Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Prophet Muhammad's Method of Teaching

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By Dr.S.Dawood Shah,
Director, Crescent School, Chennai- 600048,
INDIA



Prophet Muhammad, an unlettered, who the Qur’an says, had been chosen by God as His Messenger to guide mankind, sought to convey the message of God, not in a conventional class room to students of a particular age group but to a variety of people in different settings. In spite of being an untrained and inexperienced teacher in the traditional sense of the word, he employed different methodologies to paraphrase and convey “the message of God” to masses. These methods of teaching are relevant even today. The Prophet based his teachings on three main themes namely “Oneness of God”, “Righteous Conduct of Man” and the “Hereafter” and preached the same through the example of his own practice and oral instructions. His teaching methods were successful because he was a beautiful model for others to follow. The Qur’an and Hadith literature are the two basic sources from which we can study the Prophet’s approach to various topics and his systematic methods of teaching. This paper has identified 22 teaching methods of the Prophet which are classified under five broader topics such as “Developing Basic Skills”, “Scientific Methods”, “Psychological Approach”, “Methods of ‘Mass’ Communication” and “Techniques of Teaching”. This paper explores the approaches in greater depth.





1.0 Introduction

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Prophet Muhammad, an unlettered who had been chosen by God as His Messenger to guide mankind (The Qur’an 7:158), sought to convey the message of God, not in a conventional classroom, to students of a particular age group but to a variety of people in different settings. In spite of being an untrained and inexperienced teacher in the traditional sense of the word, he employed different methodologies to paraphrase and convey “the message of God” to the masses. These methods of teaching are in vogue and its effectiveness is still felt in the academic world.


The Prophet based his teachings on the three main themes namely “Oneness of God”, “Righteous Conduct of Man” and “The Hereafter” and preached the same through the example of his own practice and oral instructions. He devoted a considerable time for teaching beside his busy schedule as the head of a state and used to lecture regularly to his companions about religion and way of life, mostly after every prayer. This research work has identified 22 teaching methods of the Prophet which are classified under five broader topics such as “Developing Basic Skills”, “Scientific Methods”, “Psychological Approach”, “Methods of ‘Mass’ Communication” and “Techniques of Teaching”.

2.0 Developing Basic Skills – Methods

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Having realized the necessity to develop a knowledge based society in a near total illiterate region the Prophet initiated steps to develop the basic skills of learning among Arabs. By the time he started receiving revelations from God he encouraged learning by memory and by commissioning the writing of the revelation through scribes appointed for this purpose. The Prophet then made arrangements to teach reading and writing to his poor companions in his mosque. He was also a great source of inspiration to all those who wanted to master the art of speaking.

2.1 Method of Memorization

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Since the Prophet was unlettered, he used to memorize the verses that were revealed to him by the angel Gabriel, which he used to recite to his companions. The companions of the Prophet known as “Ashab As Suffah” who were staying in a platform outside the Prophet’s house used to commit the same to their memory before preserving it in written form. The Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet in a phased manner for twenty-three years and all the twenty-three years this practice of the Prophet and his companions continued which resulted in the compilation of the Qur’an in its full and unadulterated form in the later period of Caliph Uthman. Further this practice of committing the whole Qur’an to memory has become a religious duty, which led to the establishment of numerous educational institutions in various part of the Islamic world for this purpose.

2.2 Method of Writing

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The Qur’an refers to God as He who taught the use of the pen, taught man what he knew not.(The Qur’an 96:4-5) The Prophet was highly committed to spread the message of God but in those days there were very few who knew reading and writing. Therefore, when seventy Makkans were held as prisoners of war in the battle of Badr they were asked to pay a ransom for their release. The few educated among them who were unable to pay were asked to teach the skill of writing to ten children and adults to get their release. Zayd bin Thabit who acted as one of the scribes and interpreter to the Prophet was one of those who learnt the art of writing from the captives.


In the beginning the Prophet made arrangements to write down whatever that was revealed to him. The Prophet used to recite those verses and a group of companions who were assigned the role and duty of official scribes used to write them down upon palm leaves, leather, bark, big bones etc. The Prophet appointed Abdullah bin Sayyed bin As to teach the art of calligraphy to create more scribes.


In Madinah, after the establishment of a state, quite a large number of scribes were engaged with specific duties to perform. While some of them were responsible for writing down the revelations of the Prophet, others were used to prepare drafts of official letters to be submitted for the approval of the Prophet. Some were specially appointed to correspond with foreigners and more than 200 letters of the Prophet have survived. ( Alam, 1991, pp 37-38)


2.3 Method of Reading

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The Prophet’s method of reading originated from the first revealed verse of the Qur’an namely “Read! In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher….”(96: 1) which refers to the reading, recitation and understanding of the Qur’an. Even now a Muslim child is initiated into the realm of education by reciting a few verses from the Holy Qur’an.


The Prophet said that the highest form of prayer for his people was the reading of the Holy Book. (Gazzali, 2001, Vol.1, p.485)


He also said that the most virtuous among the believers were those who learnt the Qur’an and taught it to others. (Bukhari, 2000, Hadith No. 5027)


This method of the Prophet gave rise to a class of readers who later on developed into several specialist schools of reading.


The Prophet also emphasized on the sweet and rhythmic recitation of the Holy Book and such a person who recited Qur’an beautifully was known as “Qari” (Reciter). At present there are seven styles of reading the Holy Quran, taught in the traditional religious schools practised by thousands of Qaris all over the world.


3.0 Scientific Methods

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Among Prophet’s methods of teaching some methods evince some elements of modern scientific methods namely:



  1. Observation

  2. Correction

  3. Representation by diagrams

  4. Practical demonstration