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Planting Tree as Viewed by the Prophet and the Infallible Imams

Forests and trees have an undeniable place in the welfare, comfort, and prosperity of human societies.

The role of the tree in the lives of humans and even other creatures can be studied from different angles. The Holy Qur’an, referring to the burning of fire, which is one of the necessities of human life, says:

الَّذي جَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنَ الشَّجَرِ الْأَخْضَرِ ناراً فَإِذا أَنْتُمْ مِنْهُ تُوقِدُونَ

“He, who made for you fire out of the green tree, and, behold, you light fire from it!” (The Holy Qur’an, 36:80)

This noble verse considers one of the signs of the power of God to be the creation of fire that is produced from the green tree since it is so amazing how a green tree with its cool and refreshing shade protects one from the heat and the scorching sun, but in another process, it becomes a fire that can sink everything into death and nothingness.

Forests and trees have an undeniable place in the welfare, comfort, and prosperity of human societies. The existence of numerous and varied economic and environmental values in the body of these precious divine resources is a certain and firm basis for sustaining and enhancing the lives of living creatures, especially humans. Unfortunately, every year many forests in the world are destroyed by various factors, including irregular and excessive exploitation. Imam Ali (AS) considers protecting the trees as a factor for having a long life:

وَ مِمَّا يَزِيدُ فِي الْعُمُرِ … أَنْ يُحْتَرَزَ عَنْ قَطْعِ الْأَشْجَارِ الرَّطْبَةِ إِلَّا عِنْدَ الضَّرُورَة

“Some factors increase the span of life, including … avoidance of cutting green trees except for a [more important] necessity.” Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 73,p.319

Accordingly, in Islamic teachings, the forest and the tree are of special significance and place, and in the narrative sources of Islam, planting trees has been given great importance and a great reward has been promised for it, and all the people have been encouraged to participate in this precious measure. The Prophet (PBUH) and the Imams (AS) always encouraged Muslims to revitalize nature, including lands and forests. Some of such narrations are as follows:

عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع … ازْرَعُوا وَ اغْرِسُوا فَلَا وَ اللَّهِ مَا عَمِلَ النَّاسُ عَمَلًا أَحَلَّ وَ لَا أَطْيَبَ مِنْه‏

“Imam Sadiq (AS) said: ‘Farm and plant trees. I swear by Allah (SWT) that no job is more lawful and pure than that’.” Al-Kafi, vol. 5, p.260

قالَ رَسولُ اللّه ص: مَا مِنْ مُسْلِمٍ يَغْرِسُ غَرْساً يَأْكُلُ مِنْهُ إِنْسَانٌ أَوْ دَابَّةٌ أَوْ طَيْرٌ إِلَّا أَنْ يُكْتَبَ لَهُ صَدَقَةٌ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ

“The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said: ‘When a Muslim plants a tree whose fruits are eaten by humans, animals or birds, this would be written an act of charity for him till the Day of Judgment.” Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, vol.13, p. 26.

He is also quoted as saying:

“Whoever plants a tree and protects it to bear fruit, God will reward him as much as it produces.” Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 12, p. 341.

According to a Prophetic narration, planting tree may increase the reward of the one who has planted it even after his death:

سبعة أسباب يكتب للعبد ثوابها بعد وفاته … رجل غرس نخلا أو حفر بئرا

“Seven things will bring a person reward after his death; … a person who plants a palm tree or dig a well …”. Tanbih al-Khawatir, vol. 2,p. 110

In yet another narration, this concept has been dealt with from another dimension:

مَنْ …غَرَسَ غَرْساً بِغَيْرِ ظُلْمٍ وَ لَا اعْتِدَاءٍ كَانَ لَهُ أَجْراً جَارِياً مَا انْتَفَعَ بِهِ أَحَدٌ مِنْ خَلْقِ الرَّحْمَنِ

“Whoever … plants a tree without wrongdoing and transgressing the rights of others will be benefited from its reward as long as any of God’s creatures takes benefit from it.” Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, vol. 13, p. 460.

It is noteworthy that some of these traditions include forests trees that may not produce fruits; therefore, any productivity of trees is included in these narratives, as according to the above narration, the divine reward for the one who plants the “tree” is for any benefit that creatures may take, whether it be from its fruit, or its pleasant shade, from the eye-catching viewpoint, or the delicate and refreshing air of nature, or from its foliage and wood.

The following narration from Imam Ali (AS) also shows the importance of planting a tree from an Islamic perspective:

إِنْ قَامَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَ فِي يَدِ أَحَدِكُمُ الْفَسِيلَةُ فَإِنِ اسْتَطَاعَ أَنْ لَا تَقُومَ السَّاعَةُ حَتَّى يَغْرِسَهَا فَلْيَغْرِسْهَا

“If it is about the Day of Judgment to occur while you carry a sapling in your hand if you can plant it before the Resurrection then you should plant it!” Ibid.

These teachings have drawn the attention of Muslim scholars to botany. For example, Abu Sina in his Qanun, mentions the properties of many trees and plants. In his Makhzan al-Adwiyah, Hakim Muhammad Hussein al-Alawi Shirazi discusses the division of trees according to 7 planets. This effort has undoubtedly played a role in the development of agriculture and its related sciences. It is worth mentioning that Andrew Watson, professor of economics at the University of Toronto, Canada, has written a book, titled “Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World”, focusing mainly on the role of Muslims in agricultural development.

In some narrations, the proper methods of cultivation and proper transplantation of trees have been mentioned as well. These hadiths suggest that the planter must use the right and effective methods when planting and transplanting them; otherwise the trees will become defective or fruitless.

عَنْ صَالِحِ بْنِ عُقْبَةَ قَالَ قَالَ لِي أَبُو عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَدْ رَأَيْتُ حَائِطَكَ فَغَرَسْتَ فِيهِ شَيْئاً بَعْدُ قَالَ قُلْتُ قَدْ أَرَدْتُ أَنْ آخُذَ مِنْ حِيطَانِكَ وَدِيّاً قَالَ أَ فَلَا أُخْبِرُكَ بِمَا هُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكَ مِنْهُ وَ أَسْرَعُ قُلْتُ بَلَى قَالَ إِذَا أَيْنَعَتِ الْبُسْرَةُ وَ هَمَّتْ أَنْ تُرْطِبَ فَاغْرِسْهَا فَإِنَّهَا تُؤَدِّي إِلَيْكَ مِثْلَ الَّذِي غَرَسْتُهَا سَوَاءً فَفَعَلْتُ ذَلِكَ فَنَبَتَتْ مِثْلَهُ سَوَاءً

“Salih b. ‘Uqba narrates that Imam Sadiq (AS) asked me: ‘I saw your garden. Have you planted a tree?’ I said, ‘I wanted to get a seedling out of your garden.’ He said: ‘Don’t you want me to show you a better and shorter way?’ I answered positively. He said: ‘when the fruit is on the verge of ripening and you want to water the garden, then plant the seedlings. This way, your trees will be like those of me.’ Salih says: ‘I acted as the Imam (AS) said, and trees like those of the Imam (AS) were grown’.” Wasa’il al-Shia, vol.19, p. 39.

It is also to be noted that some of the great jurists have found it necessary to water the trees and protect the gardens and fields from drying up. Allama Hilli writes:

‘It is incumbent upon the ruler to ask the owners of the trees  to irrigate their trees and fields.’ See. Al-fiqh ‘ala al-Madhahib al-‘Arba’a, vol. 5,p.533

The article was written by Hujjat al-Islam Sayyid Mostafa Daryabari and Dr. Morteza Karimi.

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References:

The Holy Qur’an

Abd al-Rahman Jaziri, Al-fiqh ‘ala al-Madhahib al-‘Arba’a, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, Beirtut, 1424.

Allama Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, al-Wafa’ Institute, Beirut, 1404.

Islampur, Askari, Derakhtkari dar Amuzehaye Islami, Farhang-e Kawthar Magazine, 1387.

Muhaddith Nuri, Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, Al al-Bayt Institute, Qom, 1408.

Shaykh Hurr al-‘Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’a, Al al-Bayt Institute, Qom, 1409.

Shaykh Kulayni, al-Kafi, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyya, Tehran, 1365.

Warram b. Abi Firas, Tanbih al-Khawatir, Makatat-u al-Faqih, Qom, 1376.

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