Part 6

Scientific instruction Icon

January 30, 2022

6. Man is essentially ignorant, and becomes learned through acquiring (knowledge).

We have already explained at the beginning of these sections 31 that man belongs to the genus of animals and that God distinguished him from them by the ability to think, which He gave man and through which man is able to . This is

There are various kinds of intellect=

  1. The discerning intellect

This lets us arrange our actions in an orderly manner

  1. Experimental intellect

This helps us acquire from our fellow men ideas

  1. Speculative intellect

This helps us obtain perception of the existent things as they are, whether they are absent or present

Man’s ability to think comes to him (only) after the animality in him has reached perfection. It starts from discernment. Before man has discernment, he has no knowledge whatever, and is counted one of the animals. His origin, the way in which he was created from a drop of sperm, a clot of blood, and a lump of flesh, still determines his (mental make-up). Whatever he attains subsequently is the result of sensual perception and the “hearts” - that is, the ability to think - God has given him.

In recounting the favor He bestowed upon us, God said= “And He gave you hearing and vision and hearts.”

In his first condition, before he has attained discernment, man is simply matter, in as much as he is ignorant of all knowledge. He reaches perfection of his form through knowledge, which he acquires through his own organs. Thus, his human essence reaches perfection of existence.

One may compare the word of God when His Prophet began to receive the revelation. “Recite= In the name of your Lord who created, created man out of a clot of blood. Recite= And your Lord the most noble who taught with the calamus, taught man what he did not know.” 35 That is, He let him acquire knowledge he did not yet possess, after he had been a clot of blood and a lump of flesh.

Man’s nature and essence reveal to us the essential ignorance and acquired character of the knowledge that man possesses, and the noble verse of the Qur’an refers to it at the very beginning and opening of the revelation, and establishes through it the fact that (man) has received (from God) as a favor the first of the stages of his existence, which is humanity and its two conditions, the innate one and the acquired one.

7. Scientific instruction is a craft.

This is because skill in a science, knowledge of its diverse aspects, and mastery of it are the result of a habit which enables its possessor to comprehend all the basic principles of that particular science, to become acquainted with its problems, and to evolve the details of it from its principles.

As long as such a habit has not been obtained, skill in a particular discipline is not forthcoming.

Habit is different from understanding and knowing by memory. Understanding of a single problem in a single discipline may be found equally in someone well versed in the particular discipline and in the beginner, in the common man who has no scientific knowledge whatever, and in the accomplished scholar.

Habit, on the other hand, belongs solely and exclusively to the scholar or the person well versed in scientific disciplines. This shows that (scientific) habit is different from understanding.

All habits are corporeal, whether they are of the body, or, like arithmetic, of- the brain and resulting from man’s ability to think and so on. All corporeal things are sensibilia. Thus, they require instruction. Therefore, a tradition of famous teachers with regard to instruction in any science or craft, is acknowledged (to be necessary) by the people of every region and generation (race).

The fact that scientific instruction is a craft is also shown by the differences in technical terminologies. Every famous authority has his own technical terminology for scientific instruction, as is the case with all crafts.

This shows that technical terminology is not a part of science itself. If it were, it would be one and the same with all scholars.

One knows how much the technical terminology used in the teaching of speculative theology differs between the ancients and the moderns. The same applies to the principles of jurisprudence as well as to Arabic (philology) and to jurisprudence.

It applies to any science one undertakes to study. The technical terminologies used in teaching it are always found to be different. This shows that the (terminologies) are crafts used for instruction, while each individual science as such is one and the same.

If this has been established, it should be known that the tradition of scientific instruction at this time has practically ceased (to be cultivated) among the inhabitants of the Maghrib, because the civilization of the Maghrib has disintegrated and its dynasties have lost their importance, and this has resulted in the deterioration and disappearance of the crafts, as was mentioned before.

Al-Qayrawan and Cordoba were centers of sedentary culture in the Maghrib and in Spain, respectively. Their civilization was highly developed, and the sciences and crafts were greatly cultivated and very much in demand in them. Since these two cities lasted a long time and possessed a sedentary culture, scientific instruction became firmly rooted in them. But when they fell into ruins, scientific instruction ceased (to be cultivated) in the West, Only a little of it, derived from (al-Qayrawan and Cordoba), continued to exist during the Almohad dynasty in Marrakech.

Sedentary culture, however, was not firmly rooted in Marrakech because of the original Bedouin attitude of the Almohad dynasty and because of the shortness of time between its beginning and its destruction. Sedentary culture enjoyed only a very minor continuity there.After the destruction of the dynasty in Marrakech, in the middle of the 13th century, Judge Abu1-Qasim b. Zaytun 41 traveled from Ifrigiyah to the East. He entered into contact with the pupils of the imam Ibn alKhatib.

He studied with them and learned their (method of) instruction. He became skilled in intellectual and traditional matters. Then, he returned to Tunis with a great deal of knowledge and a good (method of) instruction. He was followed back from the East by Abu ‘Abdallah b. Shu’ayb ad-Dukkali,43 who had traveled from the Maghrib to (Ibn Zaytun).

He studied with Egyptian professors and returned to Tunis, where he remained. His (method of) instruction was effective. The inhabitants of Tunis studied with both Ibn Zaytun and Ibn Shu’ayb. Their tradition of scientific instruction was steadily continued by their pupils, generation after generation.

Eventually, it reached Judge Muhammad b. ‘Abd-as-Salam, 44 the commentator and pupil of Ibn alH ajib,45 and was transplanted from Tunis to Tlemcen through Ibn al-Imam 46 and his pupils. Ibn al-Imam had studied with Ibn ‘Abd-as-Salam under the same professors in the same classes. Pupils of Ibn ‘Abd-as-Salam can be found at this time in Tunis, and pupils of Ibn al-Imam in Tlemcen. However, they are so few that it is to be feared that the tradition may come to an end.

At the end of the seventh [thirteenth] century, Abu ‘Ali Nasir-ad-din al-Mashaddali traveled eastward 48 from Zawawah and got in touch with the pupils of Abu ‘Amr b. al-Hajib. He studied with them and learned their (method of) instruction. He studied with Shihab-ad-din al-Qarafi 49 in the same classes. He became skilled in intellectual and traditional matters. He returned to the Maghrib with much knowledge and an effective (method of) instruction.

He settled in Bougie. His tradition of scientific instruction was steadily continued among the students of Bougie. Imran al-Mashaddali,50 one of his pupils, frequently went to Tlemcen. He settled in Tlemcen and propagated his method there. At this time, in Tlemcen and Bougie, his pupils are few, very few.

Fez and the other cities of the Maghrib have been without good instruction since the destruction of scientific instruction in Cordoba and al-Qayrawan. There has been no continuous tradition of scientific instruction in Fez. Therefore, it has been difficult for the people of Fez to obtain the scientific habit and skill.

The easiest method of acquiring the scientific habit is through acquiring the ability to express oneself clearly in discussing and disputing scientific problems. This is what clarifies their import and makes them understandable. Some students spend most of their lives attending scholarly sessions. Still, one finds them silent.

They do not talk and do not discuss matters. More than is necessary, they are concerned with memorizing. Thus, they do not obtain much of a habit in the practice of science and scientific instruction. Some of them think that they have obtained (the habit). But when they enter into a discussion or disputation, or do some teaching, their scientific habit is found to be defective. The only reason for their deficiency is (lack of) instruction, together with the break in the tradition of scientific instruction (that affects them). Apart from that, their memorized knowledge may be more extensive than that of other scholars, because they are so much concerned with memorizing. They think that scientific habit is identical with memorized knowledge.

But that is not so.

This is attested in the Maghrib (in Morocco) by the fact that the period specified for the residence of students in college there is sixteen years, while in Tunis it is five years. Such a (fixed) period of attendance is recognized as the shortest in which a student can obtain the scientific habit he desires, or can realize that he will never be able to obtain it.In the Maghrib (in Morocco), the period is so long at the present day for the very reason that the poor quality of scientific instruction there makes it difficult (for the student to acquire the scientific habit), and not for any other reason.

The institution of scientific instruction has disappeared among the inhabitants of Spain. Their (former) concern with the sciences is gone, because Muslim civilization in Spain has been decreasing for hundreds of years. The only scholarly discipline remaining there is Arabic (philology) and literature, to which the (Spanish Muslims) restrict themselves. The tradition of teaching these disciplines is preserved among them, and thus the disciplines as such are preserved. Jurisprudence is an empty institution among them and a mere shadow of its real self.

Of the intellectual disciplines, not even a shadow remains, The only reason for that is that the tradition of scientific instruction has ceased (to be cultivated) in Spain, because civilization there has deteriorated and the enemy has gained control over most of it, except for a few people along the coast who are more concerned with making a living than with the things that come after it.

In 52 the East, the tradition of scientific instruction has not ceased (to be cultivated). Scientific instruction is very much in demand and greatly cultivated in the East, because of the continuity of an abundant civilization and the continuity of the tradition (of scientific instruction) there. It is true that the old cities, such as Baghdad, al-Basrah, and al-Kufah, which were the (original) mines of scholarship, are in ruins. However, God has replaced them with cities even greater than they were. Science was transplanted from the (early centers) to the non-Arab ‘Iraq of Khurasan, to Transoxania in the East, and to Cairo and adjacent regions in the West.

These cities have never ceased to have an abundant and continuous civilization, and the tradition of scientific instruction has always persisted in them. The inhabitants of the East are, in general, more firmly rooted in the craft of scientific instruction and, indeed, in all the other crafts (than Maghribis). In fact, many Maghribis who have traveled to the East in quest of knowledge, have been of the opinion that 53 the intellect of the people of the East is, in general, more perfect than that of the Maghribis.

They have supposed the rational souls (of the people of the East) to be by nature more perfect than those of the Maghribis. They have claimed that there exists a difference in the reality of humanity between ourselves (the Maghribis) and them, 54 because their cleverness in the sciences and crafts seemed remarkable to them. This is not so. There is no difference between the East and the West great enough (to be considered) a difference in the reality (of human nature), which is one (and the same everywhere).

Such a difference does in fact exist in the intemperate zones, such as the first and the seventh zones. The tempers there are intemperate, and the souls are correspondingly intemperate, as has been mentioned before 55 The superiority of the inhabitants of the East over those of the West lies in the additional intelligence that accrues to the soul from the influences of sedentary culture, as has been stated before in connection with the crafts. 56 We are now going to comment on that and to verify it.

It is as follows;

Sedentary people observe (a) particular (code of) manners in everything they undertake and do or do not do, and they thus acquire certain ways of making a living, finding dwellings, building houses, and handling their religious and worldly matters, including their customary affairs, their dealings with others, and all the rest of their activities. 57 These manners constitute a kind of limitation which may not be transgressed, and, at the same time, they are crafts that (later) generations take overfrom the earlier ones.

No doubt, each craft that has its proper place within the arrangement of the crafts, influences the soul and causes it to acquire an additional intelligence, which prepares the soul for accepting still other crafts. The intellect is thus conditioned for a quick reception of knowledge.

We hear that the Egyptians have achieved things hardly possible in the teaching of the crafts. For instance, they teach domestic donkeys and (other) dumb animals, quadrupeds and birds, to speak words and to do things that are remarkable for their rarity and that the inhabitants of the Maghrib would not be capable of understanding, let alone teaching. 5 8

Good habits in. scientific instruction, in the crafts, and in all the other customary activities, add insight to the intellect of a man and enlightenment to his thinking, since the soul thus obtains a great number of habits. The soul grows under the influence of the perceptions it receives and the habits accruing to it.

Thus, (the people of the East) become more clever, because their souls are influenced by scientific activity. The common people then suppose that it is a difference in the reality of humanity. This is not so.

If one compares sedentary people with Bedouins, one notices how much more insight and cleverness sedentary people have. One might, thus, come to think that they really differ from the Bedouins in the reality of humanity and in intelligence. This is not so.

The only reason for the difference is that sedentary people have refined technical habits and manners as far as customary activities and sedentary conditions are concerned, all of them things that are unknown to the Bedouins. Sedentary people possess numerous crafts, as well as the habits that go with them, and good (methods of) teaching the crafts.

Therefore, those who do not have such habits think that they indicate an intellectual perfection possessed (exclusively) by sedentary people, and that the natural qualifications of the Bedouins are inferior to those of sedentary people. This is not so.

Bedouins whose understanding, intellectual perfection, and natural qualifications are of the highest rank. The seeming (superiority of) sedentary people is merely the result of a certain polish the crafts and scientific instruction give them.

It influences the soul, as we have stated before.60 Now, the inhabitants of the East are more firmly grounded and more advanced in scientific instruction and the crafts (than the Maghribis), and the Maghribis are closer to desert life, as we have stated before in the preceding section. 61

This leads superficial people to think that the inhabitants of the East are distinguished from the Maghribis by a certain perfection (of theirs) touching the reality of humanity. That is not correct, as one should be able to understand.