Manners to be observed by a Teacher

>> Sunday, August 17, 2008

My last post was about the duties of a student, so it only seems logical for this post to be about the duties of a teacher. Very often those of us who decide to teach fall into the abyss of arrogance, others for fear of falling into that abyss never take up the mantle of teacher. However part of practicing Islam is learning and then teaching. And to help us along the way Islam has given us the duties of the student as well as the duties of a teacher. InshAllah this post will be beneficial to all. Now without Further ado,

In the Words of Imam Ghazzali

A man has got four conditions in relation to wealth. A wealthy man at first produces commodities. Secondly, he hoards his hoards productions and does not seek the aid of others. Thirdly, he spends it for himself and rests satisfied with it. Fourthly, he spends therefrom for another to get honour. The last is the best. Similar are the conditions of knowledge. It is acquired like wealth and has got four conditions-(1) condition of acquisition of knowledge, (2) condition after acquisition of knowledge, (3) condition wherein he will contemplate and enjoy his achievement, and (4) condition wherein he would impart his knowledge to others and this last condition is the best. He who acquires knowledge and acts up to it and teaches it to the people is noble to the angels of heaven and earth. He is like the sun which illumines itself and gives light to other things. Such a man is like a pot of musk which is full of fragrance and give fragrance to others. He who teaches knowledge to others but does not himself act up to it is like a notebook which does not benefit itself but benefits others or like an instrument which gives edge to iron but itself has got no knowledge_ or like a needle which remains naked but sews clothing for others, or like a lamp which gives light to other things but itself burns. A poet said: Knowledge without action is like a glowing wick, It gives light to others but itself dies burning. Whoever takes up the profession of teaching should observe the following duties:

(1) He will show kindness and sympathy to the students and treat them as his own children . The Prophet said: I am to you like a father to his son. His object should be to protect the students from the fire of Hell. As parents save their children from the fire of this world, so a teacher should save his students or disciples from the fire of Hell. The duties of a teacher are more than those of parents. A father is the immediate cause of this transient life, but a teacher is the cause of immortal life. It is because of the spiritual teacher that hereafter is much remembered. By teacher, I mean the teacher of the sciences of the hereafter or the sciences of the world with the object of the hereafter. A teacher ruins himself and also his students if he teaches for the sake of the world. For this reason, the people of the hereafter are journeying towards the next world and to God and remain absent from the world. The months and years of this world are so many stations of their journey. There is no miserliness in the fortunes of the next world and so there is no envy among them. They turn to the verse: "The believers are brethren"(49 : 10).

The second duty of a teacher is to follow the usages and ways of the Prophet. In other words, he should not seek remuneration for teaching but nearness to God therefor. God instruct's us to say: I don't want any remuneration for this from you (9 : 31). Wealth and property are the servants of body which is the vehicle of soul of which the essence is know ledge and for which there is honour of soul. He who seeks wealth in lieu of knowledge is like one Who has got his face besmeared with impurities but wants to cleanse his body. In that case, the master is made a servant and the servant a master.

The third duty of a teacher is that he should not withhold from his students any advice. After he finishes the outward sciences, he should teach them the inward sciences. He should tell them that the object of education is to gain nearness of God, not power or riches and that God created ambition as a means of perpetuating knowledge which is essential for these sciences.

(4) The fourth duty of a teacher is to dissuade his students from evil Ways with care and caution, with sympathy and not with rebuke and harshness, because in that case it destroys the veil of awe and encourages disobedience. The Holy Prophet is the guide of all teachers. He said: If men had been forbidden to make Porridge of camel's dung, they would have done it saying that they would not have been forbidden to do it unless there had been some good in it.

The fifth duty of a teacher is that he shall not belittle the value of other science before his students. He who teaches grammar naturally thinks the science of jurisprudence as bad and he who teaches jurisprudence discourages the science of traditions and so on. Such evils are blameworthy. In fact the teachers of one learning should prepare his students for study of other learnings and then he should observe the rules of gradual progress from one stage to another.

The sixth duty that a teacher should do is to teach his students up to the power of their understanding. The students should not be taught such things as are beyond the capacity of their understanding. In this matter, he should follow the Prophet who said: We prophets form one

class. We have been commanded to give every man his rightful place and to speak to men according to their intellect. The Prophet said: When a man speaks such a word to a people who cannot grasp it with their intellect , it becomes a danger to some persons. Hazrat Ali said pointing out to his breast: There is much knowledge in it, but then there should be some people to understand it. The hearts of pious men are graves of secret matters. From this, it is understood that whatever the teacher knows should not all be communicated to the students at the same time. Jesus Christ said: Don't hang pearls around the neck of a swine. Wisdom is better than pearls. He who knows it as bad is worse than swine. Once a learned man was questioned about something but he gave no reply. The questioner said: Have you not heard that the Prophet said: He who conceals any useful knowledge will on the Resurrection Day be bridled with a bridle of fire? The learned man said: You may place the bridle of fire and go. If I don't disclose it to one who understands it, then put the bridle of fire upon me. God said: Don't give to the fools your property 4:4. There is warning in this verse that it is better to safeguard knowledge from those who might be corrupted by it. To give a thing to one who is not fit for it and not to give a thing to one who is fit for it are equally oppression. A certain poet therefore said: “Should I cast pearls before the illiterate shepherds? They will not understand, nor know their worth.” If God by His knowledge sends one with knowledge, I will give my goods to him, and gain his love. He wastes his learning who gives it to one unworthy. He commits sin who withholds it from one worthy.

(7) The seventh duty of a teacher is that he should teach his backward students only such things as are clear and suited to their limited understanding. Every man thinks that his wisdom is perfect and the greatest fool is he who rests satisfied with the knowledge that his intellect is perfect. In short, the door of debates should not be opened before the common men.

The eighth duty of a teacher is that he should himself do what he teaches and should not give a lie to his teaching. Knowledge can be grasped by internal eye and actions by external eye. Many people have got external eyes but very few have got internal eyes. So if the actions of a teacher are contrary to what he preaches, it does not help towards guidance, but it is like poison. A teacher is like a stamp to clay and a student is like clay. If the stamp has no character, there is no impression on clay. Or he is like a cane and the student is like the shadow of the cane. How can the shadow of the cane be straight when the cane itself is crooked? God said: Do you enjoin good to the People and forget it for yourselves (2:44). Hadrat Ali said: Two men have broken my back, the learned man who ruins himself and the fool Who adopts asceticism. The learned man misleads the people through his sin and the fool through his evil action.