THE PROPHET (PBUH) AS A TEACHER -2-
AREAS OF HIS EDUCATION
Since the practices of the Prophet (pbuh) also demonstrate his duty as an educator, there is no difference between theory and practice. The Prophet conveyed the message of Islam which aims at universal “reform” for humanity. The task was difficult, but the Prophet never thought of using compulsion. While delivering the message of Allah, he behaved as described in the Quran. He perceived “tabligh” as a task for teaching and training and he tried to realize the social reform he aimed at by educating people. He started educating people close to him immediately after he was charged with delivering the message and then the circle of people widened day by day. He worked to teach the fundamentals of religion to people individually or as a group in his house or other houses, even in markets. In spite of torture and opposition in the Mecca period, he continued to teach productively. He never gave up on educating people. After emigration to Medina his educational activities increased, accelerated, and became widespread. In Medina, the Prophet first had the masjid built. One of the most significant reasons for building a masjid open to the public was to be able to lead the educational activities more effectively. In this masjid there was a room (suffah) reserved only for education. Moreover, the Prophet had other masjids, first schools or preparatory schools built in Medina. Thus, the number of educational institutions increased very quickly.
The Prophet was not only teaching the fundamentals of religion, but he was also acting as a model for people with his attitude and behavior. He was showing them how to put the things he was teaching into practice in their lives. In other words, he was supporting and complementing his teaching with his personal life. Therefore, Allah introduces him to us as an exemplary guide: “And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character” (Al-Qalam 68/4). “Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah” (Al-Ahzab 33/21).
Certainly the Prophet did not carry out the educational activities which would encompass all humanity alone. Just as it was not possible for him to reach everyone and everywhere, it was not possible for him to reach everyone in exactly the same way. Therefore, he worked on educating people with his Companions. Indeed, every Muslim was responsible for learning the religion and teaching what he learnt to others. So every Muslim was a student and a teacher at the same time within the limit of his opportunities and capabilities.
However, the Prophet appointed special teachers for people and places he was not able to reach. Those teachers were educated by the Prophet and were comparatively knowledgeable and competent individuals. Their supreme successes in their tasks serve as a proof for this.
In Medina there were instructors in masjids and suffa, as well as many teachers in schools. The needs for education changed and varied gradually. Thus expertise in education was necessary. The Prophet assigned different teachers for people who wanted to learn different subjects. Non-Muslim teachers were also employed when needed. In the first years reading and writing teachers were mostly non-Muslims because there were just a few literate Muslims back then. Allah assigned the wives of the Prophet to teach as well. There were female Companions who were famous for their knowledge. In short, the Prophet integrated all his Companions into educational activities. The task of delivering the message of Allah was carried out through educating people. This practice of the Prophet demonstrates the presence of an overlap between “tabligh” and education.
It is necessary to emphasize that as the political and social power of the Prophet increased, the educational activities became more intense and widespread. Therefore, it is impossible to tie his not using compulsion for the religion to his being powerless. Not using compulsion is an essential condition for “tabligh.” The Quran envisages faith as a product of human free will: “Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it)” (Al-Qahf 18/29). Islam neither coerces anyone to believe nor perceives disbelieving as inappropriate. Islam desires a person to prefer faith with his intelligence and free will. The important thing is the decision of mind and heart. “Tabligh” is to help people in this way and guide them to pass barriers on the way. Therefore, the Prophet never thought of using compulsion even in times when he was most powerful. On the contrary, he tried to make the educational activities more intense, widespread, and effective.
In his battles, the Prophet never aimed to coerce people to believe in Islam. The purpose of the battles was to stop the torture and pressure made to people and create an environment in which people could act with their free will using their intelligence.
The primary reason for the success of the Prophet in calling people to Islam in the Arabian Peninsula in such a short time was its emphasis on education. This call gave new life to people. The Prophet reached the hearts and minds of people through educational activities. He helped people to feel more human. When people learned the qualities of Islam and witnessed how individuals who became Muslim were transformed, they accepted the invitation of the Prophet.