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The Bamboo of Islam
Oct 1, 2005

Some personalities are like bamboo, very hard, very tough; they wait, they make one wait, but eventually they compensate for their slow start very quickly.

For some people, accepting Islam or undertaking and accomplishing an exalted mission resembles growing bamboo. Why? We can best answer this question by looking at how bamboo grows: First the grass seed is sown, watered, and fertilized. No change can be observed in the seed during the first year. The seed is watered and fertilized again. The bamboo does not send forth any shoots from the soil during the second year either. The same actions are repeated for the third and fourth years too; the seed is watered and fertilized, but the resilient seed does not send forth any shoots during this period either. The farmer carries on watering and fertilizing the bamboo with great patience during the fifth year too. At last, towards the end of the fifth year, the bamboo starts to sprout and within a very short period, about 6 weeks, it reaches approximately 27 meters in height.

The first question that comes to minds here is: Has the bamboo reached a height of 27 meters in 6 weeks or over 5 years? The answer to this question is, of course, 5 years. If the seed had not been watered and fertilized for five years, if a great deal of patience and persistence had not been employed, we would not be able to talk about growth at all; indeed the bamboo would not even exist. Therefore, it is that five-year long process of waiting, slowly softening, constantly feeding the chemical and physical elements of the soil, adding water, letting the Sun warm the seed that formed the embryo of the bamboo. Of course, this did not happen spontaneously; it has most certainly happened and continues to happen because The Causer of all Causes, God, has brought all the causes together and given the order to sprout; it is His and life-giving breath that has caused the seed to grow.

Some personalities are like bamboo, very hard, very tough; they wait, they make one wait, but eventually they compensate for their slow start very quickly. This period can last anywhere from 3 to 30 years-they make others wait, or perhaps they are waiting themselves. They absorb our teardrops, our sweat, and our effort, like an infinite vacuum, until the right time comes and they rise with such speed that they overtake those that were in the lead. Like athletes, as they come closer to the finish line, their immense effort is enough to close any gaps; they finish the race first.

How long a person makes others wait or how long that person waits themselves before accepting the truth is dependent on that person’s will power, character, and their current situation. But of course, character plays a role here. If people are not nurtured by what they require, that thing which is most dominant in their character, then they will not feel satisfied. For example: If a person’s dominant character is that which is reflected in the name of God, the Affectionate and the Loving, then before they can accept anything or invite another into their heart, they need and seek love; this is the key to their making any changes. They will only relent if enough love is shown to them. If this does not happen, then they will not give in.

This can be observed in the conversion of some people to Islam. Sometimes, after a long period of investment, it can be observed, with great surprise, that these people have accepted the religion, yet this seems, on face value, to have been caused by a trivial event. Any small matter may set off this great transformation; it is not for us to know what is the key. Our concern is only to continue with the investment, to keep watering, feeding, and nurturing by representing the fundamentals of our religion . . . Most likely, those who are among the first to carry out such actions are those who expend the greatest amount of energy and those who suffer the most.

There are many unsung heroes of service; they have watered the seeds of the future with their tears and with the sweat of their brow. These people are not mentioned anywhere, nor have they ever been heard of. They do not rest, they do not take time to smell the flowers, or to eat the fruit of their labor; they make an effort merely for the sake of God. A tiny movement, the slightest effort may sometimes bear fruit; but it is not just the person who picks the fruit who will get the credit. All of those who contributed to the growth of the tree and the ripening of the fruit will be given credit. God, the Just, the All-Wise does not judge only according to physical appearance, He judges in accordance with the essence and the reality, and it is for this reason that He does not overlook anyone, He does not forget anything, and recompenses everyone’s effort completely.

The Makkans that became Muslims after the conquest of Makka on 11 January 630 (8 Hijri, 20 Ramadan), are, in a way, the bamboo of Islam. The Prophet invited them to belief over 13 years in Makka, from 610 to 622. He watered their hearts with his holy tears and the sweat of his brow. Then, he waited in Madina with patience for eight years. At last, in 630, that is to say, after 21 years had passed since the beginning of the revelation, in those rock-hard hearts that were looked after and watered by the Prophet and his honorable companions with relentless zeal and effort, the seed of belief came to life; it grew branches and blossomed and eventually produced fruit. Bamboo is said to take five years to grow, but those unbelievers took nearly 21 years to start to sprout. Thank God that they began to grow and were able to learn about Islam from the Prophet.

In conclusion, you reap what you sow. We should not aim to be the person who gathers the fruit; that is not our role. We are the one who shall tend the seed and water it with loving care. Putting effort and time into guiding others to the right path will please God; this should be our ultimate aim. Those who are prepared to wait for a person to mature, that is 21 years, patiently hoping to conquer the heart to bring that person to the right way are indeed following the way of the Prophet, the way of informing and invitation. One who embarks on this journey without patience will achieve nothing.