The very tree which witnessed a life-changing incident for the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) stands today as a living testimonial to the interfaith and nature-revering roots of Islam.
Over 1,400 years ago, under the shade of a tree in the Arabian desert, a Christian hermit monk named Bahira became the first person to recognise the young Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as the Prophet for the end of time. Today, that tree stands isolated in the depths of the Jordanian desert as the only living witness to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). A beautiful film has now been produced charting the importance of that tree as well as its discovery years after the incident. Titled ‘The Blessed Tree,’ it charts the journey of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) with his uncle Abu Talib (RA) across the Arabian desert to modern-day Syria for trade. The caravan is believed to have weaved its way across what is now Jordan and made a stop at the residence of the Christian monk, Bahira.
According to several accounts, the monk Bahira saw a cloud shielding somebody amongst the caravan’s members and when they reached the tree, it passed along this duty of providing shade to the tree. The monk sensed the important presence of a spiritual leader amongst the visitors and was eager to meet them all and set his eyes on the person the cloud was shielding. After meeting everyone on the caravan, he asked whether there was anybody else – he didn’t feel a great spiritual connection with any of them and so still felt something was missing. They replied that there wasn’t anyone else and then they remembered that they had a left a young boy to care for the animals.
Bahira insisted on meeting the young boy, who was a young, pre-prophethood Muhammad (SAW), and then asked who he was. Abu Talib (RA) replied that it was his son. Bahira responded that this couldn’t be so as this boy’s father was no longer alive. Abu Talib (RA) was shocked and asked Bahira how he could possibly have known this and the monk simply responded by telling him to watch over the boy and protect him from his enemies for he would be the prophet to come at the end of time.
The amazing thing about this important meeting, which foretold the Prophet’s (SAW) amazing future, is that the tree is still alive today. The very tree which witnessed the life-changing incident still stands as a living testimonial to interfaith and nature-revering roots of Islam. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan relates that on his return from studying at Cambridge, his late uncle, King Hussein, put him to work in the Royal Archives. It was there that researchers discovered numerous references to the tree in a forgotten inventory of the holy sites in Jordan made by King Abdullah I.
Indeed, the film has beautiful footage of the Jordanian desert where the tree is located as well as interviews with some of the most famous Islamic scholars of our time. They explore important themes such as the shade of the cloud and tree as a symbol of mercy and protection – which reflects the Prophet’s (SAW) role as an interceder at the end of time when he will ask Allah (SWT) for forgiveness for his followers and indeed all the people of mankind. Renowned scholars such as Abdal Hakim Murad, Prof. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Jum’a, Muhammad Ramadan Al-Buti, Al-Habib ‘Umar bin Hafeeth and Al-Habib Ali al-Jifri are all in the film and the majority were able to visit the tree and to convey their immediate reaction to it.
Prof. Seyyed Hossein Nasr is particularly interested in the relevance of the tree today and what we can learn from it spiritually. “There is, in a sense, a vertical dimension that goes through our heart vertically through our head and up to Heaven. The line of transcendence. This is the inner tree,” he explains. “The roots of it are actually the roots of the Divine reality in our hearts. For most human beings this tree has dried up because they are not aware of its roots. It is virtually there but not actually; and the spiritual life means the reviving of this tree within us by sinking the roots of the Divine once again in our hearts.” Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is also eager to point out that the tree itself plays an important role in reviving our spiritual life. “The Blessed Tree has a fruit, the seed of which plants a new branch of iman (faith) in the heart. I literally felt my iman increase while watching this film. There are parts which would reduce even the hardest of hearts to tears.”
It is undoubtable that the blessed tree could play a hugely positive role in the Islamic ummah and raise our awareness of the importance of nature and the interconnected histories of all the Abrahamic faiths. At a time when we all seem to be at odds with each other and struggling to increase our faith, it is startling that a solitary pistachio tree could offer us so much.
You can purchase the The Blessed Tree DVD from One Thousand Films or download a HD digital version for $9.85.
Arwa Aburawa is a freelance journalist based in the UK with a special interest in environmental issues and the Muslim world. She is also the Eco-Islam editor at GreenProphet.com which is leading news site on green issues in the Middle East. You can see more of her work at arwafreelance.com