Adapted From the Hadith of the ‘Crying tree trunk’
By Karri Beth Jacques
I was once a tall green palm tree. I gave shade and grew dates for men to collect and eat. I was happy where I stood for many years. Then the time came for the humans to use my trunk for wood. My leaves were cut away and dried to make a roof for man’s shelter. I accepted my purpose. I was useful.
They gave me a new place in the ground where I could still stand tall. My new purpose was to be a pillar. In place of my leaves, I now supported a thatched roof of dried palm leaves, twigs, and beams.
I didn’t know how it was possible for me to have senses. I could feel, hear, and see. Why was it, I wondered, that I was still aware of myself and those around me? I was not a living tree anymore, I had no roots. I could not taste the water in the ground. I called to the other tree trunks around me. None of them would answer me. I cried out to my creator, worried that something was wrong. Shhhhhhh…..whispered a soft comforting wind.
Then he came. He rested his back against me as he stood talking. He had a radiant glow about him. He had a rich voice more pleasant to hear than the songs of birds who used to rest their wings perched on the thick spines of my leaves.
He spoke of my creator, the one whom all created things praised, and obeyed. In all my long year’s, mankind was the only creature I saw not obeying Allah. I felt very sad for these creatures. They were born without knowing their purpose. But, here was a man, a prophet, who was grateful to Allah and taught man to praise and obey the Creator.
How grand was my new purpose? I was not just a pillar. My purpose was not to support a roof but to support the back of this great man. I loved him with all of my tree spirit. For five years he stood and leaned against me while he spoke.
The great prophet (PBUH) grew older. He began to feel tired standing and speaking during the blessed Friday prayer. I worried about him. What if he could no longer give his speeches leaning against me? What greater purpose was there for me to have? After all, I was only a tree trunk.
Then I heard a companion suggest making a minbar for the prophet to sit on during his speeches. Oh No! If I were a human my breath would have stopped, and my heart would have ceased its beating. But, I am just a tree, so my cry was silent. I dreaded the day when I would lose my prophet. No one noticed my shaking.
When the dreaded day came, the men carried the wooden minbar to its place. It had three steps and a seat. They thought it was beautiful. I thought it looked like a thief. It had stolen my purpose. Now, this minbar will have the honor of having the prophet (PBUH) rest on it instead of against me. I began to shake. I would miss my prophet terribly. I would miss his warm back resting against me. I would miss his beautiful light, his gentle touch, and his company.
The prophet came and passed me by. He climbed the three steps and sat on his new minbar.
I began to cry. Then I wept. Then I wailed and sobbed loudly. I mourned his absence.
The men looked around for a crying human. I wanted to shake them! Did they not realize that all created things also loved what was loved by Allah?
My shaking caused cracks and pieces of my wood to splinter and fall to the ground. The roof and walls shook.
Then I heard the prophet ask the people, ” Are you all surprised by the crying of this piece of wood?” He knew. My prophet knew it was me crying, but it was little comfort. He would not be resting against me this day or any other.
Astonished the men all looked at me and asked, “Is it you crying, how can a dry piece of wood cry?”
I wanted to shout at them “”I am dry but I am not lifeless!” By the miracle of my creator, I have life, I think, I feel, I love.” “I love my prophet.”
Everyone gathered around me. They joined me in crying and weeping. They understood my loss of purpose. They saw me as a miracle. Allah had allowed them to witness the love of creation for the Creator and his prophet.
I shook and I shook until I felt the soothing touch of my prophet’s hand on me. He stroked my dry bark. Slowly, my sobs turned to weeping then whimpers, and finally, I calmed.
Then I heard the prophet (PBUH) say: “By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if I had not touched it, it would have carried on like that until the Day of Resurrection, out of sorrow for my departure.”
The Prophet (PBUH) said, “I have been given a choice of either returning it to a living tree or it becoming a tree of Jannah. It will be irrigated with water from the streams of Jannah and the people of Jannah will eat its fruits.” “I prefer, he said, “that it become a tree of Jannah.”
When I heard this news, I wept with joy knowing firmly that I would be with my prophet again someday. I was then cut down from my place in man’s shelter. The prophet’s companions took me to be buried. Giving me back to the Earth I grew from.
I woke in a garden greener than any green I had ever seen. There were the sweetest smelling flowers of every color and the largest fruits ripe for picking. My thirsty roots tasted the most refreshing water I had ever drunk. The light was warm but not harsh like the sun, the birds that landed on the spines of my leaves were green.
Then he came. “Assalamu Alaikum, my dear leaning post,” he greeted me. It was my prophet, he has come! Oh, what a wonderful day this is! I shook my leaves in a return greeting to him. Then he smiled and gathered some of my fruits to give to the people of Jannah.
Image 2 minbar: African Mosques