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A Concise Educational Dialogue on the Educator and Several Effective Pedagogical Approaches – By Imam Abdul Aziz Bin Baz

All praise is due to Allah alone and may peace and blessings be upon the one (Muhammad) after whom there is no Prophet. To proceed:

Knowledge constitutes a fundamental element of human existence

Knowledge is undoubtedly the bedrock upon which the essence of human life is built. Among all forms of knowledge, the most important and deserving of attention is the knowledge of the Islamic Shariah because it allows us to understand the purpose behind which Allah created us and sent the Messengers. Through this knowledge, we gain knowledge and awareness of Allah and worship Him accordingly, as He says:

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنْسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ

And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. [Adh-Dhariyat 56]

Allah -Glorified be He and free is He from all imperfections- says:

وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَسُولًا أَنِ اُعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ

Indeed, We have sent a Messenger to every nation, saying, “Worship Allaah alone and keep away from all false deities]. [Al-Nahl 36]

From these two verses, one can understand the wisdom behind the creation of Jinn and humans, as well as the reason for sending Messengers. A nation lacking a sound faith or religion is considered ignorant, no matter how advanced and developed it may be, as Allah says:

أَمْ تَحْسَبُ أَنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ أَوْ يَعْقِلُونَ إِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا كَالْأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ سَبِيلً

Or do you think that most of them hear or understand? They are only like cattle; nay, they are even farther astray from the Path. (i.e. even worse than cattle). [Al-Furqan 44]

A life of excellence is a life led by people who possess both knowledge and faith in Islam, as Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَجِيبُوا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ إِذَا دَعَاكُمْ لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ

O you who believe! Answer Allah (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which will give you life. [Al-Anfaal. 24]

Allah [The Exalted] says:

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْثَى وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُمْ بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer (of Islamic Monotheism) verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment, and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter). [Al-Nahl. 97]


The Importance of a skilled and upright teacher

Beneficial knowledge can only be acquired through a teacher, and no one can be a teacher unless they are well-versed in the subject they are teaching, as one cannot give what they do not possess. The scholars are the heirs of the prophets, making the teacher’s task one of the most challenging tasks that require embodying the most perfect Islamic qualities as much as possible, such as beneficial knowledge, noble manners, consistent good deeds, patience, resilience, and the ability to guide students towards righteousness and a pure Islamic upbringing. The success of a teacher in this endeavour hinges on their attainment of impeccable Islamic traits. Our master and leader, Muhammad Bin Abdullah Al-Haashimee – peace and blessings of Allah be upon him – serves as a role model and leader for all. He exemplified the highest virtues and faced numerous challenges while guiding and teaching people. However, he remained patient and resilient, enduring every hardship and difficulty to spread his religion and bring his Ummah out of darkness into light. May Allah reward him with the best and most perfect reward for his efforts. Through him, a righteous generation was nurtured – a generation that is widely regarded as the best throughout human history. This is attributed to his exceptional nurturing and guidance of his companions, as well as his unwavering commitment to the path of truth after Allah granted them success and guided them.


Responsibilities of a Teacher and Interaction with Students

One of the most important responsibilities for a teacher, regardless of time or place, is to emulate the path of the first and foremost teacher, Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, strive to understand and implement his teachings in oneself and the students to the best of one’s ability. This requires a great deal of effort. The Ummah is in dire need of righteous teachers who acquire knowledge from the Quran, the Sunnah of the Prophet, and the path of the pious predecessors, instilling in their students values such as honesty, trustworthiness, sincerity, and a deep respect for Allah’s commands and prohibitions, compete in virtuous deeds and to avoid all forms of vice, particularly in the present era, where many voices are promoting moral decay and only a few advocate for true rectification. Based on the preceding information, it is known that being a teacher is not only one of the most challenging tasks but also one of the most honourable professions. It is a job that holds immense benefits and value, especially when the teacher possesses sincerity, and good intentions, and puts in effort. That is because one will be rewarded just like the person who benefits from their knowledge. The Prophet stated, “The best among you is the one who learns and teaches the Qur’an.” He said, “By Allah, that Allah guides a man through you is better for you than red camels”.

There is no doubt that the teacher is the religious nurturer of the student. Therefore, the teacher needs to possess virtuous morals and good character, serving as a positive example for the students to follow. Additionally, the teacher should adhere to the obligations outlined in the Shariah, avoiding what is prohibited, being mindful of time, joking a little, being open-minded (within the confines of the Shariah), friendly, kind-hearted, clemant, pleasant, independent, capable, broad in knowledge, and possess extensive knowledge of the Arabic language to fulfill their duty to the utmost extent.


An Overview of Knowledge Acquisition and the Teacher’s Role in the Process

Undoubtedly, individuals who are dedicated to comprehensively studying the human self and exploring the underlying factors that facilitate the acquisition of knowledge will yield fruitful outcomes in uncovering the intricacies of the self that are not readily apparent. This includes delving into the emotions and perceptions intertwined with the self, as well as gauging its receptiveness towards assimilating new information. Through this examination and investigation, valuable insights can be derived, contributing to the fundamental principles upon which the field of education is built. For any educator to impart knowledge to their students, they must possess a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter, a wide range of teaching methodologies, effective communication skills, and the ability to direct students’ focus toward the core concepts of the lesson while avoiding confusion and ensuring comprehension. To facilitate the students’ comprehension of the subjects being taught, the teacher should employ persuasive techniques, various presentation methods, comparisons, and visual aids. Emphasis should be placed on the essential aspects that serve as the fundamental principles for each lesson, while gradually introducing additional details that are relevant to the main topic. It is crucial to recognize that the foundation of any subject is of utmost importance, as all subsidiary matters stem from these fundamental principles. The educator must integrate the topics and make them more relatable to the students, fostering their interest in the lesson, encouraging active listening, and elucidating the significance and objectives of the subject matter. It is essential to consider the individual comprehension levels of each student by using language that resonates with them, as students have diverse learning styles. Furthermore, the teacher should promote open discussions and be patient with the mistakes that may arise during these discussions, as they are a natural part of the learning process. The educator ought to motivate them to conduct thorough research aimed at uncovering the truth, all the while considering the social context, diverse individual traits, customs, and environment, as these factors significantly influence the students’ psyche, subsequently affecting their comprehension, conduct, and performance. It is widely acknowledged that a perceptive and mindful teacher who factors in these elements exerts a more profound influence on students compared to their counterparts. The educator’s role can be likened to that of a medical practitioner, as one of the responsibilities of the educator is to understand the inclinations of the students and their cognitive abilities. With this information in mind, the educator assesses the fundamental standards that stem from this perspective to effectively cater to their diverse learning styles and levels of comprehension. These factors are key contributors to the educator’s effectiveness in fulfilling their duties.


Striking a balance between Shariah expertise and practical worldly sciences.

The utmost crucial obligation, without any exemptions, is to focus on the authentic Islamic creed derived from the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the guidance of the pious predecessors. Subsequently, emphasis should be placed on other aspects of Shariah, followed by indispensable sciences that humanity cannot do without. However, it is imperative that these sciences do not distract from the knowledge for which they were created, and that they are utilised for the betterment of society without hindering beneficial knowledge (i.e. the Shariah). Allah, in His infinite grace and profound wisdom, has bestowed guidance upon those who have been guided to acquire beneficial knowledge. They have not only learned this knowledge but also imparted it to others, benefiting both the people and the nation. As a result, they have achieved success and are highly regarded by the people, earning a good reputation, increased rewards, and a good end. On the other hand, those who deviated from the right path were deprived of success. Consequently, their knowledge became a calamity for them and their students. They lost their way in the mazes of disbelief, atheism, and heresy, leading others astray. Consequently, they incurred the same sins as those they misguided. This is a manifestation of Allah’s flawless Justice and Wisdom, as well as His punishment for those who veered off the path of truth and succumbed to their wicked desires. They shall be humiliated and forsaken, deviating further from the truth, as Allah says:

فَلَمَّا زَاغُوا أَزَاغَ اللَّهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ

So, when they deviated (by choice), Allaah deviated their hearts. [Al-Saff. 5]

Allah says:
وَنُقَلِّبُ أَفْئِدَتَهُمْ وَأَبْصَارَهُمْ كَمَا لَمْ يُؤْمِنُوا بِهِ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ وَنَذَرُهُمْ فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ

And We shall turn their hearts and their eyes away (from guidance), as they refused to believe therein for the first time, and We shall leave them in their trespass to wander blindly]. [Al-An’aam. 110]

Numerous verses express the same message as the aforementioned verses. We beseech Allah to bestow His blessings upon us and all Muslims, granting us beneficial knowledge and righteous actions. May He shower us with kindness, provide us with a deep understanding of the religion, and help us remain steadfast upon it. May He rectify the rulers and leaders of the Muslim Ummah, and may the truth prevail through them. Indeed, Allah is capable of all things. May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon His servant and Messenger Muhammad, as well as the companions of the Messenger and those who follow their guidance until the Day of Judgment. [1]


The appropriate methodology for imparting the sciences and the advantages derived from it

It is important to note that the effective teaching of sciences to students is achieved through a gradual and incremental approach. Initially, the teacher imparts knowledge to the student by introducing the basic principles in each chapter. The learner is then familiarised with these fundamental principles through a general explanation, allowing the teacher to assess the student’s intellectual capacity and readiness to grasp the upcoming material. This process enables the student to establish a foundation for further learning, even if it is initially incomplete or weak. Ultimately, this method facilitates the student’s understanding and familiarity with the subject matter and its complexities. The teacher subsequently revisits the topic with the student for a second time, delivering instruction at a more advanced level compared to the initial instruction. This entails providing the learner with a comprehensive explanation and clarification that differs from the initial general explanation and clarification. The teacher also enlightens the learner about varying viewpoints and perspectives within the subject matter, extending this discussion until the conclusion of the topic. As a result, the learner becomes aware of their potential and capabilities in the field of study. Finally, the teacher brings back the learner once they have built a strong foundation – and at this point, they clarify all the aspects that are vague, crucial, or intricate and unlock all the secrets in the subject for the learner to establish a firm grasp on it. This exemplifies the approach of beneficial teaching, and it is demonstrated through repetition – three times. Undoubtedly, some learners may reach their maximum potential in fewer than these three stages depending on their natural aptitude and what is facilitated for them.


Common Errors Made by Teachers

Many teachers in our current era lack knowledge of effective teaching methods. As a result, they introduce topics at the beginning of the learning process that hinder the learner’s understanding and motivation. This approach forces the learner to focus on unraveling these obstacles instead of grasping the core concepts. These teachers mistakenly believe that this is the correct way to teach and impose the requirement for learners to comprehend and familiarise themselves with these complex issues. However, this approach only confuses the learner by presenting advanced concepts at the beginning, which should be introduced in the later stages of learning. In reality, the ability to acquire knowledge and develop understanding should be nurtured gradually over time. Initially, the learner is only able to grasp a few specific details, as their understanding gradually improves through the use of general concepts and specific examples. As they encounter more challenging aspects of the subject matter, these concepts are reinforced and repeated, allowing the learner to progress gradually. This transition from a slower learning process to a higher level of understanding is crucial. However, if the learner is presented with complex details right from the start, it hinders their comprehension and prevents them from adequately preparing for the subject matter. Consequently, the learner may feel overwhelmed, perceive knowledge acquisition as difficult, become unmotivated, and ultimately give up on learning. This negative outcome can be attributed to ineffective teaching methods. Hence, it is inappropriate for the teacher to surpass the comprehension presented in the book being examined by the student, irrespective of whether they are just starting or nearing the end of the topic. The teacher must refrain from blending the content of the book with unrelated matters until the students have familiarised themselves with its introductory and concluding aspects; comprehend the objective of the book and have absorbed its content, which they can then utilise when delving into other books to be explored under the guidance of the teacher. This is because once an individual comprehends a specific topic, they are equipped to comprehend other aspects within the same subject, actively seek to enhance their knowledge and understanding, and aspire to progress until they reach the most advanced level of knowledge. However, if the matters are presented in a perplexing manner, the learner will struggle to comprehend and consequently become disengaged, cease critical thinking, lose motivation to acquire knowledge, and ultimately forsake the pursuit of knowledge and learning. And Allah guides those whom He wishes to guide.

Also, the teacher needs to avoid keeping the learner focused on a single subject for an extended period with breaks in between, as this can lead to forgetfulness and disrupt the continuity between different topics within the subject. This can make it challenging for the learner to fully understand the subject due to the lack of connection. When the learner consistently reviews and repeats the material, ensuring that both the initial and final details are retained in their memory, forgetfulness is minimised, making it easier to comprehend the subject matter. Regular practice and repetition are key to acquiring knowledge and achieving proficiency. Another effective method of teaching is to avoid presenting the learner with a combination of two subject matters simultaneously. This is because dividing one’s attention between two subjects can hinder the learner’s ability to gain proficiency in either of them. Consequently, the learner may find both subjects unclear and challenging, leading to a failure in comprehending and mastering both. However, if the learner’s mind is focused solely on studying one subject matter without any distractions, it may increase their chances of accomplishing it. Ultimately, it is Allah who guides individuals towards the correct path. [2]

[1] Majmoo Fataawaa Wa Maqaalaat Ash-Shaikh Ibn Baaz 2/316-317
[2] Muqaddimah Ibn Khaldoon, page 604-605. Publisher: Maktabah Al-Qur’an 2006