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Thinking Style of a Wise Person
Imam Hamiduddin Farahi
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)

Wisdom is the marvel and purpose of the soul: this is why it is its beginning and its end. The fields of knowledge which one acquires prior to attaining wisdom are just one of the means towards achieving it. Just as when an individual obtains understanding of the basic components, deduces knowledge of the whole and then examines the previous knowledge of the components in light of the whole, the weaknesses and positive points of these components become clear. Similarly, when, after a person has attained wisdom, he assesses the aspects of knowledge that had provided the basics of the overall understanding, he realizes that many things had been misinterpreted and many issues had been confused with others.

After complete insight, understanding and research, many matters that are based on opinion and conjecture can be corrected. Several such matters that were foggy earlier become clear. A person feels as if earlier thinkers were viewing those matters with the eyes of animals. When a wise man approaches them, he sees these with the eyes of a human for the first time. In other words, things remain devoid of meaning and context until a person approaches, understands and opens them up and clarifies them. Hence, a person cannot benefit from fields of knowledge that were created for the purpose of attaining wisdom until he has achieved divine knowledge. Taking benefit from them prior to understanding the divine is not the right approach to benefitting from them. Similarly, this form of knowledge too is not real. It is merely awareness of diverse matters and misconstrued feelings and emotions.

When a wise person casts his eye upon the universe, he observes maturity, cohesion and unity in all matters. He understands that this universe has been created for a specific purpose. Hence, it is essential that it should have a Creator who is taking all its matters to the culmination of this purpose. This style of thinking of the wise man is based on a solid connection between his thought and deed. The person who does not have faith in a wise Creator does not know that there is a purpose behind the universe. When he recognizes his personal aims, attitudes and the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, he is not satisfied on whether these are based on a firm foundation. He reasons them to be based on following the beliefs of his predecessors, or traditions, or hidden needs of his personality. In all cases, he is unclear about the existence of good and evil. He is also dissatisfied with existence or non-existence of anything because he does not believe in what he observes. He accuses nature. When such a person takes action, he does not know where it might lead him. His example is that of a person who tries to see in a dark night. In contrast, wisdom creates concomitance between the forces of human will and knowledge. Consequently, one becomes satisfied with the purpose of life and the motive towards which all universe is headed. Thus, a wise person is at peace with what his Creator wishes: the One who has designed everything with great wisdom; who has established a motive and wisdom for every creation and who has not created anything without an objective. A wise Creator does not do anything uselessly. A wise human is satisfied with the manner in which He is running the universe: this is the purpose of his life and the highest attribute of his nature. In this way, he becomes grateful, happy with what His Lord desires and becomes the possessor of a satisfied soul.


The Wise Man’s Approach to Teaching

Since wisdom is clear, closer to the spirit and connected with rationality, not widely spread out but still hidden behind many veils, to which people often do not give attention, the wise men teaching it were not interested in explaining the sciences related to it, because those fields of knowledge were an open book for all. They were interested in turning the attention of people towards wisdom, motivating them to apply rationale and deliberation and taking them out of the veils of darkness that surrounded them on all sides. To this end, they took help from two aspects of the mind: one was the ability to think and rationalize and the other was the desire for achieving good and doing what was right. In other words, they awakened the forces of thought and intention, for it is through the force of thought using which a human can rationalize the signs that are evident throughout the heavens and spiritual world, and it is the force of intent through which he is attracted towards good deeds. Both these forces together make up all the attributes of humans and include all forms of spirituality.

It follows, therefore, that while a teacher of wisdom is not too interested in raising awareness of the related sciences, he adopts a strict attitude with regard to the training, clarification, purification and cleansing of the mind. However, not everyone’s mind is ready for wisdom. This is like a person who goes to a doctor, takes the prescribed medicine, gets well but is never free from fear of a relapse. Among such people are many good and saintly people who reap the benefits of wisdom but are not themselves wise ones. However, the person who develops expertise in the abilities of rational thought and action achieves wisdom. By rational thought, we do not mean logic, but the understanding that is a consequence of intuition and inspiration. The example of such a person is that of one who, when he tastes something, its smell and taste become so manifest to him that, whether he relishes it or gains satiety, his eye will never be empty of its effectiveness nor will his tree be empty of its fruit.


Teaching through Parables 

Jesus (sws) used the style of teaching wisdom through the use of parables. When people could not understand him, he became sorrowful. When people had only perceptions about something and did not understand their realities, Jesus (sws) would suggest various possibilities to them so as to motivate them to develop the habit of analytical thought. Plato used to say that the person who could not speak in terms of parables was not a wise man. Solomon (sws) also used parables to teach. Ancient wise men used to tell people to understand themselves first.

The Qur’an also explains facts by use of parables. The key characteristics of its explanation are as follows:

1. The purpose of using parables is to remind, so that people may return to their spiritual selves and to their abilities for thought. The Qur’an has said about parables: “and these are understood only by people of knowledge.” (29:43)

2. The arguments used by the Qur’an are mostly based on manifest signs and it has clarified that such thinking can be applied only by those who ponder and reflect.

3. The parables and signs in the Qur’an have been presented from various angles, and it has been clarified that this has been done so as to show these issues from all aspects. In this way, the Qur’an has shown the way to ponder over the signs also.1

4. The Qur’an has not allowed knowledge and action to remain separate, but joined the two and has emphasized both collectively.

5. The Qur’an has given guidance on the status of wisdom, its entry points and its reasons.

6. The Qur’an has identified order and unity to be the greatest requirement of thought and the centre for all aspects of reflection.


Wisdom is a Collective of Knowledge and Deeds         

The knowledge that a wise man possesses has been developed not by following others, but by relying on his own observations. He heeds his nature in each and every matter, because his spirit is closer to him than anything else. His argument is neither based on surmises and guesses, nor is his style such that he deduces overall principles merely by observing a few elements. Instead, he attempts to understand the relationships and requisites of various things, therefore the result he arrives at becomes an aspect of his own insight.

When a wise man is interested in something, it is not as a result of something else, but he seeks directly, that which is his utmost preference, which he desires most and which becomes the ultimate purpose of his life. Those  who have reached the heights of knowledge and deed have always adopted this approach. This is the reason why the knowledge they gained calmed their hearts and the aims they achieved brought them solace. They gathered both of these bounties in plenty and gained satisfaction. These are the people who are true and sincere scholars and motivators. Their knowledge is neither just in name only, nor is it useless or dead. The knowledge is life giving, embodying strength and a combination of interest and deed. Hence, a wise man becomes aware of the soul and its maladies, the world and its impurities, piety and its joys and its healing properties and recognises his merciful, compassionate and wise Creator. He believes in God, turns to Him and holds His beauty and majesty dear to his heart. He knows of the bitterness of oblivion and negligence and turns away from it. His knowledge is living faith and complete belief, as if he is observing the unseen through the eyes of belief. Such an observation of the unseen is clearer than if he was seeing it with his physical eyes. When a person obtains a beautiful reality, how is it possible that he does not make it his beloved? Hence, the love of God is a result of faith. The Qur’an says: “Those who believe, they are the ones who love God most.” (2:165) In this verse, true faith is termed love. This means that whenever the people of faith remember God, they become overwhelmed by His greatness and power; their hearts tremble; God’s grandeur and majesty become evident to them and they turn to Him and give themselves up to His will. 

Believers are those whose hearts tremble when God is mentioned and when His verses are recited to them, they enhance their faith. (8:2)  

Requirements of Development of Wisdom 

Wisdom is the life of the heart. When a seed is sown within fertile soil, it sprouts. Similarly, the seed of knowledge grows and develops within the living heart. In other words, the heart in which knowledge finds life and begins to bear fruit much like the seed that develops, is a fertile heart. The life of knowledge means that a person clothes his present with it and, as a result, adopts the habit of virtue. As far as growth is concerned, it must be remembered that life is not only the name of anything that moves, but it is must also contain a particular system and order. There is no living thing that does not have a system. Hence, system-based knowledge is one that possesses beauty, illumination and benefit. The demand of life of a heart is that it has the ability to provide growth and development. Thus, it is the life of the heart that is significant.

The matter of wisdom is that it is not bestowed upon a person who does not deserve to receive it. The reason for this is not that a wise man holds back the transfer of it to another person due to his miserliness, but that he honours it and does not allow it to be wasted if he gives it to the wrong recipient. It is obvious that if a seed is sown in untilled soil, it is wasted. A characteristic of knowledge is also that if it does not provide benefit, it can cause damage. This is why the harbinger of truth, Mohammed (sws) used to say: “O’ Lord, I take refuge with you, from the knowledge that does not benefit, and from the heart that does not acquire humility.” (Muslim: 7081)

This prayer of the Prophet (sws) is also evidence of the fact that if the heart is without the quality of humility, a man’s knowledge does not benefit him at all. From this, we can understand what helps us to keep our heart alive and to organize our ability to receive wisdom. In reality, the humility of the heart is the door through which wisdom enters it. This is the first pre-requisite of wisdom, and this is authenticated both by the Qur’an and Hadith. It therefore becomes necessary for us to understand how humility is developed and how the heart is prepared to receive wisdom.

When a thinking person observes the greatness, providence, wisdom and mercy of God in the skies, earth and the entire universe, he realizes as he looks at his own soul that he has been placed between the greatest of heights and the lowest of positions, and  creates both fear of God and hope in his heart. He realizes that this world has come into being for some definite purpose. Its Creator is a just and pure Lord. Compared to Him, he, himself is one who commits wrong deeds, often gets lost and is rebellious. This recognition creates within him such fear that he begins to obey the boundaries of God, whether alone or in company. He refrains from obeying his worldly desires. The qualities of fear and piety cleanse his heart which becomes ready to receive the light of wisdom. In the book of parables, Solomon (sws) has said on this very basis that the key to wisdom is fear of God.

As a result of this fear and piety, a servant of God dons the cloak of humility and submissiveness. He knows that all sovereignty belongs to his Lord, his Benefactor and that he is powerless in front of Him. He is afraid of being distanced from His Lord and tries to get close to Him in all possible ways. He seeks help from and supplicates to Him only. As a consequence of this humility, a person develops respect for knowledge, he appreciates its beauty and any tendencies within him to raise objections are removed. This prepares him for development of wisdom and this humility becomes a means to elevating him to great heights. As the Qur’an says: “And when you are asked to get up (from the gathering), leave. God will elevate those of you who have faith and to whom knowledge has been bestowed.” (58:11)

A subtle reference to this point is also given in this verse: “And then walk over the straight paths of your Lord.” (16:29)


Wisdom is Achieved in Stages      

It is important to understand that wisdom is never achieved all at once, but at various times and slowly, in stages. Just as when building a house, it is never built at one go, but takes time and one has to face many challenges in its building, so is the case when seeking to achieve wisdom. If one tries to put a large quantity of food inside one’s stomach, the latter does not accept it and the food is wasted. The heart, too, does not have the ability to receive wisdom at one time. This is why the Qur’an was not revealed all at once. The reason behind its revelation piece by piece has been explained as: “So that We strengthen your heart through it and We have sent it down in stages and with great planning.” (25:32)

The person who teaches wisdom also takes this approach into account. He always talks briefly so that his student does not cover it rapidly, but is desirous of more explanation and detail, is dependent on the teacher and wants to spend more time in his company.

The understanding of this reality has guided me towards the wisdom behind the cohesion and order of the Qur’an. The Qur’an has adopted various approaches to its teaching, which include the fact that it has made each and every verse a bearer of continuous and permanent teaching. When a person makes a single verse the focus of his reflection, he finds the opportunity to give it his full attention. This is the same as when serving in a specific department is considered to be adequate occupation for workers in a factory. If the entire operational system of the factory is revealed to the workers, they will be overwhelmed and will not be able to do even the work which they possess the ability to perform. The complete system is open only to the person who is capable of understanding it. Like a factory worker, an army soldier is sufficient to stand duty over his position, and he does not cast his eyes over other places. The battle plan is with the commander only and only he possesses the ability to understand it. This is the reality behind many people becoming satisfied with a superficial awareness of the Qur’an and not making the effort to understand the mutual connections between its various elements. However, a person who catches a glimpse of a valley of wisdom is guided towards the collective cohesion of the Qur’an. All matters, such as the collective qualities of the verses; elevated facts based on knowledge; the comprehensive meaning of all fields of theology and benefits from the word of God are placed before his eyes.


Leader of Muslims must know about Coherence in the Qur’an

It follows from the above discussion that that there is no excuse for the person to whom matters of Muslims have been entrusted to be ignorant of the cohesion of the Book of God, because only the Qur’an can give him true guidance. If his situation is such that he is only aware of different subjects addressed in the Qur’an and ignorant of the stages and system of its qualities, then such a leader will only fumble and conduct his business through guesswork. His reasoning and interpretation will be one-sided and far from the truth. If you read the biographies of great people, you will note that they created so much chaos as soon as they took up the reins of the Caliphate that even the basic tenets of Islam were in danger. It is clear that this was due to their intensity of asceticism and an extremely beggarly style of life, although they possessed the desire to support their faith and also had the requisite valour and courage. Overall, their balance of good deeds was on the lighter side, the reason being that they kept their actions free of rationality, considered the corollary as the main source and gave the Sunnah the place of obligatory requirement, putting what was the tail end in position of the head. Had these people benefitted from wisdom and given the guidance contained within the Qur’an due importance, people would have flocked to it.

The relationship between the observable rituals of the shari‘ah and its principles and facts is the same as that between ordinary people and their elite and scholars. Just as people seem to be dominant over their gentry, so do the rituals of the shari‘ah seem to dominate the soul of religion. This fact has been explained clearly by the great leader in the matter of Khawarij.2 The system of a nation gets into trouble when villains become predominant. Their attacks continue over regular matters of ordinary people and they attempt to destroy their foundations too, but later, they also gain acceptance from those people who are low in wisdom, but quick in action. In this manner, the evil doers become dominant and shatter the unity of the nation.

We had explained above the impacts of dominance of religious, but ignorant people and here we have clarified the damage caused by dominance of mischief makers. In principle, it can be said that the person in authority who places the derivative in the position of the main and gives the lowly a high status, he has dispersed the system of the nation. This clarifies the benefit of understanding the coherence of the Qur’an and the disadvantage of remaining ignorant of the same. It is clear that the reform of this nation (and of other nations) can only be carried out through the wisdom to which the Qur’an gives guidance. The only route to get to this wisdom is that a person try to understand the fields of knowledge that God has placed within the grand system of the Qur’an. The person who attempts to understand this wisdom of the Qur’an without taking into consideration its system will merely grope in the dark and stray from the path in his foiled efforts.   


Imam Hamiduddin Farahi
Hikmah Qur’an (82-96)  
Translated by Khalid Masud from Arabic to Urdu 
Translated from Urdu to English by Nikhat Sattar    



1. This is a reference to the well known style of the Qur’an that uses inflection of verses. The Qur’an does not give one explanation of something but, instead employs different ways of presenting it. It also does not bring to attention only a single aspect of the signs, but brings their different attributes into perspective, so that in case the point has not been made clear to the reader at one place, it is clarified to him at another. As per Farahi, the way to ponder over any issue is to reflect over every aspect of the argument. (Translator)     

2. The author (rta) is referring to the Hadith according to which the Prophet (sws) was distributing some wealth among a few tribal leaders with the aim to unite their hearts in friendship and gain their support for Islam. At this, a man stepped forward and stopped the Prophet (sws), saying that he should act justly. The Prophet (sws) answered by saying that the Lord of the skies and earth has trusted him and given him custody of the revelation: if he will not be just, who else will? Hearing this, ‘Umar (rta) or Khalid ibn Walid (rta) got up and requested permission to kill the person objecting. The Prophet (sws) forbade them to do so, and said that the prayers of such people were of a kind apparently that their own prayers would be ashamed. They recite the Qur’an beautifully but it remains only in their throats. In spite of their obvious piety, they shall be removed from faith. This Hadith can be seen with various references in Muslim’s Kitab al-Zakah’s “Bab Dhikr al-Khawarij wa Sifatuhum”. From this, we understand that while some people pay great attention to observing religious rites, they take no benefit from the principles of their religion. The man who objected to the Prophet (sws) did not understand the demands of believing in the Prophet (sws). His apparent piety failed to make him aware of the reality of faith.   

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