educational methods in the prophetic sayings (hadiths)
educational methods, whether old or new, have strong effect in clarifying the meaning and establishing it in the minds of learners. they excite the leaner to listen, encourage him to interact with the information so that to benefit from them, link it with life’s facts and enhance the senses’ perception. these methods increase the understanding, help to think and remember, organize the content, develop positive tendencies of the learner and arrange thoughts and consolidate them. they also persuade learners of the information in addition to other educational and pedagogical aims.
educational methods used by the prophet (pbuh) in teaching muslims:
narrated abdullah ibn mas'oud: the prophet (peace be upon him) drew a square and then drew a line in the middle of it and let it extend outside the square and then drew several small lines attached to that central line, and said, "this is the human being, and this, (the square) is his lease of life, encircles him from all sides (or has encircled him), and this (line), which is outside (the square), is his hope, and these small lines are the calamities and troubles (which may befall him), and if one misses him, another will snap (i.e. overtake) him, and if the other misses him, a third will snap (i.e. overtake) him." [al-bukhari]
the calamities mean difficulties that humans encounter in their lives. if they escape this one, another will befall them and if they do not face any difficulty they eventually will die suddenly.
2- environmental methods
narrated by imam ahmed from abi said al-khidri that the prophet (peace be upon him) thrust a small stick that was in his hand and then he thrust another then a third away from them, then he (pbuh) said: "this is the human, this is his lifetime and this his hope. he seeks hope but his lifetime stands between them." al-hafiz ibn-hajar said: both hadiths are conformed in showing that the lease of life (lifetime) is nearer to the human than hope.
narrated ibn abbas that the prophet once passed by two graves of two persons. he said, "they are being tortured not for a great thing (to avoid). one of them never saved himself from being soiled with his urine, while the other was going about with calumnies (to make enmity between friends). he then took a green leaf of a date-palm tree split it into two pieces and fixed one on each grave. the people said, "o allah's apostle! why have you done so?" he replied, "i hope that their punishment may be lessened till it (the leaf) becomes dry."
3- visual samples
ahmad, abu dawud and al-nasai record with a good chain from ali ibn abi-talib (ra)1 that the prophet (peace be upon him) took silk in his right hand and gold in his left and then said, "these two are forbidden for the males of my nation."
a) pointing with the fore and middle fingers
sahl ibn sa'd reported that the prophet (peace be upon him) said, "i and the guardian of the orphan will be in paradise like that," indicating his forefinger and middle finger. [sahih al-bukhari]
forefinger: it is the finger between the thumb and the middle finger. it is the finger that usually muslims use to count their remembrance of allah (mentioning his name or what is called as tasbeeh).
b) holding the tongue
al-tirmidhi narrated a long hadith from mu'adh ibn jabal in which the prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned the pillars of islam, doors of goodness, main important matter, its summit and foundation then the prophet (pbuh) said to mu'adh ibn jabal, "shall i not tell you of what controls all that?' mu'adh said: 'yes, o messenger of allah.' so he took a hold of his tongue, and said: 'restrain this!' (i.e. hold your tongue) mu'adh said: 'o prophet of allah, will we be held accountable for what we say?' he (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "may your mother be bereaved of you, o mu'adh! is there anything that causes people to be dragged on their faces – or he said – on their noses into hellfire other than the harvests of their tongues?''' [al-tirmidhi, ibn majah and ahmad- classified as hadith sahih]
narrated abullah ibn omar that "the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) visited sa'd ibn ubadah along with abdul-rahman ibn awf, sa'd ibn abi waqas and abdullah ibn mus'ud (may allah be pleased with them all).thereupon the messenger of allah (pbuh) wept. upon seeing the messenger of allah (pbuh) in this state, the people also wept. the prophet said, ''don't you hear?! allah does not torment the people because of the tears of the eye or the grief of the heart. rather, he torments or bestows his mercy upon the people because of the returns of ''this'' and he pointed to his tongue.'' [bukhari]
c) interlacing fingers
prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "the relationship of the believer with another believer is like (the bricks of) a building, each strengthens the other." he (pbuh) illustrated this by interlacing the fingers of both his hands. [al-bukhari and muslim]
d) joining fingers together
narrated anas ibn malik (ra) that the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "whoever nurtures two girls until they reach puberty will come with me thus on the day of resurrection," and he brought together his two fingers. [muslim]
this shows that one attains high position and nearness to the prophet rowing to his care and protection of his daughters until they reach the age of puberty and responsibility.
e) pointing to the chest thrice:
abu hurira narrated a long hadith in which the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "…a muslim is the brother of a muslim. he neither oppresses him nor humiliates him nor looks down upon him. the piety is here, (and while saying so) he pointed towards his chest thrice. it is a serious evil for a muslim that he should look down upon his brother muslim. all things of a muslim are inviolable for his brother in faith; his blood, his wealth and his honor." [sahih muslim book 31, number 6219]
f) pointing with the finger
narrated ibn abi aufa: we were in the company of allah's apostle on a journey. he (pbuh) said to a man, "get down and mix sawiq (powdered barley) with water for me." the man said, "the sun (has not set yet), o allah's apostle." the prophet again said to him, "get down and mix sawiq with water for me." the man again said, "o allah's apostle! the sun!" the prophet said to him (for the third time) "get down and mix sawiq with water for me." the man dismounted and mixed sawiq with water for him. the prophet drank it and then pointed with his hand (towards the east) and said, "when you see the night falling from this side, then a fasting person should break his fast."
figures of speech
the prophet (peace be upon him) was given the keys of eloquent and figurative speech and purity of the language. one of the most important figures of speech is the simile. this is why there are countless hadiths that contain similes. abu musa (ra) reported that the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "the example of the one who remembers his lord in comparison with the one who does not remember his lord is that of the living and the dead." [sahih al- bukhari; 11:208, muslim; 1:539]
jabir ibn-abdullah narrated that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "the five daily prayers are like a running river at the door of someone’s house. he washes himself in it every day five times." al-hasan then said, rhetorically: "would that leave any dirt?" [sahih muslim (1072)]
muslim narrated from ibn abbas that the prophet (peace be upon him) saw a man who was wearing a gold ring; he removed it from him and tossed it onto the ground. then he said, "one of you takes an ember of the fire, and then puts it on his hand!" when the prophet (peace be upon him) left them, someone told him to pick up his ring and use it in some other way. he said, "by allah, i will not take a ring that the prophet (peace be upon him) threw away."
al-bukhari and muslim both reported from abu musa al-ash'fari (ra) that the prophet (pbuh) said, "the case of the good companion and the bad companion like that of the seller of musk and the blower of the bellows (iron-smith). as for the seller of musk, he will either give you some of the musk, or you will purchase some from him, or at least you will come away having experienced its good smell. whereas the blower of the bellows will either burn your clothing, or at least you will come away having experienced its repugnant smell."
narrated ibn abbas that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "the worldly comforts are not for me. i am like a traveler, who takes a rest under a tree in the shade and then goes on his way." (tirmidhi)
abu hurayra narrated that the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) said: "one who weeps out of fear of allah, will not enter hell till milk returns back in the udder; and the dust raised on account of fighting in the path of allah and the smoke of hell will never exist together." reported at-tirmidhi who said the hadith is hasan sahih.
narrated abu musa al-ash'ari: the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "the example of a believer who recites the qur'an, is that of a citron which smells good and tastes good; and the example of a believer who does not recite the qur'an, is that of a date which has no smell but tastes sweet; and the example of a hypocrite who recites the qur'an, is that of an aromatic plant which smells good but tastes bitter; and the example of a hypocrite who does not recite the qur'an, is that of a colocynth plant which has no smell and is bitter in taste." [al-bukhari and muslim]
imam muslim narrated in his collection on the authority of mustaurid ibn shaddad (ra) that prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "by allah, this world (is so insignificant in comparison) to the hereafter that if one of you should dip his finger (and while saying this he pointed with his forefinger) in the ocean and he should see as to what has stuck to it."
it was reported on the authority of abu dhar al-ghifari (ra) that the prophet (peace be upon him) related from his lord, glorified and exalted be he, who said: "...o my servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of jinn gather together on a sector of land and all ask of me and if i were to give everyone of them what they asked, that will not in any way decrease what i have any more than a needle decreases what is in the ocean when it is put into it...."
questions and answers:
on the authority of abu huraira (ra) who narrated that the messenger of allah (pbuh) asked: "do you know who the bankrupt are?" they said: "the one without money or goods is bankrupt." so the prophet said: "the bankrupt are those from my nation who come on the day of resurrection with prayer, fasting, and charity, but come also insulting, slandering, consuming wealth, shedding blood, and beating others. they (victims) will each be given from his good deeds; if his good deeds run out before the score is settled, their bad deeds will be cast upon him then he will be thrown into the fire."
narrated abu hurirah that the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) said: whom do you consider to be a martyr among you? they (the companions) said: the one who is killed while fighting in the path of allah is a martyr. he said: then (if this is the definition of a martyr) the martyrs of my ummah (muslim nation) will be small in number. they asked: messenger of allah, who are they? he said: one who is killed while fighting in the path of allah is a martyr; one who dies in the way of allah, is a martyr; one who dies of plague is a martyr; one who dies of cholera is a martyr. [sahih muslim 20:4706]
narrated abdullah ibn mas'oud that the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) said, "who do you reckon to be the childless among you?" they said, "they are those who do not have any children." no," he said, "the childless are those who have not sent any of their children ahead (i.e. none of their children have died)." he then said, "who do you reckon to be the one who most often throws people down (in a fight)?" they replied, "the one whom men do not throw down." he said, "no the one who throws people down is the person who controls himself when he is angry." [sahih muslim]
anas ibn malik (ra) said: "whenever the prophet spoke a sentence (said a thing), he used to repeat it thrice so that the people could understand it properly from him and whenever he asked permission to enter, (he knocked the door) thrice with greeting.” in another narration anas ibn malik (ra) said: "allah’s apostle (peace be upon him) used to repeat the word thrice to be understood properly from him."
narrated abdur-rahman ibn abi-bakr from his father that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "shall i not tell you the three greatest sins?" (repeating the question three times) they said. "indeed o messenger of allah." he said, "associating partners with allah (shirk) and ill-treatment of parents." he was leaning [when he mentioned that], and then sat up straight (as if he was alarmed) and said, "and bearing false witness." [the narrator] said, "he continued to repeat this until we said [to ourselves], "if only he would stop." [sahih al-bukhari & muslim]
narrated abu huraira that the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) said: "a man was walking on a road when he became very thirsty. he found a well and went into it and drank and came out. there was a dog panting and eating earth out of thirst. the man said, 'this dog has become as thirsty as i was.' he went down into the well and filled his shoe and then held it in his mouth until he climbed out and gave the dog water to drink. allah thanked him for it and forgave him." they said, "messenger of allah, do we have a reward for taking care of beasts?" he said, "there is a reward for every one with a moist liver." [al-bukhari and muslim]
narated by abu huraira (ra) that allah's apostle (peace be upon him) said, "there were two women with whom there were their two sons. a wolf came and took away the son of one of them. that lady said to her companion, 'the wolf has taken your son.' the other said, 'but it has taken your son.' so both of them sought the judgment of (the prophet) david who judged that the boy should be given to the older lady. then both of them went to (the prophet) solomon, son of david and informed him of the case. solomon said, 'give me a knife 'sakkin' so that i may cut the child into two portions and give one half to each of you.' the younger lady said, 'do not do so; may allah have mercy on you! he is her child.' on that, he gave the child to the younger lady." abu huraira added: by allah! i had never heard the word 'sakkin' as meaning knife, except on that day, for we used to call it 'mudya'."
raising the attention:
narrated abdullah ibn omar that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "it is one of the fatal sins cursing the parents. they said, 'o prophet of allah, how a man curses his parents? the prophet (pbuh) said, 'by insulting others father and mother, then the latter returns back the insult for him.' '' [al-bukhari]
narrated anas bin malik: a funeral procession passed and the people praised the deceased. the prophet (peace be upon him) said, "it has been affirmed to him." then another funeral procession passed and the people spoke badly of the deceased. the prophet (pbuh) said, "it has been affirmed to him". omar ibn al-khattab asked allah's apostle (pbuh), "what has been affirmed?" he replied, "you praised this, so paradise has been affirmed to him; and you spoke badly of this, so hell has been affirmed to him. you people are allah's witnesses on earth."
abu huraira (ra) reported that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "woe unto him! woe unto him! woe unto him!" it was said: "who is he, o messenger of allah?" he said: "he who finds both or any one of his parents in old age and he does not enter paradise (on account of not serving them)." [muslim]
narrated abu sharh that the prophet said, "by allah, he does not believe! by allah, he does not believe! by allah, he does not believe!" it was said, "who is that, o allah's apostle?" he said, "that person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil."
narrated abu huraira that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "allah will say on the day of judgment: 'o son of adam i was sick and you did not visit me.' he will say: 'o lord how can i visit you. you are the lord of the worlds?' he (swt)2 will say: 'did you not know that my servant so and so was sick yet you did not visit him? did you not know that if you had visited him you would have found me with him?' "
narrated abu huraira that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "allah (awj)3 will say on the day of judgment: o son of adam! i was sick and you did not visit me! the man will submit. my lord! how could i have visited you when you are sustainer of the world? allah will say: did you know that my servant so and so was sick and you did not visit him? did you not realize that if you had visited him you would have found me with him? o son of adam! i asked you for food but you did not give me food. the man will submit: o my sustainer! how could i have fed you when you are the sustainer of the world? allah will say: did you know that my servant so and so asked for food and you did not fed him? did you not realize that if you had fed him you would have found its reward with me? o son of adam! i asked you for water but you did not give me water. the man will submit: o my sustainer! how could i have given you to drink when you are the sustainer of the worlds?" allah will say: my servant so and so asked you for a drink but you did not give him water. did you not realize that if you had given him to drink you would have found its reward with me?" [sahih muslim]
this quick review of education’s methods aims at clarifying how our beloved prophet (peace be upon him) explained information and established them in minds of people. each and every caller to islam, teacher and educator should use these methods that would help learners to absorb the lessons and encourage them to listen attentively. this is how the educational process would achieve its aim.
the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) was assigned by the lord (swt) to proclaim the message of islam to people as it is mentioned in the qur'an: "o you messenger, proclaim whatever has been sent down to you from your lord; and in case you do not perform (that), then in no way have you proclaimed his message; and allah safeguards you from mankind. surely allah does not guide the disbelieving people." (al-ma'idah: 67) he (pbuh) made use of all the means available in his time to clarify and ascertain the divine message to the people. we should take him as our example and follow his footsteps in addition to making use the modern technologies as well.
we need to utilize all available means whether old or new to attract the attention of the receiver and make information understandable to establish the meaning in his mind.
these educational methods have developed from the board, chalks and small drawings to multimedia formats, audios, videos, computers, educational tv and radio, films and language labs etc.
the muslim educator and parents should be familiar with all these methods to achieve the prophetic aims in education and spreading knowledge. this is how we can say that we followed the footsteps of the prophet (peace be upon him) and fulfilled our duty in proclaiming the message of islam the best we can.
may allah forgive us and send his peace and blessings on our beloved prophet muhammad, who showed us the straight path as revealed to him. peace and blessings be on the prophet’s family and companions.
(1) ra: radya allah anhu/anha [may allah be pleased with him/her]
(2) swt = suhanahu wa ta'ala [glorified and exalted be he]
(3) awj = aza-wa-jal [glorified and sublime be he].