(رَبِّ هَبْ لِي حُكْمًا وَأَلْحِقْنِي بِالصَّالِحِينَ)
Rabbi hab lī hukman wa alhiqnī bissālihīn
My Lord, grant me wisdom and join me with the righteous
[Surat Al-Shu‘arā, Āyat 83]
One of the beautiful supplications taught to us in the Holy Quran is the Du‘ā of Prophet Ibrāhīm ‘alayhis-salām when he asks Allah ‘azza wajall for wisdom and to be joined with the righteous. However, before he asks Allah for anything, he first engages in a debate with his ‘father’ and the polytheists of his time about the Lordship of Allah. In a passage starting from verse 69 to 82 of this sūra, Abraham rejects the ideas of any partners to Allah and describes his faith in the Lordship of Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā. It is only after professing his belief and understanding of Allah that he then turns to God with this beautiful supplication.
What we can learn from these verses is that one of the conditions of supplications to Allah is a base of understanding and faith of our relationship to Him. Imam al-Sādiq ‘alayhis-salām was asked why our prayers sometimes go unanswered. The Imam replied: Because you call someone you don’t know! (Al-Tawhīd of as-Sadūq p. 289).
Prophet Ibrāhīm asks for two things in this supplication: i) Wisdom and ii) to be joined with the righteous. Scholars define wisdom as an insight that allows one to recognize truth wherever it is, and to distinguish evil in whichever form it appears. This insight is a special gift that is provided by Allah to whomever He deems worthy. Allah says: He gives wisdom to whom He will [Q 2:269]; but Allah makes it abundantly clear that this is not an ordinary gift, He continues: and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding [Ibid]. Wisdom is that gift which allows all other gifts to be used correctly. For example, one may be given wealth, health, or power, but without wisdom those gifts will be misused. Hence, wisdom is a special gift from Allah.
One would think that this gift is enough, yet Prophet Abraham teaches us that we need something else alongside wisdom – to be amongst the righteous. The righteous are those who believe and act virtuously. Allah (swt) says: They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and hasten to good deeds. And those are among the righteous [Q 3:114]. In other words, it is not enough to have insight. We need the fortitude and ability to act on the wisdom that has been provided to us.
An important question to ask is how can one become worthy of receiving the gift of wisdom? Scholars say there are three important steps:
First: Strengthen our belief in Allah – this was displayed by Abraham when he had a debate with his ‘father’ and the polytheists.
Second: Acting on that belief. Faith without action is incomplete, just as action without faith is incomplete. Hence, Allah says: Indeed, mankind is in a loss, Except for those who have faith and do righteous deed [Q 103:2-3].
Third: To keep asking Allah for wisdom because it is a gift we continuously require.
Just as we ask Allah (swt) to guide us on the straight path daily, this is a supplication that we should make to Allah daily as well. It would be a precious gift to receive.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shīrāzī, Al-Amthal fī Tafsīr Kitāb Allah al- Munzal, ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān.