Implementing Sunnah in Today’s Classrooms – Part 3


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Maulvi Jahangir Mahmud

Founder / Director at The Society for Educational Research
Maulvi Jahangir Mahmud is a teacher, teacher-trainer, motivational speaker, Islamic research scholar and educationist.

13) Teach what is easily acceptable

Ali ibn Abi Talib (rtam) said: “Narrate to the people what they are acquainted with. Would you like Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa) to be rejected?” (Bukhari)

Educators should remember that if they overload the students, this might result in a complete breakdown. If a student collapses intellectually once, it takes a mountain of effort to bring him/her back on track.

In terms of teaching Islamic obligations, one step at a time should be taken, in order to make the new entrant in this field comfortable. For example, let younger children begin their Salah with Fard only. Later, when they get into the routine, ask them to attempt a few Sunnah units as well. This way, they will not feel over-burdened. Sports’ coaches face similar situations. For instance, weights are increased progressively to make the athlete accept the challenge easily.

14) First the easy and then the difficult

When the Prophet (sa) sent Muadh ibn Jabal (rtam) to Yemen, he said to him: “You are going to the people of the Scripture. Let the first thing to which you will invite them be the Tauhid of Allah (swt). If they learn that, tell them that Allah (swt) has enjoined on them five prayers to be offered in one day and one night. If they pray, tell them that Allah (swt) has enjoined on them Zakah of their properties and it is to be taken from the rich among them and given to the poor. If they agree to that, then take from them the Zakah but avoid the best property of the people.” (Bukhari)

Thus, Allah’s Messenger (sa) taught Muadh (rtam) the order, in which to teach the people of Yemen, so that they would not suddenly feel overburdened with the injunctions. This step-by-step approach must be adopted in today’s classrooms, so that the students easily grasp concepts, as they grow intellectually.

15) Make matters easy for the students

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Allah has not sent me as a person, who causes difficulty to others. Rather, He sent me as a teacher, who gives glad tidings.” (Muslim)

According to Allah’s Messenger (sa), the primary function of the teacher is to make matters easy for students to understand, that is, simplify and dilute the lessons for their wards. The level of lesson must be brought down to match the mental abilities of the students. A teacher can impress his or her students with fancy words, but if he or she fails to make them comprehend the lesson, then the purpose is lost. Educators should ensure their students understand the lesson.

16) Break down into easier goals

Abdullah ibn Masud (rtam) said: “When any of us (companions) learnt ten verses, he would not go any further, until he had learnt their meaning and how to put it into practice.” (Kashf al-Qina) This is the perfect example of Allah’s Messenger’s (sa) teaching methodology. Breaking down a larger task into smaller units can help students achieve the easier goals. These can finally culminate to become important milestones for the students.

17) Interactive teaching

Abdullah bin Amr (rtam) said he heard Allah’s Messenger (sa) asking his companions: “Do you know who is a Muslim?” They replied: “Allah and His Messenger know best.” Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “A Muslim is he from whose tongue and hands other Muslims are safe.” (Ahmad)

Interactive teaching is one of the most prominent characteristics of the Messenger’s (sa) teaching methodology. By asking questions, he stimulated the intellect of the students, and they then became more eager to absorb the knowledge. This method is especially beneficial, when a lesson becomes somewhat dull, and a question (on any related subject) becomes a wake-up call for those present.

18) Teaching by demonstration

A person came to Allah’s Messenger (sa) and said: “O Allah’s Messenger! How should I perform ablution?” Allah’s Messenger (sa) asked for water in a container and demonstrated the complete act of ablution for him. (Abu Dawood) When teaching, the best way to make students remember and understand is to show them by performing the act yourself.

19) Similes and examples

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk and the one, who blows the blacksmith’s bellows. As for the seller of musk, then either he will grant you some, you will buy some from him or at least you will enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one, who blows the blacksmith’s bellows, then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Here, Allah’s Messenger (sa) has used a simile to explain the difference between good and bad company. Likewise, he would frequently use parables and similes to make the students understand the points he wanted to make. An important lesson here is that the teacher should not just issue orders; he or she should explain the wisdom behind them as well.

20) Storytelling

One of the favourite methods of Allah’s Messenger (sa) was true storytelling. The Quran, the Ahadeeth and other Islamic books are full of historical events and inspiring narratives, which can be used to impart knowledge and values to the students. Regardless of which subject you teach, you can always narrate an interesting anecdote, when the class becomes boring during a long discourse.

21) Use body language

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Should I not inform you about the most serious of major sins?” He said this thrice. At that time, he was leaning against something. Then he sat up and said: “Behold! A false statement and a false testimony! Behold! A false statement and a false testimony!” (Muslim)

The repetitive style of the Messenger (sa) is used here to emphasize the importance of the subject coming up. Note that to utter the last statement, he sat up. A teacher’s body language is very important to his delivery. A sudden change in posture can make the students more attentive in class.

22) Illustrate with hand gestures

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “A believer to another believer is like a wall – one part strengthens the other.” Allah’s Messenger (sa) then interlocked his fingers. (Bukhari) In the absence of audio-visual aids, even a simple act of using one’s hand or body can help students understand an important topic.

23) Exhibit items

Allah’s Messenger (sa) took a piece of silk in his left hand and some gold in his right hand. He raised them with his hands and said: “These two items are prohibited to the males of my Ummah.”

Announcing the prohibition might have been enough, but the Messenger (sa) deliberately chose to exhibit samples of the items being discussed. This emphasizes the importance of visual images in teaching. Educators using these on a regular basis will experience a higher level of learning from their students, Insha’Allah!

24) Let students take notes

Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-Aas (rtam) said: “I used to write down everything, which I used to hear from Allah’s Messenger (sa).” (Abu Dawood) Bear in mind that some students are slow in writing. Be patient with them, so that they may record your knowledge.

25) Encourage students to ask questions

The Quran instructs: “…So ask of those who know the scripture [learned men of the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)], if you know not.” (An-Nahl 16:43) A teacher must be willing to answer his students’ queries. Allah’s Messenger (sa) encouraged the people to put forward their enquiries. He said: “The cure for ignorance is questioning.” (Ad-Daraqutni)

When dealing with queries, answer calmly and maintain your composure. Use logic and rationale when responding to questions. Your attitude should encourage students to ask for further explanation, if needed.

Adapted (with permission) from “How the Messenger of Allah (sa) Taught his Students” written by Maulvi Jahangir Mahmud (jahangir@ser.com.pk).

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