Clergy Corner

Three Trees

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ImageWe can choose to be any of these three people, so let us not end up as the third. Rather, let us correct ourselves and stay firm on the straight path of Islam.

Sayyid Atiq Ebady

Three men who are neighbors plant seeds into the ground and look to care for them. One man makes sure that his new seedling receives the proper amount of water and sunlight and that the soil is rich and fertile. The other two men plant their seeds where there is not much sunlight, the ground is dry, and they do not water them regularly.

Some years go by; the trees sprout from the earth and give off branches and leaves. But the trees do not grow the same. The man who gave his tree sunlight and proper water and made sure that it was protected from predators sees his tree grow tall, blossoming with beautiful leaves and the first signs of fruit. The other two trees are not so breathtaking. They are short, with few leaves and no promise of any fruit.

A few more years pass, and the owner of the good tree has molded his tree into a beautiful shape. He made sure its trunk was straight, and that the branches had ample room to spread out. Every day he can rest in its shade and reach up to pick a delicious fruit. The other two trees have not made much progress. They have bent with the wind, and their branches are scarce with leaves. The owner of one of these trees does not like the appearance of his tree, and it does not provide him with anything good. He looks to his neighbor's tree, which is tall and beautiful and brings pleasure to its owner. He wants his tree to become like that one, so he inquires from his neighbor as to how he can improve his tree. His friend tells him that his tree is still not fully grown, and that he has time to correct some of its defects. He tells his neighbor how to move it from its bad place to another place where it can get sunlight. And he shows him how to water it and helps him build a fence to protect it, until it is strong enough to stand on its own. The third neighbor looks on in indifference and smirks at their efforts. He looks at his own sorry tree and does not care for it.

After a few more years, the first tree is fully grown and a pleasure to look at. Many animals and birds rest in its trunk and branches, it gives shade to them when it is hot, its flowers bring butterflies of all colors, and its owner collects baskets of fruit which he shares with his family, neighbors, and friends. The tree that he helped nurture back to health is doing much better. It has straightened out, it is full of leaves, and it is growing fruit. It is not as strong as the first tree but is fully grown, and its owner now shares its fruits with his family, neighbors, and friends.

The owner of the third tree now looks on and sees his neighbors enjoying the fruits of their labor. But he cannot gain anything from his own tree. It is bent in different ways, its roots are dry, it has no leaves, its branches are withering, and its trunk has been devoured by insects and burrowing predators. The owner himself is too weak to do any work on the tree, he does not know how to care for it, and he is too stubborn to ask for help. The tree itself is beyond healing, and any movement would break its branches, trunk or roots.

These three trees are three people. One is the person who spends all his life caring for his soul. The second is the person who makes mistakes but corrects himself and returns to the right path. The third is the person who never cares for his spiritual well-being and becomes so set in his ways that he cannot return to the right path.

We can choose to be any of these three people, so let us not end up as the third. Rather, let us correct ourselves and stay firm on the straight path of Islam.

Sayyid Atiq Ebady is the resident scholar of the Imam Ali Masjid in Pennsauken, New Jersey. He is the author of a fictional book entitled
Warrior Saints, more information about which can be found on his website.

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