Speaking with wisdom
Speaking with wisdom
Speaking with wisdom represents the ability to speak in the most appropriate, the most beneficial and most effective manner possible. But speaking with wisdom is not bound by any specific rules. It depends on the time, place, the person addressed, and the circumstances. Moreover, the ability to speak with wisdom has no relation whatsoever with people's degree of intelligence, or how cultured they may be, their level of education or technical expertise. Some, who fail to apprehend this truth, then take part in courses or training with the aim of attaining wisdom and public speaking skills. Some believe this trait can be obtained merely by employing certain techniques; for this reason, they expend much effort to comply, as best as possible, to the various advice found in books about the rules of rhetoric or the art of diction.
They believe that if their speaking is extended or excessively elaborate, or that they use fashionable or foreign turns of phrase, which they believe carry intellectual appeal, their speech will be more attractive and effective. However, these characteristics do not endow anyone with the ability to speak with wisdom, because wisdom is a faculty which can only be acquired through faith, the sincerity which results from awareness of Allah and wholehearted submission to Allah.
As Allah says of the angels, in the Qur'an, "They said, 'Glory be to You! We have no knowledge except what You have taught us. You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise'." (Surat al-Baqara: 32), Allah has boundless wisdom, and He grants ability to whomever He wills. A person has no knowledge except what is taught by Allah.
When speaking with someone, those endowed with wisdom do not seek to endear the other to themselves. Knowing that it is Allah Who grants the power of speech, they take refuge in Him, and employ their speech in order only to gain His approval. At all times, they are aware that, while they are speaking, they are in the presence, not only of other people, but of Allah, and that their words will be effective only by His will. To this purpose, that their language take effect and be supported with wisdom, they pray to Allah. As a consequence of their sincerity, their conscience assists them to choose those words which are best and the most appropriate. As such, all who listen to their consciences may easily discern that which needs emphasis, what needs to be indicated, or what must be said.
In contrast to verbose or elaborate speeches, as with those among whom the morality of the Qur'an is not adhered to, they who speak with wisdom have an effect on the heart of their listeners. At no time does one who is sincere speak with the purpose of earning praise. However, because the real aim of those who are far removed from the morality set forth in the Qur'an is to make others be like them, they utterly lack in sincerity. Without this sincerity, of course, nor either can there be wisdom in their speech. In it we would only be able to refer to its technical aspects.
Merely to make a show of their profound knowledge of a subject, some speakers at times make unnecessary pronouncements which are of no use whatsoever to their listeners. They belabor their audiences with two or three hour-long speeches on highly mundane subjects, which could have otherwise been explained in a few sentences. By contrast, people of faith explain in the most clear, comprehensible, concise and effective manner so as to be of benefit to the listener.
Their purpose is neither to make themselves lauded nor to assume superiority over others. Their intention is solely to be of use to the listener, so as to earn the approval of Allah. Because their intention is pure, their efforts, Allah willing, will be ultimately successful.
The Qur'an draws our attention to the importance of wisdom, and to the fact that it is a great blessing: "He gives wisdom to whoever He wills and he who has been given wisdom has been given great good…" (Surat al-Baqara: 269) Indeed, those endowed with wisdom may, with Allah's permission, live according to the religion in the best way and, by explaining to others the morality found in the Qur'an in the manner which is the most comprehensible and effective, bring upon them a number of benefits. Those addressed by such wise people may, through their wise words, be able to see the truth behind the events they observe, and may be encouraged to reform their behavior, matters which until then they had not been able to properly understand. Realizing how great a blessing wisdom is, the faithful, in their prayers, ask Allah to grant them "wisdom and discernment in speech." The Qur'an gives the example of the Prophet Ibrahim's (as) prayer:
My Lord, give me right judgment and unite me with the righteous; and make me highly esteemed among the later peoples. (Surat ash-Shu‘ara': 83-84)
These verses call attention to the fact that Allah grants wisdom to whomever He wills, and that wisdom is a characteristic trait of Allah's messengers. For instance, from the verse, "[We] … gave him wisdom and decisive speech." (Surah Sad, 20), we understand that Allah granted specific wisdom and influential speech to the Prophet Dawud (as). The following verse informs us that wisdom was imparted to the Prophet Ibrahim (as):
Or do they in fact envy other people for the bounty Allah has granted them? We gave the family of Ibrahim the Book and wisdom, and We gave them an immense kingdom. (Surat an-Nisa': 54)
As well, there is no relation between the ability to speak wisely and a person's age. Allah will endow those with wisdom in proportion to their sincerity and faith, at whatever age He wills. The best examples of this, as stated in the Qur'an, are those of the Prophets Yahya (as) and Musa (as).
In the verse, "'Yahya, take hold of the Book with vigor.' We gave him judgment while still a child," (Surah Maryam: 12), we are told that the Prophet Yahya (as) was given wisdom in childhood. On the other hand, the verse, "And when he reached his full strength and maturity, We gave him judgment and knowledge. That is how We recompense good-doers." (Surat al-Qasas: 14) tells us that the Prophet Musa (as) received such blessing in his later years.
Several examples are provided in the Qur'an of the wise manner of speech of the Prophets. One such example is that of a man who believed himself to be great, merely due to wealth and property, and initiated an argument about Allah. Faced with the wisdom of the answer of the Prophet Ibrahim (as), he then recognized his own insincerity:
What about the one who argued with Ibrahim about his Lord, on the basis that Allah had given him sovereignty? Ibrahim said, "My Lord is He Who gives life and causes to die." He said, "I too give life and cause to die." Ibrahim said, "Allah makes the sun come from the East. Make it come from the West." And the one who was an unbeliever was dumbfounded. Allah does not guide wrongdoing people. (Surat al-Baqara: 258)