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The Agents Of The Development Of Wisdom And Its Hindrances

Adapted from: "Imam 'Ali's First Treatise on The Islamic Ethics and Education" by: "Zainol Aabideen Qorbani Lahiji"

Since the creation and Divine affairs are based on the principle of cause and effect, God's generosity is dependent on the capacity of the receiver. This is because God is "the most generous of the generous ones" and He is not jealous.27
Thus, some people such as Luqman are given wisdom because of their existence structure and excellent morals and their humane feelings. Some others, however, are deprived of it because they lack the fundamental requirements. The following factors are significant to possess wisdom:
1. God-Wariness:
God-wariness is a kind of spiritual God-fearing state in man's soul that forces him to stay away from committing sins and to carry out his tasks. It has different characteristics, one of which is "realistic insight and wisdom".
The Holy Qur’an says:
    "يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنْ تَتَّقُوا اللَّهَ يَجْعَلْ لَكُمْ فُرْقَانًا"
"O you who believe! If you are careful of your duty to Allah, He will grant you a distinction."28
As you see, the evolution of the power to distinguish right from wrong, which is called "the realistic insight and wisdom," is, according to Qur’an, the result of God-wariness.
And from the verse 282, Surah al-Baqarah “…and be careful of your duty to Allah, Allah teaches you" we can realize that God-wariness has a deep effect in our recognition and in the increase of our learning and knowledge.
The cause and effect relation of God-wariness and wisdom may also be understood from the Prophet's statement:
    "جَاهِدُوا اَنفُسَكُم عَلى اَهوائِكُم تَحِلَّ قُلُوبَكُم الحِكْمَةُ"
"Struggle against your whims and wishes so that wisdom may enter your hearts."
Abul Fath Bosti, the poet and writer of the fourth century in one of his poems emphasizes the close relation of God-wariness and wisdom in the following words:
“There are two things which have taken milk from one breast: wisdom and God-wariness. There are also two things which live in one place, they are: wealth and aggression”.29
In Bihar al-Anwar, al-Majlisi mentions: "Luqman was asked by somebody if he was a slave of such and such a family. He answered that he was. Then he was asked what factors gave him the status he had then. He answered: “Honesty in speech, returning the deposits people had with me, leaving aside what did not concern me, lowering my gaze, controlling my tongue and not eating illegally-obtained food. One who does not do these things is below me and one who does more than this is superior to me. And one who acts on these, is like me."30
2. Sincerity
By sincerity is meant "not to associate any god with Allah, and to carry out one's duties for His pleasure, and not for fear of punishment or to attain His rewards31, and not for fear of other people's praise or blame."32 Sincerity has numerous benefits and advantages. One of them is the evolution and growth of wisdom in the sincere believer's heart and his alertness towards affairs. In the books of traditions, there is one tradition reported from the Prophet (S) in different shapes:
"Anybody who purifies himself,33 - or his actions,34 or his faith35 or his worship - for God, for 40 days, God will let him be aware of his pains and their remedies and let the springs of wisdom flow from his heart to his tongue:
    "مَنْ اَخلَصَ لله اَربَعِينَ صَبَاحاً ظَهَرَت ـ جَرَت ـ يَنَابِيعُ الحِكْمَةِ مِن قَلبِهِ اِلى لِسَانِه" 326
Imam ‘Ali (as) has stated:
    عِندَ تَحقُقِ الاِخلاَصِ تَستَنِيرُ البَصَائِرُ 
"When sincerity is achieved, insights become clearly apparent"36
The reason why God-wariness and sincerity increase realism in man and let him know the truth behind the affairs is that: A sin acts like dust and black smoke. In the same way that in a space full of dirt and smoke it is impossible to see properly, the thought space of sinners and unbelief acts in the same manner.37
As long as this pollution of sins lingers above us, we may not see the truth. But when, through God-wariness and sincerity, this dust and dirt become extinct and thought space become clear, the bride of reality manifests herself and man can get the truth and the springs of wisdom will flow from his heart towards his tongue. Imam Sadiq (as) has said:
    "لَولا اَنَّ الشَّياطِينَ يَحُومُونَ حَولَ قُلُوبِ بَنِي آدَمَ لَنَظَرُوا اِلى مَلَكُوتِ السَّمواتِ"
"If the Satans did not hover above men's hearts, they would see the Heaven's kingdom"38
Regarding this, the Prophet (S) says:
    "لَولا تَكْثِيرٌ في كَلامِكُم وَتَمرِيجٌ في قُلُوبِكُم لَرَأيتُم مَا أرَى وَسَمِعتُم مَا أسْمَعُ"
"If it were not for your excessive speech and the disorder in your hearts, you would see what I see and you would hear what I hear."39
In describing the traits of the devotees of God, Imam ‘Ali (as) emphasizes this truth: "Such a devotee enlivened his intellect and killed (the desires of) his soul until his large body became slender and his coarseness became fine. An illuminating light shone in his existence, making the way clear for him and taking him on the (divine) path. The doors (on the path) propelled him to the door of safety and the abode of permanence. With the tranquility of his body, his feet stood firm in the station of peace and ease, because of that in which he had employed his heart and pleased His Lord”.40
3. Sparing In Eating And Drinking And Piety
Among the factors of evolution of wisdom in man are the pious morals and eating little. Regarding this, the Prophet (S) sermonized Abu Dharr by saying: "Anybody in this world who adopted piety, God has implanted the tree of wisdom in his heart; and God made his tongue eloquent and made him aware of the faults of this world and remedies to its calamities and sent him from here to the Hereafter"41 And God, on the night of ascension to heaven exhorting the Prophet, said, "When My obedient subject keeps his stomach empty, and keeps his tongue, I will teach him wisdom."42
On the contrary, lack of piety, lack of sincerity, too much interest in the world, gluttony, haughtiness, anger and indulging in lust, take away man’s ability to enjoy wisdom. Regarding this, Imam ‘Ali (as) has said, "Gluttony spoils wisdom and hinders cleverness."43 Elsewhere he has also said, "Wisdom does not arrive unless man stops committing sins. Lust and wisdom do not match."44
Elsewhere Imam ‘Ali (as) has said, as well: "A man defeated by anger and lust will not enjoy wisdom."45
In short: When man's heart is lit with piety and is irrigated by ethical virtues, it will enjoy the sweet fruit of knowledge and wisdom. If man's heart is contaminated with sins, it will lack insight and wisdom46 as Imam Hadi (as) has said.


27. For this refer to Tabatabai's Principles of philosophy, Mutahhari's Divine justice and the author’s Determinism.

28. Qur’an 8:29.

29. Rayhanah al-Adab, vol.1, pp.262-264, under the translation of ‘Ali Ibn Mohammad Ibn Yusuf Ibn Mohammad Ibn Abdul Aziz; Mu’jam al-Buldan, vol.1, p.415 under the word "bost"; Guftar Mah, vol.1, p.30.

30. Bihar al-Anwar, vol.13, p.426.

31. Bihar, vol.70, pp.236-255; Usul al-Kafi, vol.2, p.84.

32. In this case, refer to Bihar, vol.70, pp.234-237.

33. Bihar, vol.70, p.249.

34. Ihya al-‘Ulum, vol.4, p.322.

35. Usul al-Kafi, vol.2, p.16.

36. Ghurar al-Hikam.

37. Sa'adi says: Truth is a decorated house,

Whims and wishes are dangling dirt in the air;

When there is dust in the air, you may not see properly,

Although man is alert, he may not see.

And Hafiz says:

The beloved's complexion does not bear a veil,

Get rid of the dust in the air, so that you may see.

38. Guftar Mah, vol.1, p.29, from Murtaza Mutahhari's lectures.

39. Op.cit.

40. Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 220.

41. Bihar, vol.77, p.80.

42. Bihar, vol.77, p.29.

43. Ghurar al-Hikam.

44. Op.cit.

45. Op.cit.

46. Bihar, vol.78, p.370.


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