Sep 17, 2009

The Prophet, The Teacher

Narrated Abu Huraira:
While the Prophet was saying something in a gathering, a Bedouin came and asked him, “When would the Hour (Doomsday) take place?” Allah’s Apostle continued his talk, so some people said that Allah’s Apostle had heard the question, but did not like what that Bedouin had asked. Some of them said that Alllah’s Apostle had not heard it. When the Prophet finished his speech, he said, “Where is the questioner, who enquired about the Hour (Doomsday)?” The Bedouin said, “I am here, O Allah’s Apostle.” Then the Prophet said, “When honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour (Doomsday).” The Bedouin said, “How will that be lost?” The Prophet said, “When the power or authority comes in the hands of unfit persons, then wait for the Hour (Doomsday.)” [Sahih Bukhari]

The above hadith (statement of the prophet (saws)) has been taken from a book called Sahih Bukhari. Sahih Bukhari is the most authentic book for Muslims after the noble Qur’an. It is a collection of authentic narrations from the prophet (saws) and was compiled by the great scholar, imam Bukhari.

In this short article, I intend to derive multiple lessons from the above quoted hadith to emphasize one point in particular: The Prophet (saws) as a teacher.

The first lesson that we derive from this hadith is that our knowledge of the world of the unseen is limited. In particular, one of the matters of the unseen that we have no knowledge of is the time when the final hour would take place.

The hadith also promotes becoming a part of circles of knowledge and to learn from people who are more knowledgeable than us. Observe that the bedouin was questioning prophet (saws) because he was eager to learn from him. This shows that it is our responsibility to seek knowledge and we should request it from people who have authority to speak in religious matters.

This hadith comes in the beginning of Sahih Bukhari in a chapter called ‘The book of knowledge’. The intention of Imam Bukhari behind placing this hadith in the beginning of the book was to show us the etiquettes of seeking knowledge. He wanted to emphasize that we are responsible to seek Islamic knowledge but we must do so by following proper etiquettes, especially while addressing the speaker for questions.

Now, we will talk in detail about prophet (saws)’s teaching method according to this hadith. Prophet (saws) was addressing a gathering when he was interrupted by the bedouin’s question. The prophet (saws) continued talking and ignored the question. Some of the companions thought that the prophet (saws) did not hear the question. While the other companions thought that the prophet (saws) heard the question but he disliked it so decided to ignore it. Both of these claims are not true because the prophet (saws) called the bedouin back and eventually answered his question. The correct reason due to which the prophet (saws) did not answer was because he was in the midst of a gathering and did not want to interrupt his lecture to answer the bedouin. Not answering a question is also a method of teaching a lesson to others. Once the prophet (saws) was finished with his talk, he called the bedouin back to give him an answer. However, note the mannerism of the prophet (saws). He did not get angry at the bedouin, he did not tell him that his question was asked at an inappropriate time or that he was responsible for interrupting a gathering of knowledge etc. This tells us that as a speaker/teacher we need to be gentle with our audience and make them realize their mistakes in a subtle manner.

Finally, prophet (saws) did not give the bedouin the exact time of the final hour since that is from the knowledge of the unseen that we are not supposed to possess. However, he gave him all that he knew about the topic – the signs of the final hour.

A practical application of this lesson: So the next time your (grown-up) child interrupts your conversation with friends, husband, family etc. you pretend as if you did not hear the question but later gently answer them after your conversation is over. (A note of caution: do not try this with toddlers!)


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