Teaching at the Right Pace
by Abu Shama
Keeping the Audience Engaged
Space out Lessons, Lectures and Circles
The gathering of knowledge should not be every day because this will cause the student of knowledge to become weary. It was recorded in Bukhari Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud used to give a sermon to the people on every Thursday. A man said to Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, ‘I would love that you give a sermon to us every day’. So he replied:
‘What prevents me from doing that is that I fear that I should bore you. Rather I give it to you at certain times just as the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) used to give it to us at certain times – for the fear that he would make us fed up of it. [Bukhari]
If a person wants to do much preaching, then it should be at the most three lectures each week, Abdullauh Ibn ‘Abbas said:
‘Preach to the people once a week, and if you won’t, then preach them twice, but if you want to preach more, then let it be three times (a week only), and do not make the people fed-up with this Qur’an. If you come to some people who are engaged in a talk, don’t start interrupting their talk by preaching, lest you should cause them to be bored. You should rather keep quiet, and if they ask you, then preach to them at the time when they are eager to hear what you say. And avoid the use of rhymed prose in invocation for I noticed that Allah’s Apostle and his companions always avoided it.’
However, this should not be taken literally as we are people in need of much knowledge, there are so few scholars about that they have to travel up and down the country delivering the message, and naturally they will have to give many lectures a week. Here the hadith is referring to preaching to the same people (general public) no more than three times a week. In the case of the students of knowledge, the student will for sure will have to attend many more lectures than three.
Gauging Students’ Appetite and Aptitude for Knowledge
It is recommended to make use of various points of wisdom to make it easy for the hearts of the people to remain engaged and receptive to the knowledge. Al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi recorded Imam az- Zuhri said:
‘A man used to sit with the companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) and he would revise narrations with them. But when the hadith became too much for him, he would say, ‘the ear becomes tired even though the heart desires it. So give me some of your poetry and give me some of your worldly talk’.
It is befitting that the teacher should not make the gathering of knowledge very long. Rather he should make it moderate in length in order to avoid making the one who is listening fed up and become weary and lazy about learning. As is well known, naturally a person who is listening becomes bored more quickly than the person speaking. The teacher should not prolong his speech; his talk should be clear, concise and to the point. Imam Bukhari recorded that:
‘The Prophet (peace be on him)’s speech was clear and succinct, neither too long nor too short, and he disliked chattering and ranting’ [Bukhari]
A’isha, the mother of the believers related:
‘The Prophet (peace be on him) spoke so few words, if someone wanted to count the number of words he said, then he could.’ [Bukhari]
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) used to repeat a hadith a few times so that the companions could understand and receive it better. There are some speakers who make it such that the students can hear and listen well and who avoid causing boredom. And they do so by making the knowledge they are delivering somewhat short and they make it longer if they see that the people’s eyes want extra.
This is a series compiled following lectures on ‘The Manners and Etiquette of the Teacher and the Students’. The course was based on a book written by Shaykh al-Islam, Badr al-Din Ibn Jama’ah and conveyed to us by our Shaykh Haytham Tamim.
Qadi al-Qudat, Shaykh al-Islam, Badr al-Din Ibn Jama’ah was born in 639 AH (1241 AD). Originally from Syria and later moved to Egypt. He was educated at Hama, achieved excellence in religious studies and jurisprudence, and became a leading promoter of the Shafi’i Fiqh. Eventually, he attained the high status of Shaykh al-Islam and held the high position of Chief Justice. Imam al-Dhahabi has observed that Qadi Ibn Jama’ah was well versed both in prose and poetry, and had left abundant notes on Fiqh, Hadith, Usul al-Fiqh, and Tarikh(History). He commanded respect and influence, and had a large number of students and followers. He died at Cairo in the year 733 A.H. (1332 A.D.), aged 94, and was buried by the side of the great Imam Shafi’i.
His book on the subject of Adab al-Alim wal-Mutaalim
It was in the year 672 AH (1273 AD) that Ibn Jama’ah completed this book as a guide for both students and teachers to help improve quality of their academic life and work.
Ibn Jama’ah – Etitquettes of Seeking Knowledge
Abd Al Barr – Jami’ Bayan Al Ilm
Al Khateeb Al Baghdadi – Al Jami’ li Akhlaq Al Rawi
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