by Samia Mubarak
What was said to Maryam after experiencing the excruciating pains of childbirth and giving birth to a baby in isolation never ceases to amaze me. Allah (SWT) tells her in Surah Maryam: “And shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards you, and fresh ripe dates will drop upon you.” Keep in mind Maryam just went through labor. She’s all alone. She’s exhausted and scared. Now God is ordering her to shake a tree. Why? Can’t He provide her with food miraculously as He did before when Prophet Zakariah came to check up on her earlier in the story? (Surah 3, verse 37). Why did she have to shake a tree for dates to fall, when Allah could have made the dates come to her without any effort from her side? Something about this scenario is quite striking.
But then there is the story of Prophet Moses, who God also orders to strike the sea with a stick in order for it to split and save him and his people from the tyrannical Pharoah. Why did Moses have to strike the sea with his stick when God could have opened it for him miraculously without any effort from Moses himself? The scenario here is no different than Mary shaking the date-tree.
Perhaps Allah is teaching us a valuable lesson in these two famous stories of honorable people. No matter who you are to God, you have to do your own labor in order to receive the fruit. You have to give up something from your own self in order to see the change ahead. We cannot rely on “God’s magic” when we have not put our own effort in that which we want.
We see communities that need change and ask for a miracle to occur. What can one person do? Not much, but it may be that little effort from one that brings change and brings God’s help, as Maryam’s shake and Moses’s strike brought God’s help from above.
A prime example in today’s society is Deah Barakat, may Allah have mercy on him, his wife and sister in law. Deah was a dental student that knew of the disheartening situation in Syria, just as we all know of it. We all know it hurts to be in the place of these refugees who have very little and who have lost so much. Yet what do we physically do about it? Deah was one person. What could he do for these refugees? He did what he could. One person wanted to give from what he could, his dental experience. It was a rather small gesture, yet how far has it stretched today? Deah didn’t wait for the miracle to come from God. He shook the tree. He struck the sea. And now we see the fruit. His simple goal of $20,000 has now surpassed half a million dollars! Mashallah. This is what it means to put your own effort rather than idly wait for intervention. Put your own sweat into it, and God will be there with you till the end of the journey.
We as Muslims are taught to be the change we want to see around us. God says repeatedly in the Quran that He will not change a nation until the individuals themselves change on the inside. We cannot sit on the sideline waiting. We need to plant the seed in order to see the harvest.
Belief is important. Yet what follows belief is action, which is just as necessary. In the Quran, Allah numerously pairs the verbs “believe” and “do good actions” together as one. We cannot believe in God’s assistance without trying to physically assist the situation ourselves. Believing is doing.
There are so many lessons that can be derived from the orders Allah gave Maryam and Prophet Musa. Yet the question is, how are these lessons being reflected in our own lives? May Allah give us the ability to shake the tree in order for us to see the fruit ahead. Ameen.