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The Quran => Q&As with Joseph Islam - Information Only => : Reader Questions November 14, 2011, 07:28:35 AM

: The Tree and Iblis
: Reader Questions November 14, 2011, 07:28:35 AM

In your article about swine flesh you state:
>Similarly, Adam and his wife were told to eat, drink and roam freely in the garden but simply, not to go near a particular tree. No reason was advanced other than they would become wrongdoers (zalimeen) if they did. In fact, it seems probable that silence actually amounted to a test to ascertain whether the commandment would be obeyed.

Although I don't disagree with this, I think there may, in fact, be a deeper rationale. If you consider (4:65), you will discover the sole instance of the verb shajara. Since nouns are derived from verbs, I would argue that the core meaning of the noun shajarat (tree) should be related / traced back to the verb.  On this basis, I think a case can be made that the shajarat symbolises disputation / branching in the sense of something like a 'self'-'other' distinction that transforms into a 'subject'-'object' difference. Such a difference implies a condition of imbalance since objects are not equal to subjects. Consider how the non-white 'other' is turned into an 'object' under conditions of Racism/White Supremacy. Note also that Iblees is a 'proto-Racist/Supremacist' figure, and the connection between Iblees and ash-Shay'thaan.
: Re: The Tree and Iblis
: Joseph Islam November 14, 2011, 07:30:02 AM
Walaikum salaam,

While upholding the interpretation used for the relevance of the theme of the article, I don't disagree with your deeper rationale. I think it is quite plausible given that the root of Shajara is well understood as a matter of controversy / disputation. Also, I do not disagree with nouns developing from verbal roots.

I also keep at the helm (as I have argued before) that Quranic terms must be first appreciated in the context they have been narrated and how the primary audience would have most likely understood them. As you know, Arab Jews and Christians would have already had an understanding of this narrative and what the 'shajrah' meant given their interpretations of their scriptures for over a 'millennia'. So is the Quran attempting to offer a newer, better, more corrective explanation? or is it, as the Quran often says it is 'musaddiqan' (confirming e.g. 5:48) an aspect / aspects of an existing one? Personally, I might lean to the latter on this particular case.

However, while staying conscious of the advice in 3:7, I absolutely believe there are many deeper meanings to terms and I am fully cognizant so as to appreciate them given their merits. Therefore, as mentioned before, I don't disagree with your opinion (very plausible) while upholding the relevance of the literal rendering for the purposes of the article.

Your brother,