Leaf, Kikar, Flower, Tree and Man – by Abu Yahya
‘Leaf, Kikar, Flower, Tree and Man’ is the translation of an Urdu article written by Abu Yahya a few years ago on the occasion of establishment of an Education Centre with the aim of taking people away from their usual environments and closer to nature, to facilitate provision of basic religious education and advice on activities like supererogatory prayers, remembrance and contemplation, in order to take them closer to God. It’s being reproduced for the benefit of our readers.
The Shedding of a Leaf
A branch of a shaking tree shed a petal-like leaf; floating on the wind, it gently landed on my lap. I picked it up; seeing this statement of unparalleled praise of The Almighty, a cry of gratitude involuntarily leapt from my heart. I raised my gaze and it took me away from this world of humans to the world of trees, which is perhaps, the foremost introduction to God’s omnipotence and blessings.
Trees are no doubt the ornaments of the Earth whereas the leaves are the ornaments of trees; they are the attire of the trees. They not only save the bare branches from nakedness but also decorate them with a heart-warming covering of green silk. Most trees in Pakistan tend to be green but in America and Canada, I have seen scores of them in the pleasing colours of red, yellow and brown at the time of the arrival of autumn season.
As autumn sets in, these colourful leaves start to shed and by the time winter arrives, the trees are completely naked. After that, as new leaves emerge from buds the following spring, the Earth dons the make-up of foliage once again in order to appear pleasing to the Sky. On seeing this sight, the Sky starts to heat up in the warmth of love and eventually, in the months of monsoon, showers the Earth with its rain of affection.
This world of seasons, colours and trees is the world of God. In this world, the place of man is not more than a meagre leaf but the gracious Lord preferred him over other creations and gave him the honour of conversing with him. He granted him the kingly faculties of free will and independence, blessed him with intellect, reasoning, and the potential opportunity of His eternal companionship in Paradise. Alas! Man ignores all these blessings and opportunities and prefers to lead a life of negligence, like animals. He eats, drinks and has fun and joy, finds a life partner to start a family, has children and eventually one day, just like a leaf, is severed from the stem of life.
Another leaf then fell off the shaking bough and riding on the wind, landed on my lap. I picked it up and thought to myself, every human being appears on the stem of existence, just like a leaf. Soon a time will arrive when on an autumn evening, his existence will fall prey to the ‘fall of death’; his being will lose its identity in the soil of this Earth.
Lord! All this is about to happen to me. My being also rose from the soil and soon, the wind of death will sever it from the stem of life and put it back in the soil of the grave. Whether I remember this fact or forget it, this incidence is bound to occur. Forgive me before this happens, my Lord; forgive me, O my Lord… please forgive me!
Kikar and Morality
(Kikar Tree: A shrub/tree also known as ‘Thorn tree’ or ‘Acacia Nilotica’; it is found abundantly in many parts of South Asia.)
There was a dense jungle of Kikar trees growing everywhere when we first entered the Centre. All of us paid a levy, or its modern equivalent the ‘toll tax’, in the form of damage to our hands, feet and clothes while trying to negotiate our way along the tracks and trails that traversed this mass of thorns. We paid the ‘tax’ at regular intervals and continued to take the thorns out of our skin.
The Kikar is a strange creature. It does not need to be implanted; it springs up spontaneously and starts spreading. Once it has spread, it is very difficult to uproot it. One can cut it, put acid into its roots or set fire to it but it does not leave the ground easily. Wherever humans live, they try to get rid of it, as it is difficult to coexist with its thorns. Its branches are un-organised and its leaves provide little shade; even its wood is small in amount, and of minimal use.
The Kikar has always appeared to me like a tree representative of moral ills and bad habits. Just like them, it bears thorns but no fruit; also like them, it spreads quickly. It is difficult to eliminate it from the Earth in the same way it is difficult to get rid of bad habits. It is ironic that while on the one hand, man intensely dislikes Kikar trees and repeatedly attempts to rip them out of the places he inhabits but on the other hand, he nurtures ‘moral Kikars’ in his person with affinity and enthusiasm. There are countless similar ‘Kikars’ we allow to grow in the soil of our souls for example, envy, arrogance, extravagance, pomp and show, vanity, greed, malice, enmity, grudge, narcissism, materialism, negligence, back-biting, bad-mouthing, slander, deceit etc. We make other people bloodstained from the thorns of these Kikars; we block the paths to goodness and kindness towards one’s relatives with their thorny bushes. We sow its seeds amongst our children and other people around us, thereby, also encouraging them to grow a jungle of Kikars within them. However, we do not realise that we are creating this ill; we do not feel bad about it at all. How ironic is this paradoxical behaviour of human beings; enmity with the Kikars that are outside yet tolerance of and indifference to the Kikars within!
Garden: A symbol of Paradise
We established the Centre keeping in mind that all of us walk about carrying our ‘jungles of Kikar’ within us. This is not only the state of ordinary people but also of those like us who are well educated and knowledgeable about religious and worldly affairs. Rumi, the Persian poet once said:
“When knowledge is only skin-deep, it is like a poisonous snake
Only when it sinks deep in the heart, does it become a true friend”
This is the basic idea behind this Centre, that is, not to allow knowledge to become a snake on one’s sleeve but to let it sink deep into the solid ground of one’s heart; to take some time out for contemplation, remembrance and worship of God, and personal accountability. The aim is to dig deep into one’s personality, identify and then uproot the thorny bushes growing over its soil in order to allow high morality’s beautiful tendrils, colourful flowers, foliage and shade-giving trees to decorate it.
We have been working to materialise the aforementioned aims for quite some time. Three of our friends and elders have taken this over as a full time responsibility while many others have also helped a lot. Consequently, this jungle of Kikars and creepers is now turning into a beautiful garden. The abundance of Kikars was first cleared by setting it ablaze, then every single thorn bush was cut down. Afterwards, the ground was cleared and levelled with Tractors. Then slowly, we planted green grass, fast growing trees and colourful climbers in addition to attractively coloured flowers and plants. God willing, within a few months the Centre will resemble a garden in Paradise.
The people who come here for preparation are required to do exactly what we did with this place. They have to turn the jungle of moral Kikars within them into a garden of high morality. This is because people who succeed in growing such gardens within them are in fact, the very people who will enter the eternal gardens of Paradise on the Day of Judgement. As for those people who allow the thorn-bushes of moral flaws to continue to grow within them, they will be hurled into the fires of Hell on the Day of Judgement!
Just as converting the thorn bushes into a beautiful garden was a difficult task similarly, clearing away one’s inner thorn bushes is also not easy. It is a full-time job; a little inattention allows the thorns and bushes to grow back easily. We have also had the same experience over here in the centre. We have cleared away the jungle covering a large area but due to a shortage of resources, we have only been able to start the process of setting up a garden on a small area. Consequently, the obstinate Kikar has reappeared on the remaining land; unless more resources become available to us, the Kikar will win the war within a short period of time.
Nevertheless, even this is an excellent lesson to demonstrate to the people who come here that the ‘moral Kikar’ also starts re-growing with inattention. If we correct one bad habit but ignore another, its ‘thorns’ and ‘bushes’ will spread far and wide within a short span of time.
God is our Gardener
We have employed a full-time gardener here. If it were not for his hard work, the animals, weather and harsh climate would not permit the small plants and buds to grow. A Kikar may appear alongside the plants, a goat may eat them up or they may wither away due to lack of water.
The same is true for man. In the absence of regular care, his moral being will not be able to sustain the relentless seasonal attacks of harsh conditions and consequently, may shrivel away. These attacks include oppression and injustice, financial worries and situational torments in addition to the hardships of his environment. In short, anything can be a threat to the existence of man’s moral being.
If anyone can save us humans from this, it is the Lord of the World. He is the One who is our ‘gardener’ and our protector. We need to seek His help. He is the One who grows beautiful green foliage from the filth of manure. He is the One who bestows upon the buds buried deep under tonnes of soil, their eventual stature and lofty exaltedness. He is the One who bestows upon ugly trees the dress of foliage and the covering of shade; and to their flowers, he bestows the beauty and splendour of their blooms as well as their fragrance and vibrancy of colour. The most Merciful God never returns any human being empty handed if he pleads to him for help in this endeavour, by invoking His magnificence and excellence, and by acknowledging His omnipotence and brilliance. From there on, like a gardener, God takes care of his development Himself; his water and his light, his seasons and his plight, are all shaped by the Almighty Himself and ultimately, one day, the ‘Gardener’ sows His favourite ‘plant’ in His eternal garden known as Paradise.
What is Paradise? Just as God created this paradise called Earth in the midst of darkness, fire, rocks and gases, soon He will change the rest of the Universe into a paradise of flowers and gardens as well. That Paradise will be inhabited by human beings of high moral stature. They will radiate beauty from within and without because of their good deeds. In this world, modesty was their dress, in Paradise their attire will be that of silk and gold gossamer. In this world, they preferred to spend their time in mosques in worship; in Paradise, their homes will be palaces made from pearls and precious stones. Piety and God-consciousness was their way of life in this world; in Paradise, they will be destined to enjoy happiness and luxury protected from sorrow, illness and worries. In the world they conversed in a goodly manner; as a reward in the Hereafter, their breath will be as fragrant as perfumes. In this world, they held affection instead of hatred, benevolence instead of malice, and humility instead of arrogance in their hearts. In Paradise, their bodies will be filled with musk instead of blood, ambergris instead of refuse and pure light instead of tendons and blood vessels.
This description of Paradise may be difficult to believe in today’s world, but just look around you. How difficult would it be for that being to accomplish all that I have described above if He is able to produce the beautiful colours of flowers and foliage from something as worthless as manure?
God is pure! Praise is only for Him. There is no Lord but Him; He is the Supreme Being.
Tree and Man
We want people to take ownership of trees in the training centre; that is, each person should personally implant at least one tree and then take care of it by visiting periodically. The reason behind this is that the tree will grow with time and its growth will be a reminder for us all to tend to the mission of the growth and development of our own moral being in a similar manner.
A tree is an excellent teacher of morality for man. Study of the Qur’an reveals that high moral stature is indeed the requirement and goal of religion. If one aims to lead one’s life by this moral standard, one should make the tree as one’s ideal example.
Two aspects of a tree are excellent guides for man in this respect. The foremost aspect of a tree’s life in this regard is its complete lack of prejudice. A tree is a universal product and the whole Universe takes part in its development. A tree sustains its own growth and in doing so, it does not act with prejudice against anyone. It is born from the seed of another tree but, after that, it is inclined to accept water from the sky and the clouds. Without prejudice, it absorbs air from the atmosphere and richness from the soil. It grows with the help of all these elements and transforms itself from a small seed into a strong and shady tree. If it were to show prejudice, no seed would become a tree.
The second lesson that we can learn from a tree’s life is that even when others cause it harm it still treats them with goodness. At the very beginning of its life, it is put down into the Earth but it does not complain; instead, it continues to struggle and succeeds in emerging from the ground. When it sprouts forth, the atmosphere feeds it with carbon dioxide and in return, it provides humans with oxygen. The Earth gives birth to its existence in the form of an ugly root and a shapeless stem but it evolves and returns the favour for its birthright in the form of springs of foliage, flowers and fruit. People pelt it with stones but it showers them with its fruit. It receives sunlight and in return, it provides people with shade. Most importantly, there comes a time when it is cut down but even then, it is useful as it is turned into furniture, a sofa to sit on or a bed to lie down on, thus still benefiting people. When it is burnt in fire, even then it provides people with light and heat in return.
There is no doubt that if there is a human being who, like a tree, is free from all prejudice and wishes well for all God’s creation regardless of reciprocation, God will give him an excellent reward for his patience on the Day of Judgement. He will be permanently repatriated to the eternal Gardens of Eden.
Translated by Bashir Nazir