This surah takes its title from a man called "Luqman the Wise" a black pre-Islamic prophet from Ethiopia. A sensitive and perceptive man, Luqman was always watching the animals and plants of his surroundings, and trying to understand the world based on what he saw. One day, while sleeping under a tree, an angel came to him and said that Allah wanted to bestow a gift upon Luqman: either wisdom or being king. Luqman chose wisdom, and when he woke from his slumber, he was aware that his senses and understanding had sharpened. He felt in complete harmony with nature and could understand the inner meaning of things, beyond their physical reality. Luqman is much like the biblical figure of Solomon, in that he chose wisdom over power, and he is known for his wise sayings. In this surah, here is some cousel Luqman gives his son:
God is self-sufficient and the only true God.
God knows everything.
Keep up your prayers.
Do what is right, and not what is wrong.
Bear your troubles steadfastly.
Don't be arrogant.
Speak softly, not loudly.
There are many stories about Luqman in Arabic and Turkish literature, most notably the Tafsir ibn Kathir and Stories of the Qur'an by Ibn Kathir. A famous story involves Luqman being captured and sold as a slave, but winning the respect of his master on account of his great wisdom. The Bahá'í holy writings also make reference to Luqman.
I suspect that one of the reasons so many prominent African Americans involved in the Civil Rights movement became Muslim (like Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali) was because Islam is a faith that respects people of color, like Luqman the Wise.
|Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X|