The Trees of Eternal Hope
~ Mansura Amdad
I always used to be perplexed by a practice in my neighbouring communities – in both cities and villages. Every time after someone died in my small neighbourhood, we buried them in their graves and quite interestingly, after a few days of the burial, planted a tree beside or on the grave. The saplings were of either big trees with shades or of trees which would bear fruits.
As a child, this was a very interesting prospect to me. The first thought to occur in the young mind usually was – the person buried is already under shade, so why are we putting another? And the dead, of course, cannot eat the fruits that the tree was providing (come on, we are not the Pharaoh). Moreover, I had seen that the Christians were putting up crosses on the graves, which was significant to the person’s religious identity – but a tree is no marker of the religion of any person. So, why again, were we doing this?
My father had planted a leafy, shade-giving sapling where my grandfather lies for eternal rest. The same was done by my uncle, who had covered the soil of the burial site with his tears and the small sapling of a mango tree. But when asked as to why exactly were they doing so – they could not come up with an explanation. In their account, they had only seen the practice continue since their own childhood, so they wished to carry on the tradition.
Being the ever-pesky person, I asked people around, about the rationale behind this practice to a lot of people, but a satisfactory answer had to wait till my ninth grade in school. There was this class, that taught each of the students the basics of their own religion. Once, our teacher of that course had uttered a Hadith [words, deeds, or agreements of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)], which can be loosely translated as such:
“When a person dies, all their deeds end – except for three: a continuing charity, beneficial knowledge and a child who prays for them.”
– Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), narrated by Muslim.
This Hadith forms the basis of Sadaqah Jariyah – a concept prevalent among the Muslim populace as reserve pathways to gain the Grace of Almighty. In its commonly interpreted form, the idea can be propagated as a ceaseless form of charity that carries on even after a person’s death. Usually, this is perceived among the Muslims of Bangladesh through the forms of sponsoring an orphan or orphanages, disseminating knowledge (it may be associated with sponsoring any educational institution, but most prominently the practice among the Muslims in my country has been through madrasahs) or even building a water well. The idea is such that, if something of continuous use is built in the name of a deceased person, then the benefits reaped from that usage is going to beneficial for not only the user but also the one in whose name the thing was done in the first place.
These trees, here – are a form of the Sadaqah. If the shade of the trees helps any passer-by – then the religion proclaims that the buried person is enjoying God’s mercy due to the charity by the tree. If someone picks the fruit of such tree and gets enjoyment and nourishment from it – then inadvertently, the Almighty’s blessings are bound to continue for the deceased person.
In other words, these trees are beacons of hope for a person in the afterlife.
And in the current context of the world, the same trees happen to be the hopes of the living ones, in this very lifetime.
For not only are trees still planted in the graveyards, but they are also done so at a time when cutting down the trees have become the norm, when deforestation has taken over afforestation when people are willing to uproot trees living for ages for the sake of roads and structures and whatnot. Around the neighbourhood in my city, the graveyard has turned out to be the only place where birds can take shelter, squirrels can chase each other around, and a person can see the greenery.
At such times, these trees are providing humankind with the purest form of breathable oxygen. Quite the ironic scenario is prevailing, as one can observe – the humans now have to rely upon the charity of their deceased to live, literally. And what can be implied – is the notion that the humankind has forgotten so much as to what keeps them alive (quite literally).
And so, these trees – remain our sole hope, and we find them thriving only at our disposal. In the age of sustainable development and all the positive words that we speak and write, some trees are doing the deeds on our behalf to let us live for one more moment.
Maybe on that note, we should plant them while we are alive, not wait for ourselves to finish our ordained time upon earth so that a tree can be planted!
Photo by Tanya Sablok