صف لنا العاقل فقال عليه السلام: هُوَ الِّذِي يَضَعُ الشَّيْءَ مَوَاضِعَهُ قيل: فصف لنا الجاهل قال: قَدْ فَعَلْتُ۔
Describe the wise to us; and he said: The wise is one who places things in their proper positions. Then, he was asked: Describe the ignorant to us; and he said: I have already done so.
— Imam Ali a.s.
(Nahj al-Balagha — Peak of Eloquence: Hadith #235)
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all worlds. May peace and blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), his pure progeny, and his noble companions.
In this profound hadith, Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) provides us with a concise yet powerful description of the wise and the ignorant. Let us delve into the meanings of the key words in this hadith and explore their significance in light of the Quran.
The word (aql) "عاقل" refers to the one who possesses intellect, wisdom, and understanding. It is derived from the root word "عقل" which means to restrain or bind. The wise person is described as someone who has the ability to place things in their proper positions. This implies that the wise individual has the capacity to discern and understand the true nature and purpose of things, and to act accordingly.
The word (jahil) "جاهل" refers to the ignorant or the one lacking knowledge. It is derived from the root word "جهل" which means to be unaware or uninformed. Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) states that he has already described the ignorant, indicating that the absence of wisdom and understanding is the defining characteristic of ignorance.
To further understand the significance of this hadith, let us turn to the Quran for guidance. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ) repeatedly emphasizes the importance of wisdom and knowledge in numerous verses. For instance, in Surah Al-Baqarah (2:269), Allah says,
He grants wisdom to whom He pleases, and whoever is granted wisdom is indeed given a great good.
This verse highlights the divine bestowal of wisdom and the immense value it holds.
In Surah Al-Qasas (28:14), Allah narrates the story of Prophet Musa (Moses) and describes him as (And I cast upon you love from Me, that you might be brought up under My eye)
وَأَلْقَيْتُ عَلَيْكَ مَحَبَّةً مِّنِّي وَلِتُصْنَعَ عَلَىٰ عَيْنِي
This verse highlights the divine gift of wisdom bestowed upon Prophet Musa, enabling him to fulfill his mission.
Furthermore, in Surah Al-Anbiya (21:79), Allah praises Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) by saying, (And We bestowed upon him Isaac and Jacob as an additional gift, and We made them righteous)
وَوَهَبْنَا لَهُ إِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ نَافِلَةً ۖ وَكُلًّا جَعَلْنَا صَالِحِينَ
This verse highlights the wisdom and righteousness bestowed upon the Prophets, enabling them to guide their communities.
From these verses, we can understand that wisdom is a divine gift that enables individuals to discern the truth, make sound judgments, and act in accordance with the teachings of Allah. It is through wisdom that one can place things in their proper positions, as mentioned in the hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ).
The consequences of possessing wisdom are profound. A wise person is able to navigate through life's challenges with clarity and insight. They are able to make informed decisions, avoid pitfalls, and contribute positively to society. On the other hand, the consequences of ignorance are detrimental. An ignorant person lacks understanding, makes poor choices, and is susceptible to being misled.
Reflecting on this hadith, we are reminded of the importance of seeking knowledge and wisdom in our lives. As Muslims, we are encouraged to acquire knowledge through studying the Quran, the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), and the wisdom of the Ahl al-Bayt (عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلسَّلَامُ). By doing so, we can strive to become individuals who place things in their proper positions and avoid the pitfalls of ignorance.
In conclusion, the hadith of Imam Ali (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) serves as a profound reminder for Muslims to seek wisdom and knowledge in order to navigate through life's challenges. By placing things in their proper positions, we can make informed decisions, contribute positively to society, and ultimately strive to please Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ). May Allah grant us the wisdom to understand His teachings and guide us on the path of righteousness.
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