There used to be three healthy and beautiful bushes in my backyard. In the Spring and Summer they were gorgeous with green glossy leaves, flowers, and red tips at the top. For many years they stood tall and thick, providing extra privacy from the next-door-neighbors. Recently, however, they became sick; struck by some sort of disease to the point they became almost entirely bare and dry. But, there was still life in them and they struggled along with my father’s vigilance and help.
In doing so, one of them has come back strong and bushy. Another one, unfortunately, had to be replaced, and the last one we pruned today in the hopes it would provide room and growth for the other struggling, yet flowering branches. Many of the ones we removed were dry and barren, containing no leaves, flowers or buds.
It was during this process that my mind, for some reason I cannot explain, was drawn back to the Bible, and the many parables Jesus (peace and blessing be upon him) recited to his followers, about planting and gardening.
Jesus says in the Bible: 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch that bears no fruit. 2Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” [John 15: 1-2]
This act of symbolic evaluation and surgical removal also reminded me of the words of God in the Quran.
38 “And if you turn away, He will replace you with another people, and they will not be like you.” [Quran 47: 38]
I also thought about a similar, yet converse, parable spoken by Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) about the seeds that did not grow and produce, compared to the ones that did, and the Quran’s affirmation of that parable.
29 “And their [the believers] description in the Gospel is like a seed, which puts forth its sprout, then strengthens it, then it becomes thick and stands firmly on its stem, delighting the sowers.” [Quran 48:29]
3 “Then he [Jesus] told them many things in parables, saying: A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” [Matthew 13: 3-9]
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” [Matthew 13: 18-23]
These Biblical parables and Quranic ayat (signs) granted me an amazing spiritual connection through nature, as I observed my father cutting, and as I cut branches myself, for which I am grateful to God. I thought about the connection between the removal of branches spoken by Jesus, and the removal of people by God in the Quran.
I self accounted and wondered, am I one of these barren or sparsely vegetated branches? If I was this tree, would God remove me and throw me into the fire as Jesus goes on to say in verses that follow in John 15: 6, 6“Such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned?”
Am I diseased like this tree? Just like tree whose roots are diseased and thus it affects the entire tree, is my heart diseased, and by extension, as the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) tells us, in my body diseased?
But as my father and I wanted to save the tree, recognizing it was trying to come back; that it was struggling to get better, I felt hope that, though my heart may be diseased, if I prune my branches, if I struggle, if I try, God is indeed Forgiving, Merciful.
While God is the all knowing, the wise, my father and I were still not sure what was afflicting the bush, so we visited the local plant nursery to see if they could help us. They did. Their advice? Use this spray to help get rid of the fungus on the leaves. Use this ratio of the solution to water, spray over the whole bush, then do it again 10 days later. It was also possible the bush as being over watered so they suggested we cut the water for 4 weeks, put some fertilizer and see what happens.
What causes disease in our hearts? One cause is over indulgence, similar to the, possible over watering of the bush. What am I over indulging in, in my life? Food? Facebook? Am I indulging myself to death with all kinds of Entertainment (Movies, Games, Sports, Music, etc), my Family, my Friends, my Children, my Work, Extra-Curricular activities? Myself? This requires self-reflection and honesty with ones’ self. While recognition is important, so is that old saying: “An ounce of Prevention, is worth a pound of Cure.” What do I need to cut down on to prevent more disease, and help my heart heal?
A second solution for disease is medicine, like the solution spray. There is a ratio of medicine to the bush or person. Some need more, some need less, in one sitting and it must be accompanied by a strict regimen. What heals the heart? The Quran. 57 “O mankind, there has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers,” [10:57]. My heart is located inside my breast [my chest]. This spiritual medicine for the heart needs a particular dosage, some need (to read) more (ayat) than others, and it needs to be done on a set schedule, with regularity. If I am really sick, I might need more Quran in one sitting; if I am less sick, I may need less in one dosage, but I still need to keep up that relationship and regularity. Am I reading the Quran regularly? Do I have a set schedule with the Quran? If I do, am I keeping it, or am I slacking?
The extra fertilizer is like extra worship and good deeds. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) reminded us this saying: “Fear Allah wherever you are. And follow up a bad deed with a good deed and it will wipe it out. And behave towards the people with a good behavior,” (at-Tirmidhi). When was the last time I did a good deed for God, and Him alone? Have I pleased my parents, kept the ties close with family, smiled at a stranger, opened a door for someone, lowered my gaze, etc.? At what level is my sincerity? When was the last time I stayed up to pray an extra few prayers (sunnah), or did I pray Isha late at night instead? Have I ever planned to get up before Fajr for extra prayers and supplication (du’as)?
The last piece of advice the nursery gave us was to cut the water for 4 weeks, as an effort to save the tree. What do we do during the 4 weeks of Ramadan? What do we do in general when we cut ourselves off from something? Fasting. Fasting is another potent solution to re-enliven the heart. It is also a way to help curb over indulgence When was the last time I fasted? When I fasted was it just from food, water and fornication, or was it a true fast from physical and visual wrongdoing, nasty, mean words, backbiting, etc? Should I start a regimen of fasting? Three days a month, twice a week, every other day?
These are questions I needed to ask myself. Many times our perceptions of people, or in my case a sick tree, are mirrors for our inner selves. I am still in wonder and amazement, that a bush reminded me of scripture. Today God reminded that His creation is a powerful sign of Him, as well as an aid for me to get closer to Him.
Allahu Akbar. God truly is Greater, the Greatest.
All praise and thanks are due to God. I hope those who read this can benefit from it.
Anything good I have said is from God, and anything bad, wrong, or incorrect is from myself, and I ask God’s forgiveness and mercy for my shortcomings and faults.
Peace and Blessings.