Using Questions in Education
the teacher needs to use many methods to attract the attention of his students. he has to seek different styles so that his students do not get used to one method, then by time it would not have the same influence because of boredom or familiarity.
asking questions in the middle of the lecture or conversation is one of these attracting methods. it helps in enticing the student and encouraging him to sharpen his brain. this is reflected in the following agreed-upon hadith:
1- the prophet muhammad (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, hadith no. 2511 & muslim, hadith no. 87] in the hadith, using shall i not as a method to question the listeners is to attract their attention and direct them to listen to what will be said and comprehend it carefully for the importance of the matter.
2- narrated abu-bakra: the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) stated: “time has rotated as same as the first day on which the lord created the heavens and the earth. a year contains twelve months, four of them are sanctified. three are successive; dhu’l-qada, dhu’l-hijja and muharram. and the fourth is rajab which falls between jumada and shaban. which month is this?” “god and his apostle are the most knowledgeable,” we answered. the prophet paused for a considerable while that we thought he would call another name to that month.” is it not dhu’l-hijja?” asked the prophet. “yes, it is,’ we replied. “which land is this?’ asked he. “god and his apostle are the most knowledgeable,” we answered. the prophet paused for a considerable while that we thought he would call another name to it. “is it not al-balda?” asked the prophet. “yes, it is,” we replied. “which day is today?” asked the prophet. “god and his apostle are the most knowledgeable,” we answered. the prophet kept peace for a considerable while that we thought he would call another name to it. “is it not the nahr day?” asked the prophet. “yes, it is,” we answered. the prophet spoke, “your souls and estate and your honors are sanctified among you as same as the sanctification of this day in this month on this land. you shall meet your lord, and he shall examine your deeds. after me, return not to deviation by beheading each other. the witness should inform the absent. it may happen that an indirect receiver is being more committed than the direct.” [sahih al-bukhari, 5/126]
al-qurtubi said: the prophet (pbuh) inquired three times, and he kept silent after each question for a certain purpose. it was to attract their attention, involve them in the matter and to feel the greatness and importance of what he was going to tell them. this is why he said afterwards: “your souls and estate and your honors…” to strengthen the greatness and sanctity of these things.
3- imam bukhari and imam muslim narrated on the authority of abu huraira that the people said, "o allah's apostle! shall we see our lord on the day of resurrection?" the prophet (peace be upon him) said, "do you have any difficulty in seeing the moon on a full moon night?" they said, "no, o allah's apostle". he said, "do you have any difficulty in seeing the sun when there are no clouds?" they said, "no, o allah's apostle". he said, "so you will see him, like that."
we notice through the previous examples that the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) did not call a certain person among listeners to give the answer, his questions were addressed to them all. this brings us to understand that the teacher should ask all students first, so that all of them are involved in finding the correct answer. also, the teacher should dedicate some time before he listens to answers, because the student’s mental abilities are different and irregular. some of them are quick-witted and some are a lot less mentally alert. this shows the error of some teachers who ask their children according to a list of names, or according to their seats in the classroom. some of them do not bother looking for an answer, because their teacher picks particular students to answer his questions. yet, it may happen that the teacher asks a certain student to awaken him, or to attract his attention, but this is another case.
it was narrated and authenticated that the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) asked some of his companions about certain matters. it usually happened when the companion was along with the prophet (pbuh) as it was proved in mu’dh ibn-jabal hadith:
4- anas said, "the prophet, peace be upon him, was riding with mu'adh behind him. he said, 'mu'adh!' he replied, 'at your service, messenger of allah.' he said, 'mu'adh!' he replied, 'at your service, messenger of allah' (three times). then the prophet said, 'there is no one who testifies that there is no god but allah and that muhammad is the messenger of allah, sincerely from his heart, without allah making it unlawful for the fire to touch him.' mu'adh said, 'messenger of allah, shall i tell the people that so that they can rejoice?' he said, 'then they will rely on it.' mu'adh related it when he was dying, fearing to commit a wrong action [by concealing the knowledge]." [agreed upon]
1- inquiring and asking questions is an effective method in attracting the attention, sharpening the mind and preparing listeners to the next information.
2- inquiring might be at the beginning of the hadith or in the middle, according to the situation or subject discussed.