Surat Luqman (Verses 12-19)
This transcript is based on the audio recordings of Late Dr. Israr Ahmad (Rahimahullah) and paraphrased for clarity.
وَلَقَدْ آَتَيْنَا لُقْمَانَ الْحِكْمَةَ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِلَّهِ وَمَنْ يَشْكُرْ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ () وَإِذْ قَالَ لُقْمَانُ لِابْنِهِ وَهُوَ يَعِظُهُ يَا بُنَيَّ لَا تُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّ الشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ () وَوَصَّيْنَا الإِنْسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْنًا عَلَى وَهْنٍ وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِيرُ () وَإِنْ جَاهَدَاكَ عَلى أَنْ تُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلا تُطِعْهُمَا وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًا وَاتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَيَّ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ () يَا بُنَيَّ إِنَّهَا إِنْ تَكُ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِنْ خَرْدَلٍ فَتَكُنْ فِي صَخْرَةٍ أَوْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ أَوْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَأْتِ بِهَا اللَّهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَطِيفٌ خَبِيرٌ () يَا بُنَيَّ أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَانْهَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا أَصَابَكَ إِنَّ ذَلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ () وَلَا تُصَعِّرْ خَدَّكَ لِلنَّاسِ وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ () وَاقْصِدْ فِي مَشْيِكَ وَاغْضُضْ مِنْ صَوْتِكَ إِنَّ أَنْكَرَ الْأَصْوَاتِ لَصَوْتُ الْحَمِيرِ()
“And indeed, we bestowed wisdom upon Luqman, so that he may be thankful to Allah. And whoever gives his thank, he does so for the benefit of his own self, and whosoever conceals his thanks, then he should know that Allah (SWT) is self-sufficient. Luqman said to his son, while he was admonishing him, ‘O my little son, never ascribe or associate any partners to Allah. Indeed ascribing or associating partners or equals with Allah is a great injustice. And surely, we have ourselves, enjoined upon man, regarding his parents. His mother carried him in her womb, bearing weakness upon weakness, and his weaning takes two years; so! Be grateful to me as well as your parents, to me is the eventual return. But if they compel you to ascribe or associate with me of which you have no knowledge or proof, then don’t obey them, but keep their company in this world with kindness, and follow the path of those only who have turned towards me. In the end, to me you all will have to return and then I shall apprise you, all, what you had been doing. ‘O my son, any evil or good deed, even though it might have the weight of a grain of mustard, and then even if it might be hidden inside any rock or in the skies or in the earth, Allah will surely bring it forth. Indeed, Allah is the most subtle or sublime and aware of everything. O my son, keep the prayers established, enjoin whatever is good or right, and forbid whatever is evil or wrong, and then bear with fortitude whatever may befall you. Indeed, these are amongst things which require lot of patience and steadfastness. And do not turn your cheek away from people with scorn or pride and do not walk proudly and haughtily on the earth, for Allah does not like anyone who is self-conceited, and boastful. Be modest in your gait and keep your voice low. Indeed, the most unpleasant of all the voices is the braying of the ass” (Luqman, 31:12-19).
The verses 12-19 of Surat Luqman discuss the same four pre-requisites that were discussed in Surat al-‘Asr and Ayat al-Birr, but in a different way that has more to do with the foundation and fundamentals of the Qur’anic wisdom. The Qur’an repeats its important messages over and over again so that people take heed, reflect upon them, and abide by its teachings for their own success and salvation.
In the most concise form and in the shortest number of words, Surat al-‘Asr declares that salvation cannot be achieved by anyone on the Day of Judgment if he or she does not fulfill four conditions. These are: (1) having real faith (iman), (2) doing righteous deeds (al-‘Amal al-Salih), (3) exhorting one another to truth (Tawasi bil-Haq), and (4) exhorting one another to patience (Tawasi bil-Sabr).
Ayat al-Birr (al-Baqarah, 2:177) is an exposition of these four conditions. It discusses iman in detail to include iman in Allah, iman in the Hereafter, iman in the Angels, iman in the Books, and iman in the prophets. Surat al-‘Asr mentions good deeds or al-‘Amal al-Salih as the second condition for success, Ayat al-Birr explains that these good deeds fall under three main categories: (1) fulfilling the rights of fellow human beings (Huqooq al-‘Ibad) by having mercy and sympathy toward them, and by actually spending on them for the sake of Allah (SWT); (2) fulfilling the rights of Allah (Huqooq Allah) through prayers (salah) and obligatory charity (zakah), and (3) fulfilling and honoring human relations including all types of business and social contracts.
In the verses 12-19 of Surat Luqman, which is the subject of our present discussion, there is no mention of the term iman (faith). However, faith in Allah (Iman billah) is expressed through enjoining the Oneness of Allah (tawhid) and forbidding the assigning of anyone or anything as partner or equal to Allah (shirk). Four attributive names of Allah have also been mentioned, and they are: Ghani, Hameed, Latif, and Khabir. Ghani means absolutely self-sufficient, free of all needs, and not needing anything from anybody. Hameed means worthy of all praise and being praised all the time, irrespective whether someone praises Him or not. Latif means subtle and sublime; knowing all subtleties, however insignificant, small or hidden they might be. Khabir means to be aware of everything. Faith in the hereafter (Iman bil-Akhirah) is expressed by reminding that the actions and deeds of people, however small or big, good or bad, and manifest or hidden will not go unrewarded. There is no reference made to faith in the prophethood (Iman bil-Risalah) because in the context of pure wisdom (hikmah), these verses are discussing how the human intellect, guided by pure, uncorrupted human nature (fitrah) leads to understanding of the metaphysical realities.
It can be said that while Surat al-‘Asr deals with these ingredients in the context of salvation, Surat Luqman treats them in the context of hikmah or the affirmation and demonstration that the basic teachings of the Qur’an are totally in conformity and consistent with human nature. It was one of the missions of prophets to impart wisdom to the people.
رَبَّنَا وَابْعَثْ فِيهِمْ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِكَ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
“Our Lord, send forth to them a messenger of their own to recite Your revelations to them, to teach them the Scripture and wisdom, and purify them. You are the Mighty, the Wise One” (al-Baqarah, 2:129).
The main topic of discussion of this lesson is the wisdom of the Qur’an. The basic teaching of the Qur’an and for that matter the teaching of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) are in full consonance and conformity with the nature and intellect of man, provided his nature remains pure, and the intellect functions under the guidance of that pure nature. The example of the wise sage Luqman has been cited to illustrate this principle.
Who was Luqman?
Historians are of the opinion that Luqman was a very wise ruler of one of the ancient Arabian nations, such as the ‘Aad and the Thamud. There are no remnants of these nations. The Qur’an mentions of Prophet Hud (AS) being sent to the people of ‘Aad and Prophet Salih (AS) being sent to the people of Thamud. There is an opinion that Luqman became king after the famous king Shaddad. Another opinion holds that after the divine punishment that befell the people of ‘Aad, only a few of them survived. They established a new nation of the Thamud. Luqman was the wise ruler of Thamud.
There was a general consensus among the companions of the Prophet (SAW) that Luqman was an Abyssinian (Habashi) from Nubia (a region in between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia). It is also held that he was a carpenter by profession and a man of great wisdom. He had arrived at the truth based on his own sincerity and open mindedness. He used his pure nature and sound intellect to reach the same conclusion regarding ultimate reality that is reached through the teachings of the Qur’an and the teachings of all prophets and messengers of Allah. Luqman’s sayings used to be quoted by Arabian poets and orators in their gatherings and discussions. It is narrated that three years before the hijrah, a person by the name Suhaib Ibn Samit from Medina met the Prophet (SAW) in Mecca. He recited to the Prophet (SAW) from a collection of the sayings of Luqman. While appreciating these sayings, the Prophet (SAW) recited a portion of the Qur’an to Suhaib ibn Samit to which he acknowledged that the words of the Qur’an were at a much higher level than the sayings of Luqman.
Most scholars agree that he was neither a prophet nor a follower of any particular prophet. His name is not found mentioned in the list of the known prophets and messengers of Allah. He was also not the follower of a prophet or messenger. Had he been so, he would have asked his son to follow the prophet and to obey him. He would have mentioned the name of that prophet or would have referred to his teachings when delivering the sermon to his son. No Muslim today can omit the name of Muhammad (SAW) in his sermon.
Through his own reasoning and thinking and with the guidance of his own human nature, Luqman was able to understand the fundamental aspects of Deen. Allah had blessed Luqman with wisdom.
وَلَقَدْ آَتَيْنَا لُقْمَانَ الْحِكْمَةَ
“And indeed, we bestowed wisdom upon Luqman” (Luqman, 31:12).
What the Qur’an asks us to believe in and what our Deen teaches us is in conformity with our nature. Logic, understanding, and reasoning also testify to these things. To be blessed with wisdom is the highest good that can be given to any human being by Allah (SWT). Verse 269 of Surat al-Baqarah says,
يُؤْتِي الْحِكْمَةَ مَن يَشَاءُ وَمَن يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
“He grants wisdom to whom He wills; and whoever is granted wisdom has indeed been granted abundant wealth. But only those with insight bear this in mind” (al-Baqarah, 2:269).
Indeed, the final stage of the education, training, and teaching of Muhammad (SAW) was the teaching of hikmah. According to a hadith,
الْكَلِمَةُ الْحِكْمَةُ ضَالَّةُ الْمُؤْمِنِ فَحَيْثُ وَجَدَهَا فَهُوَ أَحَقُّ بِهَا
“The statement of wisdom is the lost property of the believer, so wherever he finds it then he has a right to it.”
Distinction between Wisdom (hikmah) and Philosophy (falsafa)
Hikmah and philosophy are very close to each other. The subject matter of both is same. Both aim to solve the mysteries of nature and to understand the nature of existence. But there is a world of difference between hikmah as given in Qur’an and falsafa or philosophy as we know it. What’s hikmah? In Arabic, the verb hakama-yahkumu means firstly to frame an opinion or judgment, and then to pass the verdict or declare the judgment. This is beautifully illustrated in three verses of Surat al-Ma’idah as follows:
وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ
“Those who do not judge by what Allah has sent down are deniers of truth”(al-Ma’idah, 5:44).
وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
“Those who do not judge by what Allah has sent down are wrongdoers!” (al-Ma’idah, 5:45).
وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
“Those who do not judge by what Allah has sent down are rebellious” (al-Ma’idah, 5:47).
Hikmah is the condition when human reasoning and intellect guided by pure nature become mature enough to be able to frame correct opinions and make correct judgments. What is that nature? The Qur’an calls it fitrah.
فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
“So set your face single-mindedly towards the Deen, and follow the nature as made by Allah; that nature in which He has created mankind. There is no changing in Allah´s creation. That is the true Deen, but most people do not know it” (al-Rum, 30:30).
This nature or fitrah should be sound (saleem) and not polluted or perverted.
يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ
“The day when neither wealth nor children can help, and when he alone will be saved who comes to Allah with a sound heart” (al-Shu’ara, 26:88-89).
With sound nature guided by human reasoning in the right direction, one begins to reach the realities of this universe. One begins to recognize Allah and begins to realize Him within his own self. The impermanent and transitory nature of this world begins to dawn upon that person forcing him to come to the conclusion that there must be another life; another dimension of an eternal life and an everlasting world.
What is falsafa or philosophy? The word philosophy is derived from the Greek root ‘philo’ meaning ‘loving’ and ‘sophia’ meaning ‘knowledge; wisdom’. Philosophy, according to Kant is ‘pure reasoning’. In his epic-making book Critique of Pure Reason, he argues that taking the path of reasoning and logic alone gives way to ignoring one’s intuition; ignoring the guidance provided by one’s own nature. This situation inevitably leads either to agnosticism or skepticism. Agnosticism affirms the uncertainty of all claims to ultimate knowledge. Skepticism means taking the position that what cannot be proved by reason should not be believed. Skeptics, therefore, doubt the authenticity of accepted beliefs. According to the great philosopher Aldous Huxley, philosophy has to do with finding bad reasons for what one believes intuitionally or through direct perception of truth.
When the faculty of reasoning takes the guidance of pure nature, the results arrived at are correct. The conclusion reached is correct. When both head and heart go to work together, the result is hikmah. When the brain alone is engaged in the process of reasoning, without the involvement of the heart, the result is philosophy. This in brief is the distinction between hikmah and philosophy.
Relationship between Wisdom (hikmah) and Thankfulness (shukr)
Surat Luqman opens with the verse,
وَلَقَدْ آَتَيْنَا لُقْمَانَ الْحِكْمَةَ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِلَّهِ
“And indeed, we bestowed wisdom upon Luqman, so that he may be thankful to Allah.”(Luqman, 31:12).
The relationship between wisdom and thankfulness is something that should be pondered upon very deeply. Gratefulness or thankfulness (shukr) is one of the fundamental terminologies of the basic philosophy of the Qur’an. Shukr is the faculty of being thankful to someone who has done some good. It may be feeding the one who is hungry, quenching the thirst of one who is thirsty, and fulfilling the needs of the one who is needy. The feelings of thankfulness are observable even in domestic animals that are taken care of by their masters. Dabbatun Shakoor (دابَّةٌ شَكُور) refers to a beast that is sufficed by little fodder or that fattens upon little fodder, and is thankful to its master for that benefit. The emergence of shukr from the depths of one’s heart is an indication of a healthy nature. The shukr that does not emerge from the depth of one’s heart is indicative of a sick and perverted nature. This is a test of the health or sickness of the nature of a person. “The Prophet (SAW) said: He who does not thank people does not thank Allah.”
The function of the intellect (’Aql) is to recognize one’s benefactor. This takes place gradually and involves a process of evolution. Initially a small child’s sentiments are centered only towards its parents who love him, feed him, protect him, and take care of all his needs. As the child’s mental horizon begins to widen, it begins to see the contribution of others also—the family members, the society, the nation, the forces of nature, and basically the whole universe that works as an organic whole to provide him and others.
The intellect then goes to infer that there has to be a supreme being that created this organic whole and that controls it. He is the real benefactor. Consequently, all praises and thanks (hamd) should be for Him alone. And, since He is the Creator and the Master, He has rights over us, and therefore, we have to fulfill the rights of Allah (Huqooq Allah). The concept of shukr is to fulfill the rights of Allah and the rights of people (Huqooq ul-‘Ibad).
In olden days, as a gesture of thankfulness, people generally showed reverence to the forces and objects of nature like the sun, the moon, the oceans, the winds, the rains, the mountains, the fire, and so on, as their lives were dependent upon the benefits provided by these creatures of Allah. At times, this feeling of reverence reached a point when these things became their deities or objects of worship. People practicing primitive religions are well known for their worship of nature.
With the ongoing evolution of human reasoning, it is now well known and understood that the forces of nature are nothing but humble servants in a grand cosmic order that has been made subservient to man. They have no will or determination of their own. They are the creations of the one and only Creator—Allah (SWT). They submit to the natural laws created by Him. Therefore, reason and logic dictate that He alone is worthy of our worship and our thankfulness. It is this cardinal point that this verse addresses. No wonder that the opening surah of the Qur’an (Surat al-Fatiha) begins with the words,
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
“All praise and thanks (hamd) be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds” (al-Fatiha, 1:2)
The Qur’an informs us about Ibrahim (AS) using his rational faculty to arrive at the truth and declaring,
إِنِّي وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّذِي فَطَرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ حَنِيفًا وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
“I have set my face with single-minded devotion, towards Him who has created the heavens and the earth, and I am not one of the polytheists” (al-An’am, 6:79).
Thus, to thank Allah alone is to have reached the threshold of wisdom. This further leads to the wisdom of the Qur’an and the wisdom of Islam. The verse further says,
وَمَنْ يَشْكُرْ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ
“And whoever gives his thank, he does so for the benefit of his own self”(Luqman, 31:12).
According to this verse, man benefits his own self by being thankful. This is because shukr keeps one’s natural inborn disposition (fitrah) pure and enables one’s personality to develop in the right direction.
Types of Thankfulness (Shukr)
Shukr may be categorized into Shukr bil-Qalb (Thankfulness in the Heart), (2) Shukr bil-Lisan (Thankfulness with the Tongue), and Shukr bil-A’mal, (Thankfulness with one’s Actions).
Shukr bil-Qalb (Thankfulness in the Heart)
The evaluation of the goodness done should be properly assessed and evaluated because the expression and sentiments of shukr should be commensurate with the quality or value of the goodness done to someone. The gift of a precious diamond for instance is higher in value than the gift of an ordinary piece of glass, though both may apparently look similar.
Shukr bil-Lisan (Thankfulness with the Tongue)
Thankfulness should be expressed verbally also. The Prophet (SAW) used to verbally thank Allah (SWT) on different occasions through his supplications and invocations. There are many supplications found in the ahadith. For example, there is a supplication to thank Allah after getting up from sleep:
الْحَمْدُ للهِ الَّذِي أَحْيَانَا بَعْدَ مَا أَمَاتَنَا وَإِلَيْهِ النُّشُورُ
“All thanks and praise to Allah Who has given us life after causing us to die (i.e. sleep), and unto Him is the Resurrection.” And there is a supplication to thank Allah after meals.
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَطْعَمَنَا وَسَقَانَا وَجَعَلَنَا مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
“Praise and thanks belongs to Allah, who fed us and quenched our thirst and made us Muslims." Thankfulness expressed through such supplications demonstrates that we are consciously grateful for Allah’s countless bounties and favors upon us.
Shukr bil-‘Amal (Thankfulness with One’s Actions)
Thankfulness should also be expressed through one’s actions by employing one’s limbs in the obedience of Allah.
The word kufr (thanklessness / ungratefulness) is opposed in meaning to the word shukr (thankfulness / gratefulness). Normally kufr is understood as the antithesis of Islam or iman. However, this is the legal implication of kufr. The literal meaning of kufr is ‘concealment of something’. In the context of this verse, the verbal root ka-fa-ra means to conceal or suppress the feeling of thankfulness for someone.
وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ
“And whosoever conceals his thanks, then he should know that Allah (SWT) is self-sufficient” (Luqman, 31:12).
Since the root ka-fa-ra means to cover something up, that is why linguistically, a farmer in the Arabic language is also known as kafir because he covers up the seeds with the soil. We have in Surat al-Hadid,
كَمَثَلِ غَيْثٍ أَعْجَبَ الْكُفَّارَ نَبَاتُهُ
“It is like the growth of vegetation after the rain, which delights the tillers” (al-Hadid, 57:20).
In the religious sense, the kafir is one who is ungrateful because he covers up or conceals his iman—his inborn faith; the faith that is embedded in the soul of every human being. Thus, he shows his ingratitude to Allah (SWT). The more we thank Allah, the more He will grant us from His bounties, for He promises,
لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ
“If you are thankful, I will give you more” (Ibrahim, 14:7).
On the other hand, if we were to be ungrateful, Allah does not say outright that He will punish us; rather He leaves it open as if to remind us, ‘look, My Punishment is severe; that is all you need to know; so start becoming thankful for your own benefit.’
وَلَئِن كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ
“But if you are unthankful, then know that My punishment is severe indeed”(Ibrahim, 14:7).
Shukr and kufr are diametrically opposite to each other. This relationship between the two opposing concepts is highlighted elsewhere in the Qur’an where Allah pairs these two words together:
فَاذْكُرُونِي أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِي وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ
“So remember Me; I will remember you. Be thankful to Me and do not be ungrateful” (al-Baqarah, 2:152).
Allah is not in need of anyone’s praises or thanks. The one who thanks Allah does so for his own benefit as in doing so, his personality develops in the right direction. Hameed means worthy of all praise and being praised all the time, irrespective whether someone praises Him or not.
Associating Partners with Allah (Shirk)
The verse 13 of Surat Luqman says,
وَإِذْ قَالَ لُقْمَانُ لِابْنِهِ وَهُوَ يَعِظُهُ يَا بُنَيَّ لَا تُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّ الشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ
“O my son, never ascribe or associate any partners to Allah (SWT). Indeed ascribing or associating partners or equals with Allah is a great injustice” (Luqman, 31:13).
It is important to understand that theoretically, there could be two types of arguments against shirk. Firstly, Allah has not revealed in any of His scriptures to associate anything or anyone in His Godhood (Uluhiyyah) or Lordship (Rububiyyah). Had He done so, humans would have been obliged to worship them too. Allah asks the Prophet (SAW) to declare,
قُلْ إِن كَانَ لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ وَلَدٌ فَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْعَابِدِينَ
“Say, If the All Merciful had a son, I would be the first to worship him” (al-Zukhraf, 43:81).
Secondly, there is no intellectual argument that can support shirk. This whole universe is centrally controlled; one Will, one Wisdom, one Planning, and one Mind at work. And, with the advance of science, we now know more thoroughly about the universe being one integrated organic whole. This is why we are commanded not to ascribe anything or anyone to Allah (SWT). The word zulm (ظُلْم) means to deprive something of its rightful position. It also means to wrong oneself; sometimes to the limit of committing shirk. Doing so is the biggest injustice. Such was the advice that the wise Luqman was giving to his son by way of a will or wasiyyah. He was passing on to his son the wisdom that Allah had granted him. Allah is One and unique in every respect. There is nothing like Him.
لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ
“There is nothing like Him: He is the All Hearing, the All Seeing” (al-Shura, 42:11).
الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَلَمْ يَلْبِسُوا إِيمَانَهُم بِظُلْمٍ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمُ الْأَمْنُ وَهُم مُّهْتَدُونَ
“It is those who have faith, and do not mix their faith with wrongdoing (idolatry), who will be secure, and it is they who are rightly guided” (al-An’am, 6:82).
Only those people who believe and then don’t pollute their belief with any form of zulm will be entitled to peace, tranquility, and security (amn).
Extremely concerned, the companions of the Prophet (SAW) approached him telling him that there was no one among them who did not commit any wrong. The Prophet (SAW) made it clear that zulm here meant associating others with Allah. It is something natural that good should be reciprocated with good.
هَلْ جَزَاءُ الْإِحْسَانِ إِلَّا الْإِحْسَانُ
“Is there any reward for good other than good?” (al-Rahman, 55:60).
Whatever blessing we have is from Allah. We are not in a position even to count his blessings.
وَمَا بِكُم مِّن نِّعْمَةٍ فَمِنَ اللَّهِ
“Whatever blessing you have is from Allah.” (al-Nahl, 16:53)
وَإِن تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا
“If you tried to count Allah´s blessings, you could never count them.” (Ibrahim, 14:34)
Since Allah is free of all needs, all that we can do for Him as His slaves (‘ibad) is that we do not ascribe or associate any partners with him. We should never downgrade Him to the level of creatures or elevate the creatures to His level. What else can we do for Him? What good could be done to Allah for all His countless blessings and bounties? It is not possible to thank Allah enough for what He has given us. There is nothing that we can return to Him other than to submit to Him and to avoid associating partners with Him.
Both in Surat al-‘Asr as well as in Ayat al-Birr, it was the subject of ‘righteous deeds’ (al-‘Amal al-Salih) that was mentioned just after the subject of faith (iman). Among other things, righteous deeds have to do with fulfilling the rights of others. There is an observable pattern found in the Qur’an that the command to fulfill the rights of Allah is usually followed immediately by the command to fulfill the rights of one’s parents. Our parents have rights over us, for the simple reason that they brought us up, they reared us, they fed us, and they invested in us. The children are obliged to repay them in the best possible way. Just after Luqman advises his son to commit himself to tawhid and to refrain from shirk, Allah enjoins man regarding his parents.
وَوَصَّيْنَا الإِنْسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ
“And surely, we have ourselves, enjoined upon man, regarding his parents” (Luqman, 31:14).
Rights of the Parents
Among the rights due to people (Huqooq ul-‘Ibad), parents deserve the highest level of respect, regard, obedience and gratefulness from their children. In his modesty, Luqman did not tell his son about being grateful to his parents. It was Allah who injected this note to tell Luqman’s son and others that they should be good to their parents. We should always keep in mind the favors they have done for us. They looked after us. They sacrificed their rest and comfort for our sake; they tightened their bellies to feed us. They looked after us when we were sick. So we have to be thankful to them. We should try to reciprocate their favors with best of our abilities, love and affection. Allah is the Creator and Sustainer. He created our parents; so ultimate gratitude is for Him. We should be grateful to Allah (SWT) by not doing shirk and then we should be thankful to our parents by treating them in the best possible way. When it comes to the question of obedience, it is primarily to Allah and to His messenger, but when there is a question of being grateful and thankful, it comes down directly from Allah to the parents.
أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ
“Be grateful to me as well as your parents Be grateful to me as well as your parents” (Luqman, 31:14).
Verse 83 of Surat al-Baqarah says,
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ لَا تَعْبُدُونَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا
“Remember when We made a covenant with the Children of Israel, Worship none but Allah and be good to your parents” (al-Baqarah, 2:83).
Verse 151 of Surat al-An’am says,
قُلْ تَعَالَوْا أَتْلُ مَا حَرَّمَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ أَلَّا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا
“Say, Come! I will tell you what your Lord has really forbidden you. Do not ascribe anything as a partner to Him; be good to your parents” (al-An’am, 6:151).
Verse 36 of Surat al-Nisa’ says,
وَاعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا
“Worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him. Be good to your parents” (al-Nisa’, 4:36).
Verse 23 of Surat al-Isra’ says,
وَقَضَىٰ رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا
“Your Lord has commanded that you should worship none but Him, and show kindness to your parents” (al-Isra’, 17:23).
Rights of the Mother
While enjoining man to treat both his parents kindly, the mother’s role of carrying the child in her womb and breast-feeding it are highlighted.
حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ وَهْنًا عَلَى وَهْنٍ وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيْكَ إِلَيَّ الْمَصِيرُ
“And surely, we have ourselves, enjoined upon man, regarding his parents. His mother carried him in her womb, bearing weakness upon weakness, and his weaning takes two years; so! Be grateful to me as well as your parents, to me is the eventual return” (Luqman, 31:14).
As pregnancy proceeds, the mother begins to experience weakness because the embryo feeds on her blood. Her energy gets sapped and sucked out from within by the embryo which is developing in her womb. After her child’s birth, she suckles it. The weaning period is two years. She has to undergo all these hardships for her child’s sake. That is why the rights of the mother as compared to the rights of the father are much greater on the children. It is reported that a person came to Allah’s Messenger (SAW) and asked, “Who among the people is most deserving of a fine treatment from me?” He said:“Your mother” The man again asked, “ who next?” “your mother,” the Prophet (SAW) replied. The man asked, “Who next?” The Prophet (SAW) again said, “Your mother.” The man again asked, “Then who?” Thereupon the Prophet (SAW) said, “Then your father.”
Priority of Allah’s Right over Parents’ Rights
During the Meccan period of the prophethood of Muhammad (SAW), it so happened that some parents who had not embraced Islam were very annoyed with their children who had embraced Islam. The parents asserted their rights over their children and demanded them to forsake Islam and come back to the pagan Deen of their forefathers. For the youth who had become Muslims, it was a very challenging situation that called for resolving a conflict between the rights of Allah and the rights of parents. Should they obey their parents and be grateful to them by acceding to their request or should they decline their parent’ request and remain firm on Islam? Two young companions of the Prophet (SAW) by the names of Mus’ab bin Umair and Saad ibn Abi Waqqas are prime examples of this situation. They were pressurized to the extreme by their parents to renounce the Deen of Islam and to rejoin the fold of the Deen of their ancestors. Sometimes the parents would tell their children to follow their way promising them that they would bear the burden of their sins on the Day of Judgment.
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِلَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا اتَّبِعُوا سَبِيلَنَا وَلْنَحْمِلْ خَطَايَاكُمْ وَمَا هُمْ بِحَامِلِينَ مِنْ خَطَايَاهُمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِنَّهُمْ لَكَاذِبُونَ
“Those who deny the truth say to the faithful, Follow our way, and we will bear the burden of your sins. But they will bear none of their sins. They are surely lying” (al-‘Ankabut, 29:12).
Revelations came to the effect that children should not obey their parents if they were compelled by them to commit shirk with Allah. They should keep on following the path of those who had turned towards Allah. However, they were instructed to keep on being good and kind to their parents in worldly matters.
وَإِنْ جَاهَدَاكَ عَلى أَنْ تُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلا تُطِعْهُمَا وَصَاحِبْهُمَا فِي الدُّنْيَا مَعْرُوفًا وَاتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ مَنْ أَنَابَ إِلَيَّ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
“But if they compel you to ascribe or associate with me of which you have no knowledge or proof, then don’t obey them, but keep their company in this world with kindness, and follow the path of those only who have turned towards me” (Luqman, 31:15).
This makes it clear that if there are two conflicting rights such as the rights of parents conflicting with the rights of Allah, then Allah's rights take precedence over the parents’ rights. Allah’s right is supreme over all other rights. The next advice given by Luqman to his son is:
يَا بُنَيَّ إِنَّهَا إِنْ تَكُ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِنْ خَرْدَلٍ فَتَكُنْ فِي صَخْرَةٍ أَوْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ أَوْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَأْتِ بِهَا اللَّهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَطِيفٌ خَبِيرٌ
‘O my son, any evil or good deed, even though it might have the weight of a grain of mustard, and then even if it might be hidden inside any rock or in the skies or in the earth, Allah will surely bring it forth. Indeed, Allah is the most subtle or sublime and aware of everything. (Luqman, 31:16)
According to the exegetes (mufassirun) of the Qur’an, the pronoun هَا (ha) in the expression إِنَّهَا (innaha) refers to any good or bad deed. Even thought this is not mentioned specifically, yet it is implied. The literary style of the Qur’an is that of a sermon or an oration in which the implied meanings of words and expressions are understood between the speaker and the audience. The reference here is being make to the smallest possible good or bad action that will be brought forth despite it being hidden in any conceivable place; in a rock or in the heavens or in the earth. The smallest of the size of the action has been likened to the smallness of a grain of mustard seed that in those times, when the Qur’an was being revealed, was considered to be the minutest thing possible. Elsewhere, the Qur’an speaks of dharrah (ذَرَّة) or the smallest kind of ant (resembling the weight of an atom) to refer to the smallest of deeds. We are told in Surat al-Zalzalah that man will see his smallest possible evil or good deed on the Day of Judgment.
فَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ () وَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ ()
“Whoever has done an atom’s weight of good will see it, while whoever has done an atom’s weight of evil will see it.”(al-Zalzalah, 99:7-8)
Human deeds will not go unaccounted for, however, small they might be and wherever they might have been committed. Allah is al-Latif; i.e., He is sublime, subtle, and knowing all subtleties. He is also al-Khabir; i.e., He is aware of everything.
Logical Relationship between Hikmah and Accountability
It is a universal undeniable truth that the human soul has been bestowed with an intuition that distinguishes between good and evil. Man by his very nature knows what is good and what is evil. He knows that to speak the truth is good, and to tell a lie is evil. Similarly fulfilling an agreement is good and backing out of it or breaching it is bad. Behaving well with one’s neighbor is good and behaving otherwise is bad. This shows that the basic moral and ethical values are known to human nature.
وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا () فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا
“By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it, and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right” (al-Shams, 91:7-8).
The human intellect knows that nothing in this universe is without a purpose. Everything has a purpose. Even the blade of a grass or the leaf of a tree is not useless or purposeless. It has a part to play in the scheme of things.
Discrepancy between Physical and Moral Laws
In the natural scheme of things, the rule of law should be that good should beget good and evil should beget evil. But, we find that people who are good and honest often have to suffer. They are wronged. They go hungry. They are not respected while crooks and criminals who exploit others often become rich, famous, and powerful. The logical rule that good should beget good and evil should beget evil does not always seem to apply, here in this world. Evil flourishes while good languishes. A person with scruples may not be able to have two square meals a day while a person without scruples, instead of being punished for his misdeeds may live in comfort and luxury.
As far as the physical laws are concerned, they are effective, as they follow a natural pattern, and bring about the natural results as expected, but the moral laws in this world, as we saw from the above examples do not always bring about the desired expected results. A live cinder if held in the hand will burn it, but telling a lie, which is an issue of morality, will have no perceptible harmful effect on the tongue. Consuming poison is fatal but no immediate harm comes out of consuming food out of ill-gotten gains. It can be concluded, therefore, that as far as the physical laws are concerned, this world is complete, but as far as the moral laws are concerned, this world is incomplete, as the results emanating from them are not always reconcilable with the actions performed.
This situation necessitates that there should be another life; another world, where moral laws should bring about the correct results; where people are suitably rewarded or punished according to their deeds, here on earth. They should be rewarded and punished in proportion to the good or evil they did. This is not quite the case in this world. A serial murderer if brought to book, and given death sentence can only pay for one life that he took; what about the punishment for the other lives that he took? Many a times, the crimes committed, and the consequences thereof are far in excess than any punishment that can possibly be meted out to the perpetrators of those crimes. It is simply not possible to render punishment in due proportion to those who commit genocides and other crimes against humanity.
Similarly it is impossible to duly reward the great benefactors of humanity, who themselves may have led a very challenging and tough life with no material gains or benefits whatsoever. A striking example is that of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), the best of humans. Having devoted all his life to the service of humanity, he still had to suffer the pangs of hunger. He had no material possessions worth the name. The whole humanity cannot give him the reward that he deserved. It is only in the hereafter that he can be truly rewarded by Allah (SWT). This is because the laws which will be governing that world will be different. Reward and punishment for good and evil will be rendered in absolute terms. People will not die there; so their reward and punishment would also be eternal.
This explains the intellectual reasoning and natural instincts for faith in the hereafter (Iman bil Akhirah). Thus the wisdom or hikmah founded on one’s intellect and instincts dictates that there should be another world in which all the human deeds whether good or bad must be rewarded fully; This is another hikmah that Luqman is passing on to his beloved son through his sermon.
The next advice Luqman gave to his son was to keep the prayers (salah) established; to enjoin others to whatever is good (ma’ruf) and forbid others from whatever is evil (munkar).
يَا بُنَيَّ أَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ وَأْمُرْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَانْهَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا أَصَابَكَ إِنَّ ذَلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ
“O my son, keep the prayers established, enjoin whatever is good or right, and forbid whatever is evil or wrong, and then bear with fortitude whatever may befall you” (Luqman, 31:17).
The prayers have to be a part and parcel of a believer’s life. It is a medium of having a constant link with Allah (SWT). It sustains and maintains one’s level of iman. This is the connection between faith in Allah (iman billah) and prayers (salah).
The expression Tawasi bil-Haq, meaning ‘exhorting one another to truth’ is found in Surat al-‘Asr. As against this, Surat Luqman introduces a new term called al-Amr bil-Maroof wa al-Nahi ‘anil-Munkar, which means ‘enjoining to whatever is true, right and just, and forbidding from whatever is false, wrong and unjust’.
Natural instinct also leads human beings to promote actions that are known to be right and good (Amr-bil-Maroof) and to oppose actions that are known to be wrong and evil (Nahi ‘anil-Munkar). This is because human nature loves good and hates evil. The good is pleasant and acceptable to human nature while evil is unacceptable and unpleasant to human nature. The Qur’an alludes to the fact that human nature knows very well as to what is right and what is wrong.
The terms Amr-bil-Maroof and Nahi ‘anil-Munkar are one of the most fundamental terms of the Qur’an and always appear as an inseparable organic whole. While feeding the hungry, providing medical facilities to the sick, taking care of the needy, and extending similar services are all important in their own right, and constitute service to humanity, yet promoting good and forbidding evil is the biggest public service one can offer to humanity. The highest good a true believer could do to humanity is to try to direct people from the wrong path to the right path and save them from the fire of hell. Not doing so is being cruel to one’s fellow humans. People should be called towards the right path—the path of Allah; the path that will take them to paradise—the abode of eternal bliss.
This mission of calling people to good and forbidding them from evil should start from one’s kith and kin.
وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا قُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَهْلِيكُمْ نَارًا
“O you who believe! Safeguard yourselves and your families from a Fire fuelled by people and stones” (al-Tahrim, 66:6).
They have to be called towards faith (iman) and righteous deeds (al-‘Amal al-Salih); towards success and salvation.
وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
“Let there be a group among you who call others to good, and enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong: those who do this shall be successful” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:104).
Similarly, we have in verse 110 of Surat Aal ‘Imran,
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ
“You are the best community which has been produced for mankind. You enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, and you believe in Allah” (Aal ‘Imran, 3:110).
On his way from Mecca to Medina, while performing hijrah, a few verses of Surat al-Hajj were revealed to the Prophet (SAW). One of these included verse 41 that says,
الَّذِينَ إِن مَّكَّنَّاهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَمَرُوا بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَنَهَوْا عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ
“Those who, if We granted them power in the land, will establish salat and pay zakat, and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong” (al-Hajj, 22:41).
Enjoining what is good has to be accompanied with forbidding what is evil. Only enjoining what is good and not forbidding from what is bad is only doing half the work, and is only half the truth. Half truth is the biggest falsehood. Truth should be total truth. Amr-bil-Maroof and Nahi ‘anil-Munkar should always go hand in hand.
Amr-bil-Maroof is generally translated as ‘to command good’ or ‘to enjoin good’. However, Amr also means to persuade or advise someone to do something. Thus, Amr-bil-Maroof can also be done at different levels—through advice and appeal, and in case of having authority, the good should be established and evil should be eradicated with force of authority, if necessary. Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil (Amr-bil-Maroof and Nahi ‘anil-Munkar) is the duty of every person who wants to do some good to the humanity at large.
Nahi ‘anil-Munkar or forbidding from evil has three levels as elucidated in a famous hadith which says, "He who amongst you sees something abominable should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his tongue, and if he has not strength enough to do it, then he should abhor it from his heart, and that is the least of faith". There is a narration that reads, "even if he does not do so then he has no faith even to the extent of a mustard seed.” The end of verse 17 says,
وَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا أَصَابَكَ إِنَّ ذَلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ
“And then bear with fortitude whatever may befall you. Indeed, these are amongst things which require lot of patience and steadfastness.” (Luqman, 31:17).
This tells us that doing Amr-bil-Maroof wa Nahi ‘anil-Munkar is most likely going to be met with resentment and resistance, because truth is bitter. The one who engages in Amr-bil-Maroof wa Nahi ‘anil-Munkar will be told to mind his own business and not to meddle with the affairs of others. If people are told something which hurts their worldly interest, then they might even retaliate and persecute the one who is forbidding them from their wrong practices. If people who associate others with Allah are told not to commit shirk, they may even get offended that their beliefs and their cultural practices are being challenged. This was exactly the cause of dispute between Muhammad (SAW) and the people of Mecca. It was not a dispute for land, property, money, power or other worldly considerations. The dispute was over the Islamic testimony of faith--La ilaha illallah, which was in direct contravention to their polytheistic beliefs and practices. This led to the verbal abuse, physical persecution and torture of some of the companions of the Prophet (SAW). Some of them were even martyred. It is in the face of such opposition that endurance, fortitude, patience and perseverance have to be exercised. Historically, the prophets and messengers of Allah were always persecuted by their people for enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. Therefore, those who embark upon this noble mission of Amr-bil-Maroof wa Nahi ‘anil-Munkar have to gird up their loins (roll up their sleeves) and be prepared for any eventuality, for they may even be harmed by the evil doers. Doing this work needs strength of character, courage, patience, and steadfastness.
The last two verses under reference are:
وَلَا تُصَعِّرْ خَدَّكَ لِلنَّاسِ وَلَا تَمْشِ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَرَحًا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ كُلَّ مُخْتَالٍ فَخُورٍ () وَاقْصِدْ فِي مَشْيِكَ وَاغْضُضْ مِنْ صَوْتِكَ إِنَّ أَنْكَرَ الْأَصْوَاتِ لَصَوْتُ الْحَمِيرِ()
“And do not turn your cheek away from people with scorn or pride and do not walk proudly and haughtily on the earth, for Allah does not like anyone who is self-conceited, and boastful. Be modest in your gait and keep your voice low. Indeed, the most unpleasant of all the voices is the braying of the ass”(Luqman, 31:18-19).
Hikmah, as discussed above, is the maturity attained by human thought under the guidance of a nature that is not polluted or perverted. In the same way, the mature human personality has a beauty of its own that comes from humility. The higher one goes up, the more humble one becomes. Such a person is not arrogant and does not show any contempt or scorn towards others. The body language of such a person is not reflective of any pride or haughtiness. Anyone engaged in the mission of Amr-bil-Maroof wa Nahi ‘anil-Munkar, may, if he is not careful get caught in the trap of a superiority complex and begin to have an inflated ego, thinking that he is at a higher level of morality and spirituality than the persons to whom he is giving da’wah—advising others to do good (ma’ruf) and forbidding them from evil (munkar). Lack of humility is extremely harmful and brings everything to naught. Priding oneself with one’s knowledge, piety, nobility and wisdom and not having humbleness when dealing with fellow humans takes away all the reward of good deeds that one may have done.
Luqman is advising his son to be humble in his attitude, and behavior, and not to be stiff-necked when interacting with people. While talking, it is good to keep one’s voice soft and low rather than loud and harsh. One’s voice may be reasonably loud if an occasion so required. It is reported that the Prophet (SAW) while delivering his sermons spoke loudly. A leader or commander may often have to speak in a loud voice in order to give a command. What is meant here by low voice is that one should not unnecessarily raise one’s voice to compensate for the weakness of one’s argument. Such type of loud voice is not pleasant and may be likened to the braying of an ass. One’s gait too should be moderate and humble rather than boastful. The gait of a person is suggestive of his or her character. The conceit and arrogance of a person often manifests itself on his face, voice and gait. Allah does not like anyone who is self-conceited, and boastful.
While discussing Ayat al-Birr, it was seen that out of the five articles of faith that include iman in Allah (SWT), iman in the hereafter, iman in the Angels, iman in the Books, and iman in the prophets, the last three among these five articles of faith make up what is called believing in the institution of prophethood (iman bil-Risalah). The section of Surat Luqman under discussion does not make any mention of Angels, Books or prophets. As far as iman in the hereafter is concerned, it is a subject that is elaborated only by the prophets of Allah—subjects like rising up after death, (ba’s ba’d al-maut), the assembling together on the Day of Judgment (hashr), paradise (jannah), hell (jahannam) etc are not mentioned.
Thus, there is a general consensus that Luqman was not a prophet. What was his status then? To know his status, we have to turn our attention to verse 69 of Surat al-Nisa’ where Allah mentions four categories of people who have been blessed by Him. They are the prophets (al-Anbiya’), the truthful ones (al-Siddiqeen), the witnesses/martyrs (al-Shuhada), and the righteous ones (al-Saliheen).
وَمَنْ يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ فَأُولَئِكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ النَّبِيِّينَ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِينَ وَحَسُنَ أُولَئِكَ رَفِيقًا
“Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger will be among those He has blessed: the messengers, the truthful, the witnesses, and the righteous. What excellent companions these are!” (al-Nisa’, 4:69).
Who are the truthful ones (al-Siddiqeen)? They are individuals who under the guidance of their pure nature and rational faculty reach a level whereby they comprehend the reality of tawhid and the hereafter (al-Akhirah / ma’ad) and can discern between good and evil. To reach up to this level is within the reach of human intellect, and is attainable by anyone without being divinely inspired or without the need of a prophet to convey him the truth. People such as Abu Bakr (RA) and Waraqah ibn Nawfal did not practice polytheism (shirk) even before the prophethood of Muhammad (SAW) and the advent of Islam. They were both monotheists (muwahhidun). The practice of associating others with the Supreme Being was against their human nature and their intellect. Such people have always existed in the world. It can be concluded that Luqman was one among them.