By Ustaz Abubakr Siddeeq Muhammad
Would any of you like to have a garden of date-palms and vines, through which running waters flow, and have all manner of fruit therein – and then be overtaken by old age, with only weak children to [look after] him – and then [see] it smitten by a fiery whirlwind and utterly scorched? In this way, God makes clear His messages unto you, so that you might take thought. (al-Baqarah: 266)
This verse is linguistically miraculous; one of such verses in the Glorious Qur’an. It is also miraculous in its meaning to the extent that people disagreed on its import.
One day Umar sat with some of the companions of the Messenger of Allah and asked them “Concerning whom do you think this verse was revealed?” They replied, “Allah know best.” Umrah became angry and said, “
Answer me by saying you know or you do not know.” Whereupon, Ibn ‘Abbas said, “O Commander of the Faithful! I have something in my mind about it.” ‘Umar said, “O son of my brother! Say it and don’t underestimate yourself.” Ibn ‘Abbas said, “This verse has been set up as an example for deeds.” ‘Umrah said, “What kind of deeds?” Ibn ‘Abbas said, “For deeds.” ‘Umar said, “This is an example for a rich man who does good out of obedience of Allah and then Allah sends him Satan whereupon he commits sins till all his good deeds are lost.”
Would any of you like to have a garden of date-palms and vines, through which running waters flow, and have all manner of fruit therein…?
Allah stresses the components of the garden to signify its worth because the more valuable a thing is, the more painful losing it will be to the owner. To the Arabs, there was nothing like a garden of date palms and vines. Little effort was required in the planting but the benefits were endless spanning a very long period of time. In the case of the garden under discussion, through which running waters flow, so watering was easily achieved with or without rainfall, and have all manner of fruit therein.
The produce of the garden was not confined to date palms and vines; it has all manner of fruit therein. What a garden is this! What a description! Nothing was missed out. Don’t waste time listing names of apple, oranges, cherry, pomegranate, plum, raspberry, nectarine, kiwi, avocado…; no, this garden has all manner of fruit.
Then, suddenly, the owner of this magnificent garden, be overtaken by old age, enfeeblement. Every new day comes with an additional weakness. Old people know this very well.
It is like we are being reduced to nothingness by the day. So, the owner of the garden, feeble and weak as he becomes, with only weak children to (look after) him; in that state of affairs they can neither help him nor help themselves. He fears what will happen to these children after him. His only hope for a better life of what remains of his own life and that of the children was the garden. Then, as if from the blues, he sees the garden smitten by a fiery whirlwind and utterly scorched. Everything burnt to ashes!
One interesting thing is that wind, whenever it appears in the Qur’an, is feminine – except in this place it took a masculine gender feehi – and not feehaa – a fiery wind.
The wind itself was enough to blight the garden and whatever was in it within seconds and a remnant of something might be found even after the destruction, but where the whirlwind was accompanied by fire, then the garden was assuredly blighted completely within the blink of an eye. It was smitten by a fiery whirlwind and utterly scorched. Everything burnt to ashes!
In this way, God makes clear His messages unto you so that you might take thought.
Man, in this world, is ever faced with challenges and is tested. The world will end and the Hereafter is surely coming. That is a day of mutual disillusion. (Tagaabun 64:9); the day of the Supreme Horror (al-Anbiyaa 103). Every one of us wants to be saved on that day
Whoso is removed from the Fire and is made to enter Paradise, he indeed is triumphant. The life of this world is but comfort of illusion. (Aali-Imraan 185)
Man will search on this day for one good deed, just one…. And that is why we pray:
“Our Lord! Give unto us in the world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and guard us against the doom of Fire.”
And people will see towering heights of mountains but they are not mountains; they are the Sadaqah of those who were sincere in what they gave in Allah’s way.
The Messenger of Allah said:
“No one gives Sadaqah of a date out of his honest earning, but Allah accepts it with His Right Hand, and then fosters it as one of you fosters the colt or a young she-camel, till it becomes like a mountain or even greater.”
A man will remember that he had given Sadaqah, yes, certainly, he had, many, many times, but will search and search and will not get anything of that Sadaqah. No traces of any of his good works at the time that he needed even the reward of one good deed. That is the similitude of the man in the verse we are studying; that man who had a garden of date-palms and vines, through which running waters flowed, and had all manner of fruit therein. He was hoping to retire at his old age, enjoy life and take care of his feeble offspring as the garden was enough to make him and his family comfortable. And then suddenly, the garden was smitten by a fiery whirlwind and was utterly scorched.
Would any of us want to be in a similar position like that of the man in the verse? He’s already old and infirm.
He cannot start all over again. Everything is gone. His children are too young to do anything for themselves, pay for their school fees and whatnot. What a hopeless situation! The desperate need for the garden at the time of its total annihilation by the old man, so will a man be in need of one good deed on the Day of the Great Assembly and will not have any, even though he had given Sadaqah and did many good deeds during the life of the world. That is on “the day when wealth and sons avail not (any man) Save him who bringeth unto Allah a whole heart”. He will be in need of a good deed in vain on that day since he wasted the reward of his deeds as the whirlwind blighted the garden of the old man.
And the words of Ibn Abbas which pleased Umrah are part of the opinions expressed by others, even though al-Bukhari has reported it. They said that the commentary is on one who expended his substance only to be seen and praised by men. It is also a warning to a believer not to waste the reward of his Sadaqah by stressing his own benevolence and hurting (the feelings of the needy).
Of course, the words of Ibn Abbas are stronger in this regard since among people is he who is born a believer, lives as a believer but dies an infidel. ‘…verily one of you behaves like the people of Paradise until there is but an arm’s length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he behaves like the people of Hell-fire and thus he enters it;..’ Man is not certain what will happen to him until the end.
One of such deeds is wasiyyah, bequest that causes injury to others.
The Prophet said:
‘A man and a woman act in obedience to God for sixty years then when they are about to die they cause injury by their will, so they must go to hell.’
A man serves Allah for 60 years – Fasting, Sallah, Hajj, Umrah, Sadaqah, Zakah – and death comes. He has a single daughter; no male child. He bequeathed his entire wealth to his daughter so that his brethren (her uncles and aunts) will not have anything of his heritage. This he did for a number of reasons – his brothers and sisters were not good to him; they wished him no good and whatnot. Family issues that we all have.
He detested that they should have anything of his property so he willed everything to his only daughter, and thus, changed the ordinance of Allah which rendered useless his service of 60 years just as the garden that was smitten by a fiery whirlwind and was utterly scorched.
As we also saw in the Hadeeth the example “of a rich man who does good out of obedience of Allah and then Allah sends him Satan whereupon he commits sins till all his good deeds are lost.”