Luqman Al-Hakim or Luqman The Wise was an Ethiopian man known for his great wisdom and piety. He was described in a number of narrations as having dark brown skin and a broad nose and was said to have lived during the lifetime of Dawud (alaihi assalaam).
Luqman was a pious man who was fascinated by the world around him. He would observe the beauty and order of the creation and the lessons and signs therein that reflect the magnicence of the Creator. Luqman was a shepherd by trade and it is said that he also worked as a tailor and sone say he was a carpenter.
One day Allah sent the angel Jibra’il to Luqman and he gave him a choice of being granted kingship or wisdom and he chose wisdom. Allah, the Most High and Glorified mentioned this in His Book:
“Indeed, We blessed Luqman with wisdom.” (Luqman:12)
It was reported in some hadith that after he was blessed with great wisdom Allah tested him with a great tribulation. Luqman was captured by slavers and sold into slavery unjustly. The man who bought him recognized his high level of intelligence and wisdom and as a test he told him to slaughter a sheep and bring to him the two best parts. Luqman did as he was instructed and brought him the heart and the tongue. The slave owner then told him to do the same thing but this time to bring him the two worst parts, so Luqman did as instructed and brought him once again the heart and the tongue of the slaughtered sheep. The man was puzzled by this and asked him to explain his choices. Luqman told him that if the heart and tongue are upright then they are the best parts of the body, but if they are corrupt then they are the worst parts of the body. The slave owner was delighted by this and soon word spread of the great wisdom of this Ethiopian slave. People came from far and wide to speak to him and seek his advice and guidance.
A man came to Luqman one day whilst he was in a majlis with a large group of people and he said to him, “Aren’t you the slave who used to tend sheep with me in such and such a place?” Luqman replied, “Yes.” Then he continued to ask, ” So how did you reach the position that I see today?!” Luqman said, “By Allah’s decree, fulfilling the trust, honest speech and not talking about things that don’t concern me.”
In another narration a man approached Luqman and said, “You’re Luqman, the slave of Bani Hishaas.” Luqman said, “Yes.” He continued, “You’re the black man who tends to sheep with me!” Luqman replied, “As for my skin color then that is quite apparent, but what is it that perplexes you?” The man said, “How the people sit at your feet, wait at your door, and are so pleased by the things that you say!” Luqman said, “O son of my brother! If you do as I say then your situation can be the same: I lower my gaze, I guard my tongue, I am moderate when I eat, I guard my private parts, I perform my duties, I fulfil my covenants, I honor my guests, I take care of my neighbor, and I don’t talk about things that don’t concern me. That is how I was blessed with this stature.”
After he was emancipated he travelled to Palestine and was made a judge by Prophet Dawud (alaihi assalaam) in his court.
There are a number of lessons we can learn from Luqman’s life:
- There are two types of intelligence that which is learned through keen observation or teaching and that which is innate and cannot be learned.
- Wisdom is better than power.
- With wisdom comes status and the love of the general people.
- True wisdom is piety and obedience to Allah.
- Allah tries those whom he blesses with wisdom and guidance with the hardest tribulations.
- If one is patient during times of hardship Allah will bless him with great rewards.
- A person’s worth is not determined by their race or status, but rather by their piety and character.
- A trait of intelligent people is that they don’t talk a lot, but when they do it is with purpose and meaning.
- The importance of not talking about things that doesn’t concern you or you don’t understand.
- The importance of guarding the tongue and purifying the heart from its diseases.
- The importance of eating healthy foods and moderate portions.
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*The information in this post was based on the narrations mentioned by Ibn Kathir in his history book Al-Badayah Wan-Nahayah.