In addition to possessing knowledge, wisdom and diplomacy is important.
The same tone will not be used for all. Rasulullah (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) used various methodologies to impart knowledge; at times he would ignore the person to whom he wanted to pass the message, on other occasions he would give extra attention to the one he wanted to draw closer to him. Sometimes he would address the culprit directly, and at times he would merely indicate with a general address. One needs to assess the situation thoroughly before selecting the method of counsel.
On the occasion of the death of his son; Sayyiduna Ibrahim (radiyallahu ‘anhu), Rasulullah (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) addressed him (a lifeless body) with the words: “Undoubtedly the eye will tear and the heart will grieve, but we will only utter that which pleases our Rabb. O Ibrahim! We are saddened by your separation.”
The commentators of Hadith explain that this was his method of passing the message to those who were present at that gathering, i.e, although he (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) was seemingly addressing the deceased, in actual fact he wanted to teach this lesson to those who were present.
(Fathul Bari, Hadith: 1303)
On this occasion, Nabi (sallallalahu ‘alayhi wasallam) used the indirect method of passing the message.
The Honourable Syrian Muhaddith; Shaykh ‘Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah (rahimahullah) has a book dedicated to this topic entitled:
“Muhammad (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) as a Teacher, and his methodologies of teaching”
The readers are strongly encouraged to read this unique book.
Remember! Sometimes, failure to use the proper tact brings adverse results…
Gauge your Audience
Similarly, one should always gauge the audience, and address them according to their level of understanding. This is a fundamental principle in knowledge.
Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) provided a practical lesson when he included the following sub heading towards the end of end of the “Chapter of Knowledge”:
“Chapter on sharing knowledge with some and not others, for fear of them not understanding.”
Imam Bukhari then cites the following:
Sayyiduna ‘Ali (radiyallahu’anhu) says:
!حدثوا الناس بما يعرفون، أتحبّون أن يُكَذَّبَّ اللهُ ورسولُه؟
Quote those Hadiths that people are familiar with. Do you want Allah and His Messenger to be rejected?! [i.e, by quoting things that people might end up denying…]
(Sahih Bukhari, before Hadith: 127)
In other words, not everything can be shared with everyone.
Hafiz Ibn Hajar (rahimahullah) comments on this narration: “This shows that the general masses should not be exposed to issues that are not explicit (i.e. المتشابه)”
(Fathul Bari, Hadith: 127)
‘Allamah ‘Aini (rahimahullah) has echoed the above, and he writes further: “Certain discussions should be kept secret from those who misunderstand it or use it to justify their laziness.”
(‘Umdatul Qari, vol.2 Pg.294)
‘Allamah Shatbi (rahimahullah) has also commented on this in a similar fashion. See Al-Muwafaqat fi Usuli Shari’ah, vol.4 pg.137.
Imam Muslim (rahimahullah) has included the following in the introduction to his Sahih:
قال عبد الله بن مسعود رضي الله عنه: ما أنت بمحدث قوما حديثا لا تبلغه عقولهم إلا كان لبعضهم فتنة
Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (radiyallahu’anhu) said: “By quoting such Hadiths to the masses which they cannot completely grasp, you will be creating fitnah (distraction/confusion) for them.”
(Introduction to Sahih Muslim, narration: 14)
‘Allamah Sakhawi (rahimahullah) writes about such sensitive narrations: “…even if the narrations are sahih (authentic) and can be interpreted correctly, they should only be told to those who can understand them for fear of fitnah on those who may misinterpret them or reject them… Khatib Baghdadi (rahimahullah) states: among the types of narrations that the ‘Ulama have preferred not be mentioned to the general masses are: the Hadiths which have special relaxation in the rules for certain conditions or individuals (أحاديث الرُخَص) as well as the incidents of discord between the Sahabah (radiyallahu‘anhum).”
(Fathul Mughith, vol. 3 pgs. 271-273, also see Tadribur Rawi, vol. 4 pgs. 530-531)
Imam Malik (rahimahullah) strongly opposed the habit of those who quote Hadiths which discuss the attributes of Allah to the general public. It is sad that today we have people who do just this; In the name of correcting people’s “Aqidah (belief) they actually confuse the masses by citing the Hadiths of Sifat (attributes) of Allah Ta’ala and other confusing topics of belief! May Allah guide us all. Perhaps Imam Malik’s (rahimahullah) statement applies more today than ever before.
(Fathul Bari, Hadith: 127)
‘Allamah Shatbi Al-Maliki (rahimahullah) quotes that Imam Malik (rahimahullah) had several Hadiths and discussions of knowledge which he had kept to himself, and did not publicise.
(Al-Muwafaqat fi Usuli Shari’ah, vol. 4 pg. 138)
He also writes: “It is clearly understandable that not every part of knowledge needs to be shared. In fact, there are three types of knowledge of Din:
- That which demands propagation. This is the case most of the time.
- That which should never be propagated (to the general people). Among the issues that ‘Allamah Shatbi has cautioned against discussing in public is the reasoning (العِلَل) behind fiqh (Juristic) rulings as well as the wisdoms (الحِكَم) behind the commands of Allah. (Al-Muwafaqat fi Usuli Shari’ah, vol.4 pg.138)
- That which can only be shared under certain conditions, or in a particular era or with specific people.
(Al-Muwafaqat fi Usuli Shari’ah, vol. 4 pg. 137)
One should also note that sometimes, a Hadith may just have a sentence or two that could be misunderstood by the audience. When citing such Hadiths, one must either explain those parts clearly, or even omit them, as long as this omission does not alter the general purport of the Hadith. There are several examples of the Scholars of the past making such omissions, when it was needed.
(See some examples in: Musnadul Humaydi, Hadith: 17, Sahih Bukhari, Hadith: 4977 and Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 225. Also see Shaykh ‘Awwamah’s book: ‘Hadhfu tarafim minal Hadith)