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The Motif of the Tree in the Quran: A Good Tree and an Evil Tree

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The following excerpt is taken from “Tafhim ul Quran” by Maulana Syed Abu Ala Moududi under the commentary of Surah 14 Verses 24-27:

Do you not see to what Allah’ has likened the Pure Word? (See note 34 below) It is like a good tree which has got deep roots into the earth and whose branches have spread high up into heaven.(See note 35 below) It bears good fruit every moment by the permission of its Lord. (See note 36 below) Allah cites these parables for the benefit of people so that they learn a lesson from them.

And an evil word (See note 37 below) may be likened to an evil tree;
which is torn out from the earth and has no stability. (See note 38 below) Allah makes the believers steadfast in the life of this world and of the Hereafter with the firm Word (See note 39 below) but lets the transgressors go astray. (See note 40 below) Allah has full power to do as He wills.


Note 34:

Though the expression literally means “Pure Word,” here it stands for “Truthful Saying and Righteous Creed”. According to the Qur’an, this ‘Saying’ and ‘Creed” are the acceptance of the doctrine of Tauhid, belief in Prophethood and Revelation, and in the lift of the Hereafter, for it
declares these things to be the fundamental truths.

Note 35:

This is to show the strength and extent of the “Pure Word”. As the entire system of the universe hangs upon the Reality contained in this “Pure Word” which the believer Professes, the earth and its entire system co-operates with him and the heaven with its entire system welcomes him. There is, therefore, no conflict between him and the Law of nature, and everything in its very nature extends its help to him.

Note 36:

That is, the “Pure Word” is so fruitful that every person (or community) who bases his system of life on it, gets benefit from it every moment for it helps to produce clearness in thought, balance in temperament, strength in character, purity in morals, firmness in conduct, righteousness in talk, straightforwardness in conversation, good temperament in social behavior, nobility in culture, justice and equity in economy, honesty in politics, nobility in war, sincerity in peace; confidence in promises and pledges. In short, it is the elixir that changes everything into gold if one makes the proper use of it.

Note 37:

“Evil word” is the opposite of “Pure Word” It may be applied to everything that is unreal and wrong but here it stands for any false creed that one might adopt as a basis of one’s system of life, irrespective of whether it be atheism or heresy or disbelief or shirk or idol-worship or any other “ism” that has not been brought by a Messenger.

Note 38:

And “evil word” (false creed) has no stability because it is against the Law of nature. Therefore, everything in the universe opposes it and refutes it, as if the earth hates it and is ready to spit out its seeds every time they are sown in it, and if some need succeeds in growing an evil tree, heaven suppresses down its branches. In fact, false creed could never have been allowed to
develop, if man had not been given the freedom of choice and respite for work for the sake of his trial. That is why when same foolish people exert to establish a system of life on it, it is allowed to grow to a certain extent, but it produces nothing but harmful results as long as it lasts. And no sooner does it encounter with adverse circumstances than it is thoroughly uprooted from the earth.

The distinction between the “Pure Word” and the “evil word” is so apparent that anyone who makes a critical study of the religious, moral, intellectual and cultural history of the world can perceive it easily. For the “Pure Word” has always been the one and same during the whole history of mankind and has never been uprooted. On the contrary, there have been innumerable “evil words” but each and every one has been so uprooted that there has remained hardly anything of it except its name in the pages of history. Nay, some of these had proved to be so absurd that if these are mentioned today one wonders how one could have followed such nonsensical things. There has been another noteworthy difference between the two “words”. Whenever and wherever the “Pure Word” has been adopted by an individual or a community, its blessings had not been
confined to that individual and community but had benefited all around them. On the contrary, whenever and wherever an evil word has been adopted by an individual or a community, its evils had spread chaos and disorder all around them. In this connection, it should also be noted that the parable of the “Pure Word” and the “evil word” explains the same theme that had been explained by the similitudes of the mound of ashes that is blown away by the “wind” of the stormy day (v. 18) and of the “foam of flood”, and the “scum of the melted metals.” (XIII: 17)

Note 39:

That is, “The believers remain steadfast during the life of this world because of their stable system of life based on this “Pure Word” For this gives than a straight point of view, a sound system of thought and a comprehensive theory of life, and it serves as a master key to the unraveling of all knots and the solving of all problems. With its help, they acquire that strength
of character and that firmness of conduct which keep them steady in the face of every vicissitude of life. This provides them also with such solid principles of life which give them peace of mind and heart, and prevent them from deviation and caprice. Above all, when, after the life of this world, they will enter into the life of the Hereafter, they will remain perfectly calm without any tinge of fear or anxiety, for they will find everything therein to be in accordance with their expectations, as if they were fully acquainted with every aspect of it before they entered into it. For they had been .fully informed of, and therefore fully prepared for every stage and phase of this life. That is why they will pass through every stage with perfect calmness and firmness in contrast to the disbelievers who built their worldly lives on an “evil word” and will, therefore, be taken aback to find everything against their expectations.

Note 40:

That is, “Allah lets the transgressors, who discard the “Pure Word” and follow an “evil word”, go astray by creating confusion in their minds and misdirecting their efforts because of this deviation. That is why they cannot find the right way of thought and action and so fail miserably.”


Moududi, Abu Ala. Tafhim ul Quran.

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