Upon the completion of the process of creation, God the most high taught Adam the names of all things (Quran 2:31). This verse of the Quran is a manifestation that teaching and education have existed since time immemorial. “Recite in the name of your Lord who created all· Taught man what he knew not.”(Quran 96: 1-5), to many of the Prophet’s (SAW) companions, the revelation of the Quran began with these first five verses of this Surah. These verses show the importance of seeking knowledge particularly to the Muslim ummah which of course cannot be achieved without teaching.
Today, governments, international organizations, Non-governmental organizations, communities and societies are investing a lot in the educational sector mainly to improve their social, political, economic and cultural aspects of their lives.
However, these tireless efforts will go in vain and it will be waste of resources if the concept of Good Teachers is not put into the equation. The definition of a Good Teacher is subjective and directed to many disciplines, hence, the scope of this paper will be limited to the Islamic perspective of a Good Teacher; specifically the attributes a teacher must possess to teach Islam.
Allah (SWT) said: “There has certainly been for you in the messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the last day and remembers Allah often.”(Quran 33:21). From the verse of the Quran mentioned above, it is indeed clear and obvious that the best attributes a teacher of Islam must possess are the attributes found in the beloved messenger of Allah, Muhammad (SAW) as a teacher.
A clear manifestation of that is the fact that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) taught his companions (sahabas) in such a unique way that within a period of twenty three year, he was able to change the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. The following are few amongst numerous attributes of the Prophet (SAW) in which if the present day teachers adopt will qualify them as Good Teachers and thereby being fit to teach Islam.
Firstly, a good teacher should be humble. Allah said in surah Al-lukman: “And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor look in insolence through the earth. Verily, God likes not each arrogant boaster.”(Quran 31:18). Humility is derived from knowing about God, acknowledging His greatness, loving Him and being in awe of Him. Also, it is about knowing one’s own faults and weaknesses. “One gains humbleness from God and become close to him through one’s actions of piety and righteousness.” (Stacey, 2008).
Abu Rifa’ah is reported to have that said that he once came to the Prophet (PBUH) while he (PBUH) was delivering a sermon and Abu Rifa’ah said “O messenger of Allah, here is a stranger who has come to ask you about his religion, for he does not know what his religion is.” The messenger of Allah (PBUH) turned to me and left his sermon. He came to him, and a chair was brought, he thought its legs were made of iron. The messenger of Allah (PBUH) sat on it and started telling him of what Allah had told him, and then he went back and completed his sermon. (Muslim 876). This hadith shows how humble the Prophet (SAW) is towards his students. Therefore, since the Prophet is the best role model every teacher should imitate, a teacher must be humble towards his students and be aware of their weaknesses and therefore give them enough time to solve their problems.
The second attribute is that a Good Teacher should show kindness to his students. “Kindness is a combination of emotional, behavioral, and motivational components.” O’kerr, O’Donovan, & Pepping(as cited in Binfet, 2015). Employing kind and gentle methods in teaching Islam is indeed very essential. Using the opposite method to teach can lead to mistake and sticking to it is a bigger mistake. The Prophet (SAW) said: “Allah is Gentle and loves gentleness, and He rewards for gentleness what He does not reward for harshness or for anything else.” (Muslim2593). He (SAW) also said: “there is no gentleness in a thing but it adorns it, and it is not removed from something but it mars it.”(Muslim2594).
Another Attribute is that a Good Teacher should be concerned about the betterment of the students. Allah (SWT) clearly stated this attribute in the surah At-Tauba: “There has certainly come to you a messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful.”(Quran 9:128). To show the importance of this attribute, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also advised his companions to have such attribute. He said: “O Abu Dharr. I think that you are week, and I love for you what I love for myself.”(Muslim1886).
Furthermore, a Good Teacher should have the wisdom to do the right thing at the right time. “A Bedouin stood up and started urinating in the mosque. The people caught him but the Prophet (SAW) ordered them to leave him and pour a bucket or a tumbler of water over the place where he had passed the urine.”(Bukhari 220). If the Bedouin was not allowed to complete to urine he had already started, it might be harmful to him or he might urinate in his pants out of panic. This hadith describes that even if someone makes a very big mistake which goes against the Islamic laws (Sharia), the person should be tolerated and be rectified in a nice way. If teachers of Islam have this quality, they will be able a build a strong bond between them and the students thereby teaching will become easy.
Finally, the fifth attribute is that a teacher should answer what he knows and leave what he does not know. Allah (SWT) said: “And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge.” (Quran 17:36). This verse explicitly outlines the fact that a teacher should only answer what he knows and leaves what he has no knowledge about. The Prophet (SAW) acted on this verse in a hadith narrated by Jabir bin Abdoullah (RA) who asked the Prophet (SAW) “O Allah’s messenger! What shall I do regarding my property? How shall I distribute it?” The Prophet (SAW) did not reply till Allah revealed the verses of inheritance (Bukhari 6723).
In conclusion, as the prophet (saw) is the best role model for Muslims and the best teacher in Islam and humanity at large, for one to be a good teacher of Islam, he needs to imitate the prophet’s attributes as a teacher, some of which are mentioned above.