56. The right attitude in scientific instruction and toward
the method of giving such instruction. 1149
It 1150 should be known that the teaching of scientific subjects to students is effective only when it proceeds gradually and little by little. At first, (the teacher) presents (the student) with the principal problems within each chapter of a given discipline. He acquaints him with them by commenting on them in a summary fashion. In the course of doing so, he observes the student's intellectual potential and his preparedness for understanding the material that will come his way until the end of the discipline under consideration (is reached). In the process, (the student) acquires the habit of the-science (he studies). However, that habit will be an approximate 1151 and weak one. The most it can do is to enable the student to understand the discipline (he studies) and to know its problems.
(The teacher,) then, leads (the student) back over the discipline a second time. He gives him instruction in it on a higher level. He no longer gives a summary but full commentaries and explanations. He mentions to him the existing differences of opinion and the form these differences take all the way through to the end of the discipline under consideration. Thus, the student's (scholarly) habit is improved. Then, (the teacher) leads (the student) back again, now that he is solidly grounded. He leaves nothing (that is) complicated, vague, or obscure, unexplained. He bares all the secrets (of the discipline) to him. As a result, the student, when he finishes with the discipline, has acquired the habit of it.
This is the effective method of instruction. As one can see, it requires a threefold repetition. Some students can get through it with less than that, depending on their natural dispositions and qualifications.
We have observed that many teachers 1152 of the time in which we are living are ignorant of this effective method of instruction. They begin their instruction by confronting the student with obscure scientific problems. They require him to concentrate on solving them. They think that that is experienced and correct teaching, and they make it the task of the student to comprehend and know such things. In actual fact, they (merely) confuse him by exposing him to the final results of a discipline at the beginning (of his studies) and before he is prepared to understand them. Preparedness for and receptivity to scientific knowledge and understanding grow gradually. At the beginning, the student is completely unable to understand any but a very few (points). (His understanding is) only approximate and general and (can be achieved only) with the help of pictures (muthul) derived from sensual perception. His preparedness, then, keeps growing gradually and little by little when he faces the problems of the discipline under consideration and has them repeated (to him) and advances from approximate understanding of them to a complete, higher knowledge. Thus the habit of preparedness and, eventually, that of attainment materialize in the student, until he has a comprehensive knowledge of the problems of the discipline (he studies). But if a student is exposed to the final results at the beginning, while he is still unable to understand and comprehend (anything) and is still far from being prepared to (understand), his mind is not acute enough to (grasp them). He gets the impression that scholarship is difficult and becomes loath to occupy himself with it. He constantly dodges and avoids it. That is the result of poor instruction, and nothing else.
The teacher should not ask more from a student than that he understand the book he is engaged in studying, in accordance with his class (age group) 1153 and his receptivity to instruction, whether he is at the start or at the end (of his studies). (The teacher) should not bring in problems other than those found in that particular book, until the student knows the whole (book) from beginning to end, is acquainted with its purpose, and has gained a habit from it, which he then can apply to other (books). When the student has acquired (the scholarly) habit in one discipline, he is prepared for learning all the others. He also has become interested in looking for more and in advancing to higher (learning). Thus, he eventually acquires a complete mastery of scholarship. But if one confuses a student, he will be unable to understand (anything). He becomes indolent. He stops thinking. He despairs of becilning a scholar and avoids scholarship and instruction.
"God guides whomever He wants to guide." 1154
It is also necessary (for the teacher) to avoid prolonging the period of instruction in a single discipline or book, by breaks in the sessions and long intervals between them. This causes (the student) to forget and disrupts the nexus between the different problems (of the discipline being studied). The result of such interruptions is that attainment of the (scholarly) habit becomes difficult. If the first and last things of a discipline are present in the mind and prevent the effects of forgetfulness, the (scholarly) habit is more easily acquired, more firmly established, and closer to becoming a (true) coloring. For habits are acquired by continuous and repeated activity. When one forgets to act, one forgets the habit that results from that particular action.
God "taught you what you did not know." 1155
A good and necessary method and approach in instruction is not to expose the student to two disciplines at the same time.1156 Otherwise, he will rarely master one of them, since he has to divide his attention and is diverted from each of them by his attempt to understand the other. Thus, he will consider both of them obscure and difficult, and be unsuccessful in both. But if the (student's) mind is free to study the subject that he is out (to study) and can restrict himself to it, that (fact) often makes it simpler (for the student) to learn (the subject in question).
God gives success to that which is correct.
You, 1157 student, should realize that I am here giving you useful (hints) for your study. If you accept them and follow them assiduously, you will find a great and noble treasure. As an introduction that will help you to understand these (hints), I shall tell you the following:
Man's ability to think is a special natural gift which God created exactly as He created all His other creations. It is an action and motion 1158 in the soul by means of a power (located) in the middle cavity of the brain.1159 At times, (thinking) means the beginning of orderly and well-arranged human actions. At other times, it means the beginning of the knowledge of something that had not been available (before). The (ability to think) is directed toward some objective whose two extremes 1160 it has perceived (tasawwur), and (now) it desires to affirm or deny it. In almost no time, it recognizes the middle term which combines the two (extremes), if (the objective) is uniform. Or, it goes on to obtain another middle term, if (the objective) is manifold. It thus finds its objective. It is in this way that the ability to think, by which man is distinguished from all the other animals, works.
Now, the craft of logic is (knowledge of the) way in which the natural ability to think and speculate operates. Logic describes it, so that correct operation can be distinguished from erroneous. To be right, though, is in the essence of the ability to think. However, in very rare cases, it is affected by error. This comes from perceiving (tasawwur) the two extremes in forms other than are properly theirs, as the result of confusion in the order and arrangement of the propositions from which the conclusion is drawn. Logic helps to avoid such traps. Thus,1161 it is a technical procedure which parallels (man's) natural ability to think and conforms to the way in which it functions. Since it is a technical procedure, it can be dispensed with in most cases. Therefore, one finds that many of the world's most excellent thinkers have achieved scholarly results without employing the craft of logic, especially when their intention was sincere and they entrusted themselves to the mercy of God, which is the greatest help (anyone may hope to find). They proceeded with the aid of the natural ability to think at its best, and this (ability), as it was created by God, permitted them by (its very) nature to find the middle term and knowledge of their objective.
Besides the technical procedure called logic, the (process of) study involves another introductory (discipline), namely, the knowledge of words and the way in which they indicate ideas in the mind by deriving them from what the forms (of the letters) say, in the case of writing, and from what the tongue - speech - says in the case of spoken utterances. 1162 You, the student, must pass through all these veils, in order to reach (the state where you can) think about your objective.
First, there is the way in which writing indicates spoken words. 1163 This is the easiest part of it. Then, there is the way in which the spoken words indicate the ideas one is seeking. Further, there are the rules for arranging the ideas in their proper molds, as they are known from the craft of logic, in order to (be able to) make deductions. Then, there are those ideas in the mind that are abstract and (used) as nets with which one goes hunting for the (desired) objective with the help of one's natural ability to think (and) entrusting oneself to the mercy and generosity of God.1164
Not everyone is able to pass through all these stages quickly and to cut through all these veils easily during the (process of) instruction.1165 Disputes often cause the mind to stop at the veils of words. Disturbing quarrels and doubts cause it to fall into the nets of argument, so that the mind is prevented from attaining its objective. Rarely do more than a few (individuals), who are guided by God, succeed in extricating themselves from this abyss.
If you are afflicted by such (difficulties) and hampered in your understanding (of the problems) by misgivings or disturbing doubts in your mind, cast them of ! Discard the veils of words and the obstacles of doubt! Leave all the technical procedures and take refuge in the realm of the natural ability to think given to you by nature! Let your speculation roam in it and let your mind freely delve in it, according to whatever you desire (to obtain) from it! Set foot in the places where the greatest thinkers before you did! Entrust yourself to God's aid, as in His mercy He aided them and taught them what they did not know! 1166 If you do that, God's helpful light will shine upon you and show you your objective. Inspiration will indicate (to you) the middle term which God made a natural requirement of the (process of) thinking, as we have stated. 1167 At that particular moment, return with (the middle term) to the molds and forms (to be used) for the arguments, dip it into them, and give it its due of the technical norm (of logic)! Then, clothe it with the forms of words and bring it forth into the world of spoken utterances, firmly girt and soundly constructed!
Verbal disputes and doubts concerning the distinction between right and wrong logical evidence are all technical and conventional matters. Their numerous aspects are all alike or similar, because of their conventional and technical character. If they stop you, (you 1168 will not be able) to distinguish the truth in them, for the truth becomes distinguishable only if it exists by nature. All the doubts and uncertainties will remain. The veils will cover the objective sought and prevent the thinker from attaining it. That has been the case with most recent thinkers, especially with those who formerly spoke a language other than Arabic, which was a mental handicap, 1169 or those who were enamored with logic and partial to it. 1170 They believe that logic is a natural means for the perception of the truth. They become confused when doubts and misgivings arise concerning the evidence, and they are scarcely able to free themselves from (such doubts).
As a matter of fact, the natural means for the perception of the truth is, as we have stated, (man's natural ability to think, when it is free from all imaginings and when the thinker entrusts himself to the mercy of God. Logic merely describes the process of thinking and mostly parallels it. Take that into consideration and ask for God's mercy when you have difficulty in understanding problems! Then, the divine light will shine upon you and give you the right inspiration.
God guides in His mercy. Knowledge comes only from God.