بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Allah, The Most High, Said:
يُؤْتِي الْحِكْمَةَ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
“He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding.” [Al-Baqarah, 269]
Ibn Abbas رضي الله عنه defined this ‘wisdom’ to be, “knowledge of the Qur’an and its fiqh and (being able) to recall its ruling (and judgement), and its corresponding similarities and its strangeness and what is at its beginning and at its ending”. Qatadah and Mujahid said, “wisdom is (taking) fiqh from the Qur’an” – in that all knowledge and understanding is found in the Qur’an, taken from it and what is gleaned appropriately. Mujahid also said it was, “(meeting a) goal in words and deeds”. Ibn Zayd said it was, “the wisdom of (using) the intellect in Deen”. Imam Malik said, “Wisdom was (having) the knowledge of the Deen of Allah and its fiqh and those who follow it”.
Ibn al-Qasim said, “Wisdom is to reflect on the Orders and Commands of Allah and those who follow them”. He also said that, “Wisdom was obedience to Allah and having fiqh of the Deen and performing deeds accordingly. Rabi’ ibn Anas said, “Wisdom is (having) fear” – in that the awe and overwhelming sense of duty towards Allah enables one to see and do the right thing that Pleases Allah without falling negligent (and taking disobedience lightly). Ibraheem An-Nakha’i said, “Wisdom is the (correct) understanding of the Qur’an. Zayd ibn Asalm narrated that Al-Hasan al-Basri said that, “Wisdom is (having) Al-Wara” [an acute sense of insight into reasons to refrain from whatever takes on away from piety and Allah’s pleasure].
Al-Qurtubi brings the above and other definitions of ‘Al-Hikmah’ in his Tafseer. Yet they all remain correct in meaning and reflect a general agreement that wisdom is rooted in knowledge, and the fruits of such knowledge manifest themselves in weighing our decisions and making the sincere choices we make to please Allah ﷻ and wanting closeness with Him.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ is reported to have said:
الكلمةُ الحِكْمَةُ ضالَّةُ المؤمنِ، فحيثُ وجدها فهو أَحَقُّ بها
“The wise speech is the lost (possession) of the believer, and if he finds it he has a right to it.” [At-Tirmidhi, 2687. Its chain has been graded weak by majority of hadeeth scholars]
The meaning of the narration remains correct however, and it simply encourages Muslims to maintain good speech and words that bring about benefit and positively impact ones own self and those around him. It also shows that Muslims do not have a prerogative in assuming wisdom, as it is a priceless commodity and susceptible to being lost. This is especially the case when one’s speech is contrary to the provisions of the Shari’ah and brings about unnecessary harm and negative effects – thereby being the opposite of what wisdom necessitates.
Imam Ibn al-Qayyim said that wisdom was to: فعل ما ينبغي، على الوجه الذي ينبغي، في الوقت الذي ينبغي “Do what should be done, in the way it should to be done, in the time it should be done. (‘Madarij as-Salikin’, 2/479). And this definition encapsulates the wholly comprehensiveness of the term and idea, for it provides indicators of assessing the purpose or appropriateness of doing something, at the most appropriate time and in the most appropriate way; in order to either, (i) gain a lawful benefit, or (ii) remove a harm, or (iii) neutralise a matter in favour of the truth, or (iv) impede a harm as much as possible when there is no way to totally avoid it.
Wisdom is therefore having intelligence and a dynamic acumen. As Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah narrated (on the authority of ‘Amr bin al-Aas رضي الله عنه) that:
لَيسَ العاقِلُ مَن يَعرِفُ الخَيرَ مِن الشَّرِ, وَلَكَنَّ هو الّذِي يَعرِفُ خَيرَ الشَّرَين
“The intelligent one is not the one who knows the difference between good and evil, rather he is the one who knows (i.e. able to recognise) the lesser of two evils.” [Siyar al-A’laam an-Nabula’, 3/74]
And it is said ليس الفقيه من يعرف الخير من الشر، ولكن الفقيه من يعرف خير الخيرين، يعرف شر الشرين (“A faqeeh is not one who knows the good from the bad, but rather he is one who knows the better of two goods and the worst of two evils”). We beseech Allah grant us baseerah and acute sense of visual perception and spiritual insight into the decisions we make. Ameen.