The original usage of the term of wisdom by the early Arabs is “taken from the piece of metal which is used in the mouth of the horse for the purpose of subduing him and to have a firm control over his movement and ultimately commanding him to our desired direction or purpose”(1). This follows that wisdom is the tool by which we could have a better control of our actions and ultimately we could envision the best course of action in achieving our goals. This is the simple definition of wisdom in respect to our actions.
Certainly wisdom has various facets and levels of metaphysical definitions but I will not go into details of such definitions at least in this short post.
I have chosen a wonderful tradition to define wisdom:
“The wisdom-al-hikma, is the radiant light of the gnosis-alma’rifa and the balance of piety-ta’qwa, and the fruit of truthfulness-al sid’qq. And if you ask what is the best among Allah’s blessings which He bestows upon His servant, to be the most coherent, the highest, the most fulfilling and the most beautiful; then I would have to say “Wisdom”; as Allah SW has said in 2:269 (He gives wisdom unto whom He wishes, and he unto whom wisdom is granted, he truly has received abundant good. But none remember except men of understanding.) “(2)
There are three beautiful characteristics to wisdom, according to this tradition mentioned above. They define the essence of man’s quest for higher principles in this corporeal life. And they remind us that the true knowledge of man is emanated from the universal values vested within and not from his limited boundaries of existence.
In brief, here are the three characteristic of wisdom according to the above tradition:
1- Wisdom is the radiant light of the acquired knowledge:
The first characteristic of wisdom is being the radiant light of the acquired knowledge, as mentioned above, this follows that any acquired knowledge by man without being guided by wisdom is blind knowledge and will not serve humanity in its quest for salvation and prosperity. Wisdom is the beacon of light to guide the pursued knowledge into higher dimensions, because wisdom is the essence of true knowledge. Knowledge without wisdom are chaotic intellectual efforts which may create a false reality to the self making it believe that such engagements are to be intellectually meritorious efforts and to be beneficial knowledge. Because this type of unreal knowledge orbit around the false egoistic projection of the nafs-soul, and thus such knowledge remain captive of the inner vices of the self and consequently devoid the soul from the universal aspirations and interests of humanity.
2- Wisdom is the balance of piety:
Being conscious of the universal Wisdom in the journey of life represents our level of consciousness of the “Absolute Being” and our essential relationship to the rest of God’s creations. So Wisdom will be a true representation of “the balance of piety-ta’qwa” , of man’s soul and it will truly reflect his universal inner reality. The more we acquire wisdom and make it the window of our soul through which we gaze into the manifested Glory of the Beloved-His vast creation, the more we are conscious of His omnipotence and Mercy.
3- Wisdom is the fruit of truthfulness:
Wisdom is true manifestation of the universal truth of the inner self. It reflects the true substance of man and his vision of life in respect to humanity. It brings an awareness, to the inner self, of the essential relationship among humanity. It enable the individual to see with his heart and to pierce through the various veils of this corporeal world and then it connect to the hidden divine reality that is the “Oneness” of existence. It will enable the soul to truly define the various definitions of universal values and put them into perspective. It will authenticate our actions and deeds towards others and thus Wisdom represents “the fruit of truthfulness” of the essence of man.
(1) Mutwwali Sh’arawi, a prominent Egyptian Muslim scholar 1911 – 1998, in his Quran commentary refers to the early usage of “hikma”.
(2) Narrated in Misbah Ashari’a -The lantern of the path, by Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq.