Part 39

Severity to students does them harm Icon

January 3, 2022

Severe punishment during teaching harms the student, especially little children, because it belongs among the things that make for a bad habit. Students, 1191 slaves, and servants who are brought up with injustice and (tyrannical) force are overcome by it. It makes them feel oppressed and causes them to lose their energy. It makes them lazy and induces them to lie and be insincere.

That is, their outward behavior differs from what they are thinking, because they are afraid that they will have to suffer tyrannical treatment (if they tell the truth). Thus, they are taught deceit and trickery.

This becomes their custom and character. They lose the quality that goes with social and political organization and makes people human, namely, (the desire to) protect and defend themselves and their homes, and they become dependent on others. 1192 Indeed, their souls become too indolent to (attempt to) acquire the virtues and good character qualities. Thus, they fall short of their potentialities and do not reach the limit of their humanity. As a result, they revert to the stage of “the lowest of the low.” 1193

That 1194 is what happened to every nation that fell under the yoke of tyranny and learned through it the meaning of injustice. One may check this by (observing) any person who is not in control of his own affairs and has no authority on his side to guarantee his (safety).

One will thus be able to infer (from the observable facts) that things are (as I have stated). One may look at the Jews and the bad character they have acquired, 1195 such that they are described in every region and period as having the quality of khurj, 1196 which, according to well-known technical terminology, means “insincerity and trickery.” The reason is what we have (just) said.

Thus, a teacher must not be too severe toward his pupil, nor a father toward his son, in educating them. In the book that Abu Muhammad b. Abi Zayd wrote on the laws governing teachers and pupils, he said= “If children must be beaten, their educator must not strike them more than three times.” 1197

Umar said= “Those who are not educated (disciplined) by the religious law are not educated (disciplined) by God.” 1198

He spoke out of a desire to preserve the souls from the humiliation of disciplinary punishment and in the knowledge that the amount (of disciplinary punishment) that the religious law has stipulated is fully adequate to keep (a person) under control, because the (religious law) knows best what is good for him.

One of the best methods of education was suggested by ar-Rashid to Khalaf b. Ahmar, the teacher of his son Muhammad al-Amin. Khalaf b. Ahmar 1199 said= “Ar-Rashid told me to come and educate his son Muhammad al-Amin, and he said to me= ‘O Ahmar, the Commander of the Faithful is entrusting (his son) to you, the life of his soul and the fruit of his heart. Take firm hold of him and make him obey you.

Occupy in relation to him the place that the Commander of the Faithful has given you. Teach him to read the Qur’an. Instruct him in history. Let him transmit poems and teach him the Sunnah of the Prophet. Give him insight into the proper occasions for speech and how to begin a (speech). Forbid him to laugh, save at times when it is proper.

Accustom him to honor the Hashimite dignitaries 1200 whenthey come to him, and to give the military leaders places of honor when they come to his salon. Let no hour pass in which you not seize the opportunity to teach him something useful. But do so without vexing him, which would kill his mind. Do not always be too lenient with him, or he will get to like leisure and become used to it. As much as possible, correct him kindly and gently. If he does not want it that way, you must then use severity and harshness.’ "

40. A scholar’s education is greatly improved by traveling in quest of knowledge and meeting the authoritative teachers (of his time).

This is because 1201 human beings obtain their knowledge and character qualities and all their opinions and virtues either through study, instruction, and lectures, or through imitation of a teacher and personal contact with him.

The only difference here is that habits acquired through personal contact with a teacher are more strongly and firmly rooted. Thus, the greater the number of authoritative teachers (shaykhs), the more deeply rooted is the habit one acquires. Furthermore, the technical terminologies used in scientific instruction are confusing to the student. Many students even suppose them to be part of a given science.

The only way to deliver them from that (wrong notion) is by personal contact with teachers, for different teachers employ different terminologies. Thus, meeting scholars and having many authoritative teachers (shaykhs) enables the student to notice the difference in the terminologies used by different teachers and to distinguish among them. He will thus be able to recognize the science itself behind the (technical terminology it uses).

He will realize that (terminologies) are (merely) means and methods for imparting (knowledge). His powers will work toward acquiring strongly and firmly rooted habits. He will improve the knowledge he has and be able to distinguish it from other (knowledge). In addition, his habits will be strengthened through his intensive personal contact with teachers, when they are many and of various types.

This is for those for whom God facilitated the ways of scholarship and right guidance. Thus, traveling in quest of knowledge is absolutely necessary for the acquisition of useful knowledge and perfection through meeting authoritative teachers (shaykhs) and having contact with (scholarly) personalities. God “guides whomever He wants to guide to a straight path.” 1202

41. Scholars are, of all people, those least familiar with the ways of politics.

The 1203 reason for this is that (scholars) are used to mental speculation and to a searching study of ideas which they abstract from the sensibilia and conceive in their minds as general universals, so that they may be applicable to some matter in general but not to any particular matter, individual, race, nation, or group of people.

Scholars, then, make such universal ideas conform (in their minds) to facts of the outside world. They also compare things with others that are similar to or like them, with the help of analogical reasoning as used in jurisprudence, which is something familiar to them. All their conclusions and views continue to be something in the mind.

They come to conform (to the facts of the outside world) only after research and speculation has come to an end, or they may never come to conform (to them). The facts of the outside world are merely special cases of the (ideas) that are in the mind.

For instance, the religious laws are special cases derived from the well-known (texts) of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. In their case, one expects the facts of the outside world to conform to them, in contrast with the intellectual sciences, where, in order to (prove) the soundness of views, one expects those views to conform to the facts of the outside world.

Thus, in all their intellectual activity, scholars are accustomed to dealing with matters of the mind and with thoughts. They do not know anything else. Politicians, on the other hand, must pay attention to the facts of the outside world and the conditions attaching to and depending on (politics). (These facts and conditions) are obscure.

They may contain some (element) making it impossible to refer them to something like and similar, or contradicting the universal (idea) to which one would like them to conform. The conditions existing in civilization cannot (always) be compared with each other. They may be alike in one respect, but they may differ in other respects.

Scholars are used to generalizations and analogical conclusions. When they look at politics, they press (their observations) into the mold of their views and their way of making deductions. Thus, they commit many errors, or (at least) they cannot be trusted (not to commit errors). The intelligent and alert (segment) of civilized people falls into the same category as (scholars). Their penetrating minds drive them toward a searching occupation with ideas, analogy, and comparison, as is the case with jurists.

Thus, they too commit errors. The average person of a healthy disposition and a mediocre intelligence has not got the mind for (such speculation) and does not think of it.

Therefore, he restricts himself to considering every matter as it is, and to judging every kind of situation and every type of individual by its particular (circumstances). His judgment is not infected with analogy and generalization. Most of his speculation stops at matters perceivable by the senses, and he does not go beyond them in his mind, like a swimmer who stays in the water near the shore, as the poet says= Do not go out too deep when swimming. Safety lies near the shore.

Such a man, therefore, can be trusted when he reflects upon his political activities. He has the right outlook in dealing with his fellow men. Thus, he makes a good living and suffers no damage or harm in the (process of making a living),because he has the right outlook.

This situation makes one realize that logic cannot be trusted to prevent the commission of errors, because it is too abstract and remote from the sensibilia. Logic considers the secondary intelligibilia. It is possible that material things contain something that does not admit of (logical) conclusions and contradicts them, when one looks for unequivocal conformity (between them and the facts of the outside world).

It is different with speculation about the primary intelligibilia, which are less abstract. They are matters of the imagination and pictures of the sensibilia. They retain (certain features of the sensibilia) and permit verification of the conformity of (the sensibilia to the primary intelligibilia). 1205