If You Have a Sapling in Your Hand
Updated: Jul 2, 2022
“If you have a sapling in your hand, and someone should say to you that the Messiah has come, stay and complete the planting, and then go to greet the Messiah," as said by Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai (Avot de Rabbi Nathan, 31b), and later confirmed by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Even if the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, let him plant it” (Musnad Aḥmad 12902, saheeh, authentic according to Al-Arna’ut).
I'll come back to that sapling. But, first, consider this: Az-Zubayr ibn ‘Adiyy reported: We went to Anas ibn Mālik and complained to him about the oppression we were suffering at the hands of Al-Hajjāj. So, Anas said: "Be patient, for no time will come but will be followed by a worse one until you meet your Lord. I heard it from your Prophet" (Sahih/Authentic] [Al-Bukhari).
As the years pass and the time between us and the death of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the prevalence of knowledge of Allah and Islam is dissipating from the earth. So, we have trials across the earth, as can be deduced from Allah's saying, "And those who disbelieve are allies of one another, (and) if you do not do so (i.e. if fellow Muslims across the globe don't unite), there will be fitnah (wars, polytheism, trials) and oppression on the earth, and a great mischief and corruption" (al-Qur'an 8:73, my adaptation of the interpretation by Mohsin Khan).
Imam Morsy Salem was asked what folks could do about the trouble around the world. He said to smile and spread light where you are. That's where that sapling comes in to me. If there's one good thing in your hand to start—regardless if it ever has time to bear fruit before the destruction of the world—get that one thing started. Stay on the good side, which can include sheltering yourself. Giving yourself time to sustain your focus on something, rather than going with the flow and speed like the quicker end of society's driving edge. Do what you can manage within sanity, calmness, and goodness, and don't stop for anything.
By, Allah, take responsibility to put your best out there rather than fooling yourself that there is any good in taking responsivity for everything across the earth. Leave what, really, only belongs to Allah, to Allah, and you do you very nicely. That's it.
Sapling photo by Vitor Monthay on Unsplash