Teaching Methods in Islam
The ancient Muslim educationists adopted a special method of teaching that promotes the recipients of knowledge. The following are some articles of the teaching methods:
Teachers ought to treat their pupils leniently and kindly and avoid any tension and cruelty since these two things impede the mental growth and author serious psychological complexes. Ibn Khuldun says, “Tensional teaching injures the pupils, especially the children and the harshly educated.”
Pupils of irregular behavior and negligence should be disciplined if they ignore the advice. The ancient Muslim teachers used to beat and detain even the kings’ sons. Abu Merriam, the educator of al-Amin and al-Mamun*, caned them so harshly that one’s arm was injured. Before his father, the boy showed his hand, and the teacher was summoned. “What for did Mohammed –al-Amin- complain you?” asked ar-Rashid. “He is full of naivete and slyness,” answered the teacher. The caliph then said, “You may kill him! His death is better than being dull.”
In his instructions to al-Ahmer, one of his sons’ educators, ar-Rashid said, “You should first reform him by means of kindness and lenience. If he refuses, then you should use tension and coarse.”
Fathers used to say to the educators of their sons, “Your share is the flesh while ours is the bones.”
Beating and tormenting were the most important means of education. This is incorrect indeed since it is undecided to Islam that regards mercy, kindness, and lenience as the most matters on which education should settle. All of the crooked ways should be avoided in the educational processes. Teachers should not exceed in disciplining the irregular and deviant pupils since it creates mental complexes and impedes the maturity and prosperity of education and personality. Ibn Khuldoun says, “If the educator uses coercion, this will distress the pupil and confine his delighted spirit and urge on indolence and lead to lie and malignancy for avoiding more coercion. In addition, this coercion will teach the pupil trickery and fraud, and the pupil may take them as customs and qualities forever. The educator, whether teacher or father, should not exaggerate in disciplining the sons.” The Prophet (s) said, “Teach without chiding. Teachers are preferable to the scolders.” Ibn Quteiba said, “Teachers are recommended not to use tension or pride.”
Teachers are compared to the compassionate father. It is said, “Teachers are the substitutes of fathers.” It is also said, “Teachers ought to care for the students’ interests and treat them like the dearest sons with kindness, courtesy, benevolence, and patience on probable alienation. Teachers should apprise of their flaws by means of advice and sympathy, not chiding and crudeness.” Al-Qabisi, one of the master educators of the fourth century –of Hegira-, was asked whether it is recommended for teachers to use coarseness or lenience with students, he answered, “Disciplining should never occupy the good teachers’ lenience and mercy to the pupils. Teachers are the substitutes of their fathers. It is discommended for teachers to be always frowning. This will make the pupils disrespect them.”
Teachers’ roughness originates mental troubles and leads to the students’ refusing the lessons.
Muslim educationists believe that the insinuative rebuke should be within the teaching methods in case pupils show irregular behavior or imperfect work since this method is more impressive than expression. They said, “Teachers who notice an irregularity or a crooked behavior should not state it directly to the pupils. They should insinuate within their common speech by referring to the disadvantages of such a behavior. This will achieve the intended convention.”
This method, in fact, is more useful than direct reproach, which may lead to rebellion and insistence on the wrong. Islam has asserted this topic in the fields of education and teaching. It is related that Imams al-Hassan and al-Hussein, the grandsons of the Prophet, once noticed an old man perform the ritual ablution incorrectly. They avoided stating to him directly; hence, they agreed on making him the arbiter who should rule of the most accurate ablution. As they performed the ablution before him, the old man said, “O masters! You both have performed the very accurate ablution, but it seems that the old man can master nothing.”
Islam has adopted this necessary practice since it saves the deviant from irregularity and aberrance and takes him back to the truth and right. Educationists said, “The pupil that is not amended by insinuative impression, owing to lack of understanding and perception, secret expression and frank warning should be used. If this method is unsuccessful, the teacher may warn openly and reproach. If this is also unsuccessful, the teacher then may dismiss and leave the pupil till he
THE LEARNERS’ MANNERS
Muslim educationists have been greatly concerned with the learners’ affairs. They constituted the considerable methods that aim at disciplining and acquiring the virtuous ethics and noble manners.
- Learners should seek knowledge for God’s sake purely, neglecting any worldly interest or valueless purpose. God will surely raise the respects of such learners, facilitate the difficulties, grant perception and intelligence, and combine the welfare of this world and the Hereafter.
- Learners should carry out the religious instructions and precepts as well as the noble morals and ritual practices. They should fear God in their hiddens as well as their appearances and purify their hearts against discommended qualities such as envy, ostentation, pride, and arrogance since these characters are the vilest and the most unassuming. An educationist says, “Prayers are invalid without extrinsic purification. Likewise, heart worship that is seeking knowledge is invalid unless the hearts are purified from ill manners and immoral qualities. Knowledge is not the abundance of narration. It is an illumination that is cast in hearts.”
- Learners should enjoy self-possession and sedateness. The Prophet (s) said, “Seek knowledge and convey to people. Use composure, tranquility, and modesty to those from whom you learn and those to whom you convey. Do not be the despotic of knowledge.” Imam as-Sadiq said, “Seek knowledge and use self-possession, composure, and modesty to those from whom you learn. Do not be the despotic of knowledge, otherwise the wrong will remove your right.” Students of such perfect moralities will naturally be the exemplars of others and influence positively in the people’s behavior and ethics.
- Learners should exert all efforts for seeking knowledge since it is not inspirational. Knowledge is acquirable. It depends upon the scope of the efforts that lead to obtaining scientific fortune. Learners should respect time as well as their lessons. Any tardiness will waste the classes and cause the teachers’ carelessness.
- Learners should not exaggerate in studying lest their powers and energy will be exhausting and the mental maturity be impeded. It is essential for learners to have sufficient time for rest and physical relaxation. Men should regard the rights of their bodies. Al-Ghezali said, “It is essential to give the pupils sufficient time for acceptable amusement and relaxation after the fatigue of teaching. Preventing the pupils from entertainment after the exhausting teaching will deaden their hearts stupefy their minds. This will also cause a life disturbance and oblige them to look for trickeries for the sake of getting rid of such a disturbance.”
- Learners should not ask rigor questions otherwise they lose prosperity owing to disrespecting the knowledge and dishonoring the teachers whose approval should precede everything else.
- Learners should respect their teachers who should enjoy rights that are preferable to the fathers. Ashafii said, “I used to reverence my teacher, Malik, to the degree that I skimmed over the books so slightly so that he will not hear the sounds of the papers.” Learners should also esteem their teachers in their presence or absence, use various styles of honoring and veneration, neglect using their names, and stand their flaws and roughness. Ashafii reported, “People informed Sufian bin Uyeina that some people, who had come from distant districts, would leave him because of his harshness.” He said, “They are surely ignorant if they leave their advantages because of my ill manners.” Learners should also be in the class before their teachers, sit in front of them, not lean to a wall or a pad, and not turn the back before them. All these affairs contradict the teachers’ rights. They should also listen heedfully to their teachers and save them against repeating the teaching materials. Moreover, learners should avoid yawning, eructing, laughing, mocking, or practicing any deed that dishonors the teachers.
- Learners should not combine two subjects of study at the same time, lest their minds will be exceedingly disturbed. Ibn Khuldoun says, “Learners must not mix two matters of knowledge at the same time, lest they will be too deficient to obtain any of them since this causes mind confusion and leaning to one on the account of the other.”
- Learners should not associate with other than the hard-working students so that they receive the good behaviors. It is said that the social life is influential and being influenced. Each individual gives and takes from the surroundings. Lazy and slender individuals will surely convey their qualities to their associates.
- Primary learners should not involve themselves in discrepancies and ambiguous opinions of the master scholars especially in conceptual theses, lest these variant opinions will weaken their mentalities and natures.
- Learners should not move to another lesson before they master the earlier. Negligence will surely cause tardiness and skillessness
Learning and Teaching in Islam
To acquire knowledge is a religious duty in Islam. The Prophet has said, "To seek knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim." According to fully established hadiths which elucidate the meaning of this saying, knowledge here means the three principles of Islam : unity or tawhid ; prophecy or nubuwwat; and eschatology or ma'ad. In addition to these principles, Muslims are expected to acquire knowledge of the subsidiary branches and the details of the injunctions and laws of Islam according to their individual circumstances and needs.
It is clear that acquiring knowledge of the principles of religion, even if it be in summary fashion, is possible to a certain extent for everyone. But acquiring detailed knowledge of the injunctions and laws of religion through use of the basic documents of the Book and the Sunnah and technical reasoning based upon them (or what is called demonstrative jurisprudence, fiqh-i istidlali ) is not possible for every Muslim. Only a few persons have the capacity for demonstrative jurisprudence, nor is such acquiring of detailed knowledge required of everyone, for there are no injunctions in Islam requiring one to do what lies beyond his abilities.
Therefore, the study of Islamic injunctions and laws through reasoning has been limited through the principle of "sufficient necessity" (wajib-i kifa'i) to those individuals who have the necessary capability and are worthy of such study. The duty of the rest of the people, according to the general principle of the necessity for the ignorant to depend on the one who knows, is to seek guidance from capable and worthy men of learning, who are called mujtahids and faqihs. This act of following mujtahids is called imitation or taqlid. Of course this imitation differs from imitation in the principles of religious knowledge which is forbidden according to the very text of the Qur'an, "(O man), follow not that whereof thou hast no knowledge." (Qur'an, XVII, 36).
It must be known that Shi'ism does not permit imitation of a dead mujtahid. That is to say, a person who does not know the answer to a problem through ijtihad and through religious duty must imitate a living mujtahid and cannot depend on the view of a mujtahid who is not living, unless he had received that guidance while the mujtahid was alive. This practice is one of the factors which have kept Islamic Shi'ite jurisprudence alive and fresh throughout the ages. There are individuals who continuously follow the path of independent judgment, ijtihad, and delve into the problems of jurisprudence from one generation to another.
In Sunnism, as a result of consensus of opinion (ijma') that occurred in the 4th/10th century, it was decided that submission to one of the four schools (of Abu Hanifah, Ibn Malik, al-Shafi'i, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal) was necessary. Free ijtihad or imitation of a school other than these four (or one or two smaller schools that died out later) was not considered permissible. As a result, their jurisprudence has remained in the same condition as it was about 1100 years ago. In recent times certain individuals in the Sunni world have turned away from this consensus and have begun to exercise free ijtihad.
Shi'ism and the Transmitted Sciences
The Islamic sciences, which owe their existence to the ulama of Islam who organized and formulated them, are divided into the two categories of intellectual ('alqi) and transmitted (naqli). The intellectual sciences include such sciences as philosophy and mathematics. The transmitted sciences are those which depend upon transmission from some source, such as the sciences of language, hadith, or history. Without doubt the major cause for the appearance of the transmitted sciences in Islam is the Holy Qur'an. With the exception of a few disciplines such as history, genealogy, and prosody, the other transmitted sciences have all come into being under the influence of the Holy Book. Guided by religious discussions and research, Muslims began to cultivate these sciences, of which the most important are Arabic literature (grammar, rhetoric, and the science of metaphors) and the sciences pertaining to the external form of religion (recitation of the Qur'an, Qur'anic commentary (tafsir), hadith, biography of learned men, the chain of transmission of hadith, and the principles of jurisprudence).
Shi'ites played an essential role in the foundation and establishment of these sciences. In fact, the founders and creators of many of these sciences were Shi'ites. Arabic grammar was put into a systematic form by Abu'l-Aswad al-Du'ali, one of the companions of the Holy Prophet, and by Ali. Ali dictated an outline for the organization of the science of Arabic grammar. One of the founders of the science of eloquence (rhetoric and the science of metaphors) was Sahib ibn 'Abbad, a Shi'ite, who was a vizier of the Buyids. The first Arabic dictionary is the Kitab al-'ayn composed by the famous scholar, Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Basri, the Shi'ite who founded the science of prosody. He was also the teacher of the great master of grammar, Sibuwayh.
The Qur'anic recitation of 'Asim goes back to Ali through one intermediary, and 'Abdallah ibn 'Abbas, who in hadith was the foremost among the companions, was a student of Ali. The contributions of the Household of the Prophet and their associates in hadith and jurisprudence are well known. The founders of the four Sunni schools of law are known to have associated with the fifth and sixth Shi'ite Imams. In the principles of jurisprudence the remarkable advances accomplished by the Shi'ite scholar Wahid Binbahani and followed by Shaykh Murtada Ansari have never been matched in Sunni jurisprudence according to existing evidence.
The Brotherhood of Islam
A Muslim is related to different people in different ways: first, he is very closely related to his family members; second, he is related to his relatives; and finally, he is related to other Muslims in the bond of religious brotherhood known as the Muslim Ummah.
The first two circles of relationship are based on family ties. You and your brother or you and your cousin are from a common fore-father. But the third relationship is not based on family ties, it is based on religious ties. All Muslims are related to one another through Islam, and this relationship is known as the “Islamic Brotherhood”. Allāh says in the Qur'ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10)
The basis of Islamic brotherhood is not a common forefather, but the common God, Prophet, the Book, etc. All Muslims believe in Allāh, Prophet Muhammad, and the Qur'ān, and they all pray towards the same Ka`bah.
Relationships are also based on common race, language or country. People of the same race, same language or same country feel a special fraternity towards each other. But Islamic brotherhood transcends all these boundaries of race, language, country, colour and wealth. Allāh says in the Qur'ān: “O you mankind! We have created you from a male and a female; and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other [more easily]. Indeed, the most noble among you in view of Allāh is the most pious of you.” (49:13)
All Muslims are brethren of each other even if they are from different families, races, and countries, or have different skin colour and language. Muslims in China, Mexico, Iraq, Kenya, USA, India, England, Turkey, Malaysia, Ghana, Japan and Tunis are all brethren of one another on the basis of their common faith and beliefs. Their colour, country, and language are less important when it comes to their relationship based on Islam.
All the Muslims of the world form a single brotherhood or community which is known as “the Muslim Ummah”. Every Muslim is a member of the ummah. The Ka`bah is a visual center of gravity for the Muslim ummah—Muslims all over the world face the same Ka`bah five times a day and confirm their brotherhood.
2. The Prophet & Islamic Brotherhood
The issue of Islamic brotherhood and fraternity was so important in Islam that soon after migrating to Medina, the first important social decree of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) was on the issue of brotherhood.
The Muslim community of Medina was divided into two groups: the Ansār and the Muhājirin. “Ansār” (Helpers) was a title used for the natives of Medina, whereas “Muhājirin” (Immigrants) was a title used for those Muslims, mostly Meccans, who had migrated to Medina.
Among the Ansār, there were two tribes known as the Aws and the Khazraj who were bitter enemies and had fought each other for more than a century. The Prophet had resolved this conflict even before he migrated to Medina. With the advent of Islam, the Aws and the Khazraj put their past animosity behind and accepted the bond of Islamic brotherhood. Referring to this blessing of Islam, Allah says: “And remember the favour of Allah upon you—you indeed were enemies (of each other) and then He created fraternity between your hearts and thus you became brethren by His blessing...” (3:103)
The Prophet found that there was cultural and economic disparity among the Ansār and the Muhājirin. So with the guidance of Allah, the Prophet announced one day that he was going to establish the bond of brotherhood between the Ansār and the Muhājirin. He gathered the two groups at the mosque and then started calling out the name of one Muhājir and one Ansār, and declared them to be brothers of each other. Referring to this bond of brotherhood, Allah says: “Those who believed, migrated and fought in the way of Allah [i.e., the Muhājirin], and those who gave shelter and helped [i.e., the Ansār]—they are the true believers, for them is forgiveness and a noble sustenance...” (8:75)
Some of the Ansār went beyond the call of duty in fulfilling the rights of brotherhood: they divided their entire wealth into two and gave one-half to their immigrant brother-in-faith. Some even specified a substantial portion in their estate to be inherited by their immigrant brother-in-faith. Then Allah revealed the following verse “The blood relatives have more right to each other in the Book of Allah”.
This shows that one of the first steps towards building an Islamic community is creating the atmosphere for Islamic brotherhood and fraternity.
An interesting segment of the event of brotherhood is that when the Prophet had joined each Muhajir with an Ansar, ‘Ali bin Abi Tālib (a Muhājir) was left out. So he came to the Prophet (who was also a Muhājir) and complained that he had been left out from the bond of brotherhood between the Muhājirin and the Ansār. The Prophet said, “O ‘Ali! You are my brother in this world as well as in the hereafter.”
3. The Moral Rights of Brotherhood
Islamic brotherhood as expressed in the Qur'ān (“Indeed the believers are brothers”) is not just a fancy idea. It had been implemented by the Prophet in Medina. There are certain rights which the believers have over each other. Allah has described some of those rights immediately after the verse quoted above.
In this lesson, you will learn six of those rights from the Qur'ān: “O you who believe!
1. “No people should laugh at, or make fun of, another people.”
You might laugh at others because of what you see—their appearance, dress or way of living. But you do not know anything about their hearts and minds. Their faces and dresses might look funny to you, but inside they may be better than you. Therefore, do not make fun of other people “because those who are being laughed at may be better, in Allah's view, than those who laugh.” (49:11)
2. “Do not find fault with your own Muslim brothers.” (49:11)
A Muslim should pay more attention to his own deeds and try to amend his own mistakes. There is no need to probe and find the faults or mistakes of others.
3. “Do not call one another by insulting nicknames.” (49:11)
Every Muslim has a good name; call others by their proper name or by a nickname which they use for themselves. But never call names because Allah does not like that one Muslim should insult his own brother-in-faith.
After mentioning these three rights of Muslim over each other, Allah ends the verse with the following statement: “And those who (commit such sins and) do not ask forgiveness, they are the unjust people.”
This verse of the Qur'ān makes it clear that even such trivial things —making fun of others or calling names— are so much disliked by Allah that He considers such sins as “injustice”. And He surely does not like the unjust people!
4. “O you who believe! Avoid most of the suspicious [thoughts about other Muslims].” (49:12)
The reason why Allah wants us to avoid most of the suspicious thoughts about other Muslims has been explained by Allah in the next sentence: “Surely suspicion in most cases is a sin.” Islam wants you to think positively about your Muslim brother and sister.
5. “And do not spy [on each other].” (49:12)
Spying on your Muslim brother or sister and trying to find their weak points and secrets is not allowed in Islam.
6. “Nor should some of you backbite others.” (49:12)
“Backbiting” is known in Arabic as ghibat. Ghibat means talking about the hidden bodily defects or secret inappropriate behaviour of someone behind his/her back.
The reason why ghibat of another Muslim is forbidden in Islam has been explained by Allah in the next sentence of the verse: “Does any one of you like to bite the flesh of his dead brother?! Surely you dislike it.”
Ghibat is just like biting the dead body of your own brother: he cannot defend himself. Saying bad things about someone in his absence is almost the same—he is not present to defend himself. In this sense, the term “backbiting” is very close to the meaning of “ghibat”.
The last three sins —suspicion, spying and backbiting— are connected to each other. If you avoid the first one, you will be able to stay away from the other two sins. But if you always suspect others, then you will be tempted to spy on them or find bad things about them. If you find out anything negative about others, then you are tempted to gossip about them.
So keep your mind clean and try to think good of your Muslim brethren. These are some ethical rights which Muslims have over each other.
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