Wisdom

The Quran

“He grants Hikmah(wisdom) to whom He pleases, and he, to whom Hikma(wisdom) h is granted, is indeed granted abundant good. But none remember (will receive admonition) except men of understanding.” [Qur’an; 2:269]

“And I taught you the ‘Ketab’ (Scripture) and ‘Al-Hekmah’(wisdom).” [Qur’an; 5-110]

“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.” [Qur’an; 16:125]

Hadith

Shaddad bin Aus (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A wise man is the one who calls himself to account (and refrains from doing evil deeds) and does noble deeds to benefit him after death; and the foolish person is the one who subdues himself to his temptations and desires and seeks from Allah the fulfillment of his vain desires”. [At-Tirmidhi]

“When Allah wishes good for someone, He bestows upon him the understanding of Deen.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

It was narrated from ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “There is no (permissible) envy except in two cases: A man whom Allah has given wealth and caused him to dispose of it in a proper manner, and a man to whom Allah has given wisdom, and he acts in accordance with it and teaches it (to others).” [Ibn Majah]

“Do not wish to be like anyone except in two cases. (The first is) A person, whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it righteously; (the second is) the one whom Allah has given wisdom (the Holy Qur’an) and he acts according to it and teaches it to others.” [Bukhari]

“The wise statement is the lost property of the believer, so wherever he finds it, then he is more worthy of it.” [Tirmidhi]


The Arabic word for wisdom is hikmah. A person may possess ilm (knowledge) but be bereft of hikmah. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was unlettered, yet he was bestowed with immense wisdom.

Wisdom is insight as well as foresight. It is the ability to see beyond the apparent and to act intelligently according to person, place, and time. Wisdom develops with maturity and experience, although it is not directly related to age. Its definition includes:

  • the ability to make correct judgments and decisions
  • as foreseeing consequences and acting to maximize beneficial results
  • making the best use of available knowledge
  • thinking what is best and doing what is best in any given situation

One must weigh the costs and benefits to any course of action. Rightly-guided education is a must for implementing this beautiful religion. Without this education, one might believe he is doing good when he is actually generating harm.

Shari’ah can be divided into two types of discourse. The discourse of obligation (khitab-ut-takleef) refers to responsibilities which are sometimes on the individual, sometimes collective, sometimes for the ruler, and sometimes for the general population. The discourse of circumstance (khitab-ul-wada’) refers to the circumstances which make the rulings binding on an individual or group. Scholars and leaders must take this into account when guiding the masses. Every command from Allah has conditions, causes, and constraints. Laws may have to be redacted or introduced according to circumstances and this is to be done in consultation with the learned and the wise.

For instance, in one of the episodes of our history, we see that the penal code for theft was not implemented during the time of famine, because there was an understanding regarding the circumstances of people. Similarly, when people started trading in horses, a zakat on horses was introduced, although there was no zakat due on horses in previous times.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself showed us that concepts can change. For instance, after the victory of Makkah (fathhul Makkah) it was said there would be no hijra (migration) after that. However, the definition of a muhajir would still exist in that it referred to someone who migrated from bad actions to good. The concept changed from something physical to something spiritual.

In the words of Ibn Al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) [1]:

Reflect on the wisdom of the Almighty Allah in His creation and commandment, in what He created and in what He decreed; and you will discover in all that a great source of wisdom that speaks of a foolproof system that never fails, nor does it have any loophole.

Some people perceive the wisdom of commandment more than they notice the wisdom of creation – these are the select among Allah’s servants, who have well comprehended what Allah ordained of injunctions and religion, and realised His wisdom in what He excelled in designing. Their minds and intellect testify that the basis of what they see is deep wisdom, mercy and benefit for the humans in their worldly and hereafter lives. This class of people, however, are of countless levels that only Allah can reckon.

Some humans notice the wisdom of creation more than they notice the wisdom of injunctions, and of this class are the majority of physicians who dedicate their thought to the extraction of the benefits and uses of animals and plants, their potentials and what they can serve, individually and in combinations. Their share in perceiving the wisdom of commandment is equal to or less than the jurist’s share in perceiving the wisdom of creation.

Another class are blessed with noticing creation and commandment in accordance with their potential and ability: They notice in what they see the exceeding wisdom that overwhelms minds; and as they observe creation and the many aspects of wisdom it implies, they increase in faith, knowledge, and endorsement of what the messengers taught. When they consider His commandments and the exceeding wisdom they imply, their faith and submission to the Lord are increased. They are not like those who have been blinded to the Maker by what He made, or blinded by the stars from realising the Star-Maker; those whose vision is blinded, who are barred from the Lord with a thick veil.

Though knowledge (ilm) may open the doorways to wisdom (hikmah), the two are distinct. Knowledge and information provide the means for enlightenment. A man may have amassed a lot of knowledge yet remain lacking in wisdom.

Though book knowledge enhances the potential for wisdom, wisdom is often attained by learning in other ways, especially by reflecting on that knowledge and applying it.

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” – [Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations, 1988]

Muslims are instructed to ask the learned, consult with the wise, and to accompany the poor.

 

Further Information

The Essence of Wisdom | Part 1 | Part 2

Luqman the Wise

 

Footnotes

[1] [Book] Men and the Universe