Luqman (also known as Luqman The Wise, Luqmaan, Lukman, and Luqman al-Hakeem Arabic: لقمان) was a wise man for whom Surat Luqman (Arabic: سورة لقمان), the thirty-first sura (chapter) of the Qur'an, was named. Luqman (c. 1100 BC) is believed to be from Ethiopia in Africa. There are many stories about Luqman in Arabic and Turkish literature and the primary historical sources are the Tafsir ibn Kathir and Stories of the Qur'an by Ibn Kathir. The Qur'an does not state whether or not Luqman was a prophet, but some people believe him to be a prophet and thus write Alayhis salaam (A.S.) with his name.
Source of Luqman's Wisdom
Luqman was described as a perceptive man, always watching the animals and plants of his surroundings, and he tried to understand the world based on what he saw. One day, whilst sleeping under a tree, an angel came to him and said Allah wanted to bestow a gift upon Luqman: either wisdom or being king. Luqman chose wisdom, and when he woke from his slumber, he was aware that his senses and understanding had sharpened. He felt in complete harmony with nature and could understand the inner meaning of things, beyond their physical reality. Immediately he bowed down, thanked and praised Allah for this wonderful gift.
Luqman was captured by slavers and sold as a slave. He was deprived of his freedom and could neither move nor speak freely. This was the first trial he had to bear. He suffered his bondage patiently, for his heart was lit with faith and hope, and he was waiting for Allah's action.
The man who bought him was a good as well as an intelligent man. He treated Luqman with kindness. He was able to detect that Luqman was not an ordinary man and tried to test his intelligence. He ordered Luqman to slaughter a sheep and to bring its worst part to him. Luqman slaughtered the sheep and took its heart and tongue to his master. On receiving them his master smiled, fascinated by Luqman's choice of the 'worst'. He understood that Luqman was trying to convey some deep meaning, though he could not make out exactly what. From this moment his owner began to take more interest in Luqman and showed more kindness to him.
A few days later, Luqman was again instructed to slaughter a sheep, but this time he was asked to take the best parts of the animal to the owner. Luqman slaughtered a sheep, and to his master's amazement, again brought the same organs (the heart and the tongue). His master asked Luqman how the heart and the tongue could be both the worst and the best parts. The wise Luqman answered: The tongue and the heart are the sweetest parts if its owner is pure; and if he is wicked, they too are as wicked! Thereafter, Luqman's owner held him in great respect. Luqman was consulted by many people for advice, and the fame of his wisdom spread all over the country.
Surat Luqman and the Hadith
Surat Luqman is the 31st sura (chapter) of the Qur'an with 34 verses (ayat). It is a Meccan sura. It reminds the believer that God ensures His Protection to those who remain steadfast in prayer (salat) and give their wealth to those who are needy, granted that the intentions are pure. This sura addresses the issue of the respect due to one's parents when it comes to the worship of Allah. "And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command), "Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) Goal." (Ayah 14) Allah acknowledges the authority parents have over their children—the mother for bearing the child throughout the hardship of pregnancy and labor. But when the parents are leading their children astray from the true worship of Allah, Allah says, "But if they strive to make thee join in worship with Me things of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration), and follow the way of those who turn to me (in love): in the end the return of you all is to Me, and I will tell you the truth (and meaning) of all that ye did." (Ayah 15) But Allah reminds the believer, "Verily the knowledge of the Hour is with Allah (alone). It is He Who sends down rain, and He Who knows what is in the wombs. Nor does any one know what it is that he will earn on the morrow: Nor does any one know in what land he is to die. Verily with Allah is full knowledge and He is acquainted (with all things)." (Ayah 34)
The focus of this sura, once broken down into its many elements, can be seen as emphasizing principles of moderation. The sura uses the mustard seed analogy to emphasize the degree to which God maintains his purview over man's actions, possibly emphasizing the fact that any evil or good deed, no matter how small, is recorded and will be brought out by Allah during the day of judgement. A final point of focus of this sura is the purpose of God's creation. 31:29 and 31:20 show how God's intention through creation was to better mankind, and his signs are theoretically everywhere, from rain to vegetation. This emphasis once again reminds man of their subservience to Allah while also driving home the idea that man is meant to do good on the Earth. Man's purpose is to serve God, while the Earth has been created in order to facilitate man's needs.
The Hadith teaches that for some bondsmen, a high rank has been determined. But sometimes, that bondsman has not acquired the good deeds to reach to such a high rank. Hence Allah causes him to become involved with some calamity, which if he accepts and bears patiently, he is able to reach that high position. According to the Hadith, when Luqman was teaching, he was asked, "What has brought you to be like this?" meaning his high rank. Luqman said, "Truthful speech, fulfilling the trust, and leaving what does not concern me."
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- Ibn Kathir, Hafiz, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Dar-us-Salam Publications, 2000 (original ~1370)
- Al-Halawi, Ali Sayed, Stories of the Qur'an by Ibn Kathir, Dar Al-Manarah
- Oliver Ceaman, The Quran: An Encyclopedia, pg. 356.
- Ibn Katheer, Stories of the Quran, pg. 4 of Chapter 16.
- Abdel Haleem, The Qur'an, Sura 31
- Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Quran, pg. 79.
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