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Transliteration:

Wa Teenee wa Zeytoon
Wa Turi Sineen
Wa Hadzal Baladil Ameen

English Translation :

By the fig, and the olive,
By Mount Sinai,
And by this city of security (Makkah)

This is a fiqh (interpretation) question. What is the metaphorical relationship between the fig and mount Sinai and the olive to Mecca, or maybe the fig to Mecca and the olive to Mt. Sinai?

  • Fiqh woud apply in its general linguistic meaning not in the meaning according to shari'a, but this seems rather a quran interpretation issue (tafsir/tafseer) – Medi1Saif Mar 23 '18 at 6:13
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Fig and olive

From Tafsir ibn Kathir of verse (95:1):

  • Al-'Awfi reported from Ibn 'Abbas that what is meant by At-Tin is the Masjid of Nuh that was built upon Mount Al-Judi. Mujahid said, "It is this fig that you have."
  • (By Az-Zaytun.) Ka'b Al-Ahbar, Qatadah, Ibn Zayd and others have said, "It is the Masjid of Jerusalem (Bayt Al-Maqdis)."
    Mujahid and 'Ikrimah said, "It is this olive which you press (to extract the oil)." (source qtafsir)

Other quotes about at-Tin التين according to ibn Kathir in his tafsir (My own translation):

  • وقال القرطبي : هو مسجد أصحاب الكهف .
    al-Qurtobi said it ius the mosque (the place of worship) of the people of the cave (ahl-Kahf).
  • وقال مجاهد : هو تينكم هذا .
    Mujahid said: what is meant are the figs we know of.

According to imam al-Qurtobi (see here in his tafsir) the list of those whom held the opinion of Mujahid مجاهد about the meanings of fig and olive is much longer:

ابن عباس والحسن ومجاهد وعكرمة وإبراهيم النخعي وعطاء بن أبي رباح وجابر بن زيد ومقاتل والكلبي
Ibn 'Abbas, al-Hassan (al-Basri), Mujahid, 'Ikrimah, Ibrahim an-Nakha'i, 'Ata' ibn abi Rabah, Jabir ibn Zayd, Moqatil and al-Kalbi.

Then he quoted other statements which I just want to list here:

  • fig refers to:
    the mosque of Nuh peace be upon him, which was built on mount al-Judi,
    al-Masjid al-Haram,
    the mosque of Damascus,
    the mount on which Damascus was built,
    the mosque of the people of al-Kahf (ahl al-Kahf) , Damascus,
    mountains between Hilwaan and Hamadan.

  • olive refers to:
    the mosque in Jerusalem (bayt al-Maqdis) or the mosque in Eelya' (old name of Jerusalem),
    al-Masjid al-Aqsa (masjid bayt al-Maqdis),
    the mount on which bayt al-Maqdis was built,
    the mountains of a-Shaam,

  • They both refer to two mounatins in a-Shaam, which were called toor zaytan and toor tynan in Syriac they have been called so, because these trees are put forth there. This was also narrated by abu Makeen from 'Ikrimah who said: fig and olive refer to two mounts in a-Shaam.

Al-Qurtobi then concluded that the most correct statement on this is that Allah has made an oath on these two fruits/trees. He considered any other opinion as metaphorical.

Then he explained: And HE made the oath on figs as these were the fruits that covered Adam in Jannah as mentioned in the Qur'an:

... and they began to fasten together over themselves from the leaves of Paradise. ... (7:22 and 20:121)

an other explanation was to show the benefit and good things of these fruits.
And the explanation for the oath on olive also comes from the Qur'an:

... lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree ... (24:35)

and sunnah:

Eat of its oil and use it (the olives), for indeed it is from a blessed tree. (See for example in Jami' at-Tirmidhi)

Al-Qurtobi also quoted the verse which creates a relation between olive and the mount Sinai:

And [We brought forth] a tree issuing from Mount Sinai which produces oil and food for those who eat. (23:20)

You may find in tafsir ibn Kathir the following statement on this verse:

(And a tree that springs forth from Tur Sinai,) means the olive tree. Tur means a mountain. Some of the scholars said, "It is called Tur if there are trees on it, and if it is bare it is called Jabal, not Tur. And Allah knows best. Mount Sinai is the same as Tur Sinin, and it is the mountain on which Allah spoke to Musa bin 'Imran, peace be upon him, and in the surrounding mountains there are olive trees.

(that grows oil,) Some scholars think it (linguistically) means that it brings forth oil. Others say it (linguistically) means "comes forth with oil." (source: qtafsir)

Al-Qurtobi here made the statement that the tree meant is the olive tree and it was first planted or put forth in toor Sina' which is a mount in a-Shaam, where Allah spoke to Musa () in direct speech. (see details here in tafsir al-Qurtobi)

The secure city

Now to verse (95:3) ibn Kathir

(By this city of security.) meaning Makkah. This was said by Ibn 'Abbas, Mujahid, 'Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Ibrahim An-Nakha'i, Ibn Zayd and Ka'b Al-Ahbar. There is no difference of opinion about this. (source: qtafsir)

one could say there's consensus that the secure city refers to Mecca.

Now to the relationship

Some of the Imams have said that these are three different places, and that Allah sent a Messenger to each of them from the Leading Messengers, who delivered the Great Codes of Law. The first place is that of the fig and the olive, which was Jerusalem, where Allah sent 'Isa bin Maryam. The second place is Mount Sinin, which is Mount Sinai where Allah spoke to Musa bin 'Imran. The third place is Makkah, and it is the city of security where whoever enters is safe. It is also the city in which Muhammad was sent. They have said that these three places are mentioned at the end of the Tawrah. The verse says, "Allah has come from Mount Sinai - meaning the one upon which Allah spoke to Musa bin 'Imran; and shined from Sa'ir - meaning the mountain of Jerusalem from which Allah sent 'Isa; and appeared from the mountains of Faran - meaning the mountains of Makkah from which Allah sent 'Isa; and appeared from the mountains of Faran - meaning the mountains of Makkah from which Allah sent Muhammad ." Thus, He mentioned them in order to inform about them based upon their order of existence in time. This is why He swore by a noble place, then by a nobler place, and then by a place that is the nobler than both of them. (source: qtafsir)

Scholars interpreted these verses metaphorically as a listing of the places where Allahs shari'a has been revealed: For example the shari'a of Nuh (if we assume that fig refers to al-Judi) the shari'a of Ibrahim (if we assume that olive refers to al-Masjid al-Aqsa assuimgh Ibrahim was the one who built it) and toor seneen (95:2) refers to the shari'a of the torah and finally the secure city refers to the shari'a of our prophet ().
It could also be that olive refers to the shari'a of 'Isa (assuimg Sulayman was the first who built bay al-Maqdis) in that case the secure city would refer to the shari'a of Ibraheem. On the whole these verses seem to create a metaphorical link between the shari'a of Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, 'isa and our prophet().

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I really appreciated Medi1Saif's answer. I would like to add another dimension as to what the metaphors of the fig and the olive may signify regarding revelation.

When we compare the fig to the olive we find the following:

The edible part of the olive is the exterior. The single inside pit of the olive is inedible but can be planted for olive tree reproduction.

While the exterior skin of the fig is edible, it can be rough. The interior of the fig is the sweet part and contains thousands of seeds. The whole fig can be consumed.

Both fruits can only be edible when they are ripe, when their time has come.

We may be able to use these characteristics as analogies when classifying revealed verses whether they be Quran or previous Injeel or Tawra.

When a revealed aya has only one obvious meaning, we can say it is a "zeytooni" or olivine aya.

whereas, when an aya has a literal meaning on the surface but upon reflection and interpretation can have significant multiple metaphorical, allegorical, or spiritual internal meanings we can say it is a "teeni" or fig aya.

Both teeni and zeytooni ayas abound in both the Quran and Tawrah, hence the reference to Mecca and Mount Sinai in Quran 95.

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