِِت ُأڪلَهَا ُك حي ِب ِإ ۡذن َرِّبِّ َ ۗا‬ ِ ِ ِۭ ِ َّ ُ ُ ٓ ِ َ َ ۡ ُ َّ ُ ِ ۡ ‫َويَۡضب ٱَّلل ٱۡل ۡمث َال لِلنَّاس‬ ‫ل ََؼلَّه ُۡم ي َ َخذڪ ُرون‬ َ َّ َ"Seest thou not how Allah sets forth a parable (similitude)?― a goodly Word like a goodlytree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens― It brings forthits fruit at all times, by the leave of its Lord. So Allah sets forth parables (similitude) formen, in order that they may receive admonition. " (Quran: Surah Ibrahim: 14: 24-25)REFLECTIONAll rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 1For permission to reprint – zhulkeflee@gmail.com
  2. 2. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008"Sub-HaanAllaah" (Glory be to Allah) When I reflect that the main message of al-Islam isTawheed ("Laa-ilaaha-il-lalLaah" – there is no god except Allah), the kalimah (statement)given to every Prophets being "a good word" (kalimah toy-yibah) from Allah, from thence itsteachings bloom and grow - this parable (similitude) is most apparent and profoundly apt. Consider the SHAHADATAIN (declaration as a witness to the 2 kalimah – “there isno god except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”). This is the first pillar ofIslam, 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 wayof life of submission to Allah, exuding goodness and righteous deeds (like the branches andthe manner how a good tree is bound to grow). This requires continuous nurturing throughaffirmation with right knowledge and practice (‘ilm wa ‘amal). The declaration of thisSHAHADATAIN 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 aMuslim. With my life I bear witness to all, that there is none to be worshipped except Allahalone, Who has neither associate nor partner, and Muhammad s.a.w. is a servant and theMessenger of Allah.Just as a seed when first nurtured in the ground must begin to grow, SHAHADATAIN is thatgrowth, the impetus, motivation, the self-actualization that must be kept alive with strivingand continual struggling, come what may. Just as the seedling grow in two directions, theroot (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 declaredwithout being coerced, to fulfil the subsequent practices in submission to the Will of ourCreator ("arkaan al-Islam"-pillars of Islam). Just as a seed has the potential to split thehardest of rocks, so too the Shahadah of a true Muslim has the life-giving propensity thatmotivate a Muslim to sincerely strive in God’s way, giving him the determination inovercoming every obstacle along the pathway towards gaining proximity to His Creator. Forhis life is but this reality: to live-up to being a witness to this Truth: That to Allah he belongs,All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 2For permission to reprint – zhulkeflee@gmail.com
  3. 3. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008and unto Allah shall be his return; his entire servitude, worship, devotion, sacrifices, life anddeath 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 ("arkaan-al-iiman") is animportant aspect of the growth of a Muslim. its acquisition requires development ofconviction to the Truth and the meanings of life and Existence that it seek to inculcate, untowhich we are to bind ourselves to them, as anchor - making us to remain firm and stablethroughout the trials & tribulations of life. The creed covers a spectrum which is necessaryto understand the true meaning and Reality and existence comprising belief in Allah, Hisangels, His Revealed Books, His Prophets, Judgement Day and life in Hereafter and theDecree and knowledge of Allah (Qada’ wa Qadr). Thus as Muslims, our belief concerningthese cannot remain static but must be nurtured to continuously grow ever deeper - ourunderstanding of them, ever profound and penetrative. As nobody else could see thisgrowth, do not disregard its importance to our own selves. A tree with static or shallowroots 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 ourreligion ("imad-du-al-Deen"). The likeness of it is as in the growth of a good tree, after the1 Specific devotional prayers comprising standing, bowing and prostrations, with supplications to be performedin ritual purity and modestly attired, according to the prescribed five times in the day (the obligatory), facingthe 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 thouhas 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 Thymost 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 onearth is named...”All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 3For permission to reprint – zhulkeflee@gmail.com
  4. 4. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008sprout, its growth would entail development of a solid and strong trunk. A tree would haveto be differentiated from creepers and weeds. A tree would easily stand out amongst shrubsand bushes, and be in a class of its own. And the tree-trunk is that which links the roots tothe other parts of the tree - distributing all the beneficial nutrients. Similarly, faith withoutoutward 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 Prophets.a.w. asserts that difference between a believer and non-believer can be discerned fromthe performance or non-performance of "As-Swolah."The tree as it grows; it requires producing its own food and nourishment. We learnt that thegreen leaves (chlorophyll) react in sunlight to produce its food, through a process calledphoto-synthesis. In this process, it significantly contributes in cleansing the atmosphere bytaking in the carbon dioxide, and releasing oxygen back. Its leaves, stems, branches provideshades and helps to sustain the eco-system as it serves also food and nourishment forothers. This is amazingly similar with a Muslim. After As-Swolah, the next pillarto be fulfilled by Muslim is Az-Zakah2. This is the compulsory tax upon wealth of a Muslimwhich is to be distributed to certain categories of poor and needy. In life we need to acquirewealth to sustain our life, yet in doing so we are expected to contribute towards others.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 thedescendent of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from thepeople, 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 byyear...”;Mathew xxiii 23 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, andhave 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 4For permission to reprint – zhulkeflee@gmail.com
  5. 5. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008Also the meaning of Zakah is both "to purify & make it grow." It purifies a Muslim fromgreed, miserliness which material wealth and possession can affect our hearts, as well asteaches us that there are always surplus given to us in our wealth, which are meant forothers. 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 otherstoo. Indeed, a trees submission to the natural law can be a powerful lesson in that - for usto live, we must also contribute towards the welfare of those who need. A good tree always protects itself from the extreme elementspresent in its environment. It grows layer of bark on its trunks and branches to shield itselffrom 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 newlayer would be formed, and thus a trees age can be known by measurement of its rings ofbark which it had. We shall see similarity when we consider the next pillar of Islam forMuslim, which is the SAUM (Daily Fasting3 of Ramadhan). The purpose as commanded byAllah 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 itstrengthens a Muslims spiritual resolve to adhere only to Allahs command and totallyrefrain from whatever He has forbidden. By the end of Ramadhan, Muslims would haveattained to greater height of self-discipline and restrain through being conscious of Allahs.w.t. (Taqwa). Hopefully, after gaining it, it does not wane, but we are to maintain orincrease it until the next Ramadhan. To liken SAUM (fasting) as a shield is also very true. It isonly with our inward spiritual strength, based on Taqwa, that one can assure oneself ofimmunity from outward harm, as it is our greatest shield in our journey in life. It is ourability to say "No!" and capacity to resist every temptation that really matters, because in3 Compare –Ref. Esther iv 16 – “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eatnor 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 yourdisciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom iswith 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 5For permission to reprint – zhulkeflee@gmail.com
  6. 6. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008life we cannot avoid coming into contact with them. Every year this shield is renewed, andthe true age of a Muslim can be determined by the number of Ramadhan he had gonethrough. Observe how a tree grows. Althoughslow, 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 bypushing, if unable then to seek other path without forgetting to persistently continue togrow. It seem as though it possesses an in-built compass, and a determination to journeytowards a certain end, although it is seen by us as remaining static. Also, trees seldom growin solitude, but would be clustered together for strength and mutual dependency in jungleor forests. Each tree even is seen as assisting one another to continue growing towardsheaven and sunlight. Likewise, for a Muslim, the commandment to undertake the pilgrimageto Makkah or HAJJ4, for those who are capable, contains a powerful and practical lesson onJihaad (Striving with our utmost and sacrifice in Way of Allah). What Muslims can learn isthat life is a sure journey towards our Maker, and thus we must always prepare ourselves tothe Day of meeting with Him. It teaches us to patiently struggle, purify ourselves, persevereand to always be ready to make sacrifices, to emulate the prophet and to compete in everyforms of righteousness, to battle evil and falsehood, to learn about steadfastness,compassion and unity of brotherhood amongst believers, and many others. Even thoseMuslim who are not able to, or yet to go, their faces are constantly made to turn towardsthe Kabah in Makkah daily. Just like a tree, our inner compass always guides us towardsHeaven and the Light (Truth), for Muslims are certain that, "To God we belong and unto Himwe shall be made to return." This life is but a journey and although we are in this world, butwe are not of this world.4 Original rites of pilgrimage to the Ka’bah instituted since the time of Patriarch Abraham (Ibrahim), known alsoas Khalee-lullah (Friend of God), regarded as the rebuilder of the Ka’bah after its destruction by the greatFlood, the propagator of the original pure monotheism, which Prophet Muhammad came to restore - the ritesof Hajj being one of them, which also consist of re-enactments of past events at the various sites aroundMakkah – Arafah, Mina and Muzdfalifah.All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 6For permission to reprint – zhulkeflee@gmail.com
  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"goodness." A tree may be big, with thick foliage etc. but it may be rotten and diseased. It iswhen each and every elements (from roots, trunk, branches, leaves etc) grow well, thatwhole tree can be regarded as good. This reminds me of the question posed to the Prophets.a.w. after he had explained both "Arkaan al-Islam" and "Arkaan al-iiman”:"Tell me what ‘al-IHSAN’ is?" -To which the Prophet s.a.w, said "al-IHSAN (The Best conductor excellence) is that you worship (serve) Allah as though you see Him, if not then, certainlyHe sees you." (Hadith reported by Muslim)Here, our Prophet s.a.w. is emphasizing "Sincerity" as the crucial criteria in determiningquality or goodness in our deeds. To be sincere is, to be doing a good act purely because ofAllah s.w.t., as an offering to Him, seeking His Pleasure. After all, it is Allah, Whoseacceptance or rejection that really counts, not others. So any deeds, no matter how small, ifit were done sincerely for Allah would then be considered good. On the hand, great thingsdone not for Allah, but instead for some ulterior motives, trying to please others or out ofself-conceit does not qualify as Good by Allah.THE FRUIT5 The final aspect of my reflection is, when Allah s.w.t. says: - "It bringsforth its fruit at all times, by the leave (permission) of its Lord!"5 We are reminded of Jesus Christ son of Mary (peace and blessings be upon them both) who is reported tohave said: “By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes from the thorns, or figs from thethistles? Every good tree will bear good fruit and every evil tree will bear evil fruit.... by their fruits ye shallknow 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 byits fruit.” (Matthew 12: 33-34)All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 7For permission to reprint – zhulkeflee@gmail.com
  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 fromits seeds within its fruits that it produces. If not, the fruit itself can be beneficial to everyoneas nourishment, or perhaps quenching thirst, or even as a cure etc. A good Muslim, growinglike a good tree, would be granted by Allah s.w.t. the opportunity to touch others such thatthey too, receive the Guidance of Allah s.w.t. This is the promise of Allah; and those givenare indeed most fortunate. Hopefully we can be like the Muslim, described and praised byAllah s.w.t.: َ ‫ۡ ۡ َ ُ ً۬ ا َّ َ َ َّ ِ َ ِ َ َ ً۬ ا‬ ‫َو َمن أَحسن قَ ۡول ِّممن دػَا ٓ إَِل ٱَّلل َوَعل صـٰ ِلحا َوقَال ِإه َِِّن ِمن ٱلۡ ُمس ِل ِمي‬ َ ۡ َ ‫َو َل ج َۡس خَوى ٱلۡحس نَ ُة َو َل ٱلسيِّئ َُۚة‬ َّ ََ ِ ‫ٱ ۡدف َ ۡع ِبٱل َّ ِِت ِِه أَحسن‬ ُ َۡ َ ‫ف َ ِإذا ٱَّلى بَيۡنَك َوبَيۡن َ ُه ۥ ػَدٲو ً۬ة لَ َأه َّ ُه ۥ َو َِل َحي‬ ً۬ ِ َ ٌّ َ َ َ ِ َّ َ َ َ ِ َّ ‫َو َما يُلَقَّ ٰٮهَا ٓ إ َِّل ٱَّلين ص ََبُو ْا َو َما يُلَقَّ ٰٮهَا ٓ إ َِّل ُذو حظٍّ غَظي‬ ً۬ ِ َ"Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to Allah, works righteousness, andsays "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 itwere thy friend and intimate! And no one will be granted such goodness except those whoexercise patience and self-restraint none but persons of the greatest good fortune." (Quran: Surah Fussilat: 41: 33-35)May Allah grant us the Taufiq (success) wal Hidaa-ya (Guidance)WaAllaahu alamAll rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 8For permission to reprint – zhulkeflee@gmail.com
  9. 9. Addendum to notes: “MODULE ON ISLAM FOR CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN” - ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MAJOR SEMINARY (SINGAPORE) 2008-------------------------------------------------------------------------All rights reserved©Zhulkeflee2008 Page 9For permission to reprint – zhulkeflee@gmail.com