Prudent Measures Implied By the Qur'an
The Qur'an frequently stresses the concept of wisdom. This quality is unique to believers. However, people use the terms wisdom and intelligence interchangeably, and thus often confuse the difference between them by assuming, mistakenly, that intelligent people are wise. Wisdom, however, is an understanding that Allah grants only to believers. It enables people to analyze and understand the given issue correctly so that they can identify a given problem's true nature and deduce the most viable and appropriate solution. Contrary to common sense, wisdom is not linked to one's intelligence; rather, it results from the firmness of one's faith. In many verses, Allah refers to unbelievers as "people devoid of wisdom."
One's intelligence manifests itself in one's reactions to unexpected events and complicated situations. Comparing the reactions of those who do not have a profound comprehension of Allah's Existence, and thus lack wisdom, with the reactions of those who have strong faith reveals the difference of their wisdom. When encountered with abrupt occurrences, believers remain moderate and use their wisdom to produce prompt and viable solutions, regardless of the situation's complexity. Such a prudent stance results from being knowledgeable of the Qur'an, which Allah revealed as a "criterion of judgment between right and wrong," and living by its commands.
Everyone can develop solutions when faced with situations that demand alertness and wisdom, and thereby prevent possible harm. However, no solutions are as certain and lasting as those provided by the Qur'an, for it was revealed by Allah, the All-Knowing. Believers who comply with the Qur'an have grasped "the firmest handhold, which will never give way," and attain desirable results in all of their affairs.
In the next chapter, we will dwell upon the Qur'an's wise measures that are designed to guide believers.
Analyzing a Task's Probable Stages in Advance
Being able to think broadly before starting a task, assessing probable stages in advance, and estimating the possible situations and results that may arise are true signs of wisdom. People lacking wisdom fail to consider such subtle points and weigh the pros and cons before making a decision or implementing an initiative. Such oversights often yield undesirable and unexpected results.
Prophet Ibrahim (as)'s method of spreading the message to his people is a typical example of the believers' unique and remarkable thinking abilities. His people, who worshipped idols carved out of stone, insisted upon their idolatrous beliefs even though they were not fully convinced of their truth. Hence, the Prophet Ibrahim (as) decided to employ another method and implemented a plan consisting of several steps.
In order to prove to his people that these idols were nothing but pieces of stone, he decided to break them into pieces. But before doing so, he followed a wise method and ensured that he would not be seen by anyone while implementing his plan. His method is recounted as follows:
He said: "I am sick." So they turned their backs on him. Surat as-Saffat: 89-90
As the verses reveal, as soon as he announced that he was sick, the people around him left immediately and thus left him alone with the idols. The rest of the account is related as follows:
"By Allah, I will devise a scheme against your idols when your backs are turned." He broke them in pieces, except for the biggest one, so that they would have it to consult! Surat al-Anbiya': 57-58
The Prophet Ibrahim (as) broke all of the stone idols, except for the biggest one, to which his people attributed great power and worshipped. After some time, the furious people approached him:
They asked: "Did you do this to our gods, Ibrahim?" He replied: "No, this one, the biggest of them, did it. Ask them, if they are able to speak!" So they returned to (blaming) themselves and said (to each other), "Indeed, you are the wrongdoers." Surat al-Anbiya': 62-64
Considering the related verses as a whole reveals that the Prophet Ibrahim (as) carried out a plan of several stages in a very wise manner. As a result, he attained his desired end. Indeed, his idolatrous people came to understand that the sole remaining idol had no power to help them. This idol, as with all of the others that were broken, was merely a piece of stone that could not see, hear, or speak. More importantly, they could not protect themselves. In fact, this was the Prophet Ibrahim (as)'s message to his people: Abandon worshipping stones and turn to Allah, the Creator of the universe.
Prophet Ibrahim (as) analyzed the possibilities that could arise and thus attained the desired result. This example, together with many similar ones provided in the Qur'an, reveal that considering a person's surrounding situations and a people's psychology are quite efficient in attaining a desired end. Believers who have wisdom estimate a task's subsequent stages and carefully consider the factors that would bring long-term success. Meanwhile, the Qur'anic-based measures that they implement, as well as any initiative that they undertake for a good purpose, will not cause harm at a later stage.
Before going to Pharoah to convey Allah's message, Prophet Musa (as) asked Allah to allow his brother Harun (as) to accompany him, as we read in:
"Assign me a helper from my family, my brother Harun. Strengthen my back by him, and let him share in my task so that we can glorify You much and remember You much, for You are watching us." Surah Ta Ha: 29-35
As the verses make clear, it is a wise move to find a reliable companion when faced with an important task. Indeed, Allah answered this prayer. The following verse stresses the physical and spiritual benefits of a companion's company:
He said: "We will reinforce you with your brother, and by Our Signs will give you both authority so that they will not be able to lay a hand upon you. You and those who follow you will be the victors." Surat al-Qasas: 35
If believers adopt this method, they can support each other if one of them fails or falls into error. Besides, it is a fact that it is easier for two believers to keep their minds occupied with the remembrance of Allah, for they can remind each other about this duty when one's mind starts to wander. This is another secret revealed by the verse.
Of course, there are many more benefits associated with having a reliable companion. The company of another believer ensures their security, for one who fails to foresee a danger may be rescued by the other one's action that seeks to prevent possible risks.
The Division of Labor
Allah swears upon some issues in the Qur'an in order to indicate their importance. One of these is the division of labor.
Swearing on "those apportioning each matter" Surat adh-Dhariyat: 4, Allah points out the benefits of cooperation. Complying with this advice by distributing work among believers saves time and enables them to finish their task faster than they would if they worked alone. In fact, a task that takes one person 10 hours to complete can be finished by 10 people in only an hour.
Another benefit is the higher quality of the final result. Indeed, such cooperation allows each participant to benefit from every other participant's wisdom, knowledge, skill, and experience.
In addition to this, when several people are involved in fulfilling a task, the potential errors and damage liable to arise from being in a rush are minimized.
In societies of ignorance, however, people generally tend to undertake a task by themselves so that they will not have to share credit for its success with others, for their overall aim is to monopolize the people's appreciation for themselves. Indeed, the division of labor blunts this sort of greed and eliminates a person's inherent desire to take sole credit for a project's success. After all, given that this success is the result of several people's wisdom, knowledge, and experience, no individual contributor has any reason to boast or become haughty. In fact, believers do not seek to be superior, for all they are interested in is Allah's good pleasure.
The division of labor offers another benefit: Serving a common purpose and working collectively strengthens the friendship, fraternity, and loyalty among all participants. Even more, it enables a person to acknowledge the beauties and skills of other people and to abandon the greed of his or her own soul, and ultimately makes one modest.
Working collectively to seek Allah's good pleasure makes the participants feel respect, love, and devotion to one another due to the noble nature underlying such work. Each effort that they put forth to fulfill a given task indicates their love and devotion to Allah. Being aware of this fact is another factor that nurtures fraternity among believers.
Nighttime Is for Rest; Daytime Is for Activity
The Qur'an states that daytime is the time for activity, while nighttime is better for rest. The related verse reads:
He appointed the night for you so that you could rest in it, and the day for seeing. There are certainly Signs in that for people who listen. Surah Yunus: 67
Indeed, examining the human body reveals that its metabolism is set up to rest at night and work during the day. When the sun sets, the pineal gland, which lies at the base of the brain, starts to secrete melatonin. This makes a person feel less alert. Brain functions slow down, and one's bodily temperature drops. All of these bodily reactions to darkness eventually lower a person's productivity.
With the dawning of the day, the level of melatonin decreases and various hormones are activated. Meanwhile, bodily temperature rises and brain functions reach their maximum level. These factors contribute to one's alertness, attentiveness, and productivity. Such facts reveal the wisdom conveyed by: "He appointed the night for you so that you could rest in it."
Keeping Important Information
from Ill-intentioned People
The Qur'an stresses the importance of not sharing important information with ill-intentioned people, who like to use such information to deflect anything good from believers. Therefore, if such people learn that something good will happen to those who they do not like, their jealousy will sorely tempt them to keep this good from reaching that person.
The Qur'an informs us of the brothers of the Prophet Yusuf (as), who were such people. Due to their jealousy toward the Prophet Yusuf (as) because of their father's (the Prophet Ya'qub (as)) love for him, they harbored a deep hatred for him. The Prophet Ya'qub (as), who was aware of these evil feelings, advised Yusuf not to share his dream with them, for he understood that this dream, which informed him that Yusuf was a chosen servant of Allah and blessed with many favors, might infuriate them even further. The verses read:
When Yusuf told his father: "Father! I saw eleven bright stars, and the sun and moon as well. I saw them all prostrate in front of me," he replied: "My son, don't tell your brothers your dream, lest they devise some scheme to injure you. Satan is a clear enemy to man. Accordingly, your Lord will pick you out and teach you the true meaning of events and perfectly fulfill His blessing upon you as well as upon the family of Ya'qub, as He fulfilled it perfectly before upon your forebears, Ibrahim and Ishaq. Most certainly your Lord is Knowing, Wise." Surah Yusuf: 4-6
Allah calls people to ponder over this incident: "In Yusuf and his brothers are Signs for every one of those who wants to ask" Surah Yusuf: 7. Indeed, being cautious when among ill-intentioned people and withholding important information from them is an important lesson that we can draw from these verses.
Taking Early Action
Another measure to which Allah draws our attention is the need for taking prompt action when confronted with a situation that must be handled. In the Qur'an, Allah provides us with a practice of our Prophet (saas) as an example:
Remember when you left your family early in the day to install the believers in their battle stations. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. Surah Al 'Imran: 121
As the verse maintains, during a the time of war the Prophet Muhammad (saas) left his home early to allocate tasks among believers and to prepare them for what was coming. For 1,400 years, this practice of our Prophet (saas) has guided and encouraged believers.
One who takes action quickly gains time to get organized. In addition, an unexpected situation or a delay does not cause any more pressure, since they will have enough time to work on these problems.
Not being in a hurry gives a degree of psychological relief to soul, whereas having a limited amount of time causes panic and uneasiness, two states of mind that impede one's ability to focus, reason, and devise appropriate solutions. Under such circumstances, mistakes and accidents become unavoidable. On the other hand, having enough time allows people to work with peace of mind and without pressure, devote their attention and wisdom to solving the problem, and thus enables them to formulate the best decision.
Being Cautious at Night
Although Allah has appointed the night as a time of stillness, the Qur'an cautions us in the following verse:
"Say: 'I seek refuge with the Lord of Daybreak from the evil of what He has created, and from the evil of the darkness when it gathers." Surat al-Falaq: 1-3.
Night, especially pitch darkness, limits certain human abilities and so makes it far more difficult to take security measures. At night, it is harder to foresee danger, which means that a person becomes more prone to heedlessness. The main factor behind this increased level of risk is the desire of unbelievers to engage in wickedness under the cover of darkness, which hides them from the eyes of other people. Indeed, crime statistics for murder, theft, and many other illegal and harmful activities reveal that their perpetrators are more likely to be active from midnight until dawn.
The Qur'an also states that unbelievers prefer to harm believers during the night. As we read:
They may hide (their crimes) from the people, but they cannot hide (them) from Allah, seeing that He is in their midst when they plot by night, in words that He cannot approve. Allah encompasses all that they do. Surat an-Nisa': 108
In another verse, Allah informs us about a plot hatched at nighttime against the Prophet Salih (as) by those unbelievers who felt an intense hatred for him, and reminds us to be careful of such plots:
They said: "Let's make an oath to one another that, by Allah, we will fall upon him and his family during the night and then say to his protector: 'We did not witness the destruction of his family, and we are telling the truth.'" Surat an-Naml: 49
As believers are those who take Allah's warnings seriously and thus adopt a rational outlook on all affairs, they take all possible precautions to ensure their safety at night. Especially while traveling, working, or even sleeping, they remain vigilant against possible danger. But one must remember that such attentiveness does not equal distress, for believers take the necessary precautions and then place their complete trust in Allah.
Not Acting Alone
From the Qur'anic accounts of past prophets, who continue to serve as role models for all believers because of their obedience to Allah's commands, we learn that each prophet was accompanied by a companion, especially while carrying out an important mission. A typical example is the Prophet Musa (as) being accompanied by his brotherHarun (as). Before going to Pharoah, who felt an intense hatred for him, the Prophet Musa (as) asked Allah to let Harun (as) accompany him as a companion:
… and my brother Harun is more eloquent than me, so send him with me to support me and back me up. I am afraid that they will call me a liar. Surat al-Qasas: 34
Besides, having the company of another person dissuades and disheartens those people with wicked intentions, whereas being alone encourages them to indulge in their evil purposes.
The journey of the Prophet Musa (as) and his servant is another example:
Remember when Musa said to his servant: "I will not give up until I reach the meeting-place of the two seas, even if I must press on for many years." But when they reached their meeting-place, they forgot their fish, which quickly burrowed its way into the sea. Surat al-Kahf: 60-61
As the verse maintains, the Prophet Musa (as) benefited from his servant's company during his long journey. This practice is, in fact, a wise precaution, since traveling alone to a remote destination with someone who is not familiar with that region is a dubious venture at best. In this sense, the guidance and support of another person, in both the spiritual and material sense, would be of great help when one has to cope with the difficulties likely to be encountered during and after the journey.
The Qur'an relates Prophet Muhammad (saas)'s journey from Mecca to Medina as another example:
If you do not help him, Allah helped him when the unbelievers drove him out and there were two of them in the cave. He said to his companion: "Do not despair, for Allah is with us." Then Allah sent down His serenity upon him and reinforced him with troops you could not see. He made the word of the unbelievers the lowest. Allah's Word is the highest. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. Surat at-Tawba: 40
Those who were hostile to the Prophet (saas) wanted to seize and murder him, thereby eliminating his influence over his followers. If the Prophet (saas) had been alone under such risky and dangerous conditions, the idolaters no doubt would have been sorely tempted to see this as the perfect opportunity to realize their wicked ambitions. This was why our Prophet (saas) always was in the company of at least one other believer. This practice continues to guide all Muslims even today.
Living in Safe Places
The conditions that surrounded all the prophets and their followers during their struggle with unbelievers led them to develop a sharp awareness and alertness. Their resoluteness in living by Islam's principles and spreading Allah's message, however, was met with great hostility on the part of their communities. In some cases, this hostility led to attempts to murder several prophets.
Believers acknowledge that everything happens because Allah wills it to happen. If they are attacked, they understand that some good is contained within it, for the Qur'an states that there is good in every event. Thus believers, who fear no one but Allah, take rational and elaborate precautions to foil any plots directed against them.
One such precaution involves making their dwellings and towns safe and secure. The Qur'an informs us of two litigants who came to the Prophet Dawud (as):
Has the story of the litigants reached you? How they climbed over the walls of the sanctuary (in which he prayed). Surah Sâd: 21
This verse, which relates how they sought to see the Prophet Dawud (as), also provides us with the features of his residence: It might be a secure and sheltered place surrounded with high walls and thus invulnerable to attack.
Another precaution mentioned in the Qur'an is to keep dogs at the residence's entrances to enhance security. As we read:
You would have supposed them to be awake, whereas, in fact, they were asleep. We moved them to the right and to the left, and, at the entrance, their dog stretched out its paws. If you had looked down and seen them, you would have turned from them and run, and have been filled with terror at the sight of them. Surat al-Kahf: 18
These young people, whom the Qur'an calls the "Companions of the Cave," took refuge in a cave to protect themselves from the tyrannical ruler of that time, who had a profound hatred for religion. As the verses inform us, Allah willed them to remain in a deep sleep for many years. From these verses, we understand that during these long years they kept a dog at the cave's entrance to ensure their security.
Bringing Everlasting and Substantial Solutions
They said: "Dhu'l-Qarnayn! Yajuj and Majuj are causing corruption in the land. Can we, therefore, pay tribute to you in return for your constructing a barrier between us and them?" He replied: "The power that my Lord has granted me is better than that. Just give me a strong helping hand, and I will build a solid barrier between you and them. Bring me ingots of iron." Then, when he had made it level between the two high mountain-sides, he said: "Blow!" When he had made it a red-hot fire, he said: "Bring me molten brass to pour over it." They were, therefore, unable to climb over it or to make a breach in it. Surat al-Kahf: 94-97
The lesson here is self-explanatory: Rather than devising impotent and weak precautions, Dhu'l-Qarnayn employed the highest technology of his time, from the material to the construction methods, to build an insurmountable barrier so that the community's security would be restored. As a second precaution, he further strengthened the barrier by having molten brass poured over it.
This is the level of precaution that the Qur'an provides to believers. In light of these recommendations, any undesirable situation or adversity, be it minor or major, is prevented due to the believers' ability to devise workable, substantial, and irreversible solutions and projects.
Denying Ill-intentioned People Any Information That Will Reveal Their Weaknesses
People who harbor hatred or jealousy for believers use any opportunity to satisfy these feelings. Given this, believers must not give them any chance to thwart such attacks.
Allah draws our attention to this while relating the story of the Prophet Yusuf (as), whose brothers attempted to kill him out of jealousy for the love their father had for him. They thought that, once their brother was out of the way, their father would direct all of his love and care to them. To attain this goal, they carried out the evil plan related in Surah Yusuf, as follows:
They asked: "Our Father, what is wrong with you that you refuse to trust us with Yusuf, when in truth we only wish him well? Why don't you send him out with us tomorrow so he can enjoy himself and play about? All of us will make sure that he is safe." He said: "It grieves me to let him go with you, for I fear a wolf might come and eat him while you are heedless, not attending him." Surah Yusuf: 11-13
As we learn from these verses, the Prophet Ya'qub (as) knew how his sons felt toward Yusuf (as) and did not agree to their offer, fearing that a wolf would devour him while they were out playing. His brothers, who eventually took Prophet Yusuf (as) with them, cast him into a well and then brought his shirt stained with fake blood to their father saying:
… "Father, we went to run a race and left Yusuf together with our things. Then, a wolf appeared and ate him. But you will never believe us now, even though we really tell the truth." They then produced his shirt with false blood on it... Surah Yusuf: 17-18
As the verses maintain, Prophet Yusuf (as)'s brothers attempted to justify their treachery by using the concerns that Prophet Ya'qub (as) had expressed earlier. We understand from the related verses that we must not give way to such ill-intentioned and insidious people as they reveal their weaknesses.
Considering All Alternatives while Taking Precautions
Neglect is an attribute unique to the people of ignorance. Indeed, in ignorant societies, many problems are not solved because people remain indifferent. That is why people who live in ignorant societies often suffer from the unfavorable consequences of neglect.
In the Qur'an, Allah stresses the erroneous nature of this attitude, and encourages believers to be meticulous about taking various measures.
From the following verse, we understand that considering all alternatives is the most appropriate behavior:
He said: "My sons! You must not enter through a single gate. Go in through different gates. But I cannot save you from Allah at all, for judgment comes from no one but Allah. In Him I put my trust. Let all those who put their trust, put it in Him alone." Surah Yusuf: 67
The Prophet Yusuf (as) advised his sons, when they decided to travel to Egypt, to enter the city from several gates. This is indeed a wise measure, for it ensures the security of both life and possessions. If they had entered through a single gate, they might have been vulnerable to danger. Using one's intellect, which Allah granted to humanity as a gift so that people could decide upon the best method to use, is the wisdom that underlies this advice. For this reason, taking broad precautions complies with the Qur'an. Furthermore, such occasions clearly reveal the difference between the believers' wisdom and the ignorant people's imprudence.
Remember that all measures that produce lasting results are a form of prayer. In fact, no plan or measure, no matter how elaborate, can prevent what Allah has decreed. This important fact is related in the Prophet Ya'qub (as)'s advice to his sons:
But when they entered as their father said, it did not save them from Allah at all. Yet a need in Ya'qub's soul was satisfied. He had knowledge, which We had taught him, but most of humanity simply do not know. Surah Yusuf: 68