Status of Teachers in Islam
By: Muhammad Baqir Qarashi
Islam has paid considerable attention to teachers for their being the first brick in the structure of social development and perfection and the cause of guiding and developing behaviors and mentalities of individuals and communities. The Prophet cared for teachers and showed their elevated standings. Once, he passed by two circles of people; the first was supplicating to God while the other listening to a teacher. He commented, “The first is begging God who may or may not give them. The second was learning. I have been sent as teacher.” Hence, he joined the second. This is the best example of the Prophet’s encouraging education and teaching.
Teachers are exemplars:
Teachers are indisputably their pupils’ none such exemplars. Pupils acquire the good traits and sound trends, as well as the virtuous behavior and equanimity, from their teachers whose guidance and conducts penetrate to their hearts. On that account, teachers must overdiscipline themselves and train on virtuous and noble morals and manners to be the best exemplars of their pupils.
As a caliph appointed a teacher for his son, he instructed, “The reformation you will provide to my son should be a part of your self-reformation. Flaws of pupils are totally related to yours. They will deem good only what you deem good and deem evil only what you deem evil.”
An educationist states, “Teachers are the good exemplars to whom the pupils refer inadvertently.” Another educationist says, “Majority of people are pursuing states of the speakers. Those who are not are very rare. Hence, teachers should care for themselves more than improving their ways of teaching.” It is said that admonitions of masters that neglect applying them are being very unstable in hearts.
Abul-Aswed ad-Dueli composed a couple of verses in which he said:
O, man that teaches others! You should have taught yourself first
Warn not against a manner while you are doing
This is the great shame on you
Begin with yourself in interdicting sins
If you do it then you are truly wise
Only then, your admonition will be acceded
And your words will be ensued and teaching be useful.
Self-disrespect and immorality of some teachers have been the cause that resulted in the present youth’s irregularity and deviation from the social traditions.
Teachers enjoy abundant rights on their pupils since they are sources of their perfection and familiarity with life experts. They are also sources of their mentalities’ illumination. Therefore, teachers’ rights are preferable to fathers’. Pupils are required to show their teachers the highest pictures of respect and reverence. Imam Zeinul-abidin says, “The right of your instructor is dignifying him and committing to solemnity in their classes and good listening and attending. You should provide for your instructor with mental presence and conceptual attendance and heart retaining and sight propinquity. The way of all these is laxness of desires and confine of lusts. You must understand that you are the emissary of what you have been received to the ignorant you may meet. Then, you should convey properly and never breach the mission if you should perform.”
These golden words have been definitely suffocated with teachers’ rights that bring about the nation’s guidance in behavior and morals.
Teaching stuff should enjoy the most remarkable rights not only on the students, but also on the nation. This is because teachers’ being the source of illumination and cognizance from which we recover elements of our renaissance and development. Teachers’ efforts are the source of establishment of civilizations and prosperity of life characters as well as achievements of the great expectations for which the nation yearns.
Teachers’ Qualities and Responsibilities:
The ancient Muslim educationists referred to a number of qualities and responsibilities that the teachers should apply on their teaching life. These qualities may participate in making the teachers the noble exemplars and achieving the prosperity of education and teaching for creating a generation of equanimity and good manners. The following is an exposition of these qualities:
- Teachers should offer their disciplinary activities for God’s sake. Their acts must aim at reforming the Muslim young generations. They should avoid thinking of riches or positions. Deviation is the inevitable fate of any teacher that intends to gain good livelihood or high positions through his missions. Sufian bin Uyeina says, “I had been gifted the understanding of the Quran, but when I received those riches from Abu Jafar I lost the understanding totally.”
- Teachers should be of extraordinary faith in God the Exalted, and should perform the rituals for showing the Islamic norms and destroying the seditious. They should also acquire noble traits so that God will cast understanding in their minds. Ibn Masud said, “Knowledge is not the abundance of narration. It is an illumination that God casts in minds.”
- Teachers should avoid humble professions, such as cupping or tanning, during the rest hours.
- Teachers should clean their bodies and practice the other ablutionary activities such as clipping the nails and avoiding malodors.
- Teachers should economize in their clothing, food, and lodging. Ashafii said, “I have not been saturated for sixteen years.”
- Teachers should keep themselves away from the ruling authorities as much as possible. Al-Awzaii said, “Nothing is more hateful to God than the scholars’ visiting the viziers.”
- Teachers should copy the virtuous and pious men among the Prophet’s companions and their followers.
- Teachers should be concerned with the serviceable knowledges and avoid the useless and disputable.
- Teachers should be concerned with the knowledges that take to the affairs of the Hereafter. Shaqiq al-Belkhi asked his student, Hatem al-Asem about the questions he had learned. “How long have you been with me?” asked the teacher. “They have been thirty three years,” answered the student. “What have you learned all these years?” asked the teacher. “I have learnt eight questions,” replied the student. The teacher expressed his sorrow and said, “I have finished my years with you, but you have learnt eight things only!” “That is it,” expressed the student, “ I do not want to lie.” “Well,” said the teacher, “Let me hear.” “They are the fondness of the good deeds, shoving the caprices away, decency and god-fearing, befriending the right, antagonizing the devil, adhering to obedience, leaving the humiliation of seeking earnings to people, and depending on God,” counted the student. The teacher expressed his great admiration and esteem and said, “O Hatem! God may prosper you. As I looked in the Torah, the Bible, the Psalms, and the Quran, I found these eight questions be the pivot of these Books.”
- Teachers should not engage themselves in positions higher than their abilities until they accomplish their profession and grant the certificate of master teachers. As-Shibli says, “He whoever has the front before attaining suitability is meeting his shame.”
- Teachers should discipline the pupils with their accounts and deeds in addition to words and admonition.
- Teachers should love their pupils and guard them against harm. Abu Abbas said, “The most respectful -for me- is my student who leaves all people to come to me. I protect him to the degree that I exert my efforts for preventing even the flies from reaching him.”
- Teachers should pardon and acquit the pupils who make mistakes. They should use intimation in attracting their attentions to their faults. If they do not conceive, teachers then may state the fault openly. Then comes the reproach. The Prophet (s) said, “Teach without chiding. Teachers are preferable to the scolders.” He also said, “Use leniency to those whom you teach and those who learn you.”
- Teachers should welcome the attendant pupils and ask about the absent.
- Teachers should not answer questions they ignore. They may confess they do not know. Ibn Masud said, “O people! He, whoever is familiar with something, should say it, otherwise he should say: Allah is the most knowledgeable. This saying is a part of knowledge.”
- Teacher should realize the levels of the pupils and offer to them according to their understandings. They should intimate to the smart, elucidate for others, and repeat for the unintelligent.
- Teachers should refer to the unchanging rules and the exceptions of the materials they teach. They should also urge them on working and ask them to repeat the matters they had to memorize, and chide the negligent and praise the good retainers. They should also ask them for testing their understandings and order them of moderation especially when signs of physical or mental fatigue are shown. They should recommend the bored ones of rest and relaxation.
- Teachers should not ask for intolerable matters that do not fit the students’ minds and age. They should not ask the students of reading books that are mentally unattainable. They should test before referring to a subject to be perceived. After test, teachers may refer to books that accord the pupils’ minds. They should not engage the pupils with several subjects at the same time.
- Teachers should not teach when they are annoyed or complaining an illness, hunger, or anger since these states may harm the students and themselves.
- Teachers should neither prolong nor shorten the lessons unacceptably. Likewise, they should neither raise nor reduce their voices inadequately.
- Teachers should allot certain times to receiving the scope of the pupils’ memorized items. In the ancient times, teachers allotted Wednesday night and Thursday morning to recalling. Friday was the day off.
- Teachers should treat the pupils equally and avoid any sort of discrimination. The Prophet is reported to say, “Teachers who have three students- of different social classes- and do not treat them equally, will be in the line of the traitors on the Resurrection Day.”
- Teachers should supervise the pupils’ tendencies and mental desires so that the suitable subject is chosen. They should lead the pupils who seek another subject to the correct direction. Avecinna says, “Not every desired profession is possible and attainable for boys. They should be fit enough for conforming it. If all of the professions and knowledges were responsive, none would lack arts and professions, and people would have the same arts and professions or the opposite. Wardens who intend to select a profession for the wards should first test the nature and suitability. Hence, professions should be selected on the bases of suitability and capability.”
- Teachers should reward the hard-working pupils and praise them before the mates. Ibn Maskub said, “Pupils should be praised and rewarded for any good manner and favorable act they show.”
- Teachers should be accurate in treating the pupils. They should count their breaths and account their entire movements and activities.
The desires of seeking knowledge should be evolved in the pupils’ minds. Teachers should refer to the most significant matters that advance them and their societies plentifully. Pupils will surely pursue knowledge resolutely if this noble tendency is sewn in their minds and, consequently, the conceptual and scientific life will be prosperous in the country.
Because they applied those programs, the teachers of the early eras of Islam could produce those virtuous generations of such high traits and perfect maturity, and achieve the most remarkable scientific renaissance the sparks of which have covered all of the ages.
Refer to the following reference books from which these qualities are quoted:
Ibn Abdun’s al-Wathiqa: 213.
Malik’s al-Mudewwana: 4/26.
An-Nawawi’s Tedribur-rawi: 128.
Al-Gezali’s Ihiaul-ulum (Disciplining of moralities): 3/62.
Ibn Jumaa’s Tethkiretus-sami: 30.
al-Bekri’s Nudumul-qilada: 99.
Ibn Arabi’s Adabul-muridin: 3.
Educational cognizance: 48.