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The Jurisprudence of the Balance and Wisdom (Part 9)

The term wisdom is used twenty times in the Holy Quran:

① The Almighty places a high value on wisdom, as indicated in the verse He gives wisdom to whomever He wills. Whoever is given wisdom has been given much good. But none pays heed except those with insight﴿ (Holy Quran 2: 269).

Wisdom and the Book are used together ten times in the Holy Quran. These include the verse in which Allah describes His Prophet ﷺ Allah has blessed the believers, as He raised up among them a messenger from among themselves who recites to them His revelations, purifies them, and teaches them the Scripture and wisdom, although before that they were in evident error﴿ (Holy Quran 3: 164).

Wisdom is used six times as a quality ascribed to or required of the Prophet ﷺ. These include the verse in which the Almighty tells us the supplication of prophet Abraham: Our Lord, and raise up among them a messenger of themselves, who will recite to them Your revelations, and teach them the Book and wisdom, and purify them. You are the Almighty, the Wise﴿ (Holy Quran 2: 129). Allah answered Abraham, as indicated by the verse It is He who sent among the unlettered a messenger from themselves; reciting His revelations to them, and purifying them, and teaching them the Scripture and wisdom; although they were in obvious error before that﴿ (Holy Quran 62: 2).

The Almighty also said, Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice, and debate with them in the most dignified manner. Your Lord is aware of those who stray from His path, and He is aware of those who are guided﴿ (Holy Quran 16: 125).

④ Wisdom is also ascribed to other prophets, such as Abraham, David and Jesus, peace be upon them.

⑤ People other than prophets are also praised in the Holy Quran for being wise. These include Luqman, as Allah says, We endowed Luqman with wisdom﴿ (Holy Quran 31: 12). It is probable that Luqman was not a prophet, and it can be argued that the intended meaning of the verse He gives wisdom to whomever He wills. Whoever is given wisdom has been given much good﴿ (Holy Quran 2: 269) is that people other than prophets may be endowed with wisdom.

⑥ Like the Book and the Balance, the Almighty sent down wisdom, as in the verse, And that He sent down to you the Book and Wisdom to teach you. And fear God, and know that God is aware of everything﴿ (Holy Quran 2: 231).

Based on a comprehensive understanding of the above-mentioned holy verses, it is evident that there are two types of wisdom: wisdom revealed to the prophets and wisdom given to people of sound reasoning and pure nature.

 

Dictionary Definition of Wisdom

The dictionary definition of alhikma (wisdom) is alman – the act of bridling a horse. Thus, alhikma is a tool fixed the lower jaw of a horse to bridle it. In Arabic, however, wisdom means having sound reason, being well mannered, keeping away from trivialities, behaving well, speaking gracefully, doing good deeds, being knowledgeable, and being good at medicine.[1]

The Understanding of the Exegetes of the Quran of the Term Wisdom

Exegetes agree that wisdom means the Holy Quran, the Holy Sunnah, Islamic jurisprudence, good understanding, and sound reason. Ibn Ashur said, “It (wisdom) means accurate knowledge that has no flaws... and it is a general term that includes all sayings and acts that are meant to improve the quality of people’s lives and beliefs sustainably.” Al-Tabari said, “I do believe that wisdom means knowledge about Allah’s regulations that would not have been known unless they had been explained by the Prophet.”[2]

Understanding of the Term Wisdom according to the Fuquha (those specialized in the foundations of jurisprudence)

In the principles of jurisprudence, wisdom means the general purpose of a jurisprudential ruling. If the purpose of a certain ruling is clearly defined and precise, it is called a justification. However, if the purpose of a legal ruling is not precise, it is called the wisdom of a purpose.[3]

Wisdom is More General Than Revelation

I believe that wisdom in the Holy Quran is meant to connote various meanings that differ depending on the context in which it is used. It is certain that wisdom includes the Holy Quran because it truly is supreme wisdom revealed by the Almighty. Wisdom also includes the authentic Sunnah. However, wisdom is not limited to these two meanings. In the Holy Quran, wisdom means good sayings and deeds, useful knowledge, proper understanding of Islam and worldly affairs, fear of Allah, and a comprehensive understanding of the purposes of Allah’s regulations. It is also meant to connote doing what is beneficial and avoiding what is harmful for this life and the next, good behavior, and successful life experience. In the chapter of al-Isra’ (the Night Journey), the Almighty denotes commandments and prohibitions. Indeed, this list includes invaluable pearls of wisdom for all people:

Do not set up another god with Allah, lest you become condemned and damned. Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and that you be good to your parents. If either of them or both of them reach old age with you, do not say to them a word of disrespect, nor scold them, but say to them kind words. And lower to them the wing of humility, out of mercy, and say, “My Lord, have mercy on them, as they raised me when I was a child.” Your Lord knows best what is in your minds. If you are righteous—He is Forgiving to the obedient. And give the relative his rights, and the poor, and the traveler, and do not squander wastefully. The extravagant are brothers of the devils, and the devil is ever ungrateful to his Lord. But if you turn away from them, seeking mercy from your Lord which you hope for, then say to them words of comfort. And do not keep your hand tied to your neck, nor spread it out fully, lest you end up liable and regretful. Your Lord expands the provision for whomever He wills, and restricts it. He is fully Informed, Observant of His servants. And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them, and for you. Killing them is a grave sin. And do not come near adultery. It is immoral, and an evil way. And do not kill the soul which God has made sacred, except in the course of justice. If someone is killed unjustly, We have given his heir certain authority. But let him not exceed the limits in taking life. Indeed, he has been supported (by the law). And do not go near the orphan’s property, except with the best of intentions, until he has reached his maturity. And fulfill your promises because promises involve responsibility. And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with accurate scales. That is fair, and the best determination. And do not occupy yourself with what you have no knowledge of. The hearing, the sight, and the heart—all these will be questioned. And do not walk proudly on earth. You can neither pierce the earth, nor can you match the mountains in height. The evil of all these is disliked by your Lord﴿ (Holy Quran 17: 22-38).

These verses state that none must be obeyed except for Allah, and that parents must be treated well by their children. Children must be humble to their parents and pray for them. Relatives, the poor, and travelers must be given their due rights, and people must talk kindly to each other. Moreover, people must keep the promises, weigh with accurate scales, avoid polytheism, be neither extravagant nor miserly, and abstain from killing their children for fear of poverty. They also must avoid adultery, murder, going near orphans’ money, unless they intend to support them, keep away from doubtful matters, and never behave arrogantly. Then, the Almighty said, That is some of the wisdom your Lord has revealed to you. Do not set up with Allah another god, or else you will be thrown into Hell, rebuked, and banished﴿ (Holy Quran 17: 39). The word some in this verse means that all the above-mentioned regulations are only part of Allah’s infinite wisdom.

Accordingly, I think that when wisdom is used alone in the Holy Quran, it means all types of good deeds, sagacity, creativity, useful knowledge, and good experience. However, when used along with the Book, which means revelation, wisdom connotes the product of pure, human nature, and sound reason, including whatever brings benefit to humanity. This is probably the intended meaning of wisdom in the following Hadith, though Allah knows best: “The believer should always seek wisdom, regardless of where it is.”[4]

Consequently, the jurisprudence of the balance is closely related to wisdom, and they complement each other. This is because wisdom means the arrangement of things in their proper order at the proper time. As explained above, this is the purpose of the jurisprudence of the balance. Accordingly, the balance is wisdom, divine success, and light sent down by the Almighty, Who endowed His prophets and devoted servants with it. The jurisprudence of the balance, however, is a field of knowledge that has a set of principles.

 

 

[1] See Lisan al-Arab, Al-Qamous al-Muhit, Al-Misbah al-Munir and Almu’jam al-Wasit, the root (َم َك َح ) hakama.

[2] See Jami' al-Bayan 'an Ta'wil 'ay al-Quran.

[3] See: Al-Muwafaqat (vol. 4, pp.97-98); Al-Mustasfa (vol. 1, p.333); Al-Ihkam by al-Amidi, vol.3, p.203; Shifa’

al-Ghalil, p.159; Al-Bahr al-Muhit, vol. 4, p.120; Sharh Tanqih Al-Fusul, p.406; ‘Ilam al-Muwaqq’in vol. 3, p.135.

[4] Cited in al-Tirmidhi in his Sunan al-Tirmidhi (vol. 5, p.51); Hadith No. 2687; Ibn Majah (vol. 2, p.1395), Hadith No. 4169; and Al-Qada’i in his Musnad al-Shihab, on the authority of Abu Huraira in the following wording: “the word of wisdom is what a believer should always seek; wherever it is, he should obtain it.” Al- Tirmidhi said, “It is a strange or scarce Hadith for which there is no other chain of transmitters. Abraham ibn al- Fadl al-Makhzumi thinks it is unreliable in terms of its transmitters.”


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