The great number of brief handbooks (available)
Many 1141 recent scholars have turned to brief presentations of the methods and contents of the sciences. They want to know (the methods and contents), and they present them systematically in the form of brief programs for each science. (These) brief handbooks express all the problems of a given discipline and the evidence for them in a few brief words that are full of meaning. This (procedure) is detrimental to good style and makes difficulties for the understanding.
(Scholars) often approach the main scholarly works on the various disciplines, which are very lengthy, intending to interpret 1142 and explain (them). They abridge them, in order to make it easier (for students) to acquire expert knowledge of them. Such, for instance, was done by Ibn al-Hajib in jurisprudence and the principles of jurisprudence, 1143 by Ibn Malik in Arabic philology,1144 by al-Khunaji in logic,1145 and so on. This (procedure) has a corrupting influence upon the process of instruction and is detrimental to the attainment of scholarship. For it confuses the beginner by presenting the final results of a discipline to him before he is prepared for them. This is a bad method of instruction, as will be mentioned.1146
(The procedure) also involves a great deal of work for the student. He must study carefully the words of the abridgment, which are complicated to understand because they are crowded with ideas, and 1147 try to find out from them what the problems of (the given discipline) are. Thus, the texts of such brief handbooks are found to be difficult and complicated (to understand). A good deal of time must be spent on (the attempt to) understand them.
Moreover, after all these (difficulties), the (scholarly) habit that results from receiving instruction from brief handbooks, (even) when (such instruction) is at its best and is not accompanied by any flaw, is inferior to the habits resulting from (the study of) more extensive and lengthy works. The latter contain a great amount of repetition and lengthiness, but both are useful for the acquisition of a perfect habit. When there is little repetition, an inferior habit is the result. This is the case with the abridgments. The intention was to make it easy for students to acquire expert knowledge (of scholarly subjects), but the result is that it has become (more) difficult for them, because they are prevented from acquiring useful and firmly established habits.
Those whom God guides, no one can lead astray, and "those whom God leads astray have no one to guide them." 1148