The mystic verses of this very early revealed Meccan Surah, At-Teen (The Fig), adjure men to turn to the wonders of the spiritual world by striking verses full of symbolism, introduced by the particle “wa”, that is, “by” and using sacred symbols by way of illustration.
Surah At-Teen is clinched by an adjuration to four sacred symbols, namely the Fig, the Olive, Mount Sinai and the Sacred City of Mecca, with the aim to demonstrate that through the ages, Almighty Allah has created man in the best of moulds, but alas man can yet fall to the lowest depths and utmost degradation, unless he lives a life of faith and rectitude. Then, will man reach his goal; otherwise, he must stand his judgment before the wisest of judges.
“By the Fig and the Olive, And the Mount of Sinai, And this City of Security” Verses 1-3.
One of the interpretations of these verses is that each symbol in the solemn appeal stands for a different epoch in the history of mankind and the Prophets of those periods. “The Fig” may stand for the period of the first humans and Prophet Adam (Pbuh), as it is narrated that he and his wife covered themselves with fig leaves in the Garden of Paradise. Or, literally “The Fig” refers to the fruit or the tree and stands as a symbol of the destiny of man in various ways. Under cultivation, the fig can be one of the finest, most delicious and wholesome fruits. In its wild state, the fig is nothing but tiny insipid seeds and often full of worms and maggots. Summing up, man at his best has a noble destiny, whereas, at his worst, man is “the lowest of the low”.
“The olive” may either stands for the time of Prophet Nuh (Pbuh) (Noah) and after the flood, when a dove was sent out of the ark with the aim of finding a dry land. The dove returned back with an olive leaf. The olive may also stand for Mount of Olives, where Prophet Issa (Pbuh) (Jesus) made his striking pronouncement about the judgment to come. Olive oil is known to have a symbolic meaning, as it is an ingredient in medicinal ointments, as well as, in ointments used for religious ceremonies such as the consecration of kings. Besides, the olive has a delicious flavor when used as food.
“Mount of Sinai” was the Mountain on which the Jewish Law was revealed to Prophet Musa (Pbuh) (Moses).
“This City of Security” is undoubtedly Mecca, where even in Pagan periods, its sacred character was valued and no fighting was permitted in its territory. But it is the same City, with all its sacred connections, persecuted Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) and gave itself up for a time to idolatry and sin. The contrast of the best and the worst is thus portrayed.
Hence, it is clear that the four symbols, closely associated with Prophet Issa (Pbuh) (Jesus), Prophet Musa (Pbuh) (Moses) and Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) refer to the Light or Revelation of Allah and offer man the highest destiny if he will follow the Way.
“We have indeed created man in the best of mould, then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low.” Verses 4-5
Almighty Allah created man faultless by giving him the purest and best nature. It is the duty of man to preserve the pattern on which Almighty Allah has made him. By making man vicegerent on earth, Allah exalted him in a position higher than angels, as man besides being obedient, has been given will power and discretion.
“Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: for they shall have a reward unfailing. Then what can, after this, contradict thee, as to the judgment (to come)?” Verses 6-7
People who use their faculties aright and follow the Laws of Allah will without fail reach the high and noble destiny. But alas, some people rebel and break Allah’s Laws and are capable of inflicting the most awful torture and atrocious treatment on each other because of political ideas, religious intolerance or ethnic hatred. People think of new weapons to cause more pain and destruction to cause others to suffer. Is this not truly “the lowest of the low”?
“Is not God the wisest of Judges?” Verse 8
Surah At-Teen ends by asking what could make man deny final judgment. Allah is wise and just, hence, the virtuous have nothing to fear as Allah will certainly hand out exact justice to his creatures in the end, while the evil ones will not be able to flee punishment.
reference: The Holy Quran, translation by A. Yusuf Ali
The Quran in Plain English by Iman Torres-Al Haneef