Manners: The Art of Listening and Debating

Source (Gems of Self-purication):

http://www.islaam.com/Section.aspx?id=9

The Art of Listening

If a person starts telling you, whether in private or public, something that you already knew very well, you should pretend as if you do not know it. Do not rush to reveal your knowledge or to interfere with the speech. Instead, show your attention and concentration. The honorable tab’i Imam Ata ibn Abi Rabah said: “A young man would tell me something that I may have heard before he was born. Nevertheless, I would listen to him as if I had never heard it before.”

Khalid ibn Safwan al-Tamimi, who frequented the courts of two Khalifahs: Umar ibn Abdul Aziz and Hisham ibn Abdul Malik, said: “If a person tells you something you have heard before, or news that you already learned, do not interrupt him to exhibit your knowledge to those present. This is rude and ill mannered.” The honorable Imam Abdullah ibn Wahab al-Qurashi al-Masri, a companion of Imam Malik, Al-Laith ibn Sad and Al-Thawri, said: “Sometimes a person would tell me a story that I have heard before his parents had wed. Yet, I listened as if I have never heard it before.” Ibrahim ibn al-Junaid said: “A wise man said to his son: ‘Learn the art of listening as you learn the art of speaking.'” Listening well means maintaining eye contact, allowing the speaker to finish the spech, and restraining your urge to interrupt his speech. Al-Hafiz al-Khatib al-Baghdadi said in a poem: “Never interrupt a talk, Though you know it inside out”

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Discussions and Debates

If you have trouble understanding some of what has been said in meeting, hold your questions until the speaker has finished. Gently, politely, and with proper introduction, ask for clarification. Do not interrupt a person’s speech. Never raise your voice with the question, or be blunt to draw attention to yourself. This is contrary to the proper manner of listening, and stirs up contempt. However, this is not the rule if the meeting is for studying and learning. In such a case, asking questions and initiating a discussion is desirable if conducted respectfully and tactfully and only after the speaker finishes. The Khalifah Al-Ma’mun said: “Discussion entrenches knowledge much more than mere agreement.”

Al-Haitham ibn Adi, a known scholar, historian, and a member of the court of four Khalifahs: Abu Ja`far al-Mansur, Al-Mahdi, Al-Hadi and Al-Rashid, said: “It is an ill manner to overwhelm someone while speaking and to interrupt them before they end their talk.”

If a colleague did not understand an issue and asked a scholar or an elder to explain, you should listen to what is being said. The repeated explanation may give you additional insights to what you already know. Never utter any word belittling your colleague, nor allow your face to betray such an attitude.
When an elder or a scholar speaks, listen attentively. Never busy yourself with a talk or discussion with other colleagues. Do not let your mind wander elsewhere; keep it focused on what is being said.
Never interrupt a speaker. Never rush to answer if you are not very confident of your answer. Never argue about something you do not know. Never argue for the sake of argument. Never show arrogance with your counterparts especially if they hold a different opinion. Do not switch the argument to belittle your opponent’s views. If their misunderstanding becomes evident, do not rebuke or scold them. Be modest and kind. A poet once said:

“Who could get me a friend, Who if I offend will remain calm, Who would listen intently to what I have to say, When he knows it better than I do”

As salamu alaykum

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