Qualities of those who possess intellect

الَّذِينَ يُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِ اللَّهِ وَلَا يَنْقُضُونَ الْمِيثَاقَ  

Alladhīna yūfūna bi-‘ahdillāhi wa lā yanqudūnal-mīthāq

 Those who fulfill the covenant of Allah and do not break the pledge solemnly made

(Surat Al-Ra‘d, No.13, Āyat 20)

This verse is part of a passage in which Allah ‘azza wajall describes a group of believers who are ulul-albāb, translated differently as people who: possess intellect, endowed with insight, with understanding, possessed of minds, etc. Allah says: Is someone who knows that what has been sent down to you from your Lord is the truth like someone who is blind? Only those who possess intellect take admonition (Q13:19). The subsequent verses give a description of those who are ulul-abāb, i.e., the people of intellect. This is profoundly interesting because what is described by Allah is quite different from how we would describe someone with intellect. Generally, we offer this label to someone who is ‘smart’, holds certain degrees, or acts logically and rationally. However, what we see in the verses that follow (Q13:20-24) is that Allah has an entirely different set of criteria about whom He considers as possessing intellect.

The first of these qualities is found in the above verse. It says: (The people who possess intellect are) those who fulfill the covenant of Allah and do not break the pledge solemnly made. According to exegetes, the covenant that is being discussed is the one made before our arrival in this world. In the realm prior to this world, we pledged our allegiance to Allah and accepted His Lordship. Allah says: And when your Lord took from the children of Adam, from their backs, their descendants and made them bear witness over themselves, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said, ‘Yes, we bear witness.’ [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, ‘Indeed, we were unaware of this.’ (Q 7:172).

Those who possess intellect are the ones who fulfill this covenant in their lives. This is done through submission to the One we have accepted as our Lord. True intellect thus entails a recognition of Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā as the Supreme Deity and Lord as well as complete submission and obedience to Him based on that knowledge. An intelligent human being is keenly aware of his origin and his end, of the transience of this world and the urgent need to do what is expected of him while he is on earth. To ignore those realities goes against sound intelligence.

This pledge also refers to the promises that we make to each other. Those who possess intellect are truthful and fulfill the pledges they make. They do not take them lightly. Imam Ali (a) has said: Verily promises are chains on people’s necks until the Day of Resurrection. Whoever fulfils them is delivered by Allah and whoever breaks them is forsaken by Allah. Whoever takes them lightly will have to contend with the One Who has placed special emphasis on them and Who has enjoined upon His creation to fulfil them. (Ghurar al-Hikam, p. 244)

We should take time to study and reflect on this set of verses (Q13:19-24) to ensure we have the characteristics that Allah expects from us, so that we are truly of those who possess intellect.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shīrāzī, Al-Amthal fí Tafsīr Kitāb Allah al- Munzal, ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān.