Once in a town in Egypt lived a young boy named Zahir. He was very mischievious. Everyone in the town knew him for his bad behavior because he liked to prank people all the time. He never cared about what people thought of him. When he talked, he would say whatever he felt like without considering the feelings of others. People around him didn’t like him for they thought of him as a disrespectful and ill-mannered boy.
One day, he went fishing near the Nile river. His mother asked him to be careful and not to do anything wrong. After a long time and a lot of hassle, he finally caught a fish. But then, a group of boys passed by and decided to take his fish. Zahir tried to fight them for his fish. As they were fighting, Zahir’s uncle passed by and saw him. He got angry at Zahir and told him to leave. Zahir got mad and called his uncle an oppressor. The uncle ran after Zahir but could not catch him.
The next morning, the uncle came to visit Zahir’s mother. Zahir’s father had passed away when he was only five. After talking to his uncle, Zahir’s mother yelled at him. She told him to leave as she couldn’t take it anymore. Zahir started crying and crying, but his mother would not listen. Instead, Zahir’s mother, Firdous, took out a bag with some gold coins in it and gave it to Zahir. She asked him to go on a journey in the desert to find the Legendary Tree of Good Manners.
Zahir had no choice. He was alone and there was no one with him. Before leaving, he made wudu (ablution) and prayed two rak`at (units) salat (prayer) asking Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) to help him on his journey.
So Zahir took the gold coins and some of the food his mother prepared him. On foot, he set out on a long journey, not knowing if he would be able to complete his task. He loved his mother more than anyone in the world. Of all people, he felt she was the only one who loved and cared about him. He felt sad about hurting her feelings and remembered his father. He wiped his tears away and said to himself, “I will find that tree no matter what it takes.”
The sun went down and night approached in the silence of the desert. Zahir lay on the cool sand looking at the stars in the sky. “The stars are many. The moon is one. I wish I could shine among the stars,” Zahir thought to himself.
“That shining sky looks at me in my loneliness. It surrounds me giving me company. Reminding me of the goals that I want to achieve. I am distant from my world. My mother awaits me with sleeplessness. She is thinking of me and I am thinking of her. O my Allah! I am here at your service. I shall pray in this night. It is Your Mercy and Grace that I feel by me. Your Protection and Compassion, Your Light is enough for me. Please guide me and help me. O Allah, I am Your slave. All Praise be to You, please turn the tears of my mother into tears of joy. I am here but my heart is there. Only You can help me. My Lord, please forgive me.”
Zahir stood up for salat al tahajjud (late night prayer) with tears in his eyes and sparkling on his face. He felt relieved after expressing his sadness to Allah subhana wa ta`ala.
The sun shone on Zahir’s face as if smiling at him as Zahir continued his journey. On his way, he found an old man. The old man asked him for some food and Zahir gave it to him. The old man thanked Zahir and gave him his blessings.
Then Zahir asked the old man, “Are you looking for the Legendary Tree of Manners?” The old man wasn’t sure what Zahir was talking about. He looked baffled. Zahir saw the face of the old man and said “It’s all right. Never mind.”
Zahir gave the old man some of his gold coins. The old man thanked Zahir and handed him a leaf. Zahir asked, “What is this for?” The old man said, “This is my parting gift to you. May Allah bless you,” and waved him good-bye.
Zahir continued his journey. He felt weak and he almost ran out of food. However Zahir didn’t want to give up. He made lots of dua`a (supplication) to Allah subhana wa ta`ala.
After a few hours, Zahir came across some tents and saw a caravan. The people seemed harsh and unwelcoming. Zahir went to one of the tents and asked the strange men if they could provide him with some food in exchange for his gold coins. The men stared at Zahir. They seemed about to kill him. Then one of them said, “He has the leaf!”
Zahir tried to think of some way to escape from these men. It seemed that the leader of the caravan was approaching him. The leader said, “My name is Faisal. I am the leader of this caravan. What brings you here, boy? I see you have the leaf. You must have met my father.”
Zahir said, “I met an old man who was very kind to me. So he is your father then.”
Faisal invited Zahir inside his tent and entertained him as his guest. Zahir enjoyed his stay with Faisal. He watched all the people of the caravan eat in the most well-mannered way. Zahir learned a lot from the men. They taught him their ways of eating and their way of speech.
A few days later, Zahir inquired about the whereabouts of the Legendary Tree of Good Manners. The men were not sure where it was. But they told Zahir to go a few miles into the desert, where he would find a man who is an Islamic scholar. Faisal said, “The scholar spends most of his time in the worship of Allah subhana wa ta’ala and He is the most well-mannered person I have ever met. He might have an answer. I pray you find what you are looking for.”
Zahir thanked Faisal and his men for everything. He walked a few miles across the desert and he found a man reciting the Qur’an. Zahir greeted him, “Assalamu `alaykum (Peace be upon you)”, to which the scholar replied saying, “Wa `alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu (And on you, peace, and God’s Mercy, and His Blessings.”
The scholar said, “When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with one better than it, or (at least) return it equally.”1
Zahir brought some gifts to the scholar from Faisal. The scholar said,
“Al-Bukhaari (may God have mercy upon him) narrated that `Aa’ishah (may God be pleased with her) said: ‘The Messenger of Allah ﷺ (peace be upon him) used to accept gifts and reward people for giving them.’”
Zahir asked the scholar if he knew about the Legendary Tree of Good Manners. The scholar said, “Yes, I know of that tree! Sit and learn with me for a month and I shall tell you where to find it.”
But Zahir felt impatient. He wanted to find the tree and return to his mother so she wouldn’t worry!
The scholar looked at Zahir and said, “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘How amazing is the affair of the Muslim! His affairs are all good. If he experiences ease, he is grateful, and that is good for him. If he experiences hardship, he faces it with patience and perseverance, and that is also good for him.’”2
So Zahir smiled and listened to the Qur’an recitation of the scholar. Then the scholar told Zahir it’s time for prayer and taught him how to give the adhaan (the call to prayer).
Everyday the scholar taught Zahir something new. He told Zahir that by the end of the month, Zahir would himself know where to find the Legendary Tree of Good Manners.
Zahir learned the Qur’an and the sunnah (tradition of the Prophet ﷺ) taught to him by the scholar. Zahir had to do everything according to the sunnah, so he followed the footsteps of his scholar.
The days passed by quickly and soon it was the end of the month. The Scholar woke Zahir up from his sleep and reminded him that it was the last day of the month. “So, now do you know where to find the Legendary Tree of Manners?” the scholar asked.
Zahir said, “It’s you.”
The scholar smiled.
Zahir said, “The Legendary Tree of Manners has branches which consist of Emaan (Faith), Ihsaan (Good), Haya’ (Modesty), Kindness, Charity, Humility, Taqwa (God-consciousness), Sincerity, and, most importantly, following the sunnah of Allah’s messenger ﷺ.”
The scholar rejoiced and told him, “Now you are that tree. You will pass it on, insha’Allah (God willing). Go to your mother and convey to her my greetings. I am your paternal uncle.”
The scholar handed him a letter that his father had left with him as a trust for his son. Zahir took the letter and thanked his uncle. He was very happy and thanked Allah subhana wa ta`ala for everything.
Abu Huraira, may God be pleased with him, said, “I heard Allah’s Messenger ﷺ, say, ‘The best among you in Islam are those with the best manners, so long as they develop a sense of understanding.’ ”3