Why Islamic Teaching Should Be in Touch with Reality

Understanding Diversity and Cultural Differences

|slam relevant to reality

Being Relevant to your Audience

Anyone delivering the message of the Prophet (peace be on him) must be connected to the reality of the people he is teaching. Otherwise, the knowledge he conveys would be out of touch with the needs of the people. The knowledge must have a practical aspect that can be applied to the lives of the common people. Understanding the reality is a special science in itself, and even more so today as we are living in such changing times and cosmopolitan cities. The lives which people are living in Europe are different to that of the Arab world, and different to the life in the sub-continents. These are different realities that need to be taken in context when applying a fatwa. General rulings relating to ibadah (e.g. taharah (purification), salah, siyyam, and reciting the Qur’an) are universal and remain the same. However, the rulings surrounding the mu’amalaat (peoples daily transactions) cannot simply have a blanket approach where one fatwa is applied everywhere across all the boarders.

Being Adaptable and Relevant to All Places and All Times

A scholar must be aware of the reality in order to give rulings specific to locations, times and the reality of people. For example a scholar cannot take a ‘black and white’ stance relating to issues surrounding mortgages for buying houses in Europe or using the lottery money for charities. If he is not aware of his reality, then he will not be able to deliver a solution for his reality and as a consequence, he may make the lives of many people very difficult.

Avoiding Harshness

The successful teacher is the one who is wise in his call to the Truth, kind and merciful to his students. Allah says regarding the Prophet (peace be on him):

‘If you had been severe and hard-hearted, they would have fled from you.’ [Al-Imran 3:159]

Students are being pressured, day and night to give into temptations, not just by those around them, but in their struggles against themselves and thus attending these circles of knowledge. It is binding on the teacher to use the positive steps that they have made and encourage them further to attend more by being compassionate towards them and not drive them away. The teacher should not be condescending towards his student and nor should he focus on their shortcomings.

The wisdom of a person is that he addresses everyone accordingly to that which befits their level and understanding. Not having wisdom in conveying knowledge causes more harm than benefit, because wisdom is something beyond knowledge. Allah Almighty says regarding wisdom:

‘He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good.’ [Al-Baqarah: 2: 269]

It may seem honourable for the teacher to mention everything he knows and he remembers on a subject, however, this is not beneficial for the needs of his students as he is reviewing what he knows. The teacher should only deliver what the student needs and should avoid material that which is above their level.

The teacher should have the correct knowledge and wisdom, and teach them the easy things first and then the harder things later. He should adopt a gradual approach to instil knowledge in the minds of his students, maintaining the proper distinction in teaching different levels, distinguishing between those in the preliminary stage, intermediate stage and those who are in the advance stage.

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.

Suggested Books:

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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Abu Ibrahim has a background in engineering, IT and management consultancy, and reinvented himself as a life coach, writer and secondary school teacher. In addition to his special interest in spirituality, he shares his son’s love of dinosaurs and Lamborghinis.

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