It’s been a few months now that The Apple Tree by Mariam Al Kalby has been a bedtime staple in our house. It surprised me that my Little Muslim took to the book so quickly because it is a little longer than some of the books that we read, and there is a lot about the main character, Little Shaima’s, emotions in it.
The book centres around Little Shaima and her father planting an apple tree from a seed. Once grown, and producing apples, Little Shaima struggles with the idea of sharing her apples, until her father tells how she can receive the reward of charity when any person or animal eats from the tree. For some reason I thought that my Little Muslim wouldn’t pay that much attention to the book.
I couldn’t have been more wrong! From the first time I read it to him, he picked up on many of the nuances. He has since asked me what the reward of charity is, he has asked if we too could plant an apple tree, and he has noticed when we see birds on trees and has asked if they’re eating the apples. The fact that he too would like to receive the reward of charity has been on his mind – he even told me just recently that we need to buy lots of baskets, so that when our (hypothetical) apple tree grows apples, we will be ready to ask our neighbours to come pick them!
Planting an apple tree wasn’t something I considered (especially from one seed) and I thought he had forgotten about it too. As a side note, to show them the wonders of planting we have recently gotten into gardening as a family, and our Little Muslims have eagerly been enjoying watching as flowers and other vegetables have been growing and ripening. I thought that planting an actual apple tree was to remain a hypothetical situation…
This brings us to one week ago, as the two of us were quietly watching a bit of TV and munching on red apples! I spotted a seed and decided to show it to him to see what he would say. Unsuprisingly, he asked if we could plant it and so we decided to give it a go! After extracting all the seeds from both our apples, we went outside, said Bismillah and planted the seeds in our little seed pots. (After some research, however, we realised that it isn’t that simple to grow an apple tree so we put in some carrot seeds as well!) We watered them daily (I really didn’t expect them to grow as we had recently tried and failed with some other seeds!) and hoped for the best.
One week later, lo and behold… this is what we found!
I don’t know what the plan will be from here or how to proceed. I really hope they (the apples or the carrots) survive and we can give this experiment a go but no matter what happens to the little seedlings, the journey thus far has been amazing for my Little Muslim.
He has been inspired by the story of Little Shaima and her apple tree. Firstly to actually plant the seeds and watch the wonder of creation – there are so many conversations to have with him about how amazing the wonder of Allah is – how a tiny little seed planted in the dry dirt can grow into an enormous apple tree, how out of almost nothing, with the will of Allah, an entire neighbourhood can share in the fruits of one tiny seed and how all seeds, while similar, bear so many different types of fruits, vegetables and flowers.
It is He Who sendeth down rain from the skies: with it We produce vegetation of all kinds: from some We produce green (crops), out of which We produce grain, heaped up (at harvest); out of the date-palm and its sheaths (or spathes) (come) clusters of dates hanging low and near: and (then there are) gardens of grapes, and olives, and pomegranates, each similar (in kind) yet different (in variety): when they begin to bear fruit, feast your eyes with the fruit and the ripeness thereof. Behold! in these things there are signs for people who believe. (Qur’an 6:99)
Also, while Little Shaima struggles with the idea of sharing, through reading her story, my Little Muslim doesn’t. Inspired by Little Shaima, he is eager to share and is thinking ahead about how many birds and animals and people might eat from the tree so that he too, can receive the reward of charity.
“Never does a Muslim a plant a tree or sow a crop and a bird, human being, or beast eats from it without earning the reward of charity.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (2320) and Sahîh Muslim (1553)]
All this, from one seemingly simple children’s picture book, written with the intent to inspire and provide us with the tools to show our children how relevant the Qur’an and the Hadith of our Prophet SAW is in our daily lives.
It’s time to change the conversation – we need to constantly remind our children of the blessings and majesty of Allah in a way that is not preachy or patronising, but is gentle, tender and full of wonder. This is how great books can inspire!