Hakim al Umma Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanawi (Allah have mercy on him) said,
The analogy of the company of pious is like planting a sour-flavored mango sapling beneath a Fajri (better quality and sweet tasting) mango tree. And then grafting a branch of Fajri on its stem. It is quite evident that (now) this (sour-flavored) tree will bear Fajri mangoes.
Majeed al Majeed, page 33
The pious elders commonly use the analogy of plant grafting when discussing the Shaikh-murid relationship. In order to understand this better we discuss the technical part of this plant grafting first. Thereafter, we draw the similarities between them.
Grafting of graftage is a horticultural technique whereby tissues from one plant are inserted into those of another so that the two sets of vascular tissues may join together.
In most cases, one plant is selected for its roots and this is called the stock or rootstock. The other plant is selected for its stems, leaves, flowers, or fruits and is called the scion or cion. The scion contains the desired genes to be duplicated in future production by the stock/scion plant.
For successful grafting to take place, the vascular cambium tissues of the stock and scion plants must be placed in contact with each other. Both tissues must be kept alive until the graft has taken, usually a period of a few weeks. Successful grafting only requires that a vascular connection take place between the grafted tissues.
The advantages of grafting include:
1. Precocity: The ability to induce fruitfulness without the need for completing the juvenile phase. Juvenility is the natural state through which a seedling plant must pass before it can become reproductive. In most fruiting trees, juvenility may last between 5 and 9 years, but in some tropical fruits e.g. Mangosteen, juvenility may be prolonged for up to 15 years. Grafting of mature scions onto rootstocks can result in fruiting in as little as two years.
2. Dwarfing: To induce dwarfing or cold tolerance or other characteristics to the scion. Most apple trees in modern orchards are grafted on to dwarf or semi-dwarf trees planted at high density. They provide more fruit per unit of land, higher quality fruit, and reduce the danger of accidents by harvest crews working on ladders.
3. Ease of propagation: Because the scion is difficult to propagate vegetatively by other means, such as by cuttings. In this case, cuttings of an easily rooted plant are used to provide a rootstock. In some cases, the scion may be easily propagated, but grafting may still be used because it is commercially the most cost-effective way of raising a particular type of plant.
4. Hybrid breeding: To speed maturity of hybrids in fruit tree breeding programs. Hybrid seedlings may take ten or more years to flower and fruit on their own roots. Grafting can reduce the time to flowering and shorten the breeding program.
6. Maintain consistency: Apples are notorious for their genetic variability, even differing in multiple characteristics, such as, size, color, and flavor, of fruits located on the same tree. In the commercial farming industry, consistency is maintained by grafting a scion with desired fruit traits onto a hardy stock.
7. Better flavor and price of flowers and fruits. Individuals familiar with the grafted (qalmi) mangoes can appreciate this very vividly.
Now we draw attention to the analogous issues in it to the state of the murid.
The procedure has to be done by an expert (Shaikh) who knows how to make the cuts (tarbiyet) in order to join (establish nisbet) the vascular cambium of stock and scion.
There should be compatibility (munasbet) between the genus, species, etc. of the stock and the scion.
It is essential to make sure that scion being used is the desired quality (Shaikh e kamil).
The murid (stock) has to completely submit to the Shaikh (scion) and remove all of its attributes (takhaliya). It has to remain in constant, firm and intimate contact (suhba) for a considerable duration of time for this to be successful. Confluence of vascularities (spiritual blessing/faidh) has to be maintained. The stem, branches, leaves, flowers and fruits (tajaliay) that ensue are that of the scion.
The success of the procedure is only evident when the grafted plant bears flowers and fruits. The growth of branches and leaves alone do not guarantee success.
The expert gardener (Shaikh) may even give a certificate (khilafa/ijazah) that this is a grafted plant. However, appearance of desired quality fruits and flowers will prove this without any doubt.
Prior to this we have to wait patiently making sure that the optimum environment (good company), nutrition (desired actions, physical worship & praise-worthy morals) and protection (from all that is undesired, physical sinful acts & blame-worthy morals) are in place for the stock-scion plant to mature.
May Allah make this information beneficial for us. Amin!