Assalamu Alaykum. One of the posts mentioned the Prophet (saw) as a teacher. What can educators and institutions learn from the Prophet (saw) and his ‘classes’? Here are my initial thoughts: (I will benefit from your thoughts.)
- CHOICE vs. COERCION: The people who attended the Prophet (saw)’s ‘classes’ CHOSE to do so. They were not coerced into attending his gatherings. They WANTED to learn from him. When I CHOOSE to learn something, the outcome is very different from when I am required to learn it. Learning involves the heart, not just the mind. When the heart is not in it, what lasting good can be expected?
- CLASS-LENGTH: The Prophet (saw)’s ‘classes’ are not known to last for half the day, 5-6 days a week, 9 months in a year, with additional time being stolen from students’ family time for homework etc. On the contrary, this incident mentioned in Shahih Bukhari is an eye-opener: 'Abdullah (ibn Masood) used to give a religious talk to the people on every Thursday. Once a man said, "O Aba 'Abdur-Rahman! (By Allah) I wish if you could preach us daily." He replied, "The only thing which prevents me from doing so, is that I hate to bore you, and no doubt I take care of you in preaching by selecting a suitable time just as the Prophet used to do with us, for fear of making us bored." Rasulullah (saw) and his companion were careful about not overdoing it with adults. Children have much shorter attention spans. How much more sensitive we need to be with children!
- EMBRACING VS. EXCLUDING: The Prophet (saw)’s society instinctively knew something which traditional societies know, but very few people in today’s ‘brainwashed’ society understand. Those people knew that children are an integral part of the lives of adults, and vice versa. Children learn the most important things in life by hanging around adults, and not 30 other babes. Those people DID NOT EXCLUDE children from their lives. Children had easy access to the Prophet (saw). How many Imams and leaders are accessible to children today? The children were in the Prophet (saw)’s masjid, praying with him and attending his ‘dars’, riding with him, and fighting alongside him in battle! Do today’s masjids, Islamic classes, and adults’ halaqahs welcome children or repel them? Put yourself in a child’s shoes, then imagine aunties and uncles at masjids and classes looking crossly at you and reprimanding you and your mother for being there. What kind of feelings will you grow up with for these places? While the Prophet’s society embraced children, today’s society has a GET-THEM-OUT-OF-THE-WAY attitude. Schools and TV are two great ways to achieve this.
- CLASSES FOR ADULTS--- OPEN TO KIDS: Children, by nature, want to do what the adults are doing. And they resist uninvited teaching. So it makes more sense to have classes for adults where children are welcomed rather than have classes for children alone. The Prophet (saw)’s ‘classes’ perhaps aimed primarily at adults, were open to all. When you have classes for children alone, unaccompanied by their parents, a lot of your time will be spent, NOT in learning and teaching, but in CROWD-CONTROL. On a side-note, I have conducted weekly Islamic classes for children coming with their mothers, and classes without mothers. I found the classes to be more productive and effective when the mothers came. Firstly, her very presence shows that she is interested in her child’s learning. Otherwise, isn’t it more convenient to just send your child? Secondly, when mothers learn alongside their children, mums can go home and implement it. A child can’t do that. Much waste of the teacher’s efforts. Islamic schools need to think about this.
- NO AGE-SEGREGATION: Schools today are based on age-segregation. They stack 5-yr olds in one room, 6-yr olds in another one and 12-year olds in yet another one. This most unnatural partitioning exists nowhere else in real-life. (Yet schools are thought to prepare kids for the real world!). The Prophet (saw)’s classes were not age-segregated. Sayyidina Umar (ra) and his son attended together! Someone who acquired his Islamic education in traditional West Africa mentioned that there was a 60-year old and a 6-year old in his class. (Read John Taylor Gatto for the trouble with age-segregation.)
- WITHHOLD TESTING AND JUDGING: Rasulullah (saw) was constantly enriching people. But he was not constantly testing and judging them. Was he known to be asking: “What verse did I teach you yesterday?” “Wrong. Weren’t you paying attention?” “Right! Very Good” Was he labeling people as ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’, ‘slow’ or ‘genius’ based on how much they could recall? How flawed, damaging and time-wasting the testing and grading system is requires another write-up. Suffice it to say that many of us hide behind ‘impressive degrees’ but have little knowledge and in-depth understanding of the very subjects we spent years studying.
The author homeschools her 4 children in UAE.