By The FIG and The ZAITUN ALLAH (SWT) Swears

Fig and the olive means Jerusalem which represents Christ. Mount Sinin is Mount Sinai where Allah spoke to Musa bin ‘Imran. The third place is Makkah, and it is the city of security where whoever enters is safe.

There is only one reference of Fig in the Qur’an under the name of Teen (Tin) but this lone mention has great significance. Allah swears by Fig, Olive, Mount Sinai and the Sacred City (Mecca) and says that Man has been created on this earth in the best possible moulds and conditions.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir- Fig and the olive means Jerusalem which represents Christ. Mount Sinin is Mount Sinai where Allah spoke to Musa bin ‘Imran. The third place is Makkah, and it is the city of security where whoever enters is safe. It is also the city in which Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was sent. This is why He swore by a noble place, then by a nobler place, and then by a place that is the nobler than both of them.

Maulana Usmani has stated that the reason for mentioning Fig and Olive in the oath in SURAH Teen (Tin) is the fact that both the fruits are highly useful. The Mount of Sinai is mentioned in the said Verse because it was here that Prophet Moses received Divine Summons whereas the Sacred City (Mecca), referred to as the City of Security, symbolizes the sanctity and the importance of the place as here Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) delivered the message of Islam.

Maulana Maudoodi is of the opinion that Allah’s oath by Fig. and Olive in the Quranic saying actually refers to the two cities of Syria and Palestine where large gardens of these fruit trees existed and where several Prophets too were born.

In the opinion of Maulana Haqqani, Teen was the name of a city, now known as Damascus and Olive was the earlier name of Jerusalem. Some other theologians have said that Teen and Zaitun were actually the names of the two hills in Northern Arabia.

It is also claimed that the Teen refers to the Fig tree of the Heaven, the leaves of which were used by Adam and Eve to cover their bodies. According to another opinion Teen was the name of the place of embankment of Noah’s ship and Zaitun’s (Olive) importance was due to the fact that the Bird released by Noah brought back the Olive branch and signified the reappearance of land and vegetation.

Whether Teen (Fig) or Zaitun (Olive) refer to the trees or the places where these trees grew, the fact remains that these two names have been mentioned in the Quranic Verses, because of their importance to human civilization.

Recent historical and scientific reviews of Figs and Olives:

From the recent scientific research, it has come to the knowledge that the domestication of Fig was done before all other trees and plants, i.e. six thousand years ago. Perhaps this was the first tree domesticated for human beings.

That was the period when man did not even learn the art of writing. After that the fig tree, the most important domesticated tree was olive. Its domestication came into effect about four thousand years ago. This was the first source of vegetable oil for the food use of human beings. Otherwise, before it, edible oil was obtained from animal fat.

Olive oil was obtained by squeezing its ripe fruits. In the beginning, this oil used to be the only a source of light (by burning) as mentioned in verse 35 of Surah Al-Nur of the Qur’an. After a long time, Olive Oil was used as food as well as medicine.  Once again this use of Olive is mentioned in Surah Al-Mu’minun verse 20 of the Qur’an.

Based on the scientific history of figs and olives, it seems that these trees would have been of great importance in Arab society. Therefore, the idea seems to be correct that Allah chose figs and olives for oath because of their usefulness and not because of the areas where these plants were found in large numbers.


Quranic Name: At-Tin (At-Teen)

Common Names: Teen (Arab.), Sekil (Turk.), Anjur (Kash.), Ara (Indon, Malay) Anjir (Pers., Urdu, Hindi)

Botanical Name: Ficuscarica Linn. (Family: Moraceae)

Quranic Reference:

1.  SURAH XCV (At-Tin-The Fig). V: 1- 4

By the Fig and the Olive, and the Mount of Sinai, and this City of Security-We have indeed created man in the best of moulds.

The Fig, Ficuscarica, is perhaps native of Syria, Palestine and Egypt where it is seen wild as well as under cultivation. Its average height is about 30 ft. and produces fruit twice a year. These fruits are produced only on such trees where the insects called fig wasp are present.

In the absence of these wasp, fertilization is not possible and hence no fruits. In any new area where fig plantation is started, these fig-wasps have to be transported otherwise the Fig tree will not bear any fruit.

Fig is a highly nutritious fruit. Since it does not contain high amount of fiber, persons recovering from long illness are specially advised to take it. Apart from about sixty per cent of sugars, it contains appreciable amount of citric acid, malic acid and several inorganic salts. An important enzyme, Ficin is also present in it.

Fig fruit is in fact a wholesome food which is easily digested. Medicinally it is very effective in removing the gravel in the kidney or the bladder and also helps in the removal of the obstruction of the liver and spleen in sub-acute cases.

The fruit is also given as a cure for piles and gout. It is also beneficial in infantile liver. In one of the Hadith (Tradition), Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) advised patients suffering from piles to eat fig regularly.

Although Fig is native of Syria, Palestine and Egypt, it was introduced in Italy more than two thousand years ago where it became naturalized soon and spread very fast throughout the Southern Europe including Greece.  In Greece, Fig became probably the most popular fruit during the time of Plato.

He liked Fig so much that people started calling him Philosokos which means the lover (Philo) of Fig (Sokos) and so the word Philosopher originated. The English word Sycophant has also its origin in Sukos (Fig).

It is said that during the ancient times people used to give information about the availability of Figs in and around Athens and such men were called Fig-Informers i.e. Sukophantai. This word afterwards became Sycophant in English.

It is important to note that the true Fig. is F. carica but other Ficus species too are also called Fig. Some are known as wild Fig and some as Indian Fig etc. The Indian Peepal tree (F. religiosa) under which Gautam Buddha got Nirvana was wrongly named by Allama Yusuf Ali as F. indica.

Thus, the Arabic word Teen, which has its origin in Sematic language, might have also been used for all Ficus species. Whatever may be the case, the fact remains that Teen was an important tree of Palestine and other places and it was because of its importance that is found mention in the Qura’n.

Fully ripe fig is an exquisite fruit that almost literally melts in the mouth. The fruit is often dried for later use and this dried fruit is a major item of commerce.

The fruit is mildly laxative, demulcent, digestive and pectoral. The unripe green fruits are cooked with other foods as a galactogogue and tonic. The roasted fruit is emollient and used as a poultice in the treatment of gumboils, dental abscesses etc.

Syrup of figs, made from the fruit, is a well-known and effective laxative that is also suitable for the young and very old. A decoction of the young branches is an excellent pectoral.

Chemical composition of Fig fruit (Dry weight)

Protein-6g; Fat: 1.2g; Carbohydrate: 89g; Fiber: 7g; Ash: 3.8g; Minerals – Calcium: 220mg; Phosphorus: 133mg; Iron: 2.7mg; Magnesium: 9mg; Sodium: 9mg; Potassium: 862mg; Vitamins – A: 347mg; Thiamine (B1): 0.25mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0.25mg; Niacin: 2mg; B6: 0mg; C: 9.22mg. Also contain polyphenols, such as gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, syringic acid, (+)-catechin, -epicatechin and rutin.

Turkey, Egypt and Morocco produced Fig with a combined 52% share of global production. Algeria, Iran, Spain, Syrian Arab Republic, the United States, Afghanistan, Albania, Tunisia, Brazil and Greece were producers for the rest 36%. (2020)

Important Tradition (Hadith):

1. Narrated Imam Mohammad Bin Ahmad Dahbi (R). The Prophet (PBUH) said ‘It (Fig) is the fruit of paradise, eat it as it cures piles and helps in Arthritis (Ibn al-Sani, Abu N’uaim, Al-Dilmi).

2. Al-Bara bin Azib narrated: “The Prophet would recite: By the fig and the olive for Isha.” (Al Tirmidhi)


Quranic Name: Az- Zaitun

Common Names: Olive (Eng., Gr., Ger.), Zaith (Arab.), Zaitun(Arab., Pers. Punj., Hindi, Urdu, Indon, Malay)

Botanical Names: OleaeuropaeaLinn.(Family : Oleaceae)

Quranic References:

1. SURAH VI (Al-An’am-Cattle). V: 99

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.

2. SURAH VI (Al-An’am-Cattle). V: 141

3. SURAH XVI (An-Nahl-The Bee). V: 11

4. SURAH XXIII (Al-Mu-Minun-The Believers). V: 20

A tree also springing out of Mount Sinai which produces oil and relish for those who use it for food.

5. SURAH XXIV (An-Nur-The Light). V: 35

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp: the Lamp enclosed in Glass: The Glass as it were a brilliant star: lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil is well-night luminous, Though fire scarce touched it: Light upon Light!

6. SURAH LXXX (‘Abasa-He Frowned). V: 29 

7. SURAH XCV (At-Tin-Fig). V: 1- 4

By the Fig and the Olive and the Mount of Sinai, and this City of Security, we have indeed created man in the best of moulds.

Olive is mentioned in the Qur’an six times and once, in SURAH Muminun (V.20), its reference is rather indirect saying that a tree bearing oil is found in Mount Sinai, thereby implying it to be Olive. Out of these seven references, Olive has been mentioned alone only twice whereas five times it figures along with other fruits namely Date, Pomegranate, Grape and Fig.

The olive (Oleaeuropaea), is a small tree ( family Oleaceae), rarely exceeds 8-15 meters in height,  found in the Mediterranean Basin from Portugal to the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and southern Asia as far east as China, as well as the Canary Islands and Réunion. It is naturalized in all the countries of the Mediterranean coast, as well as in Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Java, Norfolk Island, California, and Bermuda.

The olive’s fruit is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil; it is one of the core ingredients in Mediterranean cuisine.

Olive is supposed to be originated in Phoenicia where it was domesticated around 4000 ago and from Phoenicia the Olive was brought to the West i.e. Europe and Africa and to the East i.e. Afghanistan and Iran. This fact of the origin of Olive is given in SURAH Nur (V. 35), as ”Olive neither of the East nor of the West”.

However, some commentators of the Qur’an have given a different interpretation of this verse. For instance, Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Note No. 3001) says that the Olive belongs to the whole world-being exclusive neither to the East nor to the West. Furthermore, in his opinion, East and West refer to the direction of the trees.

Other authors like Maulana Majid, Maulana Maudoodi, Maulana Usmani, and Maulana Haqqani have also expressed more or less similar views and have even stated that the taste and quality of the Olive fruit depends on the direction of the trees towards the sun.

But in my humble opinion, the Quranic saying in fact refers to the habitat and distribution of the plant and not to anything else. It is a well-known fact that at the time of the Quranic revelation, Olive was a commonly occurring plant in the Mediterranean area of Europe and Africa.

In Southern Europe it was domesticated to such an extent that it was named as Oleaeuropaea implying that it belonged to Europe. However, researches have revealed the fact that Europe is not the real home of Olive. It was Phoenicia, Northern part of Arab Peninsula, where the Olive actually originated.

It is not hard to believe that the Arabs at the time of the Quranic revelation must have been aware that the occurrence of all the plants in any area might not necessarily mean that they originated in that region. Thus, the verse of SURAH Nur, probably signify the nativity of the plant.

The fruit is a small drupe 1-2.5 cm long, thinner-fleshed and smaller in wild plants than in orchard cultivars. Olives are harvested at the green stage or left to ripen to a rich purple color (black olive).                                                                                  

Olives are now cultivated in many regions of the world with Mediterranean climate, such as South Africa, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Mediterranean Basin, Palestine and California. Considerable research has been done to support the view of health benefits by consuming olives and olive oil which are due to strong phenolics present in the fruit and the oil. 

 The Olive fruit and olive oil contains the antioxidants namely Hydroxytyrosol and Oleuropein. The Olive Oil is a nourishing demulcent and laxative. It is used externally to treat burns and insect stings. Oleuropein, also helps to prevent the oxidation of high-density lipoproteins.

Oleuropein may inhibit hyperglycemia and oxidative stress induced by diabetes. The intake of oleuropein may help in the prevention of diabetic complications associated with oxidative stress. Mediterranean people who consume a lot of Olive oil have low cancer rates.

The pulp of the fruits is the source of the finest quality of fixed oil, 15 percent or more in yield. The oil is obtained through expression. The very first crushing gives the best grade of the oil which does not need any refining. The major constituents of this non-drying oil are Oleic Acid (80%) with small amounts of palmitic, stearic, linoleic, arachidic and myristic acids. From the residue, after the first crushing, inedible oil is extracted which is commercially known as sulphur-oil or Sausa-oil, widely used for soap making.

Edible Olive oil is in great demand in Europe as a table oil for Salads etc. The oil can be consumed as such without cooking. In the olden days Arab soldiers during their expeditions were supplied bread and Olive oil or honey for their meals.

This saved their time in cooking the food and relished taking bread with uncooked oil or honey. Olive oil has great medicinal value. When taken internally, it acts as a nutrient, demulcent and a mild purgative. It helps the patient with gastric and duodenal ulcers.

It is also given as a nitrogen free diet during the treatment of renal failures. Olive oil is an emollient and its external application softens the skin and crusts in eczema and psoriasis. It is also a good oil for massage and is an important ingredient of many ointments and plasters.

Spanish researchers suggest that including Olive oil in the diet may also offer benefits in terms of colon cancer prevention.

From this ‘blessed’ tree hardly anything is wasted as the fruits are eaten or used to produce oil, the leaves possess medicinal value and the wood of the tree is highly valued for carpentry work.

The Noble Qur’an refers to some of these uses:  “And a tree (olive) that springs forth from Mount Sinai, that grows (produces) oil, and (it is) relish for the eaters.” (23:20).

Since the 1950s, the benefits of the products, rich in Olive oil, have been extolled. While olive oil has always been promoted in the Mediterranean diet as being beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels, it is now increasingly being linked to lowering blood pressure.

Oxford University Institute of Health found that “olive oil may have a protective effect on the development of colorectal cancer”.

Olive oil has traditionally been used to prevent constipation, assist in ‘cleansing’ of the gallbladder and in treating various ailments relating to the skin, such as burns, scratches and sunburn.

Chemical composition of Olive Oil

1. Palmitic acid, 13.0%; 2. Stearic acid, 1.5%; 3. Oleic acid, 70.0%; 4. Palmitoleic acid, 0.3-3.5%; 5. Linoleic acid, 15.0%; 5. Linolenic acid, 0.5%; 6. Food energy per 100 g (3.5 oz): 3,700 kJ (880 kcal); 7. Iodine value: 75-94 (refined); 8. Acid value maximum: 6.6 (refined); 9. Saponification value: 184-196 (refined)

Major Oil Producing countries 2022

Spain, Italy, Morocco, Turkey and Greece are the major Producers of Olive oil. Some other smaller Producers are: Egypt, Portugal, Tunisia, Algeria, Syria, Argentina and Jordan.

Important Traditions (Ahadith) on Olive:

1. Narrated Asad Ansari (R). The Prophet (PBUH) said ‘Take Oil of Olive and massage with it-it is a Blessed tree (Darmi, 69, 103).

2. Narrated Abu Huraira (R). The Prophet (PBUH) said ‘Take Olive oil and massage. It helps cure in seventy (several) ailments and also Juzam (Ieprosy) (Abu N’uaim).

3. Narrated ‘Alqa’bin ‘Amir (R). Apostle of Allah (PBUH) said- ‘You have oil from the Blessed tree of Olive-treat yourself with it as it cures piles (Ibn al-Sani)

4. ‘Abdullah bin Sa’eed narrated that his grandfather said:

“I heard Abu Hurairah say: The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: ‘Eat (olive) oil and anoint yourselves with it, for it is blessed.'” ( Ibn Majah)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button