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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 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.
'Luqman was deprived of his freedom. He 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. 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 for Sura 31 comes down to 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 us 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."
Luqman gave his son the following advice which is recorded in the Qur'an:
"13 Behold, Luqman said to his son by way of instruction: "O my son! join not in worship (others) with Allah. for false worship is indeed the highest wrong-doing." 14 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. 15 "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." 16 "O my son!" (said Luqman), "If there be (but) the weight of a mustard-seed and it were (hidden) in a rock, or (anywhere) in the heavens or on earth, Allah will bring it forth: for Allah understands the finest mysteries, (and) is well-acquainted (with them). 17"O my son! establish regular prayer, enjoin what is just, and forbid what is wrong: and bear with patient constancy whatever betide thee; for this is firmness (of purpose) in (the conduct of) affairs. 18 "And swell not thy cheek (for pride) at men, nor walk in insolence through the earth; for Allah loveth not any arrogant boaster. 19"And be moderate in thy pace, and lower thy voice; for the harshest of sounds without doubt is the braying of the donkey."" (Quran, 31:13-19)
Sura 31 features many intertextual references, a quality that Qurannic narrative is known for. Enhanced by what Carl Ernst calls "ring structure" Sura 31 can be reinterpreted based on its inherent conceptual breaks.
Proposed Breakdown of Surah 31 via "ring structure 
Part I: Verses 1-11 Omniscience and self-sufficiency of God for the betterment of mankind pt.1
Verses 2-5: The Righteous are mentioned and their good habits are encouraged
Verses 6-7: The disbelievers are highlighted, contrasting the early practices of pious practicers
Verses 8-11: Paradise is reveled as reward, God's omnipotence is prominently highlighted as being predominantly for the betterment of man 
Part II: Verses 12- 15 Rules and Guidelines
Verses 12 -13: Luqman bequeaths knowledge to his son, No partners may be ascribed to Allah, and He is the highest power
Verse 14: Obey and be good to parents, a powerful reference to the struggle of motherhood
Verse 15: It is reiterated that believers should not obey those [parents] which ascribe partners to God
Part III: Verses 16 -17 The Middle
Verse 16: Omnipotence of God is compared to ability to see everything [i.e. the size of a mustard seed]
Verse 17: It is revealed through prayer, forbidding wrong, and employing moderation, are the values a believer should aspire too.
Part IV: Rules and Guidelines pt.2
Verses 18 - 19: Employ manners and moderation in society to better follow Allah
Part V: Verses 20 - 34 Omniscience and self-sufficiency of God for the betterment of mankind pt. 2
Verses 20 - 21: Disbelievers are called out once again and reminded of their punishment
Verses 22: Believers counter the disbelievers
Verse 23: The Prophet should not be sad that disbelievers are astray
Verse 24-28: The Omnipotence and infinite scope of God's power is reiterated
Verse 29 -32: All of God's acts are for the betterment of mankind
Verses 33 - 34: Judgement day is a bookend, emphasizing the need for right practice and submission to God.
|The Quran - Sura 31||Next sura:
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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
- Carl Ernst, How to Read the Qur'an, The University of North Carolina Press, pg. 117
- Abdel Haleem, The Qur'an, Sura 31, pg. 261 - 263
- Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Qur'an: Second Edition, pg. 79
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