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Madrasa 3: The Teacher

22 Jun 2012
Madrasa 3: The Teacher

First Published: Muslims Weekly, Issue No. 217, April 30, 2004

The role of teacher in Islamic Education System is significant and central.

Firstly, Allah requires us to actively seek knowledge; to remain ignorant is nearly sinful. Secondly, to instruct or to share knowledge is Sunnah (tradition of the Prophet). Our beloved Prophet (PBUH) as recorded by Tirmidhi (a book of hadith), said, “Anyone who has knowledge  and doesn’t reveal it even after asked by someone, his mouth will be full of fires in the dooms day.”

Those who make the decision to dedicate themselves to the honorable profession of teaching have entered into a divine field of work.

Teachers have the ability to alter the hearts and minds of people; their influence is tremendous. In a sense, the struggle of a teacher is more valuable than a Mujahid (warrior). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “The ink of Ulema (scholars and teachers) is better than the blood of a martyr soldier.” From our teachers we learn the meaning of real success and failure. From them good character is instilled, they help polish the character of the children with good habits and etiquette. Teachers represent positive behaviors  and attitude. They have courage to stand against evils.

Teachers are educators, trainers, guides, role models, and symbols of the best character. They represent the better side of society. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) declared, “The best people among you are the one who reads and understands the Qur’an and teaches others.” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Ulema are the inheritors of prophets. The inheritance of Ulema (scholars)  is not the wealth, but their inheritance is the knowledge of prophet.” He (s.a.w.) has also introduced himself as a teacher:  “I have been appointed as a teacher.” The very first human, Adam (AS) –the first prophet of Allah had been sent as a teacher. Allah bestowed Adam (AS) with knowledge and intelligence. “And He taught Adam the names of all things”(Al Qur’an 2:32).

These concepts prove that education is similar to worship; teaching and learning is a form of worship, and both teachers and students are in fact worshiping in the class rooms. “In the thawab (the rewards in hereafter), teachers and students are equal” (Hadith quoted in Ibn Maaja).

According to another hadith, “All the elements of the universe pray for the teachers of good” (Tirimzi). The cosmos is on the side of the teachers of good.

Islam doesn’t appoint any special class, family, or group for the teachers. There is no white or black race, or Brahmin (upper caste in the Hindu religion, supposed to be racially appointed as a teacher and mentor) or Shudar (lowest cast in Hindu religion, who couldn’t even enter a temple).

In Islam anyone can be a teacher. The only criterion stated in a hadith is this: “O People! First educate yourself, and then educate others” (Bayhaqi). Acquiring education is the only prerequisite to delivering education. And it is very simple. It doesn’t mean that a person has to be highly educated and learned before starting to teach. Islam began as an effective movement for education, a jihad for education. Everyone is supposed to participate in this movement. “Spread knowledge, even if you know only one sentence from Me” (Bukhari). Islam encourages education by rewarding the educated.

These principals of Islam revolutionized the concept of education and process of teaching. Teaching is a profession, but it is also above what the profession actually entails. Anyone who is in possession of even the least amount of knowledge has to educate someone. Islam provides the education system that is easy and affordable for everyone.

With the fear of Allah and accountability in the Day of Judgment, knowledgeable people were always ready to educate. They even sought students to instruct. Instead of getting money or a salary, the teachers were providing food, shelter and clothing in their homes to attract students. Even the kings and members of government  spend some time to teach the students.

Few examples from the history of Muslim India   (I took these examples from the research of late Professor Syed Muhammad Saleem, the ex-president of Tanzeem e  Usatza Pakistan in Urdu language. May Allah grant him all the rewards and peace in the heaven.)

1. The King, Sultan Tajuddin Firoz Bhamani (1397-1422) was very knowledgeable person. He was affiliated with noted Ulema and scholars of the time. He was an expert in various fields like arts, physical sciences, and mathematics. He was a dedicated instructor and taught at a local Madrasah three days a week (Saturday, Monday, Wednesday).

2. Qilich Khan, the father in law of Mirza Danial son of Mughal emperor Akbar (1556-1605), was a high government official. In the period of his Governorship of Lahore, he taught TafseerHadith, and Fiqah, three hours daily in a Madrasah.

3. Before 1857 (the year of last organized revolt against the British occupation of India), Hokkins, the British ruler of Rohilkhand (low-lying, alluvial region in northwestern Uttar Pradesh state in northern India) established a college in the city of Bareilly. He offered Maulana Abdur Raheem (d.1818) of Rampur to teach in the college on salary of Rs.250 (Rupees; Indian Currency). Maulana refused with different excuses, like, “I will lose my students, I will miss my home and the berries of my courtyards.” But the British ruler insisted and said to give facilities and fulfill all his requirements. At last Maulana’s excuse was, “What will be my plea on the day of judgment for getting the salary for education?” The British ruler had no answer for this excuse.

4. Shah Ulfat Hussain (d.1881) of Azeemabad; present name of the city is Patna, in the state of Bihar, was the ambassador of Nawabs of Murshidabad in Calcutta in the British India in mid nineteenth century. In his biography, his son Humayun Mirza writes, “My father was very enthusiastic to teach. Students were punctual in his class. Daily, from 10 am to 2: 30 pm, he had been teaching students before going to his office in the afternoon.”

After giving his commentary for this example, Maulana Munazir Ahsan Gilani, in his book Taleem and Tarbiyyah (Education and Training), concluded, “This was the last knot of the burnt rope.” (Burnt rope = the destruction of Islamic education system by the occupying British powers.)

5.  Dr. Lightener, the first principal of Oriental Collage Lahore (formed by British occupying power), witnesses  and writes that Muslims were in the majority in the education. Most of  the teachers taught for the sake of Allah and to get rewards from Allah, and they didn’t get any compensation for educating the community.

6. Teachers never discriminated against Muslims and non-Muslim students. The late ex-President of India, the Hindu Dr. Rajendra Prasad (1950 to 1962) writes in his biography, “I started my education at the home of a Muslim elite of Bihar, Khan Bahadur Nawab Shams ul Huda, a famous lawyer of Patna. I lived in his home and learned Arabic and Farsi languages.”

7. With the fear of Allah and of being a culprit of not offering education to others, Ulema (scholars) was extremely conscientious and was educating their students even in extreme hardships. After revolt of 1857, the British occupying soldiers arrested and charged and deported hundreds of Ulemas. They were the great scholars of the time. Few Ulema of Azeemabad (Patna, Bihar) took refuge in the plain of Nepal, and, to get halal earnings, they harvested the land by themselves. During the process of cultivation, with the help of oxen, they also conducted walking classes. Their students were running along with the teachers, with the open books in their hands, and getting lessons. These Ulema carried slingshots on their shoulders and acted out jihad against British occupiers.

8. Ulema were not silent even while imprisoned. The environment of the island of Andaman(the “Guantanamo Bay” of that time) echoed the sounds of praise of Allah and His Prophet. The first book of biography of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH ) in Urdu language “Tawareekh  e Habeebullah”  was written by Mufti Inayetullah Ahmed Kakorwi (1860) in the jail of Andaman. Maulana Fazlul Haq Khairabadi (1859) wrote the history of revolt of 1857 against British occupiers, “Alsaurah Al Hindiya” in Arabic language, by coal (instead of ink or pen).

Ulema (scholars) educated the community; they taught them their responsibilities as vicegerents, viceroys, or Caliph of Allah on this earth.

Above examples show the quality and highness of the character of our Ulema or Maulvis (branded, stereotyped and accused by our so-called learned people).

Mongols, in thirteenth century conquered the Baghdad, the center of Caliph of Muslims of the time, the last of the 'Abbasid Caliphs. And in 1258 they seized and largely destroyed Baghdad. They killed the caliph and the majority of the people and formed their dynasty on there corpse. Hülegü Khan (1217-1265), a grandson of Genghis Khan, crowned as the head of the government. However, he did not have any other options to keep some ex- Muslim ministers in their government. The reason: Muslims were intellectually superior over other nations of the time. Hülegü Khan kept Naseeruddin  Muhaqqiq Tusi (1274)  as his prime minister. He had given his education policy as follows: “Up to 25 years of age one has to engage in getting education; from 25 to 40 years of age, one has to study and teach both; from 40 years to 50 years of age, one has to engage in teaching and writing books; from 50 to 60 years of age, one has to research and write books; and after 60 years, the teacher will be retired and his salary will be doubled.”

I challenge anyone to present an education policy from the so-called advanced, most modern and highly educated West that is similar to Islam’s erudite education policy and practices.

(This is a series of columns for the understanding of the history of centuries old Madrasa and Islamic Education System in South Asian perspective published in the Muslims Weekly, New York, USA, in series of the weekly column “Personal Notes.”Jawed Anwar can be reached at jawed@seerahwest.com)

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