Film Review: ‘The Blessed Tree’ – An Interfaith Meeting Under The Shade of Nature

the-blessed-tree-islam-natureUnder a solitary tree in the desert, a young Prophet Muhammed met with the Christian monk Bahira. This documentary charts the importance of this chance meeting.

The Blessed Tree is a short and beautifully-filmed documentary which tells the story of a chance encounter between a Christian monk named Bahira and the young Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) under a tree in the desert. As well as drawing light on this important meeting, the documentary focuses on the belief that the very tree which witnessed this event is alive today in the Jordanian desert. It also captures a gathering of some of the most important Islamic scholars under that tree and their interpretation of the lessons the incident has to offer the modern world.

Starting with a commentary from the King Abdullah of Jordan about the first time he visited the ‘Blessed Tree’ and the importance of the meeting of Prophet Muhammed with the monk Bahira, the documentary takes you straight into the subject matter. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad from Jordan explains how the tree was re-discovered after his late uncle, King Hussein, put him to work in the Royal Archives after returning from Cambridge University. It was there that researchers discovered numerous references to the tree, and a forgotten inventory made by King Abdullah I of the holy sites in Jordan.

This takes us to a tree near Safawi in Jordan where the young Muhammed (SAW) is believed to have met with Bahira whilst travelling from Saudi with his uncle Abu Talib to modern-day Syria for trade. The trade route they would have taken across the Arabian desert means that the likely location of the meeting would have been the Jordanian desert. The meeting is particularly important as it was the first time that the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) was recognised as a prophet by the spiritual monk. After meeting Muhammed (SAW), Bahira the hermit monk tells Abu Talib to take good care of him and protect him from his enemies as he would be prophet for the end of time.

Prince Ghazi remarks: “The Prophet sitting under this tree, and its reacting to the Prophet makes the tree the only living terrestrial witness to the Prophet, what we would call in Arabic a sahabi.” Whilst those in the film seem convinced that the tree in the Jordanian desert is the tree from story, I am sure there are those who may need a bit more convincing. Either way, it’s great to learn more about the incident and the important place of nature in the life of the Prophet Muhammed as well as the emergence of Islam. ‘The Blessed Tree’ has beautiful footage of the Jordanian desert where the tree is located as well as interviews with some of the most famous Islamic scholars of our time and a great soundtrack.

There is, in a sense, a vertical dimension that goes through our heart vertically through our head and up to Heaven. The line of transcendence. This is the inner tree. The roots of it are actually the roots of the Divine reality in our hearts. For most human beings this tree has dried up because they are not aware of its roots. It is virtually there but not actually; and the spiritual life means the reviving of this tree within us by sinking the roots of the Divine once again in our hearts.”
Prof. Seyyed Hossein Nasr

The only downfall of the film is that it can a little repetitive with the scholars recalling the same incident. It’s also a huge shame that the film didn’t take the opportunity to explore the interfaith nature of incident and bring in Christian figures to contemplate the chance meeting. The symbolism of the tree is also left unexplored and none of the scholars (well, not in the film anyway) look at the place of nature in the life of the Prophet more broadly. Overall, a good 6 out of 10.

You can purchase the The Blessed Tree DVD from One Thousand Films or download a HD digital version for half the price at $9.85.

For more on Islam and the environment see:

How Islam Could Tackle Water Scarcity

What can Islam do for the Environment? Lots, Actually…

Islam’s Environmentally Friendly Architecture – Where Did It Go?

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