By Sheikh Abdul-Bari ibn Awad Ath-Thubaity - 14 Rabiu Thani 1435
His Eminence Sheikh Abdul-Bari ibn Awad Ath-Thubaity, may Allah preserve him, delivered the Friday khutbah entitled, “Wisdom: Its Meaning and Its Virtue”, in which he talked about the meaning of wisdom and highlighted its importance and its virtue, citing textual evidence from Qur’anic verses and Prophetic Hadiths to this effect. He showed the necessity of adorning oneself with this quality nowadays, both at the level of individuals and at the level of the Ummah as a whole.
Praise be to Allah. Praise be to Allah, Who has blessed His servants with knowledge and wisdom. I praise Him, Glorified be He, and thank Him for all His bounties and blessings. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah alone, Who has no partners. He has guided His servants to the way of right conduct and warned them against His punishment. I also bear witness that our master and prophet Muhammad is His servant and messenger, whom Allah granted a blessing whenever he was in distress. May Allah bestow His peace and blessings upon him, his family, and his Companions, who were known for their virtues and sagacity.
I advise you and advise myself to fear Allah. Allah, Exalted be He, says:
"O you who believe! Fear Allah (by doing all that He has ordered and by abstaining from all that He has forbidden) as He should be feared. [Obey Him, be thankful to Him, and remember Him always], and die not except in a state of Islam [as Muslims (with complete submission to Allah)]." (Al ‘Imran: 102)
Allah, Exalted be He, also says:
"He grants Hikmah to whom He pleases, and he, to whom Hikmah is granted, is indeed granted abundant good ..." (Al-Baqarah: 269)
Hikmah, or wisdom, refers to beneficial knowledge, sound understanding of religion, right statements, and good judgement. It means careful management of affairs, good thinking, acute discernment, and deserved gains. All sensible people aspire to reach the state of wisdom and acquire its many attributes.
A wise person always puts things in their proper place; he knows when to move forward and when to retreat and realizes the causes and the ends with illuminating insight. Wise people are characterized by moderate thinking, enlightened awareness, controlled emotion, and balanced enthusiasm. A wise person puts himself where he naturally belongs; he neither raises himself above his real position, for this is a sign of arrogance and conceit; nor does he underrate himself, as this constitutes contempt and humiliation. A wise person also places people in their due positions, realizes their true status, and shows tolerance, sympathy, and support to them when necessary.
If a person purifies his heart for Allah, wisdom will radiate from his words and deeds and Allah will grant him a truthful tongue and make him aware of the defects of this world, as well as its ills and remedies. When some are entangled in a web of trials and tribulations, Allah guides the people of truth and sincerity by virtue of their faith, and He makes the truth manifest in the positions they take and the words they utter.
The meaning of wisdom is sometimes misunderstood, especially when personal interests and worldly benefits are involved. Wisdom is also sometimes used as a cover for compromising one’s principles or as a pretext for adopting defeatist, weak stances. Nowadays our Ummah is in a dire need of wisdom in order not to lose its power, strength, and gains.
Wisdom cannot be sought except within the framework of the Holy Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the values of Islam. Our Lord describes Himself as “the All-Wise”. Our prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, had a heart full of wisdom. His mission was to teach people to be wise and all his deeds were instances of perfect wisdom.
Once a man performed his prayer hastily, so the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, ordered him to repeat it. His grandson Al-Hussain once climbed his back while he was in prayer and he left him alone. He signed Al-Hudaibiya Peace Treaty with the disbelievers, and he ordered the killing of the poet who used to insult Muslims. It was also he who said, “By Allah, were Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, to commit theft, I would cut off her hand.” Wisdom, as these examples show, requires showing leniency whenever it is required and severity whenever it is necessary.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was wise in dealing with his Companions and took account of their conditions. When he responded to a questioner, he took his state and ability into consideration. A Bedouin once came to ask him about the obligatory acts of worship, so he informed him about them. The Bedouin then asked, “Are there any other acts that I have to perform?” He said, “No, unless you want to do voluntary ones.” He showed patience with the hypocrites until his death, though he warned against them and exposed their traits. He was keen on the unity of Muslims but never remained silent over falsehood.
Another example of the wisdom of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, is the way he dealt with the young man who came to ask his leave to commit zina (adultery of fornication). The Prophet neither rebuked nor reprimanded him, but argued with him in a better way; he addressed the young man’s mind, conscience, and emotions such that he left in a state that was completely different from the one in which he was first.
The wisdom of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is reflected in his method of calling to Islam. He started his mission by reforming society, conveying the Message, building the mosque, and establishing the ties of brotherhood among Muslims, patiently enduring harm and bearing the burden of the call to Islam for the sake of Allah. Another sign of his wisdom is his firm way of dealing with the chiefs of the Quraish, who were the leaders of disbelief and misguidance.
The wisdom of Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, emerged when the Companions were so upset following the death of Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, that some of them denied the news of his death. Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, took a wise stance by keeping the people firm and revealing the truth to them.
This was followed by the wisdom of Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, who called people to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with all of them, hence paving the way for the unification of Muslims. Long before all this, Umar had announced his conversion to Islam, which was a sign of wisdom, as this gave power to Muslims. In fact, it was only after Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, had publicly declared his conversion to Islam that Muslims were able to perform the prayers in the Holy Mosque of Makkah.
Luqman was wise in the way he gave advice to his son. He talked to him in a persuasive way, using calm, tender words, as is evident in what Allah, Exalted be He, says about him: "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), Well-Acquainted (with its place). O my son! Aqim-is-Salat (perform As-Salat), enjoin (on people) Al-Ma’ruf – (Islamic Monotheism and all that is good), and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (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)." (Luqman: 16-17)
This admonition encompasses the foundations of knowledge and all aspects of good advice, belief, command, and prohibition, without excess or affectation.
Imam Ahmad, may Allah have mercy on his soul, was also wise in the way he faced the trial caused by the controversy over the creation of the Qur’an. He remained firm, held fast to the truth, and endured harm. He would say, “If the scholars resort to Taqiyyah (dissimulation of one’s true beliefs), and if the ignorant people remain in their ignorance, when then will the truth be revealed?”
Among the signs of wisdom is to set priorities and give precedence to different matters according to their degree of importance. Belief comes first, then worship and then ethics. Similarly, the obligatory acts of worship are given precedence over the supererogatory ones; public interest is given precedence over individual interest if there is a conflict between them; and avoiding harm is given priority over the acquisition of benefit. The gradual implementation of rules according to these priorities is a mark of wisdom and commonsense. Even the Quran was revealed piecemeal.
Wisdom also requires us to differentiate between being in a position of power and being in a position of weakness, and between being in a state of peace and being in a state of war. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, refrained from demolishing the Ka‘bah (and rebuilding it according he foundations set by Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), peace be upon him) for fear of causing uproar among the people, who had then only recently embraced Islam.
Fair preaching is a feature of wisdom when addressing those who wholeheartedly accept the truth, and arguing in the best possible way is a form of wisdom for guiding the seekers of truth and mankind in general. Wisdom may take the form of strongly-worded speech, disciplinary action, and inflicting the divine punishments by those who are in authority on those who oppose the truth and oppress and tyrannize others.
The very essence of wisdom lies in adopting a middle course without any inclination to excess or negligence in various stances and opinions. However, when emotions have control over a person and enthusiasm is given free rein, wisdom disappears, giving rise to excess or negligence. A person will certainly miss the way of wisdom when his desires and ignorance get the better of him. Allah, Exalted be He, says: "... and follow not your desire – for it will mislead you from the Path of Allah ..." (Sad: 26)
He may also lead a life that is far away from knowledgeable people and those who have sound judgement and wisdom. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The wolf eats up only a solitary sheep that stays far from its flock.” A person may also deviate from the path of wisdom when he deals with different situations in haste, showing irritability and nervousness, or when he becomes confused by rushing events whose true nature he cannot grasp, or when he is not aware of the conspiracies of the enemies.
All sensible people would agree that it is wise to strive hard to achieve the unity of the Muslim ummah and to block all the means that lead to sowing dissension among its members and draining away its strength and power. Allah, Exalted be He, says: "... and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength departs, and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabirun (the patient)." (Al-Anfal: 46)
It is also wise to stop and check the authenticity of rumours and alarmist news when they spread. A wise person always follows the divine guidance in this respect. Allah says: "O you who believe! If a Fasiq (liar – evil person) comes to you with any news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done." (Al-Hujurat: 6)
Therefore, Allah, Exalted be He, says to His Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him: "... and let not those who have no certainty of faith discourage you from conveying Allah’s Message (which you are obliged to convey)." (Ar-Room: 60)
The implication here is that discouragement can greatly impair one’s sense of wisdom.
After Allah commands us to verify the authenticity of news, He says: "And know that among you there is the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). If he were to obey you (i.e. follow your opinions and desires) in much of the matter, you would surely be in trouble ..." (Al-Hujurat: 7)
That is, if the Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, had done what they wanted without reflection and without ample thought, they would have suffered a great deal of hardship.
Working hard and making use of all one’s potential and talents are also signs of wisdom. The hand that gives in charity is better than the one that receives it, and the strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allah than the weak believer.
The media can practically realize wisdom through commitment to the Islamic approach, decent language, nobility of purpose, and purity of content and ideas. Another sign of wisdom is to employ modern technology appropriately and use its products rationally, by imposing restrictions on the hours of accessing it and carefully selecting the kinds of websites to be visited and the nature of programs to be accessed. This will help us make the best benefit from modern technology and protect our religion, our children, and our values from its impending dangers and detrimental effects.
Wisdom, servants of Allah, can be achieved within our families by observing the rulings of Islam, by limiting all forms of family dispute and trying not to instigate and escalate them, and by facing problems with awareness, insight, foresight, and patience, so that our homes may remain strong, lofty, and pure.
Wisdom also requires proper management of money. Allah, Exalted be He, says: "And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach (like a spendthrift), so that you become blameworthy and in severe poverty." (Al-Isra: 29).
It is also wise to make our money grow and spend it sensibly. Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “While a man was in the wilderness, he heard a voice coming from a cloud (saying), ‘Water the garden of so-and-so.’ After that the cloud drifted aside and poured water on a stony ground. It filled one of the channels of that land. The man followed that water and he found a person standing in the garden busy changing the course of water with the help of a spade. He said to him, ‘O Servant of Allah! What is your name?’ He said, ‘So-and-so’, which was that very name he had heard from the cloud, and then added, ‘O Servant of Allah! Why are you asking me about my name?’ He said, ‘I heard a voice from the cloud which poured down this water, saying, “Water the garden of so-and-so”, which is your name. What is it that you do about this garden (for which Allah has favoured you with rain)?’ He said, ‘Now that you have said it, I will tell you. I see what yield I get from this garden, then I give one third as charity out of it, keep one third for my children and myself to live with, and return one third to the garden (as investment).’” (Reported by Muslim)
May Allah bless you and me with the Great Qur’an and make us benefit from its verses and wise words. I have said what you have heard and I ask forgiveness of Allah for myself, for you, and for all Muslims for every sin we have committed. Ask Allah for forgiveness. He is the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.