QUESTION 1: Why is the character of the Prophet (sws) so central to his teaching? Give one example of a character trait that was essential to his teaching?
Modern learning sciences prove that the relationship between a teacher and his students is one of the most influential factors on a learner and his learning. Every child needs an intentional connection with the teacher in order for them to succeed. Teachers ultimately play an important role in pupils’ character development and construction of self-identity through the kindness and support they show the children in their care (Harrison et al., 2016c).
That is well evident in the commentary made by Malik ibn al-Huwairith r.a. for example when he and his peers spent their time with the Prophet peace be upon him. He said clearly at the beginning of his narration that the Prophet is RAHIMAN RAFIQAN; merciful and compassionate, someone that makes things easy when dealing with him.
Sheikh Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah rahimahullah included this story in his book:
ḤADĪTH 7: Muslim and Bukhārī, On the authority of Mālik ibn al-Ḥuwayrith , who said, ‘We came to the Messenger of Allah whilst we were a group of youth of similar age. We remained in his company for twenty days. The Messenger of Allah was extremely merciful and compassionate. When he felt that we were home-sick, he asked us about those whom we left behind. We informed him and he told us, “Go back to your families and stay with them. Teach them and command them and pray as you have seen me pray. When prayers are due, one of you should make the call [to prayer] and the eldest should lead you.”
QUESTION 2: Name three ways the Prophet (sws) used questioning in his teaching:
Dialogue and questions are the Prophet’s most prominent methods of teaching since that draws the attention of the listeners, arouse their curiosity to know the answer and prompt them to reflect on the answer. If they were unable to provide an answer, the answer of the Prophet will be well understood and entrenched in their minds.
There were so many examples from his tradition demonstrating this method:
When a young man came to him asking permission to commit adultery, he shifted the way the young man thought about it through a short question and answer to explore the ‘blindspot’ in the young man’s mind.
The Prophet peace be upon him brought forward an example of a scenario when someone’s house is right near the river and he cleansed himself five time per day. He asked the audience what would be the person’s hygiene condition by doing that. His question helped the audience to visualise an abstract idea about how salat purify someone’s soul, by giving a picture that we normally able to imagine.
The Prophet peace be upon him questioned Muaz ibn Jabal r.a. on his plan in dealing with new challenges he might face when meeting with the People of the Book in his mission. The question and answer between him and Muaz demonstrated a form of assessment in a formative way.
Basically, many Q&A sessions between the Prophet peace be upon him can be explored under the topic of Socratic Method as how it is referred in modern literature in learning sciences.
QUESTION 3: Choose one body or sensory based method of the Prophet (sws) and discuss why you think it is an effective learning tool.
The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues drawn a framework for character education in schools (2017: 9) Character is learned in 3 ways, between character caught, taught, and sought:
Caught: the school community of both staff and students provide the example, culture, and inspirational influence in a positive ethos that motivates and promotes character development.
Taught: the school provides educational experiences in and out of the classroom that equip students with the language, knowledge, understanding, skills, and attributes that enable character development.
Sought: the school provides varied opportunities that generate the formation of personal habits and character commitments. These help students over time to seek, desire, and freely pursue their character development.
Ref: Watts, Paul; Fullard, Michael; Peterson, Andrew. Ebook: Understanding Character Education and Personal Development: Approaches, Issues and Applications (p. 14). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.
The gestures the Prophet peace be upon him used like showing his anger, turning away his sight, placing his hand on the chest when reciting du’a, complemented the ‘taught’ of character with what the learners caught and sought from him. That is why his body language spoke equally important messages on top of what he verbally said in his teaching.
QUESTION 4: Reflect on one hadith regarding an interaction between the Prophet (sws) and his students/followers. What did this particular narrative resonate with you and what do you think we can learn from it?
My favourite hadith to demonstrate the ‘silent pedagogy’ in the tradition of the Prophet peace be upon him is this:
On the authority of Mālik ibn al-Ḥuwayrith , who said, ‘We came to the Messenger of Allah whilst we were a group of youth of similar age. We remained in his company for twenty days. The Messenger of Allah was extremely merciful and compassionate. When he felt that we were home-sick, he asked us about those whom we left behind. We informed him and he told us, “Go back to your families and stay with them. Teach them and command them and pray as you have seen me pray. When prayers are due, one of you should make the call [to prayer] and the eldest should lead you.”
- The prophet character is observed, recognised and described by the student.
- The prophet was aware with the social and emotional condition of his students. He did not ignore or skip from addressing it when the students seems lost focus and becoming homesick. This is fundamental for social emotional learning (SEL) which is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.
- Unsurprisingly, there was a clear trust exist between the students and the teacher when Malik ibn al-Huwayrith and his peers opened themselves to share personal issue by telling the prophet about the families they’re missing.
- The prophet did not belittle the homesick matter in any way, and more importantly, he immediately changed the learning setting. He did not end the learning process, but shifted it to be carried on at the students’ home. The ability to switch from one type of teaching and learning to another according to the learners’ condition is the highest level of differentiation a teacher can demonstrate.
- The Prophet did not decide by himself who should carry which task. He guided them what to do, explained the criteria of certain roles, and empowered to students to decide themselves the final decision, in his absence.
QUESTION 5: Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah loved the Prophet (sws). Which of his 40 methods do you want to share with a fellow teacher and why?
One of the most technical aspect of the Prophetic pedagogy I appreciate the most aligned with our school’s focus on making thinking visible is the method of teaching through answers and questions. Probably our local customs in the ‘east’ contributed to the fact that many of our students are commonly shy from answering questions, and even harder when it comes to asking questions. In order to encourage students to ask, and answer, I believe that it relies on the teachers effort in intentionally making the classroom a genuinely safe place to try, to make mistake by building the trust between him or her and the students, slowly but surely. We remind our teachers each other quite frequent on the importance of the story of Malik ibn al-Huwayrith as mentioned earlier.