In the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah, the word “tree” and its derivatives prominently occur 11 times. In addition, several botanical terms related to trees also occur in the Quran, such as fruits, leaves, branches, roots and many more. In the Quran, many plants and trees are mentioned by name, such as figs, olives, pomegranates, grapes, date palms, bottle gourds, Christ's thorns, tamarisk, ginger, camphor, and others.
The Holy Quran also uses many botanical terms in different contexts. For example, such terms are sometimes used to clarify the meaning of a specific verse. The Quran repeatedly invites people to think about the wisdom behind Allah’s creation, including plants and trees. Allah says, “Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying]. Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire” (Al-Imran: 191-192).
The Qur’anic verses that mention plants, trees and fruits are there to encourage people to think about Allah’s creation and to help them reach a level of faith based on conviction. These verses also remind people of Allah’s blessings and the need to thank Him for what He has offered them. Allah says, “Then let mankind look at his food. How We poured down water in torrents, Then We broke open the earth, splitting [it with sprouts], And caused to grow within it grain And grapes and herbage, And olive and palm trees, And gardens of dense shrubbery, And fruit and grass [As] enjoyment for you and your grazing livestock” (Aabasa: 25-32).
These verses also guide us to understand and reflect upon Allah’s impeccable power. “And We place the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection, so no soul will be treated unjustly at all. And if there is [even] the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We as accountant.” (Al-Anbiyya: 47). Also, Allah says, “And whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, while being a believer - those will enter Paradise and will not be wronged, [even as much as] the speck on a date seed” (Al-Nisaa:124).
Those who reflect upon the verses of the Quran find divine guidance for believers to love plants and trees, which remind them with the beauty of paradise. This brings us to the story of Adam and Eve when Allah gave them dwelling in Paradise. Allah forbade them to eat from the forbidden tree, and warned them that if they did, they would both be wrongdoers. When Adam disobeyed Allah and they ate from the tree, Allah removed them from Paradise to earth, and their last memory of Paradise was them using leaves to cover themselves. The faithful who follow the path of the Prophet PBUH will return to Paradise once again. This story encourages the faithful to love trees, which remind them of the gardens of Eden, where rivers flow, food is unlimited, and shade never goes away.
The contexts where trees are mentioned in the Quran are quite diverse. In some cases, trees are mentioned in contexts that describe punishment, as in the story of the dam, where people disobeyed Allah and refused to believe in Him. Allah punished them by sending a flash flood that destroyed them. After their life of comfort, Allah left them with only two gardens that bore nothing but bitter fruit, “But they turned away [refusing], so We sent upon them the flood of the dam, and We replaced their two [fields of] gardens with gardens of bitter fruit, tamarisks and something of sparse lote trees” (Sabaa: 16). Other plants, such as Zaqqum and Daria are created to be the food of those in Hell as a punishment for refusing to believe in Allah and denying his Prophet’s message.
In other instances, trees are mentioned as a means of reward and everlasting pleasure in paradise for the faithful. Allah says, “The companions of the right - what are the companions of the right? They will be among lote trees with thorns removed. And [banana] trees layered [with fruit] - And shade extended – And water poured out - And fruit, abundant [and varied]” (Al-Waqi’a:27-33).
In the Hadiths of the Prophet, trees and their products are mentioned in various contexts. For example, the Prophet PBUH compares different types of people to different types of trees, as he says, “The likeness of the believer who recites the Quran is that of a citron, the taste and smell of which are good. The likeness of a believer who does not read the Quran is that of a date, the taste of which is good but it has no smell. The likeness of a hypocrite who reads the Quran is that of a sweet basil, the smell of which is good but its taste is bitter. And the likeness of a hypocrite who does not read the Quran is that of a colocynth (bitter apple), the taste of which is bitter and it has no smell.”
Many examples of trees and plants are presented in order to explain the meanings of verses and to clarify the intentions behind Hadiths. In the Quran and Hadiths, there are links between stories about people and trees and plants, as in the story of the two gardens. Allah says, “And present to them an example of two men: We granted to one of them two gardens of grapevines, and We bordered them with palm trees and placed between them [fields of] crops” (Al-Kahf: 32).
Islam urges people to care for trees and cultivate the land, which are deeds to be rewarded. This becomes very clear when Allah says, "Do [as you will], for Allah will see your deeds, and [so, will] His Messenger and the believers. And you will be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, and He will inform you of what you used to do". In addition, the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (PBUH), has ordered us to plant trees even as the world comes to an end, “If the end of the world approaches and one of you has a seedling (or plant) in his hand, if he can plant it before the end comes, let him do it.” He also says, “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift for him until the Day of Judgment.”