This is one of the most notable works by Abu al-Aswad ad-Du’ali (16-69 H), one of the greatest forefathers of Arab grammar. He is of the tabi’in (the generation after the Prophet pbuh) and played a major role in assigning the markings (shakl) in the Holy Qur’an. Much reference has been made to this (especially the last line) in studies of Arabic literature and grammar.
Each line is followed by my own inadequate translation.
يا أيها الرجل المعلم غيره | هلا لنفسك كان ذا التعليم
O ye who teaches others, why haven’t you educated yourself?
تصف الدواء لذي السقا و ذي الضنا | كيما يصح و أنت سقيم
You prescribe remedies to the thirsty and the one in hardship, as if it cures – while you remain sick,
و نراك تصلح بالرشاد عقولنا | و أبدا و أنت من الرشاد عديم
You attempt to solve our problems by guiding our discretion, yet you are most obviously in need for guidance,
ابدأ بنفسك فانهها عن غيرها | فإذا انتهت عنه فأنت حكيم
Begin with yourself and restrain it from others, and once (your training) is complete, then you are wise.
و هناك يقبل ما تقول و يشتفى | بالقول منك و ينفع التعليم
Thereafter will there be acceptance of your words and a cure (that comes from it), and your teaching will be of benefit,
لا تنه عن خلق و تأتي مثله | عار عليك إذا فعلت عظيم
Do not condemn an action and then behave in that same manner, it is a terrible disgrace upon you.
Here Du’ali has made an explicit reference to undesirable characteristics in the transmitters of knowledge. He uses a firm, reprimanding tone against the self (the word used here being nafs) – an adequate warning universally applicable then and now.
And Allah Knows.