When Addressing People, Make It Simple | Muhammad ibn Muflih Al-Maqdisi

IT IS GREATLY important when addressing a group of people with different capacities to make the speech plain and suitable for the least capable to follow what is being said. It is also recommended to avoid utilizing words that make it difficult to get the general point. There is nothing better than making one’s speech simple yet charismatic so that it will win both the heart and the mind of the listener.

Al-Mârwadi said: “I asked Imâm Aḥmad about a certain issue that have to do with ʿadl (justice, fairness) and his reply to me was: ‘Don’t ask about something you will not understand.’” Ibn ʿAqîl said: “It is not fair for a well-spoken scholar of high caliber to address someone with very little knowledge using cryptic terms. That will do nothing but corrupt the lame, poor man.” Ibn Al-Jawzi on his part added: “A well versed person should not talk to others about things their brains cannot bear.” All of these quotes go in accordance with what was narrated in aî Al-Bukhâri on the authority of ʿAli ibn Abî Ṭâlib, who remarked: “Talk to people with that which is familiar to them. Do you want that Allah and His Messenger get belied?” ʿAbdullâh ibn Masʿûd also warned against superseding some people intellect by saying: “Any time you address people about something their minds would not be able to grasp, it will stand as a trial for some of them.” (Muslim)

Despite the warnings there are still many who are in complete heedlessness of such virtue. Many of them unfortunately are considered among the people of knowledge, who sometimes, while delivering a speech or general lecture, choose the most complicated methods to make their points. Instead of making it obvious, they set out a hunt for the most unusual and most uncommon words, which of course leaves the listener with no idea of what they heard or with the wrong idea he shouldn’t have gotten in the first place.

Abû ʿAbdullâh Al-Ḥâkim reported in his book, The History of Naisâpûr, that Al-Naḍr ibn Shumail said: “I asked Al-Khalîl a question and he took his time to answer. I then said him: ‘My question does not require all this time for the answer.’ He replied: ‘I know. I already came up with the answer to your question. I was only trying to find the simplest way of presentation so that you would be able to comprehend effortlessly.”

Also, the Shafi’ite jurist, ʿAbdullâh ibn Aḥmad Al-Sarakhsi said: “Had Muḥammad ibn Al-Ḥasan (the student of Abû Ḥanîfah) addressed his audience according to their level of his intellect, we would have never understood him, but he used to address us according to the level of our intellect.”

Imâm Muslim reported in hia aî that Qazʿa said: “I came to Abû Saʿîd Al-Khudri while he was surrounded by many people. I waited until they all dispersed and said: ‘I came to ask you about the Salah of the Messenger œ. He said to me: ‘you don’t gain any benefit in asking me that. Qazʿa said: ‘I asked him again and he gave me the same answer.” (Muslim)

Commentators stated that Qazʿa was asking too many questions about some details that are hard to experience and even harder to convey, and Abû Saʿîd’s insistence not to entertain Qazʿas questions tells us that he thinks that despite the fact one is asking about it, one must know that he can never establish Salah the same way as the Prophet œ did, no matter how hard one would try. Therefore, it is better for one to stick to that which benefits him – in this case, learning how to make the Salah and then strive to improve and strengthen it. This will insure that one’s Salah is beneficial to him, even if it is not exactly as good as the Prophet’s Salah.

Sharing knowledge is undoubtedly a virtue of considerable merit and Allah has promised the conveyor of knowledge abundant rewards. However, the conveyor has to be so careful when addressing an audience and see to it that the words coming out of his mouth can be easily understood. This is true in all fields of knowledge but more so when it is related to matters of Sharîʿah. There can be real danger is confusing people about Sharîʿah for it can lead to fitnah.

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