The Messenger (sa) said: “I have only been sent as a teacher.” (Ibn Majah) Surely, that was his role: he had to impart the instructions and the message of the Lord (swt) of the worlds to humankind. This task assigned to him was multi-dimensional as well as layered with problems.
How can the Prophet’s (sa) example be applied to the modern-day classroom? The following tips are not only for the benefit of the instructors of Islamic sciences. They are applicable to teachers of all subjects and all schools. Remember: whatever profession you belong to, you shall have to play the role of a teacher at some time or the other; in fact, isn’t teaching the primary role of parents? It is hoped that teachers and parents alike will benefit from these tips.
1) Sincerity of Intention
Making an intention is a prerequisite for every action. Unless a deed is performed with a proper objective in mind, it cannot be rewarded. One must have a purpose for all that one does, rather than carry on without any direction. This is, of course true of a teaching as well.
The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “The actions shall be judged only by the intentions.” (Bukhari) As educators, we will be rewarded for the noble intentions behind our teaching practices. There are three aspects of purifying one’s intention:
The first aspect: the intention to seek the pleasure of Allah (swt).
Every action that is performed for His sake, no matter how routine, is considered to be an act of worship.
The second aspect: sincerity.
Tamim Ad-Dari (rta) narrated: “The Messenger (sa) said: ‘The Deen is Naseehah (sincerity and sincere advice).’ We asked: ‘To whom?’ He said: ‘To Allah, His Book, His Messenger and the leaders of the Muslims and the general people.’” (Muslim)
The third aspect: following the Islamic methodology.
The Quran says: “Say (O Muhammad): If you truly love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive your sins; for, Allah is Oft-forgiving, most Merciful.” (Al-Imran 3:31)
The Messenger of Allah (sa) is the greatest reformer in the entire history. He is an emblem of all the best virtues and excellent qualities imaginable. He was blessed with the attributes of mercy, tolerance, forgiveness, love, compassion, truthfulness, piety, righteousness and steadfastness to the degree of perfection. To follow his example is to follow the perfect path – yes, this includes the classroom.
2) Teacher – Student Relationship
The most important element in teaching is the bond that the teacher has with the students. This relationship plays a decisive role in the learning process. If the relationship is based upon mutual love and respect, students will be able to absorb much more from their teacher. The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Verily, I am to you like a father is to his child; I am teaching you.” (Ibn Majah)
When a teacher becomes a second parent, the manner of dealing with the learners becomes positive and so do the results of teaching.
We know well the extent of love and respect that the companions of the Messenger (sa) had for him, the importance they gave him in their lives, and the way they were ever ready to lay down their lives at his command.
It must be remembered that this love did not and does not automatically install itself in the hearts; in the case of the companions, it was more of a reaction. It was the Messenger’s (sa) love and compassion because of which they became his devoted students. He was the embodiment of love and mercy for his companions.
The Quran says: “There has come to you a Messenger from amongst you: it weighs heavily upon him that which harasses you. [He is] anxious over your well-being. [He is] extremely compassionate and merciful to the believers.” (At-Taubah 9:128)
The love that the Messenger (sa) had for his students made them love him in return. The vibes of love and mercy he sent out led to their unconditional obedience. If the educators of today do not exude this level of compassion, how can they attain their students’ respect and obedience? If you want to receive love, you must first be prepared to give it.
3) Practice what you teach
The Messenger (sa) would teach through his own noble personality. His behaviour would inspire and motivate at the same time. His own actions were the best that can be in every scope of one’s life, especially as a teacher. The Quran says: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” (Al-Ahzab 33:21)
The ideal example is that of the Messenger (sa), whose each and every action and word was revealed by Allah (swt) Himself.
The Quran says: “Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only an Inspiration that is inspired.” (An-Najm 53:3-4)
What instruction can be better than the instruction of the Creator Himself?
Amr ibn al-Aas (rta) said about the Messenger of Allah (sa): “He does not command any good without being the first one to act on it.” (Al-Khasais Al-Kubra)
These words encompass a world of beauty in the art of teaching. There must not be a conspicuous disparity between what one says and what one does. If there is, what else do we call hypocrisy?
A question that arises here is: “This is good for a teacher of Islamic studies or such, but how can a mathematics teacher or a teacher of languages ‘practice’ what he says?”
The answer to this question has two parts. Firstly, a teacher of a language, say English, needs to have a high standard of the language that he or she is teaching. Likewise, if a teacher encourages reading as a habit, he or she should be seen with a new book under his or her arm regularly. All teachers encourage good handwriting – should they not be careful about their own handwriting at all times?
Secondly, a teacher of religious studies or morals is not the only educator who teaches ethics to students. Remember: Every teacher is a role model for the students who observe him/her on the school premises or outside of it.
Always remember: “Correcting others is based on correcting oneself. Therefore, begin with yourself and then with those who are close to you.” (Quoted by Imam Ghazali in Ihya Uloom ad-Deen)
Adapted (with permission) from “How the Messenger of Allah (sa) Taught his Students” written by Maulvi Jahangir Mahmud (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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