95. At-Tin (The Fig)
This sūrah of eight verses was revealed in Makkah. It takes its name from the noun, At-Tin or at-teen (the fig), in the first verse. It stresses the common ground for all the Divine religions and the fact that dignity and salvation for humankind lie in belief and doing good deeds.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
1. By the fig and the olive,
2. And Mount Sinai,
3. And this City secure—1
4. Surely We have created human of the best stature, as the perfect pattern of creation;
5. Then We have reduced him to the lowest of the low.
6. Except those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, so there is for them a reward constant and beyond measure.2
7. What, then, (O human,) causes you, after all (these realities), to deny the Last Judgment?
8. Is not God the Best of judges and the Most Powerful of sovereigns?
1. The fig and olive, two highly prized fruits, also symbolize, as indicated in sūrah 23: 20, the eastern part of the Mediterranean where many of the Prophets lived. In particular, the three great predecessors of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, namely the Prophets Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, upon them all be peace, lived in these lands, though Abraham, upon him be peace, was born and started his mission in Iraq. It is well known that the mountain where Jesus, upon him be peace, gave his famous sermon is Mount Zaytūn (Olive). And Mount Sinai is the mountain where Moses, upon him be peace, received the Torah. Makkah is indicated by the phrase “this City secure” (see sūrah 106). These verses resemble a verse in the Old Testament: The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran (Deuteromony, 33: 2).
In fact, this verse of the Bible refers to the Prophethood of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, respectively, upon them be peace. Sinai is the place where the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, spoke to God and received the Torah. Seir, a place in Palestine, is where the Prophet Jesus, upon him be peace, received Divine Revelation. And the last place mentioned, Paran, is the place where God revealed His will to humankind for the last time through His Revelation to Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.
Paran, mentioned in the Old Testament (Genesis, 21: 14–21), is the area in the desert where, upon the order of God, Hagar was left by her husband Abraham to live with her son Ishmael, upon them both be peace. They found a well of water there. As stated explicitly in the Qur’ān (14: 35–37), and as is well known, Abraham, upon him be peace, left Hagar and his son in the valley of Makkah, which was then an uninhabited place within the mountain ranges of Paran; and the well of water described is the famous well known as Zamzam.
2. The universe, an integral, composite entity, the parts of which are fully interrelated and interlinked, and which is composed of many worlds or realms, both immaterial and material, may be likened to a tree. Particularly in Oriental traditions, this metaphor has been used; and some Muslim sages, such as Muhyi’d-Dīn ibn al-‘Arabī, have even written books concerning this matter under the title of “The Tree of Creation.” All creatures constituting this Tree come into existence through the manifestations of the Divine Names – they exist because God eternally exists and makes them exist; they subsist because God is the Self-Subsisting and the All-Maintaining; the living among them see and hear because God is the All-Seeing and the All-Hearing; they are provided for because God is the All-Providing; and so on. So the universe as a whole is a mirror that reflects its Creator.
As everybody knows, a tree grows from a seed. The whole future life of the tree, the program of its life, is pre-recorded, encoded, in this seed. With the sowing of the seed in the ground, the life of the tree proceeds through certain stages and ultimately yields its fruit, which contains the seed as the embodiment of the whole past life of the tree.
Thus, humanity is both the seed and fruit of the Tree of Creation. Whatever there is in the Tree can also be found in each human being. Laws, such as the law of germination and the law of growth, which the Creator has established for the seed to germinate and grow into a tree, play the same role for the tree as the spirit does for humans. So, in one dimension of their nature, humans resemble angels or spiritual beings—they have pure, angelic aspects. In addition to what the angels have, humans have free will able to do both good and evil. In another dimension of their nature, which relates to their being the children of the world, humans have been equipped with some basic powers or drives, or faculties. They experience the lust and animal drives that are essential to maintain their worldly life – lust for the opposite sex, offspring, money, earning, and the comforts of life; and wrath or the power of anger to protect themselves and their values, and the faculty of intellect or reason. Moreover, humans are, by nature, fallible, forgetful, neglectful, fond of disputing, obstinate, selfish, jealous, and much more. These all seem to be negative characteristics; but, as will be explained below, they have been given to human beings to serve their moral and spiritual progress.
There is another important point to note concerning the difference between humans and other beings. While animals, for example, come, or are sent into, the world as if they have already been taught whatever they need in life, and while they adapt to life in a very brief time, for example, a few days or weeks, humans come into the world without any knowledge and it takes them a long time to adapt to life and to learn what is necessary. So humans are bound to progress or develop through learning, and to develop their potential. Thus the above-mentioned powers, faculties, and negative-seeming feelings given to them have not been restricted in creation.
If, however, humans obey their urges without any consideration of right and wrong and do not discipline their animal drives according to some standards, then these urges and drives can become the source of innumerable vices. If undisciplined, anger can cause great crimes, such as murder, all kinds of injustices, and the violations of the rights of others; lust can lead humans to consume whatever they find; to earn in any way they find convenient; to commit many crimes, such as theft and usurpation; to enter into illicit sexual relations; and to attempt to hide the consequences with abortion and infanticide. The faculty of reason or intellect, if it is not used according to certain standards, can be a means for such deceitful practices as demagogy, lying and sophistry, and for hypocrisy, unbelief and many different types of associating partners with God. This faculty, which has enabled human beings to realize admirable scientific and technological successes and developments in recent centuries, has also brought many disasters unparalleled in human history, such as continual wars, the creation of machines for killing and destruction on an unbelievable scale, and an increase in environmental pollution. In short, because of their unrestricted urges or powers, humans, if undisciplined, can be agents of destruction and make life and the world into a prison for themselves and all the other creatures on the face of this earth. This happens when they have been reduced to the lowest of the low.
However, in order to attain true humanity by climbing to higher ranks, and to obtain happiness in their individual and collective lives, in the world and in the Hereafter, humans should restrict the urges or powers given to them according to certain precepts, and channel the apparently negative characteristics into virtues. Moreover, humans are not beings composed of only bodies or intellects. They have also a spirit, which requires satisfaction, without which they can never find true happiness. So the control of all these is possible through learning, faith, regular worship, the struggle against their carnal soul, and the use of their will in the correct way. By restricting or training the power of lust or the animal drive, they can acquire chastity and moderation; by restricting or training the power of anger, they can acquire chivalry and gallantry; and by restricting or training the power of intellect, they can acquire true wisdom. Channeling the apparently negative feelings or aspects of their nature can lead to a positive result; obstinacy, for example, can be channeled into steadfastness in the cause of right and truth, and jealousy, into competitiveness regarding doing good things. So, true humanity lies in true spiritual satisfaction and acquiring distinction with these virtues or good qualities, and thus becoming a good, worshipping servant of God and a useful member of society.