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The characteristics of an Islamic educator

By Bayynat editor

In accordance to the view of His Eminence, the Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah. Edited excerpts from “World of our Youth”.

Knowledge acquisition is a duty upon every Muslim.” The attainment of knowledge has been ordained as a duty for all Muslims. It is a miraculous act that gives man access to the core of being, and provides a means to enhancing all aspects of life.

When God first created Prophet Adam (a.s.), the father of all mankind, He first empowered him with knowledge: “And He taught Adam all the names, then presented them to the angels; then He said: Tell me the names of those if you are right. They said: Glory be to Thee! we have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us; surely Thou art the Knowing, the Wise.” (2:31-32). It was his one and only fortune by means of which he ruled Earth.

A proficient educator is an essential element in an empowering knowledge. One of the main traits an educator’s character has is professional competence. In other words, he ought to be well cultured and educated enough as to impart this knowledge to others. Otherwise, the so-called “educating” would serve the purpose of ignorance and confusion. In case he was unqualified, then he would fail to communicate ideas and concepts to his students.

Islam admonishes those who get involved in dialogues with others despite their lack of sufficient information and insight that would back their view, or support their arguments. The matter is not limited to education; it is also related to the different fields of life.

For instance, the concept of the religious authority proposes that the he is an erudite scholar who has enough knowledge in political, social, military, economic, and even scientific fields, and who keeps himself updated with all contemporary issues. Otherwise, how could he provide an accurate ruling on any matter?

Moreover, an educator himself must be a model for his students. His words and actions must be exemplary and inspiring so as to motivate students to follow his example. In some Hadith, it is stated that: “He who appoints himself as an imam of the people must start with disciplining himself, before disciplining the people; he who disciplines himself is more worthy of honor and respect than he who disciplines others.”

In addition, an educator must employ a variety of methodologies in teaching. Several approaches can be used so as to fulfill a higher level of understanding and proficiency. An educator must not fall into a monotonous pattern of presenting the lesson week after week.

We tend to view that despite the fact that several educators have the ample and required level of knowledge, they fail to reach to the hearts and minds of others. Consider these words mentioned by the Prophet (p): “We, the community of prophets, have been ordered to dialogue with people in accordance to their level of understanding.” This further emphasizes that the method used by an educator must be appropriate to people’s comprehension.

Moreover, educators must live by the values of peace and compassion. They must promote an environment of non-judgmental awareness, in which students are given the chance to express themselves, their mistakes tolerated. “A Messenger has come to you from amongst yourselves, he is deeply concerned about you, and to the believers he is kind and merciful.” (9:128).

Finally, it is important to note that religious education is as important as academic one. Imam Jafar As-Sadiq (a.s.) has said: “Acquire knowledge of religious jurisprudence. Any one among you who does not become efficient in religious jurisprudence is a rustic.” Religious education is essential since it promotes the social, cultural, and moral development of students. Religion and beliefs are reflected in what we say and how we behave. Religious education provokes challenging questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, human nature, issues of right and wrong and what it means to be human: “let them devote themselves to studies in religion and admonish their comrades when they return to them so that they may guard themselves against evil.” (9:121)

  An educator’s job is to contribute to an upright society; and think about ways to achieve this goal alive and transform it into a reality.

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