Allah s.w.t. says in Surah Al-Baqarah,
يُؤْتِى ٱلْحِكْمَةَ مَن يَشَآءُ ۚ وَمَن يُؤْتَ ٱلْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِىَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّآ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْأَلْبَـٰبِ
Allah grants wisdom to whoever He wills. And whoever is granted wisdom is certainly blessed with a great privilege. But none will be mindful (of this) except people of reason.
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:269)
Wisdom is a quality that many seek but may fail to grasp. We often hear stories where the protagonist journeys far and wide just to search for a sage, a holy man or even the occasional fairy godmother to guide them.
In Islam, there is an abundance of wisdom in our treasure trove of tradition. The Quran, the Sunnah and the words of those chosen lay the foundation and motivation on how we can go about life. A prominent figure, who is known to be wise, is the pious Luqman.
The following are five pearls of wisdom from Surah Luqman, verse 13 to 19, that serve as guidance to succeed in this world and the hereafter:
وَإِذْ قَالَ لُقْمَـٰنُ لِٱبْنِهِۦ وَهُوَ يَعِظُهُۥ يَـٰبُنَىَّ لَا تُشْرِكْ بِٱللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّ ٱلشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ
And when Luqmān said to his son while he was advising him, "O my dear son, do not associate (anything) with Allah. Indeed, association (with Him) is great injustice."
(Surah Luqman 31:13)
The message Luqman wanted to relay was simple yet the most important of all: “do not associate (make syirik of) Allah with another”. It is the act of associating anything with Allah s.w.t. in His Divine essence or attributes or acts. Such as the belief that there is another independent god or the belief of other beings that may share a divine attribute like an autonomous eternality or all-powerful.
Syirik is an act that compromises the identity of a Muslim in having true faith in Allah and in the creed which is the essence of Islam. No matter the age or status of a person, it is always beneficial to remember the dangers of syirik because it is a “great injustice” (as mentioned in the surah) that is done to Allah s.w.t, The One who creates all.
These days, people might commit it without actually knowing that it is syirik. Therefore, in line with what is being said, one should not take it lightly and should always acknowledge Allah’s right by purifying one’s speech and actions from associating another with Allah’s exclusive right for Divinity.
To understand more about the Syirik, watch this video:
وَوَصَّيْنَا ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ بِوَٰلِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُۥ وَهْنًا عَلَىٰ وَهْنٍ وَفِصَـٰلُهُۥ فِى عَامَيْنِ أَنِ ٱشْكُرْ لِى وَلِوَٰلِدَيْكَ إِلَىَّ ٱلْمَصِيرُ. وَإِن جَـٰهَدَاكَ عَلَىٰٓ أَن تُشْرِكَ بِى مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِۦ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا ۖ وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِى ٱلدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًا ۖ وَٱتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَىَّ ۚ ثُمَّ إِلَىَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
And We have commanded people to (honour) their parents. Their mothers bore them through hardship upon hardship, and their weaning takes two years. So be grateful to Me and your parents. To Me is the final return.
But if they pressure you to associate with Me what you have no knowledge of, do not obey them. Still keep their company in this world courteously, and follow the way of those who turn to Me (in devotion). Then to Me, you will (all) return, and then I will inform you of what you used to do.”
(Surah Luqman, 31:14-15)
Other than avoiding acts of syirik, Luqman reminds us to honour our parents. He explains how difficult it is for mothers to bear a child and encourages us to be thankful to both parents for their forbearance.
If not for our parents, we would not be able to eat the food we love, travel to the many wonders of the world or experience joy of any kind. We would not be born into this world if not for them. They are the reason that we thrive in this world and if that is not enough, they were there during our infancy, when we could not fend for ourselves.
Of course, Allah is The Maker and He is the sole original reason for our existence. Hence, Allah states in his verses more than once that we will return to Him. One should always find ways to return to the path of Islam and repentance. This is the apex of gratitude that we can show to our parents and The Creator.
We can see from the aforementioned how respect that is due to our parents is one that grants us blessings from Allah s.w.t. The question is, to what extent? The verse continues to explain that matters which lead to disobedience to Allah s.w.t. are exceptions and do not fall under the command of due respect. The Prophet s.a.w. said:
لَا طَاعَةَ فِي مَعْصِيَةٍ إِنَّمَا الطَّاعَةُ فِي الْمَعْرُوفِ
There is no obedience to anyone if it is disobedience to Allah. Verily, obedience is only in good conduct.
This can also be seen in some companions of the Prophet who faced strong opposition from their parents during the early days of conversion to Islam. Despite that, they are told to obey their parents in matters that are reasonable and good while continuing to treat them with respect, kindness and virtue as due.
يَـٰبُنَىَّ إِنَّهَآ إِن تَكُ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِّنْ خَرْدَلٍ فَتَكُن فِى صَخْرَةٍ أَوْ فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ أَوْ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ يَأْتِ بِهَا ٱللَّهُ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَطِيفٌ خَبِيرٌ
(Luqman added,) “O my dear son! (Even) if a deed were the weight of a mustard seed—be it (hidden) in a rock or in the heavens or the earth—Allah will bring it forth. Surely Allah is Most Subtle, All-Aware.”
(Surah Luqman 31:16)
Imam Al-Ghazali teaches us in his book Ihya Ulum Ad-Din (Revival Of Religious Sciences) that man should go through a state of watchfulness (Muraqabah) to purify the heart and to avoid the perils of the Day of Judgement. He dedicates a chapter for Muraqabah and elaborates on its mechanism where a person should monitor himself/herself, for Allah is always monitoring us (Ar-Raqib). This is what Luqman was trying to impart to his son.
We need to know that there is nothing that escapes Allah’s attention, not even the smallest creation hidden in the deepest depth of the earth. Anyone can hide the sins that he does but all will come forth during The Day where secrets are divulged during The Day of Judgement.
Hence a Muslim will always need to keep in mind that Allah is watching, and this should strengthen his position of Muraqabah to help himself in avoiding bad deeds.
يَـٰبُنَىَّ أَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَأْمُرْ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ وَٱنْهَ عَنِ ٱلْمُنكَرِ وَٱصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَآ أَصَابَكَ ۖ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ ٱلْأُمُورِ
“O, my dear son! Establish prayer, encourage what is good and forbid what is evil, and endure patiently whatever befalls you. Surely this is a resolve to aspire to.”
(Surah Luqman, 31:17)
After touching on the etiquette with Allah, parents and the self, Luqman shares with his son the four acts to resolve towards which directly and indirectly interact with the community. Each of these acts is a key that reflects good character as well as proof of faith within the society. Performing each act will lead to great rewards from Allah and thus, we should strive to perform all 4 consistently.
Allah also mentions in Surah Al-Ahqaf
فَٱصْبِرْ كَمَا صَبَرَ أُو۟لُوا۟ ٱلْعَزْمِ مِنَ ٱلرُّسُلِ
So have patience like ‘those of firm resolve (Ulul Azm) among the messengers’
(Surah Al-Ahqaf, 46:35)
Here, we can observe the nuance involved where Allah uses the same word ‘azm – resolve’ to describe the best of his Prophets a.s, the Ulul Azm. There is no doubt that the Ulul Azm did worship Allah (prayers); they enjoined good and forbid evil; they were resilient in carrying out Allah’s orders as believers and as Prophets. Therefore, Luqman termed the four keys as an aspiration and a continuous goal to work towards in the path of excellence.
وَلَا تُصَعِّرْ خَدَّكَ لِلنَّاسِ وَلَا تَمْشِ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا ۖ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ. وَٱقْصِدْ فِى مَشْيِكَ وَٱغْضُضْ مِن صَوْتِكَ ۚ إِنَّ أَنكَرَ ٱلْأَصْوَٰتِ لَصَوْتُ ٱلْحَمِيرِ
“And do not turn your cheek (in contempt) towards people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah does not like whoever is arrogant and boastful.
And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys."
(Surah Luqman 31:18-19)
Finally, the string of advice is concluded with Luqman talking about good character involving interaction with fellow human beings. Luqman knowingly points out that the effect of having good or bad character places the individual either in Allah’s favour or in Allah’s wrath.
A vice that is specifically singled out is arrogance. The dangers of feeling arrogant or acting out in ways that show this side of a person are detrimental to a believer. Rasulullah s.a.w. mentioned in a hadith,
لا يَدْخُلُ الجَنَّةَ مَن كانَ في قَلْبِهِ مِثْقالُ ذَرَّةٍ مِن كِبْرٍ قالَ رَجُلٌ: إنَّ الرَّجُلَ يُحِبُّ أنْ يَكونَ ثَوْبُهُ حَسَنًا ونَعْلُهُ حَسَنَةً، قالَ: إنَّ اللَّهَ جَمِيلٌ يُحِبُّ الجَمالَ، الكِبْرُ بَطَرُ الحَقِّ، وغَمْطُ النَّاسِ
"He who has, in his heart, a mustard seed’s weight of arrogance will not enter Jannah." Someone said: "Verily a person likes to wear beautiful clothes and shoes" The Messenger of Allah s.a.w. said, "Allah is Beautiful, He loves beauty. Arrogance means ridiculing, rejecting the Truth and despising people."
With the warning of Paradise being at stake, it is no wonder Luqman puts plenty of emphasis on how a person presents himself/herself. Humility should be reflected in all that we do. A person might perform acts that denote arrogance without intending to and this is not necessarily wrong. However, the wisdom emanating from the Quran points to avoiding such acts so as not to have arrogance seep into our hearts.
The Devil works in ways that are elusive to even the most brilliant of minds. Hence, the believer is always cautious about committing any deed which may cause falling into the Devil’s trap.
It is not coincidental that the verses above took part between a father and his son. The words of Allah are such that every single detail contains meaning. For example, Luqman starts off his advice to his dear son by endearingly calling him ‘Bunayya - my dear son’ which in Arabic connotes a closeness and care that is not reflected in the original word for ‘Ibni - my son’.
Given the magnitude of the content he wanted to talk to his son, Luqman could have objectively delivered what he needed to, however, it is beautiful that he chose to address his son with love. This reminds us that the way a message is delivered is of equal imperativeness to what the message is all about, if not more crucial.
If one were to observe, the Quran is putting forth the idea of a conversation between a parent and child as a means of nurture and education. It is an undisputed fact that effective communication is key in relationships. One can easily find other conversations in the Quran such as the one between Prophet Ibrahim a.s. and his father, the dialogue between Prophet Musa and his brother a.s. and so on.
For a parent to impart knowledge to the child, the father and mother need to have a certain degree of knowledge. Therefore, parents will need to be people of knowledge or to at least practise the correct morals and religiosity. Luqman was a wise man and a remarkable father figure. However, he did not become so in just one day. Luqman was once too a son and likewise, he would have needed guidance from young.
In these times where morals are twisted and Islamic foundations questioned, let us continue to search for wisdom. There might not be sages or holy men or even fairy godmothers to guide our young. There are, however, the Quran and Sunnah and the power of having honest and magical conversations.