EXAMPLES OF WISDOM IN THE QUR'AN
People with wisdom are reminded to take warning by reflecting on the anecdotes in the Qur'an. In Surah Yusuf it is commanded as:
There is instruction in their stories for people of understanding.
This is no invented talk but a confirmation of previous scripture, a clarification
of everything, and a guide and a mercy for all those who believe. (Surah
With the above verse in mind, we will draw attention to a few instances of
the insightful behaviour cited in the stories of the Prophets in the Qur'an
which portray the superiority achieved by wisdom.
THE UNSURPASSABLE BARRIER CONSTRUCTED BY DHU'L-QARNAYN
The Qur'an tells the Prophet Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as), to whom Allah gave much power and knowledge. The Qur'an begins his story thus:
They will ask you about Dhu'l-Qarnayn. Say: "I will tell you
something about him". We gave him power and authority on the earth and
granted him the means to achieve all things. (Surat al-Kahf: 83-84)
Then, taking up the main part of the narrative, it continues thus:
Our knowledge encompasses all that happened to him. Then he
followed a path until he arrived between the Two Mountains where he found
a people scarcely able to understand a word. They said, "Dhu'l-Qarnayn!
Yajuj (Gog) and Majuj (Magog) are ravaging the land. Can we, therefore,
pay tribute to you in return for your constructing a barrier between us
and them?" He said, "The power my Lord has granted me is better than any
tribute. Just give me a strong helping hand and I will build a solid barrier
between you and them." (Surat al-Kahf: 91-95)
As is seen in the verse, Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as) responds to the requests of the local people. Then, Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as) builds the barrier in such a clever way, to protect the people from Yajuj and Majuj, that it has never been climbed over or breached:
"Bring me ingots of iron!" he said. Then, when he had made
it level between the two high mountain-sides, he said, "Ply your bellows!"
and when the iron blocks became red-hot, he said, "Bring me molten brass
to pour over them". Yajuj and Majuj, therefore, were unable to climb over
it, nor were they able to make a breach in it. (Surat al-Kahf: 96-97)
Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as)'s success is without a doubt the result of his superior wisdom. To be able to create a barrier that cannot be climbed over, he chooses to use the strongest material in the most effective way possible. First, he puts in position the masses of iron and then applies heat to them until they become red-hot. But, very strong as the barrier now is, he doesn't leave it like this. To make it foolproof, he pours molten brass over it. Thus, he makes the barrier strong enough to be quite unscalable and also impenetrable.
The wisdom Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as) shows in building this barrier is a good example
of how faith strengthens the mind. The most striking quality of people
with wisdom is the fact that they don't resort to temporary or weak solutions,
but rather make the most of what they have and devise the best precautions.
That is to say, they get rid of the danger so that its threat is reduced
to the extent of not even hurting a single person. This wisdom is clearly
visible in the barrier Dhu'l-Qarnayn (as) constructed.
THE PROPHET IBRAHIM (AS)'S STRATEGY AGAINST THE IDOLS
The Qur'an states the numerous instances of the Prophet Ibrahim (as)'s wisdom. One of these is the plan he devised to warn his people who worshipped idols and show them the right path. To prove to his people that the idols they worshipped were merely pieces of stone and of no use to anyone, he first had to distance them from where the idols were situated. Thanks to his foresight, he successfully accomplished what he wanted to. He simply told them that he was sick, and they all fled the area in fear of catching his sickness:
He lifted up his eyes to the stars and said, "I am sick!"
So his people turned their backs on him and went off. He turned surreptitiously
to their idols and said, "Will you not eat your offerings? What is the
matter with you that you do not speak?" With that, he turned on them,
striking them down with his right hand. (Surat as-Saffat: 88-93)
He broke them all in pieces, except for the biggest one,
so that they would have it to consult! (Surat al-Anbiya': 58)
When his people scattered from the area, the Prophet Ibrahim (as) went to where the idols were and shattered them into pieces, except the largest one. Without a doubt there is a great reason why he left the biggest idol intact. The reason for this would be revealed when his people returned. On their return, his people were shocked with what had happened to the stones they worshipped and started questioning who might have done this:
Some asked: "Who has done this to our gods? He is definitely
one of the wrongdoers!" Others replied: "We heard a young man mentioning
them. They call him Ibrahim". They said, "Bring him here before the people's
eyes so that they can be witnesses". (Surat al-Anbiya': 59-61)
When they asked the Prophet Ibrahim (as) what had happened, he pointed to the biggest idol and told them to ask him. When they realized that the stone could not talk and explain what had happened there, they had to admit that these stones did not have any power:
They asked, "Did you do this to our gods, Ibrahim?" He replied,
"No, this one, the biggest of them, did it. Ask them if they are able
to speak!" So they returned to [blaming] themselves and said [to each
other], "Indeed you are the wrongdoers". But then they relapsed back into
their disbelief: "You know full well these idols cannot talk". (Surat
In reply to this conversation the Prophet Ibrahim (as) said:
"Do you then worship, instead of Allah, what cannot help or
harm you in any way?" (Surat al-Anbiya': 66)
"Do you worship something you have carved with your own hands,
when it was Allah Who created both you and all that you have made?" (Surat
As a result of the Prophet proving to them that these idols they worshipped
were of no avail to anyone, they saw as a matter of conscience that what
they had done was irrational, even though it was for a brief moment. The
Prophet Ibrahim (as) had shown them the truth with his wisdom and got
them to confess their wrongdoings. Even so they insisted on worshipping
idols after this incident.
THE OBVIOUS WISDOM IN THE WORDS OF THE PROPHET IBRAHIM
Another example given in the Qur'an of the Prophet Ibrahim (as)'s wisdom is conveyed in the conversation that takes place between him and a person whom Allah has made rich and powerful. With the clear mind the Prophet Ibrahim (as) earned by obeying religion, he was able to win an argument against a person who, far from religion, argued with him about Allah with his crooked reasoning. The conversation between the Prophet Ibrahim (as) and the person who was given sovereignty is as follows:
Have you not heard of him, who argued with Ibrahim about his
Lord, because Allah had given him sovereignty? Ibrahim said, "My Lord
is He Who gives life and causes to death". He said, "I too give life and
cause death". Ibrahim said, "Allah makes the sun come from the East. Make
it come from the West". The unbeliever was dumbfounded. Allah does not
guide evil-doers. (Surat al-Baqara: 258)
The Prophet Ibrahim (as) gives a very sound answer to this unbeliever who says
he too can "give life and cause death". In the light of this answer, he
is dumbfounded in the face of wisdom and truth.
THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAAS)'S EARLY DEPARTURE FROM HIS
Allah draws attention to yet another perceptive action mentioned in the
Qur'an, "Remember when you left your family early
in the day to install the believers in their battle stations. Allah is
All-Hearing, All-Knowing". (Surah Al 'Imran: 121) The Prophet Muhammad
(saas) had left his house early on the brink of battle to guarantee the
safety and success of the believers. Without a doubt, this approach of
his is an important example of the power of wisdom for all believers.
As can be understood from this example, one of the wisest precautions to take is to act early in times of great duress. This is because one who acts in advance can organize everything which needs to be done beforehand, and also gets the opportunity to find out what is needed, and which details may have been overlooked. Hence, the panic and excitement that may be caused by doing something at the last minute in a rush will be prevented. Just knowing that there is enough time allows people to think calmly and clearly. Also in a situation where it is important to act in a group, it is possible to exchange ideas to get a consensus in the given time frame.
Furthermore, acting ahead of time gives a person an important advantage in the face of unanticipated and unwanted events. When acting in advance, it is possible to compensate for any problem that arises.
Our Prophet Muhammad (saas) proves his superior wisdom by planning ahead and
showing us the advantages of acting early. By going to the battlefield
early, he designates everyone's duty and places each one at the most strategic
THE PROPHET YA'QUB (AS)'S KEEPING AN IMPORTANT ISSUE
A SECRET FROM PEOPLE WITH BAD INTENTIONS
In the previous chapters we drew attention to one of the most important qualities of a person with wisdom, i.e. that they calculate where every step they take may lead them. Indeed, with his sagacity and discernment, a person with wisdom never neglects to look at his past experiences and the knowledge he has accumulated before he starts something new. In the same way, he bears in mind the details of all the likely possible contingencies. In so acting he can take the wisest of precautions.
One of the Prophets mentioned in the Qur'an who was so wise in conduct is the Prophet Ya'qub (as). The Prophet Ya'qub (as) realized that his love for his son Yusuf (as) was sparking jealousy among his other sons and feared that they might do something harmful to Yusuf (as). Allah heralds in His verses the fact that Ya'qub (as) was right in being anxious. In Surah Yusuf, we are told to us what Yusuf (as)'s brothers thought of him:
They declared, "Why! Yusuf and his brother are
dearer to our father than we are, although we constitute a powerful group.
Our father is clearly making a mistake". (Surah Yusuf: 8)
When Yusuf (as) tells Ya'qub (as) of his dream in which the stars, the sun, and the moon bow down to him, Ya'qub (as) realizes that this dream may point to the fact that Yusuf (as) is a special person chosen by Allah. Because Ya'qub (as) is aware of what Yusuf (as)'s brothers think of him, he tells Yusuf (as) not to mention his dream to his brothers, since this information may fuel the other siblings' jealousy even more and cause them to harm Yusuf (as).
This conversation between Ya'qub (as) and Yusuf (as) is narrated in the Qur'an as follows:
When Yusuf told his father, "Father! I saw eleven bright stars,
and the sun and moon as well. I saw them all prostrate in front of me".
He said, "My son, don't tell your brothers your dream lest they devise
some scheme to injure you, Satan is a clear-cut enemy to man. Accordingly,
your Lord will pick you out and teach you the true meaning of events and
perfectly fulfil His blessing on you as well as on the family of Ya'qub,
as He fulfiled it perfectly before upon your forebears, Ibrahim and Ishaq.
Most certainly your Lord is All-Knowing, and Wise". (Surah Yusuf: 4-6)
As is clear, Ya'qub (as) thinks of the possible outcome of jealousy and
takes precautions accordingly. As Allah tell us
"In Yusuf and his brothers there are Signs for every one of those who
wants to ask." (Surah Yusuf: 7), believers should take heed of
the signs of wisdom found in Yusuf (as)'s story. And to achieve such wisdom
themselves, they should make efforts to increase their closeness to Allah
and live by the teachings of the Qur'an.