Michael de Montaigne once commented: “We can be knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other men’s wisdom.”
I find myself pondering upon this quotation often, especially when I am seeking to be wise about life and the challenges it throws my way. I also observe that in this day and age of extra-ordinary scholastic achievements and exposure to information and technology, wisdom is seldom found. It is not simply knowledge that produces wisdom. Knowledge is a collection of facts. Wisdom is how to apply knowledge. Further, it is a combination of other factors such as deep observation, far-sightedness, experiences, patience, endurance and a continuous quest for solutions that leads to insight and acumen.
The Arabic term for wisdom is Hikmah. In the Quran, it means the knowledge and the understanding of the Quran and the Sunnah and one’s ability to speak and act in the right way.
Allah (swt) states: “He grants Hikmah (wisdom) to whom He pleases, and he, to whom Hikmah (wisdom) is granted, is indeed granted abundant good.” (Al-Baqarah 2:269)
Apparently, wisdom is something bestowed upon a person by Allah (swt). A person may be learned, but it does not mean he is wise. The Prophet (sa), though unlettered, was an epitome of wisdom.
“Our Lord! Send amongst them a Messenger of their own (and indeed Allah answered their invocation by sending Muhammad (sa)), who shall recite unto them Your Verses and instruct them in the Book (this Quran) and Al-Hikmah (full knowledge of the Islamic laws and jurisprudence or wisdom or Prophethood), and purify them. Verily! You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” (Al-Baqarah 2:129)
This is further confirmed about the Prophet (sa) in Al-Baqarah 2:151 and in Al-Imran 3:164.
In the Prophet’s (sa) life, we find innumerable instances, when wisdom turned the tables. His silence, his speech, his anger and his restraint were all driven by wisdom that earned him unbelievable success in unfavorable circumstances.
Even prior to receiving his prophetic mission, he was requested to settle a dispute amongst the chiefs of Makkah. They were quarreling, as to who would be granted the honour of placing the black stone (Hajra Aswad) in the Kabah. The Messenger (sa) suggested a simple yet wise solution, which was acceptable to all and, thus, defused a volatile situation.
The Prophet (sa) also demonstrated wisdom in the most pressured times, such as at the time of Hudaibiyah, when the enemies drafted a pact that the companions were displeased with. However, amidst the mounting tension, they obeyed the Prophet’s (sa) decision to agree to the pact. Time proved, how that same pact worked in favour of Muslims, thus attesting to the Prophet’s (sa) wisdom and endurance.
What does it take to become wise? Is there a formula for it? And of all qualities in life, why should one seek wisdom? Does it pay to be wise? These are all pertinent questions.
Ibn Masud (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “There is no envy except in two instances: a person, whom Allah has endowed with wealth and he spends it righteously, and a person, whom Allah has given Hikmah, and he judges by it and teaches it to others.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
The intention of this article is to highlight the importance of Hikmah in our lives. How can wisdom bring back the long departed peace? Our superficial and self-centered lives are fleeting by. If today we were to capture the true essence of our achievements, most of us would be saddened to learn that we are living no better than animals – mainly for our base desires. We have no time to reflect or even listen.
Whether it is a domestic dispute or a judiciary one on a macro level, how many people can you find, who would give a sound counsel and settle disputes by giving meaningful guidance? Very few.
“They belied (the Verses of Allah – this Quran) and followed their own lusts. And every matter will be settled (according to the kind of deeds: good deeds will take their doers to Paradise, and similarly evil deeds will take their doers to Hell). And indeed there has come to them news (in this Quran) wherein there is (enough warning) to check (them from evil), Perfect wisdom (this Quran) – but (the preaching of) warners benefit them not. So, (O Muhammad (sa)) withdraw from them.” (Al-Qamar 54:3-6)
Seeking Hikmah is imperative, if we want to pursue true success now and in the Hereafter.
“Hiba” conducted a poll to understand the dynamics of wisdom. Following are the answers we received from some participants:
1. What is wisdom?
Wisdom is the ability to see things as they are; to give everything just the right due. A wise person is able to recognize reality. It also means to make the right decision most of the times.
2. Is this quality God given or can be acquired?
It is acquired. However, only Allah (swt) can give Hikmah to someone… so the answer is ‘yes’ to both options. He Alone is Al-Hakim. And He Alone chooses to bestow wisdom to His servants; to some He gives more than others. For e.g. Sulaiman (as), Ibrahim (as), Luqman, Abu Bakr (rta), Ali (rta)etc.
3. If it is God given, then who does God give Hikmah to?
The person, who is humble, who meditates, yearns for guidance, shuns the world’s temptations and the self’s base desires and learns from mistakes by rectifying his behaviour. Also someone who is composed and not emotional or quick to temper as in such a state it is impossible to think and act rationally. God gives Hikmah to those, who contemplate; basically, those who want it.
4. If it can be acquired, what should one do to become wise?
Gain knowledge, do not indulge in any kind of excess, help others, lead a life with a higher purpose and do not give in to desires of the self. Also, wisdom is a product of time – very few young people are wise, although there are exceptions. Mostly, wisdom comes with life’s experiences.
To become wise, one must also ‘live perceptively.’ Contemplate on Allah’s Ayat (signs) both in the Quran and in the universe. Einstein was wise, because he studied science in depth and detail. He may not have reached the TRUTH (Haq) or chose to ignore it, but he definitely acquired wisdom.
To gain Hikmah, one needs to practice Sabr (patience), talk less and observe more, learn to listen to others, bear a positive attitude, give rights to Allah (swt) and people and, lastly, make much Dua for oneself to make the right decisions in life.
The company of wise teachers and role models is also imperative. Most importantly, following the Sunnah and reflecting upon the Quran’s Tafseer helps gain deeper understanding of life.
5. Lastly, does Hikmah help people in their day to day lives?
YES, it works wonders! Wise people make very few mistakes, have healthy relationships with everyone and enjoy tremendous peace of mind.
Hikmah was one of the things the Prophet (sa) taught. And the Prophet (sa) cultivated a pragmatic sense in his companions at all levels of their lives.