Question: Some educators state that in addition to certain material shortages and difficulties, they are badly affected by students’ disinterest and unwillingness to study. What is your stance on this issue?
Answer: By taking into consideration certain religious principles, we can say that learning and teaching are two exalted duties whose ends extend into the heavens. In so many verses of the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet, the importance of knowledge (ilm) is emphasized and people are encouraged to pursue it. For example, God Almighty points to the fact that those who know are more superior than those who do not, with the verse meaning, “Are they ever equal, those who know and those who do not know?” (az-Zumar 39:9). In another verse, He compares those who know to those who can see, and those who do not to blind people, “Are the blind and the seeing alike? Will you not, then, reflect?” (al-An’am 6:50).
The Inheritors of the Prophet’s Way
As the supremacy of Prophet Adam over the angels is mentioned in the Qur’an, his having a potential for knowledge is also emphasized, which is a meaningful indication of the importance the Qur’an lays on knowledge. After teaching all the names to Adam, God Almighty asked the angels about them, who did not know, whereas Adam told the names taught to him (al-Baqarah 2:31–32). It is understood from here that what gives supremacy to humanity over the angels is the teaching of “names” to them; in other words, their having a potential for sciences.
In a way, the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, encouraged learning as the Prophets’ heritage and stated that “The Prophets do not leave behind money or wealth as their heritage; the heritage they leave is knowledge (ilm); whoever attains that knowledge attains a great share indeed.”1 In another statement, the Messenger of God said that he was sent (to humanity) as a teacher.2 Thus, he both, emphasized the importance of acquiring knowledge and teaching it to others.
So a teacher is a representative of such a lofty mission, a worker, and an architect of ideas. I think a teacher with spiritual concerns can enlighten the minds and souls of his or her students by utilizing the advantages of the contemporary age and reaching into the essential points of sciences, finding ways through every branch of science such as math, biology, physics, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and geology. Thus, it can be said that the most suitable way of shaping people and making a monument of them is by being a teacher. It is for this reason that the Qur’an lays so much importance on learning, and the Prophet insistently emphasized this matter. In this respect, individuals who wish to be beneficial to their society, people, and all humanity must face all kinds of difficulties and serve in this field against all odds, and definitely make use of such an important tool.
A Field of Influence That Extends from a Student to All of His Relatives
On the other hand, even though children cannot be legal witnesses in religious matters, they actually are the strongest witnesses of the world in terms of human psychology. Everybody believes what a child says. Therefore, the person a teacher addresses is not only the child in sight; students have many relatives who are in contact with them. When the child comes home, he will naturally relate what happened at school and their relations with the teachers. Therefore, when the teacher expresses himself to the child, he will reflect it to his family in the same way. For example, about a teacher who did kindness to him, the student will say, “he did such and such kind act for me. He listened to our troubles. He found a solution for such and such problem. When we felt sad, he dispersed our doom and gloom and consoled us thus…” and statements to that effect. This kind of reports will form a good opinion of the teacher among the family. And if the teacher establishes a sound dialog with them by taking the opportunity of family visits and other similar ones, then you sometimes see that a single student helps establishing a relation with an entire group of relatives. In this respect, a teacher who is caring for a student can be doing the same for a home, even all of the relatives who have some kind of relation with that home. For this reason, a teacher’s field of influence is a really wide one.
In my opinion, a profession with so much gaining must definitely be performed no matter how difficult it is. If necessary, one must get by with a minimal earning, and material drawbacks, like low salaries must not be perceived as obstacles. It is not the money everything depends on. Perhaps the Prophets were the most financially disadvantaged people in the world. However, it was the Prophets again who won people’s hearts, guided them to righteousness, and offered a fresh life to the world. With these words, I do not mean to say that teachers should seek poverty artificially. The point I am trying to make is that money is not everything, and besides that, there are many different riches like gaining hearts, reaching into spirits, and orienting people toward lofty goals. Particularly at a time when the world is globalized through education, teaching has gained a different importance. While some try to carry out this job with coercion and extreme dislike in spite of all positive feedbacks and reactions, you should do it trying to realize journeys to the hearts of people with your gentleness and affection. And the impulsive force behind that kind of approach is teaching. In this respect, I hold the opinion that students of all levels should be motivated in this sense and encouraged to become teachers. Let there be no misunderstanding; all of the professions that make a society stand and survive should be given importance for sure, not leaving gaps in any field of life. However, we should not forget that teaching has an outstanding position of giving life to a society.
Gaining People to Pray for You in Gratitude for a Lifetime
Let us come to the issue of naughty behaviors of students and their indifference to learning. First of all, we need to accept from the very beginning that all students can present such behaviors. An important aspect of teaching is acknowledging these kinds of troubles and putting up with them. Even a sculptor makes so much effort to make a dry body of marble into a work of art. The sculptor sweats, gets tired, and tries to give a certain shape to the marble in the end. A teacher’s job is no easier than that! The teacher takes the potential human, and tries to raise them to the level of true humanity by rounding their sharp pointed sides. In other words, by working all of the precious potentialities in them like a jewel-smith, the teacher helps them make a monument of their souls. Like a gifted artist, the teacher almost builds the human anew. Despite all of these, if there are still certain students that pose serious problems and disturb the general harmony, they can seek different solutions such as meeting their parents or applying alternative guidance programs for them, in order to prevent them from harming those around at least. This way, these students will also have been taken under protection in a certain way. For example, if necessary, it is possible to invite the family members of such students and let them watch the situation of their children from afar; then they can seek different methods of solutions in consultation with the teachers. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, turned the most bigoted, savage, and uncivilized people into teachers for a civilized world, and thus, he became the beloved one of so many hearts. This was to such a degree that people who once came to the Prophet’s presence and shouted, “Who is Abdulmuttalib’s son Muhammad?” started to listen to him attentively, as if they were afraid of startling a bird on their heads. So this is the greatest example of teaching and guidance. Given that the Prophets made wildest people into upright figures to be role models for all, this must be possible at all times. Then the teacher will endure pains and suffering if need be, but in the end he or she will gain individuals to pray for them in gratitude for a lifetime. In addition, their students’ good deeds will also add to the teachers’ as well. For such an outcome, it is worth bearing whatever it takes. A teacher may not be able to bring all of the students under his responsibility to a certain desirable quality and fail to gain all of the students he maintains contact with. Nonetheless, some people abandoned the circles of even the most perfect guides and prepared their own ruin. In this respect, what befalls on the teacher is to show all the effort they can. The one to create the outcome is God Almighty. But it should never be forgotten that if a teacher takes the task he does as the prime goal, and strives to fulfill the due of his job, God Almighty never lets his efforts be wasted, grants him different favors, and inspires him different ways of solution.
There Is No Matter Unsolved with the Message of a Person’s Disposition
An important point that should not be neglected by teachers is providing guidance to students with the language of their disposition and with the depth of their representation of values by personal example. Controlling the evil feelings in human beings—with a potential for evils and bad morals, such as wrath, lust, grudge, hatred, and violating others’ rights, all of which can make one fall to the lowest of the low—who are doomed to go corrupt when left on their own, and cultivating benevolent feelings, in them can only be realized through a good guide whose attitude and behaviors are envied and who is taken as a role model.
Finally, let me share a feeling of mine, I hope it will not be misinterpreted as pride. I am seventy four now. But still, if they give me a duty in the wooden hut where I used to stay when I was a mentor long years ago, I will gladly run there and try to fulfill that duty. Perhaps, some of our friends can see that task as a simple and trivial one. But I have not underestimated this duty and would never do so. Even today, some people may consider our having lessons with the small circle of young scholars here as a simple and trivial job. However, in my opinion, this is the most important occupation that can take human to the highest levels.
To conclude, one needs to take teaching very dearly, perceive and consider it as the Prophets’ way. The truth is that, among the people who serve a nation, it is not possible to show anybody of equal importance to teachers, since service and investment for humanity are more sacred than everything. If you become the gardener of all of the world’s gardens, this does not compare much next to teaching something meaningful to a few people. Let alone that, even kingship is not of equal value as a duty in comparison to making people ascend to true humanity. After all, weren’t great rulers of the human history apprentices in the hands of excellent teachers? Taking all of these into consideration, we can say that the people closest to God are teachers who devoted themselves to being beneficial to others. For they are the ones who build the human; they are the ones who build the society. The ones to build the present and future, and the ones to put their stamp on the future are teachers.
1. Sunan Abu Dawud, Ilm, 1
2. Sunan ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 17
This text is the translation of “Geleceği İnşa Edecek Fikir Mimarları“
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