Crab Apples and Spiritual Growth
In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Kindest
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Have you ever noticed how fruit on the same tree ripens at different rates? It’s one of the marvels of nature and life to come into your own when the season is right, and your soul is ripe! Children develop in the same way at their own pace, in their own time, each with a unique type of genius. How splendid it is to see a tree bear fruit! Each stage has its excellence. As the winds change and days go by, the fruit only becomes sweeter.
By their fruits you shall know them (7:20), said St. Matthew. How do we know we’re in season and growing spiritually? Is there a way to taste our fruit? Like the crab apple tree in the photo above, there are signs on the horizons and in ourselves (Quran, 41:53) that may be indicative of our spiritual state and health.
One way to know is by looking into our daily practice, are we devoting a portion of our day, morning, and night to some form of spiritual discipline. That may comprise of meditation and yoga, or exercise and gratitude. For the religious, it will probably consist of prayer and scripture reading. As a Muslim, the five daily prayers are an anchor that supports the rest of my day. Then there are traditional litanies given by the Prophet ﷺ and the recitation of the Quran Sharif. Almost every religious tradition has a means of leveling up baseline practices according to the spiritual aspirant’s capacity and longing for the Divine. Our ability to maintain this baseline is one means of gauging our spiritual health.
Another is true dreams and other indicative signs that serve as good portents that confirm what we are feeling and experiencing. Expansiveness, felicity, and ease in our endeavors are likewise fortuitous. Do you feel yourself growing effortlessly, or is it painful and arduous at points? If the latter, Allah says, surely with hardship there is ease, with hardship indeed there is ease. So when you are free work diligently, and turn to your Lord with all your love (Quran, 94:5-8). Growth occurs through a combination of elements toiling together, it can cause pain, but there is also respite and expansion. After the storm, there is a rainbow — the mark of the covenant.
Allah tests those He loves (Quran, 29:2), and one may rightly ask why? This is a very reasonable question, and it may be answered with another: How do you know someone truly loves you, unless and until their love is manifest. Anyone can pay lip service to love and say sweet nothings. It is all too easy to be a fair-weather friend, but who is there for you when things fall apart? How do you know you can withstand temptation if you’ve never faced it! So hardship is a sign of Divine favor, just as felicity is a sign of Divine grace. This isn’t a pass or fail examination because the tests in life keep coming to teach us what we need to know, as Pema Chödrön would say. Similarly, the I Ching (or Book of Changes) gives guidance to transform oneself, not our problems, by reminding us to return to proper principles.
One last indicator is how those around you feel; do they see positive changes? Are they better off for having known you? Is your growth rubbing off on them? The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever helps a brother in his time of need, Allah will be there in his time of need.” He also said: “Your best friend is the one who: seeing him reminds you of Allah, speaking to him increases your knowledge, and his actions remind you of the hereafter.”
We can learn a lot from trees; they are still, fruitful, upright, and indiscriminately shade everyone. As Allah, the Sublime and Exalted, says, “A good word is like a good tree — its roots are firm, and its branches are in heaven (14:24).”
May we bear good fruit, may we be known by the fruit we bear, may we support others in their time of greatest need, and find ourselves being a sanctuary for the birds and the bees, and the whole of humanity!
From one needy of your dua,
Poetry in Motion
I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day. I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t have time to pray. Problems just tumbled about me, and heavier came each task. “Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered.
He answered, “You didn’t ask.”
I wanted to see joy and beauty, but the day toiled on, gray and bleak. I wondered why God didn’t show me.
He said, “But you didn’t seek.”
I tried to come into God’s presence. I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided, “My child, you didn’t knock.”
I woke up early this morning and paused before entering the day. I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.
By Alan Grant