Addressing Students in the Language they Understand
it is known that there are individual differences between students. some students may respond quickly to certain questions while others cannot. abu sa’eed al-khudri reported that the prophet, peace be upon him, sat on his pulpit and said: ((allah gave a choice to one of his servants (worshipers) that he may opt the beauties of the world or the reward of allah at the hereafter, and the servant chose allah’s reward at the hereafter)). thereupon, abu bakr wept bitterly and said: let our fathers and our mothers be taken as ransom for you. it was the prophet, peace be upon him, who had been given the choice and abu bakr knew it better than us.
an-nawawi said: abu bakr, may allah be pleased with him, knew that the person who was given such choice is the prophet, peace be upon him, therefore, he wept for the fact that the prophet, peace be upon him, will die. the prophet, peace be upon him, said “one of his servants” without specifying a certain person so that the clever companions can know that the prophet is the meant person. ibn taimiyah said: abu bakr, may allah be pleased with him, was very close to the prophet, peace be upon him, and knows best the meaning of the prophetic traditions and he reads between the lines.
there are several means helping in delivering information to the students and such means can be determined according to the individual differences and the students’ level of understanding. therefore, the teacher should be accurate in choosing such means in a way to facilitate understanding information by all students.
1- aisha, may allah be pleased with her, reported: (i asked the prophet, peace be upon him, about the wall (outside the ka'ba). "is it regarded as part of the ka'ba?" he replied, "yes." i said, "then why didn't the people include it in the ka'ba?" he said, "(because) your people ran short of money." i asked, "then why is its gate so high?" he replied, ''your people did so in order to allow whom they want to enter and forbid whom they want from entry. were your people not still close to the period of ignorance (pre-islam period), and were i not afraid that their hearts might deny my action, then surely i would include the wall in the ka'ba and lower the level of its gate to the level of the ground”). this hadith shows how the prophet, peace be upon him, canceled the idea of re-building the ka’ba on its original foundations just to avoid disorder and for fearing that the people will not understand the matter correctly. to elaborate more, here are other two examples:
first: al-bukhari narrated that ali bin abi taleb, may allah be pleased with him, said: “only narrate what people can understand (from the prophetic traditions) because people tend to deny what they cannot understand”.
second: muslim narrated that abdullah bin mas’oud said: “if you narrate a hadith which cannot be understood by people, you will surly confuse some of them”. these two statements emphasize the importance of addressing people in the language they can understand in order to avoid causing them confusion. the teachers should simplify things and use simple clear words to ensure that all students have the right understanding and no confusion happens to them.
al-ghazali said: the teacher should address his students in the language they can understand so that they will not hate learning or have any confusion. the prophet, peace be upon him, said: ((we, all prophets of allah, are ordered (by allah) to respect the social ranks of people and address them in the language they can understand)).
al-hakem narrated that ibn qudama heard an-nadher bin shamil saying: i asked al-khaleel about a certain issue and waited for a while without receiving an answer. i said then, this question does not need such long time to think. he replied: i have already thought and found the answer for your question, but i am thinking how to give you an answer that you can understand. in another example, ash-shafe’i said: “should mohammad bin al-hasan (one of the chief hanafi jurists) had been teaching us according to his high mentality, we would have understood nothing; however, he was teaching us in the language that we can understand”.
1) students are different in their level of understanding and learning.
2) the skillful teacher is the one who can deliver understandable information to his students, not stuffing their minds with non-understandable texts and issues.
3) the teacher should evaluate the mental capacity of his students then he can teach them according to their capacity.
4) stuffing the student’s mind with information beyond his understanding will cause him more confusion and puzzlement.