What is the importance that Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) gave to education?

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What is the importance that Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) gave to education?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Hazrat Prophet (pbuh), who aimed to form a community that believed in Allah, gave great importance to science and education. The importance given to knowledge, learning, teaching, students and teachers is used a lot in his activities and words. There are many hadiths that encourage education and criticizes ignorance in hadith literature.

The first command sent down to him regarding the issue was “Proclaim” or “Read”. Therefore, reading is the first command of Allah to him and his ummah. Besides, there are verses that encourage people to learn and that praise scholars and scientists in the Quran. It is stated in the Quran that the divine duty of conveying Islam of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) consists of education. The following is stated regarding the issue:

"Allah did confer a great favor on the Believers when He sent among them an Messenger from among themselves, rehearsing unto them the Signs of Allah, sanctifying them, and instructing them in Scripture and Wisdom..."1

Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) explains the nature of his duty as follows in a hadith: 

"Allah sent me as a teacher."2

Therefore, to teach and educate the community that he was sent to are among his duties of prophethood. The encouragement of the Quran and Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) increased the desire to write and to learn. People started to go near him and other teachers in order to learn something during his period.  

Based on those principles, it will be appropriate to mention the activities of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) related to education. Even during the period of Makkah, he gave importance to the writing and preservation of the verses that were revealed to him. He encouraged people to duplicate and distribute the verses. He used the place called Dar al-Arqam as a center of education during the first years of the period of Makkah. People read and wrote the verses of the Quran there; they learned and taught religious information and they practiced what they learned. Those who wanted to learn about Islam went there, too. Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) dealt with the education of the Muslims of Madinah that came to the place called Aqabah near Makkah and he sent a teacher to Madinah to teach them the Quran and the principles of Islam upon their request.  

Afterh the Hijrah, the first and foremost activity of the Prophet (pbuh) in Madinah was to build a mosque, Masjid an-Nabawi, which was both a place of worshipping and a center of education. In a place next to the mosque called as-Suffa, some Companions were busy with learning the Quran and writing. Some of the people who came to Madinah from different regions in order to learn the principles of Islam stayed there. At times, the number of the students staying in as-Suffa amounted to four hundred. Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) himself taught people there; he also appointed some teachers to teach people the Quran and writing. Ubada bin Samit was one of the Companions who taught the Quran and writing there. 3 Not only Muslim teachers but also polytheist teachers taught people to write there. As a matter of fact, the polytheists who were held captive by Muslims during the Battle of Badr and who did not find any money to pay the ransom to be freed were freed after they taught ten Muslim children to read and write. Zayd b. Thabit learned to read and write this way. Doubtlessly, that application was a great thing when the conditions of that period are taken into consideration.  

A narration that Ahmad b. Hanbal reports gives some information and clues about the application of polytheist captives teaching writing. According to the narration, one of the students goes to his father crying. His father asks him why he is crying. The child says that his teacher has beaten him. His father says, “Bad man! He takes the revenge of Badr…” "4  As we are going to mention soon, there is no violence in the education of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh). However, it is understood from the act of the polytheist teacher that there existed beating in the previous traditions. However, we have no information whether the Prophet (pbuh) was aware of the incident and if he was, what he did.  

Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) regarded those who came to Masjid an-Nabawi in order to learn as equal to those who fought in the way of Allah. 5 When Masjid an-Nabawi and Suffa were not enough for education soon, new places were opened for education in Madinah. The resources inform us that there were nine more mosques besides Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah when the Prophet was alive. It is certain that the Prophet (pbuh) gave religious talks in those mosques, prayers were performed and educational activities took place.

Our Prophet (pbuh) continued the activities of education outside fixed places, too. He did not limit education to certain places and times. We want to give an incident as an example.

During a travel, Hazrat Prophet guessed that the man who was coming toward him on a camel wanted to talk to him. After greeting him, the Prophet asked the man where he was going. The man said he wanted to talk to the Messenger of Allah. Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) introduced himself. The man asked him, “What is belief? Teach it to me.” The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger. Perform prayers, pay zakah, fast in Ramadan and go to hajj.” The man said he agreed to do them. However, something unexpected happened. The foot of his camel was trapped in a mousetrap and the camel collapsed. The man fell off the camel and died. The Prophet (pbuh) took care of the man’s dead body, washed and enshrouded his body.6

Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) did not discriminate between women and men in education; he ensured the education of both men and women. He allocated a special day for women and gave them a talk. There were female teachers during his period. As a matter of fact, Shifa (Umm Sulayman b. Haysama) taught Hazrat Hafsa (may Allah be pleased with her), one of the wives of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh), to write. The wives of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) took care of the education of the girls. They taught the young girls that came to their houses. And those girls taught what they had learnt to other girls. The wives of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh), especially Hazrat Aisha and Umm Salama (may Allah be pleased with them), and some other women contributed a lot to education.

Hazrat Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) praised the woman of Ansar who did not feel embarrassed to ask questions.7 Acting upon this point, it is possible to deduce that women showed great interest in learning. The Companions took care of the education of their children. For instance, Sa'd b. Abu Waqqas taught her daughter to write.

It is known that Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) did not discriminate between free people and slaves in terms of education. His following statement is mentioned a lot in hadith resources:

"There are two rewards for a person who educates a concubine, trains her, frees her and marries her off."8

Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) advised and encouraged people to use easy methods in education and to show patience and tolerance. As a matter of fact, he said, "Teach people; make things easy; do not make things difficult; keep silent when you become furious!" and he repeated the statement, "Keep silent when you become furious!" three times.9 The impression he made on the Companions as a teacher is very positive. Muawiya b. Hakam as-Sulami stated the following regarding the issue: "I have never seen a better teacher than the Messenger of Allah. He neither reprimanded, nor beat nor insulted me."10

Writing is very important for the activities of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh). He dictated the verses of the Quran. He arranged the document of Madinah in writing. He organized the first census in writing. He made all his contracts in writing. He made officials write the income and the estimation, imposition and collection of the revenues. When he set off for an expedition, he gathered his army in a field, made the officials write the names of the people and recorded the number of the soldiers.  

Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) advised and ordered families to teach their young members in both spiritual and material fields: archery, swimming, calculation, medicine, genealogy and reading the Quran. In his period, everybody, children, young people, the elderly, received education. He appointed teachers to the regions where people accepted Islam. Thus, those who could read and write among the people of Madinah increased; during the life and after the death of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh), literacy increased in the places that Muslims conquered. 

There were some people among the Companions who could speak Persian, Greek, Coptic, Abyssinian, Hebrew and Syriac. Once the Prophet (pbuh) asked Zayd bin Thabit, "Do you speak Syriac? I receive letters in Syriac." When Zayd b. Thabit said, “I do not know”, the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Learn it”. Thereupon, Zayd learned Hebrew and Syriac. 11

There were not separate schools to educate administrators and officials. However, since learning the Quran was compulsory in the places where people were trained, those who had been educated there were appointed as administrators.

Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) encouraged people to spread knowledge; he asked them to teach what they knew to others.12 He asked the people who came to Madinah, stayed there for a while and learned Islam to teach people what they learned when they went to their homeland. 13 He cautioned the delegation of Abdulqays to preserve belief and knowledge.14 It is important in that it attracts attention to the relation between knowledge and belief.

As a result of intensive and hard work, Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) educated the members of a community that lived in compliance with the traditions and customs of the ignorance (jahiliyya) and formed a brand-new Islamic community from those people. This wonderful transformation became possible through education. Among the people he educated, hafizes (people who memorized the whole Quran), scholars of reading the Quran, judges, governors and commanders of the army, statesmen and presidents emerged.

Doubtlessly, Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) realized education based on the physical conditions, needs and methods of the period he lived in. The places of education, subjects, and methods can change in ten-twenty years and sometimes in a shorter time today. Then, the universal practices of Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) regarding education that can always be valid are important for us. We can list them as follows:

- Giving importance to reading and writing;

- Not including violence in education;

- Practicing something himself first or teaching something by showing it if what he teaches is something practical;

- Not moving on to a new issue before making something understood very well (it is reported that he did not move on to new verses before he made ten verses understood very well);15

- Not making students bored or tired out;

- Taking into consideration the age, capacity and the level of information and culture of the people he teaches;

- Raising questions and attracting the attention of people and then answering them;

- Using a way of improving the intelligence (asking something that is known in the form of a riddle.);

- Explaining the reason of a decree to the society so that it will be understood better when it is necessary;

- Presenting an issue with examples and similes and if necessary using gestures and even drawings;

- Encouraging people to ask questions except for questions asked just for the sake of discussion, controversy and obstinacy; and answering them in a convincing way;

- Referring some questions and their answers to the Companions even when he is together with them in order to show that he values them, to contribute to the development of their responsibility and consciousness and to make them get used to questions like that;

- Appreciating people openly when he gets the correct answer from them in order to encourage and gratify them;

- Not avoiding repetition if it is necessary;

- Summarizing the issue first and giving the details after that sometimes;

- Teaching something by dictating when necessary, etc.16

Footnotes:

1- Aal-i Imran, 164.

2- Ibn Hanbal, III, 328; Ibn Majah, I, 17 .

3- Ibn Hanbal, V, 315.

4- Ibn Hanbal, I, 247.

5- Ibn Hanbal, II, 418.

6- Ibn Hanbal, IV, 359.

7- Bukhari, I, 41.

8- Bukhari, I, 33; Ibn Hanbal, IV, 395, 402, 414.

9- Ibn Hanbal, I, 239, 283, 365.

10- Ibn Hanbal, V, 447-448; Muslim, I, 381; Darimi, p. 353-354.

11- Ibn Hanbal, V, 182; Tirmidhi, IV, 67-68.

12- Muslim, III, 2156; Darimi, 62.

13- Bukhari, I, 30, 167.

14- Bukhari, I, 30.

15- Ibn Hanbal, V, 410.

16- Fore detailed information and examples regarding the issue, see Abu Ghudda, Hz. Muhammed ve Öğretim Metodları, trnsl. Enbiya Yıldırım, İstanbul 1998.

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