بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.
قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
qul hal yastawee allatheena yaAAlamoona waallatheena la yaAAlamoona
Say, “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?”
(Surah Az-Zumar, Quran 39:9)
The Prophet (pbuh) told us about Imaan. He taught us about faith. He said to Ali, “Shall I tell you something that is better for you than the earth and whatever is on it?” It’s not the stock market. What was it? The Prophet (pbuh) said to Ali, “For Allah to use you as the means to guide one person – that is better for you than the earth and whatever is on it”. And so that really shows us how important it is to convey a good message and to convey a positive message.
It’s something that each and every single one of us has some responsibility toward. We know that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the last messenger. And so the responsibility of the message no longer is on a messenger from Allah, but is now upon the Nation of Muhammad (pbuh), which is us. So what are some ways that the Prophet (pbuh) in the Quran conveyed the message? How can we bring that into our life whenever we are conveying any kind of message? What are those teaching methods of the Prophet (pbuh)?
What are those teaching methods that the Quran uses? And what is that wisdom that we can learn from and we can bring it into our lives that will help us to have better relationships with the people around us? Whether it’s our coworkers, our family, our friends, our siblings, our children, our parents, grandparents, grandchildren. Learn how the Prophet (pbuh) was, how he taught, how the Quran teaches us. If you use that wisdom in your everyday life, you will see lots of improvement. So let’s look at some of those methods.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “The best of you is the one that learns the Quran and teaches it”. So if we wish to be the best of this Muslim nation, this Muslim ummah, then we want to be amongst those who are learning the Quran and teaching it. And learning the Quran and teaching has so many different aspects, right? What usually comes to mind is reciting how to read the Quran but in the time of their Prophet (pbuh) it was not standardized, like it is now. There was no Nooraniyahh, right? There was no book for teaching the alphabet. Everyone learned whatever they could. And not even all. Most people could not read or write. The Quran began that revolution, but at the onset of the Quran, at the beginning, not many people could read or write. It was a small amount of people that could actually read or write in that society.
The Prophet (pbuh) himself was someone who could not read or write himself. So when it comes to teaching the Quran, it’s not just about the reading. The reading is important. The words of Allah, in their original language, that’s important, but what’s also important is how are we conveying that meaning? Because how you convey the meaning is just as important as the meaning itself. The prophet said:
إِنَّمَا بُعِثْتُ لِأُتَمِّمَ صَالِحَ الأَخْلاقِ
I was only sent to complete good character.
So, the how we convey has to be aligned with what we’re conveying and then, for what we are conveying, we try to emphasize it more than the how. We can’t just say, “Hey look, man, I’ve said it to you. I’ve told you the truth. It’s up to you what to do with it”. You know, if you say it in that kind of way, that’s not satisfying to that person or the audience. It’s not satisfying to them. Not only is it not satisfying, but it’s it doesn’t show the meaning of the message, because people really watch how we take action. It’s not just about talking the talk, it’s about walking the walk, right?
So what were those methods in the Quran and the Sunnah? What is the way of the Prophet (pbuh)?
So the first method that I wanted to discuss is the storytelling method. This is a common method that we see in the Quran where Allah uses storytelling. We see the stories of the prophets. We see the stories of the companions, the story of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). And the stories of the prophets in particular were a way to encourage and to strengthen the hearts of the early believers, to strengthen the resolve of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and to show them that there were those who were persecuted for their beliefs. There were those who went through many trials and tribulations for so many years. And even if it was a long time ago, it’s still applicable today. Not only was it just for the Prophet (pbuh) and the early believers, but it also applies to us.
And now it’s for us to say, “When I read the story of Ibrahim (as), how does that apply to my life today? When I read the story of Yusuf (as), how does that apply to my life today? When I read the story of Maryam, what do I learn from that?” So for example, I learned from Ibrahim (as) that he was proud of who he was and he was willing to stand up for what he believed in, and he was not willing to allow others to force him to believe in something. From Yusuf (as), I learned patience in the face of calamity, in sheer betrayal. His own brothers, his own siblings, not one of them thought, “maybe this isn’t a good idea, throwing our younger brother in the well”. This was just complete and utter betrayal that, when you have 10 brothers and not one of them speaks up. That’s a problem. And he goes through that and that wasn’t just the first thing. Then he’s sold into slavery, then he’s thrown into prison. All of those things that go on with him. Maryam (as), I learned from her to trust in Allah’s will. Allah gives us bounty that our initial reaction is, “whoa, wait a second. I can’t handle this. I can’t do this”. But then to trust in what we have been given by Allah.
And the Prophet (pbuh), he would employ stories all the time. The famous story of the dog that was thirsty. A man saw a dog that was thirsty and he took his sock. It was a leather sock that could hold a water. He filled it with water and he gave the dog water. As a result of that action, Allah forgave all of his sins – and he was a sinful person and some narrations say it was a woman. So we see that the storytelling of the Prophet (pbuh) to convey a message, using a story with a point, a story with a moral, a lesson. So that’s the first teaching method of the Prophet (pbuh).
The second one that’s similar is to give an example. The Quran commonly gives examples of things.
وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا
Wadaraba Allahu mathalan
“Allah strikes the example of whatever it is that he’s giving an example of.”
The Prophet (pbuh) said that if someone had a river near their house and bathed in it every day, would they be dirty? This was in Mecca, which is mostly desert. What did the people reply? They said of course not. He would be clean if he bathed in it every day, he would be clean. And the Prophet (pbuh) said, “That is the example of salah. When you pray five times a day you’re cleaning yourself, you’re cleaning your sins five times a day”.
So these were the ways in which the Prophet (pbuh) used to teach and we can try to incorporate that in how we convey our message. Not simply saying the words, but trying to help the audience understand those words, right? Especially when it comes to young children, especially when it comes to siblings, especially when it comes to peers, those that have questions. In terms of how we explain things, it’s important. Don’t use that same example. Use an example that’s relevant to today. The Prophet (pbuh) taught us the principle of striking an example, the principle of giving an example. And so how do we use that today in our own speech? How do we use that when we’re trying to teach something, when we’re trying to convey a good message?
The third method of the Quran and Sunnah is the comparison method. The Quran said:
قُلْ هَلْ يَسْتَوِي الَّذِينَ يَعْلَمُونَ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
It’s like a rhetorical question, isn’t it? “Are those who have knowledge equal to those who don’t have knowledge?” It’s comparing two things to get an ideA.
The Prophet (pbuh) said:
الْیَدُ الْعُلْیَا خَیْرٌ مِّنَ الْیَدِ السُّفْلَی
“The upper hand is superior to the lower hand.”
What is that upper hand? The upper hand is the hand that gives, and the lower hand is the hand that receives. The believer, the Muslim, is fiercely independent, but at the same time, the Muslim also makes time to give back to others in whatever way that may be, whether it’s through time, finances or whether it’s through other ways, just giving an ear sometimes, especially in these times, is a whole lot and it’s good.
I was reading an article about parents as they get older and older, they complain, “Our children don’t care about us. Our children are grown themselves and they’re busy in their own lives and they don’t ask about us. They don’t ask us what we’re up to or what we’re doing”. So just lending an ear sometimes is all it takes. So that’s the third technique.
The fourth technique of the to convey a message is through demonstration. The Quran tells us that the Prophet (pbuh) was Mubayyin – he was the one who clarified the message because it’s one thing for a messenger to be in theory. A theory can sound very nice. Right? Karl Marx, right? In theory, it sounds great. Everyone’s equal. Everyone does the same thing, but then in action, it’s a little different. And so the Prophet (pbuh) was the one whose action we followed, who allowed us to see what the Quran actually was implying by its message. And even when it came to prayer. So for example, the Quran doesn’t tell us how to pray. It says:
“And establish the prayer.”
But what is Salah in pre-Islamic times? Salah was simply a forgiveness. It meant forgiveness. So Aqeemis salah is establishing forgiveness? No. It is a specific thing that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught us. He told us:
صَلُّوا كَمَا رَأَيْتُمُونِي أُصَلِّي
“Pray like you see me pray.”
He would demonstrate by his own example. The Prophet (pbuh) for example, when he was praying and his grandson was there, would pick up his granddaughter. He would pick up Hasan and Hussain, his grandchildren. He would pick them up in the Salah and so that’s how we learned that we can do that. We learned that when we’re in the prayer, yes, we’re not supposed to speak. We’re not supposed to look around. We’re not supposed to be playing with things in our prayer, focusing on our prayer. But if you are caring for a young child who you’re worried might get into something or they need you to pick them up, then you can do that. You have that flexibility. And that was through the actions of the Prophet (pbuh) that we saw, but don’t just let the child cry and cry and cry. You can pick them up just like the Prophet (pbuh) did.
The fifth method or technique for educating that the Prophet (pbuh)used, and this is a common method, was simply answering questions. It’s important for us to not just be the one who speaks right? Even in education. When I did my masters in education, we learned about student-centered learning. A lot of times teacher-focused learning is where the teachers are speaking, speaking, speaking, and you’re done. But that has its limitations because the student might be listening or the student might be not listening. It might apply to the student. It might not apply to the student. So through Q and A, answering questions, through giving time for that, you can actually address what’s on this learner’s mind. And then the point that you’re trying to make will stick even further.
The Quran uses this.
يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْأَهِلَّةِ
Yasaloonaka AAani alahillati
We hear it over and over again that they ask you regarding such and such matter, right? “They ask you about Me, and tell them inni Qarib – I am near”. Allah says to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), “Tell them that I am near and I respond to the call of the caller when they call me”. Allah responds to the supplication of the one who supplicates. So Allah answers their questions. Allah knew the questions that we would ask, how do we get to Allah? How do we turn to Allah? Allah is near. We have the answer in the Quran.
A man asked the Prophet (pbuh), “Is it arrogant to wear nice clothes?” Because the Prophet (pbuh) talked about arrogance, and the Prophet (pbuh) replied, “No”. He then asked, “Is it arrogance to invite many people to eat?” The prophet said, “No”. Then the man said, “Well what is arrogance exactly?” The Prophet (pbuh) said, “You prefer ignorance over the truth and that you belittle others”. So he told us what arrogance was through that Q&A we learned that. The Prophet (pbuh) would make a lot of time to answer questions, and he would even ask the companions those question to get their brains running around. Some idea that’s being conveyed. You know, that’s one way to get the learner and the audience to think about what you’re trying to explain, what you’re trying to convey.
The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Who is the wrestler that can wrestle people down? And what makes a person a good wrestler?” They replied, “Someone who can knock people down, get them on the ground”. And the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Truly the one who is the best shaheed, a strong person, is actually the one who can control themselves when they are angry”. So he would ask the question and then he wouldn’t give the answer, as well. I know that works really well with, especially with children, but as well as with adult learners, right?
If you’re trying to convey someone to say something to someone, then if you ask, give them an opportunity to respond, right? Give them the opportunity to open that discussion up. Then they’re very likely to remember what the answer was much better.
Another thing the Prophet (pbuh) used to do, the sixth method, is to lead by example. We see this in the city of Medina. When the Prophet (pbuh) entered the city of Medina for the first time after the initial greeting happened, one of the first things the Prophet did was he wanted to establish a masjid, a place of community for the people. So he took a brick and he laid the first brick. And when the people saw that he was laying the brick, the foundation of the masjid, they all came and they helped. So the Prophet (pbuh) didn’t bother explaining, “Okay, guys, we’re going to build a masjid. Then here’s how it’s going to go”. He just went and did it. And so that was how Prophet (pbuh) was able to lead so well. Even the Quran talks about it. “It is by the mercy of a law that you were kind and gentle with the believers, because if you were harsh, if you were hard-hearted then they would have ran away from you.” They would have dispersed. So that is what the Prophet (pbuh) would do. He would actually lead by example.
Another example of that is in the Umrah. The Muslims were going to make their first Umrah, after they many years they had been persecuted in Mecca. They had been tortured, they had been killed. They had been harmed. They had gone through wars with the Quraysh and then the Prophet (pbuh) had a dream where Allah showed him that he was going to Mecca. So they all were in there Ihraam. They were unarmed and they all went to Mecca. They said, “Hey, we’re just going to go now. It’s been so many years, we’re just going to go. We’re going to see our beloved Mecca. We’re going to see the Kaaba, the house of Allah that was built by Ibrahim. We’re going to make the Umrah and no one’s going to stop us”.
So they went there but they were stopped. The Quraysh having instead said they’d signed a peace treaty that said you can’t do Umrah this year. They had to come back next year. People were furious. They said, “What do you mean? We’re right here. We’ve traveled all this way. We didn’t go by bus or car or plane or train. We walked over. We had camels. We were in the heat of the desert for days and days to get back to Mecca as a large group”. You know, when you’re in one or two people, it’s short. When you’re in a large group, it takes a lot of time to make sure everyone sticks together. The women, the children, the people that are old. Everyone has to stick together. So it took a lot of time and then they were upset that now they wanted them to go, and come back again next year.
Imagine you took a big trip to Disneyland and they said, come back next year, try again. You’re like, “wait a second. I made all these preparations. I took time off work. I did this, I did that”. And so they were upset and they weren’t listening. They actually were not listening to the Prophet when he said, “Okay, let’s shave our head and we will have the reward of Umrah and let’s go back to Medina. Let’s slaughter the animals and let’s go back”. And that is when the Prophet(pbuh)’s wife told him, “You go shave your head and they will follow”. So he accepted that consultation. He didn’t say, “No, no. Who are you to tell me? I’m the Prophet!” He said, “okay”. And he shaved his head and they realized that this is what’s happening, and so they followed. So leading by example, right? It’s very hard if you have kids. “Do as I say, not as I do.” It’s very difficult to say that, right? As Allah says in the Quran, “You command people to do, to commit righteousness while you yourself have forgotten your own?” So lead by example.
The seventh method or technique for conveying a message in the Quran and Sunnah is showing empathy. Actually helping others to understand the right perspective and to understand others’ perspective. What reminds me of this is when a man came to the Prophet (pbuh) and he was the Sahabah. A companion of the messenger. The greatest generation, that early generation who accepted Islam when it was nothing, who accepted Islam, they didn’t inherit it. They had to accept it. And so they were all given the special status and this man came to the Prophet (pbuh) and he said, I want your permission to commit adultery. I want your permission to commit Zina.
Imagine if someone came to you like that. Imagine your child or someone close to you, someone younger than you came to you, your sibling, someone, your friend, and asked you that. What would be your response? It would just be like, “What? What do you mean? Why are you talking about that? No, don’t do it. Why would you do that? Why would you harm yourself like that?” What did the Prophet (pbuh) say? He didn’t blame the man. He didn’t shame him. He simply asked him a question. He said, “Would you like if someone did that with your sister, your mother, your daughter?” And the man said, “No”. And he understood.
So helping others to learn, to put themselves in other’s shoes. That is one way that we would do it. Do we have to use that same technique? Exact words of the Prophet? No, we have to realize, who is the audience today? What are people thinking about today? Islam doesn’t say just replicate the same answer. Islam says, use the principle. How can we show others how to think, how to put themselves in others’ shoes? How can we do that?
The eighth technique of the Quran and Sunnah is that the Prophet (pbuh), he would keep it short. Even the Quran right? It’s not long. The Quran is for a book that is guidance for all mankind for all times and places. It’s 600 pages. I think Harry Potter is longer than the Quran. Well, one book of Harry Potter is probably longer than the Quran. The Quran keeps it to the point and, the Prophet (pbuh), this is what he used to practice with his companions.
His words were full of meaning, but concise. You see a lot of Q and A, because people would ask him a question and he was concise. And because it was short, they were able to remember what he said. If he had given a long lecture, four or five, six hours, they wouldn’t be able to remember what he said. They might remember one or two quotes, but we have so much information because he would keep it short, to the point, simple. When people were spending a lot of time with Prophet (pbuh) and ignoring their family, business, the rest of their life, he would say, “Spend some time with me, spend some time on your religion, but then spend time on other things as well”. The last thing you want is for you to be bored of it. The last thing you want is to be burnt out of it. So keep it short to the point.
The the 10th technique, and I’ll end off here, is that the Prophet (pbuh) would actually engage different types of learners. What we’ve learned through research is that people learn in a variety of ways. Some people learn best when they hear, and it’s not that they only learn this way – they can learn and the other methods as well – but this is what they prefer. Initially they said, “No, no. If you’re a auditory learner, you only learn you learn best auditory, nothing else”. But, no, it’s a combination. It depends on what the content is? That’s what the further research shows. But the more methods of learning that you utilize, the better the message gets.
So, you have auditory learners, those who learn by listening. You have learners who learn visually when they see something. You see a PowerPoint. You see someone speaking in front of you that helps you, you see what’s going on, or you see a graphic, an illustration, a meme. You’re a visual learner. The third one is you learn by speaking yourself, by discussing it, thinking about it. So there’s also kinesthetic, which is you actually move around and you work with your hands and that’s how you learn. That’s how you prefer to learn. So the Prophet (pbuh) would incorporate these things.
As you have seen, he would even do visuals. One time, he took a stick and he drew a line in the sand and he recited from Quran. He said, “Siratul mustaqeem – this is my straight path, so follow it. Don’t follow the other paths, don’t follow the footsteps of Shaytan“. Then he drew these other paths from that line to show the other paths. He said, follow the straight path. That stayed with people. He said, “the orphan and I will be in paradise like this”, and he put his two fingers together and people remembered that. It really hit home that they will be just like this with the Prophet (pbuh) in Paradise and who doesn’t want that?
So I ask Allah that He helps us to convey the message of Islam in the best of ways. I ask Allah that He helps us to be able to convey any positive message to those who need it. I asked Allah that He helps us during this difficult time, that He helps those that have been affected by the wildfires. That he helps those that have been affected by COVID-19. May He cure the sick. May He cure them completely and fully. O Allah, those that have passed, forgive them all, have mercy on them and give their families patients during this difficult time.
وَآخِرُ دَعْوَاهُمْ أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
waakhiru daAAwahum ani alhamdu lillahi rabbi alAAalameena
And the last of their call will be, “Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds!”
(Surah Yunus, Quran 10:10)