Positive Teaching


My parents emphasized the value of having good teachers all my life. Why? Because such individuals teach you what can’t be bought with money. They are the path to Jannah. They are on the path of the Rasool (sa). Can you put a price on Jannah? No.

These teachers consider each boy and girl in their care to be the one man and woman they will prepare for tomorrow’s Ummah. They work with a sense of responsibility and the intention to transform their students. This attitude makes such teachers phenomenal.

I went to a Catholic school. It was one of the best in academics but very shallow in terms of moral values.

Later, as an adult, I started to question what was lacking in the Tarbiyah offered by teachers today? After much deliberation, the answer came to me. With the amazing explosion of information that is easily accessible, cheap to use, and fast-paced, we no longer need teachers. What we need are Nasihoon and Murrabbis, who can direct children to what is truly important, and become the children’s coaches, guides and mentors.

When I travelled to Madinah University, I could not speak a sentence of Arabic, except such necessary words as Hammam (bath area), Taam (meal), etc. After spending two weeks in that place with my friend, I told him: “Brother, we are in the wrong place.” But then something truly fantastic happened. I came upon a man by the name of Abdul Kareem. He was a teacher with a smile. In two weeks, he made me dream in Arabic.

In Rajistan (India), a professor conducted an experiment in one of the poorest areas. He took some illiterate children who had never attended any school and had no exposure to computers. The professor assigned to them a project to discover how viruses and cells replicated and behaved. Next, he put up a computer screen for them to access the information. Through Skype, he also connected them to their old grandmother, who lived far away. She was a very encouraging person, whose job was to offer appreciation to the kids every day about their project for the next two months. Guess what? Those kids delivered. They found a way to learn.

A teacher does irreparable damage to a student with an attitude of negativity. Negativity not only destroys the children’s minds but also mars their creativity. Allah (swt) expects us to develop those in our care into Mumineen, the strong believers, the ones who have a purpose in life. Look at the Prophet (sa). The man was orphaned at a tender age, had no materialistic comforts in life, never received a formal education, and experienced harsh opposition from merciless enemies; yet, he smiled, he appreciated others, and he loved and cared for all. It was like hope and belief rising from ashes.

Read the Quran and observe how positive it is. Reflect over the story of Yusuf (as). When he was thrown into a dark well by his own brothers, Allah (swt) revealed to him that one day, he would be in a position to inform them of their wrongdoings. Hope was extended in the face of an adverse situation.

Similarly, Maryam (as) was despondent when she was enduring labour pains as a single and unwed mother. Allah’s (swt) angel again advised her to eat from the branch of Nakhlah (soft and sweet dates), as sugar causes comfort to the body and reduces pain.

Musa’s (as) mother was commanded by Allah (swt) to place him in a basket and set him afloat on the river Nile; it was the worst nightmare for her as a mother to part with her baby. But it was Allah (swt), Who promised her that He would reunite them again. And so it was.

Once, a Sahabi was drunk. As per the Shariah, Muhammad (sa) ordered eighty lashes for him. Later, he was brought to the Prophet (sa) again on the same charge. One of the men present cursed him. The Prophet (sa) corrected his attitude immediately, stating: “Do not swear at him, for he loves Allah (swt) and the Prophet (sa).” (Bukhari)

At the time of the battle of Khandaq, a trench was dug around Madinah as a military strategy. The work came to a halt at the last boulder that would just not break. Far away, rising dust caused by galloping horsemen indicated the approach of the disbelievers’ army. This could easily have been a time of panic and tension. But how does Allah’s Messenger (sa) react? He took the pick axe and called out: “Rome is yours. Allahu Akbar!” The first blow broke the boulder smaller, and a light shone from it. “Sham is yours, Allahu Akbar!” The second blow broke it further down, and another light escaped from the rock. “Persia is yours, Allahu Akbar!” The third blow crumbled the rock to pieces and another light shone through.

The Prophet (sa) faced all the tests positively. The question is: how positive are we as educators and parents? Most of us were raised with negativity. We need to unlearn a lot of that to be able to deal positively with our own children. A shepherd cannot blame the sheep for being eaten. Similarly, a happy team is a winning team.

In any organization, the leader is not just there to enjoy privileges and blow his own trumpet. He will have to own not only the success of each team member but also their failures. This is how “Mercy Mission” works. A very apt example is of an economic crisis in the corporate world faced by Ford. The CEO of Ford called a one-day meeting of all important employees and spent the whole day discussing nothing but the company’s vision, their dreams, and how they had once wanted to achieve them so badly. This was the turning point for the company. The belief to do the impossible breathed a new life into them. The leader looked in the eyes of negativity and said to it: “We’re not giving up.”

There are two ways to build a ship: you can either tell your team how to build it and supervise them down to the finest detail, or you can share with them the beauty of the ocean, inspire them to sail to explore the Khalq (creation) of Allah (swt) and then wait and see what the team builds.

Sen Sui said: “The legacy of a leader is the number of leaders he creates.” Today, we do not need managers to control anymore. We need leaders to inspire. Likewise, we do not need teachers who dictate, but Murrabis that guide and give hope to their children to do their best. The attitude of arrogance will have to go. As teachers, we must realize that there is no one particular way to solve a problem. There are multiple ways to get to the solution.

The people of tomorrow are in school today. Unlock their minds and do not restrict them. If we build schools and lose the spirit, what is the gain? Education should be 20% teacher-led and 80% student-led. We need to teach them to empower themselves. Fear doesn’t achieve the results that love and belief do. Educators and parents will have to make a conscious decision about how they will impact the children under their care. This might mean we need to re-learn how to teach.

May Allah (swt) grant our children the Taufiq to discover something truly amazing and new for the benefit of other people. Ameen!

Based on a workshop hosted by Fajr Academy, Karachi. Adapted by Rana Rais Khan.