Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Philosophy: "A Love of Wisdom"

"Fear should lead to hope, and hope should lead to love and this all should ultimately lead to a level of ihsan or beauteous perfection, where ultimately all things other than God are absent from one's heart."

Wisdom, Hikmah and the Islamic worldview
Tarek Ghanem

Hikmah, which directly translates to wisdom, has several meanings, varying from a type of knowledge, a mode, and an approach to deal therewith. 

Practically speaking, a wise person is someone who is able to make best decisions at the right time and the right place. Naturally, this is associated with a type of maturity, which is not necessarily a function age. Also, such a possessor of wisdom is thought to have both a better grasp with the bigger picture of things and, most importantly, a faculty apt to make decisions and commitments that are more viable in the long run. So on the operational level, wisdom is associated with not having short-sightedness.

Now, it is important to understand that in itself philosophy, paying attention to the etymology, based on the Greek origins of the word, is "a love of wisdom". The pursuits of Greek philosophers, like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, not only attest to that, they even push for the understanding that philosophy is the drive to understand the divine and the way the divine wants the order of things.

The Islamic Worldview

Referring to the words of the best of humans, our beloved and honored Prophet (peace be upon him):

"There should be no envy but only in case of two persons: one having been endowed with wealth and power to spend it in the cause of Truth, and (the other) who has been endowed with wisdom and he decides cases with the help of it and teaches it (to others)." (Muslim)

In the Quran, God, majestic in His praise tells us:

*{He gives wisdom unto whom He will, and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly hath received abundant good. But none remember except men of understanding.}* (Al-Baqarah 2:269)

Also, with regard to the ultimate source of wisdom, we are told:

*{Even as We have sent unto you a messenger from among you, who recites unto you Our revelations and causes you to grow, and teaches you the Scripture and wisdom, and teaches you that which ye knew not}* (Al-Baqarah 2:155)
The basis of wisdom is fear of God as we are told by the wisest of humans, Prophet Muhammad. And, as Islam directs that from this inspection there are other levels of one's relation with God.

Fear should lead to hope, and hope should lead to love and this all should ultimately lead to a level of ihsan or beauteous perfection, where ultimately all things other than God are absent from one's heart.

The scholars of Islam mention that the best classical definition of hikmah is to put things in their due place and portions. This definition is of tremendous importance, since, if fully applied, no thought or action can ever be dealt with wisely without incorporating the complete layers of existence, physical and metaphysical, of the here-now and the hereafter, intrinsic and relational that surround us.

This is why religious wisdom, although it is one of the types, is of a higher order. This is also why the Quran narrates to us stories of wise individuals,

This all leads to the following peaks and jewels of wisdom. That God and God's pleasure is the first and most important matter in all situations, seeing the complementary relation between this world and the next. The best exemplar to follow and learn from in living, thinking, or acting is the seal of prophets.

Nothing in Islam is ordained to us without it having ultimate benefit for us, regardless of whether we see it otherwise. The true rank of something is its rank in the eyes of God and through Shariah. And the true rank of someone is their eternal rank in the Hereafter.                          

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Tarek A. Ghanem is an Egyptian researcher, writer, and translator. He is specialized in Muslim issues. His interests cover Islamic manuscripts, terrorism related issues, journalism, Muslim affairs, Islamic arts and translating Islamic texts. Currently he is an editor at Islamicamagazine. He lives in Chicago, US He holds a BA in Political Science and Philosophy from the American University in Cairo. He is also a student of Islamic religious sciences.

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