The only living “companion”
By: Zara Choudhary
Source: Sacred Footsteps
A good word is like a good tree whose root is firmly fixed and whose top is in the sky.
We arrived at midday; it was windy and the sun was strong and high overhead. We were about two hours outside of Amman. The land was flat and there were no trees, apart from the one that stood immediately ahead of us. It was surrounded by a metal fence with a gate, and the earth around it was coarse and dry. As we walked towards it, I noticed that it didn’t quite fit in with its surroundings. Its leaves were lush green, defying the aridity and colorlessness of their environment. We were standing in front of what has come to be known as ‘The Blessed Tree’, under which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is believed to have sat and rested as a boy, when travelling with his uncle to Syria. It was on this trip that the monk Buhira recognized the signs of imminent prophethood in the young boy (pbuh), and warned his uncle to protect him. Nearby, an old Roman road can be seen; it was along this route, that once ran from Makka to Damascus, that the caravan of the Prophet (pbuh) and his uncle had travelled.
It was late March and the branches were heavy with leaves. They hung low, but underneath, I was surprised by the amount of space there was. Out of its aged, stocky trunk, seven thick branches reached out, each one dividing into more. The leaves created a canopy around us, sheltering us from the world outside. Despite the strength of the midday sun and the wind, neither were apparent under the tree. It was cool, shady and still. There were three of us; for a considerable period of time, no one said a word. At this point I was six months pregnant; I sat on one side of the large trunk, with its ancient roots sprawled out under me, with the hope that it had been the blessed spot where he (peace be upon him) had rested all those centuries ago.
Although surrounded by dry, cracked earth, a small stream was trickling away alongside the tree. Amazingly, the earth around the stream of water was still incredibly dry, almost as though the water’s sole purpose is to sustain the tree and nothing else.
Considered the ‘last living Sahabi (Companion)’, the tree was rediscovered by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad and the Jordanian authorities, who found references to it in texts found in the Royal Archives. Several well-known scholars travelled to the area, including Shaykh Ahmad Hassoun, Grand Mufti of Syria, who later related to Prince Ghazi that he had had a dream in which the authenticity of the tree as being the one under which the Prophet (pbuh) rested, was confirmed to him. Sitting under the tree, I could not help but think that even if its authenticity hadn’t been accepted, when one considers its age and the environment in which it has thrived for over a millennia, one way or another, it is still undoubtedly a blessed tree.
We live in a world that is constantly changing, and during a period of time in which Divine Truths and Realities that were taken for granted by those who lived before us are forever being called into question. Within this context one realises the importance of the tree as a living and tangible reality, a symbol of the metaphysical. As stated by Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr:
“You have to be able to apply a symbol in a wise way, from one domain of reality to another. There is, in a sense, a vertical dimension that goes through our heart vertically through our head and up to Heaven. The line of transcendence. This is the inner tree. The roots of it are actually the roots of the Divine reality in our hearts. For most human beings this tree has dried up because they are not aware of its roots. It is virtually there but not actually; and the spiritual life means the reviving of this tree within us by sinking the roots of the Divine once again in our hearts.”