Once I participated in a group discussion in my school on: ‘What is Wisdom and How to acquire it’. It was attended by a number of experienced educationists and highly qualified Islamic and secular scholars. Towards the end of the discussion, there was almost a unanimous agreement on that Hikmah or Wisdom consists in whatever the Prophets in general and Prophet Muhammad (PBUT) in particular ‘said’ or ‘did’ and subsequently the more we reflect on it the more treasure of wisdom we explore.
In my concluding remarks as the host I disagreed and opined that actually the most significant and invaluable pearls of Hikmah or ‘prophetic wisdom’ are disguised in what the Prophet ‘Did NOT do or did NOT say’ in a given situation when someone would have otherwise ‘said or did’ something! And the more we reflect on this aspect of Prophet’s ideal life and ask ‘Why’ the wiser we become.
For example, Quran permits to take ‘revenge’ against anyone who harms you in equal measure. But the Prophet never retaliated to any verbal and non verbal abuse he had been so frequently subjected to both in Makkah and Madinah. Ask why and you will discover a well of wisdom.
The hypocrites in Madinah insulted him including his family and Companions on many occasions but he did NOT take any disciplinary action. Ask why and you will explore yet another treasure of wisdom.
In fact, unless we thoroughly understand what the Prophet did NOT do or say in a given set of circumstances and reflect on Why, we won’t be ever able to appropriately and consistently follow him in what he did or said. Hence, I so often insist on knowing what ‘NOT to be done’ in order to be able to ‘do what ought to be done.’ The more insightful you are in consciously realizing this difference, the wiser you grow.