Ilm Hikmat & Aql

By Zulfikar ali

Ilm (Knowledge) –


The importance of Knowledge can be understood through various Quranic verses and traditions. For example “Allah will exalt those of you who believe, and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees” (58:11).


For our understanding we can describe it as the raw material required for obtaining finished products. In computer terms we can say that it is the raw data that is required as an input to deliver any kind of processed information (output). As we know, raw data is absolutely necessary for processing but it is not the ONLY thing essential. On getting the raw data we need to have proper formulas/software to process the data. If the software used to process the data is not up to the mark then we may have negative results. Hence, we have two categories of Ulema in terms of good Ulema and bad Ulema.


There are numerous benefits of knowledge out of which are:


  1. Knowledge is necessary to basically know the right and the wrong.
  2. To understand the implications of the right and the wrong.
  3. To understand the external subject so as to implement a particular theory on it.
  4. To understand the significance of ‘the right’ and degradation of ‘the wrong’.


Hikmat (wisdom) –


Hikmat may be mostly considered as something different from knowledge and not a part thereof. But it can also be considered a part of knowledge (though a different aspect) based on the context.


It is named as Hikmat because it prevents a person from ignorance.


“and whoever is granted wisdom, he indeed is given a great good and none but men of understanding mind” (2:269)

Related to this it has also come in traditions that here wisdom (hikmat) means ‘Obedience of Allah and recognition of Imam’.


It can be explained in terms of the example used in case of ‘knowledge’ above, as the software/formula/coding used to process the raw data (knowledge in this case). This ‘kind of processing’ is basically responsible for the ‘kind of processed information/output’. Here it is important to note that hikmat is not any kind of processing capability but it is the positive capability only and not the negative one. Though in case of software’s there can be negative ones as well but hikmat cannot be negative, it is always a positive one. Hence, though we have terms like Ulema e soo’ we do not have Hukama e soo’.


Endowed and Acquired:


We observe all around us that people acquire knowledge through various means. Like it can be acquired through observation, reading, listening, other senses, teacher, etc. The avenues are open for everyone and there are no barriers for anyone for acquiring knowledge.

But in the above quoted 2 verses of the Holy Quran under ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Wisdom’ it reads ‘given knowledge’ and ‘granted wisdom’. It does not read ‘acquired knowledge’ and ‘acquired wisdom’.

In fact, everybody – including the unbelievers – has been originally bestowed lot of knowledge. Most of this knowledge gets covered when the soul gets attached to the material body. Gradually as the soul remains attached with the body most of the knowledge that was bestowed on a person gets covered. A person does not recollect most of it. But sometimes it happens that when we meet someone or observe a certain thing, it occurs to us that we had met the person or observed the thing earlier too. This earlier observation was actually by the soul.

When a person disassociates from the material life, though not necessarily physically but psychologically, and starts living and attaching oneself with the spiritual world lot of things are uncovered for him. These are such chunks of knowledge that are otherwise possible to normally acquire only through reading and acquiring knowledge through hundreds or thousands or even millions of years based on the persons spiritual scaling.


Ilm is the raw data - knowledge - possessed by a person. Though there are other meanings of Ilm like manifesting/showing - H.Quran Kahf-12, Ale Imran-140, Hadid-25, Jinn-28 OR proof/reasoning Kahf-4&5, Haj-3, Luqman-15, Anaam-100, here we are more concerned with the first meaning -Knowledge.


Aql is the capacity for a person to process the data. Through this processing a person also comes to understand the difference between 'the right' and 'the wrong'.


Hikmat is the mannerism of the soul reached after processing of the Ilm through Aql. Through this mannerism a person understands the Haq, avoids wrong and performs an act with precision.


After comparing lot of traditions we may conclude that Aql is the most significant of all these.




1. In first 5 verses revealed of Sure Alaq a person wonders what is the connection between ‘Alaq’ and ‘Ilm’? In fact, these are two ends of a person’s life. ‘Alaq’ being the start and ‘Ilm’ being the end/goal.

2. About the prestige of an Alim, it is sufficient to mention that the word Alim in general is used specifically for Ahle Bayt (a.s.).

3. H.Ali (a.s.) - There are 2 types of Ilm. One is through listening and the other is imprinted. There is no use of the knowledge through listening without the presence of the other type, that is, imprinted.




4. Similar tradition for Aql. There are 2 types of aql. One is acquired and the other is endowed. There is no use of the acquired aql without the presence of the other type, that is, endowed.

5. Definition: Aql is a spiritual noor through which the nafs comprehends ilm.

6. Endowed Aql: Allah s.w.t. : I did not CREATE anything more loved by me than you.

7. Acquired: Hadis: Man did not earn anything better than Aql that steers him towards guidance.

8. The natural Aql is bestowed gradualy in the early stages of life. It is completed at the time of buloogh.

9. Hadis: "There is no deliverance except through obedience, no obedience except through knowledge, no knowledge except through learning and no learning except through Aql".

10. Close English equivalent of Aql is discernment.

11. "Discern a tradition through Aql-ur-ri'ayat and not through Aql-ur-riwayat". Aql-ur-ri'ayat is pondering over it and comprehending it and Aql-ur-riwayat is conveying of mere words.

12. Aql is always good. Being cunning is not from Aql but it is something else that only seems to be similar to Aql.

13. While referring to the Holy Quran please note that the word 'Aql' has come in it only in the form of 'fel' ~ verb( verb is not an exact equivalent of 'fel' but perhaps the closest one) - meaning understood/understand/s. It has not come as 'ism' ~ noun - meaning discernment. Aql has come in ‘ism’ form in the Holy Traditions.




14. Hikmat stops a person from wrong. It is also always good.

15. Quran Alhakim - One of the meanings given to the verse "I swear by the Quran-il-Hakim" (36:2) is that the Quran is profound/deep-seated.

16. Allah AlHakim - Hakim is one of the siffats of Allah (s.w.t.). One of the meanings is 'one who knows the minutest details of his creation and its precise measure'.

17. Tradition: "I beseech Allah s.w.t. to fill my heart with knowledge and wisdom”.