بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Many, if not most of us, try to ‘get it right’ in life. We want the right mix of blessings, experiences, relationships, and possessions, which will grant us a happy life in this world and the next.
Yet, the delusive nature of the life of this world sometimes make us live through it like blind people, who have physical eyes that see things, but hearts that do not. We believe our perception of things to be their reality, and the apparent, superficial appearances of people, events, facts, happenings, and other entities, to be their actual truth.
So what is it that makes some of us see things as they are?
Why do some of us “get it right” in life in almost all areas, whereas others stumble through life akin to random balls on a snooker table: changing direction with each collision, going where ever the next push from another ball takes them?
What is that one blessing that surpasses most others in goodness and benefit?
What is the Real “Wealth”?
In the Qur’an, Allah refers to material wealth (such as money) as “Al Khair“, which is an Arabic word that means, in other contexts, “the good”.
However, while mentioning wisdom (hikmah) in the Qur’an, Allah uses the word khair with another (descriptive) word attached to it: “khairan katheera“: a good that is abundant.
So anyone can see which kind of khair, or “good”, is more and better. Most of us consider material wealth as the greatest worldly blessing we can ever have. But Allah calls wisdom a wealth that is more abundant.
So what exactly is wisdom? It has been defined as:
وَضْعُ الشَىْءِ فِى مَوْضِعِهِ
Putting something in its place
I did not remember the exact source of this definition, but a reader on LinkedIn informed me that it is actually from the book منازل السائرین, authored by ابو اسماعیل الانصاری الھروی and that Ibn Qayyim al Jawzi has written it’s sharh (explanation) with the name: مدارج السالکین بین منازل ایاک نعبد و ایاک نستعین.
I got this quote in a class when I was studying at Al-Huda, and it was taught to us students by Dr Farhat Hashmi herself. I memorized it immediately, and have benefited greatly from the application of this definition of wisdom in my practical life, all praises to Allah.
Below, I am going to list down the main areas and aspects of our lives in which the use of wisdom brings benefit to a Muslim. Basically, wisdom is all about balance — about achieving that desired optimum balance which will bring about the best possible results and outcomes in a given situation.
However, this requires key identification of certain aspects of situations, people, events, and things beforehand. One needs to gauge things right in order to decide how to best proceed to handle them efficiently and successfully.
A wise person is able to identify the things in life, at any point in time, which have a higher priority than others. They also then strive to give them their proper due, simultaneously moving the lesser important things a bit further below down their list of important priorities.
E.g. at younger ages, the priority for most human beings is the acquisition of knowledge, education, skills, and manners (and not necessarily in that order), whether they pursue the acquisition of these for getting guided towards Allah, or purely for worldly benefits — that is a personal choice. At an older age, priorities shift to establishing careers and nurturing families. Still later, priorities shift to worship and giving back to the community. It varies.
Each one of us has unique circumstances, and we have varying priorities based on them. The wise ones among us give priorities at any particular stage in life, to the right things. And in order to be able to do that, they must be wise enough to identify what is more important and pivotal, based on the right benchmark.
E.g. when a family member falls sick, going out together on a picnic falls very low in priority for the others until the sick person recovers completely; but if the weather is great and everyone is free on a day off or the weekend, then going on a picnic moves up in the priority list. Circumstances and situations determine the priority of a particular thing.
I have made it known many times that, since my children were born, parenting them is the top priority in my life, after the worship of Allah and acting upon Islam. I know only too well how quickly the first decade or so of their lives will pass, and it is during this time that the foundation of their faith will be laid, which in turn will determine their future success, as adults — both in this life and the next, insha’Allah. I desire to capitalize on this time before they hit puberty by dedicating myself as their sole mentor, teacher, and caregiver during this period. This is my choice, and I know that it is very different from the choices made by most other mothers.
Sadly, I have been challenged often for this choice by many sincere Muslims (especially those who raised their own progeny with the aid of hired help, in joint family setups, or in the traditional schooling systems, and therefore, — find it challenging to see a valid alternative to the cultural model of raising children), and all I can say to them is: we all make our choices based on our personal perceptions, circumstances, and beliefs. Just the way I try to respect your choices (even if I do not agree with them), and admit that perchance you are much wiser than me, you can try to extend the same respect to me in return. 🙂 Like I said at the start of this post, each one of us has unique circumstances in life.
I know that, a little later on in life (if I live to see the day), my priorities will most probably change again. Motherhood will entail a different, more advisory role, and a different set of responsibilities. And I look forward to the opening up of new avenues of working in the path of Allah when that time arrives, insha’Allah.
Just the knowledge of the constant nature of this change in the priorities of life fuels my thirst for more wisdom and guidance from Allah.
It is exciting to await the unknown, to imagine the unseen.
“Getting it just right” in any stage in life also greatly involves timing. How, you might wonder? 🙂
Well, you might have all it takes to achieve a certain goal, but if you take action for it at the wrong time, you will not be able to achieve it.
For example, — and this I observe a lot among sincere and well-intentioned peer mothers, whether they are homeschooling, or sending their children to school, — giving a child the right dose (more on dosages below ⤋) of the right kind of parental guidance or physical blessing, at the wrong time, will yield zero (if not negative) results.
Giving the child something before time, when they are not physically, emotionally or mentally able to digest or benefit from it, is bound to backfire and cause more harm than good.
I will give a very simple example: let’s suppose a mother feeds a newborn baby mashed banana instead of breast-milk. This is 9 months too early/appropriate in time, and hence, not beneficial at all. However, after only 9 months, it becomes one of the best things that the same baby can be given to eat, as some of their teeth have emerged and they have begun to chew on all and sundry that they can get their hands on. So, mashed banana it is. 🙂
The timing of the beneficial dose or input has to be right. And it takes wisdom to identify when the time is right for what.
And this time varies according to each individual, although there exist specific age-ranges for the expected achievement of most human milestones, but exceptions are always there.
Even if the timing is perfectly right for doing a certain thing in life, which happens to be a high priority at that particular stage, — e.g. the practical, universally relevant task of imparting children basic reading and writing skills, — if the dosage of the input needed at each incidence of instruction and teaching is not right, the activity and long-term project will not be able to achieve optimum fruition.
For example, if a parent chooses to hire a highly-skilled tutor for teaching their 12-year-old-child how to read and write a new language, and this tutor teaches the child daily for 2-3 hours at a stretch, without taking any breaks; and further, in this daily tuition session, he or she imparts the child knowledge that is too advanced in technicality and rules for the child to be able to grasp at age 12, — then, can you guess what will happen?
Yup,– the child won’t be able to learn the language at all due to the dosage of each instruction session being too much, too high, and too intense for their young mind to grasp.
In fact, despite the big hole that these tuition sessions will create in the parents’ pockets, and the harmful delusion that the latter will end up harboring about their child viz. that he or she is too ‘dumb’ or low in intelligence to be able to learn a new language, — perhaps the worst outcome of this whole endeavor will be the way it will permanently dissuade and discourage the child from ever wanting to learn that language ever again, even as an adult, ahead in life, thinking that it is “too difficult” for them to master.
The real obstacle to success and fruition in the above fictional situation, despite the presence of good intentions, love, and nobleness of purpose, will be the lack of wisdom used by the parents in imparting knowledge to their child.
The dosage of something good, if it exceeds limits of moderation, can be harmful and detrimental to the recipient, be it food, medicine, or even something as spiritually superior as sincere religious preaching.
“Getting it just right” in life, therefore, involves using just the right level and amount of dosage needed to bring about the desired positive outcome.
Imagine a doctor who is about to administer just the right amount of dose, of just the right medicine, to a patient who is receiving it at just the right time in their illness.
Of course, giving this medicine is a high-priority task at this particular stage of their illness, so all the aforementioned components of wisdom have been already ticked in this situation, namely: priority, timing, and dosage of medicine — all of them being ‘just right’.
Now, the only thing left is to properly administer the medicine to the patient.
At this point, if the doctor gives the patient a medicinal syrup that is supposed to be taken orally, intravenously instead (i.e. it is injected into the patient’s bloodstream using a syringe), then the entire procedure will fail miserably, and cure will not be attained.
This is because the doctor chose the wrong method of giving the medicine to the patient, even if all the other requirements were being met.
The same applies to the way we use wisdom (or a lack thereof) to handle all our aspects of life.
Wisdom allows a person to use the correct methodology in any given situation, depending upon the people and circumstances involved in it, at the right time, using the right dosage of beneficial goodness, and when that particular task is a high priority in life — in order to achieve the best results and success.
Other Indicators of Wisdom
Organization and management are the hallmarks of wise people. Those endowed with wisdom are highly organized in the way they manage everything in their life. They have certain other qualities as well, which indicate their wisdom.
I thought I would try to list some of the others below as well, so that the readers of this blog can get a holistic picture of what wisdom entails in real life:
- Orderliness: Like the Arabic definition of wisdom that I quoted above suggests, wise people put everything in its proper place. And this becomes apparent in the way they arrange their things neatly, in order. A wise person’s room, home, and workspace is rarely ever in disarray.
- Minimalism: Wise people attempt to de-clutter their spaces and minds regularly of unwanted and unnecessary things. Consequently, their possessions are just enough to cover their basic needs. They do not aim for opulence, pomp, show, or excess.
- Regularity and consistency: Their routines and thoughts are also quite organized and well-managed. Nothing is hotchpotch or disorderly. Erratic and random thought and behavior is non-existent in their dictionary.
- Cool and collected: Wise people never over-react to a stimulus or throw a melodramatic fit, unless the situation reaches a crisis level and demands such an extreme reaction. They are notable for their discretion and calm demeanor in even the most distressing situations. That being said, when the situation demands aggression, they deliver.
- Quiet and observant: Needless to say, wise people do not talk much, unless requested to (e.g. they talk more than usual only if they are asked to answer a question in detail, or requested to deliver a formal lecture). They do not respond to critics and haters. They do not engage in arguments, abuse, curses, and hate speech.
- Calm and un-rushed: Wise people do not show haste, klutziness and impatience. They are not abrupt and loud when doing things e.g. sneezing, coughing, banging doors, or handling objects. They do not make loud noises to disturb others when going about their work.
- Picky about company: Wise people have a high level of intolerance to negative talk and the company of ignorant fools. They prefer solitude over bad company. Consequently, they scrupulously avoid people who chronically whine, complain, crib, and lament their fate.
- Between stinginess and waste: Last but not least, wise people use their blessings, faculties and possessions in the most appropriate manner, to get the results and benefits that are ‘just right’. They never let something beneficial go to waste, nor do they overuse it to such an extent that it gets spoiled and out-of-order.
Conclusion: Ask Allah for Wisdom
I am asked, “How do you do it?” — be it writing, unschooling, and everything else. It perhaps appears to onlookers as if I have somehow magically “got it all together”.
First of all, the truth is that I do not. I am far from perfect. I have problems and shortcomings, just like everyone else. The only difference is that I do not believe in whining about them in front of anyone who is willing to lend an ear (or dig for dirt ;)), nor do I like airing my laundry in public. My anxieties and worries are reserved for pouring out before Allah during worship, not before His creation.
Secondly, if anything seems to works out well in my life as a result of multitasking and ‘bringing it all together’ to run like a smoothly oiled machine, then that is purely because Allah has guided me to benefit from wisdom, perchance I have been endowed with any wisdom at all.
It is only the benevolence of Allah upon me that any wisdom has made its way into my life, and that is just because I asked Him for it. Reciting the Qur’an over the years, and reflecting upon it, allowed me to value wisdom as a truly great blessing, which resulted in my asking Allah to grant it to me too.
In particular, I recite the dua below, which is found in the Qur’an, a lot:
رَبِّ هَبْ لِي حُكْمًا وَأَلْحِقْنِي بِالصَّالِحِينَ
“O my Lord! Endow me with the ability to judge [between right and wrong], and make me one with the righteous ones,” [26:83]
This is the dua of Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام, in which the word حُكْمًا has been described, by Ibn Abbas in Tafsir ibn Kathir, simply, as “knowledge”. I love this dua because I love the two things that are mentioned in it: knowledge and righteous company.
Reflecting upon the Qur’an reveals that other Prophets were also granted this special kind of knowledge, or sound judgment, or wisdom (حُكم or حِكمَة) from Allah, and this knowledge/ability to judge has been mentioned separately from the prophethood (النُّبُوَّةَ) and the scripture or revelation (الْكِتَابَ) that they were given.
This means that wisdom, sound judgment, and the ability to see things as they really are, and to do things according to the most appropriate methodology and in the optimum amount, is one of the greatest blessings that an individual can ever possess.
Also, the good news is that Allah can grant it to even those people who are not Prophets, such as Luqman the Wise man.
So, I would like to end with this advice for you: ask Allah to grant you wisdom, sound judgment, and the ability to see things as they are. Ask Him to enable you to give priority to the right things at any particular time in life.
For surely, wisdom is one the greatest blessings that anyone can possess in the life of this world!