Views on education
1) A plenitude of treatises on [various] subjects obstruct attainment
You should know that of the things that have harmed people in attaining knowledge and being acquainted with its esoteric matters is the plenitude of treatises, the various terminologies in education and their multiple modes. Thereafter demanding the learner to recall that. Thereupon the rank of attainment is handed to him. The learner then needs to memorise all or most of them and heed to their modes. His life does not live up to what has been written in one field if he devotes himself to it. Hence, inevitably, deficiency occurs without the level of attainment.
This is exemplified from the state of [Islamic] jurisprudence in the Mālikī school of thought with the book [entitled] Al-Mudawwana, for instance, and its jurisprudential commentaries such as the books of Ibn Yūnus, Al-Lakhmī, Ibn Bashīr and [the books entitled] Al-Tanbīhāt, Al-Muqaddimāt and Al-Bayān wa Al-Taḥṣīl ‘alā al-’Utbiyya. Likewise, the book of Ibn Al-Ḥājib and [explanatory] works pertaining to it. Thereafter he needs to distinguish the school of Kairouan from the Cordovan, Baghdadi and Egyptian schools as well as the schools of latter generations and be fully acquainted with all of that. Thereupon is the post of fatwa handed to him; the fatwas are all repetitive with one meaning. The student is demanded to recall all of them and to distinguish what there is between them. Life expires in [pursuit of] one of these.
Had teachers confined learners only to issues pertaining to [Islamic] schools of jurisprudence the matter would most certainly have been far less [grave]: teaching would have been easy and accessible. However, it is an irrevocable disease due to habits being settled on it. Hence, the habits become like nature that cannot be moved nor transformed.
Arabic also draws an example from the Kitāb of Sībawayh and everything written pertaining to it and the schools of Basra, Kufa, Baghdad and thereafter the school of Al-Andalus and the schools of the former and later generations such as Ibn al-Ḥājib, Ibn Mālik and everything written pertaining to that. How can the learner be demanded of all this when his life expires without it and no one wishes for its esoteric [issues] except in the few rare [cases]—such as what has reached us at Morocco, in this era, of the works of a man of the experts in Arabic of the people of Egypt known as Ibn Hishām from whose words in his works it transpires that he captured an extreme calibre of that art obtained by none other than Sībawayh, Ibn Jinnī and people of their stratum due to the magnificence of his calibre and what he has grasped of the fundamentals and branches of that discipline and his flair in it?
This indicates that virtue is not restricted to the former generations especially with what we mentioned earlier of the great deal of harmful perturbations with the multiple schools [of Islamic jurisprudence and grammar] and works. But God’s grace [God] gives to whomsoever He wills. This is one of the rarities of existence; otherwise it is apparent that if the learner traverses his life in all of this then it will not fulfil for him the acquiring of Arabic, for instance, which is one of the tools and a medium then how about the objective which is the fruit? But God guides whomsoever He wills.
2) A plenitude of condensed summarisations on [various] sciences undermine education
Many later [writers] have adopted to summarise methods and ways in the sciences they are fond of and write out a summarised programme from it in every science that comprises of an encompassing body of its issues along with their evidences with conciseness in words and filling a small number of those words with many meanings of that discipline. That comes to undermine eloquence and becomes difficult to comprehend. Perhaps they rely on lengthy primary books on the disciplines for elucidation and commentary so they summarised them to facilitate memorisation, as did Ibn al-Ḥājib in Islamic jurisprudence and its principles, Ibn Mālik in Arabic, Al-Khūnajī in logic and those of their ilk. It is detrimental to education and in it is an undermining of attainment. This is so because there is a muddling in it for the novice by the imparting of esoteric matters of knowledge to him whilst he is not yet prepared to assimilate them. This is part of defective education, as will appear.
Moreover, then there is in it great work for the learner with the perusal of the abstruse words of the summarisation with the cramming of meanings on the words and the difficulty of extracting the issues among them, because you will find the words of condensed summarised works abstrusely difficult on account of that thereby a substantial portion of time is consumed in understanding them. Thereafter the calibre resulting from education in those condensed summarised works—if completed correctly and is not followed by a detriment—then it is a calibre that falls short of those that are achieved from lengthy expounded topics with the plenty of beneficial repetitions and referrals that occur in those [works] to obtain the complete calibre. If [the student] is confined to repetition the calibre becomes deficient due to the paucity of repetition as is the case of these summarised topics. Hence, they intended to facilitate memorisation for the learners thereby making them have a rough ride that severs them from acquiring and consolidating beneficial faculties. Whomsoever God guides there is no one to misguide and whomsoever He misguides there is no one to guide. God—sublime and exalted is He—knows best.
3) The correct way to impart and inculcate the knowledge of the sciences
You should know that imparting the sciences to the learner is only beneficial if done gradually, bit by bit in small increments. Initially issues from each chapter of the discipline that are the fundamentals of that chapter should be delivered to him, the explanation of the issues should be facilitated to him in a summarized way, his mental capability and his preparedness to assimilate what is put to him should be taken into consideration in that until he terminates in the end of the discipline. Thereupon a calibre in that subject is achieved by him except that it is fragmentary and poor and its objective is that it has prepared the learner to understand the discipline and to acquire its discourses.
Thereafter [the student] should be brought back to the discipline a second time and [the teacher] should raise the instruction from that level to a higher level and fully expound departing brevity and mention to him whatever differences and their point of contention there are until he terminates at the final part of the discipline and so his faculties become better. Then [the student] should be brought back–having become consolidated–and then [the teacher] should not leave out an abstruse, ambiguous nor impenetrable [word] without clarifying it and unlocking it so [the student] finishes the discipline whilst it has conquered his faculties. This is the beneficial way of education and is, as you have seen, only obtained in three reiterations and may be obtained by some in fewer than that according to what he is suited for and what has been facilitated for him.
We have seen many teachers of this era that we are in being ignorant of pedagogy and imparting education; they bring to the student during his initial [stage] of education opaque discourses of the subject and demand him to exert himself to decipher them and reckon that to be training for education and a correct [thing to do] in education. Moreover, they assign him to retain and acquire that. They confuse him with the esoteric matters of the disciplines that they deliver to him along with the rudiments of those disciplines and before he is prepared to understand them. The absorption of knowledge and the preparations to understand it develop gradually. The learner is at first incapable of understanding on the whole except in the rarest [of cases] and [understands] by facilitation, summation and by the means of tangible examples. Then the preparation in it continues gradually, bit by bit, with the variation of the issues of that discipline and their being repeated to him and transitioning in them from facilitation to the comprehension that is above [facilitation] until the faculties are complete in preparation and then in acquisition and he is fully conversant with the discourses of the discipline. If the esoteric matters are delivered to him during the initial [stages] whilst he is then incapable of comprehension and retention and is far from being prepared for it his mind becomes weary of it and he thinks that is out of the difficulty of the subject in himself and so he becomes indolent and turns away from absorbing it and persists in abandoning it. That only came to be from poor education.
It is inappropriate for the teacher to take his pupil beyond comprehending the book that [the student] has dedicated to learn from as per his energy and based on his assimilation rate of the education whether novice or a finalist nor should he confound the discourses of the book with other [extraneous] discourses until he retains it from beginning to end and attains his goals and possesses from it a calibre with which he penetrates other [books] because when the pupil acquires some calibre in one of the sciences he becomes prepared by it to absorb the remaining [sciences] and he becomes active in seeking more and rising to what is above until he captures the esoteric matters of the subject. If the matter is clouded to him, he is incapable of understanding and fatigue gets to him and his thoughts get obliterated. He gives up hope of attaining and abandons knowledge and education. God guides whomsoever He wills.
Likewise, you ought to not prolong one discipline with the pupil by dispersing the sessions and interrupting the intervening period because it is a means to forgetfulness and disconnecting the discourses of the discipline with each other thereby it being difficult to obtain the calibre due to the dispersing of the sessions. If the initial and latter parts of the subject are present at each instance of thought avoiding forgetfulness the calibre is easier to obtain, more firmly connected and more closely nuanced because the faculties are only obtained with the succession and repetition of action. If action is neglected the calibre arising from it is neglected. God taught you all that which you did not used to know!
Among the beautiful and incumbent methodologies in education is that two subjects are not to be mixed together to the pupil as rarely then does he succeed with one of them due to the division and diversion of the mind it entails from each of them to getting to understand the other. They both then together become impenetrable and perceived to be difficult. He returns from both with failure. If the mind is devoted to learn what it is pursuing exclusively then perhaps that is more worthy of being acquired. God—sublime and exalted is He—is the enabler of correctness.
 Literally: ‘learner and pupil’. [Translator]
 Mālikī, also called Madhhab Mālik, in Islam, one of the four Sunni schools of law, formerly the ancient school of Medina. Founded in the 8th century [CE] and based on the teachings of the imam Mālik ibn Anas. [Translator (Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica online)]
 Abū Sa’īd ‘Abd al-Salām ibn Sa’īd ibn Ḥabīb al-Tanūkhī (known as Saḥnūn). A Mālikī scholar and teacher from Kairouan (Qayrawān), he compiled Al-Mudawwana, on the authority of Ibn al-Qāsim , among the most comprehensive and authoritative sources of Mālikī law. The most illustrious and influential Mālikī of his age, he played a major role in spreading Malikism in North Africa and Spain. Elevated to the post of qāḍī (judge) later in life, he was a champion of Sunni orthodoxy, particularly against the Mutazilis. [Translator (Source: Oxford Islamic Studies Online) and http://malikifiqhqa.com/]
 Literally: ‘the book’. [Translator]
 Perhaps referring to the book Al-Jāmi’ li Masā’il al-Mudawwana by Abū Bakr Muḥammad Ibn ‘Abd Allāh Ibn Yūnus al-Tamīmī from Sicily. He died in 451 AH/1059 CE. (Source: The introduction to Al-Jāmi’ li Masā’il al-Mudawwana published by Umm al-Qurā University, distributed by Dār al-Fikr, Beirut, 1434 AH/ 2013 CE.) [Translator]
 Perhaps referring to the book Al-Tabṣira by Abū al-Ḥasan Alī Ibn Muḥammad Al-Rab’ī (known as Al-Lakhmī). He is from Kairouan but later resided in Sfax where he died in 478 AH/1085 AH. [Translator (Source: Kitāb Al-Tabṣira (part) by Abū al-Ḥasan Alī Ibn Muḥammad al-Lakhmī, critical edition by Tawfīq Ibn Sa’īd Ibn Ibrāhīm al- Ṣāyigh, Master’s degree thesis, Umm al-Qurā University 1429-1430 AH; Arabic-Islamic Cities: Building and Planning Principles by Besim Selim Hakim, published by Routledge, United Kingdom in 2010.]
 Perhaps referring to the work Al-Tanbīh ‘alā mabādi’ al-tawjīh by Abū al-Ṭāhir Ibrāhīm Ibn ‘Abd al-Ṣamad Ibn Bashīr al-Tanūkhī. He is said to have lived in north Africa and was alive in the 6th century AH/12th century CE. [Translator (Source: Al-Tanbīh ‘alā mabādi’ al-tawjīh, Qism al-’Ibādāt, critical edition by Muḥammad BalḤasan, published by Dār Ibn Ḥazm, Beirut, 1428 AH/ 2007 CE).]
 Perhaps referring to the book Al-Tanbīhāt al-Mustanbaṭa ‘alā Kutub al-Mudawwana wa al-Mukhtaliṭa by Abū al-Faḍl ‘Ayyāḍ Ibn Mūsā al-Yaḥṣubī (476 AH/1083 CE – 544 AH/1149 CE) [Translator (Source: Juhūd al-qāḍī ‘Ayyāḍ fī al-Tafsīr by Muḥammad Mujallī Rabab’ah, Dār Ward al-Urdunniyya, 2010)]
 Al-Muqaddimāt al-Mumahhidāt li Bāyani mā iqtaḍathu Rusūm al-Mudawwana min al-Aḥkām al-Shar’iyyāt wa al-Taḥṣīlāt al-Muḥkamāt li Ummahāti Masā’ilihā al-Mushkilāt by Abū al-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn Aḥmad Ibn Rushd al-Qurṭubī born 450 AH/1048 CE-died 520 AH /1156 CE [Translator (Source: Critical edition of “Al-Muqaddimāt” by Dr. Muḥammad Ḥajjī published by Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1408 AH/1988 CE)]
 Al-Bayān wa al-Taḥṣīl wa al-Sharḥ wa al-Tawjīh wa al-Ta‘līl fi Masā‘il al-Mustakhraja by Abū al-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn Aḥmad Ibn Rushd (450 AH/1058 AH-520 AH/1126 CE) of Cordova, Spain. The work Al-’Utbiyya is formally known as Al-Mustakhraja min al-Asmi‘a and is by Muḥammad Ibn Aḥmad al-’Utbī who died in Cordova in 255 AH/869 CE [Translator (Source: Al-Bayān wa al-Taḥṣīl critical edition by Dr. Muḥammad Ḥajjī, Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, Second edition 1988)]
 Perhaps referring to the book Jāmi’ al-Ummahāt by Ibn al-Ḥājib.
Jamāl al-Dīn Abū ’Amr ’Uthmān Ibn ’Umar Ibn Abū Bakr Ibn Yūnus known as Ibn al- Ḥājib. He was born in Esna, Egypt in 570 AH/1174 CE and died in Alexandria, Egypt in 646 AH/1248 CE. He was a scholar of Arabic grammar and Islamic jurisprudence (among other disciplines). [Translator (Source: Sharḥ al-Raḍī li Kāfiya Ibn al-Ḥājib, Imam Saud University edition, 1414 AH/1993 CE; Al-Shāfiya fī ’ilmay al-Taṣrīf wa al-Khaṭṭ published by Al-Maktaba al-Makkiyya, 1435 AH/2014 CE)]
 Sībawayh, byname of Abū Bishr ʿAmr Ibn ʿUthmān, (born 135? AH/752? CE, al-Bayḍāʾ, Iran—died 180? AH/796? CE, Shīrāz), celebrated grammarian of the Arabic language. His monumental work is al-Kitāb fī an-naḥw (“The Book on Grammar”) or, more simply, al-Kitāb (“The Book”). The work was frequently used by later scholars. [Translator (Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica Online); Al-Muṣṭalaḥ al-lughawī fī Kitāb Sībawayh, PhD thesis by Kamāl Raqīq, Abou Bakr Belkaïd University of Tlemcen, 2012-2013]
 Literally: ’…the schools of the Basrans, Kufans, Baghdadis and after them the Andalusians…’ [Translator]
Al-Andalus, also called Muslim Spain, Muslim kingdom that occupied much of the Iberian Peninsula from 711 CE until the collapse of the Spanish Umayyad dynasty in the early 11th century. [Translator (Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica Online)]
 Muḥammad Ibn ’Abd Allāh Ibn ’Abd Allāh Ibn Mālik, a great scholar of Arabic grammar. He was born in Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) in 598 AH/1202 CE where he grew up and later on settled in Damascus where he died in 672 AH/1273 CE. [Translator (Source: Alfiyya Ibn Mālik fī al-naḥw wa al- ṣarf al-musammā(t) al-Khulāṣa fī al-naḥw, critical edition by Sulaymān Ibn ’Abd al-‘Azīz Ibn ’Abd Allāh al-‘Uyūnī, published by Maktaba Dār al-Minhāj, 1432 AH/2011 CE)]
 Literally:’…demanded of it…’ [Translator]
 Literally: ‘…a man of the experts in the art of Arabic…’ [Translator]
 Abū Muḥammad Jamāl al-Dīn ’Abdullāh Ibn Yūsuf Ibn Aḥmad Ibn ’Abdullāh Ibn Hishām al-Anṣārī born in Cairo in 708 AH/1308 CE and died in Cairo in 761 AH/1360 CE. He was a scholar of Arabic grammar. [Translator (Source: Matn Qaṭr al-Nadā wa ball al-ṣadā, published by Dār īlāf al-dawliyya, 1438 AH/2017 CE)]
 That is, the art of Arabic. [Translator]
 Abū al-Fatḥ ’Uthmān Ibn Jinnī born in Mosul before 330 AH/942 CE and died in Baghdad in 392 AH/1002 CE. [Translator (Source: Ibn Jinnī al-Naḥwī by Dr. Fāḍil Ṣāliḥ al-Sāmirrā’ī, Dār al-Nadhīr, 1969; Al- Khaṣā’iṣ by Ibn Jinnī, critical edition by Muḥammad ’Alī al-Najjār, Al-Maktaba al-’ilmiyya, 1371 AH/1952 CE)]
 I have translated ’al-madhāhib wa al-ṭuruq‘ as ’schools [of Islamic jurisprudence and grammar]’. [Translator]
 Words from Qur’an 62:4. [Translator]
 Words from Qur’an 28:56. [Translator]
 Literally: ’A plenitude of condensed summarisations composed on [various]…’ [Translator]
 Perhaps referring to the books Jāmi’ al-Ummahāt on Islamic jurisprudence and Mukhtaṣar Muntahā al-Su’l wa al-Amal fī ’ilmay al-Uṣūl wa al-Jadal on the principles of Islamic jurisprudence and dialectics, both books authored by Ibn al-Ḥājib. [Translator]
 Perhaps referring to the Al-Khulāṣa fī al-Naḥw (commonly known as Alfiyya Ibn Mālik), a didactic poem on Arabic grammar by Ibn Mālik. [Translator]
 Perhaps referring to Al-Jumal, a work on logic by Afḍal al-Dīn al-Khūnajī. Afḍal al-Dīn al-Khūnajī, Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad b. Nāmāwar b. ʿAbd al-Malik (Jumādā I 590–5 Ramaḍān 646 AH/May 1194–December 1248 CE), was a Persian scholar of the intellectual sciences and a judge (qāḍī) in Egypt. [Translator (Source: Brill Encyclopaedia Islamica Online)]
 Literally: ’as will come’. [Translator]
 I have translated ‘al-’awīṣati li al-fahmi’ as ’abstruse’. [Translator]
 I have used the pronoun ’plenty’ here although the original Arabic uses the verbal noun ’kathra’. [Translator]
 I found almost these exact words in a Hadith in Ṣahīh Muslim, Kitāb al-Jumu’ah, Bāb takhfīf al-ṣalāh wa al-khuṭba (hadith numbers 2007 & 2008). [Translator]
 Literally: ’from that level to higher than it…’ [Translator]
 Literally: ’It is inappropriate for the teacher to increase his pupil over understanding his book that he has dedicated to learn from…’ The pronoun in ‘his book‘ refers to the pupil. [Translator]
 Words from the Qur’an 28:56. [Translator]
 Words from the Qur’an 2:239. [Translator]
 Literally: ’one of the two’. [Translator]
 Literally: ’each of the two’. [Translator]