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By The Fig & the Olive

  • Farah Ahmed

The Fig & the Olive: A Tale of Two Bounties


Photo by James Lee on Unsplash


So why did you call it Fig and Olive Nutrition, they ask? A question that has arisen numerous times since the inception of the name but I must say, it’s a fair question. 

In my mind, it seemed almost obvious. The words ’great health!’ spring to mind as soon as you mention these two juicy wonders, with visions of sun, sea, and the mediterranean in the backdrop. Regardless of where you are in the world, they are recognised with great familiarity.


The fig and the olive are some of the earliest cultivated foods, and have evolved throughout history on a spiritual as well as functional level.  Aside from being particularly delicious, they also hold a special symbolic significance in all three Abrahamic religions, and have roots in other cultures, representing more than a food choice.


For someone whose observance is Islam, I’ve found it interesting that these two little gems have been referred to a number of times in our holy book, the Quran, as well as in many Hadith (Prophetic traditions).


In the Quran, olives, among other fruits, are cited as one of God’s obvious gifts. One of the chapters of the Quran begins with a significant opening: 


“By the Fig and the Olive, And the Mount of Sinai, And this City of security,-We have indeed created man in the best of moulds….

 (Quran 95:1-5)


Here, God takes an oath by these fruits to highlight the importance of the words that follow it. Oaths taken in Quran are not classed as something to be taken lightly, and so in doing so, it shows the power and importance behind that thing. God does not swear by something insignificant, or by something that is not seen as a gift to the world. 


The Olive has long been considered sacred. The olive branch was often a symbol of abundance, glory and peace in history. The leafy branches of the olive tree were ritually offered to deities and powerful figures as emblems of benediction and purification. 

Over the years, the olive has continued to be the symbol of wisdom, fertility, power and purity. Still today, to "extend an olive branch" is to make an attempt to correct a conflict. The flag of the United Nations depicts the world with two olive branches on either side, symbolising its goal of world peace. I love how a simple food has acquired so much importance. Cited as being a universal symbol of peace and guidance “neither of the East nor the West” (Quran 24:35), certain foods are truly blessed.


Figs, on the other hand, were commonly used in Biblical Scriptures as symbols of abundance or prosperity, and peace. In Ayurvedic medicine, they are a source of health, vitality and strength. In the Hadith, they are mentioned as having a vast number of physiological benefits and are regarded as being fruits of paradise. As far as health benefits are concerned, they are called the ‘Fruit Superstar’ by some of the leading experts in nutrition. 


Taking all this into consideration, these two little wonders can be seen as a truly generous reward to the earth, along with all that nature provides. The fig and the olive are indeed nature's bounty.


Ultimately, the significance of the fig and the olive represent to me how important it is to eat that which nature provides, and to take care of your self on EVERY level. We should strive to take advantage of what nature has to offer, as advised in our books and by traditions of the past. Why else would these things be given such a status in history if they were not important in some way. Science, religion, history and our surroundings continue to highlight the beauty and integrity of nature. It is consistent yet evolving.

Some would say this is a deep and overly spiritual connection!! But indeed, what are we if not mind, body and spirit. The point is natural medicine is an all-encompassing, all-inclusive concept that connects all three elements. It is for everyone, no matter where we come from, what we believe or what group we place ourselves in, if any. We all have a common connection, a collective humanity that is striving for success and wellness in every facet of our life, physically and spiritually. We are all connected through universal energy, striving for harmony with the source of creation. 


Truths are universal. We can learn from anyone, regardless of the path or identity that we choose. We all bring a different perspective to the table, and that in itself is a beautiful thing. 


“Knowledge is the lost property of a wise man. Wherever u find it, cease it.”

(Hadith: Tirmidhi)


My goal in this blog is ultimately to present my perspective, a lifestyle of self care that is instinctive, whole and consistent with nature and all it intended, whilst overlapping key concepts and drawing parallels with all that is presented in Islam and beyond. It is more than what people think it to be. The Prophetic way is often attributed to a mere set of rituals and prayers, but really it incorporates more than that. Looking after ones body does not seem to take the forefront of our agendas, despite having a huge presence in our traditions.


The essence of what Islam really is, is a complete way of life. To follow the Prophet as a guide in his actions and his words is so important for Muslims, but this includes how and what he ate as part of how he lived. Interestingly, these well-documented ways connect nicely to today’s recommendations in the health and wellbeing world. This is my attempt to bring back a forgotten, but certainly not a new concept, to all.

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