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Q. Which tree does the Qurân describe as a "Blessed Tree"?

A. The palm tree of course, right? Wrong. While the first tree that springs to mind in regard to the Middle East is the palm tree, the tree the Qurân distinguishes as blessed is the olive tree.

Allâh Ta'ala says in Sûratun Nûr, âyah 35:
Allâh Ta'ala is the light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His Light is that of a niche wherein there is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is like a shining star. The lamp is lit with oil from a blessed tree - the olive. It is neither too eastern nor western. It is as if the olive oil is about to shine forth without fire having touched it. Light upon light! Allâh Ta'ala guides with His Light whomsoever He wills. He narrates parables unto mankind. And Allâh Ta'ala knows everything.

Commentary

Allâh Ta'ala is the light of the heavens and the earth. The sun is literally a light in the heavens and we have many electric lights in our homes on earth. Do we, Allâh Ta'ala forbid, call these lights Allâh Ta'ala? Obviously a deeper meaning is intended. A casual translation, a common and dangerous practise today, is insufficient. This is why Rasûlullâh sallAllâh Ta'alau 'alayhi wa sallam said, "He who opines in the Qurân has sinned even if his opinion is correct." [al-Bukhârî].

A primary principle of Tafsîr (commentary of the Qurân) is, "One part of the Qurân explains another." When we look at the end of the âyah, "Allâh Ta'ala guides with His Light whomsoever He wills," we understand the full meaning to be Allâh Ta'ala is the giver of the light of guidance in the Heavens and earth. Where does this light of guidance go to?

The example of His Light is that of a niche wherein there is a lamp. The special focus of guidance is Mankind represented by the niche. Allâh Ta'ala says elsewhere in the Qurân, "Verily we presented the trust (of accepting guidance and accountability) to the skies, the earth and the mountains but they refused to bear it and feared it. Mankind then bore it…" Mankind is therefore Allâh Ta'ala's vicegerent on earth. He is the special recipient of guidance. His mission is special and his responsibility heavy.

Within man there lies an organ which is the special seat of guidance (or misguidance). Rasûlullâh sallAllâh Ta'alau 'alayhi wa sallam said, "Verily there is in the body a lump of flesh. When it is correct the entire body is correct. When it is corrupt the entire body is corrupt. Hear! It is the heart." The lamp thus represents the heart.

Once this lamp is filled with the light of guidance it shines and dispels the darkness of kufr (disbelief). The brightness is described with further examples, "The lamp is in a glass." Not only old oil lamps, but even modern electrical bulbs are covered in glass. Why? If the glass is removed the emitted light dissipates and its benefit is much lessened. The glass helps to amplify the light. Similarly faith and guidance really benefit when coupled with righteous deeds. No doubt the heart is of primary importance but the Qurân always emphasises deeds with faith. Those who reject having to perform righteous deeds, in fact reject the Qurân's message and the way of Rasûlullâh sallAllâh Ta'alau 'alayhi wa sallam.

A lamp is useless if it does not have a source of fuel. "The lamp is lit with oil from a blessed tree - the olive." Olive oil is the best oil. Allâh Ta'ala calls its tree blessed and as shall be discussed Rasûlullâh sallAllâh Ta'alau 'alayhi wa sallam has recommended its use.

The oil refers to sincerity and willingness to accept the truth. A deed without sincerity is invalid. Every deed should solely be for Allâh Ta'ala. One who is unable to accept the truth is also deprived of guidance.

Allâh Ta'ala further adds to the oil's quality stating the tree to be, "neither too eastern nor western." An olive tree on the eastern side of a structure only receives sunlight in the morning when the sun rises in the east. The western tree only receives in the afternoon. Both trees produce oil of poor quality. The best oil is produced by that tree which absorbs sunlight the entire day. Similarly Muslims are Ummatan Wasatan, the moderate nation. Extremism in belief, attitude and action is alien to the spirit of Islâm. An example of our moderation is while some nations reject their prophets and some on the other extreme deify their prophets, Islâm teaches that prophets are the most perfect humans who should be obeyed, yet they are humans not gods.

"It is as if the olive oil is about to shine forth without fire having touched it." The purity of the oil is related to purity of intention as has been discussed. A distinguishing feature of this Ummah is that it is rewarded for intentions separately. A Hadîth states that one who intends a good deed is rewarded for it and when he fulfils the deed his reward is multiplied tenfold. The Qurân confirms, "He who brings forth a good deed receives ten times the like of it but he who brings an evil will only receive the like thereof and they will not be wronged." [Al-an'âm: 160].

Hadîth

The virtues of olive oil are also mentioned in the Hadîth. Abû Usayd radiyallâhu 'anhu and 'Umar bin al-Khattâb radiyallâhu 'anhu narrated that Rasûlullâh sallAllâh Ta'alau 'alayhi wa sallam said: "Use olive oil for eating and rubbing on the body. It is from a blessed tree."

[Reference: Ash-Shamâil lit-Tirmizî, Chapter on the curry of Rasûlullâh sallAllâh Ta'alau 'alayhi wa sallam.]

Mawlânâ Zakarîyâ Kandalwî comments:
The blessed status of the olive tree has been mentioned in Sûratun Nûr, ayah 35, "…from a blessed tree,an olive tree, neither easterly nor westerly.." 'Ulamâ have mentioned various reasons for its blessedness. Some say that it is mostly grown in Syria. Syria is blessed because (at least) 70 prophets were sent to it.

Others say the olive tree is blessed due to its many benefits. Abû Nu'aym says, "It has a cure for seventy diseases, one of which is leprosy. Ibn 'Abbâs radiyAllâh Ta'alau 'anhumâ said, "Every part of the olive is beneficial. The oil is used for burning and cooking. It is also used for tanning leather. The wood is used for fire. The ash of the olive is especially good for washing silk."

It is said that the olive tree has a long life. It bears fruit after forty years and has a lifespan of a thousand. The books of medicine mention its many benefits.

The reason for mentioning this Hadîth in the practices of Rasûlullâh sallAllâh Ta'alau 'alayhi wa sallam, is that if he encouraged the use of olives he must have used it himself.

Bible

The Bible makes numerous references to olives as well. Some examples:

  • " A dove from the ark brought an olive leaf to Noah after the Flood (Genesis 8:11).
  • " Olive oil was used to fuel the Menorah in The Tabernacle in the Wilderness (Leviticus 24:1-2), and later in the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • " When the Israelites entered The Promised Land upon completion of their 40-year Wilderness Journey after the Exodus, there were established olive groves awaiting them (Deuteronomy 6:11).

Background

The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean region where it has been cultivated since ancient times. Its height ranges from 3-12 meters. The fruit was used as food and its oil used for lamps. Commercial production continues today on a large scale in many countries.

Health Benefits

As shown in the commentary of the Hadîth, Muslims long ago recognised the health benefits of olives and olive oil which Allâh Ta'ala had created. The Western world has just begun to research these matters.

Heart disease: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of America has approved a qualified health claim for olive oil based on research that indicated consuming about 2 tablespoons of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, which can lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol in your blood. According to the FDA, you get the most of these benefits by substituting olive oil for saturated fats, such as in butter, rather than just adding more olive oil to your diet. Colon cancer: Spanish researchers suggest that including olive oil in your diet may also offer benefits in terms of colon cancer prevention.

Bowel cancer: Researchers at the Institute of Health Sciences, London, suspect olive oil protects against bowel cancer by influencing the metabolism of the gut. They think it cuts the amount of a substance called deoxycyclic acid and regulates the enzyme diamine oxidase which may be linked to cell division in the bowel.

Skin cancer: There is a low incidence of skin cancer among Mediterranean populations, and olive oil consumption could be a contributing factor to this low cancer rate. Olive oil contains high amounts of squalene which is largely transferred to the skin. German researchers believe that this transfer is probably accomplished by scavenging singlet oxygen generated by ultraviolet light. Japanese scientists claim that virgin olive oil applied to the skin after sunbathing could protect against skin cancer by slowing tumour growth.

The list goes on …..

Types of olive oil

Generally, olive oil is extracted by pressing or crushing olives. Olive oil comes in different varieties, depending on the amount of processing involved. Varieties include:

  • Extra virgin - considered the best, least processed, comprising the oil from the first pressing of the olives.
  • Virgin - from the second pressing.
  • Pure - undergoes some processing, such as filtering and refining.
  • Extra light - undergoes considerable processing and only retains a slight olive flavour.

When buying olive oil you will want to obtain high quality EXTRA VIRGIN oil. The oil that is extracted without using heat (a cold press) or chemicals, and has no "off" flavours is awarded "extra virgin" status. The less the olive oil is handled, the closer to its natural state, the better the oil. If the olive oil meets all the criteria, it can be designated as "extra virgin".

What is pure and light olive oil? "Pure" olive oil is made by adding a little extra virgin olive oil to refined olive oil. It is a lesser grade oil. "Light" olive oil is a marketing concept and not a classification of olive oil grades. It is completely unregulated. It may be mixed with other vegetable oils.

Palestine

The olive tree is an encoded element of the Palestinian identity and culture. The relation, which evolved over centuries between the two steady elements of this land; man and olive, had its prints on the various aspects of Palestinians lives, mainly, social and economic. Olive trees products have always provided a source of livelihood to thousands of Palestinian families from centuries to this day. It represented about 40% of income from fruit trees in Palestine.

Over the years of Zionist occupation, the olive harvest season became one of agony and despair after being once a source of joy. The Zionist imposed restrictions during the olive harvest season have caused untold hardship to the Palestinian farmers. They deny them access to their lands, confiscate or damage olive harvests, attack the farmers while harvesting and often release dogs on them to terrorize them to leave the fields.

It is easy for the Army and settlers to harass the Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest season. The bulk of olive groves are located within areas defined as area 'C' where the Zionists have complete control, and the Palestinian Authority has none. The Army has declared many areas during the olive harvest season as "closed military areas" where Palestinians are required to obtain permits issued by the Zionist civil administration to let them enter areas where the olive groves are located.

They have targeted the olive trees throughout the ongoing occupation of Palestine as a systematic aggression to divest the lands from its Palestinian owners. Hundreds of thousands of olive trees were uprooted in Palestine over the years to build Zionist settlements, construct bypass roads, and establish security bases. The number of uprooted olive trees has been doubled since the Zionists started constructing the Segregation Wall and the security buffer zone that goes along with it. According to ARIJ GIS (Applied Research Institute Jerusalem) database, more than 1.2 million olive trees were uprooted since 1967 out of 12+ million olive trees in the Palestinian occupied territory.

According to Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture statistic report, the number of olive trees uprooted and destroyed as of the breakout of the second Intifada in September 2000 until 31/12/2005, Israel uprooted a total of 464,945 olive trees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, (157,831) in the West Bank and (307,831) in Gaza Strip.

 

Conclusion

The olive like every other creation is a sign of the greatness of Allâh Ta'ala. Whatever benefit it contains is solely due to the Creator. Enjoy and use it as Rasûlullâh sallAllâh Ta'alau 'alayhi wa sallam advised. Do not however forget those to whom the olive is a life and death struggle.

 
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