Reflecting upon a Father’s Advice: Surah Luqmān

In the name of Allah ﷻ, the Giver and Owner of Mercy.

In our tradition, Allah provides us many noble and righteous examples to look up to whether you look in the Qur’an or the Sunnah. Amongst these examples is Luqmān Al-Hākīm, after who Allah ﷻ named an entire Qur’anic chapter, subhanAllah. Al-Hākīm means “The Wise”. His story warmed my heart, so I thought I should share with you all the warmth. May Allah ﷻ open our hearts to His Guidance, amīn.

Luqmān the Wise was said to have been Nubian, living in a golden era, during the righteous kingdoms of Prophet Dāwūd (David) and Prophet Sulaimān (Solomon), may Allah be pleased with them both. For some time Luqmān was a slave, but eventually, his master was so enchanted by his virtues of Wisdom and Forbearance that he freed him. A beautiful story to share from our tradition is one involving Luqmān and his former master. His master gave Luqmān a sheep and said, “O Luqmān, slaughter this sheep and give me its best parts.” Luqmān returned with both the tongue and heart of the sheep. The following day, the master asked Luqmān to slaughter another sheep but this time, “return with its worst parts”. Luqmān obeyed and returned once again with both the sheep’s tongue and heart. The master was shocked, and asked Luqmān, “How do you reconcile the two?” Luqmān the Wise replied, “How beautiful the heart and tongue can be? And, how bad and evil can the heart and tongue be? The heart and the tongue can be the best parts in you, but also, the heart and the tongue can be the worst parts in you. With them, you can win hearts over. However, with them, you can also turn people away.” Luqmān, once freed by his master was said to have traveled all the way to Palestine to study under Prophet Dāwūd himself and seek sacred knowledge.

Luqmān’s Advice to his Son

Allah ﷻ begins the excerpt of Surah Luqmān stating that He bestowed Wisdom upon Luqmān.

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَا لُقْمَانَ الْحِكْمَةَ أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِلَّهِ ۚ وَمَن يَشْكُرْ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ

We gave wisdom to Luqmān, and said, “Be grateful to Allah;” and whoever is grateful is, in fact, grateful for his own benefit, and whoever is ungrateful, then Allah is free of all needs, worthy of all praise. (Qur’an 31:12)

Following that, Allah ﷻ shares with us His recording of an ancient conversation between father and son. Luqmān offers his son several pieces of advice that every Muslim should implement.

 

  • Tawhid: The Belief in the Oneness of Allah ﷻ

 

Allah ﷻ says:

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

(Remember) when Luqmān said to his son, while he was advising him, “My dear son, do not ascribe partners to Allah. Indeed, ascribing partners to Allah (shirk) is a grave transgression.” (Qur’an 31:13)

The Qur’an is truly perfection in writing. It is the Words of Allah ﷻ, and we must try our best to reflect upon what we read and extract gems from its verses. Even if you visit an excerpt every single day, you will be able to find something new to reflect upon subhanAllah.

Luqmān counseled his son to not associate any partners with Allah ﷻ. I found this particularly interesting because of another ayah in the Qur’an. Allah ﷻ says in Chapter 2, Ayah 152:

فَاذْكُرُونِي أَذْكُرْكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِي وَلَا تَكْفُرُونِ

So Remember Me, and I will remember you, and be thankful to Me, and be not ungrateful to Me (emphasis mine).

I highlighted the selected words because Allah ﷻ in Arabic says ‘takfurūn’ which comes from ‘kufr’ which means ‘disbelief’ or ‘denying the Truth (of Islam and Allah)’. However, in this context, Allah ﷻ uses the word with a new meaning: ‘Ungrateful’. You see, the wisdom behind this is, being ungrateful to Allah ﷻ is the ultimate denial of Him. Not being thankful for Allah ﷻ’s bounties is a state of disbelief (kufr). To tie this verse to the one in Luqmān, the one who commits shirk is he who does not give the credit to where it’s due. Allah ﷻ alone, without any partners, is behind our universe’s entire existence. So to be grateful to God is to believe in Him. To be ungrateful to God is to be deficient in your belief in Him.

 

  • Accountability

 

يَا بُنَيَّ إِنَّهَا إِن تَكُ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِّنْ خَرْدَلٍ فَتَكُن فِي صَخْرَةٍ أَوْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ أَوْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَأْتِ بِهَا اللَّهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَطِيفٌ خَبِيرٌ

(Luqmān went on saying to his son,) “My dear son, in fact, if there be anything to the measure of a grain of rye, and it be (hidden) in a rock or in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth. Surely, Allah is All-Fine, All-Aware. (Qur’an 31:16)

Luqmān teaches his son the importance of taqwa (God-Consciousness), and to be aware that everything we do will be recorded, preserved and brought forth to us on the Day of Resurrection.

 

  • Establishing Salah, Justice, and Patience

 

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

My dear son, establish Salāh, and bid the Fair and forbid the Unfair, and observe patience in what befalls you. Surely, these are things to be aspired to. (Qur’an 31:17)

When I was a young boy, my father gave me the same advice, subhanAllah, not realizing that this was advice originating from one of the most righteous of Allah’s creation! Luqmān, like any father, has high aspirations for his son. Therefore, he provided his son with the best of advice: Establishing the Salāh, to protect one’s heart from the daily evils. Something I am fond of saying is that  Salāh is like a dosage of soul-purifying medicine. Perhaps at that time, it was not five daily prayers. Nevertheless, the Believer is obliged to establish the required Salāh and from it is closeness to Allah ﷻ.

Mufti Taqi Usmani (hafidhahullah), in his translation, said: “bid the Fair and forbid the Unfair”. Other translators would refer to this as establishing good and forbidding evil. In other words, bringing benefit and avoiding harm. Luqmān wants his son to be a model Believer, and that is one who does not simply worship privately but is proactively serving the community in terms of morality, what is right versus what is wrong. For example, one is in a conversation with a friend, and that friend is gossiping about people – the listener stops the friend and lovingly encourages them to refrain from talking about others behind their back. This is a true friendship, and it is also a textbook example of encouraging good and forbidding evil.

Finally, in this verse, Luqmān advises his son to be patient with whatever befalls him. Patience is a truly ‘slept on’ virtue. During turmoil, the one who is patient and in control of their emotions is also the one that will be guided out of it. During loss, the one who is patient is also the one who reflects and realizes how much they really have in this world. In so many verses in the Qur’an, Allah ﷻ emphasizes that He is with the Patient.

 

  • Be Humble.

 

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

And do not turn your cheek away from people, and do not walk on the earth haughtily. Surely, Allah does not like anyone who is arrogant, proud. (Qur’an 31:18)

وَاقْصِدْ فِي مَشْيِكَ وَاغْضُضْ مِن صَوْتِكَ ۚ إِنَّ أَنكَرَ الْأَصْوَاتِ لَصَوْتُ الْحَمِيرِ

And be moderate in your walk, and lower your voice. Surely, the ugliest of voices is the voice of the donkeys. (Qur’an 31:19)

Luqmān the Wise is setting his son up for the same success and nobility in character that he has, right? Still, even with this piety and virtue, Luqmān must still install a brake system in his son. So, he reminded him to stick to his roots, to be humble, and to never think he is better than anyone! You could be the most behaved of men or women, you could be the classiest, but a truly noble individual is one who remembers that their virtues come from Allah’s Grace. That Allah ﷻ is the One who elevates one’s status, and can also be the One who disgraces one’s status. Rasulullah ﷺ teaches us something monumental to always remember whenever we find ourselves being arrogant:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَلَا إِنَّ رَبَّكُمْ وَاحِدٌ وَإِنَّ أَبَاكُمْ وَاحِدٌ أَلَا لَا فَضْلَ لِعَرَبِيٍّ عَلَى أَعْجَمِيٍّ وَلَا لِعَجَمِيٍّ عَلَى عَرَبِيٍّ وَلَا لِأَحْمَرَ عَلَى أَسْوَدَ وَلَا أَسْوَدَ عَلَى أَحْمَرَ إِلَّا بِالتَّقْوَى أَبَلَّغْتُ

O people, your Lord is one and your father Adam is one. There is no virtue of an Arab over a foreigner nor a foreigner over an Arab, and neither white skin over black skin nor black skin over white skin, except by righteousness. Have I not delivered the message? (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith #22978, Sahih)

Conclusion

This ancient conversation recorded in the Greatest book in existence is one that all of us must reflect upon. It is adorned with gems for us to implement, in order to improve the self. But essentially, it reminds me of the Love of a Parent. So, in conclusion, I invoke a powerful ayah and supplication for our parents.

وَقَضَىٰ رَبُّكَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا ۚ إِمَّا يَبْلُغَنَّ عِندَكَ الْكِبَرَ أَحَدُهُمَا أَوْ كِلَاهُمَا فَلَا تَقُل لَّهُمَا أُفٍّ وَلَا تَنْهَرْهُمَا وَقُل لَّهُمَا قَوْلًا كَرِيمًا

Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and do good to parents. If anyone of them or both of them reach old age, do not say to them: uff (a word or expression of anger or contempt) and do not scold them, and address them with respectful word, (Qur’an 17:23)

وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُل رَّبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا

And submit yourself before them in humility out of compassion, and say, “My Lord, be merciful to them as they have brought me up in my childhood.” (Qur’an 17:24)

Ameen.

 

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