“A Good Word is like a Good Tree”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

In surah Ibrahim, Allah strikes a clear and vivid example for the believers when He says:

أَلَمْ تَرَ‌ كَيْفَ ضَرَ‌بَ اللَّـهُ مَثَلًا كَلِمَةً طَيِّبَةً كَشَجَرَ‌ةٍ طَيِّبَةٍ أَصْلُهَا ثَابِتٌ وَفَرْ‌عُهَا فِي السَّمَاءِ * تُؤْتِي أُكُلَهَا كُلَّ حِينٍ بِإِذْنِ رَ‌بِّهَا ۗ وَيَضْرِ‌بُ اللَّـهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُ‌ونَ * وَمَثَلُ كَلِمَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ كَشَجَرَ‌ةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ اجْتُثَّتْ مِن فَوْقِ الْأَرْ‌ضِ مَا لَهَا مِن قَرَ‌ارٍ‌

Have you not considered how Allah presents an example: a good word is like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches in the sky? * It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. * And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability. [14:24-26]

Imam ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Naasir al-Sa’di, in his book of tafsir, writes the following explanation of these ayaat:

يقول تعالى‏:‏ ‏{‏أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا كَلِمَةً طَيِّبَة‏}‏ ‏‏ وهي شهادة أن لا إله إلا الله، وفروعها ‏{‏كَشَجَرَةٍ طَيِّبَةٍ‏}‏ وهي النخلة ‏{‏أَصْلُهَا ثَابِتٌ‏}‏ في الأرض ‏{‏وَفَرْعُهَا‏}‏ منتشر ‏{‏فِي السَّمَاءِ‏}‏ وهي كثيرة النفع دائما، ‏{‏تُؤْتِي أُكُلَهَا‏}‏ أي‏:‏ ثمرتها ‏{‏كُلَّ حِينٍ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهَا‏}‏ فكذلك شجرة الإيمان ، أصلها ثابت في قلب المؤمن، علما واعتقادا‏.‏ وفرعها من الكلم الطيب والعمل الصالح والأخلاق المرضية، والآداب الحسنة في السماء دائما يصعد إلى الله منه من الأعمال والأقوال التي تخرجها شجرة الإيمان ما ينتفع به المؤمن وينفع غيره، ‏‏

Allah the Exalted says, “Have you not considered how Allah presents an example: a good word” – and it is the bearing witness that Laa ilaaha illallaah [There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah], and its (associated) subsidiary matters – “is like a good tree” – and this is the date-palm tree – “whose root is firmly fixed” in the ground “and its branches” are widespread “in the sky” and it is prolific in benefit at all times. “It produces its food” – meaning: its fruit – “all the time, by the permission of its Lord” and like this is the tree of al-eemaan. Its root is firm in the heart of the believer, both in terms of knowledge and belief. And its branches include good speech and righteous actions, pleasing manners, and good conduct which are always ascending in the sky towards Allah, and the actions and speech which originate from the tree of al-eemaan from which the believer himself benefits and benefits others (as well).

 ـ {‏وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ‏}‏ ما أمرهم به ونهاهم عنه، فإن في ضرب الأمثال تقريبا للمعاني المعقولة من الأمثال المحسوسة، ويتبين المعنى الذي أراده الله غاية البيان، ويتضح غاية الوضوح، وهذا من رحمته وحسن تعليمه‏.‏ فلله أتم الحمد وأكمله وأعمه، فهذه صفة كلمة التوحيد وثباتها، في قلب المؤمن‏. ـ

And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded” of what He has commanded them with and from what He has forbade them, for verily in the striking of examples which resemble the (desired) meaning, the understanding of the example can be perceived, and it clarifies the meaning which Allah intended to convey, and it makes the objective clear. And this is from His rahmah and excellent pedagogy. So to Allah belongs the most complete and perfect praise and gratitude, for this is a description of the word of al-Tawheed and of its firmness in the heart of the believer.

ثم ذكر ضدها وهي كلمة الكفر وفروعها فقال‏:‏ ‏{‏وَمَثَلُ كَلِمَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ كَشَجَرَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ‏}‏ المأكل والمطعم وهي‏:‏ شجرة الحنظل ونحوها، ‏{‏اجْتُثَّتْ‏}‏ هذه الشجرة ‏{‏مِنْ فَوْقِ الْأَرْضِ مَا لَهَا مِنْ قَرَارٍ‏}‏ أي‏:‏ من ثبوت فلا عروق تمسكها، ولا ثمرة صالحة، تنتجها، بل إن وجد فيها ثمرة، فهي ثمرة خبيثة، كذلك كلمة الكفر والمعاصي، ليس لها ثبوت نافع في القلب، ولا تثمر إلا كل قول خبيث وعمل خبيث يستضر به صاحبه، ولا ينتفع، فلا يصعد إلى الله منه عمل صالح ولا ينفع نفسه، ولا ينتفع به غيره‏.‏

He then mentioned the opposite of that, and that is the word of al-kufr and it’s branches, so He said, “And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree” and (its) produce and food, and it is the bitter apple tree and the like. This tree is “uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability” – meaning: of firmness, nor of steady roots. And neither are its fruit righteous or productive; rather, if one were to find fruit from it, then it would be despicable fruit, just like the word of kufr and disobedience. It does not have any beneficial firmness in the heart, nor does it produce fruit except for every despicable word and despicable action which harms its owner, and it does not bring benefit, nor does it ascend towards Allah with righteous actions. It does not benefit oneself, nor does it benefit others.

Then Allah continues on to say in the next ayah:

يُثَبِّتُ اللَّـهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِالْقَوْلِ الثَّابِتِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَفِي الْآخِرَ‌ةِ ۖ وَيُضِلُّ اللَّـهُ الظَّالِمِينَ ۚ وَيَفْعَلُ اللَّـهُ مَا يَشَاءُ 

Allah keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word, in worldly life and in the Hereafter. And Allah sends astray the wrongdoers. And Allah does what He wills. [14:27]

Imam al-Sa’di continues to explain by writing:

يخبر تعالى أنه يثبت عباده المؤمنين، أي‏:‏ الذين قاموا بما عليهم من إيمان القلب التام، الذي يستلزم أعمال الجوارح ويثمرها، فيثبتهم الله في الحياة الدنيا عند ورود الشبهات بالهداية إلى اليقين، وعند عروض الشهوات بالإرادة الجازمة على تقديم ما يحبه الله على هوى النفس ومراداتها‏.‏

Allah the Exalted informs us that He makes firm His believing slaves, meaning: those who establish what is obligatory on them of complete eemaan of the heart, which includes the deeds of the limbs and its fruits. So Allah makes them steadfast in the life of this world and refutes the doubts with guidance which leads to certainty, and will repel desires with a strong will to prioritize one’s love for Allah over personal desires and their destructive capacity.

وفي الآخرة عند الموت بالثبات على الدين الإسلامي والخاتمة الحسنة، وفي القبر عند سؤال الملكين، للجواب الصحيح، إذا قيل للميت ‏”‏ من ربك‏؟‏ وما دينك‏؟‏ ومن نبيك‏؟‏ ‏”‏ هداهم للجواب الصحيح بأن يقول المؤمن‏:‏ ‏”‏ الله ربي والإسلام ديني ومحمد نبيي ‏”‏

And in regards to  the Hereafter, death and a good ending will come while one is steadfast upon the religion of Islam. And in the grave there will be the question of the two angels, and the correct response. When it is said to the deceased, “Who is your Lord? And what is your religion? And who is your prophet?” He will be guided to the correct answer which is the statement of the believer, “Allah is my Lord and Islam is my religion and Muhammad is my prophet”.

‏{‏وَيُضِلُّ اللَّهُ الظَّالِمِينَ‏}‏ عن الصواب في الدنيا والآخرة، وما ظلمهم الله ولكنهم ظلموا أنفسهم، وفي هذه الآية دلالة على فتنة القبر وعذابه، ونعيمه، كما تواترت بذلك النصوص عن النبي ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ في الفتنة، وصفتها، ونعيم القبر وعذابه‏.‏

And Allah sends astray the wrongdoers” from the correct way in this life and in the Hereafter, and Allah does not wrong them but they wrong themselves. And in this ayah there is proof of the fitnah of the grave, and its punishment or bliss [in the grave], just as that is reported numerously in the texts from the Prophet (ﷺ) about the fitnah and its descriptions, and about the bliss in the grave, or its punishment.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 492-493]

See also: Whoever believes in Allah – He will guide his heart in times of trials: Tafsir al-Qurtubi

See also: Whoever abandons good will be tested with evil: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Surely either we or you are upon right guidance, or in clear error

 

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3 thoughts on ““A Good Word is like a Good Tree”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

  1. Pingback: Whoever believes in Allah – He will guide his heart in times of trials: Tafsir al-Qurtubi | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Whoever abandons good will be tested with evil: Imam al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: Surely either we or you are upon right guidance, or in clear error | Tulayhah

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