Wisdom provides us with the capacity to solve real life problems. So, acquiring wisdom becomes a must if we want to live meaningful lives. As we live through life and its experiences, it is vital that we reflect on such experiences to make our subsequent steps in life easier. As Immanuel Kant, a famous philosopher said that “Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.”
So, if wisdom enables a person to make more sound decisions, take a shortcut path to success, recalibrate values for the better, and simply live a better life, then why not spend time reflecting on our own experiences as well as learning from others? As Will Durant, a renowned philosopher and Pulitzer Prize winner stated, “A wise man can learn from another man’s experience; a fool cannot learn even from his own.”
The words of the Quran and teachings of our prophet Muhammad guide us to a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. In fact, Allah calls Quran the “Book of wisdom” in many places in the Quran. He says: “A.L.R. These are the ayats of the Book of wisdom.” (Yunus, Chapter #10, Verse #1). The Almighty also says: “We have sent it down as an Arabic Quran, in order that ye may learn wisdom.” (Yusuf, Chapter #12, Verse #2)
Quran emphasizes the importance of wisdom throughout its text. Allah sent prophets and messengers to propagate that wisdom. He says in one of such verses: “A similar (favor have ye already received) is that We have sent among you a Messenger of your own, rehearsing to you Our Signs, and sanctifying you, and instructing you in Scripture and wisdom, and in new knowledge.” (Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #151)”
In its text, Quran also teaches wisdom through the words of a person named Luqman. Although not a prophet, Allah had granted him enormous wisdom. He was wise enough to have an entire chapter named after him. He was a pious person and according to the Quran was granted wisdom by Allah. As Allah says in the Quran: And indeed We bestowed upon Luqman AlHikmah (wisdom and religious understanding, etc.) saying: “Give thanks to Allah,” and whoever gives thanks, he gives thanks for (the good of) his ownself. And whoever is unthankful, then verily, Allah is All Rich (Free of all wants), Worthy of all praise. (Luqman: 12)
In his book “Stories of the Prophet”, Ibn Katheer writes that Luqman’s real name was known as “Luqman Ibn ‘Anqa’ Ibn Sadun” or according to some “Luqman Ibn Tharan” who was from among the people of Aylah (Jerusalem) (Stated by As-Suhaili from Ibn Jarir and Al-Qutaibi). Some accounts describe him as an Ethiopian slave who worked as a carpenter. Because of his wisdom people went to him to settle their affairs and therefore he was also known to be a judge.
Although Quran makes no reference regarding him being as a prophet, it is narrated by some as described by Ibn Katheer in his book “Stories of the Prophet” that he was offered to become one. Ibn Katheer mentions, Sa’id said: I heard Qatadah as saying: It was said to Luqman: “How did you prefer wisdom to Prophethood when you were enabled to choose between them?” He said: “If Allah were to assign me with Prophethood, I would accept it and try hard to win His Pleasure, but He enabled me to choose. I feared of being too weak for Prophethood, so I chose wisdom.”
The following are the words of wisdom of Luqman as described in the Quran. Later, another section quotes his wisdom as narrated by other reliable narrators as mentioned by Ibn Katheer in his book “Stories of the Prophets”.
Luqman’s wisdom in the Quran
Luqman’s wisdom in the Quran is described in the context of him explaining it to his son. It is described in the Quran in the following verses.
- Regarding not to associate anyone in the worship and oneness of Allah –
And (remember) when Luqman said to his son when he was advising him: “O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily! Joining others in worship with Allah is a great Zoolm (wrong) indeed. (Quran: Luqman: 13)
- Being dutiful to ones parents –
And We have enjoined on man (to be dutiful and good) to his parents. His mother bore him in weakness and hardship upon weakness and hardship, and his weaning is in two years give thanks to Me and to your parents, unto Me is the final destination. (Quran: Luqman: 14)
- Being dutiful to ones parents except where they tell you to deviate from the Right path –
But if they (both) strive with you to make you join in worship with Me others that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not, but behave with them in the world kindly, and follow the path of him who turns to Me in repentance and in obedience. Then to Me will be your return, and I shall tell you what you used to do. (Quran: Luqman: 15)
- Every person is accountable for everything that he does –
“O my son! If it be (anything) equal to the weight of a grain of mustard seed, and though it be in a rock, or in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth. Verily, Allah is Subtle (in bringing out that grain), WellAware (of its place). (Quran: Luqman: 16)
- Enjoining Prayers
“O my son! perform AsSalat (prayers), enjoin (people) for Al-Maroof (Islamic Monotheism and all that is good), and forbid (people) from AlMunkar (i.e. disbelief in the Oneness of Allah, polytheism of all kinds and all that is evil and bad), and bear with patience whatever befalls you. Verily! These are some of the important commandments ordered by Allah with no exemption. (Quran: Luqman: 17)
- Do not be arrogant and proud
“And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allah likes not each arrogant boaster. (Quran: Luqman: 18)
- Be humble and lower your voice
“And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the voice (braying) of the donkey.” (Quran: Luqman: 19)
Other words of wisdom from Luqman (not narrated in the Quran) [ibn Katheer]
- Luqman on being granted respect and honor
Narrated Ibn Wahb: I was told by ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Ayyash Al-Fityani after’ Umar, the freed slave of ‘Afrah as saying: “A man came to Luqman, the wise and asked: Are you Luqman? Are you the slave of so and so? He said: “Yes!” The man said: You are the black shepherd! Luqman said: As for my black color, it is obviously apparent, so what makes you so astonished? The man said: You became frequently visited by the people who pleasingly accept your judgments! Luqman said: 0 cousin! If you do what I am telling you, you will be like this. The man said: What is it? Luqman said: Lowering my gaze, watching my tongue, eating what is lawful, keeping my chastity, undertaking my promises, fulfilling my commitments, being hospitable to guests, respecting my neighbors, and discarding what does not concern me. All these made me the one you are looking at.”
Lowering of the gaze usually refers to not looking at men / women (other than your spouse) with a bad desire and to look at them only for valid reasons as prescribed in the religion. Refer to Islam-qa.com for detailed explanation on this topic.
- Luqman on the value of Wisdom
Narrated Damurah after As-Sariy Ibn Yahia as saying: Luqman said to his son: “O my son! Verily, wisdom has brought the indigent to the courts of kings. ”
- Luqman on propagating wisdom to others and to take it seriously when given by others
I was told by my father after ‘Amr Ibn ‘Uthman after Damurah Ibn Hafs Ibn ‘Umar as saying: “Luqman placed a bag of mustards beside him and started to advise his son, giving him with every piece of advice a mustard till it all ran out. He said: O my son! I gave you advice that if a mountain was given, it would split………”
- Luqman on the need to have a pleasing tongue and sound heart
Yazid Ibn Hamn and Waki’ told us after Abul AShhab after Khalid Ar-Rab’i as saying: “Luqman was an Ethiopian slave who worked as a carpenter. One day, his master ordered him to slaughter a goat and bring him the most pleasant and delicious two parts thereof. Luqman did so and brought him the tongue and heart. The master asked: Did not you find anything more pleasant than these? Luqman said: No! After a while, the master ordered him to slaughter a goat and to throw the most malignant two parts thereof. Luqman slaughtered the goat and threw the tongue and heart. The master exclaimed and said: I ordered you to bring me the most delicious parts thereof and you brought me the tongue and heart, and I ordered you to throwaway the most malignant parts thereof and you threw the tongue and heart, how can this be? Luqman said: Nothing can be more pleasing than these if they were good, and nothing can be more malicious than these if they were malignant.”
- Luqman on “Speech is silver and slince is golden”
Luqman said to his son: “O my son! I have never regretted because of keeping silent. If words are silver, silence is golden.”
- Luqman on the need to have kindness, mercy and love for others
Abu Mu’awiyah told us after Hisham Ibn ‘Urwah after his father as saying: “Wisdom dictates: O my son: Let your speech be good and your face be smiling, you will be more loved by the people than those who give them provisions.” And, he said: “It is stated in the wisdom -or the Torah – : “Kindness is the head of wisdom.” And, he said: “It is stated in the Torah: “As you show mercy (to others), mercy will be shown to you.”
- Luqman on giving
And, he said: “It is stated in the wisdom: “You will gain what you give (or, harvest what you grow).”
- Luqman on friendships
And, he said: “It is stated in the wisdom: “Love your friend and the friend of your father.”
- Luqman on patience, knowledge, and goodness
`Abdur Razzaq told us after Mu’amir after Ayyub after Abu Qulabah as saying: Luqman was once asked: Who is the best one in terms of patience? He said: It is the one who practices no harm after observing patience. Those who asked him said: Who is the best one in terms of knowledge? He said: It is he who adds to his own knowledge through the knowledge of others. They asked: Who is the best from among the whole people? He said: It is the wealthy. They said: Is it the one who has properties and riches? He said: No! But, it is the one if whose good was sought, he would not hold it back or prevent it. And, it is the one who does not need anything from others.
- Luqman on the need to keep good company and to consult scholars
‘Abdullah Ibn Ahmed said: I was told by Al-Hakam Ibn Abu Zuhair Ibn Musa after Al-Faraj Ibn Fudalah after Abu Sa’id as saying: Luqman said to his son: “O my son! Let only the pious men eat your food, and consult the scholars over your affairs.”
Finally, wisdom in matters is one of the blessings that Allah grants to His creation. The Almighty says in the Quran: “He grants Hikmah to whom He pleases, and he, to whom Hikmah is granted, is indeed granted abundant good. But none remember (will receive admonition) except men of understanding.” (Quran: Al-Baqara: 269)
Lesson One: Protect the Future
“One teaspoon of honey represents the lifetime work of roughly a dozen bees.”
The first lesson in the hive is to ‘protect the future’. As Muslims, we have a vision and aim when we start anything in our lives, whether it’s a business, a family, a community project. These are created with the future benefit of ourselves and others in mind, thus the bees also start out with a common vision (in honey production).
Many managers lose sight of this principle with the pressure of maintaining the organisation working in an ad-hoc manner. Bees teach us on the other hand to work in anticipation of tomorrow which makes them maximizers of their resources.
Lesson Two: Keep the Energy Levels Up
“Like the treads on tires, bee wings don’t last forever.”
Given the sheer hard work taken to produce honey, rule number 2 in the beehive is to keep the energy levels up! How can we translate that into the real world of work where our employees are tired just a couple of hours into work? From a faith perspective, you should start your day with Fajr salah and remembrance of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala), and recitation of verses from the Qur’aan. Some very useful practical tips to help keep the energy of workers up are shared in this chapter.
Lesson 3: Let Merit Be Your Guide
“Honeybee colonies are meritocracies. Unlike the institutions with which we are familiar, favoritism plays little role in the operations of the hive.”
It was interesting to learn this principle occurs even in the beehive. Every good leader is guided by the principle of justice in Islam, chosen on the basis of their knowledge, qualities and competency – which means no room for favoritism in the hive. Among honeybees, females have the key role in tending to the survival and welfare of the hive making it logical to have the queen bee rule. These concepts of leadership by those who are best to fulfil it and to remove the leader by failure of their performance are not unfounded in Islam, therefore just as honeybees are performance orientated, so should we be as Muslims!
Lesson 4: Promoting Community, Sanctioning Self Interest
“The riddle of what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine is neatly settled by the bees”
Bees organise themselves in the hive so as to spread the good for the whole therefore the community is central to their operations. This reminded me of the hadith where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “None of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” (Sahih Muslim) This suggests that our work ethics and environment should always promote goodness of the community.
Lesson Five: Distribute Authority
“the queen couldn’t possibly direct all of the actions in the field from her command post. So, she does what every good leader does: she delegates certain responsibilities to a set of lead bees who act as her agents..”
The idea of good leadership has become somewhat misconstrued in organisations today, we assume the leader has to do and dictate every decision and action. In the beehive, it’s quite the opposite and also the prophetic seerah is testimony to this principle as there are ample examples where he (peace be upon him) would choose the most suitable companion for their expertise in certain areas.