Figs Resemble the Heaven's Fruit
By: Dr. / Zaghloul El-Naggar
Abu ad-Darda' (A.S.) narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said:
"If I could say that a fruit was sent down from Heaven (to earth), I would say it is figs, because the Heaven's fruit has no stones. Eat it, as it cures hemorrhoids and it is useful for treating gout'."
In another narration by Abu Dharr (A.S.), he said, "The Prophet (PBUH) was given a basket full of figs as a present. He said to us, "Eat!" He ate of it and said:
"If I could say that a fruit was sent down from Heaven, it would be this, as the fruit in Heaven has no stones. Eat it, as it cures hemorrhoids and it is useful for treating gout (or arthritis)."
Explanation of the Hadith
The wild fig tree "Ficus carica" of the Maraceae family loses its leaves during the autumn and winter seasons. It grows in the Mediterranean basin, especially in Turkey, Syria, Egypt and other northern African countries, and up to Iran in the east. Fig trees are drought tolerant, and have the ability to store large amounts of water. The sap contains copious milky latex that is used as a laxative and for treating warts. A fig fruit contains hundreds of tiny seeds (drupelets) gathered on a fleshy sweet and succulent pulp. Each of these seeds is considered a core for an individual fruit.
The female Pistillate flower ripens before the male flower staminate and that is why pollination of the fig tree takes place by the fig wasp, which is known as Blastophaga psenes. The winged female wasp crawls through the ostiole (a small opening on the fruit) and lays an egg inside each ovary of the female flower. The wasp eggs hatch into larvae inside the ovaries, and the larva feeds on the embryo sac tissue (developing endosperm) until the larvae develop into adult wasps, which perform the pollination process. Thus, there is a mutual benefit between the wasp and the tree, which provides the warm secure place for the wasp to lay its egg while the wasp carries out the pollination.
Three genera of flowers are produced yearly on fig trees. The first genera are basically male and female flowers that act as a hatchery for the eggs. The second are only female flowers that constitute the main crop of the fig tree. The fig wasp fertilizes these female flowers with pollen grains (of the first generation male flowers) that stick to its body. Then comes the third genera flowers that act as a hatchery for only the wasp, which spends the winter inside it.
Inside the short-style female flower of the fig tree, Blastophaga spends its mating period, where the life of the male fig wasp comes to an end by inseminating the female fig wasp. The female wasps emerge from their ovary containers and escape through the ostiole searching for other flowers to lay their eggs. While they leave the flowers searching for a place to lay their eggs, female wasps are dusted with pollen of male flowers, which they in turn carry to the ovaries of female flowers. Thus, the pollination process, which is needed for the ripening of the fig fruit, is complete.
Due to the natural hybridization process, two main groups have been formed, under which there are many species. The first group is known as Ficus carica caprifica (caprifigs). It contains male and hatchery flowers, which are not suitable for human consumption. They are only fed to livestock. The second is known as Common fig or Ficus carica domestica. It carries only female flowers and the fruits of which is the edible one.
Of the common fig, species are the "Smyrna" and the "sultani figs" which the type cultivated in Egypt. The flowers of the "sultani figs" tree are sterile and thus the drupelets are formed through vegetative parthenocarpy (self-pollinated) and do not need external fertilization. The fruit thus produced is seedless, juicy and are not suitable for drying. They only last for a short season, which does not exceed a period of three months.
As for the "Smyrna trees", they carry female flowers, the fruit of which is produced through fertilization. These fruits have seeds and are thus suitable for drying and exporting. For the cultivation of the Smyrna trees to take place successfully, they need to be planted alongside with the caprifica (for pollination process to take place!).
The Smyrna trees produce their fruits twice a year, at the beginning and end of the summer. It is a perennial tree, which can keep producing its fruit for more than fifty years.
In general, the fig tree does not exceed seven meters in height. The fig fruit has the qualities of both fruit and flowers because the fig drupelets are each, in a sense, a flower on its own. Even if this flower is not exposed to sunlight, it ripens fully.
The fig fruit is very similar to the "Sycamore Fig" which grows widely in Egypt and Syria. The sycamore tree is much bigger than the wild fig tree whether Capri fig or the domestic type. These trees even grow to extremely enormous sizes and also perennial.
The fig is a blessed tree. Allah the Almighty has sworn by it in the Qur'an, even though Glorified be He does not need to make an oath. Allah the Almighty say:
(By the fig, and the olive. By Mount Sinai. By this city of security (Makkah).)
(Surat At-Tin (The Fig):1-3)
It seems that verses are referring to the common figs that we eat today, and also the known olives that we eat and squeeze for oil production, which is the opining of most scholars of Tafsir (Commentary on the Qur'an), such as Ibn 'Abbas, al-Hasan and Mujahid. Few others scholars are of the opinion that "the fig" and "the olive" refer to Palestine as they were followed by mentioning Makkah, the place where the Prophet (PBUH) was born and received the Divine Revelation. Also Mount Sinai is the mount where Allah the Almighty, spoke to His Messenger and Prophet Musa (PBUH). They are then of the opinion that choosing the fig and olive has a metaphorical inclination referring to their cultivation in the blessed land of Palestine, where Prophet Brahmin (PBUH) migrated to and where 'Isa (PBUH) was born and lived. Thus, the oath at the opening of the Surah refers to great-blessed places, as they were the land of many Prophets and Messengers of Allah.
Nevertheless, the stronger opinion is that the oath refers to the figs and olives that we eat today, as it what is directly understood from the verses and there is no evidence that we should resort to metaphorical interpretations. Allah the Almighty swears by those two blessed fruits to draw our attention to their great benefit to humans. The fig fruit, in addition to its pleasant appearance, is sweet in taste, nice smelling, easy to harvest, eats and digest. Figs are consumed fresh dried, soaked, as a juice or in syrup form. Figs are also used in many important medical products, and are considered as a nerve-relaxing nutrient.
Chemical analyses of figs proved that the average composition of the fig fruit is as follows; fibers; about 18.5%; carbohydrates, about 53% including mono-saccarides and protein, about 3.6%.In addition to that it contains salts of several minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper, zinc, sulphur, sodium and chlorine. It also contains many vitamins, enzymes, acids, disinfectants, gelatinous matter and a high percentage of water content.
Figs also contain a special digestive enzyme called "Ficin" which has been proven to play a vital role in food digestion. The Japanese were also able to isolate a phytochemical benzaldehyde from the fruits, which has shown significant abilities in fighting carcinogens and was even used very effectively in curing some very advanced cancer cases. Figs also contain some carbohydrates which were proven to be effective in protecting the blood from bacteria, viruses and many other parasites which cause blood diseases such as the virus C. These groups are known as Suralinz and are present abundantly in the fig fruits, its syrup, juice and jam.
Figs are also very useful in treating hemorrhoids, chronic constipation, gout and arthritis, inflammations of the respiratory tract, menstrual disturbances, convulsion, mouth ulcers, gum inflammations, tonsils and sore throat. It is also useful in the treatment of vitiligo, removing warts on the body and the healing of wounds and ulcers as it contains germicides, antibacterial and antiviral agent, and is also useful against tapeworm. Figs also contain substances, which promote lactation.
The fact that figs cure hemorrhoids is most probably because they contain laxative in addition to astringent materials. As for its being a treatment for gout and arthritis, it is because figs have the ability to dissolve uric acid salts resulting from excessive consumption of red meat, which leads to a disturbance in the metabolism of nucleic acids, which causes gout.