The Man and the Tree
There once lived a man. He lived amongst a community where the people worshipped a tree. He was a devout servant of Allah, and he was very upset that the people are worshipping a tree, instead of worshipping Allah. So he began to ponder about what he can do to bring people back to the path of Tawheed.
After doing some thinking, he came up with an idea. He thought that the best way to get rid of this problem is to cut it off at the roots. He felt that if he can somehow chop down that tree and the tree didn’t exist any longer … people would go back to worshipping Allah.
So one afternoon, he set out to go and chop down this tree. He sharpened his axe and off he went. On his way there, he met Shaytaan. So Shaytaan asked him, where are you going, my good sir? He replied saying I am going to chop down this three. It is an evil tree and it is causing the people to go astray.
Shaytaan tried to reason with the man and said look, these people are not bothering you, they are getting on with their daily lives and in the meantime they go and worship this tree. Why are you so bothered by this. Just let it be, it’s not your concern. But the man would not listen and was firm on his mission to cut down the tree. He said that how can I watch the people go astray and do nothing. And why should the people worship this tree when it is Allah who is their lord and sustainer.
So the man asked Shaytaan to get out of the way and let him get on with what he has set out to do. Shaytaan would not listen and when he found that he can not reason with this guy and nor can he convince him to give up his mission, Shaytaan challenged him to a duel. Shaytaan said to the man that I will not let you cut down this tree, and if you still want to cut it down, you will have to get through me first.
The man being very upset at this, said fine, so be it, and he got into a fight with Shaytaan. They boxed and grappled for a while until finally the man put Shaytaan down on the floor. Shaytaan was defeated, but the man was so tired after fighting the Shaytaan, he decided to go back home and come back the following day to complete the job.
So having gone home and rested the night, he was up fresh and strong again. So he set off again to chop down this tree. And on his way, he met Shaytaan again. They had a little conversation and then Shaytaan again said that you have to get through me before you can get to that tree. So they ended up in another fight, and the man defeated Shaytaan one more time. But after defeating Shaytaan, he felt tired again, so decided to go back home and return the following day.
The same thing happened the following day and the day after that. After a couple of days of this cycle, Shaytaan decided that this guy is not going to give up. So he thought that he had to find a way of negotiating some kind of a deal. So the next day when the man was on his way and Shaytaan came in his way, before getting into a fight, Shaytaan suggested that they try and negotiate something. The man wasn’t having it and he said look just get out of my way and let me get on with what I set out to do. Shaytaan told the man, listen, If you forget about cutting that tree, and leave it where it is, then every night I will leave a sum of money under your pillow. After hearing this the man was now interested in what Shaytaan had to offer. So he listened attentively. He began to negotiate a price and sum that he was willing to take, for not cutting down the tree. So they came to an agreement, and Shaytaan agreed to leave a sum of money under the man pillow every night so long as he goes no where near that tree.
The man went back home, feeling slightly guilty, but he just couldn’t resist the offer Shaytaan made. He woke up in the morning to find money under his pillow, and he was happy. He received this sum of money for some nights, and every morning he would be happy that he is getting richer and richer.
Then one morning, the Man woke up to find that there is no money under his pillow. He was furious. He got up, got his tools together and was off again, to chop the tree down. On his way there, as usual, he found Shaytaan waiting for him. Shaytaan asked where he was going. So the man said he was going to cut down the tree. Shaytaan asked why, the man said well … you promised to pay me a certain sum of money, and today when I woke up there was no money, so you have broken the deal, and I want to cut down the tree.
Shaytaan told him that, as before, he will not allow the man to cut down the tree. So they got into a fight again. They boxed and grappled for a while until finally the Shaytaan put the man down on the floor.
The man was shocked. How could that happen, for every other time that he fought with Shaytaan, he won. He was very confused by this, so he asked Shaytaan, how did you manage to defeat me this time, when every other time that we fought, I defeated you. Shaytaan explained that when you first came to chop down this tree. You were sincere in your intention and you wanted to cut it down purely for the sake of Allah. Hence when you fought me you defeated me. But this time your intentions were not sincere and were not for Allah’s sake. You came for a selfish cause. You were angry that I did not leave money under your pillow this morning, and that’s why you wanted to cut down the tree, to get back at me. Hence because your intentions were insincere you were defeated by me.
That’s the story, and I think the moral is fairly simple to understand. Just one thing to note is that intentions is the key to all actions. Even a lot of the times when we do good deeds, we must insure it is for Allah only and no other reason gets mixed in with that. May Allah bless us all to have pure and sincere intentions for His sake only – Ameen!
 Just to note that this story is not from any books of Islam, or from any hadith, so please be sure that if you do tell it to others, you mention that it’s not a hadith and does not have a chain of narration. It’s one of those stories that get told because they have a good meaning or a moral.
Also note that the wording and the conversation between the devil and the man are all entirely my own, just to illustrate the point more clearly.