Once a man heard about a place where people worshipped a tree.
"These people are under a delusion. They have replaced the glory of the transcendent God, the secret of all that is alive, with a mere tree? I must save them from this path. I must cut down this tree."
And so the man climbed on his horse and headed towards the tree. When he got there, he picked up his ax and began to strike at it. People ran to him, yelling:
"Stop. This is our most sacred tree."
But everyone who tried to push him away from the tree failed. He was simply too strong and too determined. When everyone was about to give up, an old man approached him and said:
"Listen my friend. The truth is that you have severely surprised these people. They are all very devoted to this tree and they will be very hurt if they see it cut down today. However, if you were to wait just till tomorrow, they will be far more prepared mentally to see their special tree cut down. Meanwhile, here is a bag of silver coins. It's not a bribe of course. Give it away in charity or use it for some good purpose. Then come back tomorrow and you can cut down the tree. I promise it will still be here waiting for you."
The old man's words seemed very convincing. After all, what would a day possibly change? And as for the silver coins, it's true, he could think of many good ways to spend them.
And so he returned to his town. First, he used a few silver coins to help an old widow he knew. But later, he began to use the coins to buy meat, milk and honey.
"Its ok," he would comfort himself, "I'm simply trying to stay strong and fit so I can perform good deeds."
When the last silver coin was spent, ten days after he had taken them from the old man, he decided he would now return and cut down the tree. When he arrived, he found the old man along with others prostrating to the tree.
"Move away," he screamed. "The time has come for your tree to be cut down."
But no sooner had he said these words, when a woman approached him and pushed him to the ground. Surprised, the man stood up again and waked towards the tree. This time, a child, no older than seven, approached him and pushed him to the ground. Suddenly, everyone appeared to be stronger than him, far stronger than him. The faces that only ten days ago were full of fear were now full of contempt.
"Cut down our tree? Who do you think you are to cut down our tree?"
"We'll cut your head off if you try this again!"
But the words of the old man echoed within him the most:
"There is nothing weaker than that which can be stopped with silver!"
The above story is excerpted from a book, Metaphors of Islamic Humanism, by my friend, Dr. Omar Imady, copyright 2005. I have previously shared excerpts from this book: Destiny!?? and The Angel in the Desert.