“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
– William Arthur Ward
Our beloved prophet, the messenger of Allahﷺ was undoubtedly outstanding in every role he played throughout his life. Not only was he the best husband,father, friend, leader, conqueror – in fact,the best man to walk on earth- but he was definitely the best teacher as well.
If one specifically tries to study and pick out the ways and methods of his teaching or even just conveying anything about Islam to his companions, one will be amazed to find those methods are conventionally taught as characteristics of a good teacher today. How could a man who was himself unlettered,be depicted as the best teacher of an age when there were no proper schools? Truly SubhanAllah!
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings upon him said, “If there was a river at your door and he took a bath in it five times a day, would you notice any dirt on him?” They said, “Not a trace of dirt would be left.” The Prophet said, “That is the parable of the five prayers by which Allah removes sins.”(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 505)
This technique of questioning before informing about something as vital as Salah, helped the companions to ponder over what was coming. Questions arouse curiosity in the listener and they become more attentive to what the speaker is trying to convey. Another technique of using parables can be found in the above hadith. Prophet ﷺ used the parable of bathing in a river 5 times a day to performing the five obligatory prayers. Who could use a parable so accurate? The best teacher indeed SubhanAllah!
One day Prophet Muhammad ﷺ drew a line in the sand for them and said, “This is Allah’s path.” He then drew several lines to the right and to the left and said, “These are the paths [of misguidance] on each of which is a devil inviting people to follow it.” He then recited the verse: ‘Verily, this is my path, leading straight, so follow it. And do not follow the [other] paths for they will scatter you about from Allah’s path. That is His command to you in order that you may be conscious of Allah’ (Hadith by Ahmed).
Drawings and illustrations are known to capture the attention of any student or audience. This method is used conventionally very well in classrooms for effective teaching and learning process. How did Muhammadﷺ know that his method would help in better retaining of what he was about to teach and warn about the paths of misguidance as stated in hadith above? Truly, indeed Allahu Akbar, he was ‘Al Ummiyy’ (the unlettered) , but definitely the best teacher to walk on earth.
Narrated `Umar bin Al-Khattab:
Some Sabi (i.e. war prisoners, children and woman only) were brought before the Prophet and behold, a woman amongst them was milking her breasts to feed and whenever she found a child amongst the captives, she took it over her chest and nursed it (she had lost her child but later she found him) the Prophet said to us, “Do you think that this lady can throw her son in the fire?” We replied, “No, if she has the power not to throw it (in the fire).” The Prophet then said, “Allah is more merciful to His slaves than this lady to her son.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 5999, Book 78, Hadith28)
A teacher isn’t confined to teach in a classroom and only the contents of the curriculum. In fact a good teacher grasps every opportunity, anywhere, to mold the character of his/her students. Such was how our Prophet ﷺtook advantage of teaching moments as depicted in the above hadith. To convey the infinite mercy and love of Allah ﷻ for His slaves, Prophet ﷺ used the live example of a woman breastfeeding a child.
An extensive study of the Seerah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ will help one know that our beloved Rasool Allah ﷺ was indeed an example to follow in every field of our lives. There may have come many great teachers and famous educators after him, but none can replace the characteristics he held. So why not seek to follow our Messenger of Allahﷺin terms of using his teaching techniques and being a good and effective teacher, and earn the reward of following his Sunnah at the same time!
Written by: Saadia