In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Al-Hekmah & Hukm (translated as wisdom) in Light of Quran

The definitions of wisdom, ruling and judgment in both Arabic and English dictionaries are:


the quality or state of being knowledgeable of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.


an authoritative decision, as one by a judge on a debated point of law.


the ability to make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; good vision; discretion: a man of sound judgment.

However, in Quran, God is not referring to our personal wisdom or personal ability to form opinions, judge or rule justly and authoritatively when He speaks about wisdom or those who are endowed with wisdom. In fact, we understand from Quran that acting based on personal opinions or judgments whether they are ours or offered by elders, advisers, parents, friends, scholars or even messengers of God is of no significance to our salvation. When it comes to matters and teachings that are dealt with by God in Quran, NO personal judgments or opinions are to be considered besides or against what God rules in His own words no matter how right they might sound ; God's knowledge is what must always be sought (2:120, 45:18, 5:48). Furthermore, God has indicated that pursuing our own opinions rather than His commands would mislead us, nullify our efforts and divert our attention to idols which will eventually rank us as losers (7:175-176, 6:119, 38:26, 5:49).

In 49:1 , there is a straightforward command for the believers to not question or add to (la tuqaddemu bayna yaday Allah wa rasooleh) what God and His messenger are issuing, which is established by Him to be NOTHING but the divine truth (53:2-10, 75:15-19, 69:38-48, 20:114 and many more).

Therefore, while the above definitions of wisdom, ruling, judgment and all that comes with them might characterize some of our acquired human behavior, they do not fully represent the contexts in which they are used in Quran simply because: 1- the source of knowledge and criteria to base our just and wise judgment is not that general but rather well-defined and dictated by God, 2- our soul redemption is what merely on the line to save when it comes to the wisdom spoken of in Quran.

In other words, when it comes to our salvation, the only source of both "hekmah" (translated as wisdom and it is the ability to judge based on true knowledge) and "hukm" (translated also as wisdom while it means the authority of ruling and/or an ultimate ruling based on true knowledge) is Quran- and the sole beneficiaries of that are our souls; the "hekmah, and "hukm" in the narration of Quran are not about our personal wisdom we attain because of our life experiences, age, education or general knowledge. Not at all. Based on what we read in Quran, the word hekmah translated as wisdom is about the knowledge of the divine source of laws and ethics to be able to judge, choose, rule and issue decisions based entirely on that divine source and for the mere purpose of rescuing our souls.

This reminder is to link the understanding of theses words (wisdom, ruling, judging) to the contexts in which they are used by God in order to be assertive about their meanings and implications within Quran.

When David issued a ruling for the two brothers regarding their 100 cheep (38:22-23), he asked God for His forgiveness in case he rendered a judgment based on his personal opinion (Hawa in Arabic text) instead of God's teachings. God directly commanded him not to get diverted from His teachings by His own personal judgment. The "hukm", translated as wisdom, that God has granted him (21:79) is the authority of ruling based on the divine commands and teachings given to him in the scripture. Obviously, David the human, was not so sure if he used God's teachings to pass his ruling or he neglected them ; a clarification of how the relevant "hukm" and the authoritative ruling of a prophet must be based on the divine source of laws and teachings he receives, not his personal opinions.

[38:24] He said, "He is being unfair to you by asking to combine your sheep with his. Most people who combine their properties treat each other unfairly, except those who believe and work righteousness, and these are so few." Afterwards, David wondered if he made the right judgment. He thought that we were testing him. He then implored his Lord for forgiveness, bowed down, and repented.
[38:25] We forgave him in this matter. We have granted him a position of honor with us, and a beautiful abode.
[38:26] O David, we have made you a ruler on earth. Therefore, you shall judge among the people equitably, and do not follow your personal opinion, lest it diverts you from the way of God. Surely, those who stray off the way of God incur severe retribution for forgetting the Day of Reckoning.

Moses was driven by his personal emotions when he decided to defend his friend to the point he killed a man. The next morning and after he repented to God, he was about to do the same exact sin (28:18-19) ! The "hukm", translated as wisdom, that God has granted him later on when he reached maturity and strength (28:14) is his authority to rule fairly and wisely based on the divine commands and teachings in his scripture. Obviously, Moses the human, behaving throughout that incident, did not use a scripture to guide his actions.

[28:15] Once he entered the city unexpectedly, without being recognized by the people. He found two men fighting; one was (a Hebrew) from his people, and the other was (an Egyptian) from his enemies. The one from his people called on him for help against his enemy. Moses punched him, killing him. He said, "This is the work of the devil; he is a real enemy, and a profound misleader."
[28:16] He said, "My Lord, I have wronged my soul. Please forgive me," and He forgave him. He is the Forgiver, Most Merciful.

Again, the word "hekmah" which is a noun translated as wisdom in the English translation of Quran means the state of having the true knowledge to be able to render a just and sound judgment. The root, "Ha Ka Ma", and all verb forms mean one thing: judging soundly based on concrete knowledge. The word "hukm" , also translated as wisdom in the English translation of Quran, is rather the authority to judge based on concrete knowledge or it could also be an ultimate, singular ruling; what all Judges read at the end of any trial as an ultimate or final ruling based on facts and proofs presented in a court house. When God commands His messengers to rule or judge (Ha Ka Ma/ yahkum) among the people, He always specifies the source of knowledge to base their judgment on ; what He has revealed in His own words to them. The same applies to believers and followers of His scriptures when it comes to situations in which they must adhere to God's laws to make the right decisions. Please reflect on the following verses where the verb "yahkum/rule" is the highlight:

[5:47] The people of the Gospel shall rule in accordance with God's revelations therein. Those who do not rule in accordance with God's revelations are the wicked.
[5:48] Then we revealed to you this scripture, truthfully, confirming previous scriptures, and superseding them. You shall rule among them in accordance with God's revelations, and do not follow their wishes if they differ from the truth that came to you. ...
[5:49] You shall rule among them in accordance with God's revelations to you. Do not follow their wishes, and beware lest they divert you from some of God's revelations to you. If they turn away, then know that God wills to punish them for some of their sins. Indeed, many people are wicked.

The opposite case scenario would be resorting to other sources and other set of laws to judge religious matters:

[4:60] Have you noted those who claim that they believe in what was revealed to you, and in what was revealed before you, then uphold ( yatahakmu in Arabic text) the unjust laws of their idols? They were commanded to reject such laws. Indeed, it is the devil's wish to lead them far astray.

[5:50] Is it the law (hukm in Arabic text) of the days of ignorance that they seek to uphold? Whose law (hukman in Arabic text) is better than God's for those who have attained certainty?

When God sends a prophet with a scripture, that scripture becomes the source of ultimate ruling. The ruling authority of that prophet and whatever judgments he makes are based on the scripture he receives. This explains how the word "hukm" is in the company of the words scripture and prophet-hood in both 3:79 and 6:89. In many other verses, God rather states that the prophets teach us the scripture and the "hekmah", translated as wisdom, which entirely refers to their ability to judge matters based on the knowledge contained in the scripture they peach. Please reflect:

[3:79] Never would a human being whom God blessed with the scripture, wisdom (hukm in Arabic text, missing in the English translation) and prophethood say to the people, "Idolize me beside God." Instead, (he would say), "Devote yourselves absolutely to your Lord alone," according to the scripture you preach and the teachings you learn.

[6:89] Those were the ones to whom we have given the scripture, wisdom (hukm in Arabic text), and prophethood. If these people disbelieve, we will substitute others in their place, and the new people will not be disbelievers.

[43:63] When Jesus went with the proofs, he said, "I bring to you wisdom (hekmah in Arabic text), and to clarify some of the matters in which you dispute. You shall reverence God and obey me.

[3:164] God has blessed the believers by raising in their midst a messenger from among them, to recite for them His revelations, and to purify them, and to teach them the scripture and wisdom (hekmah in Arabic text). Before this, they had gone totally astray.

[4:113] If it were not for God's grace towards you, and His mercy, some of them would have misled you. They only mislead themselves, and they can never harm you in the least. God has sent down to you the scripture and wisdom (hekmah in Arabic text), and He has taught you what you never knew. Indeed, God's blessings upon you have been great.

[17:39] This is some of the wisdom (hekmah in Arabic text) inspired to you by your Lord. You shall not set up another god beside God, lest you end up in Gehenna, blamed and defeated.

[2:231] .... Do not take God's revelations in vain. Remember God's blessings upon you, and that He sent down to you the scripture and wisdom (hekmah in Arabic text) to enlighten you. You shall observe God, and know that God is aware of all things.

It is now easy to conclude that the "hukm" (authority to rule based on divine knowledge in the scripture) that was granted to Lot (21:74), Joseph (12:22), Solomon and David (21:79) was all about the wise application of the scriptures they were handed. The same applies to the "hekmah" granted to Abraham and his family through the scripture given to them (4:54).

More significantly, when God states that His Quran is "Hukman Arabeiian", this means that the Arabic text of Quran is the ultimate and authoritative source of ruling.

[13:37] We revealed these laws in Arabic (hukman Arabeiian in Arabic text/Arabic text of Quran is the ultimate and authoritative source of ruling), and if you ever acquiesce to their wishes, after this knowledge has come to you, you will have no ally, nor a protector, against God.

Finally and logically speaking, why would wisdom be a great bounty from the Most Gracious?

[2:269] He bestows wisdom (hekmah in Arabic text) upon whomever He chooses, and whoever attains wisdom (hekmah in Arabic text), has attained a great bounty. Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.

We would not disagree with how wisdom/hekmah is only of relevant value when it is serving our souls and leading us to the eternal bliss of Paradise. Therefore, whatever hekmah or hukm taught to us, believers or God's messengers, is taught through the divine source of knowledge to reach sound decisions & just rulings and to lead a righteous life for the sake of our redemption. In other words, wise men and women would only attain value at their Lord if the source of their hekmah or wisdom (ability to judge based on true knowledge) is the concrete laws decreed by God in His own words. If the source was different, their hekmah (ability to judge based on true knowledge) and hukm (authority to rule or an ultimate ruling based on true knowledge) would be irrelevant to their salvation or their ranking at the Most Gracious. In that later case, why would wisdom/hekmah be a great bounty for them?

Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.