In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Allaah [The Exalted] said:
أَيَوَدُّ أَحَدُڪُمۡ أَن تَكُونَ لَهُ ۥ جَنَّةٌ۬ مِّن نَّخِيلٍ۬ وَأَعۡنَابٍ۬ تَجۡرِى مِن تَحۡتِهَا ٱلۡأَنۡهَـٰرُ لَهُ ۥ فِيهَا مِن ڪُلِّ ٱلثَّمَرَٲتِ وَأَصَابَهُ ٱلۡكِبَرُ وَلَهُ ۥ ذُرِّيَّةٌ۬ ضُعَفَآءُ فَأَصَابَهَآ إِعۡصَارٌ۬ فِيهِ نَارٌ۬ فَٱحۡتَرَقَتۡۗ كَذَٲلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ لَڪُمُ ٱلۡأَيَـٰتِ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ
Would any of you love to have a garden with date-palms and vines, with rivers flowing underneath, and all kinds of fruits for him therein, while he is stricken with old age, and his children are weak (not able to look after themselves), then it is struck with a fiery whirlwind, so that it is burnt? Thus does Allah make clear His Aayaat (proofs, evidences, verses) to you that you may give thought. [Surah Al-Baqarah. Aayah 266]
Al-Hasan Al-Basri [rahimahullaah] said, “By Allaah! Very few amongst the people understand this parable. A very old man whose body is weak and his children are many would be very much in need of his garden. By Allaah! One of you would be more in need of his deeds when he is cut off from this worldly life [i.e. through death]”.
It has been reported in Saheeh Al-Bukhaari that one day Umar [radiyallaahu anhu] said to the companions of the Prophet [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam], “What do you think about this Aayah [أَيَوَدُّ أَحَدُڪُمۡ أَن تَكُونَ لَهُ ۥ جَنَّةٌ۬ – Would any of you love to have a garden]? They replied, “Allah knows best”. Umar became angry and said, “Either say that you know or say that you do not know”. Then Ibn ‘Abbaas [radiyallaahu-anhumaa] said, “O chief of the believers! I have something in my mind to say about it”. Umar said, “O son of my brother! Say, and do not underestimate yourself”. Ibn Abbaas said, “In this Aayah there has been put forward a parable for deeds”. ‘Umar said, “What kind of deeds?” Ibn Abbaas said, “For deeds”. Umar said, “This is an example for a wealthy man who does good deeds out of obedience to Allaah and then Allaah sends him Satan whereupon he commits sins till all his good deeds are lost”. [Ref A]
Few Benefits From The Above Narration
This narration shows Ibn Abbaas’s [radiyallaahu-anhumaa] strong understanding and the precedence Umar gave him even when he was young. This hadeeth also shows a scholar motivating his student to speak in the presence of those older than him if he knows that the young one is worthy of it, in order to encourage him, broaden himself [in understanding] and make him desirous of knowledge. [Ref B]
“Umar stated that Allaah sent this wealthy person a shaytaan and he lost all his good deeds”.
Question: Why does this occur? Answer: It occurs based on Allaah’s Perfect and Just Decree, as recompense for one’s wickedness (Ref 1); due to a hidden plot in one’s heart (Ref 2), due one turning away from guidance and behaving as if he does not know Allaah’s guidance (Ref 3); turning away from Allaah’s reminder, which he revealed to his Messenger, turning away from understanding it and pondering upon it, and that which Allaah intends by way of it, so Allaah leaves such a person with his devil as a punishment – the devil that follows him. So, this devil becomes his ally (ref 4); because none submits to Allaah sincerely and truthfully, and performs the deeds of the people of Jannah, except that Allaah will never abandon him. (Ref 5). Such a person was not compelled to go astray, rather he made a choice, but his choice is under the Will of Allaah. We do not know what was in the hearts of those who deviated, so Allaah deviated their hearts; but we know – with absolute certainty – that Allaah passes Just Judgments and He does not do injustice to anything; rather it is the people who wrong themselves. (Ref 6)
So Allaah said: [أَيَوَدُّ أَحَدُڪُمۡ – Would one of you love]; This statement is more profound than a negation and prohibition, just as when you see someone committing a repugnant deed, so you say to him, “A sensible person would not do this! Would someone who fears Allaah and the Hereafter do this?!”. [أَيَوَدُّ أَحَدُڪُمۡ – Would one of you love] is more profound [or intense] in showing one’s rejection than saying, “Would you want”, because love and wish in this situation is more repugnant and evil than just wanting.
[أَيَوَدُّ أَحَدُڪُمۡ أَن تَكُونَ لَهُ ۥ جَنَّةٌ۬ مِّن نَّخِيلٍ۬ وَأَعۡنَابٍ۬ – Would any of you love to have a garden with date-palms and vines]; These two [fruits] have been specifically mentioned because they are the most valuable and they contain more benefit, for indeed they are a source of food, nourishment, medicine, drink and fruitage – whether sweet or sour, and are eaten when moist or dry. Their benefits are numerous indeed. The people differ regarding which of the two is better and more beneficial. Some say the date palm and others say the vine, and each group provided proofs to establish their statement, and we have mentioned this in another place [i.e. in another book].
In summary: This affair differs based on different countries, for indeed Allaah made it a common affair in a way that one of them does not dismiss the authority of the other. The date palm – when in its most favourable land and place- is better and more beneficial than the vine in that place; and the vine – in its suitable land and habitat – is better than the date palm in there. And Allaah knows best.
The intent [or aim behind this discussion] is that these two types of fruits are the noblest and the best of fruits, so a garden that has both of them would be the best of gardens. In addition to this, rivers flow under this garden, which makes it more perfect and greater in status. And in addition to this, there’s no absence of other types of fruits in this garden which one desires; rather there are all types of fruits therein; however most of its produce and its main purpose is for the date palm and vines. Allaah said: [ۥ فِيهَا مِن ڪُلِّ ٱلثَّمَرَٲتِ – and all kinds of fruits for him therein]. And similar to this statement is also the statement of Allaah:
وَٱضۡرِبۡ لَهُم مَّثَلاً۬ رَّجُلَيۡنِ جَعَلۡنَا لِأَحَدِهِمَا جَنَّتَيۡنِ مِنۡ أَعۡنَـٰبٍ۬ وَحَفَفۡنَـٰهُمَا بِنَخۡلٍ۬ وَجَعَلۡنَا بَيۡنَہُمَا زَرۡعً۬ا
كِلۡتَا ٱلۡجَنَّتَيۡنِ ءَاتَتۡ أُكُلَهَا وَلَمۡ تَظۡلِم مِّنۡهُ شَيۡـًٔ۬اۚ وَفَجَّرۡنَا خِلَـٰلَهُمَا نَہَرً۬ا
وَكَانَ لَهُ ۥ ثَمَرٌ۬
And put forward to them the example of two men; unto one of them We had given two gardens of grapes, and We had surrounded both with date-palms; and had put between them green crops (cultivated fields etc.). Each of those two gardens brought forth its produce, and failed not in the least therein, and We caused a river to gush forth in the midst of them. And he had property (or fruit)… [Surah Al-Kahf. Aayaat 32-34]
Then Allaah said about this garden [i.e. the one mentioned in Baqarah 266]: [فَأَصَابَهَآ إِعۡصَارٌ۬ فِيهِ نَارٌ۬ فَٱحۡتَرَقَتۡۗ – then it is struck with a fiery whirlwind, so that it is burnt], [just as Allaah stated about the garden in Surah Kahf, Aayah 42], [وَأُحِيطَ بِثَمَرِهِۦ فَأَصۡبَحَ يُقَلِّبُ كَفَّيۡهِ عَلَىٰ مَآ أَنفَقَ فِيہَا وَهِىَ خَاوِيَةٌ عَلَىٰ عُرُوشِہَا – So his fruits were encircled (with ruin). And he remained clapping his hands with sorrow over what he had spent upon it, while it was all destroyed on its trellises].
Then Allaah said: [وَأَصَابَهُ ٱلۡكِبَرُ – while he is stricken with old age]; This indicates his great need of this garden, and his heart’s attachment to it can be seen in various ways [as follows]:
This is the great extent to which his heart is attached to this garden and the great need him and his children have of it. So, when you truly perceive this situation and this need, then what will be the calamity if his garden is stricken by a fiery whirlwind and burns it. By Allaah! Indeed, Al-Hasan Al-Basri spoke the truth [when he said], “Very few amongst the people understand this parable”. And due to this, Allaah notified [us] regarding the greatness of this parable and prompted the hearts to reflect upon it due to their great need of it. Allaah said: [كَذَٲلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ لَڪُمُ ٱلۡأَيَـٰتِ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ – Thus does Allah make clear His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses) to you that you may give thought].
If a truly sensible person was to ponder upon this parable and took it as a direction [or guide] for his heart, it would suffice and heal it. So, if a person was to perform deeds of obedience to Allaah, but then followed it with that which nullified it due to disobedience to Allaah, it would be like the fiery whirlwind that burnt the garden. [An Excerpt from Tareequl Hijratayn pages 456-458. Slightly paraphrased. Publisher Daar Ibn Rajab 2nd edition 1421AH (2001)]
[Ref A: Saheeh Al-Bukhaari. 4538]
[Ref B: [Fat-hul Baari Sharh Saheeh Al-Bukhaari. Vol 8 page 254]
[Ref 1. See Tafseer As-Sadi, Surah Israa. Aayah 5]
[Ref 2: See Sharh Arba’een page 87-88. 1st edition. 1424 (2003)]
[Ref 3: Zaadul Maseer. Tafseer Surah Az-Zukhruf Aayah 36]
[Ref 4: Al-Jawaab Al-Kaafee 136-137. By Imaam Ibnul Qayyim]
Ref 5: See Sharh Arba’een page 88. 1st edition. 1424 (2003)- By Shaikh Uthaymeen]
[Ref 6: Sharh Al-Arba’een pages 55-56- 1st edition 1428 (2007)-by Shaikh Saaleh Aaala As-Shaikh].