Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Teacher vs Preacher

Below is my reply to a forum discussion on Teacher vs Preacher:


Thank you brother for bringing up this very interesting topic for discussion. I believe both is important. Both is equally important because we need to seek knowledge whether its secular knowledge from the teacher or religious knowledge from the preacher. In Islam there is no dichotomy between secular or academic knowledge and religious or spiritual knowledge. This philosophy is practiced by true muslim teachers and true muslim preachers.
Below are a few quotes to support this philosophy.

“An essential prerequisite is that religious and secular subjects should be made an indivisible whole. The compartmentalization of religious and secular education, based on a factitious division of life into spiritual and temporal, is not sanctioned by Islam.” (Rauf, 1988, p. 63)

The characteristics of a good Islamic teacher have been defined as thus:
Love for children; love for the profession of education; humility without weakness; health and vitality of the body; psychological health and emotional balance; neatness, cleanliness and good appearance; eloquence and good pronunciation; intelligence and deep understanding; understanding students and their needs; strong command of the subject; broad and deep reading and knowledge; punctuality and respect for time; co-operation with the school system and policies; being courteous with students and fellow teachers; socialization with people and no isolation; knowledge and practice of Islam; to stay away from questionable sayings or deeds, even if it is lawful to do so; and sincerity.
- ISNA handout, 1994, quoted in The Purpose of an Islamic School and the Role of an Islamic School Teacher

In one of his addresses on the topic of a new education system, Mawdudi once said:
“If you teach history, geography, physics, chemistry, biology, zoology, astronomy, economics, political science and other social sciences without any reference to Allah ... a student will be unable to synthesize the conflicting ideologies into a unifying whole. Because of this intellectual polarization, his religious faith gradually weakens. Under the circumstances, he cannot remain totally committed to religion, however strong his faith may be.” (Rauf, 1988, p. 64)

“This can be used to further highlight the necessity for a Muslim teacher to put subjects in the context of Islam. If subjects are not Islamized, the indication is that the resulting pupil, through not viewing God to be the author and controller, assigns the latter to something other than God. He will therefore suffer a weakness in faith. Mawdudi also believes that students should consolidate their knowledge in Qur’anic Studies and thereafter ‘be offered a course in comparative religion so that they can assess for themselves how mankind went astray.” (Rauf, 1988, p. 67)

A more comprehensive definition of Islamic education was composed at the First World Conference on Muslim Education where participants were of the following view:
“Education should aim at the balanced growth of the total personality of man through the training of man’s spirit, intellect, his rational self, feelings and bodily senses. Education should cater therefore for the growth of man in all its aspects: spiritual, intellectual, imaginative, physical, scientific, linguistic, both individually and collectively and motivate all aspects towards goodness and the attainment of perfection. The ultimate aim of Muslim education lies in the realization of complete submission to Allah on the level of the individual, the community and humanity at large. “(Ashraf, 1985, p. 4)

Education (tarbiya), Al-Ghazali states in Ayyuha l-walad is like "the labour of the farmer, who uproots the weeds, trims wheat so as it grows better and gives a better harvest." Every man needs a teacher to guide him in the right direction. To try and do without leads to worst illusions. In Ayyuha l-walad the pupil’s outward respect for his teacher is evidence of esteem for such in one's heart.

In ‘Ihya ulum al-din’, Al-Ghazali states eight duties of a teacher. First and foremost he is a father for his pupils. He must teach for the sake of God. He would advise the student with prudence, fight the excessive urge to learn too quickly, and to overtake his peers. He would reprimand with moderation, in private, discreetly, not in public. To blame too much is to make the pupil too stubborn in his way of seeing and doing things. And one other duty of the teacher is to make sure that what he teaches he pursues in his life, and that his own acts do not contradict what he is trying to inculcate.

Thus we can conclude that a teacher and a preacher are both equally important as long as they have the true characteristics of a true muslim teacher and a true muslim preacher. According to Al-Ghazali, "knowledge exists potentially in the human soul like the seed in the soil; by learning the potential becomes actual."


Still struggling to be a true muslim teacher.

1. Ashraf. S.A. (1985), New Horizons in Muslim Education, Cambridge: Hodder & Stroughton.
2. Ayyuha l’walad by: Al-Ghazali
Al-Ghazali, Ayyuha l’walad: UNESCO, Beyrouth 1951 (Arabic text).
3. Ihya ul’Ulum by: Al-Ghazali
Al-Ghazali, Ihya ul’Ulum, part I, book 2, section 2.
4. Rauf. S.M.A. (1988), Mawdudi on Education, Karachi: IslamicResearch Academy.

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