Syed Asad Hussain
THE Almighty Allah has bestowed his prophets from time to time and place to place to act as role models for others to follow. All the prophets arrived so far have been complete in all aspects of their personalities and lives but their thoughts and actions were not preserved for later generations, leaving an empty gap. In order to fulfil this gap and to present an everlasting role model to his creatures, Allah (SWT) bestowed his Last Prophet (SAW) among them, whose every saying and action was preserved for his followers and for the all the human beings to looks towards for guidance. The life of the Holy Prophet (SAW) provide complete guidance in all walks of life; be it family life, be it dealing with his companions or be it ruling a state but his role as an educator is the most glaring of all.
Islam accentuates acquiring knowledge and declares education as imperative for the triumph of Muslims in this world as well as in the Hereafter. The importance Islam accords to education can be judged from the fact that the very first word that was revealed on the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was “IQRA” which means “Read”. The first five verses of the divine revelation on the Holy Prophet, found in Surah Al-Alaq are: “Recite in the name of your Lord. Who created, created man from a clot of congealed blood. Recite: and your Lord is most generous. Who taught by the pen, taught man what he did not know”. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said: “Seeking education is incumbent upon every Muslim man and woman.” The Holy Prophet (PBUH) accorded greater importance and care to education of the Muslims. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) took effective measures not only to preserve the Holy Quran but also for making arrangements for teaching it to the Muslims. Firstly, whenever the Holy Prophet (PBUH) received verse(s) of the Quran, he (PBUH) would first recite those before his male companions (RA) and then in gathering of female companions. This reflects as to how much the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was concerned for the education of Muslims, both males and females.
Secondly, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) directed Muslims to memorize the Holy Quran. Thirdly, he instructed Muslims to learn Holy Quran from learned companions — it depicts the importance of teachers in imparting education. Fourthly, he (PBUH) appointed educated companions for putting the Quranic verses into writing. Fifthly, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) used to recite aloud the whole Quran — revealed till that time — during the month of Ramadan. The companions (RA) who could read and write would bring along their personal manuscripts and would compare them with the version recited by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). This practice was called “ARDAH” which means presentation. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) recited the whole Quran twice in front of companions (RA) during the last Ramadan of his life in order to leave no room for mistakes in its text. Through these measures, the Holy Quran was not only preserved forever but the uneducated Muslims were also imparted education because the Holy Quran, also called the mother of books, is the greatest source of knowledge. In this regard, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:
“The best among you is the one who learns the Holy Quran and teaches it to others.” Even in Makkah, where the Muslims were being persecuted, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) paid ample attention towards education of new Muslims. In 621 AD, when a group of Madinites secretly met the Holy Prophet (PBUH) at ‘Aqabah’ in Makkah and embraced Islam, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) sent Musab bin Umair (RA), who was a learned person, well-versed in various fields of education, to Madinah along with them for their education. This step had tremendous effects on new converts of Madinah as it enabled them to have a deep insight about different disciplines of education and Islam.
But, unfortunately, the Muslims of today are lagging far behind other nations in terms of education. Illiteracy results in backwardness and this vicious cause-effect nexus makes the biggest problems that the Muslims face today. In most Muslim states, the situation of education is pitiable and their literacy rate is among the world’s lowest. For example in Pakistan, literacy rate is hardly 60% whereas in Western countries, it is more than 95%. It is ironic that despite being the Ummah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), we are having such miserable standards of education. Certain misunderstandings about education also invade the Muslim societies and some short-sighted elements hold the view that the Muslims should acquire only the religious education while avoiding the modern one. This is in derogation of basic spirit and essence of Islam which emphasizes on attaining success in this world as well as in the Hereafter but the former form of success is impossible sans acquiring modern education. The West today is superior to the Muslim world only because they had prioritized education.
After making the abovementioned points, it is asserted that the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is the most supreme manifestation for the educators. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) had great regard for teachers as he himself said, “I have been sent as a teacher”. So in the teachings and Sunnah of the most perfect teacher, the Last Prophet (PBUH), there are the guidelines following which will make one an educator par excellence. Muslims should pay special attention to prioritizing education and the educators should perform this noble task in the light of the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Teaching is an important, respected and well-regarded profession in every society and community. People from all walks of life find it professionally and personally a well-rewarding career. It is an exciting and challenging career too. Islam itself is a school and its Prophet (PBUH) was the loving teacher and tutor whose teachings and sayings still guide, inspire and instruct the whole humanity. As a teacher, the Prophet (PBUH) not only taught us the principles of our Faith, but guided us how the minor foundations and the most complex questions of Islam and its related teachings applies to our daily lives. He was the passerby of this worldly life but his entire life is an example to the humanity in this life and enlightenment in the life after the death.
—The writer is freelance columnist.