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Ḥikmah In Qurān and Ḥadith PDF Print E-mail
Written by Reza Berenjkar   
Saturday, 08 October 2016 00:12

In Qurān and Ḥadith

Reza Berenjkar

Associate Professor of Tehran University

Abstract: Ḥikmah, which literally means forbiddance and being stable, is an unchangeable knowledge, which guards human beings against ignorance and illogical deeds; Logic can be regarded as a powerful source of this knowledge. Besides this, God Almighty is a source of this knowledge, the knowledge which is bestowed to the prophets and infallibles.

Ḥikmah includes believes, practical religious regulations (Aḥkām), and morality which lighten up logic. The Arabic translators chose the word Ḥikmah referring to Greece philosophy; therefore, the word Ḥikmah in philosophical books has been used to talk about a science which can be deduced through reasoning. This meaning has nothing to do with the Qurānic meaning of this word.

Key words: Ḥikmah


One of the 6 responsibilities defined for Kilām science is to illuminate those concepts which are mentioned in holy books regarding believes. Ḥikmah is one of these Islamic concepts. The word Ḥikmah and ḥokm have been mentioned in Qurān 50 times. The word Ḥakim – as an attribute of God – has been repeated in Quran for 97 times. These words should be studied from Qurānic aspect with their meaning in Kilām. In the following, we will study the literal meaning of Ḥikmah, and also its meaning and its features in Qurān and Aḥādith, and finally the opinions of interpreters about the expressional meaning of Ḥikmah will be offered.

The literal meaning of Ḥikmah

Some expert linguists who pay special attention to the roots of the words claim the original meaning of Ḥikmah is to forbid and ban. They say the word ḥukm (which means order) is derived from it as it is a barrier against oppression. Likewise, Ḥikmah is a barrier against ignorance.[i] Fayyumi, asserting the mentioned meaning, claimed the word Ḥikmah is coined Ḥikmah as it prohibits ḥākim ( a person who has Ḥikmah) from immorality and bad deeds.[ii]

Fayyumi, Zamakhshari and Juhari believed hukm when entitled to actions means fixed and unchangeable.[iii] Juhari knows ḥakim a person who has knowledge and a person whose actions are stable and wise.[iv]

In brief, the root of Ḥikmah is to stop and prohibit, theoretical-wise and practical-wise. From theoretical-wise, it blockades ignorance and from practical-wise, it guards human beings against immorality. In addition to that, to be stable and strong can be seen in the words Ḥikmah and Hakim. The word strong, stable and powerful denotes that Ḥikmah is immune from mistakes. This literal meaning also can be seen in the word logic as logic is the main deterrent to ignorance and immoral acts.

It can be said that logic is one of the resources of Ḥikmah or a prerequisite of receiving Ḥikmah.

This literal meaning of Ḥikmah has been also used in Qurān and Ḥadith. Basically, when a common term is used in holy books, not a new term is coined but that term is used in its common meaning or gradually some aspects or features will be added to that which is called “ variety of referees and references” in ʻIlm al-Usul. [v]

The meaning of Ḥikmah in Qurān and Ḥadith

To make the meaning and place of Ḥikmah in Islam clear, it is better to refer to its interpretations and its various features (such as the resources of Ḥikmah and prerequisites of getting to it.)

Luqmān’s Ḥikmah

Surah Luqmān from verses 12 to 19:

وَ لَقَدْ آتَيْنا لُقْمانَ الْحِکْمَةَ أَنِ اشْکُرْ لِلَّهِ وَ مَنْ يَشْکُرْ فَإِنَّما يَشْکُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ وَ مَنْ کَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَميدٌ

“And certainly we gave wisdom to Luqmān, saying: be grateful to Allah. And whoever is grateful, he is only grateful for his own soul; and whoever is ungrateful, then surely Allah is self-sufficient, praised.” (31:12)

God in this verse and the following verses states that He gave Ḥikmah to Luqmān. Then his advices to Luqmān have been mentioned which are part of his Ḥikmah. Was Luqmān a prophet or Ḥakim? There are contrary ideas in this regard. In Qurān he is named twice, and in those two places there is not any direct talk about his prophethood.

In a tradition from holy Prophet it is asserted that he was not a prophet, but he was a person who thought a lot; he got to the point of certainty and loved God; God loved him and gave him Ḥikmah.[vi]

In a tradition from imam Sadiq, he explained about him in details. In this tradition, his life style and his ethical virtues have been pictured and these very virtues have been highlighted as the reason to receiving Ḥikmah from God. It has also been mentioned that Luqmān was given two options of become a prophet or not but he did not accept it and Dawud accepted it. The important point in these traditions is that not only was he given Ḥikmah but also he had ‘Ismat.[vii]

This tradition apparently declares that God gave Rohul Qudus or a grade of it which is the source of ‘Ismat to him but did not give him messengership, prophethood, or imamat. Therefore he was above any sin. Due to this, his words are regarded as Ḥikmah, for based on the verses, traditions and the usages of the term Ḥikmah, we can conclude that Ḥikmah is an immaculate knowledge far from having shortcomings.

Here, we are explaining a summary of his Ḥikmah mentioned in verses 13 to 19 of Surah Luqmān:

و اذ قال لقمان لابنه و هو یعظه یا بنی لا تشرک بالله ان الشرک لظلم عظیم

“and when luqman said to his son, in warning: 'my son, associate none with Allah, to associate others with Allah is a tremendous wrong.”

وَ وَصَّيْنَا الْإِنْسانَ بِوالِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْناً عَلى وَهْنٍ وَ فِصالُهُ في عامَيْنِ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لي وَ ..

“and we charged the human concerning his parents, for his mother bore him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning was in two years. Be thankful to me and to your parents, to me is the arrival.”

إِن جَاهَدَاکَ عَلى أَن تُشْرِکَ بِی مَا لَیْسَ لَکَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِی الدُّنْیَا مَعْرُوفًا وَاتَّبِعْ سَبِیلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَیَّ ...

“but if they strive with you to make you associate with me that of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them. and accompany them in this life with kindness; and follow the path of he who turned to me. To me you shall return and I will inform you of all that you have done.”

يَا بُنَيَّ إِنَّهَا إِن تَكُ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِّنْ خَرْدَلٍ فَتَكُن فِي صَخْرَةٍ أَوْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ أَوْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَأْتِ ...

“(luqman said:) 'my son, if it should be but the weight of one grain of mustardseed, and though it be on a rock, or in the heavens, or in the earth, Allah shall bring it. surely, Allah is the subtle, aware.”

يَا بُنَيَّ أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَانْهَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا أَصَابَكَ إِنَّ ذَلِكَ مِنْ عَزْم الامور

“my son, establish the prayer, order with honor but forbid dishonor, and bear patiently with whatever may fall upon you, indeed that is true constancy.”

وَلَا تُصَعِّرْ خَدَّكَ لِلنَّاسِ وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ ...

“do not turn your cheek in scorn away from people, nor walk proudly on the earth; Allah does not love the proud and the boastful.”

وَاقْصِدْ فِي مَشْيِكَ وَاغْضُضْ مِنْ صَوْتِكَ إِنَّ أَنْكَرَ الأَصْوَاتِ لَصَوْتُ الْحَمِيرِ

“walk modestly, and lower your voice; the most hideous of voices is the braying of the donkey.”

1.The unity of God and avoiding duality

2.The resurrection day and being responsible for whatever anyone does

3.Saying Salat

4.Amr bil Marof and Nahi anil Monkar (joining to goods and prohibiting bad deeds)

5.Patience and perseverance against dualists

6.Being humble and modest

7.Moderation in walking and speaking

As we see, the principles underlying belief, good deeds, and social and personal ethics have been gathered in his words. We can conclude from these verses that:

1.The main source of Ḥikmah is God.

2.Thinking, being logical, purity, and observing ethic are the prerequisites of enjoying Ḥikmah.

3.Ḥikmah includes belief, practical commands, and ethical observations.

4.In Ḥikmah, compatibility with reality and having positive and valuable aspects are highlighted.

The interpretation of Ḥikmah

First: logic, understanding, and destiny ( Qada )

In the interpretation of Sura Luqmān verse 12 there are some traditions which explained the mentioned “Ḥikmah” in it. Imam Kazim said in its interpretation, “Ḥikmah in this verse refers to logic and understanding.”[viii]

Imam Sadiq also interpreted Ḥikmah as understanding and destiny (Qada).[ix]

From these traditions we conclude that God had endowed Luqmān with logic and ability to understand the mentioned Ḥikmah. In quite a few number of other traditions logic and understanding have been counted as the root and a condition for receiving Ḥikmah. These traditions are mentioned in the following. Therefore, Ḥikmah is interpreted regarding its root and sometimes regarding its content.

Allameh Majlisi in his explanation about this tradition asserted that the document of this tradition is “ḥasan”, and believed, it is feasible the meaning of understanding here be “inspiration” and “Qada” can be the knowledge of judging among people; or understanding can refer to complete understanding of sciences which points out to theoretical Ḥikmah and “Qada” refers to practical Ḥikmah.[x]

Second- recognizing religion and obeying God

In Quran it has been mentioned,

یُوتِی الْحِكْمَةَ مَنْ یَشاءُ وَ مَنْ یُوتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِیَ خَیْراً كَثِیراً

He gives wisdom to whom he will, and he who is given wisdom has been given a lot of good. yet none will remember except the owners of minds.(2:269)

Imam Sadiq in its interpretation said, [xi]

إن الحکمة المعرفة و التفقه فی الدین، فمن فقه منکم فهو حکیم

Truly, Ḥikmah is having deep knowledge about religion. Anyone of you who is contemplating deeply over religion is hakim. In other traditions, there are other meanings for Ḥikmah such as,

“Qurān[xii], Qurān and Fiqh[xiii], obeying God and avoiding major sins[xiv], recognizing the infallible imams[xv].

There are numerous verses from Prophet and Ali (a.s.) in Shia and Sunnite tradition books which introduce “obeying God and having fear of God and to be surrender to the religion and rightness,” as the most significant parts of Ḥikmah.[xvi]

Third- ethical principles

In the shia and Sunnite source books some ethical issues such as piety, ḥilm, kindness and understanding people, be honest, be pious and not extravagant, are counted as the most important signs of Ḥikmah.[xvii]

As we have seen in interpretation of Ḥikmah sometimes it refers to knowing religion, i.e. religious knowledge, practical Aḥkāms and morality , or obeying God and observing ethical codes.

In this way, Ḥikmah includes all religious aspects and valued principals. Sometimes it refers to logic and understanding which are in fact the tools of this knowledge and Aḥkām.

In the following we are dealing with the verses and traditions regarding the sources of Ḥikmah.

3.the sources of Ḥikmah

First. Logic

In the verse 269 sura Baqarah we have seen that God will endow anyone He wants with Ḥikmah. And Ḥikmah is the abundant blessing, and الأَلْبَابِ أُوْلُواْ means wise and elites. Therefore the cause of Ḥikmah is logic. Anyone could benefit from logic to the extent of his logic. In a famous tradition which names the army of wisdom and ignorance, Hikmah is from wisdom army and lust is from ignorance army.[xviii]

There are numerous traditions which account Ḥikmah the impact of wisdom and regard lust against wisdom.[xix]

Second. The Wise God, infallibles and Ahl al-Bayt, and holy books

As we have seen God is the Ḥikmah giver. Asserted by numerous verses of holy book, God has named Himself Hakim. The manner of God is to give something to human beings when the way is paved and the pre-requisites are prepared.

Regarding Ḥikmah God’s Sunnah is to convey Ḥikmah or a major part of it via prophets and holy books. There are many verses and traditions confirming this issue which is out of the scope of this book. Here we will mention some sources and their brief content.[xx]

We have seen Ḥikmah interpreted as Quran and contemplation. We refer to one surah of Quran in this regard:

In surah Asrā specially verses 22 to 38, God the Almighty after mentioning some verses of Quran introduces these verses a part of Ḥikmah and says,

رَبُّكَ إِلَيْكَ أَوْحَى مِمَّا ذَلِكَ

That is of the wisdom your lord has revealed to you.(17:39)

The significant points of this verse are as follows:

1.The Unity of God and avoiding duality

2.Worshipping God

3.Being kind to parents

4.Observing relatives and poor people’s rights

5.Be balanced

6.Avoid killing babies out of the fear of poverty

7.Avoiding adultery, immorality and murder

8.Respecting orphaned properties and keeping promises

9.Observing people’s rights

10.Keeping along with science and do research in all affairs

As we can see, the verses of Quran have been counted as the source of Ḥikmah.

Third. Observing ethical and moral basics

One of the interpretations of Ḥikmah is morality. In several traditions observing morality and practical beliefs have been regarded as the causes of receiving Ḥikmah from God.

For example these traditions:

Fear (khuf)[xxi] from God and piety in the world are the keys of Ḥikmah and a means to stabilize it in the heart.[xxii]

Ḥikmah is the inheritance of fasting and ….[xxiii] And silence and contemplation are the gates towards Ḥikmah.

Knowing the results of Ḥikmah and the obstacles before it and the characteristics of it can also help us to understand the meaning of it better. But as it is beyond the scope of the present article we do not speak about it here.


We have seen that Ḥikmah literally means a barrier which prevents human beings from ignorance and wrong deeds. In another world, Ḥikmah is a knowledge compatible with truth which a guide on the way to get to perfection.

In Quran and traditions we learned that Ḥikmah has a theoretical aspect and a practical aspect. It includes good deeds and morality.

Logic and revelation of God (vahi) sometimes cited as the sources of Ḥikmah and sometimes as Ḥikmah.[xxiv] Moral principles also sometimes cited as Ḥikmah and sometimes the introduction to it. It is for this that if human beings act according to moral principles which they realize through logic their souls would be ready to receive Ḥikmah which is not perceivable by their logic.

It is true for beliefs. If human beings act according to their belief, and believe in God and His prophets, God will give them Ḥikmah which is not perceivable by logic.

Therefore Ḥikmah means the given logical set of believes which are the fundamentals in realizing the truthfulness of religion, i.e. a set of religious teachings, practices (Aḥkam), morality and based on vahi.

All examples of Ḥikmah are logical to the same extent as they are received either by logic or by vahi. Vahi is based on logic.

[i] Ibn Fāris, Muʻjam Maqāis al-Lughah,vol.2,p.91; Juhari,al-seḥāḥ,vol.5,p.1902

[ii]Fayyumi, Misbāḥ al-Munir,p.145;Tabarsi,Majmaʻ al-Bayān,vol.2,p.659; vol.6,p.605.

[iii]Fayyumi, Misbāḥ al-Munir,p.145; Zamakhshari, Asās al-Balāghah,p.91; Juhari,al-seḥāḥ,vol.5,p.1902


[v]Taʻaddud dāl and madlul

[vi]Tabarsi,Majmaʻ al-Bayān,vol.8,p.494

[vii] Qumi, Tafsir al-Qumi, vol.2,pp.162-163.

[viii] Kulayni, Kafi,vol.1,p.16,no.12.

[ix] Kulayni, Kafi,vol.1,p.206,no.3

[x] Majlisi, Mirāt al-ʻUqul,vol.2,p.411

[xi] ʻAyashi,Tafsir ʻAyashi, vol.1,p.151,no.498

[xii] Shahid Thani, Muniyah al-Murid, p.215; Musnad al-Firdus,vol.4,p.419,no.7221

[xiii] Tabarsi,Majmaʻ al-Bayān,vol.2,p.659

[xiv] ʻAyashi,Tafsir ʻAyashi, vol.1,p.151,no.496, 497; Usul Kafi,vol.2,p.284,no.20.

[xv] Ḥuvayzi, Tafsir Nur al-Thaqalayn, vol.4,p.196,no.18

[xvi] Saduq, Man la yadarah al-Faqih, vol.4, pp.287,272, no.864,828; Saduq, Amali, p.394,no.1; Varām, Tanbih al-Khavatir , vol.1,p.221; Qumi, Tafsir al-Qumi, vol.1,pp.291; al-Firdus,vol.2,pp.193,270, no.2964,2358; Suyuti, al-Jameʻ al-Saghir, vol.1,pp.67,603,no.436,3903; Suyuti, al-Dur al-Manthur, vol.4,p.189; Mutaghi, Kanz al-ʻUmmāl,no.5873

[xvii] arāni, Tuaf al-ʻUghul , p.167; Majlisi, Biḥār al-Anwār, vol.11,p.283,no.11; Amidi, Ghurral al-ikam, no.4546,4794,5252,5249,4900,3052; Ibn Abi Jumhur, ʻAwali al-Laʼali, vol.1,p.371; Musnad al-Shahab,vol.1,p.64; al-Firdus,vol.2,p.280

[xviii] Usul Kāfi, vol.1,p.22; arāni, Tuaf al-ʻUghul , p.402; Khisal,p.591

[xix]Usul Kāfi, vol.1,p.20, 28; Saduq, Khisal,vol.2, no.244; Ghurar al-ikam, no.266,10898,4921,10985,2099,5180,2100,7205,10573,10915,4902,4208,5420,8282; Nahj al-Balāghah,book. 3,sermon.109, Ḥikmah:211,424; Tuaf al-ʻUghul , p.208

[xx] Nal: 125; Baqarah:151,129,231; Āl ʻImrān:48,164; Nisaʼ:113; Māʼdeh:110; Jumʻah:3; Qamar:4,5; Anʻām:89; in the following traditions the holy Prophet, Ali and Ahlul Bayt are introduced as the doors towards Ḥikmah: Nahj al-Balāghah, sermon 2,108,109,120; Usul Kāfi, vol.1,p.221; Tuaf al-ʻUghul , p.163; Ghurar al-ikam, no.10062,100052,2786; Majlisi, Biḥār al-Anwār, vol.38,p.318; al-Firdus,vol.3,p.227,no.4666. In other traditions Qurān has been expressed being “the speaker of Ḥikmah” (Minār al- Ḥikmah) and “Ḥikmah Ablagh” and Sura amd has been introduced as a Sure which gathers all aspects of Ḥikmah: Usul Kāfi, vol.2,p.599; Tafsir ʻAyāshi, vol.1,p.2; Ghurar al-ikam, no.11004; Saduq, Man la yadarah al-Faqih, vol.1, p.310, no.926.

[xxii] Tusi, Amali, p.581; Usul Kāfi, vol.2,p.28

[xxiii] Deylami, Irshād al-Qulub, p.200,203

[xxiv] Usul Kāfi, vol.2,p.113; Deylami, ʻIlām al-Din , p.297