وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا لُقْمَانَ الْحِكْمَةَ

We bestowed (in the past)

Wisdom on Luqman

& > The sage Luqman, after whom this Chapter is called, belongs to Arab tradition. Very little is known of his life. He is usually associated with a long life, and his tittle is Mu’ammar (the long-lived). He is referred by some to the age of the Ad people. He is the type of perfect wisdom. It is said that he belonged to a humble station in life, being a slave or a carpenter, and that he refused worldly power and a kingdom. Many instructive apologues are credited to him, similar to Aesop’s Fables in Greek tradition. The identification of Luqman and Aesop has no historical foundation, though it is true that the traditions about them influenced each other.

وَإِلَىٰ عَادٍ أَخَاهُمْ

To the Ad people

& > The Ad people and their prophet Hud belongs to Arab tradition. Their eponymous ancestor Ad was fourth in generation from Noah, having been a son of Aus, the son of Aram, the son of Sam, the son of Noah. They occupied a large tract of country in Southern Arabia, extending from Uman at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to Hadramawt and Yemen at the southern end of the Red Sea. The people were tall in stature and were great builders. Probably the long, winding tracts of sands in their dominions were irrigated with canals. They forsook the true God, and oppressed their people. A three-year famine visited them, but yet they took no warning. At length a terrible blast of wind destroyed them and their land, but a remnant, known as the second Ad or the Thamud were saved, and afterwards suffered a similar fate for their sins. The tomb of the Prophet Hud is still traditionally shown in Hadramut, latitude 15°N and longitude 49 ½°E, about 90 miles north of Mukalla.

هُودًا ۗ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مَا لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَٰهٍ غَيْرُهُ ۚ أَفَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

(We sent) Hud, one

Of their (own) brethren:

He said: O my people!

Worship Allah! ye have

No other god but Him.

Will ye not fear (Allah)?

أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِلَّهِ ۚ وَمَن يَشْكُرْ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن كَفَرَ

Show (thy) gratitude to Allah.

Any who is (so grateful)

Does so to the profit

Of his own soul; but if

Any is ungrateful, verily

& > The basis of moral Law is man’s own good, and not any to Allah, for Allah is above all needs, and -worthy of all praise- i.e., even in praising Him, we do not advance His glory. When we obey His will, we bring our position into conformity with our own nature as made by Him.

فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ

Allah is free of all wants,

Worthy of all praise.

وَإِذْ قَالَ لُقْمَانُ

Behold, Luqman said

& > Luqman is held up as a pattern of wisdom, because he realised the best in a wise life in this world, as based upon the highest Hope in the inner life. To him, as in Islam, true human wisdom is also divine wisdom. The beginning of all wisdom, therefore, is conformity with the Will of Allah. That means that we must understand our relations to Him and worship Him aright. Then we must be good to mankind, beginning with our own parents. For the two duties are not diverse, but one. Where they appear to conflict, there is something wrong with the human will.

لِابْنِهِ وَهُوَ يَعِظُهُ يَا بُنَيَّ لَا تُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّ الشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ

To his son by way of

Instruction: O my son!

Join not in worship

(Others) with Allah: for

False worship is indeed

The highest wrongdoing.

وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْنًا عَلَىٰ وَهْنٍ وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ

And We have enjoined on man

(To be good) to his parents:

In travail upon travail

Did his mother bear him,

And in years twain

& > The set of milk teeth in a human child is completed at the age of two years, which is therefore the natural extreme limit for breast-feeding. In our artificial life the duration is much less.

أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِيرُ

Was his weaning: (hear

The command), Show gratitude

To Me and to thy parents:

To Me is (thy final) Goal.

وَإِن جَاهَدَاكَ عَلَىٰ

But if they strive

& > Where the duty to man conflicts with the duty to Allah, it means that there is something wrong with the human will, and we should obey Allah rather than man. But even here, it does not mean that we should be arrogant or insolent. To parents and those in authority, we must be kind, considerate, and courteous, even where they command things which we should not do and therefore disobedience become our highest duty. The worship of things other than Allah is the worship of false things, things which are alien to our true knowledge, things that go against our own pure nature as created by Allah.

أَن تُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا ۖ وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًا ۖ وَاتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَيَّ

To make thee join

In worship with Me

Things of which thou hast

No knowledge, obey them not;

Yet bear them company

In this life with justice

(And consideration), and follow

The way of those who

Turn to Me (in love)

& > In any apparent conflict of duties our standard should be Allah’s Will, as declared to us by His command. That is the way of those who love Allah and their motive in disobedience to parents or human authority where disobedience is necessary by Allah’s Law, is not self-willed rebellion or defiance, but love of Allah, which means true love of man in the highest sense of the word. And the reason we should give is, -Both you and I have to return to Allah: therefore not only must I follow Allah’s Will, but you must command nothing against Allah’s will-

ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُم

In the End the return

Of you all is to Me,

And I will tell you

The truth (and meaning)

& > These conflicts may appear to us strange and puzzling in this life. But in Allah’s presence we shall see their real meaning and significance. It may be that that was one way in which our true mettle could be tested: for it is not easy to disobey and love man at the same time.

بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

Of all that ye did.

يَا بُنَيَّ إِنَّهَا

O my son! (said Luqman)

& > The verses are not the direct speech of Luqman but flow by way of commentary on his teaching. He was speaking as a father to his son, and he could not very well urge respect for himself and draw the son’s attention to the limitations of that obedience. These verses may be supposed to be general directions flowing from Luqman’s teaching to men, and not directed to his son, though in either case, as Luqman received wisdom from Allah, it is divine principles that are enunciated.

إِن تَكُ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِّنْ خَرْدَلٍ فَتَكُن فِي صَخْرَةٍ

If there be (but) the weight

Of a mustard seed and

It were (hidden) in a rock,

& > The mustard seed is proverbially a small thing, that people may ordinarily pass by. Not so Allah. Further emphasis is laid by supposing the mustard seed to be hidden beneath a rock or in the cleft of a rock, or to be lost in the spaciousness of the earth or the heavens. To Allah everything is known, and He will bring it forth; i.e., take account of it.

أَوْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ أَوْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَأْتِ بِهَا اللَّهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَطِيفٌ

Or (anywhere) in the heavens or

On earth. Allah will bring it

Forth: for Allah understands

& > Latif لطيف a title of Allah.

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَتُصْبِحُ الْأَرْضُ مُخْضَرَّةً ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَطِيفٌ

Seest thou not that Allah

Sends down rain from the sky,

And forthwith the earth

Becomes clothed with green?

For Allah is He Who understands

& > Latif لطيف a name of Allah; is as difficult to define in words as the idea it seeks to represent is difficult to grasp in our minds. It implies: fine, subtle (the basic meaning); so fine and subtle as to be imperceptible to human sight; so pure as to be incomprehensible; with sight so perfect as to see and understand the finest subtleties and mysteries; so kind and gracious as to bestow gifts of the most refined kind; extraordinarily gracious and understanding; every shade of meaning must be perceived in mind in each case, as a subsidiary factor in the spiritual melody.

لَّا تُدْرِكُهُ الْأَبْصَارُ وَهُوَ يُدْرِكُ الْأَبْصَارَ ۖ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ

No vision can grasp Him

But His grasp is over

All vision: He is

Above all comprehension

& > Latif لطيف fine, subtle; so fine and subtle as to be invisible to the physical eye; so fine as to be imperceptible to the senses; so pure as to be above the mental or spiritual vision of men. The active meaning should also be understood: one who understands the finest mysteries.


Yet is acquainted with all things.


The finer mysteries, (and)

Is well acquainted (with them).

اللَّهُ لَطِيفٌ

Gracious is Allah

& > Latif لطيف kind, gracious, and understanding, as to bestow gifts finely suited to the needs of the recipients.


To His servants:

& > to include all men, just and unjust, for Allah provided for them all.


He gives Sustenance

& > i.e., provision for all needs, physical, moral, spiritual, -To whom He pleases- is not restrictive, but modal. Allah provides for all, but His provision is according to His wise Will and Plan, and not according to people’s extravagant demands. He can provide for all, because He has complete power and can carry out His Will.

مَن يَشَاءُ ۖ وَهُوَ الْقَوِيُّ الْعَزِيزُ

To Whom He pleases:

And He has Power

And can carry out

His Will.


The finer mysteries, (and)

Is well-acquainted (with them).

يَا بُنَيَّ أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَانْهَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا أَصَابَكَ ۖ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

O my son! establish

Regular prayer, enjoin what is

Just, and forbid what is wrong;

And bear with patient constancy

Whate’er beside thee; for this

Is firmness (of purpose)

In (the conduct of) affairs.

وَلَا تُصَعِّرْ خَدَّكَ

And swell not thy cheek

& > The word -cheek- in English, too, means arrogance or effrontery, with a slightly different shade added; effrontery from one in an inferior position to one in a superior position. The Arabic usage is wider, and includes smug self-satisfaction and a sense of lofty superiority.

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

(For pride) at people,

Nor walk in insolence

Through the earth:

For Allah loveth not

Any arrogant boaster.

وَاقْصِدْ فِي مَشْيِكَ وَاغْضُضْ مِن صَوْتِكَ

And be moderate

In thy pace, and lower

& > The Golden Wisdom is the pivot of the philosophy of Luqman as it is the philosophy of Aristotle and indeed of Islam. And it flows naturally from a true understanding of our relation to Allah and His universe and to your fellow-creatures and human beings. In all things be moderate. Do not go the pace, and, do not stand stationary or slow. Do not be talkative and do not be silent. Do not be loud and do not be timid or half-hearted. Do not be too confident, and do not be cowed down. If you have patience, it is to give you constancy and determination, that you may bravely carry on the struggle of life. If you have humility, it is to save you from unseemly swagger, not to curb your right spirit and your reasoned determination.

إِنَّ أَنكَرَ الْأَصْوَاتِ لَصَوْتُ الْحَمِيرِ

Thy voice; for the harshest

Of sounds without doubt

Is the braying of the donkey.


True Wisdom sees Allah’s boundless Bounties

To man, and how all nature is made

To serve man’s ends. It is due from us

To know our place, discern the limits

Of our knowledge, and see how far above us

Is Allah’s Wisdom, and His Law. Let us not

Deceive ourselves. The end of all things

Will come, but the When and the How are known

To Allah alone, to Whom be all Praise!

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