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And A Tree (olive) That Springs Forth From Mount Sinai

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VI.*“And a tree (olive) that springs forth from Mount Sinai, that grows oil, and (it is a) relish for the eaters.”* (TMQ, Al-Mu’minun – The Believers: 20)

 

This is the twentieth ayah of Surat Al-Mu’minun (The Believers) which was revealed in Makkah. The main theme of this Surah is Iman (believing in Allah) and a description of those who believe in the Oneness of Allah (tawhid). The Surah provides proofs and indications of the Oneness of Allah and compares true faith to its antitheses of shirk (polytheism) and kufr (disbelief). The Surah is called Al-Mu’minun in praise of those who believe, asserting their virtues and distinguishing them above those who have been led astray by Shaytan (Satan) into the depths of polytheism, doubt and disbelief in Allah.

Tenets of faith in Surat al-Mu’minun:

 

1. Paradise (Jannah) is real; only the believers (those described in the Surat and after whom the Surah is named) shall inherit and dwell in paradise.

 

2. Allah is the Creator of mankind and the One who determines the embryonic phases one after the other until His creation is fully formed. Allah is the Lord and Owner of everything; man’s creation was not pointless and he shall most definitely return to his Lord.

 

3. All creatures are destined to die.

 

4. The hereafter is real, as is the resurrection, the gathering of mankind and the reckoning of deeds.

 

5. The Prophets, Messengers and all the messages sent by Allah are true.

 

6. There is no God but Allah; all His signs are real. He is the All-Knower of the seen and the unseen. He is the Supreme Lord of the Holy Throne. Associating partners with Allah is disbelief and disbelievers shall never succeed.

 

7. Allah is the best of Providers; it is He who gives life and death and causes the day and night to vary. He is above needing a wife or child, a partner or equal and above any description that does not befit His Majesty.

 

8. One must seek refuge in Allah from the devil.

 

9. There is no return to this world after death except on the Day of Resurrection; the dead are in the barzakh (where the soul remains after death until the Day of Resurrection). At the first blow of the trumpet, every living being will become unconscious and at the second blow, all the dead will be resurrected.

 

10. Those whose good deeds weigh heavily on the balance on the Day of Reckoning are the successful people whereas those whose good deeds are few are those who lose themselves in this life and their eternal abode will be Hell.

 

11. One can only ask for forgiveness and mercy from Allah who is the most merciful.

Signs of creation in Surat al-Mu’minun

 

1. Man was created from clay.

 

2. The successive stages of the development of the human embryo are described in extensive detail.

 

3. Both the male and female reproductive organs are described as being a “safe lodging”.

 

4. The creation of the seven heavens and the barriers between them.

 

5. Rainfall in proportion and its subsequent storage in the ground.

 

6. The sprouting of plant life after it rains, making gardens of palm trees and grapes as well as other plant life.

 

7. The olive tree being described as a tree that provides edible oil; the olive trees that grow in Mount Sinai are mentioned specifically.

 

8. Cattle are described as being an example for men of understanding; how they produce milk, meat and many other benefits.

 

9. Reference is made to the possibility of using both cattle and ships as means of transport.

 

10. Reference is made to the fact that one’s faculty of hearing is created before the faculty of seeing and the heart.

 

11. Reference is made to the rotation of the earth on its axis before of the sun - "the alternation between day and night"

Mention of olives and olive oil in the Holy Qur’an

 

Olives and olive oil are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an in seven occasions. The ayahs in which they were mentioned can be translated as:

 

1. *..And gardens of grapes, and olives, and pomegranates, each similar (in kind) yet different (in variety and taste). Look at the fruits when they begin to bear, and the ripeness thereof. Verily! In these things there are signs for people who believe.* (TMQ, al-An’am:99).

 

2. *And it is He Who produces gardens, trellised and untrellised, and date-palms, and crops of different shape and taste (their fruits and their seeds) and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in taste). Eat of their fruit when they ripen, but pay the due thereof (its Zakat, according to Allah's Orders1/10th or 1/2th) on the day of its harvest, and waste not by extravagance. Verily, He likes not Al-Musrifun (those who waste by extravagance),* (TMQ, al-An’am: 141).

 

3. *With it He causes to grow for you the crops, the olives, the date-palms, the grapes and every kind of fruit. Verily! In this is indeed an evident proof and a manifest sign for people who give thought.* (TMQ, an-Nahl:11)

 

4. *And a tree (olive) that springs forth from Mount Sinai, that grows (produces) oil, and (it is a) relish for eaters.* (TMQ, al-Mu’minun:20).

 

5. *Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The Parable of His Light is as( if there were) a niche and within it a lamp: the lamp is in glass, the glass as it were a brilliant star, lit from a blessed Tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light! God doth guide whom He will to His Light: God doth set forth Parables for men: and God doth know all things.* (TMQ, an-Nur: 35).

 

6. *Then let man look at his food: We pour forth water in abundance. And We split the earth in clefts. And We cause therein the grain to grow, And grapes and clover plants (i.e. green fodder for the cattle), And olives and dates, And gardens dense with many trees, And fruits and herbage, (To be) a provision and benefit for you and your cattle.* (TMQ, Abasa: 24-32).

 

7. *By the figs and the olives. By Mount of Sinai. And this city of security (Makkah). *(TMQ, at-Tin: 1-3). In this Surah "The Figs"; Allah swears, and He doesn’t need it, by: “the figs, the olives and the Mount of Sinai (the mountain in peninsula of Sinai beside which Moses - peace be upon him - was called) and the city of security (Makkah, the noblest place on earth)”. Allah swore by them all, that He has created man with the inclination to believe in Him, to love goodness and hate evil, to love high moral standards and to hate low manners. Allah made man love observance to reach grades of perfection that would raise him higher than the ranks of angles, only if he observed. Should he deviate from the nature which he has been created for and sink into the humiliation of disbelief, polytheism or aberration and mean morals, he will then be punished by falling deeper into the dungeons of meanness.

 

Figs are mentioned only once in the Qur’an in Surat At-Tin (The Fig).

 

Each of the ayahs mentioned above requires separate research. I shall limit this article to a discussion about ayah 20 of Surat Al-Mu’minun. Before I begin, let us have a quick look at some scholar’s interpretations of this ayah.

 

 

Interpretation of this ayah by some scholars:

 

 

 

Concerning the interpretation of the following ayah: *“And a tree (olive) springs forth from Mount Sinai, that grows (produces) oil, and (it is a) relish for the eaters.”* Al-Mu’minun:20

 

Al-Tabari (May Allah have mercy on him) says: “Tree” refers the olive trees that grow on Mount Sinai, where Moses spoke to Allah. “Springing out” means growing and “oil” and “relish” can be eaten with bread.

 

Ibn-Kathir (May Allah have mercy on him) says: “a tree springing out of Mount Sinai” is the olive tree. “Tur Sinai” is Mount Sinai, where Allah spoke to Moses, and the surrounding mountains on which olive trees grow. The phrase, “produces oil”, means that oil can be extracted from it and “relish” means that it can be eaten with bread. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Eat olive oil and use it as lubricant and lotion, for it comes from a blessed tree”.

 

Said Qutb’s “Fi Zilal Al-Qur’an”, (In the Shade of the Qur’an) states, concerning the ayah, that this is one of the most beneficial trees as it provides oil, food and wood. The closest source of this tree to the Arab world is Mount Sinai, where the blessed valley mentioned in the Qur’an is located; it is for this reason that its source is mentioned especially. The trees that grow there use underground stores of water.

 

In “Safwat al-Bayan”, it says, concerning the part of the ayah that says, “Also a tree springing out of Mount Sinai”, that it is a tree that grows on the mountain known by this name (Sinai) or Al-Munajah (Discourse – as this where Allah conversed with Musa). “Produces oil” means that it bears fruit with high oil content. Oil is that which is pressed out of anything with a high fat content; in this instance, it is “olive oil”. For “relish” the Qur’an used the Arabic term sibgh which refers to something that can be eaten with bread. Olive oil has various uses as an oil, lotion or relish.

 

In “Al-Muntakhab” the author says that, this ayah means that Allah has created this tree whose fruit provides us with oil that can be used as a food, relish and for many other purposes. In a footnote, scholars added a comment that the olive tree is among the many blessings of Allah to mankind mentioned in the ayahs preceding and succeeding this one. It is a perennial tree that can live for hundreds of years continuously yielding olives with little external care required. It is a tree characterized by its constant beauty and verdure. Researchers have also benefited from it as the olive is a highly nutritious fruit with a high protein content. It also contains many minerals such as calcium, iron and phosphorus, all of which are vital nutrients for man. It also contains vitamins such as vitamin A and vitamin B.

 

Medical researchers have listed the numerous benefits of olive oil; it is beneficial for the digestive system, the liver and is better than all other kinds of oils (of animal or plant origin) as it does not affect the circulatory system or capillaries as other oils do. It is also a good moisturizer that relieves the skin and increases its elasticity. It also has various uses in industry and is used in many chemical compounds for making cosmetics, food and medicine.

 

In “Safwat At-Tafasir”, (The Essence of Interpretations), the author states that, “also a tree springing out of Mount Sinai”, is a tree that grows of the rainwater sent by Allah. The olive tree grows on and around Mount Sinai, which is where Allah spoke to Moses. “Produces oil” means that the tree produces olive oil, which has many benefits. “Relish for those who use it for food” is as it can be eaten with bread. The adjective sibgh has been used to denote the coloration of the bread when it is dipped in olive oil. Allah has blessed this tree with two abilities; to produce oil and a condiment.

Scientific implications in this ayah:

 

Due to its unique character, the olive tree now has its own classification system for its genus within the order of flowering plants, order oleales. Prior to that, it was included in another order, known as contortae. This order includes one family known as the oleaceae family which is divided into two subfamilies, oleoideae and jasminoideae.

 

The trees of the family oleaceae includes 28 genera and between 500 and 600 species of flowering plants which grow all over the world, except for cold areas and the Arctic. They grow mainly in temperate and equatorial regions, particularly the Mediterranean basin and southwest Asia. In spite of this broad range of habitats, the trees of this family are rarely dominant in a single area; some of the trees are evergreen, like the olive tree and others shed their leaves.

 

The family oleaceae includes timber trees, shrubs and some creepers but they are all distinguished by their feathery leaves, whether they face each other or alternate, simple or complex. Some have small buds at the base of the leaves and the fruit in the family oleaceae are either spiky, such as the olive (it is a truly squeezable fruit formed from the growth of the ovary of the flower and has a solid seed in its core) or the fruit is soft and berrylike, such as the fruit of shrubs used for decoration or for hedging. The seeds in them are endospermic; they covered with a layer of the tissue used as food by the embryo which is usually longitudinal in shape.

 

The folded genera in order oleales have economic and aesthetic importance as shown in the olive trees, with its many types, fruits, oil and wood. There is also the ash tree which is well-known for its solidity. There are shrubs and creepers with fragrant scents such as lilacs and different types of jasmine. Olive trees are distinguished by their perennial nature whereby one tree can live for more than 2000 years.

 

Two kinds of olive trees grow in Egypt; one is wrongly known as the European olive (olea europaea) and should be rightfully named as the Sinai olive (olea sinaensis). It was originally cultivated in the Sinai Peninsula and then in other parts of the Mediterranean basin. One of these types of olives is commonly known as “apple-like olives” (Zeitoun Toufahi), and bears relatively large fruits with little oil content which makes them suitable for pickling. They are widely cultivated in the western oases and in Al-Fayoum. The other kind of olive is known as “northern olives” (Zeitoun Shamaly); their fruits are relatively small and rich in oil content which makes them suitable for pressing. They are widely cultivated in the Sinai Peninsula and along the Mediterranean coast.

 

“Produces oil” in the ayah means that its fruit contains oil, olive oil, and the fact that it changes the color of bread could be an indication of some of the hundreds of chemical compounds which Allah makes possible for the tree to extract from the water and soil, converting it into nutritious oils in its leaves and fruits. This whole process makes even the greatest factories built by man seem ineffective. This is why Allah praises both the olive tree and its oil in other six places in the holy Qur’an and swears by the fig and the olive in one of them. Olive trees are small but perennial and evergreen. They are able to withstand great aridity. Its fruit provides the most important vegetable oil as oil constitutes 60% to 70% of the overall weight. Olive oil is composed of a number of important chemical substances, such as glycerin together with fatty acids to form what are known as glycosides. Fatty acids constitute a significant proportion of the oil’s weight and the characteristics of each oil depend mostly on the type of fatty acid which form the glycosides inside it.

 

Some of the most important fatty acids in olive oil and fats are:

 

§ Oleic Acid.

 

§ Palmatic Acid.

 

§ Linoleic Acid.

 

§ Stearic Acid.

 

§ Mystric Acid.

 

Glycosides can be composed of a single or of multiple fatty acids; if they are produced from glycerin and a single fatty acid, they are called simple glycosides, but in most cases they are produced from glycerin and multiple fatty acids which are called complex or mixed glycosides.

 

Fats and oils are usually compounds of complex or mixed glycosides; however, some may contain a large proportion of particular kinds of simple glycosides, such as olive oil which contains a large proportion of oleic acid ranging between 67% to 84%, distinguishing it from other vegetable oils and animal fats. In addition to this, olive oil contains proteins and varying amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper, sulfur and other elements as well as some fibers. All these components form nearly 1000 chemical compounds in olive oil which are required to keep the human body strong and healthy. Thus, olive oil is better than other fats and oils, which all have organic compounds with a similar chemical composition; if they maintain a liquid form at 20° C, they are called oils, and if they solidify they are called fats. Fats include neutral fats, waxes and mixed lipids.

 

The most important source of vegetable oil is the oily seeds that produce cottonseed oil, linseed oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, castor oil, peanut oil and soybean oil. We can also obtain vegetable oils from some oily fruits like olives, coconuts and oil palms, or from the embryos of grains such as wheat, corn and rice.

 

Vegetable oils are produced by crushing, then by pressing the oil. The solid remain of this process is called oil cake and is used as animal fodder as it is rich in protein. Sesame oil cake can be used as food for humans. The best vegetable oil is, of course, olive oil with the benefits Allah has given it, including: reducing blood pressure, reducing the absorption of cholesterol as well as reducing cholesterol in the blood by about 13% and reducing bad cholesterol, known as low density lipoproteins (LDL) by 21% and slightly increasing good cholesterol, high density lipoproteins (HDL).

 

It has been medically proven that whenever bad cholesterol (LDL) levels drop and good cholesterol (HDL) increases, the chances of getting cardiac thrombosis are reduced and, in particular, getting cardiac muscle infarction. Consuming olive oil regularly protects the arteries from the possible clogging of blood vessels. This is very common at present, particularly in affluent countries where people usually eat until they are satiated. The lowest rate of coronary cardiac diseases was found in the Mediterranean region, particularly in countries where people consume olives and olive oil regularly. This is an indication to its active role in protecting the arteries, particularly as it has been proved that olives and olive oil contain chemical compounds that prevent blood coagulation. For this reason, doctors advise all patients who have had heart bypass operations to take 4 to 5 spoons of olive oil daily as part of their treatment.

 

By mentioning olives and olive oil in several places in the Qur’an, as well as Allah taking an oath by it, confirms its nutritional value which has been proved by medical and scientific research in the twentieth century. These Qur’anic references prove the scientific miracle of the Holy Qur’an which was revealed 1400 years ago as well as the miracles of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to whom the Qur’an was revealed; he said, “Consume olive oil and use it as lubricant and lotion, for it comes from a blessed tree”.

 

Many questions related to this issue come to mind, such as, why did Allah reveal this ayah in the Holy Qur’an? And why did He make the Prophet (PBUH) inform us about the olive tree, its fruit and oil? The answer to these questions is that Allah knows best in His all-encompassing knowledge; perhaps that one day, man will discover the benefits of olives and olive oil, making the Qur’anic ayah and the above Hadith witnesses to the fact that the Qur’an is the Word of Allah.

 

Praise be to Allah who blessed us with the Qur’an and Islam and revealed it to the best of mankind, the Seal of the Prophets and Messengers and the Imam of the honored. Praise be to Allah in this life and the afterlife, praise be to Allah in every time and epoch. May Allah’s praise and peace be upon the loyal Prophet and his family, his companions and those who follow his true religion and invite to his message until the Day of Judgment.

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